Archives for category: Florida

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.

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?

This is an unusual political campaign. Matthew Fitzpatrick, an educator in Orange County, Florida, is running for a seat on the district school board on a platform opposed to the evaluation methods of Robert Marzano. Now, I have no views for or against Mr. Marzano since I am not a classroom teacher and I am not familiar with his method, but I have seen remarkable pushback on this blog from teachers. Since I too oppose the reduction of teaching to numerical measurements, I am sympathetic to his arguments.

He gives 40 reasons to oppose the Marzano method. I am posting only four of them. Read his post if you want to see the other 36.

My name is Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, and I am running for the District 7 Seat on the Orange County School Board. I am currently an Assistant Director at Orange Technical College, Westside Campus in Winter Garden. I’ve been in education for 23 years — 12 years as a teacher, and 11 years as a school and district administrator. In all my years of being involved in education, in my opinion, I have never seen a more demoralizing and destructive system than the OCPS implementation of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation system. I believe the Marzano system, more than anything else, is driving teachers out of education…and thus, OCPS has long lists of teacher vacancies. I believe this enough that I am willing to set aside my own administrative career and take a 50% pay cut in order to bring common sense back to the classroom. We must turn things around now.

Here are my first 40 Reasons to Replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System…splitting hairs on a system designed to split hairs on the art of teaching…

1. Dr. Marzano himself said on page 4 of his famous book, The Art and Science of Teaching, that, “It is certainly true that research provides us with guidance as to the nature of effective teaching, and yet I strongly believe that there is not (nor will there ever be) a formula for effective teaching.” If Dr. Robert J. Marzano says there is not a formula for effective instruction, who am I to argue with him? Why have we settle for a cookie-cutter approach to teaching?

2. Non-educators may not completely understand all of this “teacherese” jargon about teacher evaluations, but simply mention the name Marzano to an Orange County Public School teacher and take note of how they react…watch what happens to their face…feel the emotions of their words. Anything that causes such disdain among the very lifeblood of education–the teachers–surely is not good for education…no matter how much the sanitized research is quoted in support of it.

3. Where are the amazing results from using the “research-proven” Marzano strategies? Our District’s test scores and grades went down in many areas and schools. Why haven’t 6 years of Marzano transformed our District? If something is not delivering results, and at the same time it is driving great teachers out of the profession, we must make a data-driven decision and move in another direction…for the sake of our students and teachers.

4. Teaching should not be reduced to the numerical measurements of individual instructional strategies. Just as Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), in Dead Poets Society instructed his students to resist the armies of academics who want to reduce poetry to a passionless score that misses its true beauty and purpose, so, too, must students, parents, teachers and administrators stand against such a heartless, nitpicking view of the art of instruction. We must “Rip It Out” as an evaluation tool in our District.

A reader who works for a software company explains why it is so difficult to teach the standards effectively and so unfair to judge teachers by an impossible task: It takes 300 days to teach them, but there are only 180 days in a school year. Oops!

 

 

Here is the main problem with these tests. The FLDOE has absolutely no clue on how long it takes to teach each standard effectively. So the question is, “can a teacher teach the standards in the allotted time during the year?” As an educational software company we looked at the standards that a fifth grade teacher is required to teach effectively and stopped counting when we found it would take a minimum of at least 300 school days to teach the standards to an effective level. This does not include teaching a child how to type effectively if the state required typing on the writing portion of the test. The problem is, it’s impossible for an elementary school teacher or for that matter anybody including the testing companies to teach the standards that are on the test in a school year. In order for a teacher or school to score effectively on these tests you have to hope that the students that are coming into your classroom have at least some prior knowledge of the standards.

 

 

You have to understand that these tests are not built to test your child’s learning knowledge, they are built to evaluate the schools and teachers on their effectiveness on teaching the standards. Finally, ask yourself this question… “Who benefits if the teachers and schools FAIL teaching the standards effectively?” Teachers? Schools? Children? No benefit here!… Private Charter Schools? Testing Companies? Publishers? ED Tech Companies? Lobbyists and the list goes on and on and on…..

