Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Utah & American Institutes for Research

I have grave concerns about Utah’s new student testing company American Institutes for Research. AIR was one of 13 bids received by the State Office of Education which has continued to make the constant and fallacious claim that Common Core is not a federal takeover of education. So why did the State Office of Education then choose, "...the only organization already delivering statewide adaptive tests approved for use under federal education law"? The State Office of Education and I have different views of what constitutes federal control.
The reach of American Institutes for Research goes far beyond U.S. borders. They do everything from partnering with the Clinton Global Initiative in it’s Deworm the World effort to Improving Emotional and Behavioral Outcomes for LGBT Youth to sponsoring Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day and the list goes on and on. AIR has it’s hands in a million pies. Hiring AIR is like hiring a single person to build a family home. You wouldn’t do it that way. You would get the very best plumber, the very best framer, the very best electrician you could find. Utah should hire a great testing company, period.
American Institutes for Research has a mission statement which reads, "AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving peoples’ lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged." I would like to know what that mission statement has to do with end of level testing for students in Utah. Additionally, I am very concerned about what the word "apply" means when it comes to testing Utah students. For example, the AIR web site reads: "Studies indicate that one in five children and adolescents (20 percent) may have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Many youth with mental health disorders develop co-occurring substance abuse issues. An estimated two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need." So will AIR be testing my child for academic achievement or mental wellness? AIR’s site also states: "The Child, Adolescent and Family Branch (CAFB) of the Center for Mental Health Services initiated the National Workgroup to Address the Needs of Children and Youth Who Are LGBTQI2-S and Their Families to support and enhance services for children and youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or two-spirit (LGBTQI2-S)." So again will those tests be simply academic, or will this company be testing CHILDREN for gay and "two-spirited" inclinations? As a parent, I would prefer a testing company that tests for academic achievement, I simply don’t think these other issues are the business of the state, AIR or the federal government and they have nothing to do with why Utahns send their children to school.
None of this is surprising if you know where AIR gets most of it’s funding. George Soros’s Open Society Foundation is AIR’s biggest client.
Finally, it’s the cost. When the economy is hurting and our dollars are not stretching as far as they once were, Common Core is another huge liability. The SL Tribune has reported that Utah’s new contract with AIR will be an initial outlay of 39 million dollars, but that is just for the "testing system". Currently Utah is able to complete end of level testing for each student at less than $7 per student per year , there are those who believe that the cost of testing, training and evaluation of these tests will cause that cost to rise over 100 year! Accountability Works has estimated between $25 and $50 per student per year, since no cost analysis has been done it impossible to know. In addition to not knowing what we are about to spend, what is the value of what we are about to throw out. Surely Utah has spent millions developing the testing mechanisms that are currently in place. One of the things that drives me nuts about education spending is that the public will hear a cost outlay of what additional monies will be needed to fund the next program, but they never say what will be lost by what we will toss away. (Just an aside, the District of Columbia spends the most on testing per student at $114.00 per student per year and yet their public schools remain notoriously poor.)
In the end, none of this waste and spend social engineering represents the values of a large majority of Utah parents. The results of Race to the Top ancestors like No Child Left Behind and it’s many predecessors are pathetic. It’s truly proof that people don’t get smarter when the move to Washington. Utah’s parents are highly competent, educated and motivated and I believe once they know the disasters that are AIR and Common Core, they are going to want Utah out!


dcarman said...

This is a great post, Tiffany. Every Utah parent should know how this "testing company" is using it's time and resources. Why on earth would we hire them to test our students in academics, with ALL that they are doing to promote their liberal social agenda??

Christine said...

One of the things that makes me so sad about this situation is that teachers are paid so poorly. I think my kids teachers who are doing a great job, not the few who are not doing a great job, should be rewarded more fairly for their hard work. All of this wasted money on stupid, and ineffective programs, that are bound to be thrown away eventually could go into better benefits for our teachers. And our teachers make more difference than anything else to our students.
Of course the federal government would love to have the power to diagnose our kids with all kinds of mental illnesses, and sexual preferences so they can create programs to "help" them. Really its all about control. Our government wants to control us. Do we really believe as a society that government programs can help our children more than we can help them ourselves? Our kids are only at school for 6.5 hours a day. They have very little time to learn as it is. They don't have time for all the BS.