Death by Standardized Tests

McGraw Hill recently released a well-received infographic titled the Educational Assessment Landscape. It’s premise is:

Assessments are a key component of all education systems and play a critical role in a student’s learning journey. By measuring student achievement and skill mastery, assessments help students learn, teacher improve instruction, administrators decide how to allocate resources, and policymakers evaluate the efficacy of educational programs.

Let’s Not Confuse Assessments with Standardized Tests

And while I agree with making regular assessments, I cannot support the costly–in billions of dollars and the loss of thousands of hours of instructional contact time–when standardized tests are being forced on students, families, instructors, and administrators across the nation.

Compared to World’s Highest System?

Finland is frequently referenced as one of the top educational systems in the world. Admittedly, there are many social differences between Finland and the United States but, let’s look at Standardized Tests and the testing process in the world’s number one rated school system:

  • Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7. [source: NY Times]
  • Compared with other systems, they rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens. [source: NY Times]
  • The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education. [source: NY Times]
  • There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16. [source: Smithsonian]

Yet, in the United States, we’re preparing to give CAREER READINESS ASSESSMENTS TO KINDERGARTNERS! I think this is both crazy and a waste of money. No kindergartner in my opinion, needs to be wasting time taking a standardized test for career assessment. [Source]

A Career Assessment might better be served for a college graduate who finds their four year degree and substantial debt can’t get them a “career” or finds them underemployed, or raided by a Department of Education SWAT Team, or in court due to defaulting on their student loan.

Cost of Standardized Tests

From the Brookings Institute

In the coming years, states will need to make the most significant changes to their assessment systems in a decade as they implement the Common Core State Standards, a common framework for what students are expected to know that will replace existing standards in 45 states and the District of Columbia.  The Common Core effort has prompted concerns about the cost of implementing the new standards and assessments, but there is little comprehensive up-to-date information on the costs of assessment systems currently in place throughout the country. 

This new report by Matthew Chingos [DOWNLOAD ASSESSMENT COST REPORT] fills this void by providing the most current, comprehensive evidence on state-level costs of assessment systems, based on new data from state contracts with testing vendors assembled by the Brown Center on Education Policy.  These data cover a combined $669 million in annual spending on assessments in 45 states.

The report identifies state collaboration on assessments as a clear strategy for achieving cost savings without compromising test quality.  For example, a state with 100,000 students that joins a consortium of states containing one million students is predicted to save 37 percent, or $1.4 million per year; a state of 500,000 students saves an estimated 25 percent, or $3.9 million, by joining the same consortium.

Collaborating to form assessment consortia is the strategy being pursued by nearly all of the states that have adopted the Common Core standards.  But it is not yet clear how these common assessments will be sustained after federal funding for their development ends in 2014, months before the tests are fully implemented.  The report identifies a lack of transparency in assessment pricing as a barrier to states making informed decisions regarding their testing systems, and recommends that consortia of states use their market power to encourage test-makers to divulge more details about their pricing models.

Study Finds No Relationship Between Ed Spending and Results

Where’s the Money Going?

The American Educational system is constantly under attack for spending so much on “education” without producing results. Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States. [Source]

The assumption is that educational spending is on “student learning” but, there are many stops in-between funding and the actual student. And, with the increase in Standardized Testing, it’s the publishers that are getting the Lion’s share.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute estimates the national cost for compliance with common core will be between $1 billion to $8 billion and the profits will go almost directly to publishers. According to Peter Cohen, CEO of Pearson’s K-12 division, Pearson School, “It’s a really big deal. The Common Core standards are affecting literally every part of the business we’re involved in.” However, as publishers are preparing to rake in the money, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer of New York City schools is warning principals to be wary: “There’s lots and lots of books that have got fancy, pretty stickers on them saying ‘Common Core,’ but they actually haven’t changed anything in the inside.” [Protest Builds Against Pearson, Testing, and Common Core]

In school districts around the country, educational budgets are being cut while business lobbyists push Standardized Testing on cash-strapped schools. Big Corporations and their consultants are making billions of dollars on the backs of public tax payers.

Side note: The Louisiana State Department of Education pays tens of millions of dollars to consultants each year, many of whom are out-of-state, State Treasurer John Kennedy found that in the five year period, from 2005 to 2010, the department issued 5,499 consulting contracts worth $615,773,580.74. [Source]

Diagnosis, Symptom, & Cure: Vertical Marketing

Assessment dictates Instruction. It’s important to point out that the corporations (not teachers and schools) that do the assessments dictate the curriculum. If test scores are low, these corporations also have the “solution” for schools to buy and increase the failing scores.

Local control is lost. If test scores are too high, assessments are “adjusted”, “normalized”, and, “re-calibrated”. Standards are increased. One-hundred percent is never obtainable. They’re locked-in to the publisher’s continuous improvement model.

