Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What Kindergarten & Early Childhood Education should be.

Enough already with the rigor and "college and career readiness" talk,  listen to the experts in early childhood education.  What should Kindergarten & Early Childhood Education look like?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Must read: CTU on Common Core

An amazing look at the Common Core standards and testing by the Chicago Teachers Union including commentaries on:

  • Close Reading
  • Developmental Inappropriateness 
  • Testing
  • Corporate Reform

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good Reads for December

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Some excellent reads 11/23

A teacher loses faith in the Common Core

A former hedge-funder turned teacher realizes numbers do not mean a quality education:

NYSED provides schools with inaccurate data on college preparation. 

"The reality is that most school districts across the state are already doing an effective job of preparing kids for college. To misrepresent the facts in such a clear and purposeful way is irresponsible," he said.
"Not only were the names given, the report included which colleges and universities the students attended, their race, special education status, whether or not they received free or reduced priced lunch, and in many cases, their college major."


Who wrote the Common Core Standards?


A successful history of—and the threat to—Public Education in the United States


Common Core: It Really Is All About the Tests (and Corporate Profits)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Field Tests: Mandated?

The NYS Board of Regents debated this week about making the field tests mandatory in schools across New York State.    In recent years, some districts and individual schools wisely refused to administer these extra tests and sent back the tests.  NYSED, trying to quell the testing revolt in New York is trying to force all districts to give the field tests.

( What are field tests?  Click here, here and here. )

What can you do?  

1.  Contact your local school board to resist and pass a resolution against the field tests.  Encourage your local board to refuse to give the field tests.

2.  Contact your elected state representatives to end the use of field testing in New York State.

3. Email NYSED between December 3 and January 20, 2015 expressing your viewpoint on the field testing.   Here is the background document.

Is this a wise move by the Regents?  I can see this action backfiring and helping those opposed to the increased use of standardized testing in our children's schools.  Other bloggers agree:

Diane Ravitch:

" The Regents and Commissioner John King think they are in public office to compel the public to do what they want. They don’t understand that they are “public servants,” which means obviously they are supposed to serve the public. When thousands of parents rise up as one to say that their children are over tested and their schools have been turned into test-prep centers, the Regents should listen. They haven’t. They have added fuel to parent anger. It is not going away just because the Regents have passed a motion. The children belong to their parents, not to the state. "
Retired Superintendent Howard Maffucci:

New York State Regents... ignorant of "The Rule of Holes"... they are in "Field Test" hole... won't stop digging...

"And, not just for the field tests, but for the yearly accountability assessments tied to theCommon Core. The members of the Board of Regents are misreading parental opinion of high-stakes tests.
Bad move. You are in a testing hole, and you should stop digging! "

 Perdido Street School Blog:

NY Board Of Regents Aid Opt-Out Movement By Moving To Mandate Field Tests

" But if the Regents vote to mandate the field testing for districts, they're going to start a fight with parents and teachers that makes the uproar King got in Poughkeepsie over Common Core look like a little skirmish.
So I say, go on Chancellor Tisch, mandate the field tests, punish districts that do not comply.
In the end you're only aiding the op-out cause by fanning the flames of anger and resentment over testing. "

From Fairport Superintendent Dr. William Cala

New York State School Boards Association

"NYSSBA will call upon members of our State Legislature and the State Education Department to seek legislation and regulatory practices that will take immediate action to eliminate mandated standalone field testing practices in New York State. "

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dear 3rd Grade Parents

From my friend Jeanette of Long Island Opt Out: An important message to parents whose oldest child is entering third grade and experiencing the state assessment system for the first time.

