Archives for category: Parents

Today, parents and students rallied against the state tests at dozens of schools across New York City, unassuaged by State Commissioner John King’s claims that the tests were better this year and consumed less than 1% of the year. Little children that had sat for three hours of reading tests did not take comfort in his words, and parents demanded transparency.

“The protests, which drew hundreds of people to some schools before the start of classes, followed a speech Thursday by New York State Education Commissioner John King, in which he fiercely defended the state’s education initiatives, including the new standards and tests.

“He described recent debates over those efforts as “noise” and “drama,” and attributed some of the outcry to “misinformation.” And while acknowledging that some schools spend too much time preparing for tests, he insisted that the state had worked to reduce testing time. He added that the new Common Core exams “are better tests” than previous ones.

“His comments struck a nerve with some of the principals, who usually avoid getting involved in education’s political fights, but felt impelled to refute the notion that misinformed members of the public were stirring up unrest about the tests.

“P.S. 59 Principal Adele Schroeter said the hundreds of parents and students who filled the streets around her Midtown school Friday morning were “more than noise and drama, in spite of what John King might say.””

Tomorrow, dozens of Manhattan principals plan their own protests. One of them wrote in a letter to parents: ““I have never seen a more atrocious exam.”

“Echoing criticisms of the exams that other educators have posted online, the Manhattan principals said the tests did not measure the type of analytical reading and writing they associate with the Common Core standards. They also argued that the tests were too long and many of the multiple-choice answers were bafflingly similar.

“I have a double masters and some of them could be A or C,” said Medea McEvoy, principal of P.S. 267 on the Upper East Side, one of the schools planning to protest.

“The principals also said that confidentiality rules shield the test maker, publishing giant Pearson, from public scrutiny. And because only a portion of the test questions are eventually released, they said, teachers cannot rely on them as instructional tools.
The school leaders added that, considering all the flaws they found in the exams, they do not trust the state’s new evaluations that rate teachers partly on their students’ test scores.”

Jill Osler, a parent in Nebraska, wrote the following statement:

 

Parents Can Take a Stand Against Testing

Almost one year ago, I wrote an editorial stating my belief that high-stakes standardized testing is not necessary for, and even detrimental to learning. Teachers feel pressure to spend large amounts of instructional time preparing students for Ne-SA tests—which robs students of authentic learning opportunities while killing natural curiosity and passion for learning. No educational research supports standardized testing, yet districts must administer Ne-SA to comply with No Child Left Behind.

What can I do? This past year, I have contacted the Nebraska Board of Education, our former Commissioner, senators on the Education Committee, Nebraska State Education Association, our Governor, Secretary of Education, President, two school lawyers, and met with my state senator. I learned I cannot wait for the government and politicians to do what is best for kids.

Therefore, we are choosing to exercise our parental right to opt our children out of taking Ne-SA tests. I can no longer speak strongly against these tests, and then support them as I tell our children to do their best on them.

Is it possible to opt out? It is stated on page 27 of the Nebraska Department of Education’s Update: Standards, Assessment, Accountability 2013-2014, that parents or guardians can make a formal written request to the district that their student be removed from testing. No reason is required.

How will opting out affect our school? NCLB states that if fewer than 95% of a district’s students take Ne-SA, the district will not make Adequate Yearly Progress. However, I am doubtful any district will make AYP, because this year 100% of students are required to be proficient in Ne-SA Reading and Math. This is another reason I feel the time is right to opt out.

How will opting out affect our children? Our principal assures us they will never feel punished. On the Ne-SA results, our children will show a score of zero—which will not impact grades, future schooling, or graduation.

What will our children do during Ne-SA testing? We identified activities they could do independently, so direct supervision is not required. They are prepared to respond if peers ask why they are not participating.

It is up to us, as parents, to stand up for what is best for children. It is nothing personal against our school or state; it is a much larger issue. We love our school and state, however, we love our children more.

I previously commended Helen Gym for her activism as a parent advocate for public education in Philadelphia.

She is on the honor roll as a hero and an exemplar. And, boy, Philadelphia needs her now!

Philadelphia is Ground Zero for the fake reform movement.

The fake reformers are well on their way to obliterating public education in that great American city and proud of it.

With all the wealth and power concentrated in that city and state, the power brokers and financiers have decided to extinguish public education.

One person standing in their way is Helen Gym.

Read about what she has done these past few weeks.

She gave a TED talk (and look at that slide over her head: $26,000 per child in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, vs. $14,000 in Philadelphia).

She was named one of the most powerful people in Philadelphia.

She was selected by the White House as a “champion of change.” (Ha! fighting the Obama administration’s rightwing education policies.)

She helped other parents fight the parent trigger.

She joined me at AERA and chastised the nation’s education researchers for abandoning cities like Philadelphia.

Helen Gym is a hero and an inspiration for us all!

 

Parents in Georgia sued to block a tax-credit program that has drained nearly $300 million from public schools since 2008. Meanwhile the public schools have had to absorb crippling budget cuts.

“A controversial state program that offers tax credits to people who fund private school scholarships is unconstitutional and robs public schools of much-needed financial support, a lawsuit filed by Georgia parents Thursday argues.

