Missouri’s Show-Me Institute: Where Liberty (and Censorship?) Come First

Last year, in response to one of their blog posts, I submitted a comment to the think tank/advocacy group, the Show-Me Institute, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. I describe what I did, why, and what happened in a Nonpartisan Education Review essay ( https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Essays/v14n3.htm ). Briefly, I warned the Institute that their blog post recommended a policy that would likely be found illegal in the courts. While a couple of other, purely supportive comments were published, my comment was shelved into “pending” status.

For several months. Finally, the Show-Me Institute simply deleted my submitted comment. Here it is:

“Before returning to the “good old days” of un-aligned, internally-administered, no-stakes (for students), national norm-referenced tests for systemwide evaluation, perhaps we should remind ourselves of what those days were really like. One can start by reading J.J. Cannell’s “Lake Wobegon Effect” reports here:
https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Books/CannellBook1.htm . I’d also suggest my report on the same topic here: https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Articles/v6n3.htm . The most important issue to keep in mind, however, is this: if any consequences apply to students, the tests must be aligned to state standards, otherwise the tests will probably be found illegal in the courts, as well they should be. It is simply not fair to evaluate students in any consequential way on material to which they have not been exposed. I do not mean to defend the current testing regime, which I also find unappealing. But, remember, it is this way because the majority party in Congress wanted it this way: http://time.com/3681776/lam/ .”

No nasty words. No personal attacks. Yet, somehow, someone at the ironically-named Show-Me Institute rationalized censoring this comment.

Richard P. Phelps

Posted in Censorship, Education policy, Education Reform, information suppression, partisanship, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Letter to NPR’s Ari Shapiro and producers of their “individualized learning” podcast

From: Erich Martel
Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2018
To: ‘mediarelations@npr.org’

Dear Ari Shapiro and Individualized Learning (and Project Based Learning) Podcast Producers,

I want to make three points re “Individualized Learning” and all claims pertaining to education:

1) Always look for independent research.

Putting Students on the Path to Learning: The Case for Fully Guided Instruction:  http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2012/Clark.pdf

Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching



Google neuroscientist Dan Willingham (UVA) and look at his series of articles, “Ask the cognitive scientist” in the quarterly American Educator: https://www.aft.org/ae/author-index#quicktabs-authors=4   (scroll down to Willingham)

2) Beware of educational programs described in euphemistic, feel-good language

A good example is “individualized learning”; it’s isolated computer driven learning. You should never employ a euphemism without explaining what it means in unvarnished, objective terms. Look up E.D. Hirsch’s jargon generator.

3) I was shocked to hear Chan and Zuckerberg quoted as education experts.

You have no reason to trust what they say about their facebook empire. There is even less reason to trust them on the subject of education:

See: Dale Russakoff, “The Prize: Who’s In Charge of America’s Schools?” which describes Zuckerberg’s $100M failed initiative in the Newark NJ public schools.

You already know a great deal about facebook’s role in the 2016 elections. The UK Parliament has just discovered even more evidence of Z’s irresponsibility:

I like NPR and many of its programs. I am, however, sick of hearing foundation ads on NPR that make claims (Walton, Edutopia, etc., etc.) that are not supported by independent research.

Erich Martel, Retired Washington, DC high school history teacher (1969-2011)

Posted in Censorship, constructivism, Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, Education policy, Erich Martel, information suppression, K-12, research ethics | Leave a comment

Common Core Collaborators: Six Organizational Portraits

New in the Nonpartisan Education Review:


Phelps, R. P. (2018). Common Core Collaborators: Six Organizational Portraits. Nonpartisan Education Review/Articles, 14(3–7).

– The Organization Named Achieve: Cradle of Common Core Cronyism
– The Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association: Whom do they serve?
– Real Clear Propaganda: Bellwether’s Education News Bias
– The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute: Influence for Hire
– Does College Board Deserve Public Subsidies?

Posted in Censorship, College prep, Common Core, Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, Education policy, Education Reform, Higher Education, information suppression, K-12, partisanship, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

State of ELA under Common Core

The Fordham Institute just came out with its “research” on reading and writing under Common Core.

Fordham 2018 “research”

No mention of three baseline studies that preceded Common Core.

Stotsky, Goering, Jolliffe study of Arkansas high school English teachers’ assignments

Stotsky, Traffas, Woodworth study of national sample of high school English teachers’ assignments

National Endowment for the Arts, Reading At Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America

Pre-Common Core English teachers taught complete literary works—mostly appropriate for high school. Today they don’t teach complete works and we don’t know what they do teach since Fordham didn’t find out.

