When will the corporate ed reform madness end?

Melissa Harris Perry Slams Lawmakers Who Want to Tie Welfare Benefits to Student Grades

Melissa Harris Perry
Melissa Harris Perry

Parents who receive TANF benefits would see their payments reduced by 30 percent if their children perform poorly in school.

Tennessee lawmakers have proposed an absurd bill that would punish parents who receive welfare benefits if their children perform poorly in school.

Republican State Sen. Stacey Campfield and Republican State Rep. Vance Dennis introduced legislation in late March that would reduce payments to parents who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families by 30 percent if their children do not make “satisfactory progress” in school.

Because why would lawmakers work harder to support parents in poverty when they can just punish them?

Meanwhile, as ThinkProgress pointed out,the state’s maximum welfare benefit is $185 per month, which hasn’t changed since 1996. So if parents even get the maximum benefit, this legislation would reduce it to under $130 for the month. Tough love I guess?

The Tennessee Clergy for Justice has created an online petition to strike down what they’re calling the “Starve our Children” bill.

As Ms. Perry points out, this only applies to poor parents….

Check out the video of Ms. Perry providing her opinion on taking away food benefits to families who students do poorly on standardized tests.

Fortunately the lawmakers pulled the bill at the last minute because of one 8 year old:

8-year-old follows Tenn. lawmaker around Capitol until he drops welfare bill

8 year old followed lawmaker Stacey Campfield around the state capitol until he relented.
8 year old followed lawmaker Stacey Campfield around the state capitol until he relented.

A Tennessee lawmaker has relented and agreed to drop his bill linking academic performance to the family’s welfare benefits after an 8-year-old girl shamed him by following him around the state Capitol.

On his way to vote on Thursday, state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) was confronted by 8-year-old homeschooler Aamira Fetuga, who presented him with a petition signed by people opposing his welfare bill, according to the Tennessean. Nearby, a choir of about 60 activists sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

“You are so weak, to not listen to a child,” a parent said as Campfield walked away with the girl following.

“Why do you want to cut benefits for people?” 8-year-old Fetuga asked after she caught up with him on a Capitol escalator.

“Well, I wouldn’t as long as the parent shows up to school and goes to two parent-teacher conferences and they’re exempt,” the state Senator explained.

The confrontation continued during what appeared to be long, uncomfortable walk to the Senate floor for Campfield.

“Using children as props is shameful,” he grumbled at one point.

But the protest tactics may have worked because Campfield decided to withdraw the bill before Thursday’s vote after several other former supporters began to express doubts.

To read the article in full, go to The Raw Story.

There is a pushback movement that has taken on momentum and at this point will not be stopped.

The following are examples of what is happening across the country.

walk out

On Facebook,Cleveland Walk Out!

Cleveland students are walking out against standardized tests. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to walk out at 10:30, right before 2nd period. If you don’t go to Cleveland you can still come and support!


We will be walking through the halls, loudly, and making our way to the front doors. Once we exit school we will head to Powell Park.


This may or may not last all of second period, but you are free to go back to class whenever you want.

and here are some reasons why standardized tests suck:


-It uses up money that could be going to better things, like art/science classes. Or new text books.


-Teachers are evaluated on them, and for the most part they just show how students are able to react during a high stakes test, not their education. So it’s not a fair evaluation.


-The curriculum and the tests don’t match up, so it’s not a fair test of our knowledge.

-People don’t learn in a standardized way, so why test them that way?


-The standardized tests are written by people who are not teaching or taking any of the classes.


-They are written by white men who think they know what everyone should be learning, and they write it based on their culture. That leaves out a whole percentage of students who are not part of that culture. Take grammar for example, people in different communities speak a different way and aren’t always taught “correct” grammar. Therefore those parts of the test they are already deemed to fail. The test is written for a certain culture and therefore is made to hold up a certain status quo, that is the white privilege lifestyle.


In the state of New York, Standardized test rebellion:

After a decade of high-stakes standardized testing, a revolt is brewing. Many local parents and — more quietly — teachers don’t like the effect that constant test prep has had on our local schools. Such tests measure a narrow band of intelligence, and schools should diversify the curriculum to allow for more creativity and hands-on learning.


This year, Kingston, New Paltz and Rondout school boards have passed resolutions opposing high-stakes testing. The issue hasn’t been taken up by the Saugerties School Board, but the local education community has many fellow travelers. Some from Saugerties attended a recent roundtable in Kingston.

“Kingston has been a big driving force,” said a Saugerties elementary school teacher and parent. “And people are saying, ‘You know what? If New Paltz can do it, so can we.’”


…“What started a few years ago as a mild breeze of parents requesting that their children not participate in the assessments is about to become a tsunami,” Turner said. “At least locally, the PTAs are beginning to hold forums collectively to talk about what the value is of standardized testing, and there are form letters which we are beginning to receive.”


