Archives for category: Students

The Opt Out movement continues to grow. In Seattle, not a single junior showed up to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Nathan Hale High School.

Earlier this year, teachers at Nathan Hale passed a resolution against in the Common Core Standards test, but SPS Superintendent Larry Nyland threatened teachers with the loss of their teaching licenses if they didn’t administer the test, according to the Seattle Education blog.

Students who opt out were threatened with a zero.

Despite the threats and efforts at intimidation, the students did not show up.

This is civil disobedience in the finest tradition of American history. Think Henry David Thoreau, think Martin Luther King, Jr., think of the Suffragettes, think Nathan Hale.

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.


This a bizarre but true story, told by veteran education reporter Bob Braun about the superintendent of a Néw Jersey school district.

The superintendent, in a display of machismo, wrote a letter to his staff including this hope:

““I desperately hope my children are bullied at least once a year through their K-12 experience….”

“He begins his note by conceding the PARCC tests are difficult—“not for the faint of heart” he says, not terribly originally. But, so what?

“What’s wrong with hard? What’s wrong with some failure? Is adversity to be scrubbed from the adolescent experience altogether?”

Read the whole story. Do you want your children to be bullied at least once a year? Why not daily? That would toughen them up.

A group of teachers in New York have an audacious idea. They are raising money to make a Robo-call to every public school parent in the state. They are close to their goal. They need your help.

They write:

“We have, in a little over a week, come very near to achieving what seemed like the impossible. At the time of this writing, we are on the final push to our funding goal. We did a tremendous amount of work, sometimes going without sleep or meals, and hope that our action inspires others. We have raised enough funds to place robocalls to strategic areas throughout New York, and our ultimate goal is to call the entire state, so donations are urgently needed at this time. Our ripple in New York will add to the wave being felt throughout the nation. To donate and help us complete our mission, go to:

I will contribute, will you? If they got $10 from everyone who reads this, they would succeed and keep going.

The billionaires have the money. We have the ideas, the enthusiasm, and the energy of millions of educators and parents. And we are on the right side of history. Not high-stakes testing. Not privatization. Great public schools for all children.

Crazy Crawfish, a blogger also known as Jason France, used to work as a data analyst in the Louisiana Department of Education. He was recently shocked to discover that the department has released confidential student data to the research group CREDO. It even released the data of nonpublic school students.

France realized that the state released personal student data that CREDO didn’t need or use.

He writes:

“It’s only a combination of chance and persistence that I stumbled across the details of this agreement and am able to share my findings with you. How many more agreements like this are out there that are unknown to us? How poorly have they been reviewed? I can’t actually say. Someone outside of LDOE needs to review these types of disclosures (All of them) – before they happen. It is important for the public to have an accounting of both what was promised, but also what was actually delivered. Frankly, if LDOE doesn’t understand their own data, they shouldn’t be providing it to others. I also question whether they should be collecting it all or storing it for decades in the first place.”

Vicki Cobb is a prolific writer of science books for children. She has written more than 85 nonfiction books. As a child, she attended the celebrated Little Red Schoolhouse in Greenwich Village, where experiential learning was valued. Today, she dedicates herself to educating children about science and the joy of learning. Imagine her surprise when she conducted a workshop and discovered that the children did not share her enthusiasm for school.


Here is her assessment of the legacy of today’s school reforms.


The other day I was doing a program for a group of 4th-6th graders at a local public library. I introduced myself to them by telling them how I had LOVED school so much when I was a kid that I basically recreate it for myself everyday as I write my books. The kids’ reaction to my confession was a unanimous, vociferous, vocal expression of how much they disliked school. I was startled. After all, I’ve told this to children many times before at school visits. Was this because the venue was not in school and they felt freer to express themselves? Or has something changed to make school more onerous? These were privileged kids from an affluent public school district. Could it be because they had just finished a month of standardized testing? What’s going on here?


This is just the latest piece of evidence that something is rotten in American education. It seems that many people in a position of power believe that education is too important to allow professional educators do their jobs because they have failed to produce a consistently excellent product of people who are college and career ready after twelve years of schooling. They believe the way to excellence is to first write a law decreeing “No Child Left Behind” or “All Children College and Career Ready” to set a policy, without consulting anyone who actually teaches children. And then to test, test, test, to see if these impossible standards have been met. Meanwhile, they are creating a population of quietly submissive students and teachers who narrow the curriculum to what they hope will be on the test while administrators are cutting art, music, physical education programs and librarians to pour more of their limited financial resources into test prep and test grading….