See also Peter Greene’s insights in Forbes, How Common Core Testing Damaged High School English Classes


Posted in Common Core, Curriculum & Instruction, Education Reform, information suppression, Reading & Writing, Sandra Stotsky | Leave a comment

My letter to Bill Gates on how to prepare students for algebra

May 17, 2018

Dear Mr. Gates,

You recently wrote, “Math is one area where we want to generate stronger evidence about what works. What would it take, for example, to get all kids to mastery of Algebra I?”

I believe I can answer your question. There have been two significant math studies done in the last decade, reaching very similar conclusions. The first was the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report of 2008 commissioned by President George W. Bush. Here are some of their conclusions: students’ difficulty with fractions (including decimals and percents) is pervasive and a major obstacle to further progress in mathematics including algebra. The panel suggested curriculum should allow sufficient time to learn fractions, and teachers must know effective interventions for teaching fractions. Preparation of elementary and middle school teachers in mathematics needs to be strengthened; using elementary teachers who have specialized in elementary mathematics could be an alternative to increasing all elementary teachers’ math content knowledge by focusing the need for expertise on fewer teachers.

Another problem is that many textbooks are too long (700 to 1000 pages) and include non-mathematical content like photographs and motivational stories. Key topics should be built on a focused, coherent progression, and continual revisiting of topics year after year without closure should be avoided.

Lack of automatic recall in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is a serious deficiency as is a lack of proficiency with whole numbers, fractions and certain aspects of geometry and measurement, which are the foundations for algebra. Of these, knowledge of fractions is the most important foundational skill not developed among American students.

The panel advised that algebra problems involving patterns be greatly reduced in state tests and on the NAEP assessment. Also districts should ensure that all prepared students have access to an authentic algebra course by 8th grade, and more students should be prepared to enroll in such a course by 8th grade.

The second important study, “Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement” was published in June 14, 2012, and an article about it, entitled “Fractions are the key to math success, new study shows,” was posted at the Univ. of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research on June 18, 2012. Robert Siegler, a cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, was the lead author of this study which analyzed long-term data on more than 4,000 children from both the United States and the United Kingdom. It found students’ understanding of fractions and division at age 10 predicted algebra and overall math achievement in high school, even after statistically controlling for a wide range of factors including parents’ education and income and children’s age and I.Q.

Univ. of Michigan researcher Pamela Davis-Kean, the co-author of the study, said, “These findings demonstrate an immediate need to improve the teaching and learning of fractions and division.”

Dr. Siegler stated, “We suspected that early knowledge in these areas was absolutely crucial to later learning of more advanced mathematics, but did not have any evidence until now.”

I know how interested you and your wife are in improving education, especially in math, for our students. As a state school board representative, I understand the importance of getting our teachers and students on track immediately. I believe we can succeed, though, if we will follow the advice given in these two studies. I would certainly be glad to discuss this subject with you or your staff.


Betty Peters
107 Riveredge Parkway
Dothan AL 36303

PS. The two reports can be found online:



Posted in Betty Peters, Curriculum & Instruction, Education Reform, K-12, Mathematics | 2 Comments

Nation’s Report Card: Common Core delivering education stagnation

Nation’s Report Card: Common Core Delivering Education Stagnation

…at the Independent Voter Network website, https://IVN.us

Posted in Common Core, Education Fraud, Education policy, Education Reform, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment | Tagged | Leave a comment

There are Only Two Sides to US Education Policy (Thanks to the Parties)

There are Only Two Sides to US Education Policy (Thanks to the Parties)

…at the Independent Voter Network website, https://IVN.us

Posted in Censorship, Education policy, information suppression, K-12, partisanship, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New in the Nonpartisan Education Review: Who watches the watchmen? Transparency might guard the integrity of the tests given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress

Who watches the watchmen? Transparency might guard the integrity of the tests given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress

by Sandra Stotsky


Posted in Censorship, Common Core, Education policy, information suppression, Sandra Stotsky, Testing/Assessment | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What I learned at the ResearchED (US) Media Panel

For those still unfamiliar with it, ResearchED is “a grass-roots, teacher led organisation” founded in the UK whose mission is to “raise research literacy, bring people together, promote collaboration, increase awareness, promote research, and explore what works.” It has also been stereotyped as criticizing progressive education pedagogies in favor of traditional pedagogies. To my observation, it accepts the best ideas from both camps that are based on solid evidence.

