Flawed CSCOPE & Flawed STAAR

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Education chief under fire for low passing standards on STAAR
By Terrence Stutz tstutz@dallasnews.com
3:16 pm on August 26, 2014

State Education Commissioner Michael Williams came under fire from members of the Senate Education Committee Tuesday over his decision to retain low passing standards on state achievement tests for the fourth year in a row.

 Some committee members suggested that social promotion of many students would result from the commissioner’s decision, while others said Williams retreated from an earlier plan to gradually raise passing standards on the STAAR as has been done in previous testing programs.

Comments from Janice

Why should STAAR have anything to do with whether a student is promoted to the next grade? STAAR is one test. Why is one test being used to determine if a student is promoted?

1. A student has passing grades and fails the 5th grade reading STAAR test. Does this mean the class grades do not reflect the student’s ability to read?

2. A student has high class scores in every class, including reading and fails the 5th grade STAAR test. Again, is this an indication that every teacher has inflated this student’s grades?

3. Students in different schools in different regions of Texas have high scores in every class and fail the 5th grade STAAR test. Do we still assume that all teachers are inflating the grades of students?

Parents from different regions of Texas are reporting that their children are passing class work but failing the STAAR tests.

Commissioner Williams,
How about doing something really extraordinary— Read some of the STAAR questions and make your own decision about the quality of these tests that are being used to retain students.

Commissioner Williams,
Social promotion has nothing to do with the STAAR scores because the STAAR test questions are correct, grade level, and some have no answers. It doesn’t matter how low the passing STAAR scores are because the test is bad. The lower the better. At least more students are not retained because of the poor quality STAAR tests.

Sir, TEA seems to use the word rigor as a code to mean –wordy, adding unnecessary information, including materials that are not grade level appropriate, adding incorrect material.

Williams insisted that Texas students are not ready to be graded by higher standards because the instruction they are receiving in core subjects is not up to the rigorous level of questioning on the STAAR.

Commissioner Williams,
I am not questioning that Texas students have not received quality instruction. Please think about this.

1. Who has been providing more than 80% of our Texas School Districts with instructional materials? The 20 ESCs.

2. Who allowed the ESCs to collaborate and create a one-size fits all instruction material, said to be so comprehensive that schools didn’t need textbooks? The 20 ESCs.

3. Who requires teachers to follow the CSCOPE/TRS curriculum materials with fidelity? The 20 ESCs.

4. Who is in charge of Texas Education and should know what the Texas Education Service Centers are selling to school districts? Commissioner William, if you don’t know what is being sold by the ESCs you should. The previous commissioner of education, Robert Scott should have stopped the ESCs from collaborating and creating a one-size-fits all curriculum that teachers were FORCED to teach.

Do you know that schools are still forcing teachers to use the TRS curriculum and that this material has many errors? Do you know that TEA conservators forced Marlin ISD to implement CSCOPE and this district is still being forced to purchase the TRS materials from the local ESC?

Do you know that the Vision Learning Instruction Materials being sold by TASA is Common Core in a different package? Do you know that the ESCs released CSCOPE in 2006 the same year that TASA presented their Texas transformation plan, Vision Learning? These two groups work hand in hand as they undermine the previous sound traditional Texas education and replace it with the Constructivist –progressive–Common Core –Education philosophy. Like Robert Scott, you made a straight path to TASA. Why? Did Governor Perry select you to be Commissioner of Education with the objective of transforming Texas education by implementing Common Core Constructivist Education? Are you aware that TASA is not a state organization, yet its member, school superintendents, pay their dues with school taxes from the district where they work? Do you know that School Board member do the same thing to support TASB?

 Commissioner Williams said,
“Our instruction has not yet risen to the level it needs to be,” he told committee members. “We haven’t jumped high enough in the classroom.”

