Tag Archives: CCSS

Let It Go for the test refusers

I was making my way around the internet and found this, which was billed as a “parody”. I guess in the simplest terms, it is a parody, but sadly as I watched it, I realized that it was a video encouraging students to do their very best on the upcoming tests.

 

While I don’t have the outright musical talent, nor the equipment to make my own video, I have rewritten the lyrics in honor of all the students who refused NYS exams.

If anyone reading this has the ability and/or the desire to use these to make a video, feel free! If you want to change the words, go for it! If you just want to sing along, I’ve included a karoke version of the song as well.

Let It Go

(to honor all the test refusers)

The test lays flat on my desk right now

Not a question to be seen

A tyranny of secrecy

And it looks like I’m the pawn

 

The thoughts are howling in my head; a swirling storm inside

Can’t think about it, even though I’ve tried

 

Don’t open it, Don’t make a mark

Be the rebel you’ve always wanted to be

Refuse, Opt out –  don’t let them win

So  now WE WIN!

 

Pencils down, Pencils down

Can’t hold it back anymore

Pencils down, Pencils down

Walk away and slam the door

 

I don’t care

What they’re going to say

Let the tests rage on

The tests never measured me anyway

 

It’s funny how some distance

Makes everything seem small

And the tests that once controlled me

Can’t get to me at all

 

 

It’s time to show what I can do

Create and play and then break through

No test, No test, No test for me

I’m free

 

Pencils down, Pencils down

Can’t hold it back anymore

Pencils down, Pencils down

Walk away and slam the door

 

I don’t care

What they’re going to say

Let the tests rage on

 

My power flurries through the air into the floor

My soul is spiraling in amazing thoughts all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

I’m never going to test

The past is in the past

 

Pencils down, Pencils down

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

Pencils down, Pencils down

That useless test is gone

 

Here I stand

In the light of day

Let the test rage on

The test never measured me anyway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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.

Step into my WAYBACK Machine

Okay, I’m dating myself here a bit, but I used to really, really LOVE my Saturday cartoons and one of my absolute favorite times was when Mr. Peabody and Sherman would step into the Wayback Machine! For a few minutes, I would be transported back to an “important” event in history and get to see what happened, or what the writers wished we could know! I learned a lot from those trips in the Wayback Machine. For example, did you know that Ponce De Leon actually found the Fountain of Youth and ending up founding a Nursery School for all the men who were so thirsty that they drank from it?
Of course, that seems silly, but in my mind as a child – it seemed plausible. It led me to want to know MORE about Ponce De Leon and this magical fountain. When the topic came up in my studies, it led to my ability to draw from past experiences and ask questions.

I would like to take you on a trip in MY PERSONAL Wayback Machine as a first grade teacher. Sadly, we aren’t going back to 1513, but only to 2011. That was the year that I had this year’s current third graders in class.

In 2011, if I had a concern about a student and felt that the student needed extra services, I contacted the parent. We met, we talked about the child’s progress. I then went to the Reading Teacher and arranged for some extra help for the student. There was no RTI process, which by the way EXCLUDES parents. There were no monthly meetings where we tried some sort of “research based” intervention while waiting to get help for the child. Within a week, with parental consent, the student was receiving help!

2011 was also the year in which I attended training about Project Based Learning. I decided that the perfect “project” for my students would be to produce and present Fairy Tale Plays. We spent many school hours reading Fairy Tales, talking about the elements of Fairy Tales, and then moved on to talking about what made a play “good” or enjoyable.

My students created scenery, memorized lines, made costume decisions as a group, rehearsed, learned to wear a lapel mic, learned about blocking on the stage, gathered props, and got ready to put on our show!

During the show, LIttle Red Riding Hood was so into character that when the wolf arrived at Grandma’s house, she wandered off the stage to pick imaginary flowers. Her parents were panicked- had she lost her nerve? Later she told them, “I was just doing what Little Red Riding Hood would have been doing.” That student still asks me “Remember when I walked off the stage, and my mom thought I got scared?”

