Kentucky's Comedy of Errors-(Tragedies For our Children)
Testimony Before Joint Session of Arkansas Education Committees
November 19, 1998
Kentucky is very significant because Arkansas has and is
following the same steps that Kentucky has taken in
[Scroll down the page to get to the section about Kentucky
that begins with the headline, "Advanced Systems that designed
Arkansas' ACTAAP test also designed Kentucky's KIRIS test."]
As an educator (with a master's degree in Counseling and in English and with twenty-five years teaching experience in Arkansas), I am very concerned that we are teaching the tests, rather than educating our children. When too much emphasis is put on high stakes tests, the results can be disastrous. I want to show you to what degree teachers are being encouraged and pressured into teaching the test and the negative effects that has on education.
In workshops around the State, representatives from the Co-op and/or state department are conducting teacher workshops and teaching them how to improve their test scores. Note that I said how to improve test scores, not how to improve education. [Teacher workshops are called staff development and improving test scores is called aligning the curriculum with the frameworks.]
"Throw away textbooks and teach what's on the test,"
Co-op Presenter Tells Teachers
In February of 1998, a representative from the Co-op, in one of the many teacher workshops he conducted, told the teachers, "Arkansas frameworks and the SAT-9 Test go together. The state of Arkansas has given you frameworks. The state is saying this is what you should be teaching. This is what is on the test. This is what teachers are going to have to do. A lot of places are throwing away the textbook and are just using these Arkansas frameworks." Then he reminded them that if the SAT-9 Test scores don't measure up, the state can take over the school. Arkansas has tests at six different grade levels that come under the academic distress law that allows the state to take over the school if scores don't measure up. (The SAT-9 test is the standardized test that students are required to take in the 5th, 7th, & 10th grade)
Sat-9 Test booklet outlining tests given to teachers
This representative from the Co-op then went through the SAT-9 Test booklet and showed the teachers on an overhead how to find the exact objectives that each test item is testing and where to find these booklets (called Compendium and Item Format booklets for each grade level.) He then gave some suggestions about practical ways to improve test scores (but not education.). In fact, he jokingly said he was there to make good teachers out of them in an hour. He suggested among other things that teachers give enrichment work (teachers call that busy work) to good students and teach and re-teach the test curriculum until other students have mastered it. (In the meantime the good students are bored and are not learning other things they could be learning.)
District's test data to drive the district
He said some schools had improved their scores up to 11% by using his practical suggestions. In my opinion, these practices corrupt the scores and the purpose of the test in much the same way teaching the objectives of an IQ test would corrupt those scores, and I first thought this man was advocating practices that would not be acceptable to our State Department. I even made an effort to discuss this with two different education officials. However, I now understand these workshops are being conducted all over the state under the guise of "aligning the curriculum to the frameworks." Superintendents reported that the Director of the State Department told them in a recent meeting that , "you will be given test score data on your district; use that data to drive your district." In the joint education committee meeting in July, the Director of the State Department basically said that textbooks were a hindrance to good teaching which sounded a lot like throwing the textbooks away, as the representative from the Co-op suggested.
Teachers asked to prepare for test with repetitive boring drills and worksheets
This fall numerous teachers all over the state of Arkansas were pressured by their administrators (who were pressured by the State Department and the academic distress law) to begin their school year by preparing their students for the SAT-9 which must be given a few weeks after school starts. Teachers in many schools were given workbook curriculum like "Scoring High" booklets and asked to teach these drills every day until the students took the test. Many teachers and parents complained that their students were bored and unhappy with this constant drilling. This is not a very good way to start back to school nor a good way to motivate students. I strongly believe in drills and worksheets when used appropriately, but many teachers know how to teach the test curriculum in a more effective and interesting way than these booklets do; but they weren't given the choice. And many teachers have a moral disagreement with teaching the test to this degree.