Cahill parent Jennifer Mangione is one of the founding members of the Saugerties group PACE (Parents Actively Committed to Education).


“As far as high-stakes testing goes, I believe the stress that these tests impose on our students and teachers are not worth the results of the tests that will not accurately measure our students’ knowledge,” she said. “In addition, these tests are yet another unfunded mandate that we cannot afford. I know there are many parents thinking about opting out of these tests and finding out their rights as parents to do just that.”

To read this article in full, go to Saugerties Times.

In Buffalo, New York:

WNYers hold forum for Opt Out Movement

New York’s standardized tests are just that — standard, for all children who attend school in this state — right?

Wrong, say a small but steadfast group of advocates.


While it is not widely-publicized, it’s a fact that parents can choose to ‘opt out,’ and not have their kids take the tests. And this idea of refusing to take the tests is beginning to gain steam, with parents and teachers who feel the tests are doing more harm than good.


Saturday, they held a public forum at Buffalo’s Niagara Branch Library to inform other parents of ‘opt-out’ right, what its consequences are, and how to exercise it, if they so choose.


Bob Mahany has three children, two in high school and one in 5th grade. He’s also a high school social studies teacher. “Standardized tests are a good idea, to a point. It’s excessive, that’s where we are right now. It’s excessive use of standardized tests,” Mahany says.


Lisa Mihelbergal, also a parent who teaches art to Kindergarten through 5th graders, agrees. “It’s gone very, very extreme towards data and at the expense of students’ learning [and] our teaching… Anything that’s really meaningful,” says Mihelbergel.


Talk to teachers in any school district, she says, and they will tell you the same thing — children are being done a disservice.

Increasingly, school days are consumed by test prep and test-taking rather than creative projects, and one-on-one instruction that helps kids develop critical thinking skills.


“Teachers are now beginning to have to care about points, that don’t have to do with anything that’s of value, really, for the child and their education. Your time should be focused completely on those children, spending the time with them and teaching them,” Mihelbergel says. “Real education, it’s the relationship that you build with your children and what they’re really capable of doing.

To read this article in full, go to WIVB.com.

Dr. Jessie Ramey, a Pitt professor and parent of two Pittsburgh Public School students, is among a growing number of parents who are opting out their children from PSSA tests due to a variety of concerns. Ramey helps her son, Ian Zimmerman, 9, with his homework at their Point Breeze home on Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

In Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania parents take stand against standardized tests.

As students prepare to take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams this week, a growing number of parents are refusing to let their children take the high-stakes standardized exams aimed at showing which schools are excelling or failing.


It’s part of a national groundswell of opposition by parents who cite design flaws in standardized tests, increasing anxiety in students and teachers, and unrealistic performance standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.


The 2001 law requires all public schools that receive federal funding to administer a statewide standardized test annually. By 2014, schools must have 100 percent of students score proficient or better in reading and math to meet the federal benchmark.


In Pennsylvania, parents can exclude their children from PSSA tests, given in grades 3 through 8, based on religious objections, although many of the parents contacted cited reasons other than religion for their decision to opt out.


When pressed on how their objections are tied to religion, some parents contend that low test scores lead to cuts in school resources, rather than increases, which exacerbates gaps in racial or economic achievement. They believe that violates many religions’ social justice missions.

To read this article in full, go to Trib Live News.


More on Pennsylvania:

Why I won’t let my son take the PSSA

The opt-out movement is growing because high-stakes tests are wrecking our schools


I am an English professor. So you can imagine how my pride was hurt when my 9-year-old son Jacob started bringing home low scores on his practice reading tests for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.


My husband and I have been helping Jacob with his test-prep reading homework every weeknight this year, and it has been a grim slog. At times I have found myself getting angry when Jacob has fidgeted, or when he has had trouble focusing. Sometimes I have gotten angry when he simply hasn’t been able to answer the questions.

Then one day this March it dawned on me. I am getting angry at my son about a test. A test that I do not like. A “high-stakes” test that will put so much pressure on Jacob that it probably will not reflect his true abilities. I also realized something else: Jacob does not love to read.

After doing some research and talking with other parents, my husband and I decided to “opt out” Jacob from the PSSA tests. We are opting him out because we do not like what high-stakes tests are doing to Jacob, to our family, to his teachers, to his school and, ultimately, to our entire education system.


High-stakes tests like the PSSAs are used to evaluate, close and punish public schools, including my son’s school, Pittsburgh Linden, a K-5 magnet school in Point Breeze. Linden’s Adequate Yearly Progress score is bound to Linden’s PSSA test results. According to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, every public school in the United States must be 100 percent proficient in reading and math (based on test scores) by 2014.


