A Parent’s Fear

I had an interesting conversation tonight with a parent whom I was CERTAIN was planning to have her child refuse the tests this spring. This is what she said to me: “I just love my daughter’s teacher, and when I think that I could do something that might hurt her, I get worried.”  This is a common thread of conversation that I’ve been hearing lately among the once-certain, once-defiant parents who were completely committed to test refusals last summer.

I think I understand where their hearts are. I think I do “get it” when they say that their WORST FEAR is that something that they or they child could do would possibly have a negative effect on a teacher that is beloved, a teacher whom they recognize as one who cares deeply for their child and has done everything in her power to make sense of all the CCSS nonsense in NYS.

I also think that I understand in their heart of hearts, these parents aren’t afraid of rocking the boat, or afraid of standing up to NYSED. What they do fear, however, is that personal connection – how it would affect someone that they have come to trust and respect and admire.

Despite the many gains made in my little school district, this one fear still exists. It is driving decisions that are truly based in a concern for the well-being of an individual PERSON – one that they care about so very deeply.

So …….. to all of you out there that are living with this fear, I want to tell you:

1. You must do what is BEST for YOUR CHILD.

2. Your child’s teacher – that person that you have grown to respect and trust and admire – will not be ‘hurt’ by a test refusal. In fact, if enough of you refuse – a score cannot even be generated! And, truly, how unique is that – that your child’s teacher would not be defined by a number and neither will your child!

3. Teachers support you in your refusals, and you know what else? Even IF somehow your refusal “hurts” us – we know that you have our backs. That means more than anything that a test could ever tell us.

http://www.nystoptesting.com/2012/08/what-opt-out-is-not.html

Would I Lie to You?

This week, a very personable “professional developer” from BOCES came to my school to “guide” the K-6 teachers in the use of the Tri-State Quality Rubric – a rubric that is to help us all align our lessons to the CCSS and is to be used as a “learning tool”. We have been assured that this exercise is in no way evaluative. In fact, the goal is to help become more “thoughtful and reflective” as we plan lessons.

I can deal with this – professional development is not a bad thing. I have no problems with learning about new tools and strategies that will improve my teaching.  However, what I cannot deal with is the bag of lies that comes along with this professional development.

“The modules on the engageny web site are just resources.” This lie was repeated over and over so much that I believe the folks at NYSED think if they just get enough folks to say it, teachers will eventually believe it.  If this is true, then why, oh why, dear BOCES Staff Specialist when I go there are the modules listed under “NYS CURRICULUM”?

“The CCSS were developed by teachers.”  OK – so much has been written that by now I can’t believe that anyone honestly thinks I would believe this one, but go ahead and keep repeating it because obviously if you say it enough, it must be true right?

“This will strengthen your lesson planning, and it is not an evaluative tool about your teaching.”  I may not be the brightest bulb in the bunch, and I am in no way a “Staff Specialist”, but I fail to see how we can discuss my lesson planning, have an observation of the execution of the lesson plan and NOT talk about my teaching. Now, it is very well true that my teaching will not be evaluated – but how on earth do you evaluate my lesson planning WITHOUT making any comment about my teaching?  Of course, in my humble opinion this is exactly the problem with the CCSS and NYSED’s scripted curriculum – what is written on a piece of paper doesn’t necessarily translate to what is good teaching practice taking into account the unique make-up of my classroom.

I can stand a lot of things – among them the lies that are repeated over and over again about the CCSS – but I cannot stand for the lies that are being told to my child!

My child is a junior in High School, which this year gives him a “unique opportunity” as he and I have been told. He gets to take the “old” English Regents exam twice and he gets to take the “new” CC-aligned ELA test. Best of all, the highest of all three scores will be the one that “counts” as his final exam score.

He has been told by his Guidance Counselor and his English teacher that he SHOULD take all 3 tests. That is an outright lie!! Of course, they try to work their magic of telling him what a great chance this is to keep taking the tests to get the highest grade possible.

What is required in NY for graduation is to PASS the ENGLISH REGENTS EXAM – PERIOD!! So, my son has a plan: He will take the exam next week IF he’s satisfied with his score, he will NOT take any more ELA exams. He is fully prepared to “sit and stare” if need be, although I told him he could just stay home sick on those days. He wants them to know that he’s buying the LIE – he wants to make a statement and I couldn’t be prouder of him!

Tri State/EQuIP Rubric

http://www.engageny.org/resource/tri-state-quality-review-rubric-and-rating-process

So, this little gem is finally making its way to my school, and I can’t contain my excitement!! Finally, all those folks at Achieve (http://www.achieve.org/contributors) have developed a rubric to let me know how well my lesson planning aligns to the “shifts and rigor of the Common Core.”

Of course, we all KNOW that the folks at Achieve have years of educational experience in writing and delivering lesson plans for students.

For me, the very best part is the fact that my prep time will be used for training in the rubric, writing lessons, and then having BOCES employees come and evaluate my lesson planning and my lessons! Again, this makes perfect sense to me because those folks that have been trained at one of NYSED’s “Network Training” sessions are absolutely experts! 

My concerns about being ‘evaluated’ by a BOCES employee were immediately dispelled when I was told through NYSUT that everyone is doing it.  Of course, NYSUT would be on the lookout for my welfare as a dues-paying union member right?

