Archives for category: Honor Roll

Ken Previti tells the story on his blog about Julianna Mendelsohn, a teacher.

Julianna wanted to help the children of Ferguson.

““As a public school teacher, my first thought is always about the children involved in any tragic situation like this,” she writes. “When I found out school had been canceled for several days as a result of the civil unrest, I immediately became worried for the students in households with food instability. Many children in the US eat their only meals of the day, breakfast and lunch, at school. With school out, kids are undoubtedly going hungry.”

“Julianna is from Raleigh, North Carolina. She knows that all the children in school are our children. The children in Ferguson are our children with their own needs. Our children need many things, and nutritious food is at the top of the list. Julianna’s efforts have raised over $125,000 to feed our children during this crisis.”

Read the post and send whatever you can to feed the children.

Julianna is a hero of public education who, like so many teachers, truly puts children first. She wants to feed them. Please help her.

Washington State declined to ask Arne Duncan for a waiver from NCLB because the legislature thought that the price was too high. In exchange for gaining freedom from NCLB’s demand that 100% of students would be proficient by 2014, the state would have to agree to endorse Arne Duncan’s inane idea that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students. Apparently some wise policy makers saw the research and the universal failure of Duncan’s idea and said “no thanks.”

Now virtually every school in the state of Washington is a “failing school.”

The superintendents are required to send a letter to parents informing them that their child attends a failing school. But 28 superintendents sent a cover letter explaining that the law required them to say something untrue.

““Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working,” the cover letter states. The letter is signed by John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, which represents the 28 districts.

“The signees include many of the larger school districts in King and Pierce counties, such as Bellevue, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Lake Washington, Northshore, Renton and Tacoma.
They announced the protest letter at an event Wednesday.

“Seattle Public Schools did not sign it, but supports the letter’s sentiments, a spokeswoman said.”

NCLB is a pathetic hoax that was intended to label almost every school in the nation a failing school. Kudos to the superintendents of Washington State for standing up to abusive federal power—not only NCLB but the coercive waiver too.

28 superintendents in Washington state join the honor roll for courage in support of public education.

This is a good news story about a state commissioner of education who stood up and said, with quiet determination, that the emperor has no clothes.

That state commissioner is Rebecca Holcombe of Vermont. She wrote a clear and eloquent letter to the parents and caregivers of Vermont, explaining the punitive and incoherent nature of federal education policy, which (under NCLB) requires that every single school in Vermont be labeled low-performing, even though many national and international measures show that Vermont is a high-performing state. She explained that Vermont refused to apply for a waiver from NCLB offered by Secretary Duncan because it would have forced the state to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores, which is unreliable and unfair to teachers and students.

Commissioner Holcombe wrote that Vermont believes that schools have purposes that are no less important (and perhaps more important) than test scores.

For her thoughtfulness, her integrity, her devotion to children, her understanding of the broad aims of education, and her courage in standing firm against ruinous federal policies, Rebecca Holcombe is a hero of American education. Most people go along with the crowd, even when doing so violates their sense of personal and professional ethics. Not Commissioner Holcombe. If our nation had more state commissioners like her, it would save our children from a mindless culture of test and punish that the federal department of education has imposed on them and our nation’s schools.

This is the letter that State Commissioner Holcombe wrote to every parent and caregiver in Vermont:

“Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), as of 2014, if only one child in your school does not score as “proficient” on state tests, then your school must be “identified” as “low performing” under federal law. This year, every school whose students took the NECAP tests last year is now considered a “low performing” school by the US Department of Education. A small group of schools were not affected by this policy this year because they helped pilot the new state assessment and so did not take the NECAPs last year. Because these schools had their federal AYP status frozen at 2013 levels, eight schools are not yet identified as low performing by federal criteria. However, had these school taken the NECAPs as well, it is likely that every single school in the state would have to be classified as “low performing” according to federal guidelines.

The Vermont Agency of Education does not agree with this federal policy, nor do we agree that all of our schools are low performing.

In 2013, the federal Education Department released a study comparing the performance of US states to the 47 countries that participated in the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, one of the two large international comparative assessments. Vermont ranked 7th in the world in eighth-grade mathematics and 4th in science. Only Massachusetts, which has a comparable child poverty rate, did better.

“On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Vermont consistently ranks at the highest levels. We have the best graduation rate in the nation and are ranked second in child well-being.

“Just this week, a social media company that compares financial products (WalletHub) analyzed twelve different quality metrics and ranked Vermont’s school system third in the nation in terms school performance and outcomes.