Last year, Linden did not make AYP. In fact, only six Pittsburgh Public Schools did. A neighboring school, Colfax, which is one of the best schools in the East End, has been labeled “low-achieving” and is currently under something called “Corrective Action II.” Under this label, a school can be reconstituted, chartered or privatized.


High-stakes tests also warp the educational environment. This March, as Linden was gearing up for the PSSAs, the hallways were stripped bare, though state law requires only that displays pertaining to the tests be taken down. Artwork, motivational slogans, student-made posters, the Women’s History display my kids helped to make, my daughter’s picture of herself as a “writer” when she grows up, the “dream” statements everyone filled out in January with the large cutout of Martin Luther King — all of it has been removed. During testing season, access to Linden’s new iPads — for which I helped to write the grant that allowed us to acquire them — will also be curtailed.


The curriculum at Linden is narrowing, too. As testing has ratcheted up, and as Gov. Tom Corbett’s billion-dollar cut to Pennsylvania’s K-12 education budget have kicked in, schools across the state are dropping programs that are not measured by tests.


Last year at Linden the third-grade band program was cut, dozens of hours of music instruction were cut, our science programming was reduced, and we were slated to lose our art teacher (fortunately we were able to save her). We lost dozens of hours of library instruction, and children are allowed access to the library only once every two weeks. Ironically, the loss of our library hours will hurt the students more when it comes to testing. A recent study found that “[w]ith a full-time librarian, students are more likely to score ‘Advanced’ and less likely to score ‘Below Basic’ on reading and writing tests.”


Also, there is the stress. Jacob, only a third-grader, has cried, gotten dejected and thrown fits over his test-prep requirements, both at home and at school. Sixth graders in our district will take 23 different tests this year — up from nine the previous year.


During the tests, students are treated like prisoners, with limited bathroom breaks and constant monitoring. These conditions are especially hard for special-needs children and children with Individual Education Plans.

Teachers are also stressed. My son’s third-grade teacher has been working so hard this year that he arrives many days as early as 6 a.m. and stays for hours after school, sometimes as late as 9 p.m. From around the district I am hearing stories about teachers crying in the hall — devastated by the harm they believe the tests are inflicting.


Let me be clear. I believe in evaluation as a tool — I use quizzes and other testing techniques in my college classroom. But high-stakes tests, tests used to label schools, teachers and students as failures, are damaging our nation’s educational system.


Here in Pittsburgh and across southwestern Pennsylvania, the movement to opt out of standardized testing is taking root. In the Pittsburgh Public Schools there are parents at Colfax, Greenfield, Liberty, Linden, Montessori and Phillips who are opting their children out of the PSSAs. Across the region, some parents in Mt. Lebanon, Somerset County and Westmoreland County are doing so as well.

To read this op-ed in full, go to the Post Gazette.

Jesse Hagopian and Tracy Barrientos speak before the forum.

‘Out of a possible 810 students, the administration of Seattle’s Garfield High School was able to test only 118…’ Teachers and students who boycott tests speak of their experiences at CTU ‘More Than a Score’ forum.

In Chicago, Seattle Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian was a speaker at the More Than a Score Forum recently.

CTU President Karen Lewis, Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian, and several other speakers “enlightened, inspired, and energized” participants at a special community forum on standardized testing, said one teacher who spoke at the end of the meeting at Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church on March 19.


Approximately 100 people attended the event, sponsored by More Than A Score a coalition of the CTU, Parents 4 Teachers, Raise Your Hand, and PURE. CTU Testing Committee co-chair Tracy Barirentos moderated the meeting, noting in her opening remarks that public education is in “crisis mode” because of excessive testing, which CPS is increasing in grades K-2.

To read more about the forum, go to Substance News.

Primary school tests

And in the UK:

Teachers threaten to boycott ‘meaningless’ primary literacy tests

Primary school tests leave little time for art, music and books and make children feel like failures, teachers argue.


Teachers are threatening to boycott “meaningless” new literacy tests for primary school pupils.


At its annual conference in Liverpool, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) passed a motion calling for a boycott of spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for 11-year-olds and a reading check for six-year-olds. Both were introduced this year.


Delegates urged the NUT to hold talks with other teaching unions with a view to boycotting the tests next year. The union’s members would need to be balloted for the action to go ahead.


The tests leave little time for art, music and books and make children feel like failures, teachers argue.

Since 1995, children have been required to sit literacy and numeracy tests in their last year of primary school. This year the tests include a spelling, grammar and punctuation paper.


Ministers have also introduced a reading test to be taken by six-year-olds. This uses phonics, a system that encourages children to use sounds to decipher words.


Joan Edwards, a primary teacher from Birmingham, said Michael Gove, the education secretary, wanted a “world without music, without art, without creativity”.


“We as teachers want a more balanced education for our children. We want children to develop a love of reading, not reading for a test,” she said.

Philipa Harvey, a primary teacher from Croydon, said the tests were too prescriptive.


