Archives for category: Honor Roll

The school board of the Katy, Texas, Independent School District voted unanimously to eliminate high-stakes testing.

This is a bold and dramatic step in a state that inflicted the “miracle” of high-stakes testing on the nation. Up until now, Pearson and its stable of lobbyists have called the shots.

The Katy school board has bravely demanded a return to common sense and real education, where tests are diagnostic and used to help students, not to label them. I place the Katy, Texas, school board on this blog’s honor roll.

“The Board resolution also calls for state-funded local assessments in lieu of the high-stakes tests. Such local assessments would provide detailed diagnostics that could assist students in their learning. However, these assessments would not be considered high-stakes, nor have any bearing on accountability ratings.”

A reader recommends the two videos below, which were made during the debate about the New York state budget. Assemblyman Jim Tedesco, a Republican, spoke out against the anti-teacher, anti-public education bill devised by Governor Cuomo. In the second video, he dares the Governor to take the fifth grade math test! Mr. Tedesco has served in the New York State Assembly since 1983. In the legislative chamber, he stands out because he has a graduate degree in special education, was a teacher and a guidance counselor. For his defense of a noble profession and common sense, he joins the honor roll of this blog.

 

 

New York is circling the drain. But this guy belongs on the honor roll! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhTwcqP4xjE&feature=youtu.be Jim Tedesco. Republican and an ex teacher. He shouldn’t have said he was an ex educator, like saying I used to work at Enron. After this he dared the Governor to take the 5th grade exam.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2tXbPzXcPQ&feature=youtu.be

 

The second video is more entertaining than the first.

I  received this statement from Dr. Kathleen Cashin, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, representing Brooklyn. Dr. Cashin has had a long professional career in education as a teacher, a principal, and a superintendent in the New York City public schools. She has taken a principled stand against the misuse of standardized tests.  I add her to the blog’s honor roll for standing up for what is right for children, for teachers, for principals, and for education.

 

She writes:

 

“As a Regent of the State of New York, I cannot endorse the use of the current state tests for teacher/principal evaluation since that was not the purpose for which they were developed. It is axiomatic in the field of testing that tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. They were designed to measure student performance, not teacher effectiveness. The American Statistical Association, the National Academy of Education, and the American Educational Research Association have cautioned that student tests should not be used to evaluate individual teachers. Nor should these tests be used for student growth measures until there is clear evidence that they are valid and reliable. The Board of Regents should commission an independent evaluation of these tests to verify their reliability and validity before they are used for high-stakes purposes for students, teachers, principals, and schools. How can we criticize people for opting out when the tests have not been verified? We need to cease and desist in the use of these tests until such time as we can be confident of their reliability and validity. If tests do meet those criteria, the tests must be released to teachers and to the public after they are given, in the spirit of transparency and accountability.”

 

Dr. Kathleen Cashin

Ali Gordon, a school board member in the Comsewogue school district on Long Island, Néw York, believes that it is time to stand up and speak out. For her dedication and courage, I name her to the blog’s honor roll.

 

She writes:

 

This is my fourth year serving as an elected trustee of the Comsewogue School District Board of Education. Trustees are elected by their community. The position is voluntary- there is no pay. There are no hidden perks, no allowances. It is time-consuming, with multiple meetings and events monthly, dozens of documents to review in preparation for the meetings, as well as correspondence between trustees and administration and of course with the community. In order to fulfill these responsibilities, I miss out on time at home with my husband and four children.

 

It is stressful- particularly as we work to develop an annual budget. No matter what decisions we make as a board, there will always be someone disappointed. But I love every minute of it because I love my community- and I take very seriously the responsibility entrusted to me by the community.

 

I’ve been talking about the issues facing public education for a long time, but it’s not enough to talk. I am suggesting practical solutions could be implemented now.

 

At this point, I want to make clear that the opinions I express here are mine alone- I do not speak for the Comsewogue School District, or the rest of the Board of Education. I can’t stay quiet for fear of retribution from NYSED anymore. I have been warned that a Trustee who speaks out could be removed by the State Education Commissioner. But this is too important: our schools, our children, OUR FUTURE depends on those of us who were elected to represent the best interests of our communities doing exactly that.

 

This is a particularly difficult time for public education, especially in New York. Governor Cuomo and the Board of Regents are pushing ahead with education policy in which the ends do not justify the means. There has been tremendous criticism of Governor Cuomo, and his recent decision to withhold state aid runs and extort the Legislature to pass his education reforms. Our legislators are stuck between agreeing to terrible reforms, and getting more funding for their local schools, or refusing the Governor, which would lead to a late budget and a potential loss of millions of dollars for those schools.

