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A Must Read for Parents with School Age Children

Education Advocate Maria Naughton on the Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessment Test

Here are two new more contributions from public education advocate Maria Naughton.  Maria Naughton is an educational consultant, former teacher and mother of four children in New Canaan Public Schools. She writes a column for the News of New Canaan.

The first is a link to a radio show in which Maria Naughton discusses the Common Core with Stephen Wright, a member of Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education.  Although 30 minutes in length, it is a “MUST LISTEN” because it reveals how little this State Board of Education member understands about the Common Core and the associated Common Core testing scheme.

https://soundcloud.com/hersam-acorn-radio/2014-0418-behind-the-news

The second is a recent column Maria Naughton wrote for the New of New Canaan entitled, “How do we guard our children’s digital footprint?.  Naughton wrote,

This week concluded the second week of the Smarter Balanced field-testing in New Canaan. As we started this testing, more than 20 other states were also instructed by the Smarter Balanced Consortium to give this field test.

Despite the fallacies perpetuated by our state Department of Education, these are not mandated mastery tests; this is product development. Statewide, the frustration of the test was heightened by inconsistent responses to families which ranged from permission to opt-out, repeated misleading statements about the legality of opting out, and even “community service” credit offered to those participating.

This entire experience has led to confusion, lost educational time and many distressed students, particularly juniors for whom this year is already stressful. Looking beyond all of that, there looms an even bigger issue here: the federally-funded Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium appears to exercise an inordinate level of control over our schools.

After signing the Consortium Memorandum of Understanding in 2010, Gov. Malloy and Education Commissioner Pryor agreed to rules set by the Consortium, including the type and timing of assessments, and reporting of data. This agreement imposes an added layer of complexity on our schools, specifically related to testing and reporting, while lessening the ability of families to fully understand the impact on our children’s future.

We have already seen the impact of this “shared-decision model” after the Consortium informed states that the testing would be delayed a week. In a unilateral move, this organization sent districts around the country scrambling to reschedule events in a week already disrupted by testing, further dictating how our resources had to be used to accommodate the online testing.

Privacy concerns

After testing, it will be the Consortium and their test vendors who will have performance data on New Canaan students. This puts the privacy of our students at risk, as plans for future data aggregation for tracking and profit continue to develop. For this year’s field test, parents have been told we will not receive student results from this “no-stakes” test. But these tests are not anonymous. Once students hit “submit,” someone will know how he or she performed. Educational data has been shared in the past, but there were laws protecting privacy. Now, the federal privacy law (FERPA) that protected student information has been changed. Being “FERPA-compliant” means nothing for families, as the change in the law actually expands the definition of who may access the data, giving parents no control whatsoever as to who sees their child’s data profile, or even the ability to challenge inaccuracies.

As these tests become more refined and profit incentives emerge, data-sharing concerns will grow. Corporations have spent billions to support education reform. Bill Gates clarified that intent, saying that once curriculum and assessments are fully aligned, it will “unleash a powerful market for people providing services.” Those services may be in the form of online, personalized learning, delivered as part of the New Canaan’s K-12 one-to-one device initiative, which naturally would be dependent on academic and behavioral response data from our children.

Most parents no longer have a clear-cut understanding of the rationale behind all this testing, or the intentions for the increased need for data beyond our town borders. New Canaan has been highly successful for years, guiding generations to post-high school success. Yet the Consortium maintains that annual testing and powerful data analysis is critical to evaluate student readiness for college or career. That statement should give us all pause. How many of us are comfortable with our children receiving any indication of college readiness starting in third grade? Do we believe that anyone other than our child or their teacher should know their progress and performance, especially if it includes predictive indicators about future potential? How many of us are comfortable with personal and assessment information being shared with this consortium? Who are they and why do they want my child’s data profile? How does a parent protect their child from this?

This entire effort is truly creating a hardship for many families. The unknowns and the growing digital portfolio on our children is troubling. The possibilities for use and misuse are real. The actions of the Smarter Balanced Consortium are putting our children squarely in the middle of the families trying to protect their future and the desires and demands of the schools and state. Families should make their feelings known to members of the Board of Education, and insist that our children’s “digital footprint” is guarded with the same level of care afforded to our children themselves.

Thecolumn can be found at: http://www.ncadvertiser.com/31519/how-do-we-guard-our-childrens-digital-footprint/?fb_action_ids=1490924381126490&fb_action_types=og.likes

For the full Wait, What? post go to: http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/04/25/education-advocate-maria-naughton-on-the-common-core-and-smarter-balanced-assessment-test/

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