Archives for category: Parents

The citizens of Massachusetts spoke loudly and clearly on November 8 when they overwhelmingly rejected Question 2. They don’t want more charter schools. They want strong and well-resourced public schools.

 

But the state of Massachusetts and the Boston school superintendent Tommy Chang have decided to close Mattahunt Elementary School despite the pleas of the parents and the local community. 

 

The state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has threatened to take over the school, although state takeovers have seldom been successful at improving schools. Boston superintendent Chang says that the only way to save the school is to close it. Read that sentence over two or three times and see if it makes any sense to you. It reminds me of the saying during the Vietnam War that “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.” This is insane.

 

Test scores are low. Kids are poor. Why not come up with a strategy to improve the school? Chang, who worked for John Deasy’s in Los Angeles, seems to have no idea how to help the school other than to close it. Neither does Mitchell Chester.

 

Citizens for Public Schools writes:

 

Does Boston have to close a school to save its children from suffering harm at the hands of the state?

 

That startling question was the focus of nearly four hours of passionate debate last week, pitting 100 parents and other supporters of the Mattahunt School against Superintendent Tommy Chang.

 

In the end, the School Committee voted to close the school at the end of June to head off state takeover, even after parents said they were willing to take the risk and would join with the School Committee in fighting for their school.

 

The Mattahunt students are 95 percent Black and Latino, and over 25 percent English language learners. Many come from Haiti and have already experienced trauma and instability. School Department officials said 17 of the students came to the Mattahunt from other schools that the department closed.

 

“You would never do this in a white community,” said Peggy Wiesenberg, a white parent who came to support the Mattahunt parents…

 

All sides agreed that state intervention would be a tragedy for the children. Speakers said the state takeover of the Dever and Holland schools had hurt the children in those schools, using terms like “disaster.”

 

Have public officials in charge of education in Massachusetts lost their minds? Why would they close a school to avoid a state takeover that everyone agrees would be a disaster? Would they do this in a white neighborhood? Why are they treating these children like they are inanimate objects? Like they don’t matter? Like their well-being is unimportant? They are not doing this for the kids. Why are they doing it? What is the point? This is not education reform. This is community destruction and child abuse.

 

Where is the accountability for Mitchell Chester and Tommy Chang? They are guilty of educational malpractice. They should be held accountable.

 

 

NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education) is the coalition of 50 organizations of parents and educators who have twice led successful opt outs from state testing, with more than 200,000 students refusing the tests for the past two years. They have become a powerhouse in state politics, not with money, but with people power.

NYSAPE issued the following statement:

For Immediate Release: November 17, 2016
More Information Contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – What Does It Mean for NYS Public Education and Our Country?

Considering last week’s historic election and ensuing reports of bullying, harassment, and intimidation, NYSAPE reaffirms its commitment to public schools where all children feel safe, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, socio-economic status, disability, or immigration status. We remain committed to child-centered and equitable public education for all students and maintain that children thrive best in inclusive communities and schools where they feel that they and their families are not only safe, but valued and respected. This vision for inclusive and equitable public schools requires that each of us call out intolerance and injustice and stand with those most affected by the various forms of oppression.

The clear losers in this year’s election were the children. Both presidential candidates failed to make education a focus of their campaigns. As we learn more about the new administration’s agenda for public education, plans to invest heavily in voucher programs and expand charter schools will further defund public schools and lead to further segregation and inequitable educational opportunities. In New York State, private money won out as Republicans heavily backed by the charter industry swept many races. Harmful education laws enacted as part of Governor Cuomo’s Education Transformation Act remain in effect and the threat of digital, “personalized learning”, computerized testing and the ever-increasing amount of personal data being collected loom large.

New York’s historic opt out movement is a clear example of how ordinary citizens can organize and push back against a system which harms children. Now, more than ever, we must continue to push back against harmful education policies and remain vigilant as ESSA, the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind, continues to be formalized. We must also stand in solidarity against all policies and laws that undermine basic human dignity and diminish us all.

Jamaal Bowman, Bronx principal and parent said, “To fulfill the ideals of our democracy, we need an inclusive, holistic, and vibrant public school system. Privatization is an act of segregation and continues America’s ugly legacy of separate and unequal. I call on New York State to be a leader in whole mind, whole child, whole community education reform that is human centered, and to greatly reduce our reliance on computer-based pedagogy. Innovation is about nurturing the genius of ALL children by placing great teachers in every school and implementing a dynamic curriculum.”

