Archives for category: Education Reform

Andy Goldstein addressed the school board of Palm Beach County, where he teaches, at a recent meeting:

Why My Wife and I Are Opting Out Our Daughter From Third-Grade High-Stakes Testing

Transcript of the original text:

Good evening. My name is Andy Goldstein. I’m a teacher at Omni Middle School and the proud parent of an eight-year-old daughter who attends one of our public elementary schools.

It seems like it was just yesterday when my daughter entered kindergarten. At that time, I talked about her at our August School Board meeting in 2013.

I said that my hopes and dreams for my daughter were that she would develop a lifelong love for learning that would serve her well as she learned to construct a life that would serve her and serve others as well.

I told this board that my wife and I were not particularly interested in having her be seen as a data point for others to make money from.

Now, three short years later, which seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye, she is entering third grade.

Tonight, I’m speaking as a parent, who also is a teacher.

In Florida, third grade is the beginning of high-stakes, standardized testing for our children.

What are the high-stakes?

• Our children, on the basis of one test, will receive a number, a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, which, will serve to define them.

Some students, may do well learning throughout the year, but do not test well and may receive a 1, a one being the lowest possible score.

Some may come from disadvantaged backgrounds and will receive a 1.

Some may be special needs students, who receive a 1.

These numbers work to define our students as to whom they are. “I’m a one. I’m a Failure.”

This high-stakes testing policy, mandated by state law, works to stigmatize our students and they grow up with a limiting self-concept of who they are and what they are capable of doing and becoming.

• On the basis of this one high-stakes test, some schools—those comprised of the poorest students, who need the most help—are labeled with an “F.” Failures. This stigmatizes these schools, whose faculty and staff may be working hard to meet the high needs of the surrounding neighborhood they serve. It also serves to increase the segregation at these already segregated schools. What parents, given the means to choose what community they will move into, will choose a neighborhood with a school labeled “F.”

• There is a lot of money being made on the part of testing companies, publishers, and vendors, based on this annual imposition of this high-stakes testing.

• This high-stakes testing is part of a corporate agenda, an agenda by the rich and powerful to demonize our public schools and privatize them through the rise of publicly funded, privately managed schools called charters. Our state legislature, bought and paid for by corporate interests, is cheating our children by defunding our public schools.

• “That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital,” says Noam Chomsky, an MIT professor.

• Our third graders are still babies, really. Do they really need the pressures of this high-stakes testing?

Recently, I read one account from a parent recounting the experience of her son when he was a third grader taking the FCAT. He was a good kid. He worked all year to learn. But he missed passing the FCAT by one point. He went to summer school to do more work and took it again. And again, he missed passing the test by one point. His mother was afraid to tell him, but he could tell by her reaction that he had not passed. He was crushed by the sense of failure. His mother, working on making dinner in the kitchen, called him to come down to eat. He did not respond. She had a premonition that something was the matter. She rushed up to his bedroom and found him hanging by a bedsheet. She got him down.

• Is there anyone who thinks this high-stakes testing is worth such a price?

• As a parent, I can answer with a resounding NO!

• My wife and I believe that our public schools should work to develop the whole, creative child in all of our schools, and in all of our communities of all colors and all socio-economic backgrounds.

• For these reasons, I’m announcing to you, our school board, that my wife and I do not support high-stakes testing in Florida, and will be opting out our daughter. Evidence for her learning will be through a portfolio.

• Thank you.

Perhaps you don’t know who Peter Cunningham is. I didn’t know until he went to Washington as Arne Duncan’s chief PR guy (Assistant Secretary for Communications). I met Peter a few times, and I thought he was charming. We always disagreed with a smile or a laugh. He knew he would never persuade me, and I knew I would never get him to admit that Race to the Top was all wrong.

I recall a discussion of testing. I tried to persuade him that the most important things in life can’t be measured. He replied, “You measure what you treasure.” I of course responded, “what you really treasure can never be measured.” What about your children? Your spouse? Your parents? Your pets? Come on! I love certain paintings, certain music, certain movies. How much? I don’t know. What difference?

Mike Klonsky has been arguing on Twitter with Peter.

Peter has decided that it’s too late to worry about racial segregation. Apparently he thinks that talking about poverty is a distraction from school reform. Peter has become the voice of corporate reformers. They have controlled the narrative for at least 15 years. Where are the success stories?

