Archives for category: Common Core

Rick Bobrick is a veteran teacher in New York. He is sick of the punitive high-stakes testing that he is compelled to administer. This regime is child abuse. He is a conscientious objector. He thinks that teachers should have the same right to opt out that parents and children have. He knows if he refuses to give the tests, he puts at risk his job, his income, and his pension. He asks a simple question: why not a law protecting the rights of teachers to refuse to do what they know is wrong? Why not give teachers the right to be conscientious objectors?

Here is his letter:

I teach 8th grade science in a small city school district located in the Mid-Hudson Valley. I am in my 35th year in the classroom, the last 13 of which I have been required to administer punitive, high-stakes tests in math, ELA, and science. Last spring I hit the wall and I have decided that, in all good conscience, I no longer want to participate in this detrimental practice. However, like most teachers, I am unwilling to risk losing my income, or my pension, or my even my reputation, in order to take a principled stand against this new wave of failed reform. On the other hand, why should I have to risk anything in order to stand against what I know is wrong?

No teacher or administrator should be required to ignore their moral and professional compass out of fear of violating NY state law. No teacher or administrator should have to comply with educational policies more harmful than helpful to children. No teacher or administrator should be forced to remain complicit to policies that are tantamount to educational malpractice at best – and child abuse at their worst. No public school educator should ever submit to inaction out of fear of jeopardizing their professional standing, personal well-being, or their family security. The fear, the veiled threats, and the de-facto intimidation are all very real concerns for many NY public school professionals. There is something deeply wrong with a system in which teachers and principals are afraid to act in the best interest of children.

My proposed solution to this professional dilemma is to try to establish legal protections for any NY educator who no longer wishes to comply with New York’s RTTT commitment. Following the advice of my local NYSUT representative, I have drafted a resolution that would establish a ‘Conscientious Objector’ status for any NY teacher or administrator who wants to abstain from the malpractice of high-stakes testing. I have never been politically connected, nor a particularly strong supporter of our union. All I ever wanted to do was to teach science and provide my students with the best learning opportunities possible.

I will be working with a group of like-minded citizens to convince lawmakers to support this initiative. If this proposal is submitted as a bill and passed into law it would provide legal protection for any teacher or administrator who wants to opt out of the testing debacle. As has been seen over the past two years, parents can ‘refuse the test’ without fear of legal consequences. Nearly 60,000 students across New York State sat out the 2014 round of Pearson testing, supported by parents who wanted nothing to do with tests designed to fail students and intimidate their teachers. It is my strong belief that teachers and administrators should have the same right of refusal, a legally protected right to, ‘refuse to test’. Passage of this resolution into law may be viewed by some as a long shot; if successful it would open a very messy can of worms for Governor Cuomo, the Board of Regents, John King, and the State Education Department.

Regardless of the end result, the message this sends to our political leaders could open some eyes and help bring this federal testing regime to an end, sooner rather than later; one more nail in the coffin of New York’s Regents Reform Agenda. At the very least it would let parents, boards of education, and the media get a better handle on just how much opposition there is from the educators who are being forced by the power of state and federal law to pursue education policies and practices that we know are inflicting harm to our students. Teachers whose voices are being silenced by fear of professional retribution, would be muzzled no longer. To sit back and continue to be a part of this testing madness, in my view, makes us part of the problem – ‘refusing to test’ makes us part of the solution.

If we do nothing, this whole mess will eventually die a slow death by a thousand cuts, collapsing under its own weight – but not after a generation of students has been short-changed by the educational blinders of the Common Core and damaged by the pressures of punitive, test-based reform and all the negative labels that come with it. Parents, college professors, and others will be pointing fingers and asking very serious questions as they try to make sense of what happened to our collective professional voice if the majority of us remain complicit through inaction. The ‘Nuremburg Defense’ doesn’t cut it for me. Burris, Farley, Naison, Lee and a small handful of other strong voices from within the trenches of New York’s schools are not enough. We have a choice to make, nearly half a million strong: defiance or compliance?

If adopted, the Conscientious Objector legislation will make it possible for the majority of NY educators to speak out against the misguided attempts of reformers; changing fearful whispers into strong and meaningful action. By granting the right of refusal, this proposed resolution would also help to restore our status as professional educators whose judgment and trust are valued by the communities we serve. Teachers, coaches, supervisors, principals, and parents, please keep your ears to the legislative track and when the time comes lend your support at the local and state level. Together we can make this happen and bring the joy of learning back to our children’s classrooms.

