Tag Archives: NYSED

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 – 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:
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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! 

Mixed Messages?

Today, my inbox had two very interesting bits of information.

1. Commissioner King’s “News and Notes” showed up telling me:

 “As you know, the Common Core will not just arrive in the mail in a shiny, new box. (The truth is, the CCSS show up at schools in brown cardboard boxes emblazened with PEARSON!) The Common Core is a comprehensive set of research-based and internationally-benchmarked standards that demands critical shifts in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Since the Board of Regents adopted the Common Core in 2010, the State Education Department has provided extensive and unprecedented resources and supports, including an abundance of instructional materials on EngageNY.org.”

Well, how very lucky for me – these are INTERNATIONALLY BENCHMARKED STANDARDS – and here I was becoming worried that they were national! Additionally, I am so lucky that EngageNY.org exists – because you know, I have no clue with my years of experience about how to read the standards and develop lessons. 

2. Randi Weingarten also sent me a lovely email telling me:

“We are committed to the success of getting the transition to Common Core right. To do that, we must help teachers and students master this new approach and not waste time punishing people for not doing something they haven’t yet been equipped to do. Can you imagine doctors being expected to perform a new medical procedure without being trained or provided the necessary instruments?That’s what is happening right now with the Common Core.”

What the what??? This is a NATIONAL UNION LEADER telling me that we need to get the “transition” to CCSS right. Hey, wait a minute – who even said that the CCSS are RIGHT? Where were the educators in developing these standards? Where is the ‘evidence’ that these standards are in some way better than the NYS Standards? Where is the PROOF that once we transition to them, reform will be done?? 

NYSUT, for their part, is FINALLY coming to the party and hosting a rally on June 8. I hope beyond hope that parents, students, and teachers show up and DEMAND TO BE HEARD! I hope that they shout “NO MORE!”

NO MORE HIGH STAKES TESTING! NO MORE CHILD ABUSE IN THE FORM OF HOURS UPON HOURS OF TESTING! NO MORE JUDGING STUDENTS, TEACHERS, PRINCIPALS AND SCHOOLS ON SECRET TESTS! NO MORE DECISIONS BEING MADE BY THOSE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT EDUCATION!

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!