Tag Archives: high stakes testing

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 Starting to Feel It!

This is another of the many Messages from the Commissioner that just makes my blood boil!
I have deleted much of the message, and left this part all about the new COMMON CORE TESTS.
One has to ask, Why this sudden “push” to tell everyone that these new tests are so amazing?  Could it be that the powers in Albany are starting to HEAR US when we talk about having our children REFUSE to take the tests? Could it be that they are sort of like the Wizard that was just a sad fraud when the curtain was pulled back and not the “Wonderful Wizard” at all?
Reading this passage, on the heels of NYSUT’s “Listening Tour” and our own WNY4PE “Opt Out Forum” this past weekend, I’m guessing that we are finally being heard and taken seriously in Albany! Notice how the “Commish” reminds us that we all expect student scores to fall, but that no one expects it to adversely affect teacher, principal or school ratings.
Notice how he tells us (teachers, principals and anyone who subscribes to his updates) that he understands our stress. Notice how he makes a point about the CCSS being part of “Local Control”.
These are all LIES! Since APPR is in effect, the declining scores will most certainly affect ratings! How can they not, when it’s someone in Albany determining VAM scores? Local Control? That’s a lie too – there is NO MORE LOCAL CONTROL with the adoption of the CCSS! In fact, NYSED is producing a state – wide curriculum of “Modules” that are scripted an paced, and by the way even include a list of the books you’re supposed to have your students reading. To everyone who says “What’s the problem with Standards?”, I say – THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE CCSS!! NYSED has, in fact, made them a curriculum – with no local input, no teacher input!!
Message from Commissioner King

So, what do Common Core assessments really mean? Here are five key points – emphasized in a recent field memo from Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education Slentz – that should help address some frequently asked questions about the transition to the Common Core.

  1. In 2013, New York State, for the first time, will be reporting 3rd through 8th grade student grade-level expectations against a trajectory of college- and career-readiness as measured by tests fully reflective of the Common Core. As a result, the number of students who score at or above grade level expectations will likely decrease.
  2. As mentioned above, we expect the assessment scores will decline. But we also expect that decline will have little or no impact on principals’ and teachers’ State-provided growth scores. Based on New York’s approach to measuring growth relative to demographically similar students, similar proportions of educators will earn each rating category (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, and Ineffective) in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12.
  3. The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or a decline in educator performance. The results from these new assessments will give educators, parents, policymakers, and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well-prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school.
  4. No new districts will be identified as Focus Districts and no new schools will be identified as Priority Schools based on 2012-13 assessment results.
  5. Local policies and practices should balance the need for increased rigor against legitimate student expectations for access to educational programs, including local promotion and admission policies.

There’s much more information about the Common Core and the new assessments below and on EngageNY.org. Take a moment to check out what’s posted there. 

Again, I understand how stressful change can be, especially when you’re asking students to read more challenging texts, to better support their arguments with evidence drawn from text, to write from sources, to achieve deep conceptual understanding of the most important math concepts of each grade, and to apply their math skills to real-world problems. But we owe it to our students to move forward; opportunity awaits them and it’s our responsibility to make sure they’re equipped to seize that opportunity.

Thank you for your dedication and perseverance over these last three years and now as we continue to move forward to implement the Regents Reform Agenda. Our students, schools, communities, and state are all the better for the work you do every day.

 Dr. John B. King, Jr.

Interestingly, I also found out that today, this NYSUT Ad is running across the state. So, folks, now is the time to REALLY put the pressure on Albany. Go to http://www.nysut.org/testing and sign the petition. While you’re there……..take the opportunity to “Tell It Like It Is” – no worries if you don’t consider yourself an “educator”, you have the chance to let the “man behind the curtain” know that you’ve pulled the curtain back and see him for what he is – NO FRIEND OF PUBLIC EDUCATION!

About that test…………..

As a first grade teacher, I do not give NYS ELA and MATH exams. (YET!) I expect that I will be giving some sort of STATE or NATIONAL exam before I retire in 5 years.