I had the great opportunity to see my students work together! I got to see the delight and a few tears  in parents’ eyes when they watched their “shy” child stand in front of everyone to deliver lines.

I’m not saying that it was a perfect time, but it was a child-centered time. Now, my days are filled with Progress Monitoring, analyzing STAR Test data, meeting with my PLC to discuss implementing the CCSS, assessing sight words, giving timed tests to make sure they all know their addition and subtraction facts, and in general keeping my head above water.

We are so busy testing and monitoring progress that we aren’t letting KIDS be KIDS! I have to “fudge” my daily attendance reporting in order for my students to have FREE PLAY every day. I am expected to have them all reading at the exact same level at the exact same time – there is no time for Little Red Riding Hood to wander around picking flowers.

Would I Lie to You?

Apparently, If you are a Commissioner of Education, the answer is YES! Lies abound from the offices of NYSED.

The lies are scary – intended, one can only imagine, to stop the recent vocal resistance through REFUSALS of the State Exams slated to begin in mid-April. The good folks at WNYers For Public Education ( http://www.wnyforpubliced.com/index.html)  have done a great job of exposing the lies told to Superintendents, Principals, Teachers and Parents. (See FAQ)

They have also created a great “Tools” section which includes what_you_need_to_know_about_refusing_state_tests.

As a teacher, let me tell you one of the BIGGEST lies being told, being bought, and being argued as PROOF that we actually NEED and should LOVE High Stakes Testings. The lie is that:

“These tests and the results help teachers inform and improve their instruction for all children.” 

My beautiful, funny, intelligent, inquisitive, creative first graders have taken both the STAR Reading and the STAR Math tests twice this year, unless of course, they have been “identified” as needing intervention – those poor kids have taken the tests MANY, MANY times. After the test, each student’s score is available to me immediately, you know, so that I can inform and improve my instruction. For my convenience, there is even an “Instructional Planning Report” for each child! Well, hallelujah, because you know – without it I wouldn’t have a clue where each child has room to improve!

These are direct quotes, taken from multiple “planning reports” for both Reading and Math:

“Understand that nouns can also be verbs”  “Identify the topic of a text”  “Recognize playful uses of language such as riddles and tongue twisters”  “Identify how words or phrases in literary text appeal to the senses” “Apply the vocabulary of position or direction” ” Count back by ones between 20 and 100″ “Count objects to 20”

Guess what?? I already know those things about the students that these comments were generated for! I knew most of it within the first month of school, and I could have predicted for the makers of the STAR tests, which of my students would score in the “watch” “intervention” or “urgent intervention” bands of their lovely color-coded charts. Additionally, I have already planned my instruction based on my DAILY INTERACTION with my students!

For those who teach grades 3 and up, the idea that a test score helps them plan and inform instruction is even more laughable. Test scores are not returned until mid-summer – by then isn’t it just a little too late to plan instruction?

They’re HERE………….well, some of them anyway……..

I stopped by the Principal’s office today for a quick social visit. I had no big agenda or concern. His door was open and I knocked to say hello.

I noticed, lying on his table, some interesting looking books – very pretty sprial bound books with the words “3rd Grade Math Module 5” printed on them. I asked if I could take a look. They were emblazoned with “engageny” and our local BOCES logo. The engageny caught my eye and asked if I could take a look. I was told “Sure, but just so you know, it IS scripted.”

UGH………..well, I already knew that because I’ve been to the engageny website looking for Primary Grades Modules. Not that I WANT them, but I do know that they’re coming and I do know that I’ll be asked to be trained to in “unpacking” them. You can visit engageny for yourself see a Third Grade Module here

So, I flipped through the “Teacher’s Guide” to find the scripted parts:

T: What is the length of the first string shown?

S: 4 cm

T: Correct.

I am NOT kidding when I tell you that is EXACTLY what is in the Teacher’s Guide! I laughed and said “Well, you know, we need that because TFA teachers need that, and now Buffalo has fallen, so who knows where they’ll show up next.”

