Today, with some help from me, Chicago Sun-Times education reporter Rosalind Rossi exposes yet another standardized testing scandal, this one on a Scantron test that was used several times in the Chicago Public Schools as part of an interim, or benchmark, reading assessment.
Scantron is a national standardized test that CPS has been using for a couple of years as a computerized replacement for the quarterly Learning First and Benchmark Assessment tests. These tests cover a narrow set of skills and are essentially practice tests for the annual Illinois Standards Assessment Tests (ISAT). This is the last year for Scantron; next year it will be replaced by the NWEA, the NorthWest Evaluation Association tests.
I acquired the screenshot of this reading passage, which makes about as much sense as a talking pineapple.
Click here for the full screenshot.
Is it supposed to be non-fiction? If so, then who the h&## is multimillionaire Charles Mendel? I’ll give a dollar to the first person who can find a real such guy on Google.
We know it’s not factual, anyway. Charter schools are NOT “open to all students.” They are NOT “showing improvement in student achievement” and they are NOT “playing an important role in reforming education across the country unless by “reforming” you mean “destroying.”
I sent this letter to Scantron President John Lawler, which said in part:
Parents United for Responsible Education has learned that recent administrations of the Scantron Performance Series exams in the Chicago Public Schools included reading comprehension questions based on a passage titled “Reforming Education: Charter Schooling.”
This passage contains propagandistic, pro-charter school statements that are misleading and in some cases false. For such statements to be used on tests given to non-charter school students is irresponsible at best. Students taking a test should not be subjected to false claims about charter schools which could cause them to feel humiliated, second-class or dumb because they do not attend a “better” charter school. Standardized tests should not be used as an opportunity to brainwash students with propaganda about charter schools or any other strategy of the corporate school reform camp.
We demand that this passage be removed from any future Scantron tests and that an apology be issued to all Chicago Public school students whose tests included this passage.
I did not hear back from Mr. Lawler, but I received this response to a similar message I sent to Corporate Spokesperson Donna Hinkelman:
Dear Ms. Woestehoff,
Thank you for your email of May 9 (copy below). In response, I wanted to confirm that the passage you referenced was part of the Performance Series exam; its purpose was to test critical thinking skills of 7th grade level students. It was not intended to be a comprehensive statement about the state of charter schools in Chicago or the nation, nor a slight of public schools.
That said, we agree that the copy could be perceived as lacking sensitivity. We sincerely apologize for any upset it may have caused the Chicago Public Schools students who took this exam, their parents and your organization’s members. That particular copy passage is being deleted from the Performance Series bank of questions effective this date.
Vice President, Corporate Communications
Harland Clarke Holdings Corp.
I sent this response back:
Dear Ms. Hinkelman-
Thank you for your response.
The problem with your solution — simply removing this item from the test — is that it is just one of many, many problematic passages and questions that turn up on students’ tests. Because parents are generally not allowed to review the questions after the tests, we are concerned that there may be even more problems – that this is just the tip of the iceberg and our children are being exposed to many other questionable
passages in testing situations which are already stressful enough.
Here are two things the Scantron Corporation can do that would actually help.
1) Publish all test questions so that we can see the basis on which our children are being evaluated.
2) Publicly support our national movement to allow parents to opt their children out of any standardized test. No test should be so important that a child should be forced to take it against his or her parents’ will.
I would appreciate a response to these suggestions.
Thank you for your attention.
I never heard back from anyone at Scantron. But I wonder if this new bad publicity was at least one reason why Scantron just pulled their membership from ALEC?