“The entrenched Republican Senators from Long Island were sent a very clear message. Senate Democrat Todd Kaminsky beat charter reformer backed Chris McGrath by a comfortable margin, while other long held Senate seats that were bought and paid for by corporate reformers won out only by slim margins against virtual unknown Democrats who campaigned through grassroots coalitions with parents, educators, and community members. Two more Senate seats are still too close to call as recounts are being conducted. Parents fighting for public education are all that stand between democracy and those who seek to profit off the backs of our children,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Founder of Long Island Opt Out, NYSAPE and Long Island public school parent.

Eileen Graham, Rochester City public school parent and founder of Black Student Leadership said, “It is extremely important we focus on enhancing student learning in effective ways, not inaccurately judging them through useless exams. As a parent, I’m angry that our “leaders” continue to make decisions that negatively impact our schools and districts. It is an injustice that Rochester is labeled as one of lowest performing districts in New York State based on a flawed testing system; because there are many parents, teachers, staff and community partners working diligently to educate and empower students. I believe the only way we will show our true success is to opt-out!”

“Multi-racial coalitions, made up of unions, elected school boards, and parent groups beat back privatization efforts in the states of Massachusetts and Georgia, proving that big money doesn’t always win. At the same time, the campaign to pack courts with pro-charter judges in the state Washington lost. We will need to replicate these grassroots efforts throughout the country to keep our public schools safe and secure from the hostile takeover by the Trump administration, Wall St. and Ed-tech interests. At the same time, we must work together to ensure that our public schools provide all children with a real opportunity to learn,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

Marla Kilfoyle, BATs Executive Director, Long Island Educator and public school parent, “As an educator and mother the only options I have is to dig in and continue the fight for public education and social justice. Our children are relying on us and watching what we do.”

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County parent and public school teacher said, “The role of educators and public schools is more important than ever. We will double down on our efforts to create safe and inclusive learning spaces for our students and their families while continuing the fight for equitable and child-centered public education. Until the state and our nation gets it right, this fight is here to stay.”

We will continue to encourage and empower community members to advocate for their children, by opting out of the state tests and focusing on the local level as the expansion of standardized computer learning and testing threatens the whole-child education our children deserve. Parents need to ask their school districts why money and resources are being spent on computerized learning and testing and what research these practices are based in.

​ NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

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– See more at: http://www.nysape.org/nysape-post-election.html#sthash.F4MpWWgD.dpuf

EduShyster (aka Jennifer Berkshire, a resident of Massachusetts) explains here how a coalition of parents, teachers, students, and civil rights activists defeated Question 2.

Question 2 was a measure on the ballot to expand the number of charter schools in the state by 12 every year, indefinitely. Opponents of the measure said it would drain money from the existing public schools, which enroll 96% of the children in the state. Advocates said it would not. Advocates claimed that they were fighting for opportunity for poor kids to escape failing public schools. Opponents didn’t buy it.

Support for Question 2 came mostly from out-of-state people of great wealth. These people, such as the Waltons and Michael Bloomberg, put up at least $26 million to advocate for more charters. I thought the charter advocates had put up $22 million, but Jonathan Pelto reported yesterday that they had actually spent $26 million. The opposition raised about $12 million, mostly from teachers’ unions and individual small contributions by teachers and parents.

For a billionaire to drop $2 million into a ballot issue in Massachusetts or anywhere else would be akin to one of us sending a dollar to the March of Dimes. They won’t miss it. At some point, however, if they keep losing, they might get bored and find a different hobby.

The election was a battle royal over the future of public education in Massachusetts, and large numbers of people mobilized to save their public schools. Support among black voters was the same as among white voters.

Question 2 was defeated by a vote of 62% to 38%. It was a knock-out punch for the billionaires and the many financiers whose names were hidden from public view because of arcane campaign finance laws that enable “dark money” to be spent without identifying its source.

Berkshire writes:

I could give you a long list of reasons why Question 2 went down in flames. It was a complicated policy question that should never have made it onto the ballot. Yes on 2, despite outspending the ‘no’ camp 2-1 couldn’t find a message that worked, and was never able to counter the single argument that most resonated with voters against charter schools: they take money away from public schools and the kids who attend them. #NoOn2 also tapped into genuinely viral energy. The coalition extended well beyond the teachers unions that funded it, growing to include members of all kinds of unions, as well as social justice and civil rights groups, who fanned out across the state every weekend. By election day, the sprawling network of mostly volunteer canvassers had made contact with more than 1.5 million voters.

