By Deb Herbage – 9/11/16
i-Ready Diagnostic exploded onto the scene like the many, many other “competency based education” (CBE) curriculums since the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It is now believed by many that the implementation of the CCSS and the focus on the standardized tests that went along with the CCSS was yet another extremely, well-crafted and timed implementation to distract parents, teachers, students and some school officials while district and state officials put in place the many ed-tech companies, corporations, investors, foundations, and non-profit companies curriculums, textbooks, programs, etc. who all quickly and methodically jumped on the CCSS bandwagon and strategically moved their various curriculums, textbooks, programs, and services FULLY aligned to the CCSS into place. While we were distracted with the CCSS and end of year standardized testing – in school districts all across the state of Florida and across the country, i-Ready Diagnostic, owned by Curriculum Associates, implemented and deployed their much touted “progress monitoring” curriculum – i-Ready Diagnostic. i-Ready was implemented in our districts and classrooms beginning in 2013. i-Ready/Curriculum Associates stated in their press releases, “validity studies” and various other studies and reports their curriculum promised alignment and linking to the Smarter Balanced Assessments (CCSS end of year standardized tests – here in FL – the FSA), accurate prediction of students “at risk” of falling behind and the ability of i-Ready to “plan future education strategies and curriculum decisions to help ALL students reach proficiency”.
Curriculum Associates is the company behind i-Ready Diagnostic. Their website states their headquarters are located at 153 Rangeway Rd. in No. Billerica, Massachusetts (my old stomping grounds and home). Sorry to disappoint you if you were picturing looming, skyscraper buildings more commonly found in large cities like Boston, New York or Chicago. Here is a image from Google Maps of the headquarters for Curriculum Associates when I typed in their address. Also of significance – it stated on the Google Maps page down in the right hand corner “FL office”. Their FL office is located in MA?
Curriculum Associates (parent company to i-Ready) was founded in 1969 but their push for on-line curriculum and testing was ramped up dramatically since 2009 which was also the year of Race To The Top (RTTT). i-Ready was rolled out in many districts in the state of Florida as well as other states. Of course there are “validity studies” from Curriculum Associates and other documents available claiming “validity”. These “validity” reports are also authored by the same people who were also paid to author the validity reports for the AIR FSA. Take this report for example: “i-Ready and the Smarter Balanced Assessments – Findings from Independent Research Linking the i-Ready Diagnostic and Smarter Balanced Assessments” http://www.curriculumassociates.com/products/ready-research-iRdiag-it-works.aspx# in this “validity” report they claim “i-Ready ACCURATELY predicts Smarter Balanced Proficiency Rates” and “i-Ready DEMONSTRATES REMARKABLE ACCURACY”. One of the authors of this report is Dr. Richard Brown, founder and CEO of West Coast Analytics and one of the primary psychometricians for i-Ready Diagnostics since it’s inception. He is also the former director of “National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing” or CRESST at UCLA. If you recall from my previous blogs – the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) is one of the two companies who received $176 MILLION from the US DOE in 2009 for the testing consortium start-up that was initially setup in Washington state and moved to CRESST at UCLA. ALL the SBAC/AIR contracts are now managed by CRESST UCLA. http://www.setda.org/ls2013/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2014/12/Adaptive-Diagnostic-Science-SETDA.pdf
Jeb Bush likes to take credit for the education reform and results the state of Florida supposedly experienced under his governorship and as well as the accomplishments his reforms have created during his tenure as governor here in Florida. Results are not the only thing that Bush delivered to the unsuspecting students, teachers and parents in the state of Florida. Bush was not only responsible for the many reforms he put in place such as mandatory third grade retention, the A+ Plan (school grading), “choice” via unaccountable charter schools, vouchers, etc. he also brought the many, many “experimental” programs and software in to our schools that our kids and teachers were expected to use acting as their the lab rats. Bush accomplished this through his foundation, Foundation for Excellence in Education and his national initiative Digital Learning Now. http://www.digitallearningnow.com/about/
“Digital Learning Now is a national initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) with the goal of advancing state policies that create a high-quality digital learning environment to better equip all students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in this 21st-century economy.” http://www.digitallearningnow.com/about/
In 2007, after Bush left office, he returned to Miami where he started his management-consulting firm – Jeb Bush & Associates. In 2008, he started his Foundation for Excellence in Education, his non-profit that promotes his reforms. Bush, through his Foundation for Excellence in Education also convened the “chiefs for change” under the CCSSO which was the launch of the Common Core State Standards. Here is what Alec MacGillis from The New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/26/testing-time wrote on 1/26/15 in a story titled “Testing Time: Jeb Bush’s Educational Experiment”
“Companies soon came to see the Foundation for Excellence in Education as an ideal platform to promote a range of ideas and products to state officials Murdoch gave the keynote address at the 2011 summit. In 2012, the foundation earned revenues of ten million dollars, much of it donations from education companies. Those companies sent representatives to the summits, where foundation officials set aside time for them to have “donor meetings” with the chiefs for change.