ResearchED is popular and well established in the UK. Groups have also organized in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the US. US ResearchED held its second annual conference in New York City in October 2017. I was invited to lead one session and to participate in a panel on media coverage of education research.

In addition to myself—a frequent critic of US education journalism—the panel comprised a journalist, the head of an organization of journalists, and a moderator.

The main points I expressed:

There are two education establishments: the traditional public school coalition of education schools, unions, and administrator associations, and an education reform establishment, which relies on an extraordinarily small group of researchers, mostly academic economists and political scientists, to provide and interpret education research for them.

Both establishments aggressively suppress other education research, information, and points of view through selective referencing, dismissive reviews, citation cartels, tone policing, condescension, and character assassination.

Unfortunately, most nationally focused education journalists source their research stories from these two censorial groups and ignore the vast majority of available research and information. Moreover, journalists aid the information suppression whenever they print claims that a study they are covering is the first ever done on a topic (i.e., a firstness claim) or there exists no other research on the topic (i.e., a dismissive review). During the panel session, I accused education journalists of covering only those sources with money (and PR staff) behind them.

In their defense, the journalists’ association head asserted that they:

take money from a wide variety of sources, and

are open to receiving story tips from anyone.

The sourcing behavior she described seems to me remarkably passive. Note their donors all have money to give, and the amounts given range widely in size. What about those who cannot afford to “pay to play?”

As for their openness to story suggestions, of course some people and organizations know about pitching stories and many more do not. Some organizations with public relations staff are expert at this activity and make suggestions effectively and often. Moreover, aggressive career-focused researchers are more likely to feel such behavior—promoting their research with the media—is appropriate. By contrast, many, perhaps most, scholars feel that research discussions belong more properly in scholarly journals, and journalists should not be arbitrarily picking single studies from the research literature and suggesting policy conclusions based on them.

It worries me most that journalists might seem content to let story tipsters and large donors set their agenda. I would think that a truly independent press would set its own agenda.

My most memorable panel interactions, though, were with the moderator. He interjected a judgmental comment while I was speaking; cut me off twice; and planted a colleague in the audience who was certain to disagree with me (and subsequently did so).

The plant’s career has been made with money from the Gates Foundation and other Common Core funders. I have openly and thoroughly criticized the quality of his research work here and here.

As for the moderator, he heads an organization that, you guessed it, also takes money from prominent Common Core funders, including the Gates Foundation.

The moderator posed one question uniquely to me. He said some researchers he knows feel no need to read most education research because it is “crap.” I countered that much of their research is “crap,” too. But, I could have added a few more pertinent points:

  1. The “citation cartel” researchers I generally criticize for selective referencing and dismissive reviewing read very little past research, if one can judge by their citations. Generally, they read that done by others in their mutual back-scratching group and only a small amount done outside their group (typically that which rises above what I call the “celebrity research threshold,” that which is so well-known that it cannot be ignored). Moreover, they read little research conducted prior to the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was introduced.
  2. The researchers I criticize dismiss any research using qualitative methods (except on those occasions when they themselves employ such methods), such as: surveys, interviews, case studies, observations, and ethnographies. Those methods are not “rigorous,” they claim. By this logic, researchers using “not rigorous” methods include Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, Albert Einstein, Dian Fossey, Franz Boas, Alexander von Humboldt, Edward Jenner, and Thomas Kuhn (and any other historian).
  3. Those I most criticize for selective referencing and dismissive reviewing ignore almost completely a century’s worth of research conducted by psychologists, in favor of that published in economics, political science, and education. So, to say that all the research they ignore is “crap,” is to identify a hundred years of psychologists’ research as crap. (Note that much of the motivation for ResearchED is to showcase the best education-related research conducted in psychology that has been routinely ignored by education school professors.)
  4. Judgments of what is or not “crap” seem to be made based entirely on methodology. In the education reform establishment, we have a set of researchers trained in data analysis, but with very little exposure to actual education activity. Some of them may have taught school for a year or two when they were young, but that’s it—no experience in education administration at any level. Lacking experience in the field, it would seem even more important that they read widely in the research literature. But, they don’t.

The hearty thanks I received from several separate, individual audience members afterwards suggested to me that I was not alone in feeling that press coverage of education research is rigged in favor of those with money and power.

Posted in Censorship, Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, Education policy, Education Writers Association, information suppression, K-12, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps | Leave a comment

New in the Nonpartisan Education Review: Dan Koretz’s Big Con

The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, by Daniel Koretz [book review]

Reviewed by Richard P. Phelps


Posted in Censorship, Education Fraud, Education journalism, Education policy, Education Reform, information suppression, K-12, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Count the Tropes, Dept.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Count the Tropes, Dept.

