Archives for category: Students

Peter Greene nails it with this post.

 

Students are not assets. Students are not
global competitors. Students are… well, children? People? On a
Gates Foundation website, seeking to persuade bussinesses how much
America needs the Common Core–even though it has never been
field-tested to gauge its real-world consequences–Alan Golston
wrote this execrable sentence: “Businesses are the primary
consumers of the output of our schools, so it’s a natural
alliance.”

 

Greene almost jumps through the page–or, the
Internet–shouting NO!

 

He writes: “Output of our schools. Students
are not output. They are not throughput. They are not toasters on
an assembly line. They are not a manufactured product, and a school
is not a factory. In fact, a school does not create “output” at
all. Talking about the “output” of a school is like talking about
the “output” of a hospital or a counseling center or a summer camp
or a marriage. When talking about interactions between live
carbon-based life forms (as in “That girl you’ve been dating is
cute, but how’s the output of the relationship?”), talking about
output is generally not a good thing. Primary consumers. Here’s
another thing that students are not– students are not consumer
goods. Businesses do not purchase them and then use them until they
are discarded or replaced. Students are not a good whose value is
measured strictly in its utility to the business that purchased
it.”

 

How to say it nicely: the utilitarian view of education is
getting out of control, warping the ability of intelligent people
to see students as humans like themselves, not as economic goods
for the marketplace. Corporations are not people, but students are.
Each one is unique.

Read this disturbing article by Maggie Terry, who teaches at Locke High School in the Watts section of Los Angeles, and stop and think.

She describes the day that the tenth grade students were scheduled to take the math portion of the state’s exit exams.

The morning was disrupted by gunfire outside, and the school went into lockdown. The teachers immediately sheltered their students:

“When my colleagues and I began ushering kids into our school’s main hall, away from the outdoor lunch tables where they’d been chatting and eating their breakfasts, we held our arms wide like wings, like we knew exactly what was going on and that there was nothing to be scared or worried about.”

As if their arms were shields that were bullet-proof.

One commenter wrote that teachers like to whine about testing, but he missed the point.

I saw a different point altogether.

I see a snapshot of a society where the powers that be ignore the poverty and violence in children’s lives and think they are helping students if they take away any job protections for their teachers. The Vergara trial is about the claim that any due process rights for children violates the civil rights of their students. Garden-variety millionaires and billionaires agree with this assertion.

Maggie Terry, sheltering her children with her outstretched arms, understands the challenges these children face. Suppose they get a low score on their math test because of what they experienced that morning. Should Maggie Terry be fired? Is she a bad teacher?

Or should those millionaires and billionaires address the poverty, segregation, and violence that mar the lobes of the students?

I think they should. But it is easier to fire teachers. And cheaper.

Anthony Cody here describes teachers as “reluctant warriors,” as men and women who chose a profession because they wanted to teach, not to engage in political battles over their basic rights as professionals.

 

The profession is under attack, as everyone now knows. Pensions are under attack. The right to due process is under attack. The policymakers want inexperienced, inexpensive teachers who won’t talk back, who won’t collect a pension, who will turn over rapidly:

 

In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator’s whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

No need for teachers to think for themselves, to design unique challenges to engage their students. The educational devices will be the new source of innovation. The tests will measure which devices work best, and the market will make sure they improve every year. Teachers are guides on the side, making sure the children and devices are plugged in properly to their sockets.

 

First, the privatizers came for the schools of the poor, because their parents and communities were powerless and were easy marks for privatization. Then they came for the union and the teachers:

 

Schools of the poor were the first targets. It was easy to stigmatize schools attended by African Americans and Latinos, by English learners and the children of the disempowered. Use test scores to label them failures, dropout factories, close them down, turn them over to privatizers. But this was just the beginning. And now, as Arne Duncan made clear with his dismissal of “white suburban moms,” they want all the schools, and are prepared to use poor performance on the Common Core tests to fuel the “schools are failing” narrative.

 

Teacher unions are under ruthless attack by billionaires, who conveniently own the media, and provide the very “facts” to guide public discourse. Due process is maligned and destroyed under the guise of “increasing professionalism.” Democratic control of local schools is undermined by mayoral control and the expansion of privately managed charter schools.

 

Congress and state legislatures have been purchased wholesale through bribes legalized by the Supreme Court, which has given superhuman power to corporate “citizens.”

