Archives for category: Parents

Peter Greene watched “All in with Chris Hayes,” in which Merryl Tisch and I discussed and disagreed about the value of the Common Core tests. The reason for the debate was the reports of large numbers of parents opting out their children.

Tisch, whom I have known for many years, is Chancellor of the Néw York State Regents. She defended the testing as necessary and helpful.

Peter Greene analyzed her changing rationales about why the tests are valuable.

She believes they help the neediest children, but of course these are precisely the children likeliest to fail. I don’t see how children gain motivation by failing a test that has been designed to fail 70% of all students.

She thinks that the opt outs are a “labor dispute” between the Governor and the teachers’ union. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to respond that parents do not act at the union’s command. They act in the best interests of their child.

Merryl Tisch is an intelligent woman, and I look forward to having a conversation with her, off-camera.

Long Island, Néw York, is indeed the epicenter of opt out. The numbers are coming in, and they are historic. Never before have so many parents withheld their children from state testing to protest the overuse and misuse of testing.

The Long Island Press continues to be the best source of information for LI activism, and its reporter Jaime Franchi continues to provide excellent coverage (by contrast, the Néw York Times had not a single word about the statewide and national opt outs, but a front-page story about the Atlanta educators who were sentenced to jail). The corporate-owned Newsday has a larger circulation but has been consistently hostile to teachers and opting out. This is odd because the populous island that is mostly suburban has some of the best public schools in the state.

Franchi writes:

“With day one of three controversial Common Core ELA (English Language Arts) examinations for grades three through eight completed in New York State, the total score of students refusing to take the tests continues to rise exponentially.

“Compiled by Jeanette Deutermann, founder of anti-Common Core Facebook group “Long Island Opt Out” and a founding member of New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of 50 parent and teacher organizations who oppose the standardized tests, Long Island school officials—including Board of Education members, administrators and educators, she says—are reporting an astounding number of test refusals.

“As of press time, her preliminary unofficial count from more than half the 124 school districts on Long Island had already tallied more than 62,000 students opting out—more than last year’s total figure for the entire state and double the 30,000 students from across Long Island who refused the tests last year—according to a Google Drive spreadsheet on Long Island Opt Out’s Facebook page. Comsewogue School District, home base of vocal public education advocates including Dr. Joe Rella, its superintendent, and Beth Dimino, an eighth grade science teacher and president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, who stood as a “conscientious objector” earlier this year and vowed to refuse to administer Common Core exams to students, saw 82 percent of their eligible students refuse the test–a new record for that district.

“Sisi Wong Townson, co-president of the Plainedge Middle School PTA, reports that a record-shattering 74 percent of Plainedge students opted out of the test yesterday, including an entire third-grade class. A vocal opponent of high-stakes standardized testing, she testified against Common Core before New York State legislators two years ago drawing upon her personal experience as a student in Hong Kong.”

Peter Greene reports that Kentucky absolutely prohibits opt outs from state tests. No parental choice whatever. The children belong to the state, and that is that.

Kentucky parents should organize and demonstrate civil disobedience. That’s the American way when oppressed.

Juan Gonzalez has a front-page article in the New York Daily News about the historic opt out that swept across New York State.

 

He writes:

 

The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.

 

This “opt-out” revolt has been quietly building for years, but it reached historic levels this time. More than half the pupils at several Long Island and upstate school districts joined in — at some schools in New York City boycott percentages neared 40%.

 

At the Patchogue-Medford School District in Suffolk County, 65% of 3,400 students in grades three to eight abstained from the test, District Superintendent Michael Hynes told the Daily News.

 

“There was a very strong parent contingent that spoke loudly today,” Hynes said.

 

At West Seneca District near Buffalo, nearly 70% of some 2,976 students refused testing. Likewise, at tiny Southold School District on Long Island’s North Fork, 60% of the 400 students opted out; so did 60% of Rockville Centre’s 1,600 pupils. And in the Westchester town of Ossining, nearly 20% of 2,100 students boycotted.

 

“It’s clear that parents and staff are concerned about the number of standard assessments and how they’re used,” Ossining school chief Ray Sanchez said.

 

The final numbers are not in, and may not be in for a few days, but it is already clear that the number of opt outs will far surpass last year’s 50,000.