“The group, backed by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation, says the student scholarship tax credits violate both the state constitution and tax laws by, among other things, providing indirect public funding to religious schools, giving donors illegal benefits and allowing a publicly funded school program to be run by private groups.”

The Southern Education Foundation issued the following statement:

Statement by Steve Suitts, Vice President, Southern Education Foundation

April 3, 2014

“The Southern Education Foundation fully supports the lawsuit challenging Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program.

“The tax credit program for private schools has drained almost $300 million in tax funds from the state treasury since 2008 while public schools have suffered deep cuts across the state. The first constitutional obligation of the state is to provide “an adequate public education” for Georgia’s public school children.

“This state tax-funded program is administered by self-appointed private organizations that are virtually unregulated. They collect, spend, and distribute millions of tax dollars to private schools. Both tax funded private scholarship organizations and tax-funded private schools are unaccountable to the public for how they spend tax dollars, who receives tax-funded scholarships, and how they are educating children to meet state standards.

“This has been a costly failed experiment that is operating contrary to the state constitution. It is time to end it once and for all.”

This is part 3 of Jeffrey Weiss’s series in the Dallas Morning News on the pushback against testing in Texas. In this article, the hero is a soft-spoken professor, Walter Stroup, who challenged the validity of Pearson’s tests. His doubts caught the attention of some legislators who were not wedded to the testing beast.

Texas is where No Child Left Behind was generated and blossomed into a myth that became federal law and lives on and on, the undead law that kills the love of learning.

In earlier articles in the series, Weiss showed how the angry moms got organized to fight out-of-control testing requirements.

And he showed how brave State Commissioner Robert Scott shocked everyone by denouncing the overemphasis on standardized testing as the “heart of the vampire.” This emboldened the moms, the school boards, the superintendents, the parents, and everyone else who hated to see what the testing industry was doing to children and education.

The missing heroes in Weiss’s otherwise brilliant narrative are the hundreds of school boards, who voted to oppose high-stakes testing, creating a wave of local opposition that the legislature could not ignore. Eventually, nearly 90% of the state’s elected local school boards said “Enough is enough.”

In this article, Weiss addresses the question: if not the current regime of high-stakes testing, then what?

I came across an article in the Washington Post by Michelle Rhee, in which she chastised parents who opted their children out of state tests. This article made me happy, because it shows that the Queen Bee of high-stakes testing is worried. She is worried that the opt out movement is gaining traction. She is worried that parents are sick of the Status Quo of the past dozen years. If parents opt out, there won’t be enough data to fire teachers, to give bonuses, and to close schools. The Status Quo might collapse. How will we know how students are doing if we don’t test them? How will we know if their teachers are any good without standardized tests? How will we know if their school should be closed?

I must say that I was brought to a sharp halt in my reading of this article when Rhee spoke of what happened when her daughter came home from public school, relieved that the last test was over. This puzzled me because Rhee lives in Sacramento, and her daughters live in Nashville. I wondered, was she visiting Nashville that day? Then I remembered that one of her daughters goes to a public school, and the other goes to an elite private school that does not give standardized tests. How does she know how the daughter in the private school is doing? How can she judge her teachers? How will the principals in that school know if the teachers are doing a good job if the kids don’t take standardized tests? It is very puzzling.

And I wondered about one other thing: Michelle Rhee is a fierce advocate for charters and vouchers because she believes in choice. Why doesn’t she believe that parents should be able to choose to say no to state testing? Many voucher schools are exempt from state testing but I haven’t heard her demand that legislators include them. How will they know how their children are doing?

I wasn’t going to write about Rhee, because she seems so yesterday, but then Peter Greene sent me this hilarious post, and I realized I had to write too. But he is so funny! he calls it: “The WaPo Wastes Space on That Woman.”

The new website where teachers and parents can comment on the new tests has registered 150,000 hits in the 2 or 3 days since it was launched, according to Susan Ochshorn of ECE Policy Matters.

A great place to hear from teachers.

Jeff Nichols appeals to State Commissioner King and Chancellor Farina to call off the math tests.

He writes:

Dear Commissioner King and Chancellor Fariña,

Events are moving very fast. You are no doubt aware that today the principal, staff and parents of one of the most highly regarded schools In New York City, PS 321 in Brooklyn, will be holding a protest outside their schools to decry the abysmal quality of this year’s ELA tests. You have probably read the astonishing comments from teachers and principals that continue to pour into the the New York City Public School Parents blog and other sites (http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2014/04/liz-phillips-brooklyn-principal-i-have.html).

I have not yet heard your view of this situation, Chancellor Fariña. But as an opt out parent, I have to tell you frankly I was offended by your remarks earlier this week to the effect that while parents’ opinions should be respected, children should come to school prepared to meet challenges like the state tests.

Have you not realized that parents are protesting the tests precisely because we want our kids challenged deeply by real learning in our schools and these tests are obstructing that goal? Have you not realized that NYSED’s and Pearson’s claims that these tests represent new levels of “rigor” and “critical thinking” are demonstrably false?