"I need your help. Parents who now have a third grader are generally new to testing and opting out/refusing. If you are on here, you are already informed. I need you to help me get this message emailed to as many third grade parents as possible!! I too have a third grader. I sent this letter out using emails I had from a class list. My goal is to inform every single parent in his grade, whether they decide to opt out or not. Change the message, make it your own, make it reflect your district. But PLEASE get this out there. We must reach parents who are not already on these Facebook pages. You can also print it out and hand it out at dismissal. Thank you!! "

Dear 3rd Grade Parents,

As you all know, our 3rd grade children have now entered the dreaded testing years. As a result of "No Child Left Behind" and now "Race to the Top", as well as NYS Education Department mandates, all children in grades 3-8 are tested every year with common core assessments created not by our school district or teachers, but by a corporate testing company. These tests cost our district hundreds of thousands of dollars both in the tests themselves and the testing administration costs. The assessments are given this spring over the course of two weeks. Our 8 year olds will be tested for over 7 hours, 14-16 hours if they receive extended time. NYS has plans to move us to online assessments (PARCC) which will take 10-20 hours to administer. We will never see these tests. The teachers cannot discuss what is on these tests, even with their colleagues. (They sign confidentiality agreements). The assessments results do not come back this school year. They generally come back the following fall, eliminating any way for them to be used by the child's teacher. The results are a single score. Not a breakdown of areas of weakness, specific test questions your child had difficulty on, or a plan for improvement. Testimonials from educators after the assessments were administered included criticism of mistakes on test questions, questions that were two or more grade levels above the grade being tested, and even product placement in test questions. Many districts use the results of these flawed and inappropriate assessments to determine the needs of their students, rather than the advice and expertise of their classroom teacher. Students can be placed in AIS (extra help) classes, or taken OUT of these services, all based on assessment results. Districts, administrators, and teachers are evaluated based on your child's score. Districts scores are published, and teachers can lose their jobs with low test scores over consecutive years. This unfair evaluation system causes a culture of test prepping and competition, in early grades that should be about imagination, creativity, and whole child learning. The stress over test performance is felt throughout the entire school, right down to our youngest learners. 

Parents and educators have pushed back against excessive high stakes testing. Educators have been fighting against this growing culture of testing for years, and now parents have joined in the fight. For the past two years parents have been refusing to allow their children to participate in these assessments. Last year 30,000 Long Island parents refused, 60,000 in NYS. 

[Optional] (Insert district specifics here) - example:  
In North Bellmore, over 250 families made the decision to join our resistance to high stakes tests, and over 500 in Bellmore/Merrick. Our district has passed a resolution against high stakes testing and the collection of our children's personal data. Our district took a stand against field testing, refusing to administer them last spring. North Bellmore has also eliminated all local assessments and standardized testing for our k-2 students. I consider myself lucky to be part of a district that puts the welfare of its students first and foremost. My actions and the actions of all the other hundreds of parents who have opted out of these assessments in North Bellmore are not just to protect our children, but to take a stand and show support for the teachers, administrators, and our district. 

I know a number of you have already sent in your refusal letters. If entire classes refuse the assessments this spring, we can essentially take back our classrooms. Teachers can focus on teaching a well rounded curriculum, rather than wasting endless hours preparing our children for these harmful assessments. Our hope is to return common sense testing and curriculum to our classrooms. Before the federal "No Child Left Behind", children in grades 4 and 8 were assessed by educator created tests, for a total of 70 minutes. The tests were not used as weapons against our teachers and districts, and they were used diagnostically. 

My intention is not to force, coerce, or manipulate anyone into anything. My intention is simply to inform parents that they do in fact have a choice. Refusing the test is as simple as turning in a refusal letter to the district expressing that your child will not be participating in this year's assessments. There is no consequence to the child, the teacher, or the district. You child simply receives "no score", and instead of a flawed assessment, the teacher will determine the educational needs of your child. If you would like more information regarding test refusals, common core, and the issues with corporate reform in our public schools, join us on the Facebook page "Long Island Opt Out Info"  [or NYS Refuse the Tests] and I am part of a coalition of parents, teachers, and administrators from our district, all across NYS, and across the country, trying to give our children back the love of learning and improve public education for all children.

I have attached a sample refusal letter.