 

Teachers, by our nature cooperators respectful of authority, are slow to react. Can the destruction of public education truly be anyone’s goal? The people responsible for this erosion rarely state their intentions. With smiles and praise for teachers, they remove our autonomy and make our jobs depend on test scores. With calls for choice and civil rights, they re-segregate our schools, and institute zero-tolerance discipline policies in their no-excuses charter schools. They push for larger classes in public schools but send their own children to schools with no more than 16 students in a room. Corporate philanthropies anoint teacher “leaders” who are willing to echo reform themes – sometimes even endorsed by our national teacher unions.

 

Now, he says, as the truth gets out about the privatization movement and its bipartisan support, teachers are starting to fight back. They are joining the BATs, they are joining the Network for Public Education, they are speaking out, they are (as in Seattle) refusing to give the tests, they are organizing (as in New York City) to protest the low quality of the tests.

 

Join in the fight against high-stakes testing, which is a central element in the privatization movement. They use the data to target teachers, principals, and public schools. They use the data to destroy public education. Don’t cooperate. Join the reluctant warriors. One person alone will be hammered. Do it with your colleagues, stand together, and be strong.

 

 

 

 

Today, parents and students rallied against the state tests at dozens of schools across New York City, unassuaged by State Commissioner John King’s claims that the tests were better this year and consumed less than 1% of the year. Little children that had sat for three hours of reading tests did not take comfort in his words, and parents demanded transparency.

“The protests, which drew hundreds of people to some schools before the start of classes, followed a speech Thursday by New York State Education Commissioner John King, in which he fiercely defended the state’s education initiatives, including the new standards and tests.

“He described recent debates over those efforts as “noise” and “drama,” and attributed some of the outcry to “misinformation.” And while acknowledging that some schools spend too much time preparing for tests, he insisted that the state had worked to reduce testing time. He added that the new Common Core exams “are better tests” than previous ones.

“His comments struck a nerve with some of the principals, who usually avoid getting involved in education’s political fights, but felt impelled to refute the notion that misinformed members of the public were stirring up unrest about the tests.

“P.S. 59 Principal Adele Schroeter said the hundreds of parents and students who filled the streets around her Midtown school Friday morning were “more than noise and drama, in spite of what John King might say.””

Tomorrow, dozens of Manhattan principals plan their own protests. One of them wrote in a letter to parents: ““I have never seen a more atrocious exam.”

“Echoing criticisms of the exams that other educators have posted online, the Manhattan principals said the tests did not measure the type of analytical reading and writing they associate with the Common Core standards. They also argued that the tests were too long and many of the multiple-choice answers were bafflingly similar.

“I have a double masters and some of them could be A or C,” said Medea McEvoy, principal of P.S. 267 on the Upper East Side, one of the schools planning to protest.

“The principals also said that confidentiality rules shield the test maker, publishing giant Pearson, from public scrutiny. And because only a portion of the test questions are eventually released, they said, teachers cannot rely on them as instructional tools.
The school leaders added that, considering all the flaws they found in the exams, they do not trust the state’s new evaluations that rate teachers partly on their students’ test scores.”

Dr.Yohuru Williams and Maria Kilfoyle, NBCT, have a message for the corporate reformers: We will never surrender.

They write:

“Public education… is the cornerstone of democracy. It helps students acquire civic knowledge so that they can become participants in their democracy. It also requires students and communities to reflect on a continuous basis, through school board meetings, referendums and countless other exercises of local politics, on the nature of the democratic process. Public education further requires parents, teachers, and communities to work in partnership to solve problems on behalf of the public good. If we were to sit passively by and allow unscrupulous politicians and corporations to auction public education off to the highest bidder, we would also be complicit in its demise, but we, and scores of others do not intend to allow that to happen. For the future of our kids and these democratic ideals, we will fight.”

The corporate reformers claim the sky is falling, play on public fears, and advance “solutions” that have not a shred of evidence behind them.

They write:

“Even though democracy has been frustrated and many communities have fallen under the sway of the harmful machinery of Corporate Education Reform, we will not tire or retreat. We will stand and fight the deformers in the town hall meetings, in the governors’ offices and on the floors of state legislatures, on the local school boards, on the campuses of the nation’s colleges and universities, we will even fight at the gates of the White House and on the steps of Capitol Hill; we will never surrender.

“We will never surrender because the real issue that hinders education for children, poverty, needs to be addressed not ignored. The sound bites of education disaster that deformers thrust upon the public never mention child poverty. In fact, they go out of their way to marginalize it and ignore it. We will force the public and governments, at both the federal and state level, to address this.