Let me take this opportunity to remind us that human beings, from the moment they appear on this earth, are born to learn. A baby is as smart as s/he will ever be. Through infancy every day is filled with wonder and discovery. And although there are hard lessons along the way, as learning progresses, so does mastery. We know from research that there are many different learning styles but eventually we all learn to walk and talk and think . As we get older, if we’re lucky, we discover a passion that drives us to master more skills and contribute to society. But the skill of high performance on a test, is not an essential skill. There are many other metrics for success — the number of patents held by Americans, for example. The current “reformers” for education are simply imposing ill-conceived laws of the state and federal governments on schools as if we were a dictatorship not a democracy.


Deep in my bones I know that I would not be creating science books for children if I had grown up in one of today’s repressive schools.







Merryl Tisch is the Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents. She has been a Regent for 20 years. She is a strong supporter of high-stakes testing. In this article, she criticizes those who opt out and who encourage others to opt out. She says they are hurting the kids who need help the most. She thinks the schools would neglect the neediest children if they were not tested every year. Since no high-performing nation tests every child every year, they must be overlooking their neediest children.


She writes:


“It used to be easy to ignore the most vulnerable students. Without assessments, it was easy to ignore the achievement gap for African-American and Latino students. Without an objective measure of their progress, it was easy to deny special education students and English Language Learners the extra resources they need. Obviously we still need to do more for those students, but now is not the time to put blinders back on.


“Without a comparable measure of student achievement, we risk losing track of the progress of all of our students in all of our schools. This risk applies not only to students of color, urban and rural students, and students with special learning needs. Many students from affluent districts do not make the year-to-year progress necessary in today’s world and need early support to get back on track. It’s far better to find that out while they’re still in the classroom than wait until they’re out of school and faced with real world challenges in college or the work place without the skills they need to overcome those challenges.”


One would think after a dozen years of high-stakes testing that there might be evidence that the children she names have benefitted, that poverty has decreased, but she fails to mention any evidence of the benefits of high-stakes testing.


Celia Oyler, a faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University, read Chancellor Tisch’s letter and drew different conclusions. She wrote the following comment to The Hechinger Report, where Tisch’s article appeared:


Professor Celia Oyler wrote:


“Very few parents would be refusing the New York State Pearson tests if they were decent measures of learning. And if they were decent measures of learning from year to year there would be no Teachers of Conscience movement of teachers who are refusing to administer the high stakes tests. There are so many flaws with what Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King have done:


“(1) These tests are not measures of what an individual student has learned from year to year: they are not vertically aligned. State Ed has created what they call growth scores, but calling something by a name does not make it real. In fact, these scores do not measure growth from year to year, but measure the score on the test one year and the score on a different test the next year.


“(2) The NYS tests are too blunt to measure learning of the students Chancellor Tisch proclaims to care most about: the children who do not do well on standardized measures (whether due to horrible stresses that often accompany poverty and affect learning, or from a print or language or intellectual disability, or because they are learning English as an additional language). And we also know from numerous adequately designed studies that a teacher accounts for only about 10-15% of test score variance on any child: to hold one teacher 50% responsible for a single test score is scientifically unjustifiable. And doing so damages the chances for such children to receive the education they need. Children who struggle with school tasks do not need more test prep curriculum (which is what they are mostly getting — get out to schools more, Chancellor Tisch!), they need more rich, integrated, experiential, three-dimensional learning that is organized around meaning and not memorization. Punishing children, their schools, and their teachers for poor scores on poor tests is not the way to promote the rich learning environments they desperately need.


“(3) The misuse of so called Value Added Models or Measures takes lousy tests and then puts them through a formula not even designed to measure one teacher’s influence on the score from year to year: VAMs have greatest reliability when used on groups of teachers across multiple years. To make matters worse, most all researchers continually agree that a teacher accounts for about 10-15% of any standardized score variance. So teachers in NYS are punished by giving them a score that was not even designed to measure what Chancellor Tisch has made it measure. Study after study after study demonstrates that VAM has confidence intervals of as much as 60%! This is utterly insane and has enraged educators who understand what is being done to them.


“(4) Chancellor Tisch has just announced that some districts and schools should be exempt from this high stakes bad math folly that she and her cronies have wrought upon the children and teachers of New York State. This is an abomination. We have decades of research demonstrating the link between wealth and standardized test scores. Yes, there are exceptions: we have schools where children from low-income schools have learned to do well on a high stakes test. We need to learn more from these anomalies. But even within the anomalies researchers continually find that doing well on one high stakes test does not transfer to other high stakes tests. This means that students can be taught how to do well on a high stakes test. It does not mean they are learning content, concepts, and skills of value, that transfer. This raises the question: Do we want learning, or do we want achievement test scores?


“It is apparent to many parents who are refusing the tests, and to many teachers who are taking up activism against these brutal educational “reforms,” that Chancellor Tisch and her ilk care way more about a reductive number on a spreadsheet than they care about real learning and about actually improving the possibilities for the most marginalized children in our society. New York State teachers and children deserve support and assistance, particularly in economically distressed communities. Tisch and her millionaire friends can do much better than punish us all with their willful ignorance.”