I do give “tests” in my classroom – I have always assessed my students. But now, my first graders – some of whom were 5 years old when the year started are tested 3 times a year using the following:

STAR TESTS :They take either Early Literacy or Reading depending on how many sight words they know which means I had to assess their sight word knowledge in September. They also take the Math test.

DIBELS: Keep in mind that the DIBELS tests are timed – they have one minute for each of the following portions on which they are tested: Initial Sound Fluency, Letter Naming Fluency, Phoneme Segmentation Fluency, Oral Reading Fluency, and Oral Reading Retell.

RUNNING RECORDS: My students are expected to be reading at a LEVEL K by the end of first grade, and a LEVEL D and the start of the year. We use the Fountas and Pinnell leveling system, and got our benchmarks from Lucy Calkins’ Reading and Writing Project.

Sight Word Knowledge: They are expected to know 75 words by November, and 175 by June.

Math Fact Fluency: They should be “fluent” in addition and subtraction to 10 by June.

This year, also for the first time, I am REQUIRED to give letter grades to my students in ELA, MATH, SOCIAL STUDIES, and SCIENCE.

I dutifully put my grades into the electronic grade book (of course, that DATA is being compiled into a state-wide and possibly nation-wide database) and the report cards are printed. Three times a year, I send home a separate report with all of the above mentioned testing DATA on it.

So, when circumstances present themselves, and I need to meet with parents, what do I talk about? Well, it’s NOT that TESTING stuff! All that data tells me is what that child did at one moment in time. When I talk to parents, we talk about the WHOLE CHILD. In fact, that’s the only time they’re going to hear about social and emotional growth and development because that is no longer included in any report I send home. We talk about our shared hopes and concerns.

I watched all three of my children take NYS exams in ELA, MATH, SCIENCE and SOCIAL STUDIES. Every summer we would wait and wait to get the test report in the mail. While my children typically scored a 3 or 4, I usually threw those reports out and told them “I’ve seen your report card, I know how you’re doing. Don’t let one or two tests define you.”

Now, I’ve watched as my two oldest have applied to and been accepted at the universities of their choice. I’ve watched them both take and retake the SAT. I once again told them “Don’t let one test define you.”  Interestingly, the NYS Regents Exams, which we’ve always been told are so important, aren’t even considered on college applications!  I’ve listened at University Open Houses and always asked “Are the SAT and ACT OPTIONAL?” For the most part, I’ve been told yes.

So, PARENTS, about that test………….it doesn’t matter!! There is no one test that should EVER EVER define your child! Your children, my children……..all children are so much MORE than a TEST SCORE!

Why I MUST Occupy

I am going to Washington DC to join other activists at Occupy the DOE 2.0 because:

  • Try as I might, I cannot gain a lot of traction here in my little town. I talk and talk and talk, but for the most part, I feel like I’m talking to myself. Oh, my colleagues “get it”, but with declining enrollment, looming observations, and all the meetings and paperwork – they just don’t seem as fired up as I am about the current state of public education. I need to go to re-charge my activist batteries and return home energized to keep talking.
  • My students DESERVE better than the paced curriculum that NYSED is pushing on them. THEY do NOT need a teacher reading from a script, but a teacher who takes into account their individual differences and does her damnedest to make her classroom where each of them can progress at their own pace.
  • Our NATION deserves better. We cannot allow the likes of Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Andrew Cuomo to control the narrative about what “good teaching” and “good learning” are. We have to STOP the Race to the Top!
  • I will have the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people who are informed, passionate and looking to organize in a way that my Union doesn’t seem willing to do.
  • I have to show my own children the importance of standing up for those who need help – whether they are children in rural communities or urban areas, I have to be the voice of the voiceless. My own kids need to know that being a citizen means you look out for others, and you speak up when you see injustice.
  • It’s just the right thing to do…………I hope you join me.

http://unitedoptout.com/event/occupy-doe-2-0-the-battle-for-public-schools-read-all-details-here/

News from Commissioner King

And……….as if things couldn’t get any worse………….this was in my school email inbox on Friday! These are the kinds of “encouraging and thankful words” you too can receive if if you sign up for the Commissioner’s updates. I haven’t replied, but if I took the time to reply, my responses are in RED for PUBLIC ED! 
Message from Commissioner King
Dear Colleagues, That would imply that you ever were, in fact, a public school teacher – sorry you are NOT one of my colleagues! 