Tests Controls Whole Curriculum
Even worse, the tests are now going to control the entire curriculum all year in many or most schools. In some schools the teachers are required to put in their lesson plan books the objective of the test item they are teaching that day. In other words, every lesson has to revolve around one of the test objectives. And teachers in some schools are reporting that their principals are telling them, "If it is not on the test, don't teach it." In a workshop conducted by the assistant to the Director of the State Department of Education, teachers were told (and this is on tape) that "we would be hearing terms like 'weeding out' and advised to look at our curriculum and do the things that teach directly to the standards and the test and let things go that don't." The Director himself said concerning the benchmark standards, "It's not something teachers will do in addition to; it will be done in place of."
The whole curriculum then for 7th grade would be this one page of specific objectives. Be sure to look at these in my material. There is no writing on here, no literature, no parts of speech, etc.
Teaching to Test Corrupts Purpose of Test And Narrows the Curriculum
As stated earlier, this process corrupts the purpose of the test, much like the IQ test would be corrupted if teachers spent all year teaching the objectives on that test. Tests are designed to be a sampling of the material taught. In a test over 100 multiplication facts, a teacher would typically give a test over ten facts, and the grade for each student would be about the same as if the test covered all 100 facts. But if the students knew which ten the teacher was going to give, they could study a lot less and still make the same grade, but they would know only ten multiplication facts instead of 100. The same thing is happening in our testing program in Arkansas - the test is becoming the entire curriculum rather than a sampling of the curriculum.
For example, on the Objectives on the 7th grade SAT-9 booklet for language arts (attached for legislators), given to the teachers by the State Department, there are six objectives (specific rules) on capitalization and eight questions on the actual SAT-9 Test. read. If teachers aligned the curriculum with the test and spent a proportionate time on each objective as teachers are being encouraged to do by representatives from the Co-ops and State Department, then capitalization would be 17% of the 7th grade language arts curriculum, or 32 days of the year spent on capitalization - 32 days the teacher could spend teaching and reteaching six capitalization rules in the 7th Grade. I think OBE calls that "less is more" (READ THESE CAPITALIZATION RULES OFF. These are the type of absurdities that only the teachers in the classroom seem to be recognizing. I
Test Scores Drop When Tests Change
Then what happens when we change tests? The same thing that has happened every time Arkansas changed tests in the past; the scores go down. For example, when we switched from the Metropolitan nationally normed test to the SAT nationally normed Test in 1992, the scores for 7th graders in Arkansas dropped from 63% to 51% (12%) on the basic battery. Scores on nationally normed tests have been dropping in Arkansas since the late 80's. This is when the pressure began to be put on the teachers to score well on tests and this pressure has been building ever since. Most teachers resisted this pressure to a great degree and continued to educate, or the problem would be much worse. (I added at this point, "we get very frustrated because teachers won't actively oppose these reforms, but I have to say that on the whole the teachers have been very effective at passive resistance. They continue to do all the extra work and put it on paper, but a large majority of them go right back in the classroom and teach the kids the best they can.
Concerns that ACTAAP Tests are Flawed - Not Valid
We teachers also have great concerns about the criterion referenced tests for the 4th grade, 8th grade and exit exam (called ACTAAP tests) that Arkansas has been and is developing. Any time a newly designed test is failed by 50% or more of the students, there has to be a problem with the tests. (98 percent of students failed the math portion and 89 percent the reading section of the pilot exit exam in 1996. Gazette, 8-8-96.) Teachers have reported that the 4th grade criterion tests that was just piloted has many of the same problems as the exit exam and only a small minority passed that test.
I have looked at some of these new type tests and am appalled by them. Under the guise of critical thinking, they are testing data that is totally subjective and data that can't really be taught. On some of these questions the teacher could work with the students all year, and they still would not be able to get the questions right. I found questions in my field on tests that I and other teachers did not know what answer the test makers would consider correct.
