Friday, March 28, 2014

Must Reads & View

Amazing piece from the New Yorker:

If your child is successful on the state assessments you might think he or she has nothing to worry about.  Not so fast.  All kids are hurt by the pressure from high-stakes testing.

Opt Out / Refusal FAQ video from NYS Allies for Public Education:

Touching piece from Change the Stakes

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Opt Out of NYS Standardized Tests?

From my friends at Change the Stakes.

1. When students, teachers and schools are rewarded for high test scores and punished for low ones, the tests themselves become the focus of education. Class time is devoted to test prep, which robs children of their natural desire to learn.

2. The state exams test only two subjects: English and math. That encourages schools to give less time to social studies, music, art, world languages, physical education, and even science. 

3. High-stakes testing undermines important learning. In its 2011 report to Congress, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed America’s test-based accountability systems and concluded, “There are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress.”

4. State exams are loaded with poorly written, ambiguous questions. A recent statement signed by 545 New York State Principals noted that many teachers and principals could not agree on the correct answers. 

5. Testing is part of school privatization. Common Core-backer Bill Gates and Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have promoted national standards and tests by touting that they “will unleash powerful market forces” and create a national market for vendors.
6. While New York State is paying Pearson millions of dollars, it is massively underfunding NY public schools. This is part of a national trend: states cut funding to public schools while pouring millions into new computer systems designed for Common Core tests.

7. Despite its high costs, high-stakes testing is designed to make education more “efficient” by machine-sorting students and teachers. Teachers deemed excellent are likely to be “rewarded” with higher class sizes. By focusing on tests and technology, the state aims to cut labor costs.

8. High-stakes tests don’t help students learn or teachers teach. The results come too late for that. The tests are largely punitive: they punish teachers, students, and schools that don’t perform. Low test scores can be used to hold good students back and rate strong teachers as “ineffective” despite high ratings by their principals.

9. High-stakes testing undermines teacher collaboration. Teachers are judged on a curve, which discourages them from helping students in another teacher’s class.

10. High-stakes testing encourages “teaching to the middle.”  Educators are pressured to focus on the “2” and “3” students, where the most progress can be made on scores, and ignore the 4s (where gains aren’t measured) and 1s (whose needs are too great to raise scores easily).

(note #11 applies to New York City only. Some large city school districts have selective HS/MS admissions)
11. Many middle school admissions offices are ignoring state tests. Many NYC principals signed a letter last year stating that they would no longer be considering test scores. Most schools already have practices in place for admitting students who don’t have scores. 

12. One-size-fits-all tests punish and discourage students who are already vulnerable
, including students of color, English-Language Learners, children with special needs, and students from families living in poverty.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Field Tests: Boycott this loss of learning.

What is a Field Test?

Spring 2014 Field Tests


High School Level Exams

Grades 3-8 ELA, Math, & Science (coming soon- please forward me the information if you have it)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


From the leader of Long Island Opt Out whose advocacy I admire.  Proud to partner with her and others to form the NYS Allies for Public Education in summer of 2013.

Quote from Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann of Long Island Opt-out:
"I've seen and been asked a lot of questions recently about what to say to someone who says "my kid is fine". It isn't just a question of how many kids are doing well and how many are not, and what the right number is of each. It's about "what do you want your child's classroom to look like?" Do we want rote memorizing, fast paced, test driven, test prepping, uninspired, stress filled classrooms? Or do we want teachers who can create magic in their rooms; being free to inspire our children, use creative play, project based, interactive, authentic learning environments. One in which teachers love what they are teaching and students find a love of learning. Babies can be trained to read when they are two if you use flash cards and drill the hell out of them. But is a 24 month old who can read words really a success story? Or is a baby who learns through curiosity and exploration a success? Again we have to define what success in our schools means.

Is not crying while doing HW the new measure of success? Sitting for over 10 hours of testing without having stomach pains and anxiety- success? Or do we want more? Do we want to see our kids classrooms filled with projects and fantasy. Finding the love of reading from fairy tales and fiction classics. Where social and emotional development is just as, or even more important as a test score. A classroom where our 8 year olds find a love of science that carries with them throughout life. Where social studies can take them right into the time period they are learning about. Where they are challenged rather than frustrated. We need to raise our expectations; and you need to ask yourselves "does my child's classroom look the way I want it to look?" If not, what are you going to do about it?