Celia Oyler, PhD
Box 31 Teachers College
525 W. 120th Street, NY, NY, 10027
office phone: 212.678.3696
office location: 312 Zankel Hall

This is a video of a spoken word poem by student Ryan Lotocki. It is genius. In fact, the poem is titled “This Is Genius,” and it shows all the different ways that students excel. Not just on a standardized test, but in living good lives that engage their interests and passions.


Can we show this to a joint meeting of Congress, or at least to the committees now rewriting No Child Left Behind? Or how about our state legislatures, who assume the power to decide that teachers by the test scores of their students?


Students have power. They are the primary victims of the disruption and distorted values that NCLB and Race to the Top and uninformed politicians have made of our education system.

A group of high school students in Lake Oswego, Oregon, has launched a campaign to persuade their classmates to refuse the Smarter Balanced tests, which will be given in April and May.


I have always believed that students are the best advocates for change, because they are the victims of the adult obsession with measuring their brains with bubble tests, and they have an additional advantage: they can’t be fired.


Here is the story:


Last week, they mailed letters to the parents of more than 300 LOHS juniors, urging them to opt out and including a link to an opt-out form they’d created.


“It’s not that we want to cause trouble for the school district or the parents or anything,” said Shaheen Safari, a junior and Student Union member. “It’s just what we personally believe in. We’re exercising our democratic right to speak our voice.”


The Student Union evolved from a series of stories on the front page of the March 13 issue of Lake Views, the LOHS student newspaper. The coverage included an opinion piece by all six editors headlined “Everyone, opt out now,” a news story about opt-out efforts across the country and a local story that quoted faculty, administrators and teacher union president Laura Paxson Kluthe…..


“Opting out is a private action, allowing status- and appearance-focused Oswegans to resist in an environment that contemporarily antagonizes political action,” said Daniel Vogel, an LOHS junior and co-editor-in-chief of Lake Views.


Students in grades three through eight and high school juniors are scheduled to take the SBAC tests this spring. The tests involve more in-depth problem solving than previous assessments, and about 30-40 percent of Oregon students are not expected to meet the new standards, according to state Department of Education spokeswoman Crystal Greene…..


A school’s performance rating is linked to its implementation of SBAC, and one of the criteria for a top score is student participation of 94.5 percent. On the five-point rating scale, enough LOHS students have opted out to drop the school from a five to a four. A lower rating affects a school’s image, Greene said, because some people use the rankings when deciding whether they will move to a particular neighborhood.


For LOHS junior Farah Alkayed, that’s not a good enough reason to take the new tests.


“We think it’s more important to create change in our education and educate people about (SBAC) than to be concerned with our school’s ranking,” Alkayed said….


“Opting out is a lot easier than holding rallies or encouraging students to walk out of the tests, and students/parents cannot be punished for opting out,” he said. “That’s not to say we’ve ruled out the possibility of walkouts or rallies. Opting out allows us to gauge support for further actions.”

This just in from teachers in Everett, WA:


WHEREAS, the motto of Mariner High School is to “provide an excellent education to every student;” and

WHEREAS, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not required for graduation; and

WHEREAS, this computer based assessment will take approximately eight hours for each 11th grader to complete and its confusing format is unlike anything students will experience outside the testing environment; and

WHEREAS, there are not enough computers to test the students in a reasonable amount of time and it is unacceptable for computers to be unavailable to non-testing students for such a long period of time; and

WHEREAS, the failure rate of the assessment is going to be extraordinarily high (possibly 60%) for the general population and even higher for students of color, ELL students, and students on individualized education plans; and

WHEREAS, student performance on this test will in no way be indicative of their learning and instead this test must be given to meet arbitrary, antiquated and poorly considered state/federal mandates; and

WHEREAS, graduation and standardized testing requirements in Washington State are in constant shift, confusing, and poorly communicated; and

WHEREAS, the sheer number of state mandated standardized tests is unacceptable; in addition to other assessments during the last seven weeks of school we must administer two weeks of AP testing, many weeks of 11th grade SBA testing, the 10th grade ELA exit exam, the Biology EOC exam, the Geometry EOC exam, and the Algebra 1 EOC exam; many of these exams are required for graduation or could possibly earn students college credit; moreover, during this time we are also required to teach our students and administer year end finals and projects; and

WHEREAS, the detrimental impact on the school schedule and more importantly student learning cannot be justified simply to meet a superfluous bureaucratic requirement; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, the members of the Mukilteo Education Association at Mariner High School object to the administration of the 11th grade Smarter Balanced Assessment for spring 2015 as an unacceptable obstruction to providing an excellent education to every student.

Passed Unanimously 3/6/2015


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