Archives for category: Teachers

Anyone who criticizes the current regime of test-based accountability is inevitably asked: What would you replace it with? Test-based accountability fails because it is based on a lack of trust in professionals. It fails because it confuses measurement with instruction. No doctor ever said to a sick patient, “Go home, take your temperature hourly, and call me in a month.” Measurement is not a treatment or a cure. It is measurement. It doesn’t close gaps: it measures them.

Here is a sound alternative approach to accountability, written by a group of teachers whose collective experience is 275 years in the classroom. Over 900 teachers contributed ideas to the plan. It is a new vision that holds all actors responsible for the full development and education of children, acknowledging that every child is a unique individual.

Its key features:

1. Shared responsibility, not blame

2. Educate the whole child

3. Full and adequate funding for all schools, with less emphasis on standardized testing

4. Teacher autonomy and professionalism

5. A shift from evaluation to support

6. Recognition that in education one size does not fit all

Reformers have framed their narrative around the myth of “the bad teacher, without whom all children would make A’s in every subject every year. With this false narrative, they have promoted lengthy, tme-wasting evaluations to find and fire these academic frauds.

The narrative itself is the fraud. Like every profession, there are good and bad practitioners. Some teachers are excellent in some settings, not in others. We count on qualified administrators–not algorithms–to evaluate their staffs.

But now comes another reason to doubt the reformers’ narrative. A new study shows that the quality of teachers has been increasing over the past 15 years.

The abstract says:

“The relatively low status of teaching as a profession is often given as a factor contributing to the difficulty of recruiting teachers, the middling performance of American students on international assessments, and the well-documented decline in the relative academic ability of teachers through the 1990s. Since the turn of the 21st century, however, a number of federal, state, and local teacher accountability policies have been implemented toward improving teacher quality over the objections of some who argue the policies will decrease quality. In this article, we analyze 25 years of data on the academic ability of teachers in New York State and document that since 1999 the academic ability of both individuals certified and those entering teaching has steadily increased. These gains are widespread and have resulted in a substantial narrowing of the differences in teacher academic ability between high- and low-poverty schools and between White and minority teachers. We interpret these gains as evidence that the status of teaching is improving.”

After Hurricane Katrina, 7,500 public school teachers and other staff were fired by the new Recovery School District. Three-quarters of them were African American. Eventually almost every public school was converted to a privately managed charter, many staffed by Teach for America corps members.

The fired teachers sued for back pay. The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected their appeal, in a 5-2 split decision.

In October, the Supreme Court had overturned decisions favorable to the teachers in lower courts. The teachers said were dismissed en masse, without evaluation or due process.

At that time, the case was described in these terms:

“The case had ramifications beyond the public purse, and beyond the emotional and financial hit experienced by the employees, whose termination letters were in some cases delivered to houses that had been washed away in the storm. It became a symbol for people who felt disenfranchised when the state, saying the Orleans Parish School Board had failed its children, took over four fifths of the city’s public schools in the fall of 2005. Many teachers objected that they were all painted with the same brush as incompetent. And analysts such as former Loyola University professor Andre Perry said the layoffs knee-capped the city’s African American middle class.”

The earlier article explained the Supreme Court’s reasoning:

“That was not why the state Supreme Court dismissed the case, however. The majority invoked the principle of res judicata, which holds that a case cannot be argued if it covers the same people and arguments as a previous case.

“Indeed, most of the individual plaintiffs were members of the United Teachers of New Orleans. That labor union in 2007 settled several similar lawsuits against the School Board for $7 million, about $1,000 per union member. The Supreme Court decided those settlements sufficiently addressed the plaintiffs and questions in the current case.

“But the majority also accepted the defendants’ arguments across the line. Even if the case had not been dismissed, “neither the OPSB nor the State defendants violated plaintiffs’ due process rights,” Justice Jeffrey Victory wrote.

“The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal had found that the School Board should have created a recall list and systematically used it to hire back employees. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, while deciding that an employee hotline set up after the storm did not constitute an official recall list, determined that “imperfect” post-Katrina responses were good enough to satisfy the state Constitution given the circumstances.

“Furthermore, the fact that almost all the jobs disappeared permanently made a difference, Victory wrote: “The Teacher Tenure Laws did not envision, nor provide for, the circumstance where a massive hurricane wipes out an entire school district, resulting in the elimination of the vast majority of teaching positions in that district. It would defy logic to find the OPSB liable for a due process violation where jobs were simply not available.”