I am sorry that I frequently ask for your financial support, but crowd-sourcing is the best way for parents and public education activists to make their case. Unfortunately, we do not have the deep pockets of the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, or hedge fund managers. If 1,000 people who read this appeal and others each send a gift of $10 or $20, it will make a difference.

Colleen Wood, a parent of students in Florida public schools and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, asks for your help for parents who are in court fighting the state’s third grade retention law:

Friends – I know we are pulled in so many different directions, but I’m asking for your help in Florida.

Florida has a mandatory retention policy for 3rd graders who do not pass the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment). Statute spells out good cause exemptions and there are ways for districts to look at a portfolio of the students work all year, and to promote. There are also ways for the districts to fight parents, to force them to have their child take some standardized tests.

This group of 3rd grade parents refused and are now suing the state to have their students promoted to 4th grade. These are students whose teachers have testified they are on grade level, but certain districts are still refusing to promote them to make a point.

It is insane that we have to sue to do what is right, but we do. And 3rd grade retention is a central tenant of Jeb Bush’s education reform policies, even though we know there is no sound research supporting automatic retention. Discrediting it in court would be a huge step to undoing the damage he has brought to our state.

In court yesterday, Mary Jane Tappen, the Vice Chancellor for all Florida public schools said under oath that a student could have F’s all year and get a 2 on the FSA and be promoted. Or they could have A’s all year, not score at least a 2 on the FSA and be retained. Out loud. She said that out loud. District lawyers argued that report cards are meaningless. At least we’re getting them on record.

But here’s where we need your support:

financially – https://www.gofundme.com/stopgr3retention

Click here to support 3rd Grade Parents v. FLDOE by cindy Hamilton

http://www.gofundme.com

David v Goliath: Parents prepare to challenge the FL DOE This past spring, hundreds of families consciously chose to participate, though only minimally, in the Third Grade FSA and their children, therefore, received no test scores. Many students (including many who failed the FSA) were promoted

donate here if you are able. The districts are now petitioning for a change in venue and want to have the case heard in each individual district, which would make the costs prohibitive to most parents. And FLDOE is burying the lawyers in paperwork to continually drive up the costs.

share on social media – please link to the donation page, use #180DaysCount or link to any stories. Here are a few:

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/florida-third-grade-retention-case-returns-to-state-court-today/2290483

Parents challenge Bush-era third-grade retention law in nine-hour hearing in state court

http://www.politico.com

TALLAHASSEE – Parents whose children were retained after ‘opting out’ of standardized testing challenged a Jeb Bush-era state law requiring third graders to pass state reading tests in order to be promoted during a nine-hour long hearing in state court on Monday.

I am not a plaintiff in this lawsuit, but feel like these parents are doing what we have been asking and we need to provide all the support we can, in all the ways we can, as often as we can.

Thank you!

Colleen

A state court judge in Florida will soon issue a ruling that will either validate or refute parents’ right to opt their child out of state testing. The specific issue is the high-stakes third grade reading test; if students don’t pass it, they may be held back, even if their teacher says they are proficient readers.

A state judge is weighing a decision that could shake Florida’s education-accountability system following a marathon hearing Monday in Tallahassee.

After nearly nine hours of testimony and arguments, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers wrapped up a hearing on state and local policies for allowing students to move to the fourth grade but did not rule on a request that would allow about a dozen students across Florida to advance.

The practical effect of Gievers’ decision, and the appeals that are almost certain to follow, could either validate or shatter the “opt out” movement led by parents who say a state standardized test should not decide whether their children are allowed to move from third grade to fourth grade.

The parents of the students involved in the case told their children to “minimally participate” in the Florida Standards Assessment for third grade by filling in their names, breaking the seals on the tests and then refusing to answer any questions.

Those parents believe state law gives them the right to tell their children not to answer questions on the test. But while the law spells out ways to advance that don’t require passing the assessment, the Florida Department of Education and school districts say that doesn’t give students the opportunity to refuse to take it.

Gievers, who seemed in an earlier hearing to sympathize with the parents, gave no clear indication of how she intended to rule on the request for an injunction.

“You’ve given me a lot to look at, and I plan to do this the right way,” she said.

But the hearing laid bare not only the legal questions at the heart of the case, but the philosophical ones: Is a report card based on a year’s worth of work a better measure of a student’s knowledge, or is an objective test the proper measure? Where is the balance between a parent’s right to control his or her child’s education and the state’s right to determine how to measure learning?

