Archives for category: Students

In this post, a high school history teacher says that his students are utterly confused by the new requirements for high school graduation.

So is the teacher.

“Fortunately for our students, the ODE has made the path to graduation simpler by making it more complex. Students may graduate through an acceptable score on a certification in a vocational field. OR They may graduate through receiving a remediation free score on a college entrance test (scores not yet verified). OR They may graduate by earning 18 combined points on the aforementioned state assessments with a minimum of 4 points from 2 assessments in mathematics, a minimum of 4 points from 2 assessments in English Language Arts, and a minimum of 6 points from assessments in Biology, American History, and American Government equaling a total of 14 points with the 4 additional points picked up when students score 3 or higher, which is to say “Proficient or Above.”

“Does that make sense? My sophomores couldn’t explain it to me either, and they’re expected to graduate under that system. Fear not, I provided a thorough and engaging explanation replete with visual aids and low brow humor that seemed to do the trick. I could not, however, provide them with a satisfactory explanation as to why they “have to deal with this sh*t.” (Their words, not mine)….

“Look, maybe my scenario here is confusing. On a very basic level, this new testing system is terribly problematic. The issues lie in the fact that it is new, and being created as we go, but also in the nature of the convoluted paths to graduation themselves. The sheer number of variables at play here are impossible to fathom, from student strengths to test performance, low scores in these areas, but not those, 2 points here, other scores there, nothing formalized until very late. Now, take this level of absurdity and factor in real problems like hunger, poverty, instability in the home, disability, health problems, you name it, and you have a recipe for disaster.

“What seemed like a more humane system to someone is turning out to be nothing short of a nightmare. And now the tests are changing again in ELA and Math. Who knows what new issues may arise?

“How many students will be adversely affected? I don’t know. The ODE deals in percentages, I deal in human beings, the 140 plus sophomores I’m teaching. Like the one who told me, “I left half that math test blank. We hadn’t even learned that stuff yet.” Or the other kid who said, “There were some questions…I didn’t even know what they were asking.” These are good people, hard working kids that we’re simply grinding through this machine for some political rhetoric regarding career and college readiness….

“I have no interest in a punitive high stakes testing system. I am only interested in “Proficient and Above” percentages inasmuch as they impact the kids I teach. I am ashamed to be a part of the implementation of such a system, and I work every day to attempt to remediate its terrible impact. Like many of you, I am angry.”

Bonnie Cunard Margolin is a blogger and parent activist in Florida. Her daughter did not take the state and local tests, and her mom is very proud of her.


Margolin writes:


This year, I have opted my 6th grade daughter out of all district and state testing. So, yesterday and today, while her classmates were taking the district test/ practice FSA writing assessment, she wrote an essay, on her own, instead. Here it is.
Julianne M. Cunard

18 September 2015
Testing: I Can Do the Math.
Learning is not just about taking a test. It is about understanding a lesson, not about sitting at a desk for hours, failing as you go. If you wanted to educate children, why is there an FSA, FCAT, FAIR, PARCC, LSAT, MCAT? What do all of these words mean to you? Is standardized testing effective in education? I can tell you what tests mean to me.
Testing is something I refuse to be a part of, even teachers don’t like these tests. From the article, “Putting it to the Test”, the author writes, “In September, Susan Bowles, a kindergarten teacher at Chiles Elementary School, received widespread buzz when she openly refused to administer the computer-based Florida Assessments for Instruction in reading, or FAIR.” Teachers are forced to read the script, exactly as written, scared of losing their jobs if not. There should not have to be a time in school where anyone feels extremely worried. At school, students should feel relieved and secure. Yet then, these tests come along.
If I walked into a room and saw everyone taking a district\state test, I would not be happy because the students are not learning anything. The author writes, “Teaching is an art. It is about connection. It is not about getting ready for a test that is designed 70 percent to fail. Our best teachers are leaving because they are being forced to do things in the classroom that they know is not for OUR KIDS! They are leaving for OUR KIDS!” That statement right there tells me that teachers have had enough. This is a good reason why testing is not good for education.
Teachers shouldn’t have to quit because they are forced to do something, it is their life, their class. Oh, but no… that teacher can’t talk about it. It’s all so “secret” because nobody knows how to opt out, except for the kids that know. They know how to opt out. They know they won’t fail their grade because of a test. They know they will sit there for an hour, sitting and doing nothing, everyone looking at them. They know they will get an NR2. Other kids don’t. They don’t know what an NR2 means. They DON’T know, they don’t… but they should. The one thing everyone knows in that classroom is that these district\state tests are unnecessary and ineffective.
Let’s see how the leaders would like it if we gave THEM a standardized test. Are you shocked that I said that? Well, nobody realizes how bad these tests are. One person says they are fine, but someone else will say not to take it. What do they do? This is way too much pressure for children… WAY too much. THEY ARE KIDS, TESTING FROM THIRD GRADE THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL. Innocent children testing every day. What did they ever do to you?
Some think that testing is not a big deal. It isn’t but when it’s every day, like standardized testing is, I believe that it is an outrage. From the article,”Mom- Why My Kids Won’t Be Taking the New Florida Standards Assessment Test”, the author writes, “They have to be quiet, have alternate scheduling, sit in a single classroom and learn NOTHING during “testing season” because others are testing. This is time they’ll never get back in their education.” The author is correct. What about the kids?
What if everyone wants to opt out, they know, but can’t because the leaders are telling them not to. The kids shouldn’t be punished for other’s repetitive mistakes.
There were seven hours of FSA testing that I did NOT do last year. Others did. Don’t you feel bad for the children, wasting all of that time? Yes, it’s a waste of time. I should know, I did the math, and I don’t need a test to prove it.