This is why we opt out.  To save our children's education.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Video: Opt Out FAQ's

Excellent video from our friends at New York Allies for Public Education that explains many issues surrounding the opt out and refusal process in New York State.  Share widely!

What is a high-stakes test?

Why do schools emphasize two subjects, ELA and math over a well-rounded education for our children?

This madness began with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law in 2001.  NCLB mandated state testing to require yearly standardized assessments in ELA and math.  NCLB put pressure on schools to raise test scores, show improvement on a yearly basis, and included the impossible goal of getting all students to reach a proficient level.  If schools did not meet these goals they could face various penalties from negative labels that restricted Title I spending to outright school closure.

NCLB began the era of high-stakes testing in NYS.  When school ranking, labels, and punishments are tied to student test scores student assessment becomes corrupted and stakes are raised. School administrators will put pressure on teachers to raise test scores.  Which subjects are tested? ELA and math.  So schools under the gun for low test scores will shift their focus to what is tested and reduce or ignore other subjects.  Test prep and skills are in, a well-rounded education is out. Pressure works its way down from administration to teachers to students to "perform" better on the assessments. 

Along came Race to the Top in 2009 which created a "competition" between states to receive more funding.  New York State won this race and received just under $700 million dollars from the US Department of Education.  As a result of Race to the Top, New York State had to adopt several policies, including teacher and principal evaluation using student standardized assessment scores.  As educator evaluations are tied to test scores, the stakes are raised to a greater level.  More pressure is on school officials, teachers and of course our children.

The state assessments are not designed to diagnose our children's academic strengths and weaknesses.  The tests are also not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. Yet, because of the "high-stakes" for adults and schools, our children suffer.

Assessment Score Reports: Move Along, Nothing to See Here.

As we enter the 2014 testing season, we need to focus on the main reason for the opt out movement:

The educational damage to our children.  

Do we want our children to receive an education focused primarily on only ELA and math? This problem occurs in our elementary schools and permeates some middle school programs as well.  Do we want test preparation and skill building?  Are Science, Social Studies, and the Arts important?  Does your child get recess or free play time?

Why do schools emphasize two subjects over a well-rounded education for our children? Read more about high-stakes testing here.

Does the current NYS Assessment system help our children acadmically?  The NYS Education Department and some local school officials might state yes, but let's look at what information the exams provide to the stakeholders.

Children: Students do not get to see the corrected or scored tests.  The results come months later, long after children have forgotten about the assessments.  For any formal or informal assessment of students: classwork, homework, project, or teacher created test, students want immediate feedback.  The longer it takes for students to receive the results of any assessment, the assignment will have less meaningful impact on that child.  How does the assessment system help students?  It does not.

Parents: NYSED officials would have you believe that the State Assessments provide valuable information to parents across New York.

Do Parent Score Reports provide the information that this NYSED official claims?

Yet parents are provided with an extremely vague score report that provides little information about their child's progress.

Here are Parent Score Reports from the 2013 State Assessments.  Do these documents help a parent determine their child's specific strengths and weaknesses? As a parent we need to see the exact questions and student answers to assist in determining our child's progress.  How does the assessment system help parents?  It does not.

(Click to enlarge the Score Reports below)

Teachers: Parents would assume that educators would at least see a detailed report to help them "inform instruction" as state education officials claim.  Shockingly teachers do not.   Teachers are not even allowed to discuss or disclose test questions and answers or they could be fired.  Teachers receive a vague set of data, without specific questions and student responses, and this information arrives months later, after your child has moved on to another teacher.  How does the assessment system help educators?  It does not.

Teacher data report: No test questions or student answers supplied.

So if the NYS Assessments do not help students, parents, or educators, what is the point of all the time and energy spent on prepared and taking the exams? 

I give a detailed look at Score Reports and Assessments here.

I will close this entry with a quote From our 2014 Opt Out letter:

"We have no issue with properly written tests that monitor our children's progress but the current assessment system does not help parents or educators achieve that goal. Despite what state education officials repeat ad nauseam, teachers are provided with very little data from the state assessments to “inform instruction”. Parents receive a vague score report that does not assist families in assessing our children's academic progress. The secretive nature of the state assessments contributes to the need for significant reversal in education policy in our state and nation. It short, the current New York assessment system has no educational value for the students of our state. "