Archives for category: Parents

The Néw York Board of Regents is meeting today to vote on a proposal to make field testing of online Pearson tests for Common Core mandatory. Commissioner John King says it will make the tests more valid and reliable.

But it won’t make the tests useful to teachers or students. Teachers are not allowed to know which questions their students got right or wrong, so the tests have no diagnostic value. They are not allowed to discuss the tests with one another. The tests are an expensive waste of time.

In the past, Pearson tests have had numerous errors. How will the public know if their children are fairly judged?

Teachers must teach to the tests to help the children and to protect their jobs.

This is not education. It is regimentation.

Call your Regent and tell them not to make field testing mandatory. Call your legidlators. Enough is enough.

This mom in Chicago opted her child out of the state tests. She remembered that when she was in school, there were a few standardized tests, and they were about her growth. Now the tests are pervasive, and constantly comparing her child to other children. She decided to opt out.

“When I look at my kids’ progress reports and academic records, the picture is a bit more murky. Which is surprising. It should be more clear than something that happened 30-20 years ago. And yet, my childrens’ academic records are numerical to the extreme. ISAT score: number. NWEA score: number ranges. STEP level: number. Selective Enrollment score: number. These numbers can be useful. But they are, for the most part, comparative.

“They tell me less about how my kids are doing as they do about how my kids are doing compared to everyone else. Do my children know more than the average American 6th, 4th, and 2nd graders? Yes. But what does this mean for them and their future success? I cannot answer that. And neither, really, as far as I can see, do the test results.

“If test results in 3rd grade are prescriptive of future life success, why not just sort them all out then and be done with it immediately? “O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”

“Yeah, no. That is, fortunately, not yet how it works in this world.

“Instead, (two of) my children will take the PARCC assessment this year. I took the sample assessment for ELA for 3rd grade. It is hard. I remember taking the ACT in 1991 as a high school junior, and I think the types of reading comprehension questions I answered then were easier than the exercises that the PARCC asks 8- and 9-year-olds to complete. If my conclusion, based on this exercise, is that I am dumber than the average 8-year-old, I can only imagine the effect such tests will have on the average 8-year-old. And I’m not the only adult struggling with the PARCC practice exam. And we’re only parents. At least one school board is also struggling with the validity and need for administering the PARCC.”

Will she subject her children to nine hours of PARCC testing?

Let’s hope not.

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center in Long Island, New York, tells a shocking story about the intransigence of the New York State PTA to concerns expressed by some of its members. In 2012, parents and educators in the Niagara region of the state prepared a resolution opposing high-stakes testing. They wanted to present it to the state PTA convention, but were told it was too late and their resolution would not be considered. The parents refined their resolution and tried again the next year, but the state leaders of the PTA once again said that their resolution would not be presented to the membership at the state convention.

 

Meanwhile, the New York State PTA developed its own position paper on the issues. That paper was remarkable in what it did not say–in fact it appeared to be deliberately designed to say nothing at all. There were only vague references to the effects of high-stakes testing, along with a “thumbs up” for the Common Core State Standards and APPR, the state’s controversial teacher evaluation system. The group took heart that their stronger resolution would be approved by those attending the Convention, allowing the State PTA to take a stronger stand. However, once again it was rejected by the resolutions committee with a letter that outlined the reasoning.

 

The rejection letter was an odd response that talked about Regents exams (the resolution was for 3-8 tests only) and criticized Niagara for not defining “high stakes testing,” It claimed that the position paper that the New York State PTA had recently issued was in conflict with the resolution, because it called for student scores to not be used in teacher evaluations. In fact, the NYS PTA position paper never mentioned the use of Grades 3-8 tests scores in APPR at all. It used the term “multiple measures.”

 

At the NYSPTA conventions of 2012 and 2013, Principal John McKenna and two parent representatives read statements of concern about testing from the floor. As he told me, “Our statements were met with great applause and support from the membership.”