The NUT’s motion stated that the union “condemned the manipulation of the primary curriculum and teaching methods through the imposition of unnecessary tests, in particular Year 1 phonics screening and the Year 6 spelling, punctuation and grammar test”.


Christine Blower, the NUT’s general secretary, said the tests would leave many children feeling a failure.


“Primary school teachers are desperately concerned about what the school day will come to mean for their pupils,” she said. “The proposed primary curriculum will set education back generations. We need to ensure that children are given a love of learning, reading, writing and maths but this is not the right way to go about it.”

To read this article in full, go to The Guardian.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with bffr Eli Broad at Obama's first inaugural ball.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with BFF Eli Broad at Obama’s first inaugural ball.

There is a push now to collect an enormous amount of data regarding students and much of it would be considered confidential, not going any further than a file at the students’ school. This data is going into a state and ultimately into a national database and is being funded in part by Bill Gates. The state database is being promoted by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and funded by Race to the Top funding.

To see the amount and type of information that is being collected in the state of New York, go to inBloom. It will shock you if you’re a parent to see what others will have access to in terms of your student’s personal information.

This data can be assessed not only by school districts but also by for profit companies and corporations developing and promoting any and all products and software related to education.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and Founding Member of Parents Across America describes concerns that many parents have in her article:

Student education data collecting initiative inBloom puts sensitive information at risk

The proposal to store complete sensitive personal information along with grades, test scores, health records and disciplinary records on a cloud comes from the officials who dreamt up ARIS supercomputer boondoggle.

Thousands of New York parents have emailed state and city education officials in recent weeks protesting this plan to share student data with private companies — yet no parent has gotten any response.


Why does the state refuse to allow parents to decide whether the benefits of this plan outweigh the risks? That’s because the advantages are all hypothetical and the risks are all too obvious.

The most sensitive confidential data is being shared, including children’s names, emails, phone numbers, photos, which will be stored along with grades, test scores, health conditions, disabilities and detailed disciplinary records.


If this information leaks out or is improperly used, it could stigmatize a child and damage his or her prospects for life. The state and the city are setting themselves up for multimillion-dollar class-action suits if and when these data breaches occur.


The data inBloom receives from the education department will be placed in a vulnerable data cloud. Many technology professionals do not trust clouds for their more sensitive data.


The Home School Legal Defense Association’s Director of Federal Relations William A. Estrada, Esq. recently wrote an article titled:

National Databases: Collecting Student-Specific Data is unnecessary and Orwellian

A national database of student-specific data is very concerning for many reasons. The national databases being created now include detailed records of students, including race, gender, birth information, learning disabilities, detailed academic records, and much more. This information is being collected soon after birth, all the way through graduation from college.


The more personal information that is included, the greater the danger to the student’s privacy and safety if the data is breached. Will certain data make it harder for students to get into higher education? Will it be disclosed to government employers, or even private employers?


HSLDA believes that each student is unique, with far more to offer society than just the sum of their academic years. Government tracking students from soon after birth until they graduate from college is Orwellian and seems like a “Big Brother” mentality, and has no place in a free society.


It is important to note that there are many reasons for aggregated student data to be available. Such data is helpful for researchers, and it is reported widely so that parents and policy makers can determine how students are doing academically. But HSLDA believes that there are very little reasons for the government to track student-specific data.

To read the article in full, go to the HSLDA website.

Parents are pushing back and one example are parents in Louisiana who started a petition, Stop Sharing Our Student Data!

The Louisiana Department of Education has provided our children’s private data (including medical conditions, grades, discipline information, SSNs Birthdays, and your child’s picture along with your home address and phone number) to unregulated, unmonitored third party vendors to market products to our children. 


These vendors plan to keep this data forever, and to sell it to others at our children’s expense.  These vendors like inBloom, Amplify, and Ed-Fi are even obtaining and sharing historical data from students (now adults) who have already graduated.  These vendors have stated they will take “reasonable precautions” but will not take responsibility nor be liable for any damages or disclosures of this data – which they intend to host on publically available “data clouds.” 


This data can be abused by identity thieves, insurance companies, future employers, and pedophiles to name just a few of the dangers.


When you sign this petition you are stating you want this practice by the Louisiana Department of Education to cease.  You want any data already transmitted to be destroyed. You want the US Department of Education to restore FERPA protections for our children (no sharing of confidential student data without parental consent) and you want our local legislators to pass legislation that will prevent this from happening ever again.

You can view the petition at this website.

This week I’ll leave you with:

None of the Above – Why Standardized Testing Fails: Bob Sternberg at TEDxOStat

Oklahoma State University Provost Bob Sternberg developed his first intelligence test in seventh grade and since then has become one of the top 100 psychologists of the 20th century. His talk discusses the faults in standardized testing and the new needs of today’s generation.

Dora Taylor