 

The reforms Cuomo is pushing on public schools are disingenuous, dangerous, and wrong. He is working out of the privatization handbook- attempting to dismantle unions, turn the public against educators, and make us believe our schools are absolutely awful. He uses inflammatory statistics to support his claims. In the process, our students are the ones suffering. The obsession with standardized testing has taken on a life of its’ own. It seems the federal and state government cannot think of any other way to move forward in education.

 

But they are not the ones who were elected to determine what happens within your school district. Governor Cuomo was not on the ballot last May when you voted for your local district budget and elected your Board of Education Trustees. Each of Cuomo’s education policies reflect a desire to remove local control from schools. The reason for local control is simple- those who have familiarity with a community are better situated to determine its’ strengths and weaknesses, and to know what works.

 

The needs of an urban school in a high poverty area will differ from that of a rural school upstate. Even on Long Island, schools not far from one another have very different needs. Governor Cuomo and the Board of Regents are searching for a one size fits all answer to a million different issues. They will never work for every community. In the meantime an entire generation of students are being sacrificed for testing data.

 

Case in point, Gov. Cuomo is now insisting on an investigation into the evaluation procedures (APPR) of Long Island districts, because he thinks the system is skewed to favor teachers. He is demanding NYSED look into these evaluations, because he cannot believe so many teachers were rated effective, or highly effective. Those APPR plans were negotiated (as per labor law) and submitted for approval to NYSED. So the very entity which approved the plans is now asked to investigate them. Here is the point Cuomo cannot fathom: teachers on Long Island were rated highly effective or effective in large numbers because they are effective.

 

If Long Island was a state, we would rank #1 in the nation for high school graduation rates, with 90.8% of our students receiving their diploma. In addition, Long Island would rank #1 in Intel Semifinalists and #2 in the nation in Siemens Semifinalists, behind California. Cuomo prefers to ignore these statistics because they do not fit his narrative.

 

So what is the answer? It’s not enough to complain. Name calling isn’t helping. We must propose an alternative vision for our public schools. There are several things than can and should happen now in order to stop the destruction of public schools with misguided education policy.

 

First, Governor Cuomo must separate his education reforms from his Executive Budget Proposal. If he believes strongly enough in these reforms he should be willing to let them stand alone as legislation and allow a healthy debate in the process. The Legislature would then be tasked with evaluating these reforms based on their merit, through committee hearings, and public input. Our democracy has three branches of government in order to prevent one person from having too much power. Cuomo should not be allowed to circumvent the separation of powers established in our Constitution.

 

The Legislature should ensure that new appointees to the Board of Regents have knowledge of, and experience in public education. There are four Regents whose terms are expiring, and interviews are being held now, with Legislators expected to vote in early March. The Board of Regents establishes education policies for the state, and it is imperative that they understand public education in order to fulfill these responsibilities.

 

Parents must educate themselves as to what is happening in their schools. They should ask questions, attend Board of Education meetings, local education forums, and contact their representatives. Every parent must make an educated decision regarding state testing in grades 3-8. This will be the 3rd year my children have refused to take the state exams. I believe this is the strongest weapon parents have in the fight to save public education. As the number of test refusals grows, the reforms dependent upon those numbers will falter. We will starve the testing machine.

 

School districts must respect a parent’s right to refuse testing on behalf of their child, and Boards of Education must adopt a policy to outline what accommodations will be made for students who are not taking the tests. A sit and stare policy is cruel and unacceptable.

 

Every one of us has a vested interest in public education. It’s not just cliche to say that these students are our future- it is reality. We must work together in order to move forward and find solutions to elevate public education without destroying things that are already working. I can’t sit by quietly anymore and hope that someone else will make it happen. I have a sworn duty to represent the interests of my community, and that includes speaking out against policies and people who endanger the well- being of our students and faculty.”

Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi school district, here explains how the education profession has been attacked and demonized, with premeditation.

 

He begins:

 

So you want to kill a profession.

 

It’s easy.

 

First you demonize the profession. To do this you will need a well-organized, broad-based public relations campaign that casts everyone associated with the profession as incompetent and doing harm. As an example, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign could get the front cover of a historically influential magazine to invoke an image that those associated with the profession are “rotten apples.”

 

Then you remove revenue control from the budget responsibilities of those at the local level. Then you tell the organization to run like a business which they clearly cannot do because they no longer have control of the revenue. As an example, you could create a system that places the control for revenue in the hands of the state legislature instead of with the local school board or local community.