“Nor would the state have been liable for not systematically hiring the Orleans Parish employees, Victory wrote, because the Legislature gave the Recovery School District the auth0rity to hire whomever it wanted.”

I recently posted a letter from a teacher whose message was “this too shall pass.”

 

Some readers took this as an expression of complacency. Just wait it out, and the billionaires will get so frustrated by their repeated failures that they will move on to disrupt something else or go back to playing polo.

 

The bottom line is that you never win in a confrontation by digging your head into the sand. Complacency is self-defeating. While you close your eyes to what is happening, the high-stakes testing will get worse, your community public schools will be closed, experienced teachers will be fired, and schooling will become a consumer choice, like buying milk at the grocery store (the analogy that Jeb Bush suggested at the Republican convention in 2012, that picking a school should be as easy as choosing between 1% milk, 2% milk, whole milk, chocolate milk, whatever).

 

And meanwhile, if we do nothing, we will find that one of the institutions considered essential to our democracy will have been destroyed by free-market ideology and greed. Instead of community public schools, where children learn to work and play together, we will have “choice” schools that increase segregation and that are free to kick out the students they don’t want. Of course, some “public” schools will be retained, as the school of last resort for the children unwanted by the choice schools.

 

Do any of the billionaires pushing this market-based ideology ever stop to wonder why none of the top-performing school systems in the world have the kind of school choice that they are promoting for the U.S.? Has it occurred to them that the nations they admire–those with the highest test scores–have strong public school systems with well-prepared teachers, but no vouchers and no charters?

 

The current corporate assault on public education will not pass unless those who oppose it take action. On one level, this means that we must organize for the next elections to support only candidates who support public education. The last election–at the gubernatorial level–was frankly a disaster, with the re-election of Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Paul LePage in Maine, and others who support privatization,. The low turnout across the nation showed that not enough people were informed of what was at stake. We must do better next time and elect candidates who will strengthen families, communities, and public schools.

 

But there is more we can do now. As parents and teachers, we can encourage students not to take the tests. That’s called “opting out.” The tests are created by two or three major corporations that get to decide what our children should know. The results are used to rank and rate children and identify those who are failures and those who are successes. This is ridiculous. Why should the testing corporations be the arbiters of success and failure? Why should they be given the power to label our children? The standardized tests have no diagnostic value; the results come in too late to inform instruction or to provide insight into what children need more or less of in the classroom. In fact, they are utterly worthless. Tests should be written by classroom teachers, who know what they have taught. There is no particular value in knowing how your child compares to children his age in Maine and Arizona. What you really want from a test is an indication, useful to the teacher, of his strengths and weaknesses, a guide to helping him improve where improvement is needed. That is not what you get from standardized testing. What you as a parent or teacher really want is to know that children are engaged in learning, that they learn how to ask good questions and to pursue the answers, that they learn to love the pursuit of knowledge. A standardized test won’t help you reach those goals, indeed it will undermine them by teaching the importance of finding the right answer to someone else’s question.

 

So here is my advice: Opt out. Stop the machine that produces the data that are used to label your children, to fire his teachers, to close his school. Take away the data and insist that teachers deal with the needs of every child. Do not feed the machine built in D.C. or at Pearson. Be strategic. Do the one thing that only you have the power to do: deny them the data. Use the power you have.

 

Save the children. Save your schools. Save your community.

Here is Mercedes Schneider with a brilliant post about the Obama U.S. Department of Education. She writes brief sketches of eight key appointees, each of whom is tied to the privatization movement.

 

When the President wonders why his party was so badly beaten at the polls earlier this month, he might think about the millions of educators who work in public schools and the millions of parents whose children attend good public schools; they are disgusted by Race to the Top, non-stop testing, test-based teacher evaluation, the Department’s preference for charter schools over public schools, and the millions of public dollars directed to TFA and charter schools. Educators were at one time a key part of the base of the Democratic party. As states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee lashed out at teachers, no protest was heard from Arne Duncan. As billions were cut from school budgets in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Obama administration was silent (Duncan wrote a letter to Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania about the defunding of Philadelphia, but it was a faint protest, not like actually showing up). At present, educators and parents feel abandoned by both parties.