“Nevertheless, if we fail to announce that each Vermont school is “low performing,” we jeopardize federal funding for elementary and secondary education. The “low performing” label brings with it a number of mandatory sanctions, which your principal is required to explain to you. This policy does not serve the interest of Vermont schools, nor does it advance our economic or social well-being. Further, it takes our focus away from other measures that give us more meaningful and useful data on school effectiveness.

“It is not realistic to expect every single tested child in every school to score as proficient. Some of our students are very capable, but may have unique learning needs that make it difficult for them to accurately demonstrate their strengths on a standardized test. Some of our children survived traumatic events that preclude good performance on the test when it is administered. Some of our students recently arrived from other countries, and have many valuable talents but may not yet have a good grasp of the academic English used on our assessments. And, some of our students are just kids who for whatever reason are not interested in demonstrating their best work on a standardized test on a given day.

“We know that statewide, our biggest challenge is finding better ways to engage and support the learning of children living in poverty. Our students from families with means and parents with more education, consistently are among the top performing in the country. However, federal NCLB policy has not helped our schools improve learning or narrow the gaps we see in our data between children living in poverty and children from more affluent families. We need a different approach that actually works.”

What are the alternatives? Most other states have received a waiver to get out from under the broken NCLB policy. They did this by agreeing to evaluate their teachers and principals based on the standardized test scores of their students. Vermont is one of only 5 states that do not have a waiver at this time. We chose not to agree to a waiver for a lot of reasons, including that the research we have read on evaluating teachers based on test scores suggests these methods are unreliable in classes with 15 or fewer students, and this represents about 40-50% of our classes. It would be unfair to our students to automatically fire their educators based on technically inadequate tools. Also, there is evidence suggesting that over-relying on test-based evaluation might fail to credit educators for doing things we actually want them to do, such as teach a rich curriculum across all important subject areas, and not just math and English language arts. In fact, nation-wide, we expect more and more states to give up these waivers for many of the reasons we chose not to pursue one in the first place.

Like other Vermont educators, I am deeply committed to continuously improving our schools and the professional skill of our teachers. I have heard from principals and teachers across the state who are deeply committed to developing better ways of teaching and working with parents and other organizations to ensure that every child’s basic needs are met. If basic needs are not met, children cannot take advantage of opportunities that we provide in school. However, the federal law narrows our vision of schools and what we should be about. Ironically, the only way a school could pass the NCLB criteria would be to leave some children behind – to exclude some of the students who come to our doors. That is something public schools in Vermont will not do.

Matching Our Measures to Our Purpose

Certainly, we know tests are an important part of our tool kit, but they do not capture everything that is important for our children to learn. With this in mind, our State Board of Education clearly outlined five additional education priorities in our new Education Quality Standards, including scientific inquiry, citizenship, physical health and wellness, artistic expression and 21st century transferable skills.

As parents and caregivers, we embrace a broader vision for our children than that defined in federal policy. Thus, we encourage you to look at your own child’s individual growth and learning, along with evidence your school has provided related to your child’s progress. Below are some questions to consider:

• What evidence does your school provide of your child’s growing proficiency?

• Is your child developing the skills and understanding she needs to thrive in school and
the community?

• Are graduates of your school system prepared to succeed in college and/or careers?

• Is your child happy to go to school and engaged in learning?

• Can your child explain what he is learning and why? Can your child give examples of
skills he has mastered?

• Is your child developing good work habits? Does she understand that practice leads to
better performance?

• Does your child feel his work in school is related to his college and career goals?

• Does your child have one adult at the school whom she trusts and who is committed to
her success?

• If you have concerns, have you reached out to your child’s teacher to share your
perspective?

Be engaged with your school, look at evidence of your own child’s learning, and work with your local educators to ensure that every child is challenged and supported, learning and thriving. Schools prosper when parents are involved as the first teachers of their children.

The State’s Obligation to Our Children

Working with the Governor, the State Board, the General Assembly and other agencies, and most importantly, with educators across the state, the Agency of Education will invite schools across the state to come together to innovate and improve our schools. We hope your school will volunteer to help develop and use a variety of other measures that will give parents, citizens and educators better information on student learning and what we can do to personalize and make it better. These measures include:

• collaborative school visits by teams of peers, to support research, professional learning and sharing of innovative ideas,

• personalization of learning through projects and performance assessments of proficiency,

• gathering and sharing of feedback from teachers, parents and students related to school climate and culture, student engagement and opportunities for self-directed learning,

• providing teachers and administrators standards-based feedback on the effectiveness of their instruction,

• developing personalized learning plans that involve students in defining how they will demonstrate they are ready to graduate, and basing graduation on these personalized assessments of proficiency rather than “seat-time”,

• analyzing growth and improvement at the Supervisory level as well as the school level, to identify systems that seem to be fostering greater growth in students, as a way of identifying and sharing promising practices across schools.

