Archives for category: Parents

Ken Mitchell, who recently retired as a school superintendent, attempts to shed light on thorny problems in current education policy in this article.

 

No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been dismal failures, and their main result appears to be the creation of chaos and incoherence at the local level. Both assume that standardized tests are not only the measure of education but the goal of education. Legislators are reacting by passing laws about how to evaluate teachers, a subject about which they are not expert and not well-informed.

 

Mitchell calls for the creation of an education summit, but with a twist:

 

It is time for an education summit, but not one that emanates from the governor’s office.

 

The governor has appointed commissions on mandate relief, school reform, and Common Core, naming members who often lacked expertise or objectivity. This time we need a summit involving stakeholders: teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and school boards. We need a de-politicized venue to ensure an objective analysis of the evidence behind current and proposed reforms related to assessment, teacher evaluation, Common Core and charter schools. If policymakers continue to mandate without evidence and allow profiteers to influence educational decisions, children will be harmed and public education ruined.

 

His suggestion makes sense. The Legislature should listen to the experts, rather than attempt to regulate the teaching profession. They would never dream of passing laws to evaluate the medical profession or any other profession. Why should they tell principals and superintendents how to evaluate teachers?

In this post, Jonathan Pelto prints the statement of a teacher who defends parents who choose to opt out, despite efforts by the State Education Department to intimidate them. The state takes the position that there is no law allowing opt-out. On the other hand, there is no law prohibiting opt-out. In the upside-down world of corporate reform, the absence of a law prohibiting opt-out means no one may opt out. Just imagine all the other activities that may be prohibited because there is no law on the books specifically permitting them!

 

Martin Walsh of Weathersfield teaches U.S. history. He writes:

 

This year, after several commentators across the state noted that parents had the right to opt out of the SBAC, Connecticut interim Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell sent a memo to superintendents stating that “These [CT] laws do not provide a provision for parents to ‘opt-out’ their children from taking state tests.” And that, “These mandates have been in effect for many years…”

 

Several superintendents used this memo to inform parents that they had no right to opt their children out of testing. That was wrong. Fortunately, Joseph Cirasuolo, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) has now acknowledged parental opt-out rights.

 

The statutes themselves are silent on parental rights. True, there is no opt-out provision, but neither is there a non-opt out provision nor any parental penalty for opting out. Additionally, many parents have opted out of testing over the life of this “mandate” without government interference.

 

The state may be denied Title I funding if the statewide participation rate falls below 95 percent, but no state has ever been punished in that manner. Government officials should provide citizens with facts, not misleading information designed to deprive them of their rights…..

 

Enter Pearson Education and American Institutes for Research (A.I.R.), the corporations responsible for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SBAC respectively. Already free to use their tests for the purpose of data mining thanks to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s unilateral amendment of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), these companies demand more.

 

They are monitoring student use of social media in order to determine what is being said about them and their tests and attempting to punish students who run afoul of their rules. That’s right; Pearson and A.I.R. are spying on school children. Wow. Are we living in the United States or North Korea? What about First Amendment Rights?

 

If the state board of education and local school officials support this policy, I will no longer have to refer to the Pentagon Papers case to explain prior restraint; I will merely have to read students the SBAC test rules. These rules and practices constitute a “clear and present danger” to our children.

 

Who knew so many Constitutional rights would have to be trampled upon in order to accommodate the corporate for-profit testing juggernaut? But data collection and tracking are more than worth the trade-off, right?

 

Life in the PARCC police state or under SBAC (curiously similar to SAVAK, Iran’s secret police under the Shah) will be fine, as long as no one criticizes the regime. Sounds like totalitarianism to me.

 

I propose a better solution. The best and most effective way to protect the proprietary interests of these corporations, and more importantly our liberty, is to tell Pearson and A.I.R that they can keep their damned tests and opt our children out…..

Julian Vasquez Heilig analyzes a new poll about choice. Choice is alluring but what are people concerned about most?

Lack of parental involvement in the schools, class size, too much testing, budget cuts.

What do they think about charters? They don’t object to them so long as
they don’t take funding from their public school. They think charter board meetings should be open to the public. Most want to limit their expansion.