Bret Wooten, a businessman in a small town in Texas, was puzzled about why his wife, a second grade teacher, spent so much money on her students. At tax time, he reminded her that the purpose of working was to make money, not to rack up expenses that were not tax-deductible.


She invited him to visit her classroom. And he did.


“When I came by that next afternoon, I found myself surrounded by the children doing projects and I jumped right in. I dropped by the school as often as I could, so the children were used to me at this point. But one young man always kept his distance. After the kids had gone, I asked Michelle why. She then revealed her dark secrets, the histories of the children in her classroom.


“These kids endured everything from true poverty to sexual abuse. Her list of questionable deductions started to make sense: granola bars, orange juice, cereal, milk, jackets, band aids and endless school supplies.


“The young man that would not approach me? She told me about him last. He had endured the worst. All the men in his life injured this child in ways that still bring tears to my eyes and a rage in my soul.


“Then she said: “He needs shoes.”


“The only thing I could mutter was: “What size?”


“These days we think we will find the answer to so many questions within the pages of a book or the folds of a standardized test, but this is the reality of many children in America. I wish stories like this were on the news or touted by politicians.


“Unfortunately, acts of kindness are far too common in education and thereby deemed unnewsworthy. If these stories were aired, maybe we could actually solve some problems instead of just pointing them out.”



Mercedes Schneider calls our attention to Ann Marie Corgill’s letter of farewell to her students. As you may recall, Corgill is Alabama’s teacher of the year for 2014-15. She decided to resign after she was informed that she needed to get new certification to teach the grade she was teaching when she won the award. She had taught for 21 years in grades 1-6. Her salary check was delayed for two months. She got the message, and she resigned.


Here is a small part of her letter to her students:


Rules and regulations and certification requirements can separate us physically, but they will never be able to separate your hearts from mine. I will help you, learn with you, write you, and even talk on the phone with you (even though I hate talking on the phone).


I want each of you to always remember that YOU are more important than tests, scores, federal laws, teacher certifications, or hurtful words that others say. It’s your hard work, your never-give-up-attitude, your determination to become a team, your willingness to apologize and forgive others, and your character that matter most….not just now, but forever.


Please remember that I know what it is that makes each of you special and unique, and I want you to promise to continue to learn, live hopefully, and tell the complete and wonderful story of you. Once a Corgill kid, always a Corgill kid. Don’t ever forget that.


Jamaal Bowman, principal of Cornerstone Academy of Social Action in Néw York City, was a major speaker at a conference “A Call for Educational Justice.” You may have read about Jamaal in this earlier post.

You will enjoy watching this six minute video, created by film-maker Michael Elliott.

Jamaal Bowman has earned a fine reputation as an educator who believes in children and in public schools. He knows there are no quick fixes when children have so many burdens and obstacles in their young lives. Where to begin, he asks? Start with love. Recognize the brilliance in every child. Prepare them to live in a different world and to change the world they live in.

Mark Pafford, House Minority Leader in the Florida legislature, supports parents who tell their children to opt out of standardized testing.

Pafford says that Florida does not have the public education system that the state’s children need. He singles out the overuse of testing as an area where the state has gone wrong. It uses tests not to help people, but to punish them.

Wise man! Pafford for Governor!

A reader of a post this morning about a letter from John Kline to Arne Duncan asked for more information about the Department of Education’s change of regulations governing FERPA (the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974).

In a post two years ago, I described the lawsuit filed by EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center), which sought to block the changes in federal regulations in 2011 that loosened the protections of student privacy.

Here is an explanation of the lawsuit that appeared on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog.

The EPIC lawsuit was dismissed in 2013; the Court held that EPIC did not have standing to sue. Its ruling did not deal with the substantive claims.

Parent groups became concerned about FERPA when the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation funded the “Shared Learning Collaborative,” which was renamed inBloom. The plan was to aggregate personally identifiable student data from state data warehouses, store them in a cloud, and make them available for use by others. Whether those others included vendors, researchers, or commercial enterprises is not sure, but parents vehemently opposed the entire plan. The software was developed by Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (part of Joel Klein’s Amplify division) and the data would be stored in a “cloud” managed by amazon. Parent groups, fearful that their child’s personal data would be mined, testified against the data-sharing agreements in every state and district that agreed to join inBloom, and the effort collapsed. The last state to withdraw was New York, because Commissioner John King supported inBloom. The legislature compelled the state’s withdrawal. When there were no states or districts willing to share student data, inBloom had no reason to exist.

The organization to fight inBloom was led by Leonie Haimson of New York and Rachel Strickland of Colorado, who formed the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. See here and here and here.