Fewer Students Learning Arithmetic and Algebra

by Jerome Dancis

This summer, I obtained the college remediation data for my state of Maryland. Well just 2014, the latest available. So BCC i.e. before Common Core became the state tests in Maryland.

Does anyone know of similar data for other states?

Fewer Students Learning Arithmetic and Algebra

Analysis based on data by Maryland Higher Education Commission’s (MHEC) Student Outcome and Achievement Report (SOAR).

The data for my state of Maryland (MD) is: (This data may be typical for many of the 45 states, which adapted the NCTM Standards.)

Decline in Percent of Freshmen Entering Colleges in Maryland, Who Knew Arithmetic and Real High School Algebra I.

                                              1998        2005        2006        2014

Whites                                  67%         60%         58%          64%

African-Americans            44%         33%         36%          37%

Hispanics                            56%         42%         43%          44%

See my [Univ. of Maryland] Faculty Voice article,

More Remedial Math [at MD Colleges]? [YES]

scroll down to bottom of Page 1

Caveat. This data describes only those graduates of Maryland high schools in 1998, 2005, 2006 and 2014, who entered a college in Maryland the same year.

Related Data. From 1998 to 2005, the number of white graduates increased by 11% (from 14,473 to 16,127), but the number who knew arithmetic and high school algebra I decreased (from 9703 to 9619) (as determined by college placement tests).

Similarly, from 1998 to 2005, the number of African-American graduates who were minimally ready for college Math went down in spite of increased college enrollments of females by 21% and males by 31%.

One of the likely causes for the downturn: High school Algebra I used to be the Algebra course colleges expected. Under the specter of the MD School Assessments (MSAs) and High School Assessments (HSAs), school administrators have been bending the instructional programs out of shape in order to teach to the state tests. The MSAs on math and the MD Voluntary Math Curriculum marginalizes Arithmetic, thereby not allocating sufficient time for too many students to learn Arithmetic. Arithmetic lessons were largely Arithmetic with calculator. The MD HSA on Algebra was Algebra with graphing calculator. The MD HSA on Algebra avoided the arithmetic and arithmetic-based Algebra students would need in college, such as knowing that 3x + 2x = 5x and knowing 9×8 = 72. I nick-named it The MD HSA on “Pretend Algebra” .

Posted in College prep, Common Core, Curriculum & Instruction, Jerome Dancis, K-12, Mathematics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Surprise! SBAC and CRESST stonewall public records request for their financial records

Say what you will about Achieve, PARCC, Fordham, CCSSO, and NGA— some of the organizations responsible for promoting the Common Core Initiative on us all. But, their financial records are publicly available.

Not so for some other organizations responsible for the same Common Core promotion. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Center for Research on Educational Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) have absorbed many millions of taxpayer and foundation dollars over the years. But, their financial records have been hidden inside the vast, nebulous cocoon of the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA). UCLA’s financial records, of course, are publicly available, but amounts there are aggregated at a level that subsumes thousands of separate, individual entities.

UCLA is a tax-supported state institution, however, and California has an open records law on the books. After some digging, I located the UCLA office responsible for records requests and wrote to them. Following is a summary of our correspondence to date:


July 5, 2017


I hope that you can help me. I have spent a considerable amount of time clicking around in search of financial reports for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST), both “housed” at UCLA (or, until just recently in SBAC’s case). Even after many hours of web searching, I still have no clue as to where these data might be found.

Both organizations are largely publicly funded through federal grants. I would like to obtain revenue and expenditure detail on the order of what a citizen would expect to see in a nonprofit organization’s Form 990. I would be happy to search through a larger data base that contains relevant financial details for all of UCLA, so long as the details for SBAC and CRESST are contained within and separately labeled.

I would like annual records spanning the lifetimes of each organization: SBAC only goes back several years, but CRESST goes back to the 1980s (in its early years, it was called the Center for the Study of Evaluation).

Please tell me what I need to do next.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Best Wishes, Richard Phelps


July 6, 2017

RE: Acknowledgement of Public Records Request – PRR # 17-4854

Dear Mr. Phelps:

This letter is to acknowledge your request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) dated July 5, 2017, herein enclosed. Information Practices (IP) is notifying the appropriate UCLA offices of your request and will identify, review, and release all responsive documents in accordance with relevant law and University policy.

