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April 3, 2014
Why I opted my child out—not of tests, but of test prep
A city father says his protest against the influence of testing on the curriculum is to have his third-grader abstain from test prep while still taking this year's state tests.
April 2, 2014
Is testing taking over our schools? An entire faculty says yes
Sixth-graders at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Queens, like many city students, are sitting for 18 days of state and city testing in the next six weeks. The school's entire faculty says the cost of the testing is too high.
March 28, 2014
"Respect the parents' decision" to opt out of tests, city principals are told
With anxiety about the approaching tests high, Chancellor Carmen Fariña distributed a guide for how school leaders should handle families that plan to protest by opting their children out.
March 21, 2014
Wellness follows a questionable path at test time
It’s TCAP season and at many Colorado schools that means a concerted effort to push healthy habits that will help kids perform their best. But some parents and advocates worry that these efforts, while well-intentioned, have limited value if they only last as long as the spring testing window.
March 1, 2014
Ravitch tangles with school reformers on Butler panel
A lively, and sometimes pointed, debate about how best to improve schools followed the premiere of a documentary developed by the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation tonight at Butler University. Headlining the five-person panel was Diane Ravitch, the historian and one-time school reform advocate turned national spokesman against testing, school choice, test-based teacher evaluation and other proposals she says aim to privatize public schools.
February 27, 2014
These are the 11 IPS schools Ferebee is most worried about
IPS has many needs and lots of schools that Ferebee hopes to turn around. In fact, 38 of the district’s 65 schools are on getting at least some level of extra scrutiny from Ferebee and his administrative team as part of their school improvement effort. Even so, 11 IPS have been named “priority” schools because Ferebee considers them the most troubled. This is where the district is focusing its heaviest attention.
February 7, 2014
Ritz might permit schools to make up snow days in hours or online
Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz is looking for ways to help schools make up snow days before ISTEP testing, and she’s getting creative. Schools might…
February 3, 2014
State board could extend ISTEP, will review failing schools
ISTEP’s testing window could be extended by up to seven more days in March under a plan the Indiana State Board of Education will…
January 30, 2014
Voucher schools don't get off the hook from ISTEP
A plan to allow private schools that accept students using tax-funded vouchers for tuition to skip ISTEP testing was dropped from a Senate bill today. But the ISTEP proposal was at the center of the controversy over the bill. It would have allowed voucher schools to use any nationally-normed test for state A to F accountability purposes, not just ISTEP.
January 29, 2014
Bill to collect education data passes with Democratic support
A bill that collects education data under a new state agency — an idea state Superintendent Glenda Ritz's supporters initially viewed as a power grab — passed the House 89-6 today. House Bill 1003, authored by Rep. Steve Braun, R-Zionsville, aims to bring together data from K-12 schools, colleges, the state’s workforce development arm and business leaders with the goal of spotting trends and helping schools adapt to employer needs.
January 27, 2014
New rules helping more Indiana children use vouchers
Changes to Indiana’s voucher program that lawmakers made in 2013 helped fuel it’s dramatic growth and allow somewhat more wealthy families to access tax dollars to pay private school tuition. The Indiana Department of Education's data, released today, show 19,809 students are using vouchers this school year, more than double last year's total of 9,324. The first-year number was 3,919. Indiana's voucher program is the fastest growing in U.S. history and the nation’s second largest.
Updated December 1, 2015
The basics of Tony Bennett: A reform star’s rise and fall
After pushing hard for educational change, Bennett faced a backlash.
January 22, 2014
Watching my students flatline on the baseline exams
Teacher Meredith Jacks writes that while the results of this fall's baseline assessments could in theory be useful to teachers, her experience on the ground left her feeling more frustrated than informed.
January 22, 2014
Supporting two charter school bills, IPS signals a new direction (updated)
After years of antagonism, Indianapolis Public Schools is trying out a new approach to charter schools: cooperation. The district, led by new Superintendent…
The basics of...