In 2010, Bush had used the foundation to launch an initiative called Digital Learning Now, which promoted the benefits of “virtual schools,” providing online instruction.
Yet Bush, a longtime technophile, saw in virtual schools the same revolutionary potential to expand choice that he had seen in vouchers and charters.
In 2010, he convened a “digital learning council” that included virtual-school executives from around the country. It issued a report urging states to adopt industry-friendly measures, such as eliminating limits on virtual-school enrollment.
Best had perceived a vast potential market in school reform back in the mid-nineties, when George W. Bush was governor of Texas. “There’s nothing else as large in all of society. Not the military—nothing—is bigger,” Best later toldMother Jones. In 1995, he launched Voyager Expanded Learning, a for-profit chain of after-school tutoring programs in Dallas, and started donating money to George Bush’s 1998 reëlection campaign. That year, the Governor appeared at a photo op in front of a Voyager banner, calling for twenty-five million dollars in the next year’s budget to fund for-profit after-school programs.
Best hired early-reading experts who had worked on Bush’s reforms to transform Voyager into a phonics-based early-literacy curriculum. No Child Left Behind created a billion-dollar Reading First program, with the aim of improving instruction in the early grades, and federal education officials held up Voyager as a curriculum that met the program’s standards. In Texas, legislators passed an unusual mandate that required school districts to spend twelve million dollars on Voyager. By 2005, Voyager was being used in more than a thousand districts in all fifty states. The company’s extraordinary success attracted scrutiny. A 2006 Department of Education inspector general’s audit and a 2007 report by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee found that Reading First officials had been paid generous “consulting” fees by some of the companies whose services they were recommending, including Voyager. George Miller, the Democratic chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that the situation was “very close to a criminal enterprise.”
Best had sold Voyager to ProQuest, a Michigan company, for three hundred and sixty million dollars. In 2007, he started another Dallas-based company, Higher Ed Holdings, later renamed Academic Partnerships, which persuades public colleges to attract more students by outsourcing to the firm their master’s-degree programs in fields such as business and education.
Best needed someone to lend credibility to the company. Florida had spent heavily on Voyager during Jeb Bush’s governorship, and, in 2005, when Bush was still in office, Best spoke with him about going into the education business. By 2011, Bush had joined Academic Partnerships as an investor and an adviser, and he became the company’s highest-profile champion. For the first time, Bush was making money in an educational enterprise.
In 2009, a coalition of governors and state education officials came together and, with financial support from the Gates Foundation and the implicit backing of the Obama Administration, devised a new set of standards intended to raise the calibre of instruction nationwide. The states broke into two consortia, each of which designed a set of tests around the new standards, called the Common Core.”
Perhaps Bob Graham summed it up best in this remark: “Bob Graham, a former Democratic governor and U.S. senator from Florida, laments Bush’s legacy of privatized education. “I wish this experiment were taking place somewhere other than Florida,” he told me. Alex Villalobos, a former Republican state-senate majority leader who sparred with Bush over vouchers, shared that sentiment: “If the issue is you have failing public schools, then how is taking more money away from public education and giving it to private entities that are not accountable going to help public schools?” (emphasis mine).
We have i-Ready, IRLA, Canvas, Nearpod, ReadyGen, MobyMax and a host of other “experimental” programs and software that have been deceptively deployed in our schools that our kids are actively testing and helped “validate” and refine. This was also made possible by the verbiage in the FL statutes as well as the US DOE. As stated above – Bush became an advisor and investor in Academic Partnerships, LLC or AP. AP also partnered with Canvas by Instructure. Canvas is an LMS or Learning Management System and has been in our schools since 2007. Here is what the Academic Partnerships website states: “AP’s digital team has significant expertise in search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), display, email marketing, social media and mobile. It collaborates very closely with digital platforms such as Google, LinkedIn and Bing as well as platforms that service communities of professionals, delivering content directly to desired target audiences.” With all these partnerships and alliances – it can become difficult to track these companies but they all seem to point in the same direction – Jeb Bush, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Common Core, education reform, the US DOE, the NGA, the CCSSO and the state of Florida. Here is what Instructure states about Canvas: “Instructure, Inc. is the software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology company that makes smart software that makes people smarter. Its cloud-based Canvas learning management system (LMS) now connects more than 18 million teachers and learners at over 1,200 higher ed and K-12 institutions throughout the world.”
