Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, April 21, 2014

How To Fight The Testing Industrial Complex

Michael Fiorillo left this comment on NYC Educator's post about why NYSED and Pearson insist the NY State 3rd-8th grade tests must remain secret:

The destruction of public education hinges on everyone's passive acceptance of high stakes exams encroaching more deeply into every classroom. They are the weapon used to close schools, deprive students of a well-rounded education, and beat teachers into submission. They are the primary lever for getting everyone to accept the de-skilling of the teaching profession, and teaching's devolution into temporary, at-will employment.

The tests are also the primary tool for imposing the "social learning" embedded in the testing regime itself, whereby young people are socialized into passive acceptance of the exercise of arbitrary power, tolerance of tedium and absurdity and surveillance/data mining, so as to be powerless worker bees in the future.

Passive acceptance of the exercise of arbitrary power, a high tolerance for tedium, absurdity, and surveillance/data mining: that's what the so-called reformers really mean by students being "career ready."

This abuse will continue as long as we are cowed into respecting the "proprietary" claims of the test makers, which are totally illegitimate. These tests are paid for with public dollars, are used as gatekeepers for public school students, and are the de facto drivers of public school instruction; the public has an intrinsic right to see them and openly discuss their validity.

That right has moral, if not legal, precedence over any copyright claims.

As of now, the only way to force that debate is for teachers to engage in civil disobedience and provide the public service of making these exams available for open examination by all interested parties.

It's time for photocopies, or scanned and scrubbed digital photos of these exams, to be sent to the newspapers, elected officials, parent groups and blogs. They should be handed out at PEP meetings, so that the Chancellor is forced to acknowledge their presence. They need to be distributed so widely that their "secrecy" becomes a dead letter, the media cannot ignore them, and so that threats by Pearson and it's wholly-owned subsidiary, the New York State Department of Education, become irrelevant.

With the Associated Press picking up the stories circulating that the NYSED/Pearson tests have been loaded with product placements and brand name-dropping, NYSED and Pearson may be getting too cute by half trying to keep the tests secret.

As parent Olga Garica-Kaplan put it in response to the news of all the product placement and brand name-dropping in the NYSED/Pearson tests:

So far, SED and Pearson have gotten away with keeping the tests secret, threatening any teacher who divulges test items or tests themselves with legal action.

But the more these weird stories circulate of Pearson sticking brand names of companies with connections to Pearson into the tests themselves, the harder it becomes to keep these tests secret.

Frankly I don't care if Pearson is using the tests for branding or not - as Michael wrote in his comment, these tests are paid for NY State taxpayers to serve as gatekeepers for NY State students and to drive NY State classroom instruction.

NY State taxpayers have a right to see these tests in their entirety, along with the grading rubrics, "norming" materials used for grading, and the methodology used for the scores.


  1. Michael is possibly the greatest person I have come across in edublogland in the past year. I am going to do everything I can to steal and photocopy every damned piece of this crap I can get my hands on. It will require complicity with some other teachers but I can't see any of them stopping me or telling me no. It's on bitches.

  2. Be careful, Anonymous: just as De Blasio was made an object lesson of for mildly opposing charter invasions of public schools, Pearson/NY State will look to punish and make an example of anyone they can accuse of violating their almighty copyright.

  3. Do it on your own, if you do it. Loose lips sink ships.

    I love Michael, too. He should be running the world.

  4. I think their are ways to make these tests public without having to steal them and hand them over to the press.

    As we saw in yesterday's InBloom demise, a coordinated grassroots assault on a corporate entity can take that entity down - as Leonie Haimson and the other parent activists proved with the InBloom fight.

    I think shaming these people at SED and Pearson to force them to reveal the tests is the best option - and it CAN work, as the InBloom battle shows.

    We need to work on the legislature - why are the tests secret? What are they hiding? Why the product placement?

    1. Those tests belong to the public: you can't ssteal what's already yours.