The poem below was written by Holly White, an English teacher and parent. I asked her to explain why she wrote it, and she did. Oh, when you read the poem, you will come to the acronym HEDI, which means “highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective,” the ratings given to teachers based on test scores and observations.

 

Holly White writes:

 

“After graduating from Colgate University in the small town of Hamilton, NY, I was given the opportunity to stay in Hamilton and pursue my career as an English teacher. I have taught at HCS, the community’s P-12 public school, for 14 years. I’m proud of our creative and talented students, of our incredibly dedicated faculty and staff, and of the broader Hamilton community that supports us.

 

“As a teacher, and as a parent with two children in elementary school, corporate education reform is often on my mind, especially during testing season. One evening in early March, I was reading a few Dr. Seuss books to my children. I paused in the middle of the book “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” after reading the following passage:

 

Out west, near Hawtch-Hawtch,
there’s a Hawtch-Hawtcher Bee-Watcher.
His job is to watch…
is to keep both his eyes on the lazy town bee.
A bee that is watched will work harder, you see.

 

Well…he watched and he watched.
But, in spite of his watch,
that bee didn’t work any harder. Not mawtch.

 

So then somebody said,
“Our old bee-watching man
just isn’t bee-watching as hard as he can.
He ought to be watched by another Hawtch-Hawtcher!
The thing that we need
is a Bee-Watcher-Watcher!

 

“After tucking my kids into bed, I still couldn’t shake the image of the Hawtch-Hawtchers lining up to watch the “lazy town bee.” I pulled out my laptop and–attempting to channel Seuss’s use of verbal irony and absurdity–wrote for the next four hours.”

 

A Portrait of Education Reform, Inspired by Dr. Seuss

 

We said students would be proficient, all 100 percent!

 

But the year 2014, it came and it went…
There’d been little improvement after 12 years of tests,

 

So we searched till we found the most “rigorous” ones yet.

 

What those teachers must need is more accountability,

 

Then they’ll surely work harder, every he and each she.

 

As soon as they hear about APPR,

 

They’ll take their feet off their desks, make their lessons five-star,

 

And strive to earn back the public’s trust

 

(A tough task, since they’ve been treated with scorn and disgust).

 

Once they know that we’re watching, and changing cut scores,

 

And counting all the 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s,

 

They’ll teach and they’ll prep and they’ll drill for the test,

 

They’ll strive for a HEDI score that shows they’re the best,

 

They’ll cut back on art, science, creative writing

 

(The things they say students find most exciting).

 

They’ll overcome all of those pitiful excuses:

 

Poverty? Absenteeism? Hunger? Abuses?

 

Learning disabilities? Disobedient teens?

 

And kids who don’t read, but just stare at their screens?

 

Each student is different, learns at his own pace?

 

What’s that you say – learning isn’t a race?

 

No more excuses! With 40 minutes a day,

 

They can mold kids and shape them in every which way

 

(They can start in first grade, which is no place for play).

 

And all the while, schools’ funding will slow,

 

Because the harder we make things, the better they’ll go.

 

Each student will succeed, a year’s worth they’ll grow,

 

They’ll all factor trinomials and use “soak-a-toe”

 

If their teacher works hard like a real go-getter,

 

If she only works harder and faster and better…

But here I must pause in this poetic pretense,

 

(It’s been hard not to laugh while spouting nonsense).

 

Silly teachers, good luck being “highly effective,”

 

The system’s designed to say you’re flawed and defective.

 

The problem is, as by now you can probably tell,

 

Who’d want “reforms” if they knew teachers were doing well?

 

That just like most doctors, nurses, and crossing guards,

 

Most teachers are competent and already work hard.

 

What would happen to Pearson, McGraw, hedge fund investors,
Charter schools, EMOs, boards of directors?

 

Education’s a great source of new revenue,

 

The possibilities abound, and profits accrue.

 

But please, keep this between us; no one else needs to know.

 

As long as no one speaks up, then onward we’ll go…

 

by Holly White, HCS teacher

Despite loud protests from the district’s teachers, the school board of Burbank, California, named Matt Hill as the next superintendent of schools.

Teachers were upset for two reasons:

1) Hill never was a teacher.

2) Hill is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, which is known for promoting school closings and privatization.

Hill persuaded the board that it should give him a chance. He said it was just as unfair to demonize his business background as it is unfair to demonize teachers.

