Monthly Archives: January 2016

D R E A M… I Have a Dream of a Day When There are No More High Stakes Tests

     Neighborhood public schools deserve to be hubs of creativity and innovation and teachers given the autonomy and flexibility and trust to make it happen.
     I dream of a day when there are no more high stakes tests that serve only to rank and sort children and schools in invalid ways. I dream of a day when the discrimination stops and all children are encouraged to find their individual talents and precious gifts. High stakes tests are promoting discrimination and stealing hours and hours away from what children need most. They deserve movement, engagement, experimentation, joy, and classrooms in which the love of learning is central. Rigid, scripted programs, and developmentally inappropriate pacing guides need to be shredded and burned.
     I dream of a day when it is realized children do not have standardized brains. Standardization emphasizes everyone being the same… “common”… when really divergence and individuality are what have made the United States of America great.
Martin Luther King
Passionately Submitted,



The Impact of High Stakes Tests… Presentation to WA State School Board

January 13, 2016

TO: The Washington State School Board

FROM: Raschelle Holland, Educator and Parent

RE: Two Minute Presentation: The Impact High Stakes Testing is Having upon Our Children and Schools

Good Afternoon Washington State School Board Directors,

I’m Raschelle Holland, a K-6 Math Specialist/Instructional Coach from Spokane working in the highest poverty school in the district. We have the largest homeless population and one of the highest ELL populations. I’m a 26 year, accomplished, award winning, and National Board Certified Teacher.

I also have an 8 year old child of my own. I speak for him as well as for all the children who don’t have a voice.

Vigor Trumps Rigor

The definition of “rigor” the Superintendent of this ESD gave this morning was enlightening. Let me add the following… VIGOR TRUMPS RIGOR. When I was a teacher in my own self-contained classroom it was filled with many of the suggestions made this morning around Career Readiness. My students were engaged with hands-on learning, out in the community, and experiencing many learning expeditions. These were the days when teacher creativity was honored and I was given the flexibility, trust, and autonomy to make learning come alive, and the core of my instruction was based on the love of life-long learning.

Then NCLB hit in 2001 and slowly, but surely, I have watched the unraveling of teacher’s abilities and freedoms slowly erode to “academic rigorous” curriculums lock stepping educators into scripted and dry curricular adopted materials.

Young Children Are Being Filtered Based on a Single Score on a Single Test

Discrimination 2The high stakes nature and discrimination of the current tests absolutely begins early. In Spokane Public Schools, they sent out information to teachers that any 4th or 5th grader (9, 10, & 11 year olds) who scored a level 3 or 4 on the Mathematics portion of the SBA would be eligible to participate and have access to a new computerized advanced math program. As I reviewed the elementary school data, the affluent schools will have near 80% of their students “qualify”, whereas in my high poverty school, only 25% will “qualify”.

Furthermore, the school district produced a video and posted it on the SPS Weekly News. Every single student featured is Caucasian and from the same affluent school ranked an “A” by the state according to their incredible test scores.  My school was given an “F” ranking.  I’d sure like to send the gifted teaching staff in my school to the affluent school to teach for one year.  Wonder what the test scores would show?

Video Link Here: Accelerated Math Program Lets Students Stretch

This screams discrimination. And… The opportunity “achievement” gap widens.

Note: One young man on the video shared how a computer was bought so he could use the program more at home. More valuable hours… valuable hours the students in my school do not have access to. 

No home internet access + No home computer = No Accelerated Math Extra Hours

Discrimination 1Children are being filtered at 9 and 10 years old based on one score from a single test. Research shows once a child is tracked, they are typically stuck within that track forever. (See attached from OSPI: Strengthening Student Outcomes, Technical Report on Best Practices and Strategies for Mathematics)

The test itself and the information received from the test is not usable at the classroom level. More and more studies are coming out regarding the lack of validity and reliability of the test. Every legislator, school board member, superintendent, and district administrator must be willing to dig and read these findings.

Study #1: The Common Core Mathematics Tests are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used

Note: This document breaks down many items and shows specifically why the test does not measure a student’s abilities in mathematics.