This letter arrived in my email from a professor at the University of New Mexico who is deeply disturbed by the over-testing of her children. The president of the local PTA did not want her to speak, she said. Even more shocking was her statement that teachers had to sign a pledge promising not to say anything negative to parents about the PARCC test or to disparage testing in general. I don’t know why, but I was reminded of the loyalty oaths that many teachers were compelled to sign during the McCarthy era in the late 1940s and early 1950s, to “prove” that they were not Communists.

 

 

 

 

Albuquerque PTA Smackdown

 

 

 

 

This is a redacted version of the talk I attempted to deliver at my children’s Elementary School PTA meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Tuesday, November 18, 2014.

 

The former PTA president had suggested that I ask the current president to put Standardized Testing on the agenda for this meeting, so my understanding was that the PTA was inviting me to speak on this topic.

 

In the five days leading up to the meeting, I was intimidated by emails from the PTA president and a phone conversation intended to censor the content of what I was going to present.

 

I knew that teachers’ freedom of speech on the topic of Standardized Testing had been curtailed, but until last week I hadn’t heard of parents being censored on this topic.

 

The president told me that the PTA officers had met in advance of the meeting, and that if they were going to allow me to speak (her words), they had the right to control the parameters of what I might say.

 

When I arrived on Tuesday night, the doors to the building were locked. When my husband, who had been misdirected to another building, managed to get in, he was told not to bother plugging in the projector for my powerpoint presentation, because they were not going to let me finish presenting.

 

While speaking, I was repeatedly interrupted by the PTA president’s attempts to cut me off. When PTA members called out “let her speak,” a vote was called and a majority voted to let me continue. Still, feeling harassed in the hostile environment the PTA president had created, I was only able to read about half of the following:

 

I would like to begin by thanking the PTA officers and the former PTA president for suggesting that I put Standardized Testing on the agenda for this meeting. The current PTA President has asked me to supply you with the means to get more information on this topic, so flyers with links to websites will be handed out.

 

I am Dr. Kimberle López and as Spanish professors at the University of New Mexico here in Albuquerque, my husband and I have had the honor and privilege of having many of this elementary school’s teachers and parents as our students. I am here not representing the PTA but as a parent and private citizen presenting the results of research I have conducted over the past year since attending a meeting at our neighboring elementary school.

 

I present this information so that you can draw your own informed conclusions. First I would like to present a little background on Standardized Testing.

 

The thing is, test scores can be used to argue opposite points, depending on how you interpret cause and effect. If you want to assert that people with lower incomes or different ethnicities are naturally less intelligent, then lower test scores can back you up. But if you say that testing favors those who have economic advantages, you will interpret the correlation between test scores and income level very differently, taking into account that not all students are given equal educational opportunities.

 

The increase in testing over the past decade and a half arose in part as a response to a supposed dramatic rise in test scores in Houston and other parts of Texas, which were soon proven to be the result of lies, cheating, and manipulation of data.

 

When I first learned about No Child Left Behind, what struck me most was that it seemed that when schools did poorly on standardized tests, the plan was to take money away from those schools. That always seemed backwards to me, since aren’t those the schools that need more resources and support?

 

There is a new test for this Spring that is causing a lot of consternation because of a format unlike that of any other large scale high stakes test given before.

 

Standardized Tests are designed from a model of what do kids need to know to go from high school to college into a career, and then that is trickled down into middle school and elementary school exams. The exams are designed and graded by individuals who do not necessarily have any training in child development nor classroom experience with children. The high school model is not developmentally appropriate for young children.

 

The letters ARCC in the acronym PARCC stand for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers, and this is the test that our 3rd through 5th graders will be taking in Spring.

 

The PARCC test is problematic on a technological level since from one question to another students have to switch between typing in answers, clicking on multiple choices, filling in blanks, navigating texts between split screens, dragging and dropping, highlighting, using a drop-down menu, etc.

This involves class issues and institutional racism, since children from affluent families who have their own iPads would be more familiar with dragging and dropping and using drop-down menus than children who live below the poverty line.

 

We all have concerns about “teaching for the test,” but up until this year, those concerns had to do with teachers having to take class time away from more appropriate forms of learning to teach the content of what would be on the tests. But this year with the PARCC a whole new level of concern has arisen—that we need to take time away from classroom instruction to prepare students for the technological format of the test.

 

Some schools in New Mexico have computer labs and computer lab teachers, but not all children across the state have equal access to computers. Many schools across our state don’t even have the computer facilities to administer the PARCC test, much less to prepare student for its technological challenges.