“We will never surrender because the very social inequalities that deformers like Gates, Duncan, Rhee, and Broad are using to claim their agenda for public education are full of lies, a lack of research, and an alternate agenda that isn’t about equality or justice; it is about the dollar and continued oppression of the poor. Nothing they have presented as an agenda for education will cure child poverty or social injustice. We will never surrender until this lie is exposed and destroyed. Finally, yet importantly, we will never surrender because principle, morality, democracy, and justice are on our side. Our hearts are not bought by The Gates Foundation or The Broad Foundation – Our hearts belong to the children we teach, and the communities we invest in. For that, we will never surrender.”

Amy Prime is a parent and a teacher of second grade in Iowa. She is also a gifted writer.

 

Here she explains why she opted her children out of state testing, and she explains how to do it.

 

It is this simple:

 

“To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to inform you of my instruction to have my children opted out of any state testing for the 2013-2014 school year. “

If you live in the state of Iowa, this is all it takes to prevent your children from going through the week or more of Iowa Assessments that will be happening in most districts during the next month. You need to also write your child’s/children’s names and sign the note, delivering it to the district administration. Your child will then be registered as “opting out” and she will be provided alternate learning activities so that she does not have to stay home from school on those testing days.

There are many misconceptions floating around about this process, but it’s really that simple. Many people aren’t even aware that it is possible.

 

She added, for the information of district leaders, some important information about her decision:

 

The reality that the tests have become so important in deciding school funding and status, among other things, has led the district to begin to do constant “practice” tests on my children in the form of weekly and unit assessments going along with the current language arts and math curricular materials. I believe these tests have little to do with what my children need to know and be able to do as successful citizens and lifelong learners, and much more to do with readying them to score as high as possible on these state tests. I will continue to opt my children out as long as this district feels the need to place such importance on preparatory testing and devalue quality learning. These “standardized” tests send the message that all of our children need to be learning the same things, and proving their learning in the same way. This is a dehumanizing practice that reduces children to plots on a graph, showing only how good they are at filling in bubbles and not necessarily showing that they have a firm grasp on any given skill.

I have two children that receive enhanced instruction as gifted learners. When a child has already scored above the 12th grade level on a test while still in elementary or middle school, what purpose does it serve to continue to retest her in that subject area? I have a child who is diagnosed with autism. What purpose does it serve to force him to take tests that are known to not be a valid or appropriate way to prove what he knows and is able to do?

It is my belief that the decision to opt my children out of these tests will not negatively impact their ability to participate in any specially designed instruction that would be fitting for their learning. If I am wrong about this, please inform me immediately so that I—or their current teachers—are able to gather sufficient evidence in another, more authentic form (such as teacher referral, portfolio work, or student interviews) that would allow them to be placed correctly.

This is a account written by Lindsay Allanbrook, a teacher in New York City. Last year, when the first Common Core tests were given, 97% of English language learners failed the test of English language. What is the point of testing these children in a language they have not mastered?

She writes:

State Tests and Our Newest Arrivals, by Lindsay Allanbrook

It’s that time of year again, testing season. That time of year, right
before the test, when nothing is making sense. Even my own teaching
makes no sense. In the morning, I am able to find some time for Social
Studies. We analyze the Gary Paulsen book Nightjohn. We zoom in on
moments that show resistance to slavery. We create tableaux with our
bodies and then use art to represent those moments. It is exciting and
inspiring work. We are learning what it means to resist what is wrong and
to stand up for what is right.

Then in the afternoon we must sit quietly at our desks and work on
our testing stamina. We must read texts that make no sense and try to
answer questions, which trick us. Why are we doing this? Is this what is
right?

Although there is a lot that I could write related to the struggles of
testing season in my fifth grade dual language classroom, for now I just
want to tell the testing stories of four of my students: Marisa, Jose, David,
and Natalia.

These are my four “newcomers”, students who have recently
arrived to the United States from other countries. Marisa came from Peru
last April. Jose joined us from the Dominican Republic in December. David
was in the US in third grade. He was at our school for a year and then he
returned to Guatemala. In January, his family was back in New York and
he joined our class. Natalia came here last spring; she spent two months
in 4th grade and then returned to Ecuador. A week ago, Natalia’s family
once again came to New York and she is now in my class.