 Study #2: Using computers widens the achievement gap in writing, a federal study finds

Withdraw From this Flawed Test

Many states have or are in the process of withdrawing from either the SBAC or PARCC. I’ve been through the WASL, MSP, and now the SBAC. Of all of them, this test is the most time consuming and is taking days away from instruction. Young children (8, 9, & 10) are on the computers from 9 – 3 on test days… children… whose hands barely span the keyboard. The ELA Performance Task took many children 2 – 3 days to complete.

I will end on this…

As a Data/Math Coach, I have the “heart ache” of proctoring many tests and…

I. See. It. All.

Discrimination 6A 9 year old with big brown eyes and the most beautiful, smooth chocolate skin, an African Refuge with limited English, enters the computer lab. She looks up at me and says in her endearing accent, “Another Test? Another Test?”

Oh. My. Heart.

She stared at her screen most of the day. What else could she have been doing? Um… hmmm… A hands-on enriching project perhaps? What are we sacrificing in the name of “accountability”?

I am protecting my own son from all of this, which is my parental right. I will continue to opt him out and refuse to allow the system to categorize or track him based on a score on a single test. I wish I could protect other children and shield them from The Testing Abuse.

I seriously question the ethics and morality of what we are doing to children.

C H I L D R E N.

I hope you will take the time to look within and question too.

Passionately Submitted,

Raz on Fire


IGNORE THOSE TEST SCORES… By A.J. Wagner, Ohio School Board Member

The following was posted on A.J. Wagner’s public Facebook page. I continue to observe many amazing and gifted people standing up and speaking out regarding the Common Core Standards, High Stakes Testing, and poor Curricular Materials placed in teacher’s hands in the public schools. All the while the charter schools are highlighted as “innovative” and doing extraordinary things with children. When I visit the pages of charter schools I personally see no innovation and nothing extraordinary.


They are merely being given the freedom to do exactly what public school teachers can do if given the flexibility and autonomy to do the same. Rather we are restricted to rigid and scripted programs, timelines, inappropriate pacing guides, and expected to deliver constant tests until testing and data seep out of our brains and drain our most needy students of having the quality instructional hours they deserve. When I had my own classroom inside the walls of a public school through the 90s and early 2000s, my students experienced everything highlighted by the charter schools. I was given autonomy to be creative. My students were out in the community, traveled on learning excursions, and their days were spent innovating and engaged in hands-on learning. My classroom flourished and my students learned to fall in love with learning.

Since 2001, NCLB, I continue to see the increasing harmful effects and the zapping of teacher’s ability to have the flexibility and freedom to create dynamic learning experiences in the public schools. The teachers I am in contact with, both within my building, and across the land are speaking about how they are figuring out ways to “squeeze” in the creative projects. However, with the narrowed curriculum and the focus upon what is tested, the majority of time is stolen so children can do well on a single test.

The new ESSA Bill is being espoused by many it will “change” all of this, but as I read through the 1200 page bill, I still have grave concerns. The focus upon “accountability” and “testing” is still very much engrained within the document.

If you are interested in reading or following A.J. Wagner… his Facebook Link is here:

A.J Wagner Facebook Page

For your convenience, I have included his entire post below…

 Passionately Submitted By RAZ ON FIRE


“It is important to consider that unless assessments are independently verified to adhere to basic standards of test development regarding validity, reliability, security, accessibility, and fairness in administration, resulting scores will be meaningless and should not be used to make claims about student learning, progress, aptitude, nor readiness for college or career (see Legal Implications of High Stakes Assessments: What States Should Know).” – Roxana Marachi, Ph.D

The state of Ohio issued the first batch of test scores from last year’s round of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exams on English and Math. Don’t believe them. These tests, and their replacement tests, have not been independently, scientifically validated for effectiveness in measuring student aptitude. These tests were created and foisted upon our children without determining the ability of the questions to actually measure something.