 

In addition to time spent preparing for the test, the administration of the PARCC test will take approximately 10 hours. Ten hours—that is more than twice as long as the MCAT college seniors take to get into Medical School or the LCAT they take to get into Law School.

 

I have heard that the PARCC will take time away from instruction and interrupt the school routine for six weeks in Spring. Even though the kids won’t be taking the test all day, I think we all know that if students are taking tests in the morning, they may not be as receptive to learning in the afternoon.

 

I would like to see our school keep our current high rating, but not because we have an unfair advantage over other kids across the state. Our neighboring school has an “F” rating that is affecting student enrollment, the ability to hire teachers, and property values in their district.

 

Why? Not because it is a bad school with bad teachers, but on the contrary, because they have a magnet Special Education program, and my understanding is that Special Education students must take the standardized tests corresponding to their grade level without reasonable accommodations.

 

Because test scores are tied to Teacher Evaluations and School Rankings, Special Ed teachers are more likely to be rated as “minimally effective,” get lower raises, and the schools that serve the most underserved children are ranked lower and risk having their funding reduced. So again, the kids who need the most help get fewer resources, and the teachers who work the hardest and have the most stressful job are the least rewarded.

 

New Mexico teachers have 50% of their Teacher Evaluation based on student test scores—no other state in the union has a higher percentage, and most count Standardized Testing as a significantly lower percentage of Teacher Evaluations. States risk losing federal funding if they don’t tie Teacher Evaluations to student test scores.

 

The rating of schools using A-F grades is particularly demoralizing to teachers, because teachers took pride in being “A” students when they were in school.

 

Schools having an F rating for a certain number of years risk closure. What is happening across the country is that Standardized Test scores are being used as a pretext to close public schools and then re-open them as corporate-run for-profit schools funded with tax dollars.

 

The process of privatization seems to follow this sequence: first, there appear headlines saying “Our Schools Are Failing.” If they repeat it often enough, we begin to believe it. Then they use Standardized Testing to give failing grades to school, then after a few years they close them and replace them with Corporate Charter Schools. Last year in Chicago alone, 50 public schools were closed, and in Chicago the for-profit corporate charter school industry is booming.

 

When I say corporate charter schools, I am not talking about the grassroots charter schools run by dedicated educators who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and rolled up their sleeves ready to work to contribute to educate our kids and make our communities a better place. No–I am talking about multi-billion dollar corporations that run for-profit schools using our tax dollars.

 

They use the top-down corporate model that pays administrators top dollar while treating teachers like lowly assembly line workers, underpaid and overworked. The administrators making educational decisions are businesspeople not educators.

 

New Mexico, like other states, is moving toward the privatization of education. The privatization of public education means that, like the private prisons, our tax dollars would be used to pay for-profit companies to run our schools.

 

If you haven’t heard about these issues, it may be due to the fact that teachers are discouraged from discussing testing with parents. It surprised me to learn this, since one would think that it would be a professional obligation of teachers to critically examine the tests and discuss them with parents. Instead, it is a taboo subject and teachers are led to believe that they might lose their jobs if they talk to parents about something so relevant to their students’ educational wellbeing. We want teachers to teach our kids critical thinking, but they are discouraged from applying critical thinking to examining the circumstances in which they practice their own profession.

 

[The day after this PTA meeting, I attended a School Board meeting where I learned that New Mexico teachers who would be administering the PARCC had all been obliged to sign a waiver saying that they would not speak disparagingly about the PARCC.]

 

It is because teachers have been intimidated and made to feel fearful about discussing the topic of Standardized Testing that I feel compelled as a parent to speak. Teachers are threatened with losing their jobs, but parents still have the right and the obligation to monitor their children’s education.

 

[I didn’t think that parents were also censored on this topic, but by this time the PTA president had interrupted me several times and was trying to cut me off. A vote was called and a majority voted to let me continue. The PTA president set a timer for two minutes so I didn’t get much further]

 

The topic of Standardized Testing makes teachers very nervous. Students pick up on this, and it makes them nervous as well. Anxiety is running high–although it is only November, kids are already coming home and telling their parents about a big test they will be taking next Spring.

 

What causes a lot of teacher stress is the top-down corporate model of education. The idea is that a school or a school system is basically like a business and should be run like one, with the administrators at the top being paid top dollar and the teachers being not just the lowest paid and least appreciated, but also those whose opinions are least taken into account when educational decisions are made.