Under the CPRA, Cal. Gov’t Code Section 6253(b), UCLA may charge for reproduction costs and/or programming services. If the cost is anticipated to be greater than $50.00 or the amount you authorized in your original request, we will contact you to confirm your continued interest in receiving the records and your agreement to pay the charges. Payment is due prior to the release of the records.

As required under Cal. Gov’t Code Section 6253, UCLA will respond to your request no later than the close of business on July 14, 2017. Please note, though, that Section 6253 only requires a public agency to make a determination within 10 days as to whether or not a request is seeking records that are publicly disclosable and, if so, to provide the estimated date that the records will be made available. There is no requirement for a public agency to actually supply the records within 10 days of receiving a request, unless the requested records are readily available. Still, UCLA prides itself on always providing all publicly disclosable records in as timely a manner as possible.

Should you have any questions, please contact me at (310) 794-8741 or via email at pahill@finance.ucla.edu and reference the PRR number found above in the subject line.


Paula Hill

Assistant Manager, Information Practices


July 14, 2017

RE: Public Records Request – PRR # 17-4854

Dear Mr. Phelps:

The purpose of this letter is to confirm that UCLA Information Practices (IP) continues to work on your public records request dated July 5, 2017. As allowed pursuant to Cal. Gov’t Code Section 6253(c), we require additional time to respond to your request, due to the following circumstance(s):

The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.

IP will respond to your request no later than the close of business on July 28, 2017 with an estimated date that responsive documents will be made available.

Should you have any questions, please contact me at (310) 794-8741 or via email at pahill@finance.ucla.edu and reference the PRR number found above in the subject line.


Paula Hill

Assistant Manager, Information Practices


July 28, 2017

Dear Mr. Phelps,

Please know UCLA Information Practices continues to work on your public records request, attached for your reference. I will provide a further response regarding your request no later than August 18, 2017.

Should you have any questions, please contact me at (310) 794-8741 or via email and reference the PRR number found above in the subject line.

Kind regards,

Paula Hill

Assistant Manager

UCLA Information Practices


July 29, 2017

Thank you. RP


August 18, 2017

Re: Public Records Request – PRR # 17-4854

Dear Mr. Richard Phelps:

UCLA Information Practices (IP) continues to work on your public records request dated July 5, 2017. As required under Cal. Gov’t Code Section 6253, and as noted in our email communication with you on July 28, 2017, we are now able to provide you with the estimated date that responsive documents will be made available to you, which is September 29, 2017.

As the records are still being compiled and/or reviewed, we are not able at this time to provide you with any potential costs, so that information will be furnished in a subsequent communication as soon as it is known.

Should you have any questions, please contact me at (310) 794-8741 or via email at pahill@finance.ucla.edu and reference the PRR number found above in the subject line.


Paula Hill

Assistant Manager, Information Practices


September 29, 2017

Dear Mr. Richard Phelps,

Unfortunately, we must revise the estimated availability date regarding your attached request as the requisite review has not yet been completed. We expect to provide a complete response by November 30, 2017. We apologize for the delay.

Should you have any questions, please contact our office at (310) 794-8741 or via email, and reference the PRR number found above in the subject line.

Best regards,

UCLA Information Practices


September 29, 2017

I believe that if you are leaving it up to CRESST and SBAC to voluntarily provide the information, they will not be ready Nov. 30 either. RP

Posted in Censorship, Common Core, Education policy, Ethics, information suppression, K-12, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

researchED, Brooklyn, 7 October, 2017

researchED New York 2017


Posted in College prep, Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, Education policy, Education Reform, Education Writers Association, K-12, Richard P. Phelps | Leave a comment

The Gates Effect: Common Core Has Powerful Ally Keeping Unpopular Program Alive

The Gates Effect: Common Core Has Powerful Ally Keeping Unpopular Program Alive

…at the Independent Voter Network website, https://IVN.US .

Posted in Common Core, Education journalism, Education policy, information suppression, K-12 | Leave a comment

Cognitive Science and the Common Core

New in the Nonpartisan Education Review:

Cognitive Science and the Common Core Mathematics Standards

by Eric A. Nelson


Between 1995 and 2010, most U.S. states adopted K–12 math standards which discouraged memorization of math facts and procedures.  Since 2010, most states have revised standards to align with the K–12 Common Core Mathematics Standards (CCMS).  The CCMS do not ask students to memorize facts and procedures for some key topics and delay work with memorized fundamentals in others.