The Parkway School District in Missouri posted this beautiful video about the first day of school. It asked students what they hoped for. It asked teachers what they hoped for.

Please notice that no one mentioned higher test scores.

They spoke of hopes and dreams. Being better. Making new friends. Having school feel like home. Caring. Feeling wanted. Belonging.

http://www.fixthemitten.com/blog/do-cornerstones-religious-charter-schools-have-a-separate-existence

A businessman named Clark Durant founded private schools and charters schools in Michigan.

The private schools are religious.

But this blogger says that it is hard to tell the difference.

Michigan’s state constitution specifically prohibits public funding of religious schools.

But:

Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press has penned a glowing column about Cornerstone Schools. In the piece, Henderson writes about Cornerstone’s private schools and charter schools. He explains that businessman Clark Durant founded Cornerstone Schools 25 years ago; he describes the schools’ history and growth. He portrays Cornerstone Schools as constantly improving. He emphasizes that Durant recently reassigned a particularly effective principal from Cornerstone’s private high school to one of Cornerstone’s charter schools.

I’m sure Cornerstone provides a satisfactory education for many children — in both its private and charter schools. That’s not the problem. The problem is that it can be difficult to tell the difference.

Try a Google search for “Cornerstone Schools Detroit” sometime. Then check out the results. Are you looking at the website for Cornerstone’s private, religious schools? Or are you on the website for its charter schools? Can you tell?

Sure, you’ll notice that Cornerstone’s religious schools are headquartered at 6861 Nevada on Detroit’s east side. By contrast, Cornerstone’s charter schools are based at a location in Royal Oak. The private schools and charter schools have different telephone numbers, and their websites list different media contacts.

But they also share many similarities. The boards of directors have members in common, including Durant, Oakland Circuit Judge Michael Warren, and attorney John R. Nicholson. Both websites state, “We see transformed lives, for good; and a new city for all.” And both sites reference Cornerstone’s “Christ-centered” beginnings.

Christ-centered? Yes. You read that correctly. Unlike Cornerstone’s private schools website, the charter schools site does not explicitly mention “Jesus.” Nevertheless, the religious undertones are present if you know where to look. Under “The Cornerstone Charter Schools Story,” beneath the subtitle “Read More About Our History,” the website specifically recounts how Cardinal Adam Maida once “asked the community to help build cornerstones for the city,” and makes clear that Cornerstone’s charters grew out of “a Christ-centered schooling alternative . . . .”

With so much overlap between Cornerstone’s private and charter schools, one has to wonder whether the charter schools are simply an alter ego for the private schools. They certainly appear to be two sides of the same coin. Do they have separate identities? Or are they so closely related that they make up a single unit? One founder. Common directors. The free transfer of employees between the two. Similar websites. Identical mission statements. These factors strongly suggest a unity of purpose, and provide at least some evidence that one entity is a mere instrumentality of the other.

Since reformers are agnostic about public schools, they see no reason to distinguish between their “public” charter schools and their religious schools. Does the state constitution say it can’t be done. Ignore it.

A reader sent this:

I just found this poem in a tattered copy book kept by my grandmother, who was born in Sweden in 1887 and came to the US as an infant. It appears after a few pages of Swedish lessons an outline of US history and geography, grammar rules, and music notation, among other patriotic poems.
Given that public schools are currently under siege, reading this appreciation from over 100 years ago reminded me of all that they have meant to so many generations of American citizens.

OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL

1.

When Freedom flung her banner high
In triumph o’re the land
‘Twas like a rainbow in the sky
A pledge by heroes planned:
Fair Wisdom’s form came then in view
That all might learn in lessons true
The creed of Liberty
Hail, hail, hail our fortress strong
Hail, hail, hail the foe of wrong.
Bright, bright, bright beam thy beacon light
God bless the public school.

2.

The tyrant’s power melt away
When Truth and Right appear
No more Ignorance obey
The dictates of her fear
For knowledge elevates mankind
Makes clear the golden rule
And gives the blessings that we find
Within the public school.

http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2016/07/12/mississippi-charter-school-lawsuit/86984366/

The Southern Poverty Law Center is suing the state of Mississippi to block public funding of charter schools.