Peter Greene followed the live tweets from AP reporter Gary Fineout, who covered the trial of Florida’s third-grade retention policy.

The high point–or should I say the low point–came when a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education said the report cards were meaningless.

He writes:

Especially in the districts like Orange County that are actually pursuing this stupid policy, I hope that teachers stand up, look their superintendent in the eye and ask, “Do you agree with the state that the report cards I fill out for my students are meaningless? Do you agree with the state’s contention that the work I do in assessing students is junk and has no value or should carry no weight? Do you agree with the state that my professional judgment as a teacher is worthless?” And if the superintendent hides in the office (which would be wise because really, how could any self-respecting superintendent face their teaching staff after this bullshit) feel free to send them a copy of this.

But kudos to the state for turning what was merely an attack on children and the rights of their parents into a wholesale attack on the integrity and competence of all teachers in the state. Because if report cards are meaningless, it can only be because all teachers are incompetent boobs. Well played, Florida education department.

The hearing included other lowlights as well. Children and their parents came to testify and all of the district lawyers filed objections– because if you have to actually look at the children that you’re doing this to, the small humans that you are, as the judge put it, “taking hostage,” it’s a lot harder to justify your brain-dead, abusively stupid policy. You end up looking almost as bad as you should look. Ultimately the children and families did testify.

It was brilliant to ask students to testify. How could a judge not be moved to see a bright and articulate child explain how humiliating it is to be forced to repeat third grade just because they didn’t take the Big Standardized Test?

It is one thing to talk about a policy in the abstract, it is quite another to see the children whom it affects.

Read Peter’s account of the testimony from the children, parents and even grandparents.

Peter writes:

The judge seems sympathetic and may rule within a week. Meanwhile, state and district school leaders in Florida don’t know what the hell they’re doing. One district said the FSA is mandatory; another said it isn’t. The state department doesn’t know what its regulations say. And all of these people are going to grind up some nine-year-olds just to prove that they are too the bosses of everyone in Florida and everyone must comply or else.

Florida has a harsh third grade retention policy. Students who don’t pass the third-grade state test must repeat the grade.

A few days ago, more than a dozen parents filed suit against the state for the arbitrary and capricious way this state was implemented in counties across the state. The parents opted their children out of the testing to protest the law.

“There is no rational governmental interest served by the defendants arbitrary and capricious decision to retain plaintiffs’ children because they opted out of standardized tests, but otherwise earned passing grades on their report cards and had no reading deficiencies,” the lawsuit reads.

The law is interpreted differently in different counties.

One Orange County plaintiff had a daughter who was on the honor roll, the suit said, but “is being retained in the third grade because of no FSA scores and because her teacher was not informed of the criteria for developing a student portfolio during the school year.”

In Sarasota County, one of the parents who is suing kept her child out of the state testing in third grade. The district said he had to repeat the grade, even though his work all year had been satisfactory.

However, the district changed course and decided to let the child go on to fourth grade with his peers, rather than subject him to punishment for opting out of the test.

At last, an article in the mainstream media that tries to understand why teachers are troubled! It’s not the New York Times or the Washington Post, but still…it’s in print.

Roger Williams of the Fort Meyers, Florida, Weekly titled “Troubled Teachers.” He dwells at length on the stresses that have changed the nature of teaching, not for the better.

Williams interviews many teachers, who tell him what is happening in their classrooms.

“At least one disturbing conclusion can be drawn from what they tell us: Teachers now face what is arguably the most difficult and demanding stampede of challenges in the contemporary history of public education. And that’s not good for students who face, in turn, a range of contemporary social challenges they might not have experienced en masse in previous generations.

“For teachers, there is less time than ever before to teach, they say. There is data crunching and lack of trust and constant state-mandated testing of stressed students. Teacher evaluations and one-year contracts are based on the success of students as measured in tests created by people who don’t teach. There is pay that will not cover the costs of education and family life.

“In the face of all this, what makes a great teacher, we asked them — and conversely, what makes it difficult to be a great teacher? Why are so many leaving a profession so essential to our futures?