Vermont has a proud and distinguished educational history, but we know we can always do better. We are committed to supporting our schools as they find more effective and more engaging ways to improve the skills and knowledge of our children. As we have done before, we intend to draw on the tremendous professional capability of teachers across the state as we work to continuously improve our schools. Our strength has always been our ingenuity and persistence. In spite of federal policies that poorly fit the unique nature of Vermont, let’s continue to work together to build great schools that prepare our children to be productive citizens and contributors to our society

The Koch brothers arranged a panel discussion about vouchers and why they are beyond wonderful. It wasn’t a debate. All four members of the panel supported vouchers. No one was there to say that voucher schools have never outperformed public schools, that voucher schools promote segregation, and that voucher schools divert money from public schools. The controversial Steve Perry from Connecticut, a state which has no vouchers, strongly endorsed them.

Fortunately, a few brave souls joined the audience and asked questions. One of them was a parent who went right to the heart of the matter. He was not intimidated by the stacked panel.

“Some were there to offer a counter view. T.C. Weber, a Metro Nashville school parent, questioned the “end game” of diverting funding from public schools.

“Are you looking to destroy the public system that we already have and build a new one based on your ideas?”

T.C. Weber is a hero of public education. I am delighted to add him to our honor roll for his courage and his commitment to democratic institutions.

You are invited to a major event honoring Leonie Haimson, a brilliant, fearless leader. Please make plans to attend and meet her and other allies in the fight for better education! Haimson led the fight to block inBloom from gaining access to the confidential records of millions of children. Thanks to her leadership, inBloom went out of business even though it was backed by the Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and Rupert Murdoch’s Corporation. One principled woman defended the privacy rights of children and families, and she won! She showed all of us the power of one person.

Join Parents Across America at its first annual Parent Voice Award Dinner honoring PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, leader of New York City-based Class Size Matters in DC on July 28.

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/paa-parent-voice-award-dinner-honoring-leonie-haimson-tickets-11831617687?aff=es2

This year, Leonie nearly single-handedly organized parents around the U.S. to oppose the impending commercialization of student information by the inBloom company, which ultimately went out of business after every state on its original clientele list pulled out of the program. Leonie is also the founder of NYC-based Class Size Matters, a group dedicated to promoting smaller class size – a proven, effective school reform strategy. Leonie started the New York Public School Parents’ Blog and has been a leader in challenging school privatization, misuse and over use of standardized tests, and, most recently, the threat to student data privacy.

The 2014 PAA Parent Voice Award Dinner is being hosted by the National Education Association at their headquarters in Washington, DC.

Tickets will include cocktails and a buffet dinner — and are only $20!

Proceeds from the dinner will support PAA’s programs and the work of our chapters around the U.S.

The registration form also includes an option for those unable to attend who would like to make a fully tax-deductible contribution to PAA in honor of Leonie, or anyone who can attend and would like to make a tax-deductible donation to PAA over and above the cost of the ticket.

Thank you!

Texas journalist Jason Stanford says it is time to recognize one of the heroes of the Education Spring: former Texas Commissioner Robert Scott, who bluntly said that high-stakes testing had grown too powerful and who warned that Common Core was intended to create a national curriculum and testing system. He came under a lot of criticism at the time and had to step down, but he has been proven right. The movement against high-stakes testing continues to escalate, and the number of states dropping out of Common Core seems likely to increase.

“Scott announced his resignation as Texas Education Commissioner in May 2012, but his public career effectively ended that January when he said that standardized testing had become a “perversion of its original intent.” Testing was wagging the dog, and Scott placed the blame on testing companies and lobbyists that have “become not only a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex.”

“You’ve reached a point now of having this one thing that the entire system is dependent upon. It is the heart of the vampire, so to speak,” said Scott, who stood by his remarks even as others failed to do the same for him.”

Texas was the heart of the testing movement, and a vast majority of local school boards passed resolutions opposing the misuse of testing. Even the Legislature took a stand against high-stakes testing. Much of that momentum can be credited to Robert Scott, who had the courage to speak out when it was unpopular. He is a hero of American education.

Mark Henry, superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks district in Texas, stood up and spoke out for common sense and education ethics. In this article, he explains why his district–the third largest in Texas–will not participate in a pilot test to evaluate teachers by student test scores.

He writes:

“This latest movement to “teacher-proof” education places additional fear, anxiety and pressure on professionals who are stressed enough already. I have seen this first-hand with principals and teachers who fret over the STAAR test, a once-per-year high-stakes assessment that measures how a child performed on one test on one day. Is that really learning? I don’t think so. Testing is a key diagnostic tool, and results should be used to assess the progress of students so plans can be developed to address the gaps and deficiencies of each student.
Learning is not a business; it’s a process. Use of a teacher evaluation system tied to standardized test scores alienates educators by trying to transform classrooms into cubicles. There are many more elements that go into teaching and learning than a high-stakes, pressurized test. Tying student test scores to a teacher’s evaluation may improve test scores, but does it improve a child’s educational outcome?”