Question 2 had not only unprecedented funding, it had the support of the Governor and the state’s Secretary of Education, James Peyser, who is a longtime advocate for charters and a member of the board of Families for Excellent Schools, the same organization that bundled money in New York and elsewhere to push for charters.

Berkshire writes that when people who had no particular interest in charters or public schools began to see who was behind Question 2, she realized that Question 2 was in big trouble:

Do you know why hating on the Yankees is such a popular pastime in Massachusetts? Because they’re regarded as rich, entitled assholes from New York. Which is why the decision to rely so heavily on well, rich, entitled assholes from New York to fund the Yes on 2 campaign puzzles one so. By the final tally before the election, Families for Excellent Schools, reduced to serving as a conduit for the offerings of rich Wall Street-ers, had gifted more than $17 million to the cause. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, kicked in an additional $250,000 on top of the $240,000 he contributed back in August. To average voters, unfamiliar with the reform trope of the billionaire changemaker, the outsized role being played by rich New Yorkers was utterly incomprehensible. It’s not enough to field the richest baseball team money can buy, now they want our schools too?

The Yes on 2 team insisted that the public schools would not lose any money if there were more charters, but school committees called out their lie:

By October it was clear that the Question 2 ship was beginning to list. The original claim, debuted in a massive ad buy during the Olympics, that expanding charter schools would actually increase funding for public education, had failed to resonate with voters, and so it was off to the next argument. It turned out that charter schools didn’t *drain* or *siphon* money away from district schools as team #NoOn2 kept insisting—and here was a press release about a study to prove it. But once again, Question 2’s proponents, including editorial page editors at the Boston Globe, which ran a prominent *no draining, no siphoning* editorial, ran into the buzzsaw of a whole bunch of people all over the state who actually knew stuff.

Those school committees, which just would not stop passing resolutions against the ballot question, could tell you exactly how much money their city or town was spending on charter schools. The Mayor of Northampton, which is about as far from Boston as you can get, pointed out that his town spends more to send kids to the specialized charter schools favored by affluent parents—a subspecies never mentioned during the campaign—than on an entire elementary school. Meanwhile, cities that are already home to the largest number of charters and would be most affected by the passage of Question 2, began tallying how much charters were already costing them. Lowell, for example, has seen a drastic spike in its charter school bill and now spends more than $16 million on a parallel school system, money that’s being diverted away from *extras,* like paving the roads in Mill City. The charter waitlist in Lowell, by the way, is dwarfed by the number of kids waiting to get into district schools.

The privatization movement lost in both Massachusetts and Georgia, where Governor Deal wanted to change the state constitution to allow the state to take over low-performing schools and give them to charter organizations. The lesson is that it is cheaper and easier to make campaign contributions to elect pro-charter candidates to state boards and state legislatures than to take a risk on a popular vote. In the case of Georgia, Governor Deal could not eliminate local control without changing the state constitution. And the voters said no, by a vote of 60-40.

Read the article. The defeat of Question 2 proves that big money can be beaten when citizens are informed, organized, and prepared to defend their public schools against privatization.

Reader Denis Ian wrote the following comment in relation to the ongoing strife about Common Core standards and testing:

Every new school year renews the resistance to the Common Core reform. And parents new to this experience find themselves slathered in information and fear. Once upon a time we were the tenderfoot class … now we should act as sweet sages.

Every day brings another avalanche of studies, statistics, findings, and stuff. More babble. More white noise. More jargon. More junk-speak. All on purpose.

The strategy is simple. Complicate the reform issue with fleshy gibberish and endless jabberwocky. Scare ordinary folks. Make the issues seem too, too deep and too, too heavy for folks busy enough with all that parenthood demands.

The greatest fear of the reform mob is parents.

Parents own infinite passion when it comes to their children. And if lots and lots of parents glue themselves together, well, this reform morphs into mighty. That’s not the sort of muscle educrats, politicians, and local board members want to confront. Remember that … they fear you.

And parents new to this resistance should remember this.

Don’t be seduced by every morsel of information that gets dressed in glitter-words. Don’t be intimidated by edu-blather or fat-words.

Stay simple and stay on the issues that matter: Resist federal control. Protect childhood. Refuse the testing trap. Reclaim your schools.