Hill was responsible for the disastrous iPad program and MISIS program in the Los Angeles public schools. In addition to an ongoing FBI investigation of conflicts of interests in the district’s procurement agreement with Apple and Pearson, the SEC is now probing whether the use of bond funds to buy iPads was appropriate.

According to Glen Brown, a teacher in Illinois, the Illinois Education Association endorsed the right of parents to opt their child out of state testing today.

Here is an excerpt from the resolution that was passed:

The IEA supports the right of a parent or guardian to exclude his or child from any or all parts of state and district-level standardized tests, provided the state or school districts are not financially or otherwise penalized if such students are excluded, and supports the right of educators without suffering from adverse actions regarding their employment or licensure to:

Discuss the impact of standardized testing with parents and/or guardians

Discuss the state and district-level standardized tests with parents or guardians and may inform parents or guardians of their ability to exclude his or her child from state and/or district-level standardized tests

Provide a parent or guardian with his or her opinion on whether or not a student would benefit from exclusion from a state and/or district-level test, and that no adverse action or discipline will be taken against a school district employee who engages in such discussion.

The IEA furthermore supports:

A school and its employees not being negatively impacted due to a student not taking a state and/or district level standardized test, such as by ensuring that students who are opted out of standardized tests by a parent or guardian are excluded from performance calculations for state and local accountability measures and from employee evaluations

Reducing the volume of standardized tests that students must take and to reduce the time educators and students spend on meaningless test preparation drills

Here is the response of the National School Boards Association to the bill approved unanimously by the Senate committee. It must now be endorsed by the Senate, then be merged with a bill from the House of Representatives.

NSBA contact: Linda Embrey, Communications Office
703-838-6737; lembrey@nsba.org

National School Boards Association Calls ECAA Vote ‘A Great Victory’

April 16, 2015 – By unanimous vote, the Senate HELP Committee today reported out the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), as amended. The three-day mark-up of the Senate’s legislation to modernize and reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) allowed committee members to consider and debate more than 50 amendments, with 29 adopted, 8 defeated, and 20 withdrawn.

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) encouraged a ‘yes’ vote on ECAA due to its bipartisan approach and “because the process was fair,” stating that “if you like the fact that we have the Department of Education running schools through waivers in 42 states, vote no.” Moments later, the Committee’s final vote was 22 to 0.

“Today marks a great victory for local and community leadership in public education,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association. “Though there is much more work to be done, today’s powerful vote demonstrates that we are one step closer to rewriting the broken No Child Left Behind Act and modernizing ESEA.”

Selected highlights from this week’s mark-up of interest to local school board members include:

A voucher amendment withdrawn, but expected to be discussed during the Senate’s floor debate on the bill (Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.)
Grants to states to improve the quality and reliability of state assessments (Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.)
An amendment to improve data collection methods and systems, intended to reduce the burden on school districts (Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.)

A change of the funding formula ratio, to 80 percent poverty, 20 percent population, regarding funding for high-quality teachers, principals and other school leaders (Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.)

Related to the Burr amendment, a “hold harmless” provision for states that would lose funding due to the change in the funding formula (Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn.)

Related to the Casey amendment, a gradual decrease of “hold harmless” funding, phasing out the provision in seven years (Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.)
Some of the more contentious amendments – a voucher amendment introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and an anti-bullying measure introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) – were withdrawn, and are expected to resurface on the Senate floor.

While the Senate bill is “imperfect,” according to Gentzel, “it is something NSBA and our strong base of public school advocates can work to perfect moving forward.” Gentzel also noted that NSBA is prepared to remain steadfast in its opposition to privatization – vouchers, tuition tax credits, and non-locally authorized charters.

While the Senate HELP Committee action is another big step in the legislative process, Senators must agree to move ECAA to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. Also still on the horizon is the House version (H.R. 5) which has been debated on the House Floor, with no final votes yet taken.

# # #

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at http://www.nsba.org.

Contact:
Linda Embrey, Communications Office
National School Boards Association
(703) 838-6737; lembrey@nsba.org
http://www.nsba.org

I promise not to post any test passages, but the BATs don’t.

 

Here, they have gathered comments from teachers about the test questions. Some are general, some specific.

 

It appears that the tests contained many words that would be unfamiliar to most students, some with explanations, others not. In general, the reading level of the tests were well above the grade level of the students.