I consider these four students to be lucky. They are lucky because
they are able to attend a dual language school where they receive half of
their instruction in Spanish and half in English. They are able to learn
grade level content in Spanish without being hindered by their lack of
English proficiency. They are all working hard and making tremendous
growth, week by week. Although they are diligent, intelligent students, all
four of them are behind in most areas of the curriculum. They struggle to
follow our rigorous 5th grade Common Core based Math curriculum because
none of them had the necessary foundational instruction. Even so, all four
of them will be required to take the 5th grade Common Core State Math
Test at the end of April. At least, they will be able to do it in Spanish and
they will try their best to answer the few questions that they understand.
I knew when David entered my class that he would also be required
to take the 5th grade Common Core English Language Arts Test. David was
in the US for a year and a half before returning to Guatemala. According
to No Child Left Behind, students may only be exempt from the State ELA
Assessment for their first year in the country.
(http://www.p12.nysed.gov/biling/bilinged/faq.html#state)

Although I understood that
David would be required to take the test, I knew it was unfair. David is a
strong reader in Spanish, yet he is a timid boy who spent a year and a half
in a foreign country (the United States), returned to his home in
Guatemala for a year and then recently came back to the United States.
He is still struggling to re-acclimate to school in the US.

Marisa arrived a week after the 2013 ELA test. At first, we thought
Marisa was lucky. She started in our school right after last year’s test, and
therefore, we thought that she would not have been in the country for a
year when this year’s test rolled around and we believed that she would be
exempt from the test. We soon learned we were wrong. Even though
Marisa entered the school less than 12 months ago, because she entered
during the month of April, she is considered to be here 12 months. In
other words, even though she was only in the school for the last week of
April, it counts as one whole month and she is required to take the test.

I was surprised and upset when I found out that Marisa would be
required to take the ELA test, but Natalia’s situation shocked me even
more. When Natalia recently returned to our school, I was sure that she
would be exempt from the test. Natalia had only been in the US for 2
months. Students may be exempt from the test for their first year in the
country, but there is a catch. According to No Child Left Behind, students
may only be exempt from one administration of the test.
(http://www.p12.nysed.gov/biling/bilinged/faq.html#state)

The two months that Natalia was here last year happened to fall during the testing season.
Since she was exempt from the ELA test last year, she cannot be exempt
from the test again this year.

Out of my four newcomers, Jose is the only one who is exempt from
the ELA test this year. He came to the US in December (less than a year
ago) and he has never been exempt from the test in previous years. Of
course, next year he will have to take the test.

While we work on test prep, Marisa, Jose, David and Natalia practice
their English reading on the computer. You might think some of my
students would think it was unfair that these students are not being forced
to do test prep or that Jose does not have to take the test at all. But it
seems that my students have a deeper understanding of what is fair and
unfair. When a student overheard me talking to David and realized that
David would have to take the test, he was outraged. “Does he get to take
it in Spanish?” he asked. I told him David would have to take the test in
English. “But that’s not fair!” he said in shock.

Not only is it not fair, it simply doesn’t make sense. And of course,
no matter how much we do in the next few weeks, there is no way, we can
ensure that these children will pass. They couldn’t possibly and nor could
any one of us if we were required to move to another country and take a
reading test in a language other than English after just one year. These
children’s test scores will cause people to express concern over the low
performance of English language learners instead of causing them to ask
the more obvious question, which is, “Why, why did they have to take this
test?”

In case you didn’t know it already, privacy is dead. The
National Security Agency has asserted the power to listen to your
phone calls and read your emails.

Now we
learn from Pearson and the esteemed (Sir) Michael Barber (the
architect of a philosophy known as “Deliverology”) that the
capability to monitor the actions, behaviors,
even
thoughts of every student is at hand. We are all about to take a
dive into the Digital Ocean, whether we want to or not. Big data
will tell Pearson and other vendors whatever they want to know.
They will know more about our children and our grandchildren
than we do. Arne Duncan loosened the federal privacy regulations in
2011, so there is no limit on the information that Pearson and
others will collect. But never forget: It is all for the
kids.

Peter Greene shared his thoughts about Pearson’s digital ocean here.

he writes:

“Barber assures us that personalized learning at scale will be possible, and again I want to point out that we already have a system that can totally do that (though of course the present system does not provide corporations such as Pearson nearly enough money). I will not pretend that the traditional US public ed system always provides the personalized learning it should, but when reformy types suggest that’s a reason to scrap the whole system, I wonder if they also buy a new car every time the old car runs out of gas (plus, in that metaphor, government is repeatedly pouring sand into the gas tank).