Advanced Systems That Designed Arkansas's ACTAAP Test Also Designed
Kentucky's KIRIS Test
The problems with these kind of tests can best be explained by a panel of testing experts from five universities who evaluated Kentucky's criterion referenced tests, called the KIRIS Test. Kentucky's test is relevant because the same testing company, Advanced Systems, that designed their state test is designing 4th grade, 8th grade and exit exam tests in Arkansas, often called ACTAAP tests. [In a letter from Advanced Systems dated November 21, 1994 they say, "I believe that the lesson we have learned in other states, especially Kentucky, can be of great value to Arkansas. ]
Testing Experts Call Kentucky's KIRIS Test "Seriously Flawed."
And Outlines 50 pages of Possible Legal Problems with the Test.
"In July, 1991, Advanced Systems (a tiny New Hampshire firm) was named contractor for the five year Kentucky (KIRIS) Test, the largest contract of its kind ever awarded in the US testing industry." [Quoted from Advanced Systems own documents) Four years later this panel of experts from five universities, commissioned by Kentucky's Office of Education Accountability, issued a scathing report saying the KIRIS test was "seriously flawed" and included a 50 page appendix of possible legal problems. [32 million for the first five years and almost 40 million for the next 4 years. Senate Floor Leader, Dan Kelly, in July, 1997 said, "We have already spent more than $100 million to develop, administer and grant rewards on the basis of this flawed test."]
From the very beginning these tests were controversial and were the constant subject of many newspaper articles throughout the state. (I have about 100 of these articles that make this testing experience in Kentucky look like a comedy of errors - several of these articles are attached.) In February, 1998, Kentucky terminated its contract with Advanced Systems, saying Advanced Systems had failed to deliver a "usable product." [This was a quote from the executive director of Office of Education Accountability] The vote in the Kentucky Senate was 35-1 to scrap the KIRIS tests. [Leader Dan Kelly of Springfield said the lopsided vote in the Senate of 35-1 indicated that, "We have said very loudly that the KIRIS system is not valid and shall end," and other senators said "the testing system has accumulated too much bad feeling from teachers and parents." Senator Vernie McGaha, a retired teacher and a freshman senator said he "faulted the Education Department for not responding to the public discontent, and said that the state should rely on teachers' judgments of how pupils are doing, not an expensive and problematic state test." Quoted from Louisville Courier-Journal 2-20-98. Some legislators are asking that the KIRIS test be replaced with a nationally normed test.]
Curricular Validity of Kentucky's KIRIS Test Questioned by Testing Experts
(67% of one year's test was puzzles.)
These testing experts (from five universities) discussed curricular validity on the Kentucky tests. They said that some of the items on the 1993-94 math assessments "might be characterized as brain teasers or math puzzle type exercises not solvable by systematic strategies" and might not be appropriate for instruction in the classroom. These testing experts said puzzles constituted 67% of the 1991-92 KIRIS assessments and 40% of the 1993-94 assessments. They also said that the Debra P. court held that for the assessments to be valid that the majority of teachers must recognize the skills as being something they should teach. [Note: Italics part added after testimonyThe president of Advanced Systems said in 1994 that they had earned their reputation almost by accident, saying, "We couldn't afford to hire anybody who knew anything about testing, so we hired people who were bright and committed." (information taken from "Little Firm that Could" www/teacher mag.org, June 8, 1994 Education Week) For you who will understand this, Advanced Systems probably earned their reputation because in 1993 they took part in the New Standards Project, which seeks to establish a world-class standard of performances for all students in the US. New Standards Project is a branch of the NCEE, National Center on Education and the Economy, headed by Marc Tucker, Hillary Clinton's friend.]
Arkansas's ACTAAP test has same problems as KIRIS test
These experts put into words my feelings as I have looked at some of these tests. I believe there are many items on these tests that teachers would throw out in favor of more constructive teaching if they had the opportunity to do so. In a teacher survey of the 2nd Senatorial district in Kentucky, 80% of teachers said students would not be equipped for basic skills under the KIRIS test. I believe we must involve the regular classroom teachers if we are ever going to make any progress in education. (I have some suggestions as to how to do that if anyone is interested.)