Henry says there are three reasons that schools fail: mismanagement by school boards and superintendents; ineffective principals; lack of community support.

He does not blame teachers for poor leadership or systemic failure.

He writes:

“Let’s quit trying to “teacher-proof” education and stop the overreliance on data from one high-stakes test. The answers for improvement are recruiting, training and supporting our teaching professionals. Attention to these will deepen the effectiveness of what we do in the classroom and the biggest winners will be our children. “

Mark Henry is a hero of public education for his willingness to stand against a misinformed and harmful status quo.

When I first learned that Superintendent John Deasy planned to spend as much as $1billion to equip everyone in theLos Angeles school district with iPads for Common Core testing, I was amazed that the district could afford such a large expenditure. Then I learned from reading Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times that TE district would pay for the iPads from a 25-year construction bond fund approved by the voters who thought they were paying for the construction and repair of public schools. I was shocked. I wondered if anyone cared. The useful life of the iPad was probably 3-4 years. How could the money come from the construction bond, and would there be money to build nd repair schools if it was used for short-term technology purchases.? Would voters support future bonds if their purpose was so easily ignored?

It turns out that one member (perhaps not the only one) did care, and that was Stuart Magruder. He is an architect, and he was a member of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee. he was doing his job. For daring to ask questions and be a critic, the LAUSD board failed to renew his appointment. He was ousted.

For his courage and integrity on behalf of the public interest, he is a hero of American education.

Here is a first for this blog: Governor Jay Nixon joins the honor roll for his courage in promising to veto a voucher bill passed by the State Legislature.

The State Senate has enough votes to override his veto, but the House does not.

Governor Jay Nixon recognizes that the state has an obligation to provide quality public education for every child. It must meet that obligation by providing every school with the resources and staff it needs, not by sending public funds to private schools.

Governor Nixon may also be aware of the overwhelming research showing that private schools do not get better results than public schools when they enroll the same children.

The bottom line is that Governor Nixon bravely stood up for the principle that the public has an obligation to support public education.

Now it his responsibility to fight for adequate funding and oversight to improve schools that are struggling. In most cases, the schools need more help for children and families that are in need, not just academic programs. The most reliable predictor of low test scores is poverty. Missouri, like other states, must avoid the pursuit of illusory quick fixes. Vouchers don’t “work” better than public schools. Missouri must improve its public school system for all.

Thanks to Governor Jay Nixon for protecting one of the basic democratic institutions that made our country great.

I honor the Ossining School District in Néw York for having the good sense and courage to say “no” to field testing. The school superintendent Raymond Sanchez says in the letter below that he must protect instructional time for the students, who recently lost seven hours to testing. Enough is enough!

The people of Ossining have confidence in their public schools. The school budget recently passed with the highest approval rate in its history (72%).

From: Superintendent’s Office [mailto:oufsd@ossiningufsd.ccsend.com] On Behalf Of Superintendent’s Office
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 12:03 PM
Subject: New York State Field Tests

May 21, 2014

Dear Parents/Guardians:

Annually, the New York State Education Department randomly selects school districts to administer the New York State Field Tests. This year the Ossining School District was selected to administer the exams in 4th, 5th and 8th grades. These exams are intended to “provide data necessary to ensure the validity and reliability of the New York State Testing program.” The field tests are a series of standardized exams developed by the independent testing company Pearson. The company uses the field tests as trial for questions it may use on future exams.

After a discussion with the building administrators and the Board of Education, I am recommending that the Ossining School District not administer the field tests. My reasons are as follows:

1. Protect Instructional Time: Due to inclement weather, we have lost a significant amount of instructional time. In addition, students were recently administered 7 hours of exams. Administering the field exams will lead to additional lost time. Instead, our goal is to use the time to continue to provide our students with appropriate direct instruction.

2. Lack of Transparency: These exams do not provide parents, teachers or administrators with information regarding each child’s progress.

I want to reemphasize that I feel that this decision is in the best interest of the students we serve in our school district. It is critical that we protect the instructional time we have with our students.

If you should have any questions after reading this notice, please feel free to contact your building principal – Ms. Regina M. Cellio, Ms. Kate Mathews, or Dr. Corey W. Reynolds.

Sincerely yours,

Raymond Sanchez

Ossining Union Free School District
190 Croton Avenue Ossining, NY 10562
(914) 941-7700 | jforsberg@ossining.k12.ny.us

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