Updated November 3, 2016
The basics of Glenda Ritz: A lone voice at the top against Republican education agenda
This is one of two stories summarizing the basics facts about Indiana’s two major party candidates for state superintendent. A more detailed story about Glenda…
January 15, 2014
Indiana's move away from Common Core becomes clear
Indiana appears to be on the verge of a final turn away from Common Core standards. Gov. Mike Pence made clear in his strongest words…
January 15, 2014
More A's and B's, fewer F's for Indiana school districts
Indiana school districts earned more A and B grades, and fewer D’s and F’s, than last year on their state report cards. The grades for…
January 2, 2014
New York State gets federal approval to eliminate double-testing
The New York State Education Department received federal approval to eliminate an unpopular layer of extra math tests for thousands of middle school students, officials…
December 22, 2013
Schools, board members ask: Are Indiana's grades fair?
Schools across Indiana received their report cards today, with the state rating the highest scorers an “A” and the lowest laggards an “F,” terminology…
December 10, 2013
As testing anxiety peaks, student media campaign urges calm
From left: Columbia University volunteer Andrew Zola; Nichole Urena; Hudson High government teacher Elizabeth Schurman; principal Nancy Amling; Christina Auricchio; Bruce Dixey. Like students across the city, those at the Hudson High School of Learning Technologies can rattle off many reasons to loathe the state Regents exams. Teens at the Chelsea school have had to slog through Saturday test-prep classes, retake tough tests several times, appeal low scores and — in at least one student’s case — retake two of the all-important exit exams this summer on his 17th birthday. But unlike most students, those in Hudson’s 12th-grade government class decided to turn their Regents animus into action by launching an outreach campaign aimed at lowering the temperature around testing.
December 6, 2013
At forum, teachers share testing woes and parents talk opt-out
P.S. 321 teacher Alex Messer described the perils of over-testing at a forum in Brooklyn. Alex Messer, a fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 321 in Park Slope, couldn’t wait to read a city report a few years ago that promised to quantify his impact on students. He had just led them in a rousing discussion of the British economic policies that provoked the Boston Massacre. He taught them to use “ubiquitous” and other “staggering genius” words, as he and his students call them. He knew he was a good teacher. But when he opened the report, his heart sank: he was ranked in the 18th percentile. He called his mother that night for support. Later, he logged onto a job-search website. “All I knew was that I had failed,” Messer recalled this week. “I was ‘18 percent.’”
November 25, 2013
Students wade into testing debate on a field trip to City Hall
Fourth graders from the Brooklyn Charter School stop by the City Council and catch some of an education committee hearing For one class of fourth graders, a tour of City Hall turned into a chance to add their voices to the fierce public debate over standardized testing today. Teachers from the Brooklyn Charter School scheduled the city government field trip after finding that few of their students knew much about the city elections that took place earlier this fall. But they didn't realize they were going to be walking into a City Council hearing featuring Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who was getting peppered with questions from lawmakers about how testing policies were affecting schools. Any possibility that the students would see some of the heated sparring between education officials and council members, a common sight at previous hearings, seemed dashed by the timing of the visit. The election season is over, and both Walcott and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson are just a few weeks from leaving office, so there were no theatrics and little new information offered up in the Department of Education's testimony. The hearing framed many of the issues that have been raised more contentiously at forums, state legislative hearings and protests around the state this fall. Some of the issues, like an increased pressure to perform well and the shifting standards that define proficiency, were ones that the visiting students and teachers said they've seen and experienced first-hand. "I've been in testing grades for six years and it's definitely more pressure," said Gina Zaccaria, one of the teachers from the Bedford-Stuyvesant school. "They feel it more."
November 14, 2013
On early ed tests issue, agreement on everything but a solution
First grade teacher John O'Hickey, of Brooklyn School of Inquiry. Part of O'Hickey's evaluation will be based on state test scores from students in higher grades in the school. When it comes to getting rid of standardized testing in early grades, the city and the teachers union are on the same page — both want them eliminated from their teacher evaluation plans. But the two sides, whose toxic relationship seems to have reached new highs in Mayor Bloomberg's final year in office, are taking different approaches toward achieving the same end goal. The United Federation of Teachers ratcheted up its latest critique of teacher evaluations today by joining a statewide coalition that wants to ban standardized tests in any class below third grade. UFT President Michael Mulgrew first raised the issue two weeks ago, arguing that they are developmentally inappropriate because some students can barely hold a pencil, let alone fill in bubble sheets. "To be using it at these young ages is just ridiculous," Mulgrew said today on a conference call with reporters. In New York City, a small fraction of the city's roughly 800 elementary schools is supposed to administer the bubble tests this year because of how the city's evaluation plan was written, though parents at some schools are rebelling against the mandate. Officials at the Department of Education agree with Mulgrew, but they are hoping a quieter discussion with state education Commissioner John King will lead to a solution. There is optimism that the strategy is working. "The commissioner has indicated a willingness to look at this issue and consider some flexibility for the current school year," Polakow-Suransky said.