 

Then you provide revenue that gives a local agency two choices: Give raises and go into deficit or don’t give raises so that you can maintain a fund balance but in the process demoralize employees. As an example, in Michigan there are school districts that have little to no fund balance who have continued to give raises to employees and you have school districts that have relatively healthy fund balances that have not given employees raises for several years.

 

Then have the state tell the local agency that it must tighten its belt to balance revenue and expenses. The underlying, unspoken assumption being that the employees will take up the slack and pay for needed supplies out of their own pockets.

 

Additionally , introduce “independent” charters so that “competition” and “market-forces” will “drive” the industry. However, many of these charters, when examined, give the illusion of a better environment but when examined show no improvement in service. The charters also offer no comprehensive benefits or significantly fewer benefits for employees. So the charters offer no better quality for “customers” and no security for employees but they ravage the local environment.

 

Then create a state-mandated evaluation system in an effort to improve quality…..

 

That is how it begins.

 

For his willingness to speak out honestly and courageously, I add Steve Matthews to the blog’s honor roll as a hero of public education.

 

 

 

Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, the chair of the Public Education Committee, declared that the House would allocate $3 billion to public schools. In the past, the legislature has waited for the courts to order them to increase funding.

Jimmie Don Aycock is a Republican from Killeen. He is a hero to more than 5 million public school children in the great state of Texas. I humbly add him to the honor roll of this blog.

“The announcement also could signal a major fight with the Texas Senate, where budget writers have decided they don’t want to spend nearly as much on public schools.

“Texas still is battling a 2011 lawsuit filed by more than 600 school districts — including those in Austin, Pflugerville and Hutto — after state lawmakers made deep cuts to public education to balance a budget shortfall.

“Travis County state District Court Judge John Dietz — who presided over a similar challenge a decade ago — sided with districts yet again last August, saying the school finance system was inadequate, inefficient and imposed an illegal statewide property tax.

“Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court, which announced in late January it would hear the state’s appeal. But a ruling is not expected before the end of the 140-day session, leaving it up to lawmakers to decide what to do with school finance in the meantime.

“Aycock said Wednesday that an informal group of House lawmakers that had been meeting before and during this year’s legislative session, which began in January, first thought that they would wait until the high court rules, but have since had a change of heart — and hope the Texas Senate goes along.

“The Central Texas lawmaker said the decision came down to a fundamental question of “Do you try to do what’s right for children in the state of Texas or do you try to outguess the lawyers?”

Ohio seems to have an amazing number of district superintendents with integrity, unafraid to speak up. Superintendent Steve Kramer of the Madeira City schools wrote an open letter to the state superintendent Richard Ross, describing the unnecessary burden of testing.

For standing up for students, I name Steve Kramer to the honor roll.

He writes:

Dr. Richard Ross, Superintendent Ohio Department of Education
25 South Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215-4183

Dear Dr. Ross:

This week the Madeira City School District joined districts across the state and nation in implementing the new PARCC and AIR state-mandated testing. After witnessing the monumental amount of time and resources our faculty, staff and administrators have spent in preparing for, and now executing these tests, I am profoundly concerned that they are neither relevant nor important to the high quality instruction Madeira City Schools has been proud to provide for over 80 years.

State and federal legislation regarding high stakes testing has been enacted with little or no regard to best educational practice. Public school districts have been given no option but to administer the tests as mandated by law. And yet, many of our parents are now seeing first hand the amount of time that these tests are taking and questioning the overall value of their results. I would tend to agree with them.

The Madeira City Schools Board of Education and I have discussed these concerns at great length. While everyone can agree that school districts should have some measure of accountability to its taxpayers, I would argue that when those measures impact an organization’s ability to accomplish its core mission, assessment in the name of accountability has gone too far. This is certainly the case in our K-12 public schools. I urge you as an educational leader in this state to advocate for reducing the amount of state mandated testing and demand a more common sense approach that balances the needs of what we know about our students with how they learn. In Madeira, we are about kids and high quality teaching and learning, not testing.

Three clear recommendations have been talked about amongst my colleagues that I would like you to consider:

1. Continue to review the state mandated test schedule and advocate for reducing the amount of testing to one content area per grade level, per school year, starting no sooner than the third grade.

2. In your review of testing, stay focused on the state mandated tests and not on limiting the amount of diagnostic or meaningful formative assessments that actually help teachers in guiding instruction. The survey you
recently sent out neglected to focus on the state mandated tests.