The Mississippi Constitution requires schools to be under the supervision of the state and local boards of education to receive public funding. But under the act, charter schools receive public funding even though they are exempt from the oversight of the state Board of Education, the Mississippi Department of Education and local boards of education.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant called the lawsuit a frivolous attempt by “Democrats and their allies” to usurp decisions made by the GOP-majority Legislature.

You get the picture: the actions of the state legislature are not limited by the actual language of the state constitution.

But to no one’s surprise, a conservative policy group in the state has found charter school parents to intervene in the lawsuit.

Four parents with children in charter schools are seeking to be heard in a lawsuit that could overturn the way Mississippi pays for the alternative form of public education.

The parents, who also either have or had children in the Jackson Public School District, are represented by an attorney for the conservative Mississippi Justice Institute.

They said Wednesday that they’re requesting a chancery judge’s permission to intervene in a lawsuit filed last month by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of seven parents whose children attend JPS.

So, here is an interesting situation. The conservatives who used to fight against court-ordered desegregation are now able to present themselves as defenders of black children who want to attend segregated charter schools.

School choice in Mississippi is accomplishing exactly what the segregationist of the mid-20th century wanted.

Meanwhile, the public schools of Mississippi are woefully underfunded, and the governor and legislature did their level best to defeat a proposition to require equitable funding. And they succeeded, assuring that the children of Mississippi will continue to be in schools that are lacking the resources they need.

So much for the civil rights movement of our time.

This video shows a panel discussion at the meeting of the National Urban League’s annual meeting.

There are four members of the panel, but the fireworks happen between Julian Vasquez Heilig, a noted scholar, and Steve Perry, who calls himself “America’s Most Trusted Educator.” Perry is opening a charter school in Harlem this fall. He has run a magnet school in Hartford, Connecticut.

Of course, Julian has the advantage in that he is deeply knowledgable about research and has a strong philosophical commitment to democratic governance and social justice. In addition to being a researcher, a professor, and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, he is education chair of the NAACP in California.

I think you will find it interesting.

Gary Rubinstein has followed the evolution of the Tennessee Achievement School District closely since it was launched in 2011.

In this post, he warns reformers and others to beware of copying the concept. It failed. Do not replicate failure might be the message. Although states like North Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada seem determined to replicate the ASD, regardless of its failure.

The ASD, you may recall, pledged to take the bottom-scoring 5% of schools in the state and vault them to the top 25% in five years. It hasn’t happened. As Gary shows, achievement gains have been negligible at best.

Despite the failure of the ASD to meet its goals, the new Every Student Succeeds Act endorses the idea that the state should take over the bottom 5% of schools and fix them. ASD have proved that this is no simple matter.

Gary writes:

Each time the idea of creating an ASD is introduced by a state legislator, testimony from people whose own professional futures depend on the perception of success in the Tennessee ASD are used to get the required votes. Various education reform lobbyist groups produce reports and blogs about how successful these ASDs have been.

I think that education is a true science and one that deserves to evolve according to the scientific method. In the case of these ASDs, the initial conjecture would be that tenured teachers cause low test scores. The experiment to verify this conjecture is to create an ASD somewhere like Tennessee, fire the tenured teachers, and let the charter schools take over and teach the students. Education reformers seem to have no problem with these first steps. But the power of the scientific method is completely nullified when the results of the experiment are ignored when they contradict the working conjecture. That is what has happened in this case and why ASDs are gaining momentum around the country.

Any state considering making an ASD would be wise to listen to the words of the pioneer of the Tennessee ASD, former superintendent, Chris Barbic. A few months ago on a panel discussion Barbic was asked if he thought it was good that various states were considering replicating his program. Even he had his doubts. He said that there is a very limited supply of charters capable of executing these difficult turnaround efforts. If twelve states, he said, are all trying to get the same four or five charter operators, “it’s gonna create an issue.” Considering his dream team of charter operators could not move the original ASD schools out of the bottom 5%, this is a sobering assessment of the viability of creating franchises of these turnaround districts around the country.

Education reform is full of false promises and magic beans. Whether it is charter schools, test-based teacher evaluations, school closures, merit pay, making a more difficult curriculum, common core standardized tests, computerized learning, these strategies should not proliferate based on skewed PR, but on actual merit. How can we expect kids to become critical thinkers when decisions about their future are made by people who refuse to be critical thinkers themselves?

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