So, here’s the deal………..our district can buy these Teacher Guides for $14 and the Student books for about $8. Not a big deal, actually, when you consider how small we are – but there are MANY MANY Modules for each grade! And………there are MANY MANY Modules for Math AND ELA! So, it gets a little pricier.

This led to a discussion of the “PreK-12” book list that is also available at engageny. (Have I mentioned before how much I detest that website?) I have printed that list – it’s about 170 pages long! You can take a look at it for yourself:  p-12-ela-text-list The premise is that all of NYS will be on the SAME PAGE on the SAME DAY! So, who is getting rich publishing all these books that are now apparently required?  And, by the way, if our BOCES is printing these suckers up, why do they cost us anything? Plenty of RTTT money and each school’s COSERS go to BOCES now! Shouldn’t this stuff be FREE?  Additionally, BOCES has told us that they will NOT buy the multiple copies of the books that are ‘required’ even as they train us all to use them!  Wow – the cost of implementing the Common Core just skyrocketed – well beyond what we’ve spent on all the required TESTING!

My next question was “When do they expect to have any Primary Grade stuff available?” The answer: before September! Let’s get just a little more vague shall we? So, Primary Grade teachers will, in all honesty, have to be trained in the summer – something that the District cannot COMPEL me to attend and something they would have to PAY me to do since I am, after all, ONLY a 10 month employee.

I do not LIKE the CCSS – in fact, I rather despise the CCSS. I don’t believe that just by saying “Well, if we ask them to do more, read more complex texts, and expect it – they’ll do it.” This is pedaled as one of the big LIES of the CCSS – you know, we teachers just haven’t been expecting ENOUGH of our students. The truth is……….no matter what you shove at them, if they aren’t ready – they won’t be able to do it! I could have expected to have my infants talking and walking and toilet trained at 6 months – but that sort flies in the face of what we know about babies right? Same thing – if they aren’t developmentally ready, it’s not going to matter how sweetly I ask them to do something! I can tell them and their parents all I want that this is the expectation, but if they aren’t ready for the concept, it won’t matter.

So………..when your child enters PreK, K, First or Second Grade next fall………just know that his or her teacher has NOT had the ‘required’ material nor has the teacher had adequate time or training to have a CLUE! We will be “building the plane while we fly it”. Would YOU put your child on that plane? I know I wouldn’t!

PRESSURE!!

Well, it’s done………..the lesson plan, the pre-observation conference form and all the materials for my formal observation are finished.

When I heard last week that some of my colleagues had spent upwards of 10 hours on this ONE lesson, I thought that they were going a bit overboard. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would spend that much time on a plan for a 40 minute observation. Well, I didn’t spend 10 hours, but my estimate is that I spent about 6 hours on mine.

Why? Well, it’s not necessarily because I’ve planned something more elaborate than anything I would “normally” plan to do……… in fact, my observation will be during a period when my students are working through some Math Centers – mostly games! I will not be the “sage on the stage” – instead I will be walking around watching them play the games, guiding them, and pretty much keeping some order to the classroom. I figure that this will either kill me or make me some sort of “hero”………it’s a gamble I suppose.

And, let’s get one thing STRAIGHT…… I don’t want to be “hero”! I just WANT TO TEACH!  I want to do what’s FUN and MEANINGFUL……..not what some stupid rubric calls “highly effective”. I want to do what I KNOW is developmentally appropriate for each and every one of my students. I want to guide them to their fullest potential while they’re in my classroom. I want to be in a school where there is actually TIME for free play, exploration, and things that I miss so much – like putting on Fairy Tale plays for parents.

Why did I spend so much time on THIS ONE PLAN? Well, there’s pressure – the pressure (or fear) to get a “good grade”. There’s the pressure to fill out all the paperwork ‘correctly’, and since this is the first time working with these forms, there’s the pressure of not knowing exactly what to expect. In my heart of hearts, I KNOW that I’m a good teacher, but it is nice every now and then to have that validated – and this is my ONE SHOT at getting that validation.

