IStation: Funding Skandera’s Cronies on the Backs of our Students
Have you heard?? DIBELS is gone!! Unfortunately, all of us who care deeply about instructional time and the inappropriateness of testing young children can’t really celebrate. PED has replaced the DIBLES mandate with another questionable test. Istation is New Mexico’s new K-3 “formative” assessment that will replace the DIBELS test.
Teachers across the state are wondering whether Istation will be just as painful for our children as the DIBELS proved to be. Many of us automatically connected Istation with the Pearson testing moguls.
We decided to do some digging. Our preliminary search for information brought up some fishy details about Istation:
Skandera’s Backroom Deals (The Immoral)
· Istation’s CEO, Richard Collins, sits on the board of Texas Business Leadership Council alongside Randy Best, CEO of Academic Partnerships, a company of which Hanna Skandera used to be the Vice President. Both Collins and Best make a top contributor list to the Bush family.
· Istation was designed to align with Bush’s brainchild, No Child Left Behind, used many of the same researchers and was able to receive contracts under Reading First Money as a result. (As you now know, Collins is a major supporter of the Bush family… kickbacks, anyone?)
· Research about the “benefits” of Istation has been either published in-house by Istation themselves or published by Southern Methodist University researchers who hold leadership positions within Istation. Also important to note, is that Collins sits on the advisory board for SMU’s Department of Education Policy and Leadership.
· One of the few studies that was not conducted at SMU states that any positive effects of Istation are “inconclusive” because students in this study received many other resources, such as one-on-one tutoring after school and on the weekends.
Wrong for our Students, Wrong for our Classrooms (The Impractical)
During Skandera’s Secret Summit (which we stumbled upon, attended, and will discuss in our next email) select teachers were given information about the logistics of Istation and how it will function in our New Mexico classrooms. Based on the presentation given by Istation at this summit, here is what we know:
· Istation will factor into K-3 teachers’ VAM scores, replacing DIBELS.
· The test is computerized and will not have a paper version.
· Istation is new, teachers have not yet been trained and the first testing time frame is within the first 15 days of school. (Getting 5 year olds to take a computerized test within the first few weeks of school? Yeah, right…)
· The PED said they would extend the first testing deadline, however, this would leave even less time between the first testing window and the students’ next benchmark test. Thus, less student “growth” is likely to be seen.
· PED is unsure as of yet, but bilingual students may have to be tested twice. One in English and once in Spanish, especially at dual language schools. It is also unclear which test would factor into a teacher’s VAM score.
· There is not a paper test for Istation, which leaves HUGE questions about what PED is going to do with students who are on an IEP.
· Istation is being lauded as “saving teachers time,” however, given the fact that we’ve already experienced lack of technological infrastructure with PARCC, we know that Istation is likely to have similar problems. Thus, testing students twice (which is allowed) and factoring in technical-issue time means double the amount of time (at least!) spent on testing.
· Teachers have the option of administering a second Istation test to their students, in the event of technical glitches, etc. Because Istation factors into teacher VAM scores, teachers who administer several “do-over” tests will inevitably face teacher blaming, shaming and accusations that teachers are trying to improve their VAM scores.
· The Istation presenters said that in order for the testing to run smoothly, at least 2-3 educators would be needed to help administer the test, especially in kindergarten classrooms. (Right…PED is providing extra help in our classrooms during the beginning of year. I think the saying is, “When pigs fly!”)
While Istation may not be a Pearson contract, it is clear that Istation is tucked safely away under the corporate wing of the Bush family via wealthy donors and political contract kickbacks.
Hanna Skandera and the Martinez Administration only exacerbate the crippling issue of corporatization of our public schools. They’re selling out our kids to fill their friends’ pockets. To be clear, in her 2016 State Education Technology Plan, Skandera clearly states that she plans to use Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education projects such as Future Ready and Project 24, projects that funnel big money into programs like Istation.
These failed, Bush-profiting programs will not only be bought and paid for by New Mexico taxpayers, but even worse, yield inconclusive (at best) results for our students.
What this preliminary “digging” on Istation also returned was Skandera’s New Mexico Teacher Summit, an event in which an invitation was only sent to select teachers from across the state.
Skandera’s Secret Summit will be explained in our next email. We’ll be sure to bring the conversation full-circle and explain how the Secret Summit relates to Skandera’s other backroom deals.