Information about The College Board and SpringBoard Curriculum that Gilbert Public Schools Administrators Withheld from the Board and the Public

At the June 5, 2012 Governing Board meeting, the GPS administration presented a one-sided case for adopting the SpringBoard English Language Arts curriculum, over protests of parents and teachers.  SpringBoard is a product of the College Board, the company known for the SAT test and Advanced Placement courses and tests.

As reported in the Arizona Republic:

Board member Blake Sacha said this was the hardest decision he's had to make as a new school board member. He said his son also struggled with SpringBoard the past year.  "I do believe we have to do something different, and I also believe it's the board's responsibility to trust the experts," Sacha said.

NEWSFLASH for Blake Sacha and taxpayers: Experts within and outside Gilbert Public Schools say that SpringBoard is inadequate as a curriculum, not right for GPS students, and this initial adoption is merely a Trojan Horse for future spending obligations. More from Hayley Ringle's article:

Rachel Stafford, a Mesquite High School teacher who was passing along information from other teachers, said although the planning has been cut down "drastically," the "step-by-step process feels stifling" and "insulting" to some teachers. "They do not see remediation techniques possible," Stafford said. "Some lessons may not work in Gilbert."

Anderson requested the board table a vote and have administrators come back with a "better solution."  "I feel so much frustration and have heard from ninth-grade teachers who are not happy" with SpringBoard, Anderson said.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Barb VeNard talked about how partnering with Scottsdale would bring down costs. She also said teacher training wasn't very much, and consumable textbooks will cost about $200,000 each year. Left unsaid was whether teachers will be paid for required SpringBoard training sessions in July. "Professional development credits" are just Confederate money in GPS.

It's interesting that the Scottsdale USD placed a much larger price tag on adopting this curriculum:

"This initiative will cost about $890,000 over four years, mostly for teacher training."

The College Board has been under great scrutiny in recent days for losing its way as a non-profit: College Board Cashing In On Push For More Degrees:

College Board's net revenues, which hit $65.6 million in 2010--the last year for which the figure was available from tax filings--up from $53 million the year before. The test supplier paid at least two dozen employees over $230,000 in 2010. Its president, Gaston Caperton, earns more than $1 million annually--almost double what he made in 2005--and has a $125,000 expense account.

The College Board, which also administers Advanced-Placement exams, has tried to make AP classes mandatory in every California high school. Nationally, in the Class of 2011, more than 1.6 million high-school seniors had taken the SAT, a 30 percent increase from a decade ago. The test costs $49. Sending SAT scores to up to four colleges is free, after which it costs students $10.50 for every additional college. Rush delivery is an additional $30 per school. AP exams cost $87 each, and students took 3.1 million of these tests in the 2009-10 school year.

In addition, we can look to the experience of Hillsborough County Schools, Florida, with SpringBoard.  New Curriculum Becomes A SpringBoard For Teacher Criticism, March 06, 2009:

Themes have replaced the traditional approach to language arts.

The theme in 10th grade is "Culture." In place of world literature, students tackle a mixture of topics ranging from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and Soviet Nobel literature prize-winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn's writings to "Cinderella" and clips from "I Love Lucy."

"The American Dream" replaces 11th-grade American literature, with a span of subjects from Arthur Miller's play about witchcraft, "The Crucible," to clips from the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Seniors contemplate "How Perception Changes Reality" instead of British literature. Media reports of the 1991 Waco massacre, the contemporary novel "My Sister's Keeper," and clips from "Forrest Gump" may replace "Beowulf" and the poetry of Yeats and Shelley.

...Three-quarters of the way through the school year, math teachers say they see little change, while some high school English teachers are concerned.

"The meat's not there," said Holly Bentley, a national board-certified English teacher at Brandon High School. She teaches sophomore and junior honors English. "There is no grammar. There is no vocabulary."

"All classical literature is gone," said Lee Rich, a Sickles High School language arts teacher in her 24th year. "They're going to go to college with no classical literature and limited poetry instruction."

...SpringBoard is beefing up its curriculum, and Hillsborough has influenced that, Wuckovich said, because "we are the largest consumer."