Rick Bobrick

The Colorado Springs school board, District 11, voted to opt out of state and federal Common Core testing.

The vote was unanimous.

“Unprecedented action Wednesday night by Colorado Springs School District 11, as the Board of Education voted unanimously to try and opt out of standardized testing mandated by the State and the federal Common Core Curriculum.

“The District’s resolution regarding state mandated testing would mean students and teachers can focus more on education and life skills in the classroom and spend less time preparing for standardized tests. It’s designed to give the district flexibility in the classroom.

“I’m so excited that D-11 has taken a stand,” said Sarah Sampayo, who’s children attend Lewis-Palmer District 38 schools.

“Parents from across the state, including Denver, Pueblo and Monument, attended the board’s meeting to voice their support for D-11’s bold plan.

“I want my young kids to enjoy education and learning, I don’t want them staring at a test for hours day, after day, after day,” explained Denver mom, Kellie Conn.

“These parents hope that if D-11 can do it, the rest of the state will follow suit.

“Hopefully it will creep into Jefferson County, it will creep into Denver, it will creep into Littleton,” said Conn.

“D-11 Superintendent, Dr. Nicolas Gledich, explained that he isn’t against assessing students’ progress, but wants to do it in a more individualized way. That’s the goal of the district’s plan to modify standardized testing over a three year period.”

Dr. Gledich was previously named to the blog’s honor roll as a hero for proposing a three-year moratorium on standardized testing.

This is an important message from a local school board member–Damon Buffum– to the New York Board of Regents. To commend him for his straight talk and thoughtfulness, I add him to our honor roll as a champion of American education.

-

From: Damon Buffum (dbuffum)
Sent: Monday, October 13, 2014 11:27 AM
To: Norwood; Regent Bendit; Regent Bennett; Regent Bottar; Regent Brown; Regent Cashin; Regent Cea; Regent Cottrell; Regent Dawson; Regent Finn; Regent Phillips; Regent Rosa; Regent Tallon; Regent Tiles; Regent Tisch; Regent Young
Cc: Damon Buffum (dbuffum) (dbuffum@cisco.com)

Subject: Times Union article Re: Common Core Divides State’s Regents Board

Hello New York State Board of Regents -

My name is Damon Buffum and I’m a Board of Education member in the Fairport Central School District (Monroe County). I’m also a District Resident, father, grandfather and high tech Engineering Manager with Cisco Systems. The comments in this email are my own and don’t represent the opinions or policy of the Fairport BoE or Cisco Systems.

I wanted to comment on the recent article in the Albany Times Union regarding education policy and the views of the state Regents. First, thanks for your efforts. I know from my experience on the Fairport BoE, the time commitment to education in New York is immense and I can only imagine the time and dedication required to fulfill your roll on the state Regents Board. The main purpose of the note however, is to strongly support the views that Regent Rosa expresses in her comments in this article. She states, “They are using false information to create a crisis, to take the state test and turn it on its head to make sure the suburbs experience what the urban centers experience: failure”. I couldn’t agree more. In representing the Fairport education system I can firmly state that we have no crisis in the Fairport education system.

It’s disturbing to me to listen to Governor Cuomo, Commissioner King and the Board of Regents decry, universally, that New York schools are failing our children, that we spend more money than any other state and that our state government is providing more funding to public education that ever before. All of these statements have context, but are ultimately not true. I believe that you understand this. I do consider it a fact that we have certain districts that are in crisis, but I’ve also done personal analysis and know that there is a DIRECT link of education performance (whatever academic metric you chose) and student poverty. This is not a vague connection, but a direct connection. To divert attention away from this link to poverty and broadly paint this as a nationwide or statewide education failure is both misleading and incorrect. Using our sparse and valuable resources to attack this problem through inappropriate curriculum for early grades, over testing and data collection, high stakes testing, curriculum changes and the need for increased (overwhelming) investment in technology, new text books, teacher development is irresponsible and wasteful. I won’t go into the associated, unquantified, costs to these reform policies, but I have a firm belief that these are moving New York education in the wrong direction and will ultimately cost our state dearly in terms of an educated workforce and a healthy economy. We sadly do have a crisis in many urban and rural communities. We have a poverty crisis, a social structure crisis, a health crisis and economic opportunity crisis. These are the FUNDAMENTAL issues that have to be recognized and dealt with. A child spends roughly 17% of their time in schools. The best teachers, curriculum and tests won’t fix a problem if 83% of a child’s time is being impacted by other areas that are in crisis. This is where Governor Cuomo should be focused. Schools and teachers can do amazing things, but the children have to be safe, fed, healthy and ready to learn.