November 11, 2013
In her own words: Glenda Ritz talks reading, testing and failing schools
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz at last month's A to F Accountability Panel meeting. Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz rejected the policy of her predecessor, Tony Bennett, when it comes to persistently low scoring schools. She doesn't want to close them or have the state take them over. Instead, her plan is to create a statewide system of coordinators aimed at providing supports and rallying local communities that she believes will be more effective than intervening to make dramatic change in the schools. Ritz, who is sometimes criticized by her political opponents for lacking vision for how to improve schools in Indiana, laid out her views in a 90-minute interview with Chalkbeat on Oct. 29 at the central library in a program sponsored by WFYI. The entire interview has now been posted online. On politics, Ritz said she won't back down in her fight against the Indiana State Board of Education and other foes. On policy, she explained how she sees education in Indiana. In the following excerpts, Ritz discusses her goals — emphasizing reading, changing state testing and redefining the Indiana Department of Education's role to build a statewide support system for troubled schools:
November 8, 2013
Ritz, state board's lawyers duel over A to F rules
Attorney Kristie Anderson, left, representing State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education, debated with Michelle McKeown, right, an attorney for Gov. Mike Pence's new Center for Education and Career Innovation, before the Indiana State Board of Education Friday. The struggle between State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence for control of Indiana's education policy reached a fever pitch Friday with dueling lawyers arguing over interpretations of Indiana's A to F rules before a sometimes befuddled Indiana State Board Education. Kristie Anderson, representing Ritz and the the Indiana Department of Education, stood side-by-side with Michelle McKeown, an attorney for Pence's new Center for Education and Career Innovation, offering competing interpretations of state law. Board members, meanwhile, sparred over which advice to follow. “It seems as if our debate is about the board’s role and when it should start,” Ritz said The first meeting since tension boiled over last month into a lawsuit by state Superintendent Glenda Ritz against the other 10 members of the board lived up to its billing as another battle royale.
November 7, 2013
Indiana's big test score gains prompt debate over cause
Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test, which released scores today. Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test of reading and math known as the "nation's report card," according to data released today. Indiana's 2013 gains were top five among the 50 states on both fourth grade reading and math. Eighth graders posted smaller gains in both reading and math. Hoosier test takers scored above the national average on all four exams administered. "“I am encouraged by the gains that Hoosier students showed on these tests, particularly their gains in the fourth grade," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said in a statement. "This is yet another sign of the hard work and dedication exhibited by our educators, administrators, parents, and most importantly, students every day in our schools.” The state's success instantly renewed debate about reforms pushed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and ex-state Superintendent Tony Bennett over four years beginning in 2008. Bennett was defeated in the 2012 election in a stunning upset by current state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, said Bennett's fight for reform may have cost him his job but it appears to have yielded improvements. "I think we're starting to see results," said Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. "These battles are hard-fought, and if we didn't see any results, then we might wonder if it's worth it." Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, attributed the gains to standards reform in the early 2000s, specifically rejecting Bennett and Daniels' policies as a reason for the improvement.
October 29, 2013
Glenda Ritz says she won't back down from political foes
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks with Chalkbeat's Scott Elliott in a WFYI sponsored event at the central library Tuesday. (WFYI) Indiana state Superintendent Glenda Ritz said in an interview Tuesday she would keep pushing her agenda despite pointed disagreements with the State Board of Education. Ritz said she believed she had significant support for her vision of educational change in Indiana, despite skepticism from her political opponents. Ritz, the only Democrat holding statewide office, also said she was not thinking about running for governor, as some of her supporters had hoped, in the wake of former gubernatorial candidate John Gregg's recent decision not to challenge Gov. Mike Pence in 2016. But she wouldn't rule it out.