 

Instead, decisions that affect our children most are taken by business managers without taking into account input from those who know the most about what is best for our kids, their classroom teachers. I would venture to guess that what is most demoralizing to teachers is not the low wages or the ever increasing workload (teachers are used to being overworked and underpaid) but the fact that the administration fails to draw on teachers’ extensive experience when making decisions that affect our kids.

 

The main reason this corporate model is flawed is that a school is not like a business. A business runs to produce a product and make a profit. Our school system has tried to copy this model with the student as the “product” and the teachers as the assembly line producers. Standardized Testing has grown as its own multi-billion dollar industry in response to the need to measure educational “production.”

 

Standardized Tests have never been proven with independent research (not funded by the publishing companies that produce and sell the tests) to be an accurate measure of students’ knowledge. The only thing Standardized Testing has definitively been proven to have achieved is to have enriched the coffers of the publishing houses that design and produce the tests.

 

New Mexico has dedicated $9.8 million to the online PARCC tests for this Spring, and it has cost our public school system $1.3 million to add a testing coordinator at each of our schools this year. The state reforms are forcing our most experienced teachers out of the classroom while we are adding testing coordinators and computer experts to prepare students for these exams.

 

Ten million dollars could be better spent on something directly contributing to education: 10 million dollars could fund thousands of teacher salaries, buy thousands of computers and hundreds of thousands of books for our schools.

 

Although it is common knowledge that teachers are underpaid and overworked, they are often treated as if they were overpaid and underworked, and each year they are loaded up with new bureaucratic tasks that don’t translate into more meaningful classroom experiences for their students.

 

If you lined up 10 teachers and asked them whether they would prefer to have a higher salary; less work; or the right to have a say in decisions that affect education, and the knowledge that the work they were doing was not bureaucratic busy work but meaningful work that contributes to education, I believe that at least 9 of them would accept their current salary and workload if they knew that they were respected for their experience and their opinions were taken into account in educational decisions.

 

At the meeting over a year ago at our neighboring school, a highly esteemed teacher who works tirelessly for students at our school, said that our “B” rating is due in part to the fact that our faculty have figured out how to say what bureaucracy wants to hear when they fill out the forms set up for ranking schools. Someone in the audience replied that it is unfortunate that we have put our teachers in the position where they have to jump through hoops. Indeed, jumping through hoops is something we train circus animals, not professional educators, to do. It is appalling that teachers need to spend so much time on meaningless bureaucratic tasks, taking time away from doing the meaningful work they were educated and hired to do.

 

Most of us just let this happen because we figure there is nothing we can do about it. The public school system doesn’t make parents aware of the fact that they can opt their children out from testing. And if we do happen to find the opt-out form on line, we read language that aims to “guilt” parents into not signing the form. Our form says that opting out may “hamper instructional planning for my child” but if the tests are taken in Spring and results are not received until the next school year, it is simply not true that these tests help instructional planning for my child, who will be in a different class with a different teacher by the time my kid’s current teacher receives the test scores.

 

Many parents feel torn about “opting out” of standardized testing—even if parents think that opting out is best for our children, they are told that it will hurt our schools. The only reason it would hurt our schools is because the system is arbitrarily set up to base teacher raises and school rankings on standardized test scores. Why should parents be forced to choose between what is best for our schools and what is best for our kids? Shouldn’t what is best for our kids and our schools be the same thing?

 

Andrea Gabor, who is the Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College, is an expert on the life and philosophy of W. Edwards Deming. Deming has been widely credited with reviving the Japanese economy, as well as major American corporations who listened to him.

 

In this fascinating post, she draws lessons from the work of Deming and shows how they apply to education reform. The “reformers” want the schools to learn from business, but they are pushing the wrong lessons, she says. “Top-down, punitive solutions” don’t work. They demoralize employees. Deming believed in a work environment of collaboration and trust, not fear and blame. When things were not going well, he believed it was wrong to blame the front-line workers. While today’s “reformers” want to find and fire “bad teachers,” Deming insisted: “The responsibility for quality rests with senior management.” He was a dedicated foe of performance pay, as he concluded that it sowed dissension and unhealthy competition among workers who should be working as a team.