3. As more mandates are discussed and debated amongst the politicians in Columbus, I urge you to support your
colleagues in the field and stand up for public education and against the misguided policies of lawmakers. Insist that lawmakers and the Ohio Department of Education involve local school leaders on any educational changes PRIOR to implementing new laws. The students of Ohio demand nothing less from the state superintendent of public instruction. Students and valuable instructional time are at risk when we chase practices that are not research-based or for that matter, are contrary to what educational research would say is effective.

I have been meeting the past few months with area superintendents and board members from southwest Ohio about how we can work together to effect change and return local control back to our communities. To that end, parents and community members of Madeira will be asked to join me in sharing their views with our elected officials on state and federally mandated testing as well as other significant issues related to our loss of local control.

Sincerely,

Steve Kramer Superintendent Madeira City Schools

cc:
Senator Bill Seitz
Representative Jonathan Dever
Ohio School Board Representative Pat Bruns, District 4

Su

Bill Ashton, an English teacher at Jacqueline M. Walsh High School in Pawtucket (RI), has been suspended for telling students about “OPT-Out” and other aspects of the Common Core-inspired PAARC test. The students and many parents in the school are protesting his suspension.

Students of Mr. Ashton have created a Facebook page to demand his return. It is called BRING BACK MR. ASHTON.

This is a time for truth and courage. Mr. Ashton joins our honor roll for living in truth.

The Network for Public Education released a statement supporting students, teachers, and administrators who opt out or support it.

Art Tate, the superintendent of Davenport, Iowa, public schools announced at a school board meeting that he was going to break the law by spending more money for his students than state law allows. He said the district has ample reserves to pay for the additional spending. The Legislature imposed a formula that gives Davenport schools less than 170 other districts. Two-thirds of the students in the district are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Art Tate joins the honor roll of this blog for his courage and readiness to take a stand on behalf of students.

 

Davenport schools Superintendent Art Tate Monday said he intends to “violate state law” and use more money than the state of Iowa has authorized.

 

The move will stave off budget cuts that Tate and the board had been discussing for months.

 

“I am taking this action after careful consideration and understanding the possible personal consequence,” Tate said. “I take full and sole responsibility for the violation of state law.

 

“With this action, I am following the example of our state Legislature, which has ignored the law this year by not providing districts with the state supplemental aid amount by Feb. 12, 2015.”

 

Tate’s address to the board and the audience was greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

 

Tate said a legislative forum on Saturday, when he saw some of his students wearing T-shirts that said “I’m Worth-Less,” influenced his decision.

 

Three students wore those T-shirts to the Monday board meeting and spoke about the inequity of the state funding system for education.

 

“We won’t stand for our schools being underfunded,” North High School student Anthony DeSalvo said. “We won’t stand for inequality. Our students are not worth less than anyone else.”

 

All three students briefly stood behind Tate during the board meeting.

 

The forum, Tate said, made him realize his personal responsibility as the district leader to take action. The students’ T-shirts, he said, are literally correct….

 

Earlier, Tate had planned for the district to slash $3.5 million from the general fund budget for the 2015-16 school year and $5 million from the next year’s budget.
Several board members spoke in support of Tate.
“I think it’s criminal that we’re put in this position and that our children are made to wear shirts that say ‘I’m Worth-Less,'” said board member Jamie Snyder. “What investment does the state of Iowa think is more important than our children?”
“I applaud you, Dr. Tate,” said board member Ken Krumwiede, who also attended the Saturday forum. He said he was disappointed in the legislators who were there. “I hope you’re all listening out there … you need to contact your legislators to get things changed in Des Moines.”
Board Vice President Rich Clewell said, to much laughter, that he felt like he had “walked out of a board meeting and into a Baptist revival.”
“Although the cost of education might be high, what is the cost of ignorance?” Clewell asked.
Tate said he will make budget cuts with early retirement, utility savings through an energy conservation program, moving maintenance contracts from the general fund to the management fund and curtailing professional development during the school day, amounting to $1.4 million in savings.
“I will be asking no other reductions to programs and personnel, and most notably, I will not be increasing class size in order to reduce teacher positions,” he said.
Tate said he intends to use up to $1 million to support new programs to reduce the achievement gap, to “fight the effects of poverty, and to address diversion programs needed to turn around our out-of-school suspension numbers.”

 

 

I am pleased to add Superintendent Greg Power to the honor roll. He spoke up to those in power in Ohio, bluntly castigating them for the “assessment madness” that is ruining education. His statement was posted online by the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.

 

Bill Phillis of the Coalition writes:

 

“The email from Greg Power (posted below) to State Superintendent Dr. Ross expresses the viewpoint of a lot of school administrators and teachers throughout the state and nation. As the Governor and 131st General Assembly gear up to unleash more K-12 public education legislation, other public school personnel may wish to weigh in on policy matters that relate to the education of Ohio’s children.”

