In general terms, the tests were confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned with the Common Core standards. The questions were focused on small details in the passages, rather than on overall comprehension, and many were ambiguous. Children as young as 8 were asked several questions that required rereading four different paragraphs and then deciding which one of those paragraphs best connected to a fifth paragraph. There was a strong emphasis on questions addressing the structure rather than the meaning of the texts. There was also a striking lack of passages with an urban setting. And the tests were too long; none of us can figure out why we need to test for three days to determine how well a child reads and writes.But she can't get more specific than that, because of the gag order. Now, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has written a letter to Pearson's top executives protesting this lack of transparency and sent two top AFT staffers to London to attend Pearson's annual shareholder meeting to underscore the point. She writes:
These gag orders and the lack of transparency are fueling the growing distrust and backlash among parents, students and educators in the United States about whether the current testing protocols and testing fixation is in the best interests of children. When parents aren’t allowed to know what is on their children’s tests, and when educators have no voice in how assessments are created and are forbidden from raising legitimate concerns about these assessments’ quality or talking to parents about these concerns, you not only increase distrust of testing but also deny children the rich learning experience they deserve. [...]This is big business: Pearson has a $32 million contract with New York state alone.
If Pearson is going to remain competitive in the educational support and testing business, the company must listen to and respond to the concerns of educators like Elizabeth Phillips who report that the company has ignored extensive feedback.
Parents, students and teachers need assessments that accurately measure student performance through questions that are grade-appropriate and aligned with state standards—especially since standardized tests have increasingly life-altering consequences for students and teachers. By including gag orders in contracts, Pearson is silencing the very stakeholders the company needs to engage with. Poll after poll makes clear that parents overwhelmingly trust educators over all others to do what is best for their children; educators’ voices, concerns and input should be included in the creation and application of these assessments.
Continue reading for more of the week's education and labor news.
A fair day's wage
- Guitar Center announces pay hike following employee organizing.
- Philanthropist, labor law violator, and all-around terrible human being Daniel Straus has subpoenaed the personal email of two NYU law students after they organized criticism of his labor practices. Daniel Straus, by the way, is an NYU law school trustee.
- It's a full-on work stoppage on Mt. Everest:
Scores of mountaineers were departing Mount Everest on Thursday after Nepalese officials failed to break an impasse with anguished Sherpa guides who want to halt climbing following last week’s devastating avalanche.
A meeting at Everest base camp between Sherpas and Nepalese government officials ended with no change in the Sherpas’ position: Most don’t want to scale the mountain this year out of respect for the 16 guides who were buried under the snow and ice Friday, and because of fears of more avalanches.
- Private prisons: Bad, or the worst?
The FBI has launched an investigation into the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) over the way it runs an Idaho prison that has such a reputation for violence that inmates dub it "Gladiator School."
The Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA has operated Idaho's largest prison for more than a decade, but last year, CCA officials acknowledged it had understaffed the Idaho Correctional Center by thousands of hours in violation of the state contract. CCA also said employees falsified reports to cover up the vacancies. The announcement came after an Associated Press investigation showed CCA sometimes listed guards as working 48 hours straight to meet minimum staffing requirements.
- One year after Bangladesh's Rana Plaza tragedy, has anything changed? and Battling for a safer Bangladesh.
- Building trades unions may be flirting with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, but that's not where most unions are:
- The Mine Safety and Health Administration is fighting black lung by issuing a new rule on coal dust exposure.
- Education Secretary Arne Duncan has withdrawn Washington's No Child Left Behind waiver because the state didn't implement a bad idea that's a proven failure.
- "This is huge," Diane Ravitch says of the news that the NCAA won't accept credits from 24 K12 Inc. cyber-charter schools:
All of these virtual schools are highly profitable. The K12 corporation, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, receives full tuition for each student; the district loses the tuition, and the student gets a computer and textbooks. K12 is known to have a high dropout rate and low graduation rates.
This is the first time that a major accrediting body has rejected the education offered by K12 and declared that its credits were unacceptable.