Remember: No children, no reform. Your cooperation is your trump-card. If you don’t play, the game ends.

A caveat to the old-timers in this resistance.

Embrace newcomers as you were once embraced. Soothe new and nervous parents with warm reassurances that they have saddled-up with a child-centric confederacy of warriors who protect children … theirs included. And then tutor them slowly … and warn them of nonsense-overload.

The reformists are deceivers. Their strategy is to dazzle us with nonsense-junk. To unbalance us and to blur the simple truths.

They want our schools. They want our children. They want to politicize and profitize education … and have you foot the bill … and have your children pay the price. No way.

Avoid the information over-load … and listen to your heart. That drum in your chest always speaks the truth. Follow that beat.

Denis Ian

You will enjoy reading about Leonie Haimson’s busy and productive day. Leonie is a fighter for smaller class size, better funding for schools, and student privacy. She is founder of Class Size Matters and Student Privacy Matters. She is tireless (and unpaid). She is the most frightening antagonist for education reformers because they can’t understand people who are motivated by principle, not profit.

She started the day at the Harvard Club, outside the doors, protesting with other activists against the billionaires and dark money behind Question 2 in Massachusetts. Inside, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker had come to talk to the conservative Manhattan Institute about his efforts to lift the charter cap, thus expanding privatization of public education.

That afternoon, she learned that she and other allies had come a judicial decision to open the meetings of School Leadership Teams to the public.

She wrote:

“The Appellate court heard arguments from both sides on January 21, 2016 — and took nearly a year to rule. But finally, in another slam-dunk, unanimous decision, they reaffirmed the lower Court ruling that SLT’s are public bodies in state governance law, and thus their meetings must be open to the public. Much thanks goes to Michael Thomas, Tish James and the attorneys from NY Lawyers for Public Interest and Advocates for Justice who represented the Public Advocate and Class Size Matters in court.”

Leonie is on many boards, including the Network for Public Education and New York State Allies for Public Education, which organized the successful statewide parent opt out. She is already a hero of this blog. She is the right person to take on the billionaires. They can’t buy her or beat her.

Go, Leonie, go!

What is competency-based education? Twenty or thirty years ago, it referred to skill-based education, and critics complained that CBE downgraded the importance of knowledge.

Today CBE has a different meaning. It refers to teaching and assessment that is conducted online, where students’ learning is continuously monitored, measured, and analyzed. CBE is invariably susceptible to data-mining of children, gathering Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that can be aggregated and used without the knowledge or permission of parents.

The first time that I heard of CBE (although it was not called that) was in a meeting in August 2015 with The State Commissioner of Education in New York, MaryEllen Elia, after her first month in office. I organized a discussion between Commissioner Elia and several board members of NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education), the group that created New York State’s massive opt out that year (and again this year). It was a candid e change, and at one point, Commissioner Elia said that the annual tests would eventually be phased out and replaced by embedded assessment. When asked to explain, she said that students would do their school work online, and they would be continuously assessed. The computer could tell teachers what the students were able to do, minute by minute.

This kind of intensive surveillance and monitoring is very alarming. Once teaching and testing goes online, how can parents say no?

A group of bloggers wrote posts last week to express their concern and outrage about the stealth implementation of CBE. The lead post warns that opting out of annual tests is not enough to stop the digitized steamroller. It’s title is: “Stop! Don’t Opt Out. Read This First.” The author argues that parents are being deceived.

The blogger warns:

Schools in every state are buzzing this year with talk of “personalized” learning and 21st century assessments for kids as young as kindergarten. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its innovative pilot programs are already changing the ways schools instruct and assess, in ways that are clearly harmful to our kids. Ed-tech companies, chambers of commerce, ALEC, neoliberal foundations, telecommunications companies, and the government are working diligently to turn our public schools into lean, efficient laboratories of data-driven, digital learning.

He or she recounts the ways the technocracy responds to parents’ concerns and fears. The new way, they will say, is “personalized learning.” Don’t worry. We know what is best. When the parent objects that the test results come back too late to inform instruction, the technocrat says, “embedded instruction provides real-time feedback. No problem.” Parent asks, what about the stress? Technocrat: “Children won’t even know they are being tested.”

The blogger doesn’t actually say to parents, “Don’t opt out.”

Quite the contrary:

“Opt out families nationwide are encountering these same arguments, as though a pre-set trap is being sprung. Great. So opting out of end-of-year testing isn’t the silver bullet we hoped it would be. Now what?