I hope your New Year has gotten off to a great start. Thanks for noticing, but it’s mid-February. I’m guessing you mean you hope that we got off to a great start with mid-year high stakes tests, test prep and January Regents exams. 

Deputy Commissioner Slentz and I have spent a lot of time on the road this school year, visiting classrooms across the state. It’s so impressive how so many teachers have thoughtfully integrated the Common Core into their lesson plans. From Webster to Goshen to the Bronx, teachers and principals have responded to this challenge in remarkably inventive ways, engaging their students and teaching them the valuable skills they’ll need to graduate ready for college and careers. Not sure how engaging mindless test-prep and Pearon worksheets are, but for many of NY’s school children, that’s what they’re engaged in EVERY SINGLE DAY! College and careers – well, who can afford college and where in NY are the careers? 

As you probably know, the deadline for having an approved principal and teacher evaluation plan was January 17. The Governor and Legislature included language in the state budget that required districts without approved plans in place by that date to forfeit their 2012-13 state aid increase.

Remarkably, more than 99 percent (685) of the state’s 691 school districts met the deadline.My deepest respect is for the 1% that DID NOT submit to the Governor’s threats!  It wasn’t easy; every district and local union had to negotiate the specifics of the plan and submit it to the State Education Department (SED) in time for review and approval. SED staff worked literally around the clock, right up to midnight on the 17th, to make sure every plan we received was thoroughly reviewed.Word has it that most of NY’s RTTT money was spent hiring non-qualified “temporary workers” to review such plans. In fact, a neighboring school had their sent back because the person reviewing it didn’t understand the words “highly effective”. How did that money spent on things other than PROGRAMS for children work out for you? 

Unfortunately, the state’s largest district, New York City, didn’t submit a plan and missed the deadline. Steps are underway to bring the City Department of Education, the UFT, and CSA back to the table in time to avoid jeopardizing further funding, including federal Race to the Top dollars.

But the failure of New York City and its bargaining units to reach agreement does not diminish the success of school districts and unions across the state that got the job done. Their success means teachers and principals will have the information and professional development they need to improve their practice. In turn, our students will have a better opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.  It’s a great step forward for our schools, our students and our state. Let’s all be honest here……….APPR is a way to get rid of what you and your pal Andy would consider “dead wood” – veteran teachers. By the way, the BEST information I get about my students comes in my every day interactions with them – not from a computerized test! Professional development?? Well, I suppose if you consider the fact that all I’ve been “developed” in is how to complete MORE PAPERWORK for a flawed evaluation system, then that’s what Iv’e been getting! 

In January, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released the last of three reports about its Measures of Effective Teaching Project (MET). The MET Project, unprecedented in its scale and scope, was designed to determine the best ways to assess teacher effectiveness so that teachers can receive the feedback and support they need to improve. Pardon my language…….but honestly this is BULLSHIT! It was undertaken to further promote the corporate takeover of public education! Andy , Billy, and Mindy are most likely licking their chops counting the dough they’re making, while NY’s school children lose the ARTS and RECESS!  The findings strongly validate New York’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) approach and the hundreds of school district evaluation plans we’ve approved. In my best “Church Lady” voice: “Isn’t THAT convenient?”The study endorses the use of multiple measures, including a mix of classroom observations, student growth on State tests The parents in NY who are opting their children OUT of these insane tests are my heroes!!  and other measures. Many of the MET findings about what works best are either required by New York’s new APPR system (multiple observations, careful training of observers around use of a rigorous rubric) or permitted (student surveys, multiple observers including peer observers, and observations conducted using video). This latest MET report presents strong evidence that teachers with the best results on multiple measures of teacher effectiveness in one year will produce better-than-expected student outcomes in future years. You can read the results for yourself atwww.metproject.orgSorry, but I have better things to do with my time.