Teachers Face Moral Dilemma
Many of our educational reforms tout local control as one of their goals. I submit to you that a state mandated curriculum assessed with state tests leaves little or no control for the schools, teachers, and parents. I ask each of you legislators to ask yourselves these questions. If you were a teacher and knew in your heart that teaching the state test was cheating your students (children) by denying them the opportunity for a good education that you knew you were capable of giving them, what would you do in your classroom? Would you obey the authorities and teach the test and defraud the students and the parents that you know and love; or would you continue to teach the curriculum that you know really educates? Which course would be right and which would be wrong. This is the moral dilemma that good teachers in Arkansas are facing. This is always the dilemma that citizens face when the government takes control rather than allowing local control. That is why local control is the basis of a democracy. (End of Summary of Testimony to Arkansas Senate and House Education Committee)
[Note: Italics added after testimony] These state testing systems are laying the groundwork for the national tests that President Clinton is pushing. In his State of the Union address he said he "will send Congress a plan [that] holds states and school districts accountable for progress" and he will withhold federal funds if they don't. We have the blueprint in Arkansas for his accountability process.
President Clinton's reforms in Arkansas have resulted in a decrease in scores on standardized tests at all grade levels - 24% decrease in basic battery of 4th graders, 20% for 7th graders and a 16% decrease for 10th graders over a period of 8 years. Robert Holland with the Richmond Times has written two good articles in which he summarized these reforms and scores. These articles and the summary of the scores on Arkansas's State Department letterhead are included in this packet.]
Second Part of Testimony
My name is Iris Stevens. I am in my 22nd year of teaching English in Arkansas Public Schools. I'm certified in Education for the Gifted and Talented and have taught gifted classes and journalism. My graduate studies are in Secondary School Administration.
It really concerns me when I hear remarks about doing away with textbooks. The testing director of the Co-op talked about doing that, and our Director of the State Department (Mr. Simon) said in his presentation to the joint education committee in July that, "Too often our textbook drives what is being taught in our schools," and that, "The textbooks are the Bible many times for our teachers because they don't have anything else to do or don't know anything else to do." I have also heard a couple of legislators say similar negative things about textbooks. Bill Spady, the man that coined the term Outcome Based Education (OBE) was the first man I heard advocate throwing away the textbooks.
Textbooks contain a wealth of academic material. The teacher can use them in numerous ways. She can pick and choose exercises, rearrange the order in which she teaches the curriculum from the book, and leave out less important material. Teachers, parents, and students can use the text as a reference book in studying and writing papers by using the index to look up capitalization rules, punctuation rules, and grammar usage. The teacher can use specific exercise for students with specific weaknesses and for tutoring students low in certain skills tested on mandated tests like the SAT-9.
Compare that to the curriculum frameworks consisting of eight pages or less that are identical for 6th, 7th, & 8th grades or compare to the SAT-9 test objectives which covers one page. The objectives on the SAT-9 don't even cover parts of speech or subjects, verbs, complements or literature.
I don't think there is a good teacher or parent in Arkansas who wouldn't choose the textbook over the curriculum frameworks. (insert information about the math frameworks here). And at least the teacher and the district have some choice in choosing the textbook but no choice when a state curriculum is mandated.)
Based on our experience, we teachers foresee the following problems with the testing plan for Arkansas. Our fears have been confirmed by the testing experiment in Kentucky through the headlines of their newspapers. By the way, we had these concerns before we were ever aware of the Kentucky testing problems; and we are personally acquainted with parents and teachers from Kentucky. We also have talked with legislators from Kentucky and have seen most of the documents referred to in the newspapers.
Following are the concerns about Arkansas Test that parallel the testing in Kentucky.
I. Same Testing Company, Advanced System and Data Recognition Corporation, for Development of Criterion Referenced Tests
Kentucky's test is called the KIRIS test, and Arkansas' is called the ACTAAP test which includes the exit exam and the 4th and 8th grade tests. [See attached letter from Advanced Systems to Data Recognition Corporation, dated November 21, 1994 which says, "I believe that the lessons we have learned in other states, especially Kentucky, can be of great value to Arkansas. See State Department memo headed ACTAAP dated 9-27-95 which says, "The ACTAAP will assess student performance in Grades 4, 8, and the Exit level... "The Arkansas Department of Education has contracted with Data Recognition Corporation (DRC)for the production, distribution, and collection of assessment material as well as for the scoring-related tasks. Additionally, DRC has subcontracted with Advanced Systems in Measurement and Evaluation to design and develop the ACTAAP items and testing system."
