i-Ready, Johns Hopkins and Oakland Public Schools

26 May

By Thomas Ultican 5/26/2021

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) signed an agreement on March 10 to substitute i-Ready diagnostic testing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). The no cost agreement calls for the data to be given to Johns Hopkins University for comparative analysis with SBAC. Oakland teachers administering the program claim that the project is being financed by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation.

An Oakland fourth grade math teacher who administered the test stated that the it appeared to be designed to insure that students missed at least 50% of the problems. She observed,

“1) Multi-step unit conversions in the context of a word problem”

“2) Definitions/examples of independent and dependent variables”

“3) Simplification of algebraic equations with two variables”

These skills all appear to be well beyond what should be expected of 9- and 10-years-old students.

i-Ready is a product of Curriculum Associates (CA) out of Billerica, Massachusetts. It was originally formed in 1969 to publish workbooks. Ron Waldron an equities manager at Berkshire Partners took the reins in 2008 and immediately converted it to an ed-tech company.

That was the same year that former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, launched Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and in close cooperation with the American Legislative Exchange Council and his major contributor, Bill Gates, FEE launched Digital Learning Now. (FEE has been renamed ExcelinEd)

 i-Ready is a technology-based diagnostic testing program that also provides screen based instructional programs for math and reading.

Evidently many junior-high students who use i-Ready in the classroom are making internet searches for information about it. Possibly that explains why my i-Ready article written three years ago is still getting traffic. This May, it has received more than 1600 clicks. The latest two comments out of hundreds to the article are typical:

“i agree iready has caused a ton of stress for me as a 7th grade student.”

“I-ready needs to Die!”

Sales spiels normally tout the research evidence supporting i-Ready. However, there is no independent peer reviewed research backing CA’s claims. A 2019 study from WestEd is typical. The study was paid for by two billionaire non-profits reputed to favor privatizing and monetizing public education – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. In paragraph one the study says,

“Our quantitative analysis showed that students, regardless of their math proficiency, who spent a minimum of 45 minutes a week or more on the i-Ready lessons had a significant improvement in their scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Math Summative Assessment (SBAC) over students who did not.”

However, the next paragraph admits,

“During the observations, it was noted that the product was challenging for less proficient students to use, which was later confirmed by our quantitative analysis — many students who used i-Ready consistently enough to see its benefits were already meeting or exceeding standards in mathematics on the SBAC.”

This shows that better students willing to put in the time got better scores than weaker students who did not. Not too surprising; that would have been the case without i-Ready.

The Evaluator Appears Biased

Chiefs for Change and Johns Hopkins Wrote Joint 2020 Paper – The Return

The Institute for Education policy at Johns Hopkins joined Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change in calling for more testing. Their claim,

“As leaders prepare their school communities for the challenge of re-starting face-to-face as well as hybrid models, a coherent pathway for learning recovery and acceleration needs to include greater reliance on high-quality materials and instruction, and completing the circle with curriculum-based assessments.”

“We recommend formative and summative assessments tied to specific curricula that can be implemented under various circumstances.”

Johns Hopkins was also integral to the attack on the public schools in Providence, Rhode Island. In May 2019, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy led a review of the Providence Public School District (PPSD). They did so at the invitation of the Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner, Ms. Angélica Infante-Green, with the support of Governor Gina Raimondo and Mayor Jorge Elorza. The Partnership for Rhode Island funded the review.

The Johns Hopkins study was commissioned in May and presented in June and based on the report  Mayor Elorza officially petitioned the state to takeover Providence Public Schools on July  19.

Kenneth Rainin Foundation Lost Their White Hats

The foundation being cited as funding the i-Ready and Johns Hopkins study has assets of more than $600 million. Founder Kenneth Rainin was an entrepreneur from Toledo, Ohio who became wealthy manufacturing and selling laboratory pipettes. When he died in 2007, the foundation became the beneficiary of the majority of his estate.

The Rainan Foundation has spent significant sums on advancing its “Seeds of Learning” reading program and the corporate control of public education. As the LittleSis map depicted above shows, the foundation sends large grants both directly and indirectly to billionaire funded “school choice” promoting organizations.

The “Seeds of Learning” program is supposed to improve reading education results through its preschool efforts. The lead story on the foundation’s web page is “Research Show Seeds of Learning Produces Quick Gains.” The research is not peer reviewed or independent. The Kenneth Rainin Foundation has spent more than $3 million for a Chicago company to produce the results. Report briefs are made available but not the study itself.

The dark side of the study is that they are testing 4- and 5-year olds in alliteration, letter naming, letter sounds, rhyming and vocabulary. That is child abuse. This appears to be an amateur created program that ignores the much greater need for babies to engage in self-directed play in safe and stimulative environments. “Seeds of Learning”  is likely more personality damaging than it is helpful for reading.

Amateurs need to stop using their financial power to control education policy.

9 Responses to “i-Ready, Johns Hopkins and Oakland Public Schools”

  1. Meg B May 28, 2021 at 1:54 am #

    Is it possible that two programs have been confused? The SEEDS program in Oakland is an acronym: Sensitive, Encouraging, Educative, Develop (Through Doing), and Self Image. It is focused on social emotional learning and building relationships, which doesn’t sound at all like what you’ve described. Have you been in a SEEDS classroom?


    • tultican May 28, 2021 at 4:00 am #

      The seeds program in Oakland has little to do with SEL. It’s a beginning reading program supported by a large philanthropy.


      • Meg B May 28, 2021 at 11:47 pm #

        Have you been in a SEEDS classroom? SEEDS is not a “beginning reading program.” It is a model for academic and social interactions between teachers, community members (who are hired as tutors), and students. They focus on back and forth conversations, positive narration, and social-emotional connections in addition to pre-reading skill development. Highly recommend you visit SEEDS classrooms, SEEDS professional learning communities, and talk with members in the program to deepen your understanding.


      • Shawgi Tell June 1, 2021 at 12:59 pm #

        Thanks for writing this piece. Johns Hopkins has been playing a very bad role in public education, especially in RI. Feel free to check out/share this piece I produced: https://youtu.be/htwow_82xK0


      • tultican June 1, 2021 at 1:21 pm #

        Thank you for reaching out. I have watched it an shared it.


      • Shawgi June 1, 2021 at 2:12 pm #

        Keep up the good work you’re doing Tom.


  2. Morgan August 2, 2022 at 5:52 pm #

    I recently left teaching over a number of issues, one of which was the increase in overreliance on low-quality intervention programs and tests like this one. I have done a fair amount of research on i-Ready, and there are some things that seem very fishy from an education perspective. I would love to see more coverage of how ed tech is taking over schools and putting their profits ahead of our children’s education. Getting this shady program and the hands of their CEO out of our schools is one of the gifts I’d like to leave to my fellow educators.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Tom Ultican: I-Ready Is Not Ready for Prime Time: It May Never Be | Diane Ravitch's blog - May 27, 2021

    […] thinks the deal between Oakland Public Schools and Johns Hopkins University is of dubious value. Hopkins gets the data; students in the Oakland public schools get a curriculum […]


  2. OUSD, the Digital Divide and Edtech – Be careful what you wish for | tultican - July 24, 2021

    […] March 21, 2021, OUSD signed an agreement to replace diagnostic testing from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium with the notorious […]


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