 

That support strengthened their resolve to create a resolution that would be acceptable. In 2014, the Niagara Region PTA broke their resolution in half, creating two different resolutions to meet the objections of the state committee. “The ask” in one resolution was a review of APPR and a delay in its use for employment decisions. The second resolution asked for a delay in the use of high-stakes testing, a return to the development of assessments by teachers and a restoration of school funding.

 

Once again, the resolutions were rejected.

 

Burris asks whether the New York State PTA represents parents or teachers. The state has been in an uproar over the Common Core and the tests, which now require third graders to be tested for nine hours. Yet parents and teachers cannot get their state organization to hear their voices.

 

Who does the New York State PTA represent?

Jeanette Deuterman is a parent in Long Island, New York, who started a group called Long Island Opt Out. It now has 22,000 members. Long Island is the center of the anti-testing, anti-Common Core movement in New York State (with the Lower Hudson Valley a close second). Deuterman recently attended a forum composed of local superintendents to explain the virtues of the Common Core, and she was ready.

 

She wrote about the event:

 

There was a forum last night called “Common Core: Uncommon Challenges”. Panelists included Lydia Bellino, Assistant Superintendent for Cold Spring Harbor, Lorna Lewis, Superintendent Plainview Old Bethpage, Lydia Begley, Asst Superintendent Nassau BOCES, and moderated by Thomas Rogers, Superintendent for Syosset. Knowing who the speakers were, we knew that this would be a CC cheerleading forum. We rounded up our own experts – teachers, BATS, liaisons, and myself, and attended the event. For the first hour we heard how great it was that our second graders can use difficult advanced words in everyday language. We heard about 4 and 5 year olds learning how to write sentences. We were told that although it’s a plane being built in the air with our children on board, in a few years it will be great! Then it was our turn. One by one OUR experts approached the mike, and gave the true picture of CC and testing. We talked about privatizing, inappropriate grade level material, money, special needs and ELL children being broken and left behind, 5th graders who, being the first CC regents class, may not graduate, and 9th graders getting the brunt. We talked about those that DO stand with us to protect public education, and asked the panel “WHERE DO YOU STAND??” The response was that letters have been written, and some signed onto [Rep. Steven] Israel’s Bill…..Oh, and here I thought they might be part of the problem.

 

As often happens, when it was my turn at the mike, it was time to wrap it up. So I will write my response to the panel here instead.
Do you want to know why we are so upset? Do you want to know why we are now directing that anger at this panel? Because what we have heard is all the small benefits you see of CC. We didn’t hear you complain of testing. We didn’t hear you say the testing time is inappropriate and abusive. We didn’t hear you acknowledge that you understand why we as parents, choose to opt our children out. We didn’t hear you acknowledge the very real and very dangerous side of CC. We didn’t hear you say you understand that this is a means to privatize public education and make ungodly amounts of money. You are school leaders. You have a responsibility to inform the public. You have a responsibility to educate your parents in you district of the absolute crisis we are in, rather than trying to sell a CC package. CC is paying millions to PR firms to sell CC. They don’t need you. WE need you. We need you to be upstanders. We need you to be loud. We need you to protect our children. The next time you speak to parents or the community, PLEASE…..give them the whole picture. Educate them on what is really happening. Tell them what you talk about amongst yourselves behind closed doors. Be truthful. Be brave. Stand up.

Hi Dr. Ravitch,

I’ve been glad to see a couple of blog posts in the past few days about CCSS and early childhood. I am the mother of a kindergartener, and have been on a slow simmer about this since my daughter started school in Sept. My daughter is four, she’ll turn five Thanksgiving weekend. She woke up crying in the middle of the night last night from a dream, worried about not being able to learn to read.

She is in our very well rated zoned NYC school (Queens). Her homework load is ridiculous! As I am a working single mom, she goes to an afterschool program. I had to put my foot down with them about the amount of time spent doing homework. Capping it at about a half an hour. The pressure about learning to read is not coming from me. I don’t believe there’s anything that can be done to change the curriculum soon enough to help my daughter, but I would love to hear from you and maybe your readers about how to deal with this as a parent of a young child.