Silly old teacher that I am – thinking that my lesson planning should be tailored to meet the needs of the students in my classroom RIGHT NOW – no matter their development and abilities. How ridiculous that I would plan lessons based on their needs and interests. How absolutely crazy that I would consider using the upcoming Winter Olympic Games as a theme for teaching math, science, reading, writing, and social studies. Of course, it makes much more sense that I be on the same “page” as every other second grade teacher in NY State – following those beloved scripted lessons in the other lifesaver NYSED has provided me in MODULES.

Second Grade ELA Modules – It Keeps Getting Stupider

Originally posted on @ THE CHALK FACE:

As I continue my ‘journey’ through Module 1 of NYSED’s scripted and paced curriculum guide, I find things that just make me want to scream. First of all, the pace is pretty much a 100 yard dash. I read to my students, they are to listen and learn. In fact, this is the name of the “strand” – Listening and Learning, not to be confused with the Skills Strand.

Each Listening and Learning Strand Module has a list of the CORE  VOCABULARY that my students are to learn – they should know the definition and be able to use most of  the words in their conversational speech.  Here is the list of the core vocabulary for the Fairy Tales and Tall Tales  module:

Core Vocabulary for Fairy Tales and Tall Tales
The following list contains all of the core vocabulary words in Fairy
Tales and Tall Tales in the forms…

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Second Grade – Skills Strand Lesson 1: Thanks Engageny

So, today, I did the Core Knowledge Skills Strand Lesson 1 from Module 1. This is the lesson that SHOULD HAVE been taught on Day 1 of Second Grade.

There were many materials that I didn’t have – flip picture cards (hat, cat, sad, etc), and some things I didn’t do – the word dictation and “word chaining” (at — cat—bat—bad–mad–map). I think the “word chaining” was meant to be written as I read, but I looked at that and decided to skip that too.

I thought “Let’s get right to the reading bit.” I passed out the workbooks (printed by our BOCES Center and sold to us) and had my students open to Lesson 1.1. There was a story for them to read and on the following page 4 questions to answer. I had great confidence that most of them could this in about 5 minutes or less – I know them well as they were my first graders last year. I anticipated which students may struggle and was prepared to pull them as a small group to work at the table with me nearby, but still doing most of it on their own.

When nearly all of my class asked me to identify the word “Skipper”, I was honestly stunned. This shouldn’t have been a difficult word -even as names go. I took a closer look at the text they were reading, and this is what I saw:

010004

So, apparently, in “real world texts”, words have little dots separating the syllables? Have you ever read anything like this? Of course not! Why on earth would second graders be given text that looks like this? This does NOT look like anything they read anywhere else. Well, no wonder my “kids” didn’t know what they were reading! Yeah, thanks engageny for THAT!

Then, the questions:
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Now, of course, in all the wisdom that engageny possesses (yeah, I’m being sarcastic) the words in the questions do NOT have those little dots. Thanks engageny for THAT too!

Following this lesson (remember which was to be taught on the first day of school) there’s this gem of a parent letter that they were supposed to take home. My students? NOPE – they didn’t take it home, but Thanks engageny for THIS too because you know, I am unable to write my own parent letter.

011012

And………..coming up in lesson 9 we’re going to work on compound words with this little gem of a worksheet:
013

Yeah, because it makes sense to teach compound words with words that aren’t even real. Thanks, engageny!

Tomorrow we tackle lesson 1 of the Listening and Learning Strand …… I am so

EX-CIT-ED! 

Lesson Plans? I don’t need no stinkin’ lesson plans!

Originally posted on @ THE CHALK FACE:

It’s Saturday, and I sit down to plan my lessons for the upcoming week. Fortunately, I don’t have a template to use, a place to upload them, or an administrator who even looks at my lesson plans. There is a modicum of dignity left for me as a teacher in that. Sadly, too many teachers across the nation are required to use templates, upload plans or turn them in to be scrutinized – I guess to be sure that each and every one of the CCSS is being covered.

I even have the support of my Principal to use as much or as little of the NYSED Modules as I choose. He has asked us each to choose one to “pilot” simply so we can discuss the merits (if there are any) of them. 12 instructional days into the school year, we finally received our materials from BOCES. Most of…

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Death Penalty for Failing Schools?

Originally posted on @ THE CHALK FACE:

http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/buffalo-public-schools/coumo-urges-death-penalty-for-failing-schools-20130829

So, then there’s this……….Governor Cuomo calling for a “death penalty” for failing schools.

Great…….so school communities get to choose their method of execution.

And, honestly, I’ve been wondering where my excitement for the start of the school year has gone?

Previously, ‘failing’ as been defined by both the Governor and the Commissioner as ‘academic’ or ‘financial’ failure.

Interestingly, the NYS tax cap has crippled many school districts, and the CCSS aligned tests have magically produced the predicted scenario that the majority of NY’s students aren’t college and career ready in third grade.

In all the benevolence of some medieval  overlord, he has given school communities the chance to decide how their schools shall die:  closure, state/mayoral control, or charter.  So, I guess in the long run, teaching first graders about Early World Civilizations may not be a bad idea – perhaps then they can explain to their parents what’s going…

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