Newspaper Headline, Senate scraps state testing program. Article says that in February, 1998 Kentucky Senate voted 35-1 to scrap the test and fired the testing company. (Louisville Courier-Journal, February 20, 1998)
Newspaper Article, Office of Education Accountability said Advanced Systems failed to deliver a 'usable product' and said the commonwealth needs a refund. Article reports, "Executive director of the legislature's Office of Education Accountability, told lawmakers that the testing contractor, Advanced Systems in Measurements & Evaluation of Dover,N.H., was paid $3.0 million from 1992 to 1994 to develop, administer and score performance events, but failed to deliver a 'usable product." (Louisville Courier-Journal, Feb. 7, 1997)
Newspaper Headline, "Education Department publicist quits; agency under fire over test." Article says, "His departure leaves two key vacancies in the department as it begins work on a new statewide testing. "Louisville Courier-Journal, April 4, 1998.
Newspaper Article, "I'm just glad they're fired and we get rid of them." Senate Democratic Leader David Karem, a key supporter of the reform law, said of Advanced Systems. "They're a public-relations nightmare for us. "Louisville Courier-Journal, June 26, 1997
An article in Education Week, describes Advanced Systems as a fledgling testing company when it beat out five of the biggest, most established firms in the field and won the $29.5 million, five year contract for Kentucky in 1991, the largest of its kind in the nation's history. (When they lost the contract, they lost 20% of their business).The Company's President said that Advanced Systems earned its reputation almost by accident, saying, "We couldn't afford to hire anybody who knew anything about testing, so we hired people who were bright and committed." Edward Reidy, a deputy commissioner in the state education department said Advanced Systems "put forward the most comprehensive, innovative proposal, and they put forward the proposal in the most innovative way possible." "The Little Firm That Could", Education Week, June 8, 1994 (http://www.teachermag.org)
Magazine Article, "Ky. Fires Firm That Ran Innovative Testing Program" Article says that Advanced System lost about 20% of its business when it lost contract with Kentucky. Education Week, July 9, 1997
[We teachers don't mean to be demeaning the company so much as the philosophy behind the testing.] We think anyone who attempts to use testing to drive education will come up with the same results. If state and national testing could have improved education, then our educators would have developed them back during our educational prime when we had the greatest educational system in the world. Professors in college used to tell their classes that no test can predict success like grade point average can. Why? Because the grade point average includes grades from hundreds of tests by numerous teachers over a period of years. We admit that grade inflation has been a real problem, but even that is partly because of government control. Several years ago most schools in Arkansas required a 95 for an A until the State Department mandated 90 and above as an A. These same professors used to tell their classes to never use a test as the sole criterion to evaluate a student.]
II. Narrowing of the Curriculum Through Curriculum Alignment
A newspaper article reports "According to a report by the Rand Corp., many teachers in Kentucky were emphasizing basic skills. Why? Because they perceived that the KIRIS test did not measure them -- so why teach them?" Forum, March 7, 1998 Sounds like the philosophy being expounded by principals and leaders in Arkansas, "If it is not on the test, don't teach it."
III. Validity and Reliability Problems
These tests are not testing teachable, relevant basic skills that students need in life or skills that are tested on other significant tests like nationally normed tests and college entrance tests like the ACT. Many students we know here in Arkansas, and have personally taught, have received numerous awards and high scores on the ACT college entrance exam tests but failed the ACTAAP math exit exam.