Thanks so much,

Rose XX

Myra Blackmon, journalist in Georgia, writes here about the testing resistance that is growing by the day,

“Despite Georgia’s ridiculous “assessment” of college and career readiness, it’s impossible to predict how the life of a first- or second-grader will turn out.

“All the tests we administer can’t predict a child’s future. The tests don’t measure real learning. They measure test-taking ability.
Research has shown that test scores are most accurate in measuring the socioeconomic level of the student.

“That’s correct. We use tests that don’t measure teacher competence or student learning to make or break careers, categorize children and place them in certain groups or pathways. We assume poor test scores mean a poor teacher, when often the opposite is true.

“We are obsessed with our ridiculous tests. The state legislature insists that test scores make up at least 50 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation. The lobbyists for Pearson, McGraw-Hill and others fund the campaign coffers of candidates and court high-level administrators to convince them we need more testing. And more testing is exactly what we get.

“What if we spent those millions on authentic testing, that actually allows students to demonstrate mastery of content by performing an action, doing a presentation or building something that explains the concept? What if we spent some of those millions on more observation in the classroom, or gathering feedback from parents and students that actually tells us how the teacher works with children, assigns homework, provides extra help or many of the myriad other indicators of professional competence?

“Why is it so easy to say, “Every child learns in a different way,” and at the same time insist on testing them all in exactly the same way? We have become so blinded by our obsession with accountability that the testing, not the accountability, has become the priority.

“There is a growing wave of anti-testing action across the country. Some states (including Georgia) have rolled back graduation tests.
I’ve read of several dozen school boards that have passed resolutions protesting the outrageous waste of time, resources and money of high-stakes testing. Thousands of parents opt their children out of the tests each year.

“Do you see where the resistance to testing is coming from? It is from the parents, teachers and school boards who are in the trenches of public education every day. It is from those who actually teach children and study how they learn and what they need to thrive and grow.

“Do you see where the resistance hits the brick wall? In state legislatures and the U.S. Department of Education. Those are the folks who get millions in support from the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the testing companies. Those mega-wealthy people wouldn’t dream of subjecting their own children to what they insist is essential for all others.

“Money talks. Money wins. At least until the people who know what is right make enough noise, opt out of enough tests, and vote for people who agree with them. It is time to rise up.”

Brace yourself for a flurry of statements about how testing is out of hand, and we have to be careful. We need more transparency. We need accountability about accountability. That’s more or less what the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of Great City Schools said. Add the allegedly progressive Center for American Progress. What they did not say is that the testing mania is out of control. That the need to pump billions into the coffers of Pearson and McGraw-Hill is insatiable. That parents and educators are sick of the testing overload. That it is time to say, “Enough is enough.”

Behind both statements is a desire to protect the Common Core assessments. All of these organizations are funded by the Gates Foundation, and they are not about to align with Fairtest.

What the “leaders” refuse to see is that their followers are way ahead of them. Parents and educators don’t want higher-quality tests (that unicorn, that elusive mermaid). They want a moratorium on testing. They want the beatings to stop.

CCSSO and the other members of the Beltway establishment refuse to see that we are the over tested nation in the world; that a dozen years of testing have left educators demoralized, children graded like cuts of meat, thousands of schools closed, and urban communities devastated, their public schools closed and privatized by test scores.

There is a revolution brewing on the ground against this testing madness. It is time for the leaders to get outside DC and talk to teachers and parents. Or get out of the way.

New York City parents charge that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies are underenrolled and should be placed on probation instead of awarded 14 new charters.