 

By the way, if you go to the NYSAPE website, you will learn that the opt-out numbers are up to 173,000 and 63% of districts have reported. These are not official numbers, as the state says it can’t release such numbers until the summer. This is truly a citizens’ revolt against bad policy imposed by the Governor, the Legislature, and the U.S. Department of Education. The opt out movement will likely continue to grow until toxic policies are rolled back.

Peter Greene–who seems to read everything–saw an article in USA Today, quoting an employee of the Wall Street hedge-fund managers’ group “Democrats for Education Reform,” which may or may not actually have any Democrats in its membership (but we will never know). She said it was important for students to take the state tests because property values hinge on test scores! Really! Without high test scores, the property values in high-wealth Scarsdale, a suburb of New York City, might plummet.

The DFER spokesperson said:

“Schools are one of the biggest differentiators of value in the suburbs,” she said. “How valuable will a house be in Scarsdale when it isn’t clear that Scarsdale schools are doing any better than the rest of Westchester or even the state? Opting out of tests only robs parents of that crucial data.”

Gosh, state officials never told us that the importance of the state tests was to shore up property values in elite suburbs. What then is the reason for students in low-income communities to take the test? Their scores might hurt their property values. Same for working-class neighborhoods. This argument is actually a good reason for everyone to opt out except for elite suburbs.

Tim Slekar, dean of education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, recognizes that the Néw York opt out has national implications.

He links to a dismissive editorial in the Néw York Daily News that characterizes opt out as union-led, which is ridiculous. Parents don’t work for the union and don’t take orders from the union.

He writes:

“It’s fills me with such warmth to watch the media try with all its might to prop up an invalid, unreliable, and politically driven system to divert tax dollars to private companies and charter schools.

“Opt out was never and will never be an anti-testing movement. It is the ultimate reality check and newest form of civil disobedience.

“People are now opting out in large numbers because they finally understand that the results are scientifically invalid.

“Simply, the tests don’t tell us how children our doing and don’t hold anybody accountable. 25 years of testing and not a single budge in the achievement gap. 25 years of accountability and 1 trillion dollars redirected towards ACCOUNTABILITY and all we have to show for it is soaring profits for test making companies, test prep companies and data companies.

“Sorry but its over. This was never about helping our neediest children. It was always about destroying the public system, blaming teachers and then selling off our schools to the highest bidders.”

Let me add a personal note about Tim. Five years ago, he urged me to endorse opting out, and I declined. I did not want to urge anyone to break the law. Over time, I have come to realize that Tim was right. Opting out is the only way that parents have to tell legislators to stop demonizing our public schools and our teachers. Doing so requires civil disobedience. We can take action. We will be heard. Our numbers will grow until politicians stop using test scores to harm children and privatize public schools.

New York State education officials released data showing that the top-rated teachers, based on student test scores, are less likely to work in schools enrolling black and Hispanic students.

Did State Education Department officials read the VAM reports showing that VAM is statistically flawed as a measure of individual teachers? Are they aware that less than 20% of black and Hispanic students met the absurd passing mark on the state’s Common Core test for the past two years? Are they aware that test-based accountability discourages teachers from working in high-needs schools? Interesting that the article cites the leader of Michelle Rhee’s organization, TNTP (the Néw Teacher Project), whose goal is to replace experienced teachers with new hires. At the rate these so-called reforms are accepted as credible (despite evidence to the contrary), TNTP will be able to place millions of new hires.

AlterNet reports that StudentsFirst has found a new project. It is seeking people willing to flood social media with anti-union, anti-public school, “reform” views.

 

The new group is called “The Truth Campaign for Teachers.” The email that landed on AlterNet’s doorstep is targeted on New Mexico, but the writer assumes that other states may have the same campaign.

 

Here’s a copy of the email we received from a source who says it appeared over the summer:

 

The Truth Campaign for Teachers (TCT) is looking for:

 

·3-5 New Mexicans who are willing to blog at least twice/week on a variety of pro-reform issues

 

·3-5 New Mexicans who are willing to comment on/promote content on social media

 

Bloggers

 

Ideal candidate is passionate about education reform and is willing to be vocal about issues like the ones StudentsFirst supports.