Newspaper Headline, Students' ACT scores show KERA tests are unreliable. Voice, 3-30-94, reprinted from the Liberty Standard
It should be noted here that the American College Testing, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Western Michigan University Evaluation Center, The Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills of McGraw Hill, and the national panel of testing experts indicate that the KIRIS test is not reliable. The ACT study revealed that the KIRIS test was not reliable for individual student assessment. Demonstrating that was a high school girl in Louisville who was accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her ability in science. She scored next to the lowest grade on the KERA test . . .in science. Another Louisville student, who was an advanced placement student, having spent three summers in the Duke University summer program for talented math students, scored in the 99th percentile in math on the PSAT exam. Yet on the KIRIS test she scored a novice, the lowest score possible.
Newspaper Headline, Senate flunks state's testing program - Article reports that , Leader Dan Kelly of Springfield said the lopsided vote in the Senate of 35-1 indicated that, "We have said very loudly that the KIRIS system is not valid and shall end," and other senators said "the testing system has accumulated too much bad feeling from teachers and parents." Senator Vernie McGaha, a retired teacher and a freshman senator said he "faulted the Education Department for not responding to the public discontent, and said that the state should rely on teachers' judgments of how pupils are doing, not an expensive and problematic state test."
IV. Arkansas plans to do away with national standardized tests.
Kentucky did the same.
In the State Department's Smart Start Action Plan distributed in the fall of 1998, the writers state that "State mandated norm-referenced testing at the high school level will be discontinued when the End of Level Exams are in place." The Director of the State Department in his address to the joint Education Committee in July also stated that they would like to eliminate the norm referenced exams in 5, 7 and 11 and use some type of blended criterion and norm referenced tests.
Newspaper Headline, Test-score drop was worse than reported. (Louisville Courier-Journal, May 21, 1995)
After Kentucky dropped their national standardized tests in Jefferson County, the largest school district in the state, parents demanded that their children be tested for national comparison. (For four years, the students had been tested only with the KIRIS test developed by Kentucky. The national tests revealed that Kentucky students' comparative scores, after four years of KIRIS, had declined from an average of 7 percent below the national average to an average of 27 percent below that standard in reading and math across all grade level in which the tests were given - second, sixth and ninth grades. In no area had scores improved. On our 8th Grade Minimum Performance Test here in Arkansas tests scores improved every year, but our scores on national tests did not improve. (test.
The NAEP study tested fourth graders in reading in 1994. The results showed no gains in Kentucky fourth grade reading ability from 1992, a very disturbing fact when one considered the millions of dollars Kentucky poured into improving education. However, the real story lies in the fact that the KIRIS test had shown an improvement of 89% in fourth grade reading over that same time period. That is why we should never consider eliminating standardized tests, regardless of what other measuring tools Arkansas decides to implement.
The national testing panel with testing experts from five universities, commissioned to evaluate the KIRIS test by Kentucky's Office of Accountability, said that the Kentucky Department of Education was "misinforming, misleading, exaggerating, and overstating student achievement." In other words, a form of fraud was being practiced on unsuspecting parents by Kentucky educationists.
Any time you have high stakes tests you have numerous people like teachers, administrators, state department employees and legislators who have high stakes in the tests too - their reputation hinges on it. For this reason we teachers are extremely concerned about the possibility of moving away from national standardized norm referenced tests as our state is contemplating doing.
Arkansas is basically beginning the same process as it tried once before, starting in 1983 with the 8th Grade Minimum Performance for third, sixth, and eighth graders. Many teachers have stated that the processes we are going through are just a recycling of the 80's. For years, teachers checked off dozen of skills they taught .their students. For some teachers it was almost the entire curriculum until March of each school year, because they were afraid that they would be held solely to blame if too many of their students failed. School administrators were terrified that if enough students failed the test, their school would lose it accreditation.
Each year, after the results were released, schools where few students failed congratulated themselves on doing an excellent job. Legislative and educational leaders patted themselves on their backs for "fixing" education in Arkansas. There was only one problem. Scores on the national standardized tests (tests that actually compare our students to those across the nation in various subjects) were in freefall. According to an Arkansas Department of Education Director's Communication, from 1987, when the MPT was in full use, until 1994 when it was abandoned, the scores on the MAT and the SAT (that compared us with national averages) declined 21% on the basic battery in the fourth grade; 14% in the seventh grade, and 9% in the tenth grades (grades mandated by the state to take a standardized achievement test.)