An article shilling for The College Board explains how Hillsborough Schools adopted SpringBoard for some 190,000 students in a district that covers more territory than the state of Rhode Island:

Because the curriculum was completely new, "all of our language arts teachers became first-year teachers in the summer of 2007," when the second wave of training was scheduled for math and English teachers, Bergholm said. "It was a tremendous effort to train some 2,000 teachers, but SpringBoard provided an incredible cadre of trainers who understood our state tests and what we were trying to do."

Read more about how this non-profit actually works: Not-for-Profit College Board Getting Rich as Fees Hit Students, Aug 17, 2011:

The College Board by 1999 was facing cash-flow problems. CEO Caperton turned the nonprofit company into a thriving business, more than doubling revenue to $660 million by boosting fees, expanding the Advanced Placement program and the sale of names of teenage test-takers to colleges. A former West Virginia governor, he persuaded 11 states to cover fees for a preliminary SAT in the 10th grade.

"College Board is more interested in marketing and selling things than it is in its primary responsibility, promoting equity and educational opportunity," said Ted O'Neill, who stepped down as admissions dean of the University of Chicago in 2009 and served on several College Board committees.

CEO Gaston Caperton... worked to bolster revenue, expanding products such as the Student Search Service, which sells to colleges the names of test takers at 33 cents each. The company had $63 million in sales from its business that includes selling names in the year ended June 2010, almost 10 percent of total revenue.

By 2008, 10 states agreed to pay fees to the College Board for 10th-graders to take the PSAT, according to a College Board newsletter. Texas appropriated money a year later.

College Board spent $726,000 on lobbying in the year ended June 2010, while ACT, spent $101,000 in the corresponding fiscal year, according to tax returns.

The Texas legislature allocated $26 million in 2009 to fund tests for two years. It declined to extend funding this year due to budget cuts. Individual school districts can still pay for the tests on their own. South Carolina and Hawaii, which had previously paid for the tests, have also cut off funding.

College students also criticize College Board for outrageous profiteering at the expense of students and educators:

Americans for Educational Testing Reform, an organization that explores issues of fairness in standardized testing, writes that the College Board's 9.5% profit "would be respectable for a for-profit company," but that "when a non-profit company is earning those profits, something is wrong." AETR is hardly alone in its criticism of College Boardówith these exorbitant profits, it has abused its tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization, and it has formed a monopoly out of the educational establishment such that consumers have no choice but to buy its product.

The intensified relationship between big business and education, embodied by College Board, is most dangerous where a single organization's interest in profit has a determinative effect on what is taught in schools.

In 2008 College Board made a logical business decision to eliminate AP tests in several subjects including Italian, Latin Literature, and French Literature. Here, normal business practices translated into a bad decision for education. The effect was to send the message to schools that these subjects are not important to teach.

One of the biggest criticisms of The College Board is that it fans flames of tension between social class, culture, and SAT performance. Would your child in Gilbert Public Schools get the correct answer to the famous regatta analogy?

Students were asked to find an analogy for "runner" and "marathon." The correct answer was the pair "oarsman" and "regatta."

Here's more about College Board's revenues and lobbying. College Board Cashing In On Push For More Degrees:

The national push to increase the number of Americans with college degrees is enriching at least one key beneficiary: the College Board, the nonprofit organization best known for administering the SAT.

College Board's net revenues, which hit $65.6 million in 2010--the last year for which the figure was available from tax filings--up from $53 million the year before. The test supplier paid at least two dozen employees over $230,000 in 2010. Its president, Gaston Caperton, earns more than $1 million annually--almost double what he made in 2005--and has a $125,000 expense account.

And the College Board, which also administers Advanced-Placement exams, has tried to make AP classes mandatory in every California high school. Nationally, in the Class of 2011, more than 1.6 million high-school seniors had taken the SAT, a 30 percent increase from a decade ago. The test costs $49. Sending SAT scores to up to four colleges is free, after which it costs students $10.50 for every additional college. Rush delivery is an additional $30 per school. AP exams cost $87 each, and students took 3.1 million of these tests in the 2009-10 school year.

Caperton's salary increase since 2005 alone could have paid for the PSAT to be given for free to almost 34,000 students. And the College Board's revenues in excess of expenditures last year were enough to have provided a refund to every student who paid full price to take the SAT.