Alyssa Katz is a member of the editorial board of the Néw York Daily News, which has been a reliable cheerleader for the Common Core, high-stakes testing, and all of Governor Cuomo’s bad ideas to punish public schools, teachers, and children.

 

But Alyssa Katz has a singular advantage over most editorial writers: she is a parent of a child in public school. She has seen what Common Core looks like and how confusing the sample questions on the tests are.

 

She understands why Cuomo’s popularity rating has plummeted and why it is rock bottom among public school parents. He has only a 50% approval rating. 28% approve of his education ideas, as do only 21% of public school parents.

 

Since Cuomo has asserted his education leadership in a state where he has no legal authority over education (he does not appoint the state board or the state commissioner), parents will blame him for incoherent Common Core assignments and for the failure of their child on Common Core tests. If favorite teachers are fired for low scores, it will be Cuomo’s fault.

 

Katz has had it.

 

She writes:

 

“With kids prepping for April tests, anxieties are again mounting. At least, that’s the view from my dining-room table, where my third-grader grapples with hair-tearing homework , and where her guiding inspiration for writing assignments is a laminated card drilling “RADD” — for Restate, Answer, Detail, Detail.

 

“If the questions on kids’ homework and, by extension, their standardized tests, are tough to understand, how does it make sense to base high-stakes teacher employment decisions on those tests?

 

“Take this math assignment: “Draw an array. Then write a fact family to describe your array.” The sound you hear is sweat trickling down my husband’s face.

 

“The question that follows asks whether it’s correct to surmise that a family whose members have 14 legs consists of 7 people. One kid answered — it became an internet meme — “Yes, because 14÷2 = 7, but not everyone has two legs. Go to http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org.”

 

“My breaking point came with a math problem asking kids to combine Grover Cleveland’s electoral votes won in 1884, 1888 and 1892, a sum that would mean nothing to even the most obsessive presidential historian.”

David Gamberg, superintendent of schools in Greenport and Southold, two neighboring towns on the North Fork of Long Island in Néw York, sent a letter home to parents, outlining the procedure they should follow if they don’t want their child to take the Common Core tests.

He assured parents that students will not be compelled to “sit and stare,” a punitive approach in some districts.

An enlightened educator, Gamberg is a strong supporter of the arts in schools. The elementary school in Southold has its own orchestra and a vegetable garden where children raise food for the cafeteria.

Jennifer is a Momma Bear in Tennessee. The Momma Bears are a parent group that fights for their children and their schools.

Jennifer had a fantasy: She imagined she was stuck in an elevator with Bill Gates. Trapped between floors. And she told him what she thought. In the time they were stuck, she insisted he watch a video that disproved his world-view. She even gave him fruit snacks (he was famished).

What did she teach him? Read and enjoy.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters is a leading advocate for student privacy rights. She explains how Pearson is actually encouraging the growth of the Opt Out movement (unintentionally, of course) by monitoring students’ social media. Even though tweets and Facebook postings are public, it is kind of creepy to know that a big corporation is reading your child’s comments.

Add this to the flap over the silly story of “The Pineapple and the Hare,” known as #pineapplegate, and parents have ample reason to doubt the value of standardized tests to rank and rate their child.

Add to that the ubiquitous data mining that is embedded in the online testing, and parents should truly be alarmed.

Hooray! Jonathan Pelto reports that parents in Connecticut have the right to opt their child out of Common Core testing!

“In a published report today in the CTMirror, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Joeseph Ciracoulo, has announced that superintendents in Connecticut will now recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Testing AND that students who opt out will be provided with an alternative location where they can read a book, do homework or engage in some other educational activity for the eight to eight and a half hours of the SBAC Testing.”

Eight (8) hours of testing! This is nuts!

Opt out!

Ed Berger lives in Arizona, where the forces of privatization are strong even though 85% of the state’s children attend public schools. Berger is active in his own home town with parents dedicated to saving their community schools from privatization. He has developed some simple guidelines to help others who want to support their community schools.

The superintendent in affluent Néw Canaan, Bryan Luizzi, changed his mind. A few days ago, he said that students were not allowed to refuse to take the Common Core tests. After parents objected and signed a petition, he realized that students have the right to opt out.

Protests work.

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