Here is the parents’ press release:

PRESS RELEASE
EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:30 PM, WEDS OCT 8, 2014

CONTACTS:
Brooke Dunn Parker
646 543 4492 brookedunnparker@gmail.com
Noah E. Gotbaum
917 658 3213 ngotbaum@cec3.org

Empty Seats, Phony “Waitlists,” and a Shocking Lack of Oversight: Newly Uncovered Charter Enrollment Data Sparks Parent Leaders to Demand Moratorium on ALL Charter Approvals Until SUNY & Charters Are Audited; Insist on Immediate Probation for Out-of-Compliance Success Academies

Data Shows Failure to Meet Mandated Enrollment Targets at More Than Two Thirds of Success Academy Charter Schools—and No Consequences from the SUNY Charter Institute and Trustees Charged with Charter School Oversight

Local public school parents have unearthed evidence that more than two-thirds of Success Academy charter schools were under-enrolled in 2013-14, rendering the charter chain’s oft touted claims of “high demand” and “waitlists” demonstrably false. Four of the schools were so profoundly under-enrolled that SUNY, which in its role as overseer of the state’s charter schools is charged with closing schools that fall below 80% of their targeted enrollment, would have been legally obliged to take action. Yet none of the under-enrolled Success Academies were even placed on probation—a clear dereliction of duty on SUNY’s part.

This revelation is particularly egregious as it coincides with today’s expected rubberstamp vote by the SUNY Trustees to approve 17 more charter schools, 14 of which are new Success Academies.

In the face of this evidence of massive under-enrollment and of SUNY’s lack of accountability, elected parent leaders from the city’s Community Education Councils are gathering on the steps of Tweed Courthouse together with fellow public school parent activists*, City Council Education Chair Daniel Dromm, and additional City Council members to publicly address the SUNY Charter Institute and Trustees with an important question:

Why are you authorizing the opening of more charter schools, and in particular Success Academies, when the evidence shows that Success cannot even fill seats in its existing schools?

The parents assembled are calling for:

· a full and independent investigation of SUNY to ascertain that the charter authorizer is adhering to the law

· an independent audit by the NYC Comptroller of the enrollment, attrition, suspension and expulsion rates, particularly for high-needs students, at all charter schools to determine how widespread missed (legally mandated) targets are

· a moratorium on all new charter approvals, renewals, and expansions until the above investigation and audits are completed

· immediate probation for the four Success Academies under-enrolled by more than 20% (as is mandated by their charter agreements and by State law).

Kari Steeves, who self identifies as “Class Parent for Rm. 308,” described what drove parents to undertake the research, write a letter to the trustees and comptroller, and spend days organizing to get the word out: “We are real parents, on our own time and impetus, speaking for what NYC public school parents really want. We don’t want seats at a charter school, and these numbers show neither do the vast majority of parents. Charters are being foisted upon us without community input or request, and their low enrollment, especially as compared with the overcrowding of our schools, shows that we want the resources devoted to making room for all kids at public schools.”

Public school parent Brooke Parker, whose research through the School Construction Authority’s “Blue Book” brought the enrollment data to light, remarked, “This is just the tip of the iceberg. SUNY has knowingly withheld enrollment data for charter schools from the taxpaying public—even though taxpayer dollars bankroll charters. If we had open access to enrollment information, I am convinced that we would find that even more charter schools have been allowed to open, remain open, and even expand despite their inability to meet enrollment targets. That’s outrageous. And illegal.”

Naila Rosario, president of Brooklyn’s Community Education Council 15, added, “I was already concerned that marketing might be what was creating so-called charter ‘demand.’ After all, our bus stops and subway stations are plastered with ads for charters; our mailboxes overflow with their glossy brochures. Now it seems that even with all that marketing, Success couldn’t fill its seats. By contrast, the waitlist for my child’s school, like those of many other district public schools, is ridiculously long and REAL.”

The discovery that SUNY has concealed important enrollment data and authorized out-of-compliance charter management organizations to open still more schools is the latest in a string of abuses of the public trust. Just last week, a Daily News reporter revealed that the charter authorizers had allowed a Michigan-based charter operator to overcharge the city by $250K for rent for a single Brooklyn school. And there has long been evidence that charters do not serve the students they are required to by law, particularly English language learners and special needs students.