“Teachers are ill-prepared for the demands of the current system. So it’s not just a matter of how to make better teachers. It’s also how teachers are made to work within their system now,” says Sandy Stenoff, co-founder of The Opt Out Florida Network, a grass-roots organization based in Orlando that advocates a variety of assessments instead of a single, state-mandated test.

“If you look at other professions, the ‘masters’ all have one thing in common,” she adds: “Excellent mentorship — an expert under whom they really trained, learned the best ‘techniques.’ Doctors, lawyers, even craftsmen.

“We don’t do that in education anymore. It would help to reduce attrition, too. But expert teachers are leaving. They can’t teach the way they know teaching works best.”

Never before have state and federal governments imposed their will so forcefully in every public school classroom. Their often I’ll-advised intrusions aim for standardization, making teachers and students alike unhappy.

Williams writes:

“If the system has massive weaknesses right now, it also has very good people, it seems — people who advocate passionately, even when they leave.

“Can all this be changed? Yes,” says Bruce Linser, a musical theater teacher and outgoing dean of dramatic arts at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.

“I think we need fewer administrators and more teachers. We need fewer people telling us how to do our jobs, and more people who know how to do this, and want and love to do this, being allowed to do this. Without all the strings and standardization. I’m not arguing against oversight, I think that’s important. There are things that need to be taught and learned and I totally agree with that.”

“But all the extra duties of teachers — the extra programs and management requirements — inhibit the teaching they’re called to do.”

Low pay and lack of respect are part of the reason for teacher discontent. Florida ranks 39th in the nation in teacher pay, and many teachers must work a second job to make ends meet.

Very likely, one of the reasons that hedge fund managers and billionaires look down on teachers is because they are paid so little. Instead of recognizing that teachers sacrifice financial security for being in a career that makes a difference, the 1% simply don’t understand why people choose to teach and feel justified in trying to redesign education and teachers’ working conditions.

Marion Brady, retired educator, writes here about a mother who is certain that her son–then in third grade–attempted to kill himself after failing the Florida state tests by one point, twice. After he failed the second time, she knew he was morose. She called him for dinner, and he didn’t answer. She knocked on his door: no response
Nose. She pushed in and found him hanging by a belt, blue in the face. A third grader.

In a personal note, Marion told me that the article garnered many hostile comments when it was published at alternative.com. Readers simply refused to believe the story was true.

Brady writes:

“If failing to reach the pass-fail cut score by just one point wasn’t within every standardized test’s margin of error; if research hadn’t established that for the young, retention in grade is as traumatic as fear of going blind or of a parent dying; if standardized tests provided timely, useful feedback that helped teachers decide what to do next; if billions of dollars that America’s chronically underfunded public schools need weren’t being diverted to the standardized testing industry and charter promotion; if a generation of test-and-punish schooling had moved the performance needle even a little; if today’s sneaky, corporately driven education “reform” effort wasn’t driven by blind faith in market ideology and an attempt to privatize public schooling; if test manufacturers didn’t publish guidelines for dealing with vomiting, pants-wetting and other evidences of test-taker trauma; if the Finns hadn’t demonstrated conclusively that fear-free schools, cooperation rather than competition, free play, a recess every hour in elementary school, and that letting educators alone could produce world-class test-takers—if, if, if—then I might cut business leaders and politicians responsible for the America’s current education train wreck a little slack.

“But all of the above are demonstrably true. And yet we keep subjecting children to the same dangerous nonsense, year after year.”

A few years back, I spoke at the national convention of school psychologists. I listened as the president of the association spoke. He said that the three greatest fears of children are:

1) the death of a parent;

2) going blind;

3) failing a grade and being left behind.

Marion Brady is right. The testing regime is insane. It is child abuse.

The FBI raided a charter school for at-risk youth in Florida, carrying away several boxes of whatever they were seeking.

http://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20160712/fbi-executes-search-warrant-at-fwb-school-for-at-risk-students

The FBI has raided many charter schools in the Midwest but their investigations have remained secret.

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