Recent research in cognitive science has found that the brain has only minimal ability to reason with knowledge that has not previously been well-memorized.  This science predicts that students taught under math standards that discouraged initial memorization for math topics will have significant difficulty solving numeric problems in mathematics, science, and engineering.  As one test of this prediction, in a recent OECD assessment of numeracy skills among 22 developed-world nations, U.S. 16–24 year olds ranked dead last.  Discussion will include steps that can be taken to align K–12 state standards with practices supported by cognitive research.

Posted in College prep, Common Core, Education policy, Eric A. Nelson, ESSA, K-12, Mathematics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Close all USED-funded research centers: Evaluation of existing regulations: My two bits

My comments below in response to the USED request for comments on existing USED regulations. To submit your own, follow the instructions at:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ED-2017-OS-0074-0001

To:  Hilary Malawer, Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Education
From:  Richard P. Phelps
Date:  July 8, 2017
Re:  Evaluation of Existing Regulations[1]


I encourage the US Education Department to eliminate from any current and future funding education research centers. Ostensibly, federally funded education research centers fill a “need” for more research to guide public policy on important topics. But, the research centers are almost entirely unregulated, so they can do whatever they please. And, what they please is too often the promotion of their own careers and the suppression or denigration of competing ideas and evidence.

Federal funding of education research centers concentrates far too much power in too few hands. And, that power is nearly unassailable. One USED funded research center, the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) blatantly and repeatedly misrepresented research I had conducted while at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in favor of their own small studies on the same topic. I was even denied attendance at public meetings where my research was misrepresented. Promises to correct the record were made, but not kept.

When I appealed to the USED project manager, he replied that he had nothing to say about “editorial” matters. In other words, a federally funded education research center can write and say anything that pleases, or benefits, the individuals inside.

Capturing a federally funded research center contract tends to boost the professional provenance of the winners stratospherically. In the case of CRESST, the principals assumed control of the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment, where they behaved typically—citing themselves and those who agree with them, and ignoring, or demonizing, the majority of the research that contradicted their work and policy recommendations.

Further, CRESST principals now seem to have undue influence on the assessment research of the international agency, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which, as if on cue, has published studies that promote the minority of the research sympathetic to CRESST doctrine while simply ignoring even the existence of the majority of the research that is not. The rot—the deliberate suppression of the majority of the relevant research–has spread worldwide, and the USED funded it.

In summary, the behavior of the several USED funded research centers I have followed over the years meet or exceed the following thresholds identified in the President’s Executive Order 13777:

(ii) Are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;

(iii) Impose costs that exceed benefits;

(iv) Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies;

(v) Are inconsistent with the requirements of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2001 (44 U.S.C. 3516 note), or the guidance issued pursuant to that provision, in particular those regulations that rely in whole or in part on data, information, or methods that are not publicly available or that are insufficiently transparent to meet the standard for reproducibility.

Below, I cite only relevant documents that I wrote myself, so as not to implicate anyone else. As the research center principals gain power, fewer and fewer of their professional compatriots are willing to disagree with them. The more power they amass, the more difficult it becomes for contrary evidence and points of view, no matter how compelling or true, to even get a hearing.


Phelps, R. P. (2015, July). The Gauntlet: Think tanks and federally funded centers misrepresent and suppress other education research. New Educational Foundations, 4. http://www.newfoundations.com/NEFpubs/NEF4Announce.html

Phelps, R. P. (2014, October). Review of Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment (OECD, 2013), Assessment in Education: Principles, Policies, & Practices. doi:10.1080/0969594X.2014.921091 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0969594X.2014.921091#.VTKEA2aKJz1

Phelps, R. P. (2013, February 12). What Happened at the OECD? Education News.

Phelps, R. P. (2013, January 28). OECD Encourages World to Adopt Failed US Ed Programs. Education News.

Phelps, R. P. (2013). The rot spreads worldwide: The OECD – Taken in and taking sides. New Educational Foundations, 2(1). Preview: http://www.newfoundations.com/NEFpubs/NEFv2Announce.html

Phelps, R. P. (2012, June). Dismissive reviews: Academe’s Memory Hole. Academic Questions, 25(2), pp. 228–241. doi:10.1007/s12129-012-9289-4 https://www.nas.org/articles/dismissive_reviews_academes_memory_hole

Phelps, R. P. (2012). The effect of testing on student achievement, 1910–2010. International Journal of Testing, 12(1), 21–43. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15305058.2011.602920

Phelps, R. P. (2010, July). The source of Lake Wobegon [updated]. Nonpartisan Education Review / Articles, 1(2). http://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Articles/v6n3.htm

Phelps, R. P. (2000, December). High stakes: Testing for tracking, promotion, and graduation, Book review, Educational and Psychological Measurement, 60(6), 992–999. http://richardphelps.net/HighStakesReview.pdf

Phelps, R. P. (1999, April). Education establishment bias? A look at the National Research Council’s critique of test utility studies. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 36(4) 37–49. https://www.siop.org/TIP/backissues/Tipapr99/4Phelps.aspx

[1] In accordance with Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” the Department of Education (Department) is seeking input on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification.