Newspaper article reports that Senate Floor Leader, Dan Kelly, in July, 1997 said, "We have already spent more than $100 million to develop, administer and grant rewards on the basis of this flawed tests. Louisville Courier-Journal, July 28, 1997 entitled "KIRIS simply isn't working"'
Newspaper article reports that now, 1998, some legislators are asking that the KIRIS test be replaced with a nationally normed tests that compare Kentucky students with students nationwide. Louisville Courier-Journal, June 26, 1997 (or 1998) entitled "Teachers to get extra $2 million
Newspaper Headline, Senate flunks state's testing program "This article says a bill was introduced to require national standardized tests for nearly all Kentucky school children . Louisville Courier-Journal, February 20, 1998.
V. Rewards and Sanctions for Teachers.
The Director of our State Department said in his address to the joint Education Committee on July 16, 1998 that recommendations would be made on how to reward schools and said the following: "We have looked at what other states have done. Some states reward individual teachers that have shown, not necessarily test scores, but a variety of measurements where you can show that the teacher has made a major difference. These teachers are given a particular reward. In some cases if the school performs well, all the teachers in the school will get cash rewards and the school might get cash rewards. . .It doesn't have to take the form of monetary reward, but monetary rewards are really nice"
Newspaper headline, Kiris 'Is Seriously Flawed', Editorial says, "Research indicates that 80 percent of the influences determining achievement are beyond the control of the school." Louisville Courier-Journal, July 28, 1997
Newspaper Headline - Headline: Error lowered school scores" Article says, "An error in the calculation of scores on the statewide education test last year caused some schools to be given lower results than they deserved --and some teachers may have lost out on cash rewards as a result. . .The scores are used in an accountability system that gives cash rewards every two years to teachers at schools that show significant improvement and sanctions schools with declining scores. . .Earlier this year the state distributed $27.7 million in reward money to 533 schools that did well on the 1996 test. Nine schools were placed in the 'crisis' category last fall as the result of their 1996 scores, meaning their faculties were placed on probation. Louisville Courier-Journal, June 1997
Newspaper Headline, Louisville Courier Journal 6-26-97 - "Test firm's error means $2 million in teacher rewards." Article says, "The state already has distributed $27.7 million in rewards based on the 1996 scores." and "The Kentucky Education Association, which represents about 30,000 of the state's teachers, said the incident buttresses its eight-month-old campaign against giving teachers cash rewards and imposing sanctions on schools that perform poorly on KIRIS tests. "Louisville Courier-Journal, June 26, 1997 (or 1998)
Newspaper article reports that the lawyer for the Russelville district, said he would ask a judge for financial damages in an ongoing lawsuit for Russellville teachers should the scoring error mean that the faculty did not deserve to put on notice. Then he said, "We've been arguing from the beginning that schools were having to operate under a system the state wasn't sure of. I am afraid the facts have just caught up with them." Herald-Leader ,July 2, 1997, Headline "Error to cost state extra $2 million more in bonuses."
Newspaper Headline, Unreliable tests also harm instruction: Article says, "Last year, the department passed a regulation that was designed to deal with the problem of cheating (not by students but by teachers) on the test." Forum, March 7, 1998
The Herald-Leader newspaper - In Kentucky, where there has been a major push for curriculum alignment since the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990, some education activists charge that the state's unwillingness to investigate aggressively and penalize cheaters has become a problem. to be The Herald-Leader newspaper found that the state had received 151 complaints about cheating on the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System tests (KIRIS) since 1993 that deserved investigated. But, the newspaper said, state investigators followed up on only 11 of the complaints, leaving the other 140 in the hands of local superintendents, who have a professional stake in seeing their schools do well on the test. (From "Teaching to the Test" by Kevin Bushweller, Microsoft Internet Explorer)
Newspaper Headline, Teachers helped students on test- Article states, "About 30 fourth graders at Highland Elementary School in Christian County will automatically receive the lowest score possible on state tests because teachers gave them improper help, Superintendent Kirby Hall said yesterday. Schools that make substantial progress on the test are rewarded with financial bonuses." Newspaper in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, May 10, 1995.