Thirteen-year-old Alex Trevino decided to take a stand against the Texas STAR test: she opted out. She might be held back and not promoted with the rest of her class. She and her mother say she is willing to take the consequences.

Alex told 12News, “I feel that we are not learning anything that we can use in life, we’re taught to a test, nothing comes out of it.”

State officials say she is not allowed to refuse the test.

Her parents support her actions. Her mother said she is proud of her. Rebellion against unjust authority is a tradition in Texas. It also is a tradition in the United States. Our nation was born of a Revolution, led by men who pledged their lives to fight for independence.

Alex is not backing down. She has started a Facebook page called STAAR SOS to encourage others to take a stand. To her surprise in the first four hours that the page was up, it gained more than 9,000 followers.

Alex’s Facebook page is

One determined teen could spark an opt out movement in Texas.

Peter Greene notes that the corporate reformers are still pressing for more data on each student. There can never be enough data. When there is more than enough, then you have Big Data, where government and corporations can analyze mega-trends. But reformers don’t say that this is what they want; they insist that this data is what parents want and need, even if they don’t say so themselves.

He writes:

Over at Getting Smart, a website devoted to selling educational product, guest writer Aimee Rogstad Guidera makes her case for more data collection for each student– because it’s what parents want.

“Parents are eager for information about their child’s education. As a mom, I want to know if my daughter is struggling in math before she comes home in tears. I need information to support my child’s learning at home, and to support my child and her teacher in making the best decisions for her learning in the classroom.”

Maybe I just don’t get it, but I’m inclined to think that if you didn’t know your child was having trouble in math before the coming-home-in-tears part, you’re just not paying attention. I have heard this pitch enough times to make me occasionally wonder if there is, in fact, some place where teachers keep every scrap of information carefully hoarded, students never speak to their parents about school, parents never ask about school, and all parent requests for conferences and information are denied by all school personnel. Maybe there is some place where parents are so deeply clueless and helpless that they have no idea how their students are doing.
Or maybe Guidera is the CEO and President of the Data Quality Campaign, a group interested in student data and funded by the Gates Foundation, the Waltons, the Dells, and the Ford Foundation. They do have some rules about how such data should be kept in a safe lockbox, but they are clearly Big Data fans.

Guidera is advocating for student data backpacks– little (or not so little) bundles of data that just follow students around, providing parents with all sorts of longitudinal data (because, again, parents don’t know much about their own children).

Greene has some advice for parents who want more information about how their child is doing: pick up the phone and call the teacher.

One hundred students at the Luis Munoz Rivera High School in Puerto Rico went on strike and paralyzed the school to protest the reassignment of several teachers, according to teacher-blogger Steven Singer.

“Students streamed out of their classrooms chanting in unison in the mountainous Utuado region of Puerto Rico earlier this month.

“They took over the halls and doorways of Luis Muñoz Rivera High School on Thursday, Sept. 10, locking their arms together to create a human chain.

“They paralyzed their school, shut it down, and allowed no one in or out.

“The reason? Not too much homework. Not lack of choice in the cafeteria. Not an unfair dress code.

“These roughly 100 teenagers were protesting the loss of their teachers. And they vowed to occupy their own school until the government gave them back.

“Six educators had been ordered to other schools, which would have ballooned classes at the Rivera School to 35-40 students per classroom.

“Government officials claimed the high school had too few students to justify the cost. However, with more than 500 young people enrolled, the school has more than double the island average.”

These students are fearless activists:

“The students including Vélez, 17, called an assembly to discuss the situation where they voted unanimously to take action. They blocked two gates and wrote a document demanding the Puerto Rican Department of Education revoke the decision to remove their teachers.

“Later that day, Sonia González, a representative of the Secretary of Education, met with students and signed the document promising to keep the teachers at the Rivera School. Three parents and one student also signed.”

Similar protests have occurred at other schools:

“What happened in the Rivera School is not an isolated incident. All across the island, communities are fighting government mandates to relocate teachers, increase class size and shutter more schools.

“This Tuesday at Pablo Casals School, an arts institution in Bayamon along the north coast, students protested the government decision to relocate their theater teacher, Heyda Salaman.

“About 100 students hung the Puerto Rican flag upside down and taped their mouths shut to represent the state of the government and the silence officials expect from the community.”

Eventually the government met with the students and relented, bringing back their teacher,

One student said:

“We have a good education and excellent teachers but the administration is failing their workers,” she said.

“The government is cutting rights and benefits to the teachers and employees and soon there will be no teachers. Maybe our schools get privatized and then only people with money will send their children to school.”

The government hss closed some 150 schools in the past 5 years.

Singer writes:

“Officials warn the government may be out of money to pay its bills by as early as 2016. Over the next five years, it may have to close nearly 600 more schools – almost half of the remaining facilities!

“The island is besieged by vulture capitalists encouraging damaging rewrites to the tax code while buying and selling Puerto Rican debt.

“Hundreds of American private equity moguls and entrepreneurs are using the Commonwealth as a tax haven.

“As a result, tax revenues to fund public goods like education are drying up while the super rich rake in profits.”


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