Commissioner Williams,
You and others in control of Texas Education are the cause of instruction being at a low level. The 20 ESCs describe their equal education plan all the time. This being that every teacher teaches the same thing so that all students have the same education. This is socialism–all the same— not stars–No one excelling more than another. All the same.

Commissioner, you even had the ESC directors setting the rules for the ESCs. Did they set them low enough and vague enough so that they can keep on spending the millions of educations dollars without anyone really understanding where is is all going? Did you ask teachers to help you set the rules for them? NO you did not. Why? Because you do not respect teachers. If you did you would be investigating to find out what is wrong instead of saying they need to jump higher.

 

Commissioner Williams said,

“When the STAAR was introduced in Texas schools in the spring of 2012, the cut scores for students to pass were set low to help them transition to an exam that was more difficult than the TAKS test they had been taking for several years. For example, ninth graders have to correctly answer just 37 percent of the questions in Algebra I and biology to pass those end-of-course exams. Fifth graders need to answer 54 percent of the items in math and reading to pass. “

Commissioner Williams,

You sir have lowered the algebra math standards. Students need only to know how to punch in numbers on their calculators, which is programed to work algebra problems. I tutored some of these students and they do not understand algebra–they just know how to use the calculator. Without the calculator they do not have a clue about algebra–this is your doing.

The STAAR tests are more difficult than the TAKS tests but not always more rigorous. The TAKS tests had rigorous questions, which require students to think. The STAAR tests include unnecessary information and call it rigor. The STAAR tests include excessive amounts of reading on the science tests and call it rigor. The STAAR tests include incorrect and at time outdated information and call it rigor. The STAAR tests have incorrect diagrams and call it rigor. TEA does not know what rigor is.

Commissioner Williams,

Did you know that the 81st legislature provide the Rider 42 Grant of $200 million dollars for the purpose of creating TEKS transition workshops and materials. TEA gave this money to the 20 ESCs and they DID NOT –DID NOT meet the specifications of the grant yet were paid $200 Million. Now why do you think no one investigate this? Why didn’t the Senate Education Committee who is now making a showing of being concerned about Texas education (its an election year) find out what happened to the Rider 42 grant money?

I have copies of the pitiful material that the ESCs were paid millions to create so that our Texas teachers made the transition from TAKS to STAAR with ease. Why didn’t the 20 ESCs provide transition materials to help educators? BECAUSE THEY ARE VENDORS SELLING PRODUCTS. CSCOPE IS THE PRODUCT. The Rider 42 TEKS transition materials were to have been produced and workshops presented during the summer of 2010. When evaluated the ESCs were quoted as saying they just forgot to advertise the workshops. FORGOT? Seems the ESCs recently couldn’t remember where their records are for the expenditure of several million dollars.  Is this sloppy record keeping why Senator Patrick helped to postpone the audit of the ESCs?

Although the low passing standards were originally supposed to be in effect for two years, Williams has extended them twice, for the 2013-14 school year and recently for the 2014-15 school year.

 Among those who questioned Williams about his decision were the two candidates for lieutenant governor, Republican Dan Patrick of Houston and Democrat Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. Patrick is chairman of the Senate Education Committee and Van de Putte is a committee member.

 “If we haven’t raised the level of instruction and are giving students in the classroom an A, B or C for Algebra I, based on a 70, 80 or 90 grade, then we are apparently giving social promotion to kids who aren’t really prepared,” Patrick said, noting that students are only required to answer one out of three items correctly to pass the Algebra I exam.

Senator Dan Patrick,

Sir, you are at fault for the level of instruction in most of the Texas classroom. Have you forgotten the grassroots movement to remove the CSCOPE instruction material created by the ESCs? Have you forgotten that you were the chairman of the Senate Education Committee during the hearing on CSCOPE? Remember all the testimony given by the CSCOPE state director, Wade Lebay indicating that he had been part of not allowing anyone to view the CSCOPE lessons, not even parents. This had been going on since 2006 because even the Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott didn’t know what was in the lessons. Scott made no effort in finding out.