There was no rigor applied to the development of these tests, nor does the practice of high-stakes testing in general stand up to critical analysis, so I fail to see how taking the state tests represents a worthwhile challenge for any child.

Moreover, Commissioner King, I cannot accept the state’s intention to keep the tests secret from parents. My wife and I are responsible for all aspects of our children’s upbringing. We would not permit a doctor to administer a vaccine to our children and forbid us from knowing what is in the shot. We will not let you subject our children to any exercise in school while forbidding us to know its contents, much less tests that are being used to determine their promotion and whether or not their teachers will be fired.

The forced, secret high-stakes testing of minor children is going to go the way of cane switches, dunce caps and forcing left-handed children to write with their right hands — practices that were once commonplace that we now regard as child abuse. It’s only a matter of time.

The question is, will our local and state education leaders join together and stop this travesty? Given the fact that the NYSED and the Pearson corporation have again utterly failed the test of earning parents’ and educators’ confidence in the quality of these exams, why should our schools proceed with administering the math tests later this month? Can you give me any reason other than obedience for obedience’s sake? All I hear from you, Commissioner King, is slogans about higher standards and career readiness. I have yet to witness direct engagement by you with the arguments made by the thousands of educators and parents in our state who are advocate abandoning high-stakes testing of young children once and for all.

I call on you, Commissioner King, to suspend the administration of this year’s state tests, and if you fail to do that (as I expect you will) I call on you, Chancellor Fariña to refuse to administer them.

We have lemon laws protecting consumers from egregiously faulty consumer products, but we no one is protecting our children from these worthless exams. Chancellor Fariña, they are state tests, so you can blame Commissioner King and the legislature for them, but you are ultimately responsible for our city’s schools. You must ensure that no one forces educational malpractice upon them. If NYSED continues to ignore the protests against the state tests that are exploding across the state, and you allow the math exams exams to go forward, the public will hold the DOE accountable as well as NYSED and the U.S. Department of Education.

We now have teachers in this city and beyond refusing to administer the state tests and parents refusing to allow their children to take them. Chancellor Fariña, will you stand with these disobedient citizens, or will you stand with Arne Duncan and John King and insist that the tests must go forward regardless of their quality, because an unjust law says they must?

I hope both of you will acknowledge that finally, enough is enough. Suspend the state tests and bring daylight onto the whole process that led to this debacle.

Sincerely,

Jeff Nichols


Jeff Nichols
Associate Professor
Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY

Jeffrey Weiss has a terrific story in the Dallas Morning News about the Texas moms who beat the powerful testing lobby.

Whenever anyone says that democracy can’t defeat the plutocrats, think of Texans Advocating for Meaningful,State Assessment. they said, “Enough is enough.” And they got busy.

The moms not only organized an effective opposition to Pearson’s lobbyists, they changed the minds of legislators who had blindly followed the ideology that tests improve schools.

Here is where the story begins:

“For 13 legislative sessions across 34 years, every time Texas passed laws about school testing, the numbers and stakes had grown. That ended in 2013, when a series of laws passed that not only demanded changes in testing, but also challenged the legitimacy of the test-based accountability system. All without a single dissenting vote.

“That enormous shift in attitude is still raising echoes nationally. And as legislators prepare for the next session, they’re discussing ways to further reduce the number and influence of tests.

“How did that happen? This is the story of how the Texas testing bubble popped.

“In weather forecasting, there’s a saying that the flapping of a butterfly wing can eventually cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. Small things can have huge and unforeseen consequences.

“The battle over testing in Texas public schools was upturned last year because of four lines in a 35-page law. That and a back-to-school night at an Austin high school.”

Learn how a group of determined moms made the difference. Many people call them “Moms Against Drunk Testing.” As do I.

They inspire parents everywhere.

Yes, we can. Yes, we can free our children and grandchildren from the maws of the testing industry.

New York State cut all ties with inBloom, the controversial data-mining project sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

The legislature, which totally ignored parent demands for new faces on the New York Board of Regents, bowed to parent protests against the State Education Department’s determination to share confidential student data with inBloom.

In this post, Leonie Haimson describes how parents organized–not only in New York, but wherever inBloom planned to gather confidential student data–and fought back to protect their children’s privacy.

Give Haimson credit for being the spark plug that ignited parent resistance across the nation.

Normally, the federal law called FERPA would have prevented the release of the data that inBloom planned to collect, but in 2011, the U.S. Department of Education changed the regulations to permit inBloom and other data-mining to access student data without parental consent.

Gates and Carnegie contracted with Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation, and the plan was to put millions of student records in an electronic data managed by amazon.com.

No one was able to assure that the data could never be hacked.

In every state and district where inBloom thought it was operative, parents brought pressure on public officials, and the contract was severed.

At present, inBloom has no known clients.

But as Haimson points out, this could change.

The thirst for data mining seems to be insatiable, and as I posted not long ago, the president of Knewton boasted that education is one sector that is ripe for data mining and that his company and Pearson would be using online tests to gather information about every student and storing it.

Protecting student privacy must remain high on every parent’s agenda.

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