Posted in Censorship, Common Core, Education policy, Education Reform, Ethics, information suppression, K-12, OECD, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment | Tagged | 2 Comments

Students Last

Will Fitzhugh

The Concord Review
6 April 2017
The great social psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan wrote that the principal problem with communication is that we think we express meaning to others, when in fact we evoke it.
That is, what we say brings a response in the listener which involves their current thoughts at the the time, their feelings, wishes, goals and other preoccupations, all of which affect and alter the meanings of our expression as they hear it.
Psychiatrists are carefully trained to be useful in that situation. They learn to listen. When they do listen, they can derive an understanding of at least some of the ways in which the thoughts of their patients have responded to what was said. They can find out how the patient’s own experiences, thoughts and concerns have interacted with what the psychiatrist said, and this can help the doctor shape what they say next in perhaps more pertinent and more useful ways.
When I was a high school History teacher I was not a bad person, but I almost never shut up in class. If the teacher talks, that can make life easier for students, because they can continue giving their attention to whatever they were thinking about at the time, and if the teacher pauses, most students can easily ask a question to get the teacher talking again if they seem to be slowing down.
Most high school History teachers are not bad people, but they usually feel they have an obligation to talk, present, excite, inspire, demonstrate material and in other ways fill up the time of students in their classes. Some of the best teachers do ask questions, but even they believe they can’t spend too much time on student answers, not to mention on what students are actually thinking about what the teacher has said, or, if other students talk, about what they have said.
This is much less the case in some special secondary schools, like Phillips Exeter, which have small classes meeting around a table as a seminar, specifically designed to gather the comments and thoughts of students about academic subjects. But for public school teachers with five classes of 30 students each, that kind of dialogue is not an option.
Unless they fall silent, high school History teachers almost never have any idea what their students are thinking, and students come to understand that, at least in most classrooms, what is on their minds is of little importance to the process. This doesn’t mean that they don’t learn anything in their History classes. Some teachers really are well-educated, full of good stories, fascinating speakers, and fun to be with. That does not change the fact that even those best teachers have very little idea of what students are actually thinking about the History which is offered to them.
Some teachers do assign short papers, and if the students can choose the topics themselves, and if teachers have the time to read those papers, they can learn more about what some part of History means to their students. Sad to say, the assignment of serious History research papers is declining in this country, with some students working on slide presentations or videos, but many fewer students writing Extended Essays in History.
Education reform pundits all agree that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality, because what teachers do is the lowest level of educational activity of which they are able to take notice. In fact, the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work. Students learn the most from the academic work that they do, but this factor escapes the notice of the majority of education professors, theorists, reporters and other thought leaders. 
Since 1987, The Concord Review has published 1,241 exemplary History research papers [average 7,000 words, with endnotes and bibliography] by secondary students from 44 states and 40 other countries [tcr.org]. These papers are on a vary large variety of historical topics, ancient and modern, domestic and foreign, but all of them show what students are actually thinking as they take History seriously. If more teachers of History would read a few of these strong research papers, they would become more aware, first, that some high school History students actually can think about History, and second, that such student writing, based on extensive reading of History, demonstrates a level of sophistication in their understanding of History that can never be discovered in classes where teachers do all the talking. 
Great teachers of History should continue to talk the way they do in classes, and their students will learn a lot. But the actual thoughts of students of History should have a place for their expression as well. Students whose work is published in The Concord Review not only benefit from the hard work they have done, they also come to have greater respect for their own achievement and potential as scholars of History.

“Teach with Examples”
Will Fitzhugh [Founder],
The Concord Review [1987]

National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Academic Coaches [2014]

TCR Summer Program [2014]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Varsity Academics®
Posted in Education Reform, History, Humanities, K-12, Social Studies, Will Fitzhugh | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another post-Inaugural Change: The calendar

Here in DC, the nation’s capital, which has enjoyed Home Rule since 1974,
but remains ultimately under the thumb of Congress and the President (thanks
to Art. I, Section 8 of the Constitution), one never knows what surprise
awaits each new day. These days, one need not be addicted to social media
or even tea leaves to hypothesize what’s around the corner. Something as
politically innocuous as an “Alley Restoration” could be a harbinger of
things to come.