Senator Patrick,

You pointed out that the ESCs had created an illegal company called TESCCC, which you called a shell company. Now you are questioning the level of instruction in Texas classrooms. Don’t you remember that the ESCs tricked you into signing a contact in which you would help to have the audit of the ESCs postpones if they would eliminate CSCOPE. Instead they gave the CSCOPE lesson to Texas schools and are still selling the Constructivist-progresssive- framework to schools. Sir, the ESCs are controlling what is taught in classrooms and allowed to do so. There is so much more money given to schools who fail–more money to schools with ARD students. The ESCs are helping with the first–the materials provided by the ESCs is not all correct–the test questions are not all correct. So, because the ESCs are allowed to sell unedited materials and TEA even forces some schools to use this material, you can look around the capital and find all the culprits responsible for lowering the bar for Texas education. It has been done by allowing the ESCs to govern themselves and TASA to sponge off the school taxes of Texas school Districts. While you are looking around, ask yourself why the lobbyists, Thomas Ratliff is a member of the SBOE. Why didn’t you question this when the two of you were debating CSCOPE.

“We have reduced the passing cut score down to half of what we expect in the class,” he said, noting that a 70 is typically required to pass the course. “That makes no sense to me that we are saying to a student that this test is based on what you learn, but we don’t think you can actually get a C on the test to graduate from high school.”

Senator Patrick,

Nothing about the STAAR tests makes sense except our educational funds are being sucked out by Pearson, a publishing company that doesn’t want kids to pass the STAAR. This is because the same publishing company that helps create the questions, prints the tests and grades them also publishes materials to help students pass the STAAR. Do you think there just might be a conflict of interest?

 

Van de Putte said she was “greatly concerned” that the same low passing standards have been extended for the first four years of the STAAR, unlike on previous tests where the standards were raised after two years.

 “Our STAAR exam is not working for parents and teachers. It is not working for employers and it is not working for our accountability system,” she said. “If it were working, the commissioner would be moving us up to the next level” of passing standards. She called for eliminating the high-stakes requirements of the STAAR, such as demanding high school students pass five end-of-course exams to receive a diploma.

No test should trump all the grades earned during the school year.

Before demanding that a test be used for any type of promotion, how about evaluating the STAAR/EOC. How many errors have to be reported before you listen and realize that you are ALLOWING students to be given flawed tests and providing teachers with flawed  instruction materials.

During the CSCOPE hearing, the entire Senate Education Committee was shocked about the contents of the CSCOPE instruction material. Why don’t you know more about what is going on in Texas education? The committee didn’t know that for more than 6 years, the CSCOPE lessons had been taught to Texas school and parents had been deceived all this time about what was in the lessons. When parents visited the school teachers had materials they were allowed to show and a certain dialog they had been trained to give to pacify parents. The Senate Education Committee didn’t know that the ESCs had even collaborated and created CSCOPE. You do know it now yet you are still acting shocked that instructions are not at a higher level in the Texas classrooms. You do know that the ESCs have vilified veteran teachers and many have left teaching. Yet, you express amazement amazed that education is not improving.

You know what the problem is—YOU! Were you part of the senators who signed the bill to allow school districts to purchase any instructional materials. This same bill relieved school districts from proving textbooks. Was this part of Thomas Ratliff’s influence. Thomas is paid by Microsoft to promote anything that sells Microsoft products.

I have reported the errors in the CSCOPE materials and the Gutted CSCOPE material (no lessons) is still being sold and TEA forces some schools to use it with fidelity. Look no farther than the Texas Education Agency, The SBOE, the Commissioner of Education , etc……. who allow the ESCs to have an illegal monopoly on Texas instructional materials.

Who is writing the STAAR tests? Why are there so many science errors? Why doesn’t TEA improve the tests? Why doesn’t TEA at least remove the errors from their website?

Janice VanCleave

 

 

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