“Canvas Network – In the second event Instructure announced the Canvas Network, which positions the company as a competitor to Coursera, Udacity and edX in delivering MOOCs. “We believe the people who know best how to transform learning are teachers and students, so through the Canvas Network we’re enabling them to experiment with new teaching methodologies with more flexibility and less constraints,” said Brian Whitmer, co-founder and chief product officer at Instructure.” http://mfeldstein.com/instructure-canvas-a-new-lms-entrant/
While we were focused on the implementation of the FSA and opting out of the high-stakes testing and data mining, Jeb Bush, the Foundation for Excellence in Education and his Digital Learning Now were focused on deploying and implementing their CBE (Competency Based Education) and data mining and data collection tools, software and programs in our schools. Here is Pasco County, where my daughter is a 6th grader and brand new to middle school, all of her classwork, textbooks, programs and apps are online. Parents had to setup accounts on the single sign on service for Canvas which has since been renamed to “MyStudent”. iReady is one of the programs that was implemented along with MobyMax, ReadyGen, IRLA, Nearpod, and a host of others as explained above. Jeb Bush ensured that as governor of Florida and his intense focus on education reform these companies had the opportunities to use our kids and our kids’ data to continue the testing and refinement of these programs to continue to push sales to other states, legislative updates and crafting of legislature in other states through his Digital Learning Now. As you can see by this 2013 “Report Card” published by the Digital Learning Now and the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Florida continues to receive an “A” grade for the implementation of the online digital courses or CBE.
Here is the 2014 Report Card from the Digital Learning Now and Foundation for Excellence in Education where Florida remains an “A”.
As you can see by the “report cards” Florida remains a strong leader in the implementation of the CBE (Competency Based Education) and MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) and also remains a “model state” for the Digital Learning Now to use as an example to other states.
I highly recommend you read the reports to get a full understanding of exactly what the Digital Learning Now and Foundation for Excellence in Education continues to lobby for and put in place.
So we come back to iReady and Curriculum Associates. Here is a statement taken directly from Curriculum Associates website: In the “i-Ready and the Smarter Balanced Assessments – Findings from Independent Research Linking the i-Ready Diagnostic and Smarter Balanced Assessments” pg. 6 states “i-Ready ACCURATELY classifies students on Smarter Balanced Assessments” or in the case of Florida students – that would be the FSA. They are claiming in this report they can accurately CLASSIFY students within one level of the students EXACT SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment/FSA) achievement levels. That is amazing that they can make that claim when we still have no validity reports proving the validity of the FSA. In fact, in the FSA TAC report released in April 2015 – Volume 4 “Evidence of Reliability and Validity” pg. 30 states “A third-party, independent alignment study has NOT YET BEEN COMPLETED; those results will be summarized here upon completion and are expected to be completed in May 2016.” And on pg. 32 “EVIDENCE IS NEEDED TO VERIFY that the raw score for each reporting category provides both different and USEFUL INFORMATION FOR STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.” Pg. 32 “It may not be reasonable to expect that the reporting category scores are completely orthogonal-this would suggest that there ARE NO RELATIONSHIPS among reporting category scores…” and “if the reporting categories were perfectly correlated, we could justify a unidimensional model, but WE COULD NOT JUSTIFY THE REPORTING…” (emphasis mine.)
Here are some of the comments on i-Ready Diagnostic. Parents, students and teachers have spoken out against iReady in regards to the many problems, errors, typos and glitches experienced by iReady. You can also go to Google and search on “iReady glitches” to see the many, many reported glitches and problems with iReady:
“My son hates it because if he gets a question wrong, it throws him back a couple of levels ….. it “reads” to the kids, therefore taking away any reading practice they may get ….. and it is a huge data mining program. The license with the county states that although the data belongs to the county, Curriculum Associates have a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free license to use that data!”
“It’s a new program so there is little to no data collected yet on reliability. Our kids are guinea pigs.”
“All I know is that my daughter, in the 4th grade, read on a 4th grade level in 2nd grade never got past the 3rd grade work on IReady. Everytime she made one mistake it threw her back to kindergarten. All it did was make her hate reading, hate the computer worse than she did and slowly destroyed all of the hard work we’d done building her confidence.”
How is this helping our kids learn? How are our kids benefiting from this “experimental” software? Who is benefiting from this? It’s time to start asking the important questions and insist that our kids are being accurately and fairly gauged on their skills and learning abilities and not by experimental, glitch ridden programs that make huge promises of “competency”, “demonstration of mastery” and “learning at their own pace” and delivers none of that. iReady’s intent was “progress monitoring” for RTI (Response for Intervention). Is it appropriate to have ALL our students using this? Here is Bush’s plea to the states to implement CBE:
Jeb Bush is on a mission…….a mission to digitize education and he is slowly eeking his way to his goal……by failing one school at a time. With the means and the financial backing from the Gates Foundation as well as many others there is no doubt Bush will realize his goal……it’s just a matter of time. Bush and his foundations have also teamed up with Gates and the Data Quality Campaign (also funded by Gates) http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/ It would also be worth the read to review the many articles published stating how CBE is harmful to our children. How too much screen time is harmful to the young developing brain. CBE has not been proven to improve student outcomes and the ever present socio-ecomonic divide has only widened with CBE. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34174796