The following is the full statement delivered to the Renton School Board on Wednesday, Jan. 28, by David Spring, in conjunction with presentations by four Renton teachers who delivered statements of professional conscience, declaring their unwillingness to administer standardized tests this spring (more details here).
Dear School Board Directors,
According to the OSPI report card, in the 2013-2014 school year, about 70% of the Renton School District’s 15,000 students passed the MSP and other State tests. This year, the Renton School district will administer a new test called the Smarter Balanced test or SBAC test. This new test is not smarter than the old test and it is certainly not balanced. Instead, as the following graph shows, the SBAC test is deliberately designed to fail about 70% of the students who take the test (yellow and red). (Image source.)
Contrary to claims made by the makers of the SBAC test, this high failure rate is not due to the adoption of Common Core standards. As we explain in detail on our website, Weapons of Mass Deception (dot) org, the increased failure rate is due entirely to choosing NAEP “Hard” math questions rather than NAEP “Medium” math questions. With any math standard, Common Core or otherwise, the standard can be measured by asking an easy, medium or hard question. We know from 30 years of research in asking students questions that only 20% of all students can answer NAEP Hard questions while 60% of students can answer NAEP medium questions. Our research on SBAC test questions compared to the prior MSP test is that there was a huge increase in the number of NAEP hard questions. This was done deliberately in order to increase the percentage of students who fail the SBAC math tests. The purpose of increasing the failure rate is to provide the illusion that our public schools are failing and should be replaced with private for profit charter schools.
In 2008, many of us parents and teachers worked hard to elect a new Superintendent of Public Instruction based on his pledge that he would replace the unfair WASL test with a fairer MSP test. Unfortunately, the new superintendent now supports a test that is even more unfair than the WASL. SBAC is worse than WASL. SBAC is WASL on steroids.
In addition, the SBAC test and the Common Core standards require Third Graders to engage in abstract reasoning in order to complete math problems. As any elementary school teacher knows, most young children are not capable of engaging in abstract reasoning. Instead, young children are “concrete” learners that require concrete objects to solve math problems. This is a fact about young children that child developmental specialists have known for more than 80 years.
The fact that Common Core standards and tests are developmentally inappropriate is a major reason why our nation’s leading association of child developmental specialists have come out in opposition to Common Core standards and Common Core tests. Child development experts assert that Common Core and SBAC are a form of child abuse. More than 500 early childhood professionals signed a statement opposing Common Core. The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative was signed by educators, pediatricians, developmental psychologists, and researchers, including many of the most prominent members of those fields. Their statement reads in part: “We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children…. The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades….”
Because of the many problems of Common Core standards and tests, in May 2014, the Washington State Republican Party voted unanimously to oppose Common Core. Last Saturday, January 24 2015, the Washington State Democratic Party also voted overwhelmingly to oppose Common Core standards and their high failure rate tests. The rank and file grassroots members of both major political parties in Washington State now stand shoulder to shoulder in opposition to Common Core. We are both asking the Washington State legislature to withdraw our State from the poorly written Common Core standards and return our State to the prior Washington State standards – standards that were written by Washington State teachers rather than Wall Street consultants.
School boards all across America have been withdrawing from Common Core. We ask that the Renton School board also pass a motion opting out all of the 15,000 students of the Renton School District from the coming SBAC test. The students of the Renton School District deserve better than Common Core and SBAC. They deserve standards written by Washington State teachers and tests that are fairly constructed so that the majority of students have a reasonable chance of passing the test.
David Spring M. Ed.
Director, Coalition to Protect our Public Schools
49006 SE 115th Street North Bend WA 98045