In my home district, the Common Core and associated testing (3-8 state testing, field testing, SLO testing) have caused an immense distortion of our child-centric focus and ensuring the education of the whole child. I understand that the CCSS are only standards and not curriculum or a test, but it’s naïve to think that the immense quantity of time and impact of these tests to do not have a direct link to the curriculum, funding, focus and morale of our education system. I’ve personally toured every building in our District and spoken with administrators, staff and students. We have a 95% graduation rate, our kids have a healthy education experience that includes the arts, history, the sciences, athletics, robotics, community service, diversity and inclusion. We are proud of our kids and our schools. Again, for me personally, I consider the New York state reform agenda to be a direct attack on the education community we have.

I know that I haven’t told you anything that you haven’t heard or known already. However, I am asking you to get real here. Let’s recognize the REAL problems that we have in New York and start attacking those. We need to stop proclaiming ALL education systems as failures and support the best of what we have while addressing the gaps. We need to support these activities with funding – and giving support and then taking it away through the GEA is absurd. The current Common Core implementation in New York is creating chaos. We have our Superintendents divided in terms of impact, the states teachers union initiating a lawsuit around a testing gag order, multiple Districts adopting declarations against high stakes testing, tens of thousands of students and parents opting out of state tests, schools being closed and we have total political dysfunction. Our kids are paying the price for this as they only experience their education a single time. We entrust you with our state education policy. Please put our schools and kids first (above a political or corporate agenda) and put education back in the hands of educators.

Regards –

Damon Buffum

http://m.timesunion.com/local/article/Common-Core-divides-state-s-Regents-board-5067470.php

Dr. Jim Arnold is a music educator, a band director, a principal, and most recently, superintendent of schools in Pelham City, Georgia. In this post, he tells the truth: Thirteen years of test, test, test, test have failed.

 

Our kids are no better off then they were before the passage of No Child Left Behind and the siren song of Race to the Top. Test-based accountability has failed, and it is hurting children and undermining education. What is called “reform” is not working. It is actually harmful and bad for education.

 

He writes:

 

Supporters of the accountability movement in public education have had 13 years of test driven “reform” to prove their point. It should be obvious now that 13 years of accountibalism have produced no positive results. If you believe that test scores accurately reflect teaching and learning in our public schools then you also must accept those scores have not shown a positive effect. If you believe the SAT is reflective of student achievement then 13 years of test and retest and test again have been an abysmal failure in serving as anything other than a reliable predictor of family income. In spite of the continued demand for “choice” by the professional accountabullies – those that insist that standardized testing is the only way to hold public education accountable – the only success stories they can point to are the gigantic growth of the educational testing industry and draining millions of tax dollars from public education into privatization efforts. One of the choices that has not appeared in Georgia is that of parents having the ability to opt their children out of standardized testing. As it stands now, parents have few legal options if they decide to opt their children out of the standardized testing craze in public schools.
Public school students are now serving as mass subjects in the “test to distraction” movement. The over reliance on standardized tests at the Federal, state and district level have managed to narrow the curriculum, take time away from true teaching and learning, push out non-tested subjects like music, art, chorus, band, electives and vocational classes, fuel the push to replace veteran teachers with less expensive and less experienced replacements and allow testing and test prep to dominate class time for students and teachers.
District testing calendars in Atlanta Public Schools for 2012 indicate 3rd grade students spent 11.8 hours on state tests and 9 hours on district tests. Students in 7th grade spent 8.5 hours on state tests and 12 hours on district tests. Teachers in those grades calculate the time actually spent by students on testing, test prep and test review is more than double that amount, and some teachers noted that more than 35% of instruction time each year is spent on test review, test planning, test taking strategies, practice tests, preparation for assessment, re-assessment and actual testing….