A few weeks ago, as I turned the corner into my alley, I was struck by signs
announcing an “Alley Restoration” and a change in our calendar. Not since
Pope Gregory XIII or even Julius Caesar …… (except for the brief
anticlerical calendar of the French Revolution). Don’t blame Marion Barry;
he has passed to his reward.



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“Organizationally orchestrated propaganda” at ETS

With the testing opt-out movement growing in popularity in 2016, Common Core’s profiteers began to worry. Lower participation enough and the entire enterprise could be threatened: with meaningless aggregate scores; compromised test statistics vital to quality control; and a strong signal that many citizens no longer believe the Common Core sales pitch.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) was established decades ago by the Carnegie Foundation to serve as an apolitical research laboratory for psychometric work. For a while, ETS played that role well, producing some of the world’s highest-quality, most objective measurement research.

In fits and starts over the past quarter century, however, ETS has commercialized. At this point, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that ETS is a business–a business that relies on contracts and a business that aims to please those who can pay for its services.

Some would argue, with some justification, that ETS had no choice but to change with the times. Formerly guaranteed contracts were no longer guaranteed, and the organization needed either to pay its researchers or let them go.

Instead of now presenting itself honestly to the public as a commercial enterprise seeking profits, however, ETS continues to prominently display the trappings of a neutral research laboratory seeking truths. Top employees are awarded lofty academic titles and research “chairs”. Whether the awards derive from good research work or success in courting new business is open to question.

I perceive that ETS at least attempts something like an even split between valid research and faux-research pandering. The awarding of ETS’s most prestigious honor bestowed upon outsiders–the Angoff Award–for example, takes turns between psychometricians conducting high-quality, non-political technical work one year, and high-profile gatekeepers conducting highly suspicious research the next. Members of the latter group can be found participating in, or awarding, ETS commercial contracts.

With their “research” on the Common Core test opt-out movement, ETS blew away any credible pretense that it conducts objective research where its profits are threatened. Opt-out leaders are portrayed by ETS as simple-minded, misinformed, parents of poor students, …you name it. And, of course, they are protesting against “innovative, rigorous, high quality” tests they are too dumb to appreciate.

Common Core testing, in case you didn’t know and haven’t guessed from that written above, represents a substantial share of ETS’s work. Pearson holds the largest share of work for the PARCC exams, but ETS holds the second largest.

The most ethical way for ETS to have handled the issue of Common Core opt-outs would have been to say nothing. After all, it is, supposedly, a research laboratory of apolitical test developers. They are statistical experts at developing assessment instruments, not at citizen movements, education administration, or public behavior.

Choosing to disregard the most ethical choice, ETS could have at least made it abundantly clear that it retains a large self-interest in the success of PARCC testing.

Instead, ETS continues to wrap itself in its old research laboratory coat and condemns opt-out movement leaders and sympathizers as ignorant and ill-motivated. Never mind that the opt-out leaders receive not a dime for their efforts, and ETS’s celebrity researchers are remunerated abundantly for communicating the company line.

Four months ago, I responded to one of these ETS anti-opt-out propaganda pieces, written by Randy E. Bennett, the “Norman O. Frederiksen Chair in Assessment Innovation at Educational Testing Service.” It took a few weeks, but ETS, in the person of Mr. Bennett, responded to my comment questioning ETS’s objectivity in the matter.

He asserted, “There’s a lot less organizationally orchestrated propaganda, and a lot more academic freedom, here than you might think!”

To which I replied, “The many psychometricians working at ETS with a starkly different vision of what constitutes “high quality” in assessment are allowed to publish purely technical pieces. But, IMHO, the PR road show predominantly panders to power and profit. ETS’s former reputation for scholarly integrity took decades to accumulate. To my observation, it seems to be taking less time to dissemble. RP”

My return comment, however, was blocked. All comments have now been removed from the relevant ETS web page. All comments remain available to read at the Disqus comments manager site, though. The vertical orange bar next to the Nonpartisan Education logo is Disqus’ indication that the comment was blocked by ETS at its web site.


Posted in Censorship, College prep, Common Core, Education policy, Ethics, information suppression, Richard P. Phelps | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment