Saturday, August 17, 2019

Testing Craze Is Fading in U.S. Schools. Good. Here’s What’s Next.

Project-based learning and project-based assessments are the way to go together with other reforms, such a recruiting a diverse teacher workforce, structuring time in the day for  curriculum development, and better working  conditions, overall. 

Andrea Gabor points appropriately to the New York State Performance Standards Consortium as the way to go.  I've visited several of the schools in this network in New York City over the years.

They're great small schools where young people have much more autonomy than in most public schools where they can even provide direct input into the school curriculum through thematic units across the curriculum of their choosing.  Plus, they hardly administer high-stakes, standardized test (in New York, their is the Regents exam). 

This helps keep these schools interesting and relevant and children and families happy and satisfied because their children are learning.

-Angela Valenzuela

Testing Craze Is Fading in U.S. Schools. Good. Here’s What’s Next.

New ways to measure student progress are gaining ground. Wind turbines, anyone?

July 29, 2019, 8:00 AM CDT

America’s decades-long infatuation with standardized testing is finally waning, and for good reasons. Despite years of training students to do better on tests, the performance of 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card, has flatlined. At the same time, the focus on testing produced unintended consequences, including inattention to important educational priorities and growing teacher shortages.

That’s in part because test performance became a goal in many districts instead of a means to an end and, thus, a prime example of Campbell’s Law, which points to the corrupting influence of using a single measurement as a target, thus ensuring that “it ceases to be a good measure."

The federal “No Child Left Behind” initiative introduced by President George W. Bush imposed a battery of high-stakes testing mandates, which continued under President Barack Obama. If children failed to meet proficiency goals for math and English, schools faced closure, teachers were shamed and fired and children were held back. Consequently, many schools and districts focused on test prep, often sacrificing untested but important subjects like civics and neglecting the classroom give-and-take that nurtures critical thinking and creativity.

At the peak of testing mania in the 2014-2015 school year, the average U.S. student was taking 112 standardized tests in the course of a K-12 education, many of which were redundant or pointless.

Now states from Arizona to Wyoming are retreating from high-stakes testing. The announcement last month that New York’s education commissioner, a testing proponent, will resign in August, signals another reversal.

It might be easy to say good riddance, but schools still need ways to measure student progress. The accountability movement that pushed testing was a response to a genuine need to improve K-12 education. Since the 1983 publication of “A Nation at Risk,” a bipartisan report by a commission appointed by President Ronald Reagan, business leaders have warned that schools weren’t developing the knowledge workers modern industry needs, and progressive educators have criticized traditional factory-style schools for not fostering an engaged and informed citizenry.
So schools need to find new ways to show accountability advocates that test retrenchment won’t weaken standards, and this presents an opportunity to develop more robust assessments and better education.
The country’s best under-the-radar experiments are a useful guide. Chief among these is the New York State Performance Standards Consortium, a decades-old effort led by progressive educators and involving 38 high schools, which won exemptions from all standardized tests except English. Instead, students complete ambitious projects known as performance-based assessments — think mini theses with lots of research, writing and real-world projects in everything from social studies to physics, which students present to expert panels, including teachers (often from different schools) and community members.

Since launching in the 1990s, the consortium has racked up far higher graduation rates and college matriculation rates for its schools than New York’s traditional public schools.

The consortium prevailed even as New York became Exhibit A for the nation’s testing follies. New York adopted “Common Core-aligned” tests before the standards were completed, and introduced new tests almost every year — making it difficult to track student progress.

Testing excesses even prompted soul searching among leading accountability champions like Arne Duncan, who blogged while he was education secretary in 2014, “I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools.”

New York is the latest state to rethink long-held education policies. At its July meeting, the state’s supervisory Board of Regents considered scrapping the subject-by-subject Regents exams — one of the oldest tests of its kind — as a high-school graduation requirement, and formed a commission to examine whether the tests improve “student achievement, graduation rates and college readiness.” Close to 20 percent of New York’s children sit out certain assessment tests at their parents’ discretion, one of the nation’s highest opt-out rates. MaryEllen Elia, the departing education commissioner, angered the Regents, who recently have been visiting consortium schools, by continuing to put schools with high opt-out rates on a watch list

In 2015, New Hampshire won a waiver under a federal pilot program that opened the door to alternative assessment programs, and is introducing performance-based projects like New York’s that are designed almost entirely by teachers.

Developing high-quality alternative assessments is time consuming and costly, and the federal pilot program offers no funding. But educators committed to the model say it’s worth it. At the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, a consortium school where nine in 10 students are members of minority groups and 70 percent are economically disadvantaged, one group of 11th graders completed a science assessment that involved a yearlong study of climate change and alternative energy sources. The students developed the physics- and earth science-related questions they wanted to answer and researched, wrote up and presented their findings. They also built wind turbines.

“It was the most rigorous academic work I have ever seen done in a high school setting,” wrote Lori Ungemah, a former New York City teacher who now teaches at a Community College.

One challenge is that project-based assessments would demand greater confidence in the ability of teachers and schools to judge their students’ progress, and would require striking a better balance between local autonomy and the kind of state and federal oversight that favors standardized curricula and testing. One way to encourage parents and citizens to trust local schools more might be to begin with networks of the schools most interested in project-based learning and let them serve as models, instead of trying to change the whole system all at once.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Andrea Gabor at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at

Friday, August 16, 2019

Giffords and the Latino Victory Project to Tour Texas to draw attention Hate-Fueled Gun Violence


The shooting in El Paso, Texas and it’s direct targeting of the Latino community shocked the nation. In a concerted effort to push back against incidents of terror like it, Giffords is joining with Latino Victory Project and other local partners to tour Texas and draw attention to the harm hate-fueled gun violence causes.

Below is the press release for the tour, and we will continue to release details about the stops in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio as they become available.

If you have questions or are interested in speaking with Giffords about the tour, please reach out.


Jason Phelps



Giffords and Latino Victory Project Announce ¡YA BASTA! Latinos Rise Against Gun Violence and Hate -- a Multi-Stop Texas Tour

Washington D.C. -- Today, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence and the Latino Victory Project launched ¡YA BASTA! Latinos Rise Against Gun Violence and Hate -- a tour with stops in El Paso, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio -- to raise awareness in the Latino community about the growing threats of gun violence and the white supremacist-based anti-Latino movement. 
The new partnership and tour come in response to the deadliest white-supremacy motivated terrorist attack against Latinos in recent American history. The El Paso town hall will be streamed live via and Noticias Telemundo’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages as part of its recently-launched campaign #LatinoStrong, Unidos Contra el Odio.
Gun violence survivor and founder of Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, alongside Latino Victory Project Executive Director Mayra Macías, will kick off the tour with a town hall in El Paso, Texas, on August 22. Speakers participating in the town hall will also include: Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Texas State Representative Cesar J. Blanco, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence Executive Director Peter Ambler and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Executive Vice President of Field and Member Services Vanessa Gonzalez. 

"Easy gun access and hate are fueling deadly violence against Latinos in America," said Peter Ambler, Giffords Executive Director. "Texas is vibrant because of communities like El Paso, places of optimism, hope, and people from all different backgrounds united in working toward a stronger country. We are proud to partner in this effort to stand up against the forces of fanaticism and terror. This is a moment for us to come together, share our stories, and stand united in our call for leaders to enact laws that will protect us from hate and gun violence."   

“Our nation just witnessed the largest act of terror against the Latino community in modern American history, where a white supremacist took the lives of 22 innocent people in El Paso, Texas,” said Mayra Macías, Latino Victory Executive Director. “Now more than ever, we need to have an honest and transparent conversation about two of the most pressing issues affecting our country: the gun violence epidemic and the rise of the white-supremacy and anti-Latino movements. We are grateful to partner with Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence as we embark on the “¡YA BASTA! Latinos Rise Against Gun Violence and Hate”.  We thank Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords for her tenacity and commitment to make every community in America safe and for joining us in saying: ¡ya basta!” 

“White supremacy kills. It is killing our Latinx community members, our immigrants, our religious minorities, and other marginalized groups. We have seen throughout our country’s history what a system built on white supremacy does, from slavery to Japanese internment camps. Trump’s hateful rhetoric and policies, combined with the absence of common-sense gun safety laws has contributed to the rise in hate-based killings. That is fact, not speculation. Now, more than ever, we must remain united together in the fight to end white supremacy in all its forms,” said Vanessa Gonzalez, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Executive Vice President. The LCCR Education Fund’s Communities Against Hate initiative is a ¡YA BASTA! Latinos Rise Against Gun Violence and Hate partner.

Additional details about events in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, during the last week of August, are forthcoming.  

Giffords, PO Box 51196, Washington, DC 20091 United States

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

An Open Letter to the John Jay College community: Responding to Weaponized White Nationalism

Friends and Colleagues in Academia:

Please read this statement on the El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy killings put out by Professor José Luis Morín, Chair of the Latin American and Latinx Studies Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.  His analysis is sobering and spot on.  

I agree with him that there need to be campus-wide responses to this crisis.  Every corner of the university needs to demonstrate support for our students. As professors, we need to profess and profess these truths of our time, story, and history. We could all dedicate at least a part of our courses to understanding white nationalism and learning about the Mexican American and Latin American experience, as a whole.  

We could all lend greater support to our Ethnic Studies Departments, Centers, Institutes, and Initiatives.  Students should be encouraged to take our courses.  We should hire more faculty to teach these courses.  Our silence doesn't protect us anyway.

Neutrality is indeed the worst thing that we can do in this historical moment involving a resurgence of weaponized white nationalism.  As Professor Morin maintains, there has to be an array of institutional responses.  

Thank you for your voice and leadership, Professor Morin.

-Angela Valenzuela