Now that we know the whole story, go ahead and opt out of the end of the year tests. No child should suffer through them. But we have to expand our definition of opting out, to protect our children from data mining and stop the shift to embedded assessments and digital curriculum.

In addition to opting out of end-of-year testing, there are other important steps we need to take to safeguard our children’s access to human teachers and to protect their data, their vision, and their emotional health. There is no set playbook, but here are some ideas to get us started.

1. Opt your child out of Google Apps for Education (GAFE).

2. If your school offers a device for home use, decline to sign the waiver for it and/or pay the fee.

3. Does your child’s assigned email address include a unique identifier, like their student ID number? If yes, request a guest log in so that their data cannot be aggregated.

4. Refuse biometric monitoring devices (e.g. fit bits).

5. Refuse to allow your child’s behavioral, or social-emotional data to be entered into third-party applications. (e.g. Class Dojo)

6. Refuse in-class social networking programs (e.g. EdModo).

7. Set a screen time maximum per day/per week for your child.

8. Opt young children out of in school screen time altogether and request paper and pencil assignments and reading from print books (not ebooks).

9. Begin educating parents about the difference between “personalized” learning modules that rely on mining PII (personally-identifiable information) to function properly and technology that empowers children to create and share their own content.

10. Insist that school budgets prioritize human instruction and that hybrid/blended learning not be used as a back door way to increase class size or push online classes.

Parents, teachers, school administrators, and students must begin to look critically at the technology investments we are making in schools. We have to start advocating for responsible tools that empower our children to be creators (and I don’t mean of data), NOT consumers of pre-packaged, corporate content or online games. We must prioritize HUMAN instruction and learning in relationship to one another. We need more face time and less screen time.

Every time a parent acts to protect their child from these harmful policies, it throws a wrench into the gears of this machine. The steamroller of education reform doesn’t stand a chance against an empowered, educated army of parents, teachers and students. Use your power to refuse. Stand together, stand firm, be loud, and grab a friend. Cumulatively our actions will bring down this beast!”

This just in from the parent advocacy group, Parents Across America:

Contact: Laura Bowman, PAA-Roanoke Valley: 540-819-6385
Julie Woestehoff, PAA interim executive director: 773-715-3989

Our Children @ Risk

Parents raise alarm about EdTech’s harmful effects on children’s
academic, intellectual, emotional, physical and social development

Echoing the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report, Parents Across America (PAA)
today declares, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose
on America the takeover of public education by digital technology that
threatens our children’s health and well-being, captures their private
data, and undermines the best elements of their education, we might
well view it as an act of war.”

PAA has spent extensive time looking into recent writing and research
that raise red flags about the impact of the EdTech explosion on our
children. This high-pressure movement has brought a mishmash of digital
devices and online and other pre-packaged programs into our schools,
where they are promoted as “personalized,” “competency-based,”
“student-centered,” or “self-directed” learning, terms which we refer
to together as EdTech.

Today, PAA released a position paper and a series of reports, including
a 35-page background paper, detailing some of the many threats to
children’s health and well-being, parental control, family privacy, and
the quality of teaching and learning by this latest effort of corporate
reformers to profit from our children’s education and undermine
democratic public schooling.

PAA’s executive director, Julie Woestehoff, explains, “What we have
found out about the EdTech push alarms us, and should alarm any parent.
First of all, there is actually very little research addressing the
many news ways that EdTech is being used in our schools — our children
are truly being used as guinea pigs. What we do know about children and
screen time is based in part on new studies and in part on previous
research into children’s use of television, video games and computers,
which can help us anticipate some of EdTech’s health effects. And
EdTech’s teaching and learning track record is not positive. Yet
corporate reformers and the new federal education law, the Every Child
Succeeds Act, or ESSA, are investing heavily in EdTech and increasingly
pressuring its widespread use.”

Leader of PAA’s chapter in Roanoke, VA, Laura Bowman, says, “We are
speaking out for balanced, healthy classrooms for our children. We
strongly oppose the push to increase student screen time, replace
teachers with packaged lessons delivered by digital devices, and
continuously test students, data-mining the results. We are very
concerned that the massive and growing use of EdTech is displacing
valuable elements of schooling without providing clear benefits, and
threatening our children’s right to a healthy and educationally-
appropriate school environment.”