 

Contrary to the official line that this is “a labor dispute between the Governor and the unions,” the opt out movement is parent led. Parents don’t work for the union, and parents aren’t dumb. Parents protect their children from tests that have no valid purpose. Parents protect their children from tests that were designed to fail them. Parents protect their children from tests that force schools to cut back on the arts, on recess, on anything that is not tested.

 

Bravo, New York state parents!

 

Bravo especially to the New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of 50 organizations of parents and teachers who have testified in Albany, held community forums, informed PTAs, met with their legislators, and raised funds to pay for billboards and roving trucks with banners, plastered towns with car magnets, opt-out stickers, and lawn signs, and been truly herculean in their dedication to bringing down the state’s mean-spirited and pointless testing regime. Go to their website to learn how they mobilized the Empire State to say no to the Governor and his misbegotten plan to bring down public schools and teachers.

 

This is grassroots democracy at work. The hedge fund managers have millions to buy allies, but they can’t buy millions of parents, whose first and only concern is for their children. As a parent said earlier today in the Long Island Press, “The most dangerous place on Earth is between a mother and her child. Cuomo has crossed the line.”

 

Make no mistake. This is parent resistance to high-stakes testing and to Andrew Cuomo’s plan to make the stakes even higher than they were. He was able to push his plan through the legislature, but parents have just thrown a huge monkey wrench into his ability to make it work. It won’t and it can’t. That is how democracy works. Only with the consent of the governed.

 

Steven Singer is a National Board Certified Teacher of secondary school in Pennsylvania, he is also a parent of a kindergarten student. He didn’t want her to take standardized tests, and he went to her school to meet with the principal and her teacher. One of the tests is DIBELS, the other is GRADE. He thought both were useless.

 

He writes:

 

“I think standardized testing is destroying public education. It’s stressing kids out by demanding they perform at levels they aren’t developmentally ready to reach. And its using these false measures of proficiency to “prove” how bad public schools are so they can be replaced by for-profit charters that will reduce the quality of kids’ educations to generate profits.”

 

The principal said:

 

“I’ve never had a parent ask to opt out of the DIBELS before,” he said.

 

He said the DIBELS is a piece of the data teachers use to make academic decisions about their students. Without it, how would they know if their children could read, were hitting certain benchmarks?

 

Singer replied:

 

“I know I teach secondary and that’s different than elementary,” I said, “but there is not a single standardized test that I give my kids that returns any useful information. “I don’t need a test to tell me if my students can read. I don’t need a test to know if they can write or spell. I know just by interacting with them in the classroom.”

 

The principal looked to the teacher, and the teacher agreed! She knows how her students are doing without the standardized tests.

 

Singer left feeling elated.

 

“It wasn’t until then that I realized the power parents truly have. The principal Smith might have refused a TEACHER who brought up all of the concerns I had. He’s their boss. He trusts his own judgment. But I don’t work for him. In fact, he works for me. And – to his credit – he knows that.

 

“I know everyone isn’t as lucky as me. Some people live in districts that aren’t as receptive. But if parents rose up en masse and spoke out against toxic testing, it would end tomorrow.

 

“If regular everyday Dads and Moms stood up for their children and asked questions, there would be no more Race to the Top, Common Core or annual standardized testing. Because while teachers have years of experience, knowledge and love – parents have the power. Imagine if we all worked together! What a world we could build for our children!”

The new interim superintendent in Montclair, New Jersey, released the Opt Out numbers: 39% opted out in grades 3-11. That is a stupendous number and a victory for the parents who rejected the PARCC sham.

The story was posted an hour ago at NorthJersey.com: “Montclair School District Releases PARCC Opt Out Numbers” (for some unknown reason, I can’t get a link, but google and you will find the story).

Out of a total of 4,623 students in the district registered to take test in grades 3-11, 1,795 refused, or 38.8 percent.

What the amounts also show is that the percentage of students who were opted-out by their parents, with some exceptions, rose as the grade levels got higher.

According to the information provided by the district, 3,170 students across the district in grades 3-8 registered, with 968 refusing to take the test. The number of students who were opted out is 30.5 percent.

In grades 9 through 11, 1,453 students registered, with 827 not taking the test, or 56.9 percent opting out.

The highest percentage of students not taking the PARCC tests were juniors at Montclair High School. About 66.5 percent or 319 out of 480 students opted out.

The lowest percentage was in the third grade level at Watchung School, with only one student opting out of the 76 registered, or 1.3 percent.

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.”

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