Tag Archives: opt out

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?

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!

I’m So Tired………..

I’m not just tired……….I AM EXHAUSTED!

  • It’s observation time for me and that means aligning a lesson to the Common BORE Standards, completing all the required paperwork, preparing the lesson, and using a prep period for my Pre-Observation Conference. Let me make this very clear: I am NOT opposed to observations at all! In fact, I wish that my Principal had the TIME to stop in my classroom on a regular basis and get to know my students, me, and see us all in action – even on my worst days. I am opposed to a contrived “dog and pony show” simply for the purpose of getting a “good” score.
  • I’m TIRED of hearing that teachers will NOT live in “Highly Effective” – only visit there once in a while, and on the other hand being told that EVERY SINGLE ONE of my students should be a pre-determined level if there is any hope of them doing “well” in school and on state tests.
  • I’m TIRED of watching GREAT teachers retire at their first chance because they just can’t take the beatings any more. Teachers with 20, 30 years of experience who still have plenty of “good years” in them and who WANT to teach are kissing it good-bye because of constant demoralization.
  • I’m TIRED of watching NYSUT play catch-up with their “Listening Tours” and “Member Action Center” begging members to inform them of the problems with CCSS, APPR and excessive testing. You know, if they had LISTENED to begin with – they would have heard us screaming to NOT give in to King Andy’s ridiculous demands.
  • I’m TIRED of the stories of parents being intimidated by NYSED and School Administrators when they decide to OPT their children OUT of unnecessary high stakes tests!
  • I’m TIRED of the outright THREATS coming from Albany, Commissioner King, and Governor Cuomo to hold back funding increases for schools that don’t just jump on their bandwagon.
  • I’m TIRED of engageny.org being touted as the “go to” place for CCSS aligned lessons, learning modules, and information, only to find that ONE UNIT of MATH for second grade is a scripted 300 page mess. There are NO ELA modules for PRE-K – 2 yet, and those trainings are set for AUGUST! Way to go NYSED – leave us hanging and then use your incompetence to somehow prove that teachers of young children aren’t “up to the challenge” of implementing CCSS.
  • I’m TIRED of school budget battles where programs for students and teachers are the ONLY things cut.
  • I’m TIRED of being encouraged to present material to my students that is developmentally inappropriate – for crying out loud – LET THEM BE KIDS!!
  • I’m TIRED of Response to Intervention – a process that has, in effect, withheld services from a student that I KNEW in October needed services – because we had to have DATA to prove what I KNEW about 6 weeks into the school year.
  • I’m TIRED of my years of experience and my Master’s Degree counting for NOTHING!
  • I’m TIRED of watching another district – this time Buffalo, NY – inviting TFA in while qualified and properly trained teachers sit waiting for the chance to TEACH!

UPDATED MAY 18

  • I sat at the Commencement Ceremonies of American University last Saturday and watched a young graduate with 2 degrees (in Political Science and Environmental Studies) win “The President’s Award” – the most prestigious award given at Commencement be applauded for “continuing a committment to public service” by signing up with TFA. I am tired of watching qualified EDUCATION MAJORS march across the stage wondering if they will get a chance to teach.
  • I am sick and tired of school district leaders who say “if one more teacher retires, we’ll be in really great shape financially.” WHAT THE HELL? Since there is no plan to replace the teacher, apparently financial concerns trump educational concerns.
  • Our district has a plan to move teachers into different classrooms. This wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I’m quite certain that it happens to lots of teachers every year, but in our little school – this is rare. This proposal – which was sort of dumped on us – is now up for debate and modification, but that means one more after school meeting where we will be asked to “leave our emotions at the door”. Sorry, but we aren’t robots – we have valid, developmentally appropriate concerns that have, so far, been brushed aside because they don’t fit with the “PLAN”.
  • As it always goes in our PreK – 12 school, I’m tired of the students in grades 7-12 being released from school on June 10, while the elementary kids come for full days until June 20. That, in itself, isn’t a horrible idea. However, we elementary teachers have the same amount of “work” to do – which could now include packing up our entire classroom to be moved while having students in those rooms all day. I’m tired of giving my time away for free – like somehow because I teach first grade, I don’t need time to complete grades and reports and folders and portfolios and pack without students in my room.
  • I’m tired of hearing that “PreK – 2” modules MIGHT be done by September, and being told that is what we’ll be using next year – and having no training (except training that I could volunteer to attend in August).

 

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?

Lessons Learned

It almost always seem strange to me to celebrate the coming a “New Year” in January, as for me the new year begins in September. However, this IS the time of year when many reflect on the year that has just ended, so it seems appropriate that I should do the same. Here are some of the lessons (in no particular order of importance) I learned in 2012:

  • I am not alone in my disdain for the overuse and misuse of Standardized Testing to evaluate students, teachers, principals and schools. It’s a bit scary at first, when you start to speak up and are met with blank stares and/or eye rolling, but if you hang in there long enough – people WILL listen! 
  • The CCSS are not based in reality and worse, not based in anything that lifelong educators know about child development! Of course, they may have been IF actual educators had been given any input.
  • Race to the Top is a thinly veiled attempt of the Obama Administration to impose a “National Curriculum” – something that is prohibited by the US Constitution.
  • Opting your child out of any tests that will be used to measure teacher effectiveness will NOT hurt your child or your child’s teacher or your school. Fear is a great deterrent, and to those parents who are on the front lines opting your children out of testing I say “Thank You!”
  • If you want to do ONE THING that will make you feel empowered, you MUST make every attempt to attend either: Occupy the Dept. of Education or a Save Our Schools event!
  • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) is a great place to make connections with folks who are just as passionate as you about saving public education from the corporate reformers.
  • The Chicago Teachers’ Union is the example that ALL teacher unions should follow. We should be advocates for what’s right for kids!
  • VAM is a SHAM – enough said.
  • Facebook groups like “Dump Duncan” ,”Opt Out of the State Test: The National Movement”, “Wear Red for Public Ed” and “Teachers’ Letters to Obama” are pages you should like and follow. There is a wealth of information there from activists all across the US and the World!
  • Diane Ravitch is a tenacious advocate for public education and teachers. Her blog is daily “must read”.
  • An administrator can bully you, make you feel as if you have created some big local controversy – BUT there are ways to still have your voice heard. You may need to be “incognito” (which some may say is cowardice, but may be necessary) but you can still tell the TRUTH about reforms that are killing public schools.
  • Response to Intervention is nothing more than a way to delay services to students whom teachers can identify in the first weeks of school. The hoops you have to jump through and the progress monitoring are tedious, not needed and ultimately do NOT give struggling students the help they need in a timely manner.
  • NYSUT, AFT, and NEA are not working in the best interest of their members! It is time to find a way to reclaim our unions and make them work for US and for kids! If we could all be like CTU, there would be some major changes in the focus of teachers’ unions. I see it coming, and it may not be fast enough, but I think things will change.
  • Individually, we must decide what matters most to us and then find people of like mind. Using those connections, even a small group of people can have an impact.
  • I greatly admire veteran teachers who have publicly resigned, saying “Enough!” and while I wish that I could do the same, that isn’t the action I can take at this time. That doesn’t mean that I buy the reforms, but I am acutely aware that my income is my family’s main income and if we want to continue to eat and live indoors, I simply have to find different ways to be active.
  • While I may have had a setback in 2012, I’m looking forward to 2013 and any part I can play in the continuing fight for public education.