I hope the New Year finds you and your students healthy and learning. Don’t forget to visit EngageNY.org for new information and instructional tools. Meaning……….don’t forget to visit the site to find 300 page “modules” of paced instruction on just ONE UNIT of study, which are clearly an insult to my education and my intelligence. I do NOT need a script to teach – only your TFA pals need that because after all, they aren’t really certified teachers are they?
Thanks for all you do to help our students learn. Yes, despite YOUR efforts to make sure that I give up and give in……….I am helping my students learn WITHOUT Pearson workbooks. I am helping them learn not only skills, but how to be members of a caring community of learners where each of us is supported and respected for our UNIQUENESS! I will NOT allow you to standardized my students!! 

John B. King, Jr.

You Paid For It!

Thanks to WGRZ TV in Buffalo for this piece about the cost to taxpayers of NY’s APPR.

If the use of NY’s RTTT money doesn’t make you furious, just think about the budget shortfalls in your district. Think about what’s already been cut and what’s on the chopping block for this year Remember, it’s this same mandate (RTTT) that has been the driving force behind the APPR mess. It’s the same mandate that has your child tested and tested and tested – losing precious instructional and play time!

Is it really a good use of OUR MONEY? Wouldn’t it be better to use the money to restore programs that have been cut? Wouldn’t it be better for KIDS if teachers were hired to relieve overcrowded classrooms? Wouldn’t it be better if our kids NEVER had to take a high stakes test?

OPT OUT! SPEAK OUT! Time is running out………it’s time to ACT!

Try this link for video………. getting reports the link I included isn’t working!
http://www.wgrz.com/news/investigative/youpaidforit/article/198549/220/State-Ed-Department-Staffs-Up-for-Teacher-Evaluation

Opting Out in NY

There has been wonderful information shared on the Opt Out of the Standardized Tests – New York Facebook page regarding a memo from NYSED that explains the 95% participation “rule”. Folks have also been discussing their RIGHTS as parents to opt their children OUT of high stakes testing.

As a teacher, I wonder when what happened in New York City last year will happen to me. My picture and my “teacher rating score” published in a local newspaper declaring I am the worst teacher in Western NY.

At this very moment, information about NY’s PUBLIC school children – demographics, test scores, BMI, parents, academic record, and disciplinary records are being sent to Albany without parental consent.

It seems in NY, there are NO provisions to OPT OUT of anything relating to education. Privacy of students, teachers, principals and parents isn’t honored. Big government has their hands all over information that, honestly, I cannot discuss with colleagues because of its confidential nature. The exams that are given to students in NY are not transparent. Teachers who give state exams sign a “pledge” stating that they won’t discuss the test contents with anyone.

There is, apparently, one area in which NY State allows opting-out. That area is pistol permit information. This is the pistol permit opt-out form for Erie County. This form allows citizens who hold pistol permits to have their personal information kept confidential and NOT shared should a media source request such information.

I am not here to start a gun ownership debate. I do find it interesting that this is the area that NYS has, in all its wisdom, decided should NOT be FOILable. My teacher evaluation score, along with my name and address are NOT protected like this. My students’ privacy is NOT protected in this manner. Information is sent electronically to Albany and who knows where else WITHOUT parental consent.Does anyone besides me find it a little disconcerting to know that someone in Albany could be looking at my children’s test scores or body mass index without my knowledge or consent?  If the privacy of adults is to be honored in regard to gun ownership, then why isn’t the public screaming that the privacy of CHILDREN be honored as well?