Local vs. National

I agree with the McGraw Hill’s statement on assessment. It’s an integral piece of instruction. And importantly, I think this is best accomplished by the teacher and school….like it is in Finland.

I believe that states need to stop chasing Federal dollars and resist being coerced by the lure of big Federal initiatives tied to money. They should focus on local control of the students in their own schools.

The infographic below demonstrates other problems with Standardized Testing.

And, while proponents site reasons to be optimistic about the new computerized standardized testing’s ability to save time, these have been fraught with problems.  [problem] [problem] [problem]

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) vs. The U.S. Department of Education — Pending Lawsuit

On the 24th of this month (July, 2013), oral arguments will be heard in a lawsuit that is challenging the ability of the federal government to change the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 2011 Regulations.

The new Standardized Testing that is part of the Common Core initiative has ALL student data–EVERYTHING about a student from pre-kindergarten through age 20 (eye color and blood type were recently eliminated from the database after public outcry)–into the National Educational Data Model (NEDM) database, which will be (allegedly) accessible by third-parties.

Read about the lawsuit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who is working to defend student privacy. I encourage you to follow: @EPICprivacy

More: Education New York Statement &  Educational Historian Diane Ravitch’s Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards


From the Sloan Consortium comes the tenth annual survey titled: Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States.

The higher education eLearning survey is a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, and purports itself to be the leading barometer of online learning in the United States.


“The rate of growth in online enrollments remains extremely robust,” said study co-author Jeff Seaman, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “This is somewhat surprising given that overall higher education enrollments actually declined during this period.”


Ten Key eLearning Report Findings include:

  • Over 6.7 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2011 term, an increase of 570,000 students over the previous year.
  • Thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • 77% of academic leaders surveyed reported online learning outcomes to be the same, somewhat superior or superior to face-to-face in 2012.
  • 45% of CAOs agree that it takes more faculty time and effort to
    teach an online course than a face-to-face course.
  • Only 2.6% higher education institutions currently have a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), another 9.4 percent report MOOCs are in the planning stages.
  • Academic LEADERS remain unconvinced that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses, but do believe that they provide an important means for institutions to learn about online pedagogy.
  • Seventy-seven percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face.
  • Only 30.2 percent of chief academic OFFICERS believe that their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education – a rate is lower than recorded in 2004.
  • The proportion of chief academic LEADERS that say that online learning is critical to their long-term strategy is at a new high of 69.1 percent.
  • A majority of chief academic officers at all types of institutions continue to believe that lower retention rates for online courses are a barrier to the wide-spread adoption of online education.

DOWNLOAD the Full eLearning Report



In visiting China this past Spring, I was surprised to meet so many Americans whose job it was to teach English. I was interested to learn that these opportunities were in every industrial sector, not just in schools.

I stayed at an AirBnB in Shanghai, whose proprietor worked with business and government officials. These officials would review the news from the United States and his job would be to explain it to them in the context of their culture.

It felt like every American I ran in to was teaching English abroad and they loved it! They enjoyed the professional teaching atmosphere, the seriousness of their students, and felt they were compensated quite well. From corporations to pre-schools, schools and colleges, everybody reported the same thing.

Disney English

In fourteen cities across China there are Disney English Schools. I hadn’t heard of them before but  watch this video and be amazed at the combination of teaching English in a foreign country and immersive technologies!

About Disney English

With the culmination of over 70 years of published language learning materials, Disney has perfected an approach designed to appeal to a range of different learning styles. Teaching English in China using the Disney English Immersive Storytelling Approach (ISA) incorporates role plays, songs, movement, games and storytelling with the latest educational technology to fully engage students in a memorable and effective learning experience.

Aimed at students aged 2 to 12 years old, The Disney English Immersive Storytelling Approach is an enlightened teaching approach that blends Multiple Intelligences Theory and Experiential Learning with a strong emphasis on communication. Making use of imaginative situations which appeal to young learners, this unique learning environment engages and challenges young learners to not just learn a new language but to discover the fun that can be had doing so.

The Courses

Disney English in China have put together an exceptional collection of unique course material which feature Disney characters throughout and place an emphasis on natural English communication. They are backed up with an amazing array of supplementary materials to really bring the class to life, from flashcards, an entire room full of realia, song CDs, games, digital material, toys and comprehensive teachers’ guides. All this makes teaching English in China a really enjoyable experience and allows you to create truly engaging and effective lessons.

Each classroom is fitted with an interactive white board & digital presentation wall which are packed full of animated teaching material, helping to further enrich the student-centered learning environment.

Class sizes are small, no more than 15 per class, to ensure all students receive the personal guidance and attention they need to get the most from their learning experience.

Source: &


Teaching Abroad


TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language
TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
CELTA – Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults – a high level TEFL certificate.