 

She writes:

 

Deming’s approach to organizational improvement transformed entire industries in post-war Japan and, later, in the U.S. In the years leading up to his death, in 1993, he began turning his interest to education. He believed that the same principles he advocated for companies—systems thinking, collaborative improvement, understanding statistical variation, creating organizational cultures free of fear and conducive to creative problem-solving—could also transform schools.

 

Simply put, Deming would be appalled by much of what passes for education reform today…..

 

Deming’s work has important implications for education: First, it is based on management (everyone from principals to education bureaucrats) recognizing its responsibility for creating a climate conducive to meaningful improvement, including building trust and collaboration, and providing the necessary training; this involves hard work, Deming admonished, not quick-fix gimmicks, incentives or threats.

 

Second, for many teacher advocates, it means dropping the defensive—education-is-good-enough—posture and embracing a mindset of continuous improvement; it also may mean adopting union contracts that mirror the professional practices of many teachers and are based on more flexible work rules. (Though not the unsustainable sweat-shop hours that are common at many charters.)

 

Third, by ending the finger-pointing and building a more collaborative approach to improvement, schools and districts could create cultures that are far more rewarding and productive for both children and educators….

 

Deming invoked the power of statistical theory: If management is doing its job correctly in terms of hiring, developing employees and keeping the system stable, most people will do their best. Of course, there will always be fluctuations—human beings, after all, aren’t automatons. Deming understood that an employee with a sick child, a toothache or some other “special cause” problem may not function at peak performance all the time. However, in a well-designed system, most employees will perform around a mean.

 

There will also be outliers who perform above or below the mean—though well-run organizations will have the fewest outliers because they’re hiring and training practices will guarantee a consistent level of performance. The work of high performers, Deming believed, should be studied; their work can serve as a model for improving the system.

 

Low performers, Deming believed, represent a failure of management to perform one of its key functions. Deming believed that hiring represents a moral and contractual obligation. Once hired, it is management’s responsibility to help every employee succeed whether via training or relocation. While it might occasionally be necessary to fire a poor performer, Deming believed this option should be a last resort…..

 

The lessons for education are clear: Quality improvement must begin with senior management (principals and education bureaucrats) establishing the conditions for collaboration and iterative problem-solving. It requires flexibility and professionalism from both teachers and education leaders. Finally, a climate of fear and finger-pointing will do nothing to improve schools; indeed, it is likely to set back the effort for years to come.

 

There is much we can learn from Deming. This important post is a must-read.

 

 

 

 

Matthew Tully of the Indianapolis Star calls on Republicans to stop their war against state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Ritz was elected in 2012, handiy beating incumbent Tony Bennett despite his 10-1 spending advantage. Since her election, the Republican Governor Mike Pence and Legislature and state board have done everything possible to undercut Ritz. Pence even created a rival education agency to bypass Ritz and the state education department.

Now the Governor and Legislature want to abolish her office, nullify the election, and turn the position into a gubernatorial appointment.

Matthew Tully says this is ill-advised. He favors an appointed office but thinks it would be wrong to do it in the current climate. She was elected fair and square. She got more votes than Governor Pence.

“Such a move would infuriate educators and others across the state and worsen what has been a toxic period in state education policy. It would be a slap in the face to voters who elected a Democratic superintendent in 2012, one who many GOP bosses, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s leaders, do not like….

“If you think the debate has been ugly of late — with state Board of Education meetings topping anything you’d find in a room full of sugared-up preschoolers — imagine what would happen if already frustrated educators and their supporters statewide see their votes steamrolled by a Republican legislative supermajority.

“Any benefit would be greatly overwhelmed by the ill will the move would inspire, and by the message it would send. In a state where no leaders are calling for the appointment of currently elected (and Republican-held) offices like treasurer and auditor, this would be a straight-up bully move. And it would backfire in a bad way on Republicans by giving the same voters who worked so hard against Bennett in 2012 a reason to get motivated for 2016.

“Yes, the change would likely guarantee fewer of the fights we’ve seen between Gov. Pence’s education appointees and Ritz’s office. And, yes, it would allow the state to have greater alignment at the top when it comes to setting an education vision. But that’s all worthless if the people on the ground — Indiana’s teachers — feel abused, and if voters feel betrayed”

“Anyone who thinks Indiana’s schools can be improved in any real way without the buy-in of its educators is living in a policy bubble and not a classroom.”

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

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

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

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

This is not education. It is regimentation.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Once again, the resolutions were rejected.

 

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

 

Who does the New York State PTA represent?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 118,314 other followers