Friday, February 6, 2015

Bennett PTA Plans to Boycott State Education Tests

In a letter to the editors of The Daily Freeman, the Bennett PTA (Onteora School District) wrote the following:

Dear Editor:
There is growing frustration with the amount of testing our young children are subjected to. I have noticed a significant loss of instruction time, an increased level of stress in the classroom and a poor message to our children about the importance of tests.
The average fourth-grade student is 9 years old and is required by the state Department of Education to prepare for three state exams in the spring: English Language Arts, math and science. These tests total eight days of administration, as well as three to six weeks of test preparation. In total, our children are losing four to six weeks of in-class instruction time per test.
Our children also take ELA and math tests three times a year to monitor their progress. They also take pre- and post-assessment tests in art, music, library, physical education and social studies, totaling 21 standardized tests annually. The numbers are the same for grades three to six, with the exception of the state science test.
It is no wonder we are seeing a loss of hands-on, inquiry-based learning in our classrooms. With the emphasis on math and ELA testing, we are witnessing the erosion of science and social studies from the curriculum.
Excessive testing teaches our children that there is only one right answer in academics and in life. It takes the joy out of learning and minimizes the value and importance of taking a test when it really counts. And it is ruining public education.
As an immediate solution, members of the Bennett School PTA are encouraging our parent body in grades three to six to refuse the state tests in ELA, math and science this spring. These tests are inappropriate for our children, are unfair to our teachers, take away valuable classroom time and are not part of our child’s overall grade or individual assessment.
We intend to send a message to the state.
Heather Roberts, Vice President 
Bennett School PTA
Shandaken, N.Y.
http://www.dailyfreeman.com/opinion/20150128/letter-pta-plans-to-boycott-state-education-tests

Principal: What I’ve learned about annual standardized testing


No Child Left Behind requires that students take an annual standardized test for purposes of holding schools “accountable” from Grades 3-8 and once in high school. Whether such annual testing is now being hotly debated as congress begins deliberations over the reauthorization of the bill. Here’s an article from the Washington Post looking at this issue, by Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York.
"Because of NCLB and now Common Core testing, I have witnessed schools move from progressive practices such as inclusion, to the grouping of special education students with ELLs and other struggling learners into “double period” classes where they are drilled to pass the test. We are seeing a resurgence in elementary school of “ability grouping,” which predictably results in classes that are segregated by race and wealth. Worse of all, a plethora of bad policies have emerged that use yearly testing results as their basis."
Read more at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/01/principal-what-ive-learned-about-annual-standardized-testing/

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Network for Public Education Issues Statement on the Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.


Among their recommendations:

  • We support option 1 to eliminate mandated annual testing, and we urge the Senate to remove high stakes attached to standardized tests, encourage flexibility in designing assessments, and provide the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized testing.
  • Restore reducing class size as option that states and districts can use with their Title II funds, which is a research-based reform that also works to lower teacher attrition.
  • Eliminate the use of federal funds for merit pay, which has consistently failed to improve student outcomes.
  • Add to the reporting requirements of districts, states and the federal government so they must report trends in average class size data, as well as the disparity in class size between high and low poverty schools.
  • Strengthen the language around student data privacy and limit federally mandated data collection of individual students.
  • Oppose the diversion of resources to private and charter schools through portability of Title I funds and expansion of federal funding to charters.

Read the entire statement at http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/2015/01/npe-statement-on-esea-reauthorization-and-annual-standardized-testing/

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fairport Superintendent's letter: Governor Cuomo's proposals are an 'assault on public education'

William Cala, superintendent of schools in Fairport, New York, wrote a scathing critique of Governor Cuomo’s plan to increase charter schools, fund “tax credits” for private and religious schools (vouchers), and increase the importance of test scores in teacher evaluations.
Here is his letter:
This week’s State of the State address by Governor Cuomo was what most of us expected. It was an all-out assault on public education, teachers, children, families and local control. It appears that breaking teachers is his solution to poverty, income inequality and inadequate school funding.
 As we have experienced on a first-hand basis over the past few years, the APPR system is indeed a fatally flawed proxy for genuine evaluation done at the local level. The governor’s solution is to up the ante by increasing the tenure period to 5 years and making state test scores 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. Given the already bogus cut score setting process for the state exams, we are assured of a whole new wave of unreliable ratings designed to crush teachers, close schools and open the door to his other “reforms,” such as lifting the cap on charter schools and creating a tax credit for private schools and charters and increasing the amount the state gives charters per pupil. 
This last item of increasing charter aid is especially interesting as there are no strings attached. The regular public schools will only get an increase in aid if the legislature approves all of his draconian measures mentioned above. Two major studies have demonstrated with great clarity that charters perform worse than public schools and only 17% of charters perform equal or better to publics (CREDO 2013). Apparently, that’s fine….they get increases in spite of their failing performance.
Let’s be clear that the governor’s agenda has nothing to do with what is good for kids. Far from it. It is what is good for his financial supporters: the corporations who are making billions of dollars on the tests, the texts, the technology, the corporate professional development and the data collection, retrieval and distribution. As this country gets poorer and poorer and the few get richer and richer the pride of our nation, its public schools, are being disassembled while Bill Gates, The Walton’s, The Koch Brothers, Eli Broad and other scavengers are feasting at the table of greed. 
While the situation may seem hopeless, I believe parents are able to bring this tyranny to a screeching halt. Assessments should be used only for the benefit of students…..nothing else. Last year over 60,000 parents in New York refused the 3-8 tests. This year it is expect that number will triple. The refusal movement will indeed collapse the evaluation system and the governor’s plan to dismantle public education. 

Parents will play a critical role. What role will we play? How will we speak out? This is our profession. These are our children. This is our responsibility. Action and activism takes courage. Last week I spoke of my hero Rosa Parks. Let her courage and actions inspire us. I will close with the wisdom and inspiration of Frederick Douglass.

Where justice is denied; where poverty is enforced; where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress,; rob and degrade them; neither persons nor property will be safe.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.

Time to start plowing.

Peace,
Bill

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Yohuru Williams: What Would Dr.King Say About the Corporate Assault on Public Education?

Dr.Yohuru Williams, professor of history at Fairfield University, has written a brilliant and powerful piece about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the current effort to privatize large sectors of public education, especially in urban districts.

"King saw the goal of education as more than performance on high-stakes tests or the acquisition of job skills or career competencies. He saw it as the cornerstone of free thought and the use of knowledge in the public interest. For King, the lofty goal of education was not just to make a living but also to make the world a better place by using that production of knowledge for good. “To save man from the morass of propaganda,”  King opined, “is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.” The notion that privatization can foster equality is fiction." 


"What we are seeing in the name of “reform” today is the same plan with slight modifications: brand schools as low-performing factories of failure, encourage privatization, and leave the vast majority of students in underfunded, highly stigmatized public schools.This effort will create an America that looks more like the 1967 Kerner Commission’s forecast, two societies separate and unequal, than Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community."

"Real triumph over educational inequalities can only come from a deeper investment in our schools and communities and a true commitment to tackling poverty, segregation, and issues affecting students with special needs and bilingual education. The Beloved Community is to be found not in the segregated citadels of private schools but in a well-funded system of public education, free and open to all—affirming our commitment to democracy and justice and our commitment to the dignity and worth of our greatest resource, our youth."

Read the entire article at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/01/18/public-schools-under-attack-what-would-martin-say