 

Common Core requirements state that students in special education must be tested on grade level in spite of what their Individualized Education Plan says. This policy, enacted by Secretary Duncan without congressional approval, appears to violate Federal law as written in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. While it may be possible to write an opt out clause into a students’ IEP, resistance to this option at the Federal, state and school level may be expected. While the CRCT will be replaced next year in Georgia by a more difficult test, students in grades 3, 5 and 8 will still be required to pass before being promoted. Parents deciding to opt their children out of these tests may use current procedures for parental appeal of retention, but these are cumbersome at best and require the formation of a placement committee consisting of the parents, the Principal and each of the child’s teachers to determine whether or not the student is performing at grade level. The committe reviews student class participation, class work and performance and teacher observations of student learning. The committee decision must be unanimous, and the student may be promoted with the understanding that extra help and support are required for the following year.

 

Whoa! So if a student is brain damaged or has other issues that cause her to read at 2nd grade level when she is 16 years old, she must be given the same tests at those in ninth or tenth grade? What is the purpose of that? Surely that is a violation of federal law. But we have often heard Secretary Duncan say that children with low test scores, regardless of disability, must be held to high standards. He wants all children to take Advanced Placement tests, which will show the power of high expectations, even for those with cognitive disabilities. The man is…the man is…not an educator. He doesn’t even know federal law. He has no common sense.

 

Jim Arnold writes:

 

I propose two reforms of my own for immediate action by the Georgia legislature:
Allow an exemption from standardized testing as one of the options for “flexibility” for charter system and IE2 applications;
Pass legislation giving parents the right to opt their students out of standardized testing in public schools.
If our legislators really believe in “choice” for parents, they can do nothing less than give public school parents the option of opting their kids out of standardized testing. That would be a reform worth implementing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris in Florida, who teaches young children, writes:

“My district has become program driven. We have a program to teach reading but there are now 3 reading blocks in our day since we are a D school. The state mandates a program for Tier II intervention and another program for extra reading instruction. There is no correlation between the fragmented programs. We have a program for math and another for math intervention. We have a science program but no social studies program and both are given a meager 20 minutes a day. Several programs are online only and kids hate them and say they are boring and too hard.

“We are no longer allowed to teach with good books or to have classrooms humming with excitement over a praying mantis or a bag of apples. That is not in the programs. We are threatened with discipline if we are caught doing things the old way during random walk throughs using the nefarious Danielson rubric.

“I sneak what I can as far as read alouds and living things in when I can but our discipline problems are skyrocketing and the kids are bored and overwhelmed much of the day with recess no longer allowed either.

“This is the result of Jeb Bush, NCLB, RTTT, CCSS, and all the reformist mess.”

Steven Singer is a teacher. This post comes from his blog. It was tweeted by the Badass Teachers Association.

He writes that the best evidence against the Common Core can be found in the classroom. The Common Core is based on close reading and the “New Criticism,” which discounts the thoughts, feelings, and life experiences of the reader.

Visit Singer’s classroom in this post and find out how his students interact with what they read. Close reading is meaningless to them. They react from their heart and their gut. They think and they feel, and that is how reading comes alive for them.

Singer leads a Socratic Seminar for troubled teens.

He writes:

“If Coleman and the architects of Common Core could be in my classroom, they might see the error of their ways.

“Allowing students ownership of the text – allowing them to take their proper place as part of a complex relationship between the text, author and the world – is so much more engaging an experience than just being an authorial archeologist.

“When we insist on strict adherence to the author’s message – and only that – we create a false objectivity. Language Arts is a subject that is at most times open to interpretation. But Coleman makes it a guessing game to get the “right answer.”

“Literature is not math. We shouldn’t try to turn it into something it isn’t.

“This is why at the beginning of the year, my students take my innocent questions about the meaning of a text as an affront. They see me as just another adult trying to trick them. They assume I’m trying to get them to guess what I’m thinking – about what the author was thinking. There has to be only one true answer, they suppose, and if they haven’t been good at guessing it in the past, why try now?

“It takes a while, but through lessons like the Socratic Seminar, I try to broaden their horizons, to show them that they have a vital place in this dynamic. Without a reader, a text is nothing but words on paper. Without a larger societal context, those words lack their full meaning……

“Coleman and the Common Core designers would know that if they had ever led a classroom of students. But hardly any of them are educators. They’re bureaucrats, politicians and millionaire philanthropists.

“They’re missing the true picture.

“Because the best evidence against Common Core is denied them.

“Because the best evidence against Common Core is in the classroom.”

Peter Greene here tackles one of the grand ideas of our strange era of unrealistic goals and expectations: Can you tell if a five-year-old is college-ready?

 

He makes a great point: If you knew that your five-year-old was college-ready, why would he or she need to take an SAT a dozen years later? Why not just put the college applications in at age six?

