Sunday, April 20, 2014

Kids being used as guinea pigs for tests

It’s easy to experiment on schoolchildren, because they are a captive and vulnerable audience. States require all children to attend school, and once there the kids can be forced to do all sorts of things, aided by the fact that parents are rarely in class to monitor what’s going on.

The latest scheme is the field testing of Common Core assessments. This spring, more than four million kids will be required to spend hours on tests that have little connection to what they learned in class this year and will provide their teachers and schools no information about what the kids know.

“We already have an assessment that’s working perfectly fine,” said Bill Gillmeister, a Tantasqua, Massachusetts school board member who voted to let parents opt their kids out of the tests despite protests from the state department of education. “This is a duplication that is completely unnecessary and it’s just a waste of resources. And I don’t want my kids to participate when we’re not going to get anything out of it. My kids are being tested to death.”

Who benefits from turning children into forced test subjects? Testing organizations, which essentially have been given free rein to use children as experimental lab rats for new national math and English tests. The two organizations putting out these experimental Common Core tests — using federal funds and under close federal monitoring — are called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced.

Access to millions of children to try out experimental designs is a central planning bureaucrat’s dream come true, and it has been aided and abetted by the very people who continue to promise us they are advocates for the children. Luckily for them, they can force millions of kids to do their bidding, even over parents’ objections.

Parents who object to this scheme face bullying and harassment from public officials. From New York to Denver to California, some schools are responding by forcing kids who opt out to sit at their desks and do nothing during the several-hour tests. Normal people call that a “time out,” and it is a punishment.

Sixth-grader Sarah Johnson, of Denver, refused to take the test. But when she went back to school, staff refused to let her into class, reported Chalkbeat Colorado, an education news website. Sarah’s mother, Susan, returned to the school and fetched her daughter, angry that Sarah had been “coerced” and pushed around by grown-ups. School officials said they were merely doing what the state Department of Education had advised.

Zoe Morris, a North Carolina fifth grader, more than a year ago decided taking Common Core tests goes against her conscience. So when her father informed her school principal Zoe would not take these tests, he found himself having to discuss the issue with the school’s lawyer. Eventually, Zoe did sit for a 2013 test, but she refused to enter anything on it. That got her marked a 0 on the test, which by state law must constitute 20 percent of her final grade. Zoe is an all-As student who has been invited to apply for the Duke Talent Identification Program.


Union thugs in Maryland

The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) is engaging in extreme bullying tactics against a local teachers union trying to disassociate from the state union and the NEA, according to local news reports from Maryland’s monoblogue.

As previously reported on, the Wicomico County Education Association (WCEA) is scheduled to hold a vote on April 28th and 29th on changes to the teachers association bylaws, removing the WCEA’s mandatory association with the state union.  Needless to say, the MSEA isn’t going let this vote happen without consequences.

In response to the impending vote, loyalists to the state union secretly entered the WCEA’s offices, changed the locks and security codes, altered office equipment, and fired the WCEA’s sole employee, all in violation of the law and the governing documents of the WCEA, according to WCEA leadership.

This response is akin to the bully tactics of a neighborhood gangster after a local business misses its latest “protection” payment—but instead of “protection” extortion, the state union is ensuring that it won’t lose county teachers’ annual dues in excess of $500,000. It appears the MSEA is making an example of Wicomico Country teachers, lest any other small county teachers decide they don’t need to pay half a million dollars or more to a politically-charged, scandal-ridden state union.

The disassociation vote is still scheduled to commence as planned. The president of the WCEA, Kelly Stephenson, announced the following on the organization’s website:

“On April 15, 2014, Gary Hammer et al., entered the WCEA offices, changed the locks and codes, removed or altered office equipment and purported to illegally fire the Association’s only employee. These actions were not taken in accordance with the governing documents of WCEA or in accordance with the law.

“The democratically elected leadership of WCEA would like everyone to know that we are continuing to exercise the duties of the office. We will not be bullied and these actions will not affect the business affairs of the Association. Member services, including member representation and contract negotiations with the Wicomico County Board of Education, will continue unchanged. Further, this attempt to subvert the democratic process will not succeed: on April 28th and 29th, the Association’s vote on Bylaws changes will proceed, and members will be able to decide for themselves whether to become self-governing.”

Americans for Limited Government president Nathan Mehrens noted that Wicomico County would be joining the union representing Michigan’s Rosscommon Area Public Schools in breaking away from the influence of the state and national unions

Mehrens commended the effort in the rural Maryland county located on the state’s eastern shore saying,: “As Wicomico County teachers continue to stand up against the shameful tactics of the Maryland State Education Association, we’re hopeful that these blatant intimidation tactics fail to stop local teachers from acting in their best interests.”


How political correctness will kill an easy way to identify more of our most talented students

The United States’ economy desperately needs all the scientific, engineering, and IT geniuses it can find. One of the most important functions that the SAT can serve is to identify young Americans with that kind of intellectual potential.

For many years, the scholarly literature has indicated that we have been missing a lot of that talent because one of its key components, spatial ability, is not identified by the verbal component of the SAT and only partially identified by the math component. The current best guess is that we’re failing to identify about half of students within the top one percent of spatial ability. That estimate comes from an important new study by scholars at Vanderbilt University about to be published in Psychological Science and already summarized in the New York Times.

The good news is that IQ tests have accurately measured spatial ability for decades and the items to do so could easily be incorporated into the SAT. The bad news is that it’s extremely unlikely that the College Board, which administers the SAT, will have the nerve to do so. Why? Because the largest gender differences and the largest ethnic differences are found in the subtests that measure spatial skills. Here’s the dilemma facing the top brass at the College Board: if they add a spatial component to go with their math and verbal components, they will indeed identify lots of extremely talented students whose potential is underestimated by the existing components of the SAT. But that spatial component will also show larger gender and ethnic differences than the other components (if you’re curious, the big winners from such a revision of the SAT would be Asians and males). What do you suppose the chances are that the College Board will be willing to take the heat for such a result? If you want to make a bet, I’ll take zero and you can have everything else.


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