TEFL -Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL certification is designed for countries where English is not considered the primary language. TEFL can bridge the gap between an individual who is looking to learn English for the purposes of moving on to an English international university, and so is particularly versatile as it can be employed in many different areas, for many private institutions, education departments, and international schools found around the world.

TESL -Teaching English as a Second Language

The TESL certificate applies to regions where English is the primary language. For example, teaching English to someone who lives in the United States would necessitate a TESL approach.

It is often the case that a TESL teacher will have English as their first language, as they are usually found in those types of countries, but this is not always a necessary requirement. A TESL certificate applies in any English-speaking country, as there are many international students who attend public and private schools within these countries.

TESOL -Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

This certification is slightly different because it’s often what schools that offer adult English curriculums are looking for. It is also different from the above certifications in that, depending on the region in which you live, this certification can apply as TEFL/TESL, though it should be noted that flexibility is highly case-sensitive.

TESOL also constitutes the CELTA certification, which is the TESOL certification issued through CambridgeESOL.

TESOL/TESL/TEFL: Similar, but Different

In summary, TESL and TESOL are basically the same thing, teaching English as a second language. This means an instructor will be teaching English to people who do not speak English, but live in a country where English is a native or national language. TESOL means that you may also be teaching it to people who speak two languages, neither of which are English, and live in a country where English is a national language. TEFL is teaching english as a foreign language, to people who live in a country where English is not a national language.

More: Follow @ShellTerrell on Twitter

If you’re looking for additional information about TESOL, I highly recommend following Shelly Terrell ( on Twitter @ShellTerrell.

While I don’t know Ms. Terrell personally, she’s a social media delight and posts frequently on TESOL and teaching abroad.

Happy Travels!


image from:, no ownership implied

Blended Learning is helping to evolve teaching as it provides increased benefits for both teachers and students.

The infographic below highlights the benefits of blended learning and how blended learning can improve conditions and provide for increased career opportunities within education.


OPEN Courseware (OCW)

What is Open Courseware?

Open courseware (OCW) programs are developed by universities. These universities have a department especially for develop OCW content. The content is just recordings, assignments, and readings from professors teaching a class on campus. In essence, Open Courseware (OCW) is repurposed content from traditional course.

How Does It Work?

These resources are collected and uploaded to a website accessible to everyone from around the world. OCW courses don’t involve real time professor to student communication, any deadlines or required assignments, and there’s no credit granted at the end of the course (or degree for that matter) but the classes also don’t cost anything and people can start and stop them whenever they wish. The bottom line is: OCW is all about self-learners, people who just have the thirst for knowledge. And the best part is – the top colleges in the country and world are getting on board with this, which means OCW offers fairly expensive content completely for free.

How Is It Useful?

While it might seem like kicking off an OCW site would be cheap for universities – the content is already in existence, after all – but Yale predicts it costs them about $30,000-$40,000/ year to keep their OCW running. These costs include the video equipment, the employees managing the site, and more. This isn’t a particularly huge dent at a college like Yale, but it is a completely free service and therefore Yale has no way of recouping its costs. The mission of OCWs, however, is to distribute free content. Fortunately there are many non-profits who see the value in this kind of accessible education and are donating grants and funds to the cause.

Open Courseware Organizations

The following Infographic from presents the important points around open courseware:



How Online Course Will Change the World is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at w‎.

Eighteen year-old Duncanville High School (Duncanville, TX) sophomore Jeff Bliss gets mad and gives his teacher a message. It all started he says,  when she told him to “stop bitching”.

Following the transcript is an investigative news report and a detailed interview with the student that is quite revealing.

Watch the “Student Mad at Teacher” Video

If you would just get up and teach ’em instead of handing ’em a freakin packet yo

There’s kids in here that don’t learn like that

They need to learn face to face

You’re just getting mad because I’m pointing out the obvious (and you’re too l..) I’m not wasting your time, I’m telling you what you need to do

you want kids to come into your class and you want ’em to get excited for this?

You gotta come in here and make ’em excited

You want a kid to change and start doing better

You gotta touch his freakin heart

You can’t expect a kid to change if all you do is just tell ’em

You gotta You gotta take this job serious

This is the future of this nation

And when you come in here, like you did last time, and make a statement about ‘oh this is my paycheck’

Indeed it is

But this is my country’s future and my education

But there’s a limit

I’m not bitching but simply making an observation

And now I will leave

You’re welcome

And if you would like I’ll teach you a little more

So you can actually learn how to teach a freakin class

Because since I got here, I’ve done nothin but read packets

So don’t try to take credability for teaching me jack


Media Follow-up w/ Jeff Bliss


What do YOU think of Jeff Bliss, his message to his teacher and his explanation in the follow-up video? I’d enjoy YOUR comments below!