 

Perhaps Peter has never encountered one of Arne Duncan’s most memorable lines.

 

“We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ ” he said. “Right now, in too many states, quite frankly, we lie to children. We lie to them and we lie to their families.”

 

Some teachers know when their students are leaving kindergarten. Others know in second grade. Are you college ready? But when you ask the kids themselves, as one of the commenters says on Peter’s blog, they say they want to grow up to be a ninja or something else utterly improbable. They want to be a cowboy or a football star or a singer. Why aren’t they thinking of Harvard or Princeton or Yale?

Ernest Anemone, lawyer and teacher, describes here the growing opposition to market-based reforms such as school choice, test-based accountability, and Common Core. He praises the Badass Teachers Association for bringing out not only the grievances of teachers but giving them a vehicle to fight such powerful figures as Bill GTes and the Walton family.

What is at stake, he avers, is the future of democracy.

He writes:

“On one side of this battle are a powerful group of self-proclaimed reformers inspired by market values and financed by billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings and the Walton Family. They believe that the purpose of education is to prepare children for the labor market by teaching them a “Common Core” of subjects which emphasize English and mathematics. Student proficiency is measured by standardized tests in these subjects, and classroom innovations are supposedly spread to the ‘best performers’ through the mechanisms of competition and ‘school choice.’

“On the other side of the battle are groups like the Badass Teachers, the teachers’ unions, and organizations like FairTest and the Network for Public Education who believe that schools should prepare children to be active agents of democracy, while providing them with a potentially-transformative experience. In their vision of education, students are engaged in cultivating their own moral voices through critical reflection, so educational achievement cannot be reduced to a standard curriculum or measured by standardized test results.

“Although classroom innovations are important, educational success is defined by broader factors outside of the school’s control—especially poverty. According to education historian Diane Ravitch, “poverty is the single greatest determinant of low test scores.” However, the standard package of reforms that is pushed so hard by Gates and others lacks any practical understanding of what it means to teach the 45 per cent of American children who come from struggling families, including the 16 million who live in abject poverty.

“The implication of ‘school choice’ programs is that good choices by ‘consumers’ lead to good results, and poor choices lead to poor results. But recasting poverty as a choice is not only misguided but damaging to the fabric of democracy. High-stakes standardized testing also creates a marketplace of shoddy comparisons—a marketplace that fails to see the strength in certain types of variation because it erroneously regards all variation as weakness.

“Against this background, it’s vital to protect the ability of schools to cooperate with each other (not to compete), and to model other aspects of democratic culture. When teachers, parents and children collaborate in a common search for solutions they increase their democratic capacities. It’s a fundamentally egalitarian vision that rejects the view of education as a commodity that can be quantified, bought and sold.”

Politico.com reports today that Corbett is against the Common Core but maybe he is for them, or was until the election:

“NEW SITE FOR KEYSTONE STATE STANDARDS: Pennsylvania state education officials say a website for collecting public comment on the state’s new academic standards will be live sometime this week. Gov. Tom Corbett, currently fighting an uphill battle for a second term, called for public hearings on the standards in math and English last month. That confused some state lawmakers who thought Corbett backed the standards, which were approved last year by the state Board of Education and look like a slightly tweaked version of the Common Core. But Corbett said the public hearings were “the final phase” in a three-year fight “to permanently roll back” the Common Core. The new website will be interactive, a state education official told Morning Education, and anyone interested can submit their comments or feedback through the website. It will act as a repository for two to three months before state officials schedule public hearings on the standards.”

Andy Sher, a reporter in Tennessee, thought he would trip up Lamar Alexander by saying that he supported national standards when he was U.S. Secretary of Education in 1991-92, and is thus hypocritical now when he criticizes Common Core.

Senator Alexander explained that he supported voluntary national standards then and now.

Senator Alexander is right. I was there. I administered the award of grants to professional groups of teachers and scholars to write voluntary national standards. We made awards to develop standards in science, history (U.S. and world), English, the arts, civics, economics, physical education, foreign languages, and geography. We made no awards to secret committees headed by entrepreneurs, only to professionals in the field.

As Senator Alexander says, we made clear that the standards were strictly voluntary. It was up to states to use them or not, to revise them as they saw fit. There were no tests of the standards. That was left to the states too.

The goal was to inspire states, not compel them. One thing I admired about Lamar. He never thought he had all the best ideas. He respected federalism.

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