Miriam Farer, who serves on Upper Manhattan’s Community Education Council 6, declared, “I applaud the parents who dug up this information, but let’s get real. It is not the job of parents and reporters to keep SUNY honest. I join with other public school parents and community leaders to demand that Comptroller Scott Stringer investigate the SUNY charter school authorizers, whom we believe to have violated the public trust by failing to safeguard precious education tax dollars. We also demand a moratorium on new charter school approvals, renewals, and expansions until SUNY has proven that it is not breaking the law and all schools are equitably funded.”

Some highlights from the research (sources on attached Fact Sheet):

• Of the 18 Success Academy charter schools open in the 2013-14 school year, more than two thirds (13) were under-enrolled.

• On average, schools in the SA network were under-enrolled by 7.6%

• In 2013-14 school year, 4 of SA’s 18 schools were severely under-enrolled—by 22%-33%:

Success Academy Charter School – Ft. Greene: -29%

Success Academy Charter School – Crown Heights: -22%
Success Academy Charter School – Hell’s Kitchen: -27%
Success Academy Charter School – Union Square: -33%

*including representatives from WAGPOPS!, Make The Road, and NYCpublic

###

Florida never ceases to amaze. In 2012, the voters overwhelmingly defeated a constitutional amendment to permit school vouchers, yet the Legislature keeps finding ingenious ways to siphon off public funds for vouchers.

 

Now, Julie Delegal writes, a local school board member–presumably elected to strengthen and support his district’s public schools–has come out strongly in opposition to the Florida School Boards Association’s lawsuit against private school vouchers.

 

What you need to know to understand this story is that former Governor Jeb Bush loves vouchers, and everyone on his team does what Jeb wants.

 

This is how her article begins. It is worth reading it all to see how the privatization movement is trying to starve public education and send money to unaccountable private schools:

 

Duval County School board member Jason Fischer is a nice young man. But in politics, I’ve learned, it’s the nice young men you have to watch.
His most recent actions reveal that he’s a foot soldier in the war to destroy public education. And his bread may be getting buttered by lieutenants in the Jeb-Bush-brand, school privatization movement — the ones who are affiliated with his employer, Uretek Holdings.
Fischer’s recent activities put him squarely in the camp that has been systematically destroying Florida’s public schools for more than a decade. As both governor and puppet-master, Bush has overseen the implementation of a punitive school-grades system and an overreaching teacher-accountability scheme.
Meanwhile, the Bush camp has promoted privatization — and the funding choices that go with it – while the Legislature has been starving our public schools. Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s claims that he’s boosted spending for education, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that, in real dollars, per pupil spending in Florida public schools is still not up to pre-recessionary levels.
Fischer has come out strongly against the lawsuit filed by the Florida School Boards Association, which questions the constitutionality of Florida’s private-school voucher program. He not only published a guest editorial in the Jacksonvlle Times Union, he also asked his fellow public school board members to pass a resolution condemning the suit.
Voucher funding now drains state coffers by more than $300 million yearly.
Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is on record saying that privatization — voucher schools, charter schools, etc. — could siphon away up to $70 million from Duval next year.
With support from the FEA, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Florida PTA, and other education advocates, the FSBA is asking a Leon County judge to declare the tax credit voucher program unconstitutional on two grounds. Plaintiffs say that by permitting corporations to pay their taxes to the voucher program called “Step Up for Students,” instead of to the Florida treasury, the program creates a separate, shadow school system. The Florida Constitution, the suit points out, calls for a single, “high quality,” and “uniform” public school system.
The Constitution also forbids aid to religious institutions, and the majority of schools funded by “Step Up” are religious schools.
The response to the lawsuit from voucher supporters is, essentially, “You’re picking on poor children who need to have ‘choice,’ you big meanies.”