So, I came up with the games that will be the Centers. I made the sheets where my students will record their work. I have everything set to go, and on any other day I would go through these with my students bit by bit, piece by piece and it would all be very relaxed and FUN! We would work out the kinks together – with me getting their input on what games are fun and which ones are “boring”. BUT – this time I want it to all go as perfectly as possible. And while I know that isn’t going to happen, I’m already stressing over what I imagine could go wrong…….the thing that could sink me.

The paperwork was not difficult to complete – heck, I KNOW what my goals are, I KNOW what I want the students to do, I KNOW how it fits into my ‘big picture’, but there is pressure to put it all on paper perfectly. I had to: describe the lesson content, explain where it fits in my curriculum, tell the ‘big idea’ of the lesson, explain how I would differentiate and actively engage the students, list my criteria for success, describe the feedback I will give my students, and tell what examples of student work I will bring to my post-conference. That’s just the Pre-observation form! On the lesson plan, I had to list my objectives, tell which standards I’m aligning with, describe connections with prior and subsequent learning, list all the materials, give all the academic vocabulary, provide class data, give my success criteria, detail my assessments, describe my learning activities, and list possible adjustments to my lesson.

My observation is on Thursday, and already today, the familiar stress-induced ache in my left shoulder reappeared today. I know this feeling well – I’ve had it a lot this year. So, I’ll spend the days up until Thursday losing sleep, obsessing over this ONE lousy period, popping Advil for the shoulder, and in general being on edge.

I still have the “unannounced” observation to look forward to. This is not a time when my Principal comes in and takes a look at what happens in first grade. Unfortunately, this is a time when my Principal comes with a clipboard and a form and checks off any items for which he can find “evidence” of my teaching ‘skill’ and then gives me a score. More PRESSURE!

AND………..before June, I have to collect 18 “artifacts” of my professional conduct – parent communication, evidence that I’m involved in Professional Learning Communities, evidence that I’m involved in the school community – you know, that I actually do something other than work from 8-3 for 180 days, and evidence of my continuing professional development. These items have to be submitted for another score. More PRESSURE!

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean a damn thing if you get rated “Ineffective” based on student test scores – because in NY, 40% (the student test score portion of your evaluation) actually equals 100% of your evaluation- you’re simply “Ineffective”. PRESSURE!

Now, imagine yourself as a 6 or 7-year-old coming to school this week to a teacher who is already feeling anxious about something that’s going to happen on Thursday.Do you think this teacher will be the same carefree, high-fiving teacher you left on Friday? I doubt it. Try as I might to NOT let my anxiety overtake me, I’m sure that I will be short-tempered – fearing that “normal” 6 and 7-year-old behaviors are going to somehow affect me.

Imagine that you are 6 or 7 and every day is like this – teachers on edge, information coming at you at break-neck speed. There is no time to PLAY (which is what you really want to do) and hardly anyone at school smiles any more…………and YOU feel the PRESSURE too – take this test, read this book, solve this math problem, read another book, but please read it faster this time, memorize your math facts, learn your sight words, take another test……..wouldn’t your inner child be screaming “STOP IT!”? Wouldn’t you have stomach aches and headaches? Wouldn’t you cry? Wouldn’t you want to stay home?

And just when you think that maybe, just maybe, you can shield your students from some of this – it’s BUDGET TIME! Get those requisitions done! PRESSURE! We may be cutting teachers – what do YOU think could go? PRESSURE! There may not be electives for your high school aged child next year – what do you do as a parent? PRESSURE! Your friends and neighbors go to the school board meetings and name the names of teachers that they feel should go. PRESSURE!

Maybe that’s the goal – to put so much PRESSURE on veteran teachers that we’ll just go away……at this point, I don’t know any more…….I just know that the PRESSURE will increase until June. Then I’ll have a few weeks to get over it and jump back into the PRESSURE COOKER……..