“But no. There will have to be revolution:

“…schools will need to have digital materials of high quality, teachers will have to change how they teach and how they themselves learn…

“This shtick I recognize, because it is as old as education technology. Every software salesman who ever set foot in a school used this one– “This will be really great tool if you just change everything about how you work.” No. No, no, no. You do not tell a carpenter, “Hey, newspaper is a great building material as long as you change your expectations about how strong and protective a house is supposed to be.”

“You pick a tool because it can help you do the job. You do not change the job so that it will fit the tool…..Barber praises the authors of the paper for their “aspirational vision” of what success in schools would look like.

“They see teaching,learning and assessment as different aspects of one integrated process, complementing each other at all times, in real time;

To which I reply, “Wow! Amazing! Do they also envision water that is wet? Wheels that are round?”

Journalist Andrea Gabor graciously offered her blog to retired principal Jeanne Rotunda to reflect on her years as a school leader in New York City.

Having worked in a city that became famous for its obsession with testing and data, Rotunda was an oddity. She cared about the emotional life of children. She knew that the children needed kindness and security to be able to concentrate on school. There was no metric for the qualities she cared about. She knew that every child had a story, every child faced unimaginable challenges.

She wrote:

 

With the constant focus on testing, the latest standards, data that presume to quantify everything important about a good education, we rarely discuss the important unmeasurables, including the emotional life of children. Yet, who among us is not aware of how our own childhoods have impacted our adult lives? Do we not think about how we feel about situations in our lives and try to manage our stress levels? Aren’t we dealing daily with the complexities of relationships and choices? How can we expect a child like David to focus his energies fully on learning? How can we think a child knows how to express feelings appropriately and ask for what he needs when the closest relationships in his life are so damaged? The trauma of growing up in a home with enormous stress from finances, violence, drugs, and other dysfunctions, cannot be underestimated. How is it that we rarely create the space and time to truly understand how these complex emotions shape the children we educate and our designs for their learning environments?

Being aware of and responsive to a child’s inner life can be painful for the adults who venture there. But responding with anything less than a dedication to understand and help the child navigate their young but fragile lives, is to not be fully present to their reality. Schools that are sensitive to the whole child and build meaningful opportunities to nurture and grow the emotions of children, are schools we should look to for guidance and inspiration.

 

Dear Friends,

Today this blog reached the unbelievable number of eleven million page views!

I had no idea this would happen when I wrote the first post on April 26, 2012.

Thank you for reading. More than that, thank you for participating.

Many of you contribute regularly to what must be the liveliest discussion about education on the Internet. I read your comments and pick out some that are the most interesting, the most thoughtful, the most informative, and the most provocative and post them. It may be the same day or weeks later. The important thing is that I have tried to make this blog a place where the voices of parents, students, teachers, principals, and superintendents are heard, unedited.

The rules of the blog are limited and simple. Be civil. Avoid certain four-letter words which I will not print. Do not insult your host. There are plenty of other forums for all of the above. Just not here.

As you know, the blog has a point of view, because I have a point of view. I care passionately about improving the education of all children. I care passionately about showing respect for the dedicated men and women who work hard every day to educate children and help them grow to be healthy, happy human beings with good character and a love of learning. I care passionately about restoring real education and rescuing it from those who have dumbed it down into preparation for the next standardized test. I care passionately about restoring to all children their right to engage in the arts, to play, to dream, to create, to have a childhood and a youth unburdened by fear of tests. I care passionately about protecting the public schools from those who seek to monetize them and use them as a source of profit and power.

I am in my end game. I will fight to the last to defend children, teachers, principals, and public education from the billionaires and politicians who have made a hobby of what is deceptively called “reform.” What is now called “reform,” as the readers of this blog know, is a calculated plan to turn public schools over to amateurs and entrepreneurs, while de imaging the teaching profession to cut costs.

The people who promote the privatization and standardization of public education are the StatusQuo. They include the U.S. Department of Education, the nation’s wealthiest hedge fund managers, and the nation’s largest foundations. They include ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand on Children, ConnCAN, and a bevy of other organizations eager to transfer public dollars to private organizations. Their stale and failed ideas are the Status Quo. Their ideas have been ascendant for a dozen years. They have failed and failed again, but their money and political power keep them insulated from news of the damage they do to Other People’s Children.

We will defeat them. We will outlast them. Who are we? We are the Resistance. We are parents and grandparents, teachers, and principals, school board members, and scholars. We will not go away. They can buy politicians, but they can’t buy us. They can buy “think tanks,” but they can’t buy us. Public schools are not for sale. Nor are our children. Nor are we.

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