Guinea Pig ExperimentsThe equivalent here would be a pharmaceutical company issuing a pill without animal or human testing. What is the effect of the pill? The company will tell you, “It will cure all sorts of ills. Give it to your kids and you’ll see.” When the kids get sick from the pill and its side effects they change the brand name, but the product offered up is the same untested medicine.

Doctor Roxanna Marachi Associate Professor from the Connie L. Lurie College of Education at San José State University is an education and psychology researcher who raises these questions about the untested tests.

  • “Q1: How is standardization to be assumed when students are taking tests on different technological tools with vastly varying screen interfaces? Depending on the technology used (desktops, laptops, Chromebooks, and/or Ipads), students would need different skills in typing, touch screen navigation, and familiarity with the tool.
  • “Q2: How are standardization and fairness to be assumed when students are responding to different sets of questions based on how they answer (or guess) on the adaptive sections of the assessments?
  • “Q3: How is fairness to be assumed when large proportions of students do not have access at home to the technology tools that they are being tested on in schools? Furthermore, how can fairness be assumed when some school districts do not have the same technology resources as others for test administration?
  • “Q4: How/why would assessments that had already been flagged with so many serious design flaws and user interface problems continue to be administered to millions of children without changes and improvements to the interface?”

These are but a few of the issues presented by tests whose effectiveness has not been properly measured. Without these issues being addressed, your children are on the receiving end of snake oil.

Steven Rasmussen, a mathematics educator and co-founder of Key Curriculum Press, studied the mathematics tests of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. He published a paper (The Common Core Mathematics Tests Are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used) this past March that is summarized as follows:

“This spring, tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will be administered to well over 10 million students in 17 states (including Ohio this coming spring) to determine their proficiency on the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). This analysis of mathematics test questions posted online by Smarter Balanced reveals that, question after question, the tests:

  • Violate the standards they are supposed to assess
  • Cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use
  • Use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces
  • Are to be graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect.

“No tests that are so flawed should be given to anyone. Certainly, with stakes so high for students and their teachers, these Smarter Balanced tests should not be administered. The boycotts of these tests by parents and some school districts are justified. Responsible government bodies should withdraw the tests from use before they do damage.” Read the full report…

The side effects of these tests are important to look at as well. Here is a short list of side effects that have been experienced so far. Some of these side effects are also the result of using these invalidated assessments to rate the teacher, the principal, the school, and the school district.

  1. To accommodate testing and test preparation, recess, art, music, physical education and subjects with great value to educating the whole person are being set aside.
  2. Curriculum must be geared to a test, not to the educational needs of a student. For instance, a child weak in vocabulary may be ignored in favor of teaching the high ordered thinking skills needed for the test.
  3. Scores are randomly set higher and higher without causal validity crating unnecessary pressures on teachers and schools.
  4. Teachers are leaving the profession while potential teachers are not signing up for those pressures. This is causing serious teacher shortages, especially in impoverished schools where teachers are being evaluated as ineffective because their students don’t do well on a test.
  5. The education gap between rich and poor is growing as is the racial segregation of schools.
  6. Whole communities are destroyed as their schools are rated poorly on an unvalidated tests reducing the value of their property and causing flight to other areas where more affluent schools can be accessed. This is despite the truth that some of our best teachers are in difficult schools with a dedication to help the poor.
  7. Even good teachers finally give up and move to more affluent schools where they are paid better and the tests don’t cause them to be rated as ineffective.
  8. Teachers’ relationships with students are negatively impacted by the teacher’s need to get the student to pass a test.
  9. Hundreds of millions of dollars are taken from the classroom and redirected to testing companies for a product that is wholly unreliable.

Bottom line

The tests dictated by the Every Student Succeeds Act have no validity and are doing harm to our kids. Don’t take this snake oil and don’t believe the claims of the Ohio Department of Education. Without validity, the scores can’t be believed, the teacher’s effectiveness can’t be proven, the principal’s value can’t be determined, the school’s success can’t be shown, and school district report card grades can’t be taken seriously. These tests should be dumped and the money spent on them returned to the classroom.

-A. J. Wagner, Ohio School Board Member