If College Board is taking advantage of individual students, school districts must look like quite a honey pot!

Here's a sample from a Facebook page of "Things we have learned from SpringBoard"

  • People have different cultures. And German men write more violent stories.

  • William Shakespeare wasted his life.

  • Cinderella's sister cut off her toe to fit in the slipper and the Prince is a dumb*ss for not noticing the blood... :) what a great lesson! 

  • In the Romeo and Juliet movies, neither movie had decent death scenes.

From a DeKalb, Georgia school district blog, which promotes itself as hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students:

The College Board's Springboard website does not list a single independent study of the effectiveness of Springboard. The web site touts DCSS as a major success for the Springboard curriculum, and provides statistics like "every DeKalb middle school using SpringBoard improved its percentage of students meeting or exceeding the state's standard on the 2008 Grade 8 Writing Assessment compared with 2007."

Teachers just read prepackaged Springboard lessons to their students. Students loath it even more, and call it tedious, boring, and mind-numbing. They call it Springbored. Language arts teachers tell me that without Springboard, their students would spend much more time reading books and writing in class.

Commenters on the blog are very direct.  A sample of comments:

I also heard that the Bd announced that DeKalb was discontinuing Spring Board and everyone cheered. I've had two children subjected to it. Total, complete waste of instructional time. If we are paying for it, then it is a total complete waste of taxpayer money. All teachers in magnet program hate it.

The teachers were most unhappy about the fact that they had not been consulted about its implementation or its effectiveness along the way. Besides the issues raised by the post, it also detracts from the ability of the teachers to be creative so the best and the brightest teachers are motivated to leave DCSS.

I teach in Hillsborough and it's bad. All our grades dropped, FCAT* reading dropped, and attendance didn't improve, yet the district doesn't blame SB, they blame the teachers. TOTAL nightmare, and now we have to teach it 100 percent of the time.

* Note: FCAT is the Florida equivalent of AIMS.  This year, so many students failed parts of the exam, the state of Florida changed the grading criteria to pass more students. Test Scores Plummet, So Florida Drops Passing Grade!

It strikes at the heart of teaching as a profession. I am either trusted as a professional to design instruction or I'm not. And while I see districts panicking about AYP, etc., and I get that, this is NOT the answer. Until educators are able to design their own rigorous and engaging instruction based on the students looking back up at them, we're scr*wed.

A remarkable resource for SpringBoard commentary comes from the blog of April Griffin, a member of the Hillsborough County School Board. What is it about district administrators that so many thrive on intimidating and retaliating against teachers?

I would still like to see the research that "proves" that this curriculum really does improve student-achievement in every type of classroom, whether it is varying grade-levels, honors, regular, inner-city, suburban, etc. Teachers are afraid to speak out. I haven't spoken to a single English teacher that believes that SpringBoard is better for all students. They are all concerned. Most teachers believe it should be a tool for the classroom, not obligatory to the extent that it is. It is sad that the only people in the classroom everyday are the very people that are not listened to and are afraid to speak up. It speaks volumes about the climate of this county. We will all have to wait and see what happens. Sadly, some of the very best teachers may not be around to find out. What's even sadder, is I am afraid to post this...

I'm feeling your pain --and mine. We will not only lose teachers, but students.

SpringBoard has essentially broken my spirit and my love of teaching.  ...I, too, feel the fear of repercussion if I speak out. ...Our school TOLD us not to say anything negative to the supervisors when they come and randomly observe us this year.  ...Parents HAVE NO CLUE about what's going on and that WE have to spin this garbage into something good. I swear, when my child hits 6th grade, home schooling's a-coming!

I can't defend it anymore. I, too, have never seen my children complain like this. I went from being the class everyone wanted to be in because they learned because they were challenged and they had fun because of the climate my curriculum development and passion facilitated. Now I am just a "facilitator" who pedals cr*p that I don't even believe in. I am sickened by what is going on. The fact that at least 80 percent of English teachers find it mediocre or horrid should prove the inequities in this hodgepodge, unproven product. When the kids complain, I now just tell them, "We are doing it because we have to, and if you don't like it, tell the school board."


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