 

 

Dear Superintendent Ross:

 

I write from the field to provide feedback regarding the ongoing drive by our state and federal governments to make public education “accountable.” As an advocate for the children of the Little Miami Learning Community, I can no longer remain silent regarding the legislated testing and assessment madness that has been thrust upon our schools. What has been occurring over the last several years and what is about to be unleashed upon our students and staff is nothing short of government malpractice. In fact, I believe the following quote from the 1983 A Nation at Risk is most applicable to what is being done to public education: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” Simply replace the phrase “unfriendly power” and insert our “state and federal governments.” In essence, the narrow assessment frenzy is moving us toward achieving the mediocrity referenced in the above quote.

 

In the name of “accountability” the new, different, and increased high-stakes assessments are in fact driving our learning environments to become so narrowly focused that the state and federal governments are creating a generation of stressed and bewildered test takers. What is being done to our children does not place their needs in proper perspective, nor does it properly support the efforts of our teachers with our children. Our schools cannot create successful, well-rounded students when there is such an overemphasis on high-stakes assessments. I would hope that it is not public education’s goal to create adults who perform well on high stakes tests, but rather adults who are good citizens with the requisite skills necessary to be economically successful citizens. Do employers require their employees to take annual high-stakes assessments on the job? What is going on now is wrong!

 

Recently, you made some recommendations to reduce and modify assessments and indicated this will require changes in the law. However, it appears that the “fix” will be to legislate a limit, resulting in local districts doing away with meaningful assessments that support the specific learning needs of students while maintaining the high-stakes state assessments. My district uses student assessments to progress monitor so we can ensure each student is progressing with appropriate supports and interventions. I would hate to see this go away because of a state mandated time limit on assessments. There are assessment frameworks available which provide both progress monitoring for formative instruction as well as providing summative student data which shows growth over time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the state to adopt such a framework absent the current high stakes framework?

 

As we prepare for the state-wide infrastructure test this Thursday and for the first of two twenty-day test windows beginning in February, our curriculum director, special education director, EMIS coordinator, technology director, principals, assistant principals and teachers are being required to abandon their primary functional roles to prepare for these assessments. These staff members have spent countless hours and will continue to spend countless hours in these preparation activities as we continue to receive ever changing protocol guidance that often contradicts and causes follow-on support requests from your Ohio Department of Education offices. Departmental guidance has certainly been untimely, ever changing, and at certain points unknowable. I believe the unrealistically legislated timelines of implementation for all of these changes cause even more concern. Why would anyone create such a set of circumstances? We certainly will be seeing the “fruits” of this legislative wisdom coming to full fruition in the coming months.

 

Of added note, our district continues to incur added expenses as we work to meet all of the requirements needed to support this mandated testing without the benefit of any added financial support from the state or federal levels. Our district has spent and will continue to spend dollars on technology to support the online components of this testing, and will most likely add staff to support this assessment framework. The costs associated with all of this are being borne in large part by the local tax payers. These dollars are better spent on other needs to support our students and their learning needs.

 

A guideline limitation of 6%-10% has been placed on the number of students who can utilize the “read aloud” accommodation on the ELA portion of the state assessment. We have been in contact with the Ohio Department of Education Office of Exceptional Children and have discussed our concern with this limitation at length. We do not wish to be out of compliance with the federal IDEA requirements related to our students who possess an IEP. We have been informed by your department that if we cannot attain the 6%-10% limitation on the “read aloud” accommodation, our test results above this threshold may be invalidated. After having been informed last November that districts needed to work toward this 6%-10% guideline threshold (not achieve it) we now receive ODE guidance that we must be at or below this threshold. All of this just days before the first test. Our district will endeavor to do what is right for our kids and provide the “read aloud” accommodation as verified by our teams. We will do this irrespective of what appears to us to be the arbitrary 6%-10% limitation.

 

Each community should have the kinds of schools it desires. We believe very strongly in local community control. My district, like many across the state, has been blessed with great kids, families, and staff. Little Miami is a great community where all of our stakeholders work toward supporting each child. In the current context of what has been legislated and mandated, continuing with measuring, assessing, quantifying, and grading our kids, staff, and schools does not provide the supports necessary for each child to succeed. In fact, the current state and federal approach hinders our schools from being able to do so. There is growing displeasure and mistrust of all that is being done to public education in the name of accountability. Please work with us to stop this madness.

 

Best regards,

 

 

Greg Power, Lt. Col. USAF Retired
Superintendent
Little Miami Local Schools

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