 

Is there hope for public education in Florida? Yes. Parents must organize and fight this attack on their public schools. School boards must be vigilant against privatization. Working together, they stopped the “parent trigger” twice in the Legislature. They have the power, and they can’t let down their guard for a minute. The privatization movement never rests, and neither should the defenders of public education.

 

 

Peg Robertson is a teacher and a founder of United Opt Out, a national group that encourages parents, students, and other educators not to take or give the state tests. She writes here that though she has refused to administer the PARCC assessments, someone else will do it. Try as she might, she admits, she cannot protect the children from endless test prep and the age-inappropriate practices introduced into the early grades by Common Core.

She writes:

“Across the nation teachers are fighting back hard. Across the nation – actually across the world – teachers will shut their doors and do their best to protect children from high stakes testing, test prep, nonstop district and state mandated testing and more. But – the truth is this, our best is not good enough, because in order to attempt to do our best we are jumping through hoops, shutting our door to secretly do what is right for children, spending our own money on resources for our classrooms and on supplies for children who have none, and we are spending hours and hours gaming our way through “teach to the test” curriculum and massive amounts of mandated corporate formative and summative assessment – in order to attempt to “do our best.”

“So, I’m going to be blunt here. I cannot do my best under these conditions. I can attempt to do my best, but my best under these conditions is not good enough. And my attempts to play the game and resist where I can will not be enough to protect your children from what is happening….

“And I cannot protect children from certain non-negotiables within common core curriculum and on-going assessment. We cannot protect the children from the common core professional development which takes us away from our buildings and leaves children with substitute teachers. As a literacy coach, I do what I can to rephrase and rid my school of corporate reform language such as rigor, grit, calibrate, accountability, no excuses and college and career ready. I can even replace these words with language that represents inquiry, heart, relationships, community, equity, creativity and more. But ultimately, all of my attempts are simply band aids.

“Even though I have done my best to make writing “on-demand” prompts developmentally appropriate for kindergarten (let’s face facts -there is NO such thing), it is still an “on-demand” writing prompt for kindergarten. Even though I will do everything in my power to support children in their inquiries about bugs, outer space, poetry, sports, cooking, their favorite authors, music, art, history and more; I cannot stop the testing train which makes stops in every classroom every week in some shape or form. The classroom is no longer driven by the rhythm of learning, it is driven by the testing schedule which continually interrupts our children’s talk and exploration of their interests – the testing schedule extinguishes the passion for learning. It makes all of us tired with the constant stop. start. stop start. as we try to regroup and get back on track with the real learning that is occurring in the classrooms. I can’t tell you how many “ah ha” moments have been lost for children as they had to break away from their projects, their thinking, their conversation, in order to hunker down over an assessment as they labor for the corporations…..

“Some days I feel like a nurse inside a war tent with wounded soldiers. And no matter how brave I am, no matter how much I stand up to these reforms, it is not enough – they have taken away so much of my power, and my ability to make professional decisions in order to protect children and do what is right for all children.

“I teach at a school with 73% free/reduced lunch. Over 40 languages are spoken within my school. I know what our children need – they need wrap around services for poverty, books, librarians, small class size, health care, nurses, counselors, recess, quality food, and the opportunity to express their interests as they talk, read, write, play, sing, dance, create and smile. But you see, that doesn’t create corporate profit. Poverty must be ignored in order to keep corporate profit churning.

“Parents, I cannot protect your children. I must be honest in telling you that the war is alive and well in our classrooms, and children are being harmed every day. What is happening is evil, cruel and abusive. Refuse the tests and deny the corporations the profit, deny the district, state and federal government your child’s data (which they can share with corporations), deny the publishing companies the opportunity to create more common core products. Without the data, the profit ends and we have an opportunity to reclaim our public schools, our profession. We have an opportunity to do what is right for all children. I am done smiling and saying, I am doing my best. I’m not.”

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