VI. Rampant Teacher and Parent Dissatisfaction
Newspaper Headling,Louisville Courier Journal, 5-9-95 Headline - State faces big shortage of principals, official says. Article reports, "Many schools are having trouble attracting qualified candidates. . . Schools that once received 50 applications for an opening now receive only five or ten." Among the reasons cited for the shortage: "Workloads have increased as a result of the reform act" Louisville Courier-Journal, May 9, 1995
Newspaper Headline, For some, KERA stands for Kentucky Early Retirement Act. After one year of KERA the number of teacher retirement increased dramatically, and after two years of KERA, retirement increased 27%. The article continues, "More than ever before, teachers are using their own money to buy out their last year or weeks so they can get out." The Liberty Standard, May 1994
The Kentucky Education Association, which represents about 30,000 of the state's teachers, waged an eight-month campaign against giving teachers cash rewards and imposing sanctions on schools that perform poorly on KIRIS tests." Newspaper article dated June 6, 26, 1998 (or 1997) Courier-Journal, (Headline, Teachers to get extra $2 million)
Newspaper Headline, Kiris simply isn't working. Article says, "KIRIS is demoralizing our students, teachers, and parents because they know it is not an accurate measure of performance. The test is also wasting precious education resources. We have already spent more than $100 million to develop, administer and grant rewards on the basis of this flawed test. This article by Dan Kelly, Republican Senate Floor Leader, Louisville Courier Journal, July 28, 1997.
The "Report Card on American Education" for 1994, by the American Legislative Exchange Council revealed that Kentucky, despite population increase of 33,000 led the nation, number one, in declining public school enrollment. (This was three years into their new reform and testing program.) Private schools in Kentucky have experienced dramatic growth, and homeschooling has enjoyed unprecedented popularity. "The Endangered Ship of Public Education" by Donna Shedd, December, 1994.
VI. Regular Teachers are being left out of the decision making process in Arkansas.
The same was done in Kentucky.
In a teacher survey of the 2nd Senatorial district in Kentucky 80% of teachers said students wouldn't be equipped for basic skills under KIRIS test.
83% of teachers said tying teacher/school accountability to the KIRIS test was not appropriate.
70% of the teachers said they did not feel free to give their opinion on KIRIS publicly.
Newspaper Article reports that Senator Vernie McGaha, a retired teacher and a freshman senators said he "faulted the Education Department for not responding to the public discontent, and said that the state should rely on teachers' judgments of how pupils are doing, not an expensive and problematic state test." Louisville Courier-Journal 2-20-98.
The Kentucky General Assembly showed their disdain for teachers and the local community by passing House Bill 182 in 1992 which says, "No board member, superintendent of schools, or district employee shall intentionally engage in pattern of practice which is detrimental to the successful implementation of . . the educational goals established in [KERA]. (KERA is the Kentucky Educational Reform Act that produced the criterion tests in Kentucky called KIRIS which were developed by Advanced Systems.)
The State Department can get teacher input if they really want it. Our technology and use of polls and surveys could determine how the teachers view any matter. Every school district by law has a personnel policy committee, a committee elected by their fellow teachers. The State Department could work through these committees like Missouri did a couple years ago. When the State Department of Missouri wrote their frameworks, they sent them out to the personnel policy committee (their committees have a different name but basically the same setup) and asked them to evaluate them. As a result they scrapped them and started over. Kentucky could have saved itself millions of dollars and so could Arkansas if they would include the teachers.
It is interesting that according to an extensive study by the Public Agenda, 67 percent of parents in the community say they trust teachers more than any others in making decisions as to how the public schools should be run, 54% their local public school principals and school board members, 29% business leaders, 28% elected officials in your community and 27% teachers union representatives. We teachers wish the State Department would trust the teachers as much as the parents do.