PAA is not against the appropriate use of technology in schools. Just
as the group opposes standardized test misuse and not the tests
themselves, they challenge technology use that reduces schooling to a
data-mining computer game, and not technology itself. We know that our
children need to master technology, and we acknowledge that parents
must work harder to monitor their children’s use of technology at home.
But we also strongly feel that schools, school districts and states
must become far more cautious, diligent, transparent and accountable
about their technology decisions.

PAA believes that, in the face of strong pressure from the parental
opt-out movement, and criticism that the misuse and overuse of
standardized tests harms children and their education, corporate
reformers and “Big Testing” have changed their tactics.

These education profiteers are promoting even more lucrative testing
and teaching strategies, mostly tied to the Common Core State Standards
and the PARCC or SBAC national tests.

These products help Big Testing continue to control the curriculum and
access vast amounts of student data. Meanwhile, students are spending
increasing hours glued to computer screens and other digital devices
which leaves less time for interacting with other children, adults or
their own imaginations, and exposes them to new dangers.

We have prepared a set of informational materials for parents covering
PAA’s specific concerns about EdTech’s:

-harmful effects on children’s mental and emotional development,

-negative impact on student intellectual and academic growth,

-damaging physical effects,

-depersonalization and other ways of undermining the educational
process,

-questionable value and effectiveness,

-continuous testing of students, often without obtaining consent from
or even informing students or parents,

-threats to student data privacy, and

-hugely lucrative benefits for private companies.

Parents must be alerted to these potential risks, and be prepared to
challenge and, if necessary, opt out of school-based technology that
may be harmful to our children.

Based on these and other concerns, we call on legislators and education
policy makers to consider our list of recommendations found at http://p
arentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EdTechRecs8-20-
16.pdf.

Please see our documentation paper (http://tinyurl.com/edtechdocu) and
reports (http://tinyurl.com/PAAEdTechreports)for more detailed informat
ion, references and background.

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?

Two researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University, surveyed parents who opted their children out of state tests and confirmed what leaders of the test refusal movement have long asserted. Parents don’t opt out because they are controlled by unions. They don’t opt out because, as Arne Duncan once said, they are fearful that their child is not as smart as they thought.

“Teachers College unveiled the findings of Who Opts Out and Why?—the first national, independent survey of the “opt-out” movement—which reveals that supporters oppose the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and believe that high-stakes tests force teachers to “teach to the test” rather than employ strategies that promote deeper learning. The new survey also reports concern among supporters about the growing role of corporations and privatization of schools.

“For activists, the concerns are about more than the tests,” said Oren Pizmony-Levy, TC Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Education, who co-authored the study with Nancy Green Saraisky, Research Associate and TC alumna. “We were surprised that the survey reveals a broader concern about corporate education reform relying on standardized test-based accountability, and the increased role of ‘edu-businesses’ and corporations in schools.”


Who Opts Out and Why? also reveals that opt-out proponents oppose high-stakes, standardized testing because they believe it takes away too much instructional time.”

This is an instance where research confirms common sense.

Chalkbeat interviewed one of the authors of the study, who said:

It’s the breadth of the movement that’s noteworthy, explains Oren Pizmony-Levy, one of the report’s authors.

“It’s not just about the tests. They’re saying something bigger about the direction of education reforms in the U.S.,” Pizmony-Levy said. “It does bring together all sides of the political spectrum.”

The most common reason opt-out supporters cited for boycotting the tests was opposition to using test data to evaluate teacher performance, with 36.9 percent of respondents listing that as one of their top two reasons to support opting out (45 percent of the respondents work in education). That was followed by concerns over teaching to the test (33.8 percent), opposition to the growing role of corporations in schools (30.4 percent), fears that the tests cut into instructional time (26.5 percent), and opposition to Common Core standards (25.8 percent).

Roughly half of those surveyed self-identified as liberal, while nearly 18 percent identified as conservative.

The authors noted that there is some potential bias in the data because it depends on accurate self-reporting, and was disseminated electronically, which largely excludes those who don’t have internet access.

But Pizmony-Levy said the survey still begins to sketch out a more detailed profile of who opts out and why. (On the most recent math and English exams, 21 percent opted out across New York state, as did 2.5 percent in New York City.)

“I think what this is telling us is activists disagree with the current direction of education reforms [which include] … ideas about accountability from the business world,” he said. “They’re saying maybe there are other directions we should go.”