October 29, 2013
New York City looks for a way out of its "bubble tests" problem
UFT President Michael Mulgrew testifies at a state senate hearing in New York City. At right, Senator John Flanagan, chair of the education committee, listens. The city wants to get rid of unpopular "bubble sheet" tests that some of its youngest students are required to take this year, a top Department of Education official said on Tuesday. "There are better ways to do assessments of early childhood and I think that we can find a better way to do it," Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky told lawmakers in testimony at state Senate hearing. The hearing was planned by Senator John Flanagan in large part as an opportunity for people to air their frustration with the state's new standards and the tests associated with them. The math tests in question, called Discovery Education Assessment, are being given to small portion of students in kindergarten through second grades as part of their teachers' evaluations, a portion of which must measure student learning over the course of a school year. Discovery's tests include elements, like No. 2 pencils and standardized bubble answers, that teachers and experts have panned as developmentally inappropriate. Polakow-Suransky echoed that criticism on Tuesday and vowed to offer an alternative student learning measure soon to take effect for this school year. It represents a somewhat sudden reversal for the city, which bought the Discovery tests from a vendor in August for this school year after declining to use its own elementary math assessments, an option that Commissioner John King preferred when he crafted DOE's new teacher evaluation rules. Polakow-Suransky's comments come as push back against testing policies from parents and teachers have escalated statewide in recent weeks, prompting the State Education Department to make a series of its own changes to curtail the role of testing requirements.
October 28, 2013
Elsener: Ritz, board should focus on their jobs
State Board of Education member Dan Elsner Indiana State Board of Education member Dan Elsener said in a radio interview today he was disappointed by the recent squabbles among state board members and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz but he is optimistic the board can still function effectively. "We are a bipartisan board," said Elsner, who has personally clashed with Ritz over such issues as who leads strategic planning for the board and who sets its agenda. "We've never been partisan snipers. The last six months has been a little more difficult." In an interview with Amos Brown on WTLC's Afternoons with Amos program, Elsener criticized Ritz for not yet issuing A to F school grades but expressed hope the board could begin working together more cooperatively. Relations among the board members deteriorated fast over the past two weeks after 10 board members, but not Ritz, asked the legislature to intervene to help issue A to F school grades. Ritz responded by suing the other board members, arguing they broke state law that requires public bodies to make decisions in public when it decided without her to send the letter.
October 22, 2013
Ritz suit alleges state board broke open meetings law
Glenda Ritz fired back at her political foes on the Indiana State Board of Education Tuesday with a lawsuit charging that its other members broke state law by going around her to ask the legislature to intervene on A to F grades. Ritz, who by law chairs the state board, said a letter written by the 10 other board members to Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long violated state transparency laws. The letter asked the legislators to take over the state's annual school-grade calculation process, which has been delayed under Ritz. "No public notice was issued for a meeting that allows this action," a statement from her office said. "Superintendent Ritz was not made aware of this action until after it was taken, despite her role as chair of the State Board of Education." Ritz argued that she had a responsibility to take action. “When I was sworn in to office, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Indiana,” Ritz said. “I take this oath very seriously and I was dismayed to learn that other members of the State Board have not complied with the requirements of the law. While I respect the commitment and expertise of members of the board individually, I feel they have over-stepped their bounds."
October 21, 2013
Why Indiana matters when it comes to education
(NOTE: Much has changed since this post was first published in October of 2013. This post has not been updated to reflect…
October 21, 2013
New reading law takes off
The rubber hits the road this year for the READ Act, a state law intended to ensure students are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Schools are currently in the midst of implementing the law's provisions for the first round of K-3 students.
October 16, 2013
Ready or not, new standards hit Colorado schools
This year, educators across Colorado are bracing themselves for a rocky road as districts introduce a host of school reforms, including new standards for 10 content areas, new tests, and new teacher evaluation systems.
September 10, 2013
Are you ready for the CMAS tests?