Thank you!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Local Assessment Q & A

To follow up on a previous post, here is great information from Jeanette of Long Island Opt Out.

Local Assessment Q&A
1. What are local assessments?
Local assessments have been around longer than common core. Schools have been using many different forms of assessing students at the local level with the goal of improving instruction and determining just what your child needs/does not need. Some locals are teacher created, and some are standardized computer programs purchased from testing companies. A list of commonly used local assessments can be found here:
2. How have local assessments changed since common core/APPR/testing reforms were implemented in our schools?
What was once used by schools diagnostically to help teachers determine what your child needs, has now been turned into a tool to grade, punish, and reward teachers for their APPR (teacher evaluation) score required by the state. Local assessments, in many cases, are now part of a manipulated game in the perverted "let's punish teachers and close schools" world of regents reforms. Some children begin their school year "failing" up to 6 or 7 assessments given the first week of school.
3. Are local assessments required by the State Education Department?
No. Your district works out an APPR plan with the state, the local teacher union, and the administrators. They are signed off on by all parties. Generally, 40% of a teacher/principal/school rating is based on assessments. State assessments have to account for AT LEAST 20% of that score. Some districts have chosen to eliminate all local assessments from their APPR plan, and use only state test scores for all 40%. Many have eliminated all standardized k-2 testing.
4. Are all local assessments "bad"?
No. Not all local assessments are tied to an APPR plan. Some locals like Fountas and Pinnell for reading levels, IOWA's (IQ), and teacher created final exams, are used strictly for what they are intended help the teacher determine the needs of your child. A great question to ask is "would you be giving my child this assessment if it weren't part of you district APPR plan"? Another hint that it is primarily being used for an APPR score is whether it was administered before APPR was in existence. However, many teachers will tell you "off the record" that the WAY they administer them is different because of being tied to their evaluation. This manipulation game they are forced to play by State Ed. has distorted what may have once been a useful tool.
5. How do local assessment APPR scores work and why do some districts choose to administer local assessments?
As stated above, 40% of a score is based on assessments. AT LEAST 20% has to be from state assessments. The other 20% is up to the district/union to decide. Bottom line is that local assessments give some control over this unfair system back to the district. The downside of refusing local assessments is that these scores do oftentimes help your teacher's, principal's, and school's ratings. This downside must be weighed against your view on evaluating teachers through test scores, and how you feel about the over testing of your child. All locals administered in the fall are done so to ensure a very low score. (Which isn't too hard considering the assessments are made of material not yet learned by the student).
7. Can all/should all local assessments be refused?
Refusing is a personal choice. Decisions should be made only after you understand what your district is administering and why. Some parents refuse all local assessments that are tied to APPR. Some refuse all K-2 testing. Some refuse all standardized computer testing. Again, your child, your choice. Many middle school local assessments given in June are used as final exams for a non-state tested course (SS, science, foreign language, electives etc...). These are part of the final course grade and should NOT be refused. Elementary school local assessments, elective SLO's (gym, art, and music assessments) middle/high school beginning and mid-year assessments used for APPR are generally the local assessments that can be refused.
6. If I choose to "opt out" of local assessments, what do I do?
First, request some information from your school on what locals your district is administering. Ask when they are being administered. Many fall benchmarks/SLO's/locals are administered within the first week of school.
Send a refusal letter to your school. This should be given to the school on the first day, as some may be administered the first day. Sample letters here can be personalized for your school/child:
K-2 and opt out letter (does not include ELA and math assessments)
3-8 opt out letter (includes math and ELA spring assessments)
9-12 opt out letter
7. Will my district honor my refusal letter for local assessments?
Most will. Some will not. Unlike state assessments, local assessments can be administered on any day and at any time of the district's choosing. If the child is unable to refuse on their own behalf and the school does not honor a parent's right to refuse, it will be very difficult to successfully opt out of local assessments. However, most districts were respectful of this decision last year, and many families refused without incident.