 

·TCT would supply them with:

 

-Daily emails with suggested content and they would choose which topics to write on

 

-Before posts are final, a TCT write will provide feedback on post to form a compelling blog post

 

-(Help set up blog if person does not have one yet)

 

·Prefer that individual is willing to be named but we can work with anonymous bloggers as well

 

·Trying to get as many volunteers as possible

 

Politico had more on this new astroturf group, which is off to a slow start:

 

SEEDING THE FIELD: Eager to amplify voices in support of education reform, StudentsFirst has backed an initiative to nurture – and compensate – a new crop of online activists. The organization, founded by former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, has been providing staff support and fundraising help to the Truth Campaign [http://bit.ly/19xK15c ], which publishes a blog highly critical of teachers unions. The Truth Campaign, in turn, urges supporters to get active promoting ed reform on social media. When they do, they can earn money from the campaign, though Recruitment Manager Drew Hazouri won’t say how much. He won’t say, either, where the group gets its funding – only that StudentsFirst has been supportive. “Our mission is to create voices,” Hazouri said. “We’re creating a community.”

 

– So far, Hazouri said he’s launched at least 10 online activists. None appears to have caught fire on social media – at least, not yet. Jonathan Piliser, a former Teach for America corps member, has posted thousands of tweets but has just 78 followers. Maggie Paynich, an Atlanta real estate agent, launched her blog [http://bit.ly/1CIgLUI] with a flurry of posts but only had time for one so far in April. Still, the activists say they believe they’re making a difference. Piliser said he’s getting “several thousand hits a week” on his blog [ http://bit.ly/1afbWI0%5D, which in recent weeks has advocated for merit pay and in favor of the PARCC exams. No one tells him what to write, he said: “It’s my voice.” As for the stipend, neither Piliser or Paynich would discuss it, except to say that it’s not a full-time salary. “When I become important enough to have my salary posted publicly,” Paynich said, “then I guess you’ll know how much I make.”

Andrew Cuomo can put one notch on his belt. Carol Burris is stepping down. He better have a very big belt because his hatred for teachers eill drive out many from the profession. who will replace? Does he care? The much-honored principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center decided to retire early because of Cuomo’s punitive law. Morally and ethically, she could not continue to work in the environment he has created.

She said:

“We are now turning our backs on the very experiences that build on our children’s natural strengths in order to pursue higher test scores in this era of corporate reform. We have become blind to indicators of quality that can’t be demonstrated on a scan sheet.

“The opinions of billionaires and millionaires who send their own children to private schools awash in the arts hold more sway than those of us who have dedicated our lives to teaching children. In the words of our chancellor [Merryl Tisch], we who object are “noise.”

“Much to the dismay of Albany, the noise level is on the rise since the passage of a new teacher evaluation system that elevates the role of testing. I am not sure why I was shocked when the legislature actually adopted the nonsensical evaluation plan designed by a governor who is determined to break the spirit of teachers, but I was. What is even more shocking is the legislature’s refusal to admit what they did, which was to create a system in which 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on test scores. Whether that denial comes from ignorance or willful deceit doesn’t matter. It is inexcusable.

“What will happen to our profession is not hard to predict. Since the state has generated student “growth” scores, the scores of 7 percent of all elementary and middle school principals are labeled ineffective. Likewise, 6-7 percent of Grades 4-8 teachers of English Language Arts and math received ineffective growth scores. That is because the metrics of the system produce a curve.

“Based on the law, we know before even one test is given that at least 7 percent of teachers and principals, regardless of their supervisors’ opinion, will need to be on an improvement plan. They will be labeled either developing or ineffective. We have no idea what growth scores for high school teachers and teachers of the arts will look like — that has been, in the words of Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, “punted” to a State Education Department. Yes, they [state lawmakers] have turned the football over to the folks whom they publicly berate for the botched rollout of the Common Core.

“Well, the legislature has woken a sleeping giant. Around the state today parents are saying “no more.” The robust opt-out movement, which began on Long Island, has now spread across rural and suburban areas in upstate New York as well. Over 75 percent of the students in Allendale Elementary School in West Seneca refused the Common Core tests today. In the Dolgeville district, the number is 88 percent. Over 70 percent of the students in the Icabod Crane Elementary and Middle School refused. On Long Island, 82 percent of Comsewogue students, 68 percent of Patchogue Medford students and 61 percent of Rockville Centre students opted out of the tests. And that is but a sample.

“This is happening because the bond between students and teachers is understood and valued by the parents we serve. They have no stomach for the inevitable increased pressures of testing. Through opt out, they are speaking loud and clear.”

“She is not going away. She was already a leader in the battle against corporate reform. She has written many posts for Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post. She will write more. Now she is joining the fight to save children and public education from corporate raiders full-time. Hers will be an experienced, wise voice in the fight for democratic public education.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 146,973 other followers