The red flag goes up immediately. Westphal recaps the "Sturm und Drang" of last year's testing adventures, noting that there were "critics urging parents" to opt out of the tests because in their minds (Westphal loses a point for unclear pronoun reference, so don't know whose mind is being considered) the tests were so awful that "the consequences of lower school grades and lost federal funding be damned."
Couple of problems here. One is the usual assumption that any opt out parents are the unwitting dupes of test critics, and not intelligent and caring parents who made an informed decision. And then-- what are those consequences, exactly? Lower school grades would be bad why, exactly? And a pretty quick consult with Dr. Google will tell you that no state or school district has ever lost a cent of federal funding over the Big Standardized Test.
Westphal asks the question-- are the PARCC tests any good? And she has her answer lined up. Before you listen to "what teachers unions say in sound bites," Westphal wants you to consider five groups of wise experts, and what they have to say about the PARCC. Prepare to be amazed by this diverse group.
American Institutes for Research
Westphal calls them "one of the largest social science research organizations in the world," because she either didn't know or chose not to mention that AIR is also the manufacturer of the SBA-- the other Common Core test that, with PARCC, was supposed to cover the country. If you ask Coke whether or not Pepsi is any good, what do you suppose they'll say? They surely won't say, "Carbonated and heavily sweetened beverages are bad for you, and caffeine can have lots of side effects you need to watch out for."
In other words, getting an endorsement of PARCC from SBA is like getting an endorsement of automobiles form Ford Motor Company. And they have taken a ton of money from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the leading promoter of the Common Core and the testing programs that come with the Core (AIR has been on the Gates gravy train for quite a while).
Human Resources Research Organization
HumRRO's study is fresh off the press. If we check the acknowledgements we find that the study's lead funding came form the Gates Foundation and the study was completed with the cooperation and assistance of the companies whose products were being assessed.
More to the point, just a quick scan of the report methodology shows that the study used the CCSSO evaluation criteria-- which would be the same criteria from the overseers of Common Core and the criteria used by PARCC to design their test in the first place. So as an independent measure, not so impressive. You get a ruler out of your pocket and measure a stick, declaring, "Yeah, that's a foot long." Are you sure, I ask. "Certainly," you reply. "But check it for yourself. Here. Use my ruler."
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Fordham has also been swimming in the sea of Gates money, including the buckets of green they collected for evaluating the Common Core State (ha!) Standards. Hypothetical situation-- Bill Gates offers you a few million dollars and says, "I want you to tell me if these standards are as good as I think they are." What do you suppose you do? That's not counting the cool million that the Gates gave Fordham just to stay in business. Fordham has been one of the most reliable salesman of ed reform, including the standards and the testing (they also make cute videos from time to time).
Center for American Progress
CAP was set up by John Podesta, who used to work in the Clinton White House and is now heading up the effort to put the Clintons back in the White House. It has never strayed from its support of Common Core and BS Testing advocacy.
And CAP has gotten plenty of that Gates money as well, some of it specifically "to support Common Core implementation."
National Network of State Teachers of the Year
Yes, them too. Here's the Gates just last year funneling a million dollars through the New Ventures Fund so that NNSTOY can advocate for the right policies. NNSTOY members have been a big hit at Gates gatherings.
And who runs, owns and operates the Teacher of the Year program on the state and national level? That would be the CCSSO, the same group that facilitated development of and holds the copyright for the Common Core. What are the chances that anybody gets to be selected TOTY with a critical attitude about Common Core and Common Core tests?
Diversity? Not So Much.
Westphal wants to sell these groups as so diverse that their agreement on the PARCC test must be a sign of something. But these groups are not even remotely diverse when it comes to education policy. Certainly the Bill Gates Foundation thinks they are all on the same page (the Gates loves Common Core page).
In fact, Westphal tries her hand at a little artful illustration of just how far apart these groups are by saying they "would likely never nominate the same person for U.S. education secretary." Let's check with Dr. Google once again, shall we?
CAP "applauds" the decision to confirm John King as Secretary of Education. Mike Petrilli was out in front last fall saying that King should be put up for actual USED secretary rather than an "acting." CCSSO thought King was an excellent choice as secretary. NNSTOY was happy to welcome him to their annual conference last summer, and to join in with him on the Teach to Lead initiative. John King worked with AIR to develop an evaluation system back when he was Ed Commissioner of New York. Only HumRRO appears to have no particular opinion about John King as Secretary of Education, and their faith in CCSSO suggests they wouldn't have a beef with the group's choice.
So in fact this diverse group would have very little trouble coming up with a secretary of education on which they could agree, just as they agree that Common Core is swell and the PARCC test is thing of beauty and a
Westphal finishes with one more swipe, suggesting that Albuquerque Public Schools leaders should be "enlightened" enough for "encouraging excellence rather than softly pandering to the loud voices of the opt-out movement." Oh, and one last dig-- the standard suggestion that opt outers and wimpy school leaders are afraid the PARCC will reveal that New Mexico students aren't ready for the big leagues. Well, either Westphal is too lazy to do her homework, or too committed to selling a particular point of view to want to do real journalism. Either way, she appears to be a little bush league herself.