Colorado kids are scheduled to get new statewide tests in the spring of 2015 to replace the TCAP exams, but up to now the new…
August 21, 2013
Another test report shows flat results
Graduating seniors in Colorado and the nation performed about the same on ACT tests in 2013 as their predecessors did in recent years, according to the study released Wednesday.
August 20, 2013
Ready or not, online tests coming to Colorado
Colorado kids will get a chance to put their computer skills – and their academic knowledge - to high-stakes use later this year when the state’s first online tests roll out.
August 14, 2013
An uphill climb toward online testing awaits New York schools
Political and logistical impediments could thwart New York’s participation in a multi-state consortium formed to improve the quality of standardized tests. When New York adopted the Common Core learning standards in 2010, education officials also committed to participating in a federally funded consortium that would produce a computer-based assessment system tied to the standards. The computer-based testing would allow tests finally to require the kinds of critical thinking that the Common Core asks students to do, advocates say. In the online tests dreamed up by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, screens replace bubble sheets, students type their essays, and math problems are solved by dragging and dropping answers. Expedited grading would return results to schools in weeks, offering teachers valuable feedback before the end of the year. State officials have long signaled an intention to shift to the PARCC tests once they become available in the 2014-2015 school year. But they still have not formally committed to that plan, and State Education Commissioner John King suggested last week, in the wake of the state’s first round of Common Core-aligned tests, that the urgency had passed. "I suspect that we will perhaps move more slowly than some other states since we know that we have in place very high-quality Common Core assessments," King said.
August 7, 2013
Weingarten warns other states about N.Y. test scores
Weingarten used New York State’s new test scores, the first to reflect student performance on exams tied to the Common Core learning standards, as a…
July 19, 2013
Video: One family’s place in the push against “high-stakes testing”
When state test scores come out in the next couple of weeks, one student who won’t count in the city’s averages is Matthew Sprowal. Encouraged by his mother Karen Sprowal, Matthew did not take the state tests, the first to be tied to new learning standards known as the Common Core, out of protest. Nathan Place, a student at CUNY’s journalism school, filed this video report about the family and the movement against “high-stakes testing.” Writes Place: Matthew, 10, was the one student at his school who “opted out” of the test. His mother, Karen Sprowal, told the school’s principal that he would be refusing the test as an act of protest, and while the rest of Matthew’s fourth-grade class took the tests, he sat in another classroom and read quietly.
June 13, 2013
UFT, allies propose ways to reduce city's emphasis on testing
UFT President Michael Mulgrew and NYGPS spokeswoman Zakiyah Ansari proposed new testing and accountability measures. A common criticism during campaign season has been that standardized testing plays too large a role in city schools. Today, some who have made the claim most loudly backed up their rhetoric with policy proposals. In a press conference on the steps of City Hall, the teachers union and New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a coalition that formed to oppose the Bloomberg administration's school policies, outlined steps that the next mayor should take to end high-stakes testing and improve the Department of Education's school accountability system.
May 28, 2013
State senator asks for test-item transparency
Link: State senator asks for test-item transparency State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents part of Manhattan, has written to State Education Commissioner John King…
October 17, 2012
Future state tests taking shape
Colorado education officials are starting to flesh out new statewide social studies and science tests that will show up in less than 18 months.
September 25, 2012
College readiness remains flat
Only 43 percent of 2012 high school seniors who took the SAT test were ready for college, according to the College Board.
August 8, 2012
State scores mostly flat, but growth in Denver
Colorado students performed about as well on the new TCAP as last year's CSAP but Denver was among high-poverty districts showing growth.
November 10, 2011
State Board previews tests of the future
The brave new world of 21st-century testing was unveiled for the State Board of Education on Thursday.
October 14, 2011
Report: CAP4K cost $384 million
Implementation of the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids school reform program could cost up to $384 million.
October 4, 2011
Issues starting to jell for 2012 session
Holding back third-graders who can’t read and adding a statewide high school test could be hot education issues for lawmakers next year
July 12, 2010
VIDEO: If you haven't already, get a look at SchoolView
If you are a parent who shuts down when you see raw data, test scores and rankings but yet want to know more about how your child's school - or a school you are considering for your kid - is doing academically, Colorado offers you a beautiful solution known as SchoolView.
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