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The Weekly Update Part 2: More school closings, tests for tots and Seattle still scraps the MAP

The Weekly Update for all the news and views you might have missed.

Part 2

testing7

So now it seems that teachers need a $60M test to know if Johnny can read before entering kindergarten and if Susie knows her colors. Hmmm….

Kindergarten more challenging for students, teachers

Please understand that our Seattle Times is a corporate bellhop for the wealthy and sings the praises of all things ed reform all of the time. They shamelessly glorify privatization and most of us don’t buy the rag.  The paper is basically one big advertisement for the corporate takeover of our public schools.

With that in mind, I am providing a link to this article for its basic information, such as that is, and to show the trend that has taken this country by storm while the testing giants are laughing (at us) all the way to the bank.

With that intro, I give you this excerpt from our inglorious Seattle Times:

Washington’s new WaKIDS program, which stands for Washington kindergarten inventory of developing skills, is designed to help kindergarten teachers better understand the strengths and weaknesses of children.

The $2.75 million program, including private dollars, is in more than 300 schools in 102 of the state’s 294 school districts, including every school with free all-day kindergarten.

Those schools hold individual parent-teacher meetings before school starts, as well as taking a more formal assessment of each child’s abilities — from staying on task to standing in line and doing simple math — during the first six weeks.

The assessment helps teachers group students by ability and get extra help for those who need it.

And it gives the state a better idea of how well prepared 5- and 6-year-olds are to learn to read, write and do math by the time they finish kindergarten.

The fall 2012 statewide kindergarten data showed many 5- and 6-year-olds do not have the skills expected for entering school.

The biggest deficit was in math. Only 52 percent of the 21,811 kids tested have the math abilities they should have.

….

Race to Top grant

Washington was one of nine states to get a federal Race to the Top grant in late 2011 for early learning, in large part because of its work with WaKIDS.

The $60 million will be used to expand both the kindergarten-readiness assessments and a quality-rating system for private preschool programs.

….

Preschool needs

It also makes it obvious that kids need some instruction before kindergarten, because some are scoring at the 3-year-old level when they enter school, said Krissy Para, kindergarten teacher at Helen B. Stafford Elementary in Tacoma.

Needless to say, the “private money” referred to in this article is from the Gates Foundation.

This is a very sad state of affairs, when testing companies have now gotten a hold of our pre-schoolers.

Money should instead be spent on supporting families who need safe and nurturing full day programs for their pre-schoolers so that they can work, ensure that each child receive quality health and dental care, a place to sleep and plenty of healthy food to eat. Then Johnny will be ready to learn how to read and Susie will know her colors.

We are preparing a generation of test takers not ingenious, creative leaders who can think outside the bubble. I couldn’t add before kindergarten but I managed to get though calculus, physics and structures in college and grad school. How about you?

Now all of these test scores and too much other information about our children are being tracked from preschool through high school and beyond by Gates backed organizations and for-profit companies so buyer beware.

And this from School Matter

Race to the Top for Tots?

Obama’s Universal Preschool Proposal (Feb. 13) sounds great until you look at the details.

To be funded, states have to adhere to learning standards, which include a “rigorous” curriculum, and “effective evaluation,” in order to prepare students for the academic load of kindergarten (!!) (see “Fact Sheet President Obama’s Plan for Early Education for all Americans,” at www.whitehouse.gov).

Is the Preschool Initiative simply the Common Core extended to preschool? Race to the Top for Tots? There is no evidence showing that the “tough” academic standards and the increased testing of the Common Core for K-12 will help students, and there is no reason to impose it on three and four year olds.

Stephen Krashen

And this from @ the chalk face

The Ultimate Goal in School?

My friend, Gail Richmond, posted the below photo, which was shared by a parent.  In class, apparently the lesson was that some of us are not being all that we can be.  Therefore, it was time to start doing some goal setting!  Children, if your RIT score is not high enough, you need to apply yourselves and reach the new number.  If you don’t, Pearson will tell your teacher, your school, and your parents that you are not “proficient,” but merely “emerging.”

RIT

As many have commented, whatever happened to what I want to be when grow up?  What my hopes and dreams are?

When my handwriting looked like this, my goal was to be an astronaut, or a fireman, but never a better test score.

I can’t tell which is worse:

  1. Either the teacher told them verbatim what to write, and the kids have no idea what it means,
  2. Or the teacher spent way too much time trying to explain the concept of this nonsense to the kids.

But there is some good news.

Not only are the teachers in Seattle standing firm but many others are joining them.

Here is a photo of the teachers at Orca K-8 who are boycotting the MAP test

Orca scraps the MAP

And a photo of members of the Seattle Education Association after their vote to support the MAP test boycott.

Orca

And this from the 34th District in Seattle:

Last night, the 34th Legislative Democrats of Washington State passed a resolution to immediately suspend the administration of the MAP test. One more victory for public school students and educators!

As I have stated here before, this testing has many ramifications. First, it’s expensive and by far those who benefit the most are the test makers. The scores are used as a weapon against our teachers, our schools and our districts. Test scores are used to shame teachers, the fallout many times being the students who feel the most shame, fire principals and close schools just to convert them into charter schools with no public oversight.

Chicago and Philadelphia are going through another round of school closures which will cause more pain and dislocation for so many families.

Chicago Public Schools Hit List of 129 Potential School Closings Creates a ‘Hunger Games’ Scenario for Chicago Families and Teachers

chicago2

By releasing its preliminary hit list of 129 neighborhood schools that remain on the block for closure at the end of the 2012-2013 school year and proceeding with a second round of community meetings to garner feedback on how to best manage its manufactured utilization crisis, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has told Chicagoans that if they want a school to stay open, they will have to fight for it. They will have to beg for resources that should be available to all, and in a sadistic game put forth by CPS where individuals and their lives are mere pawns, parents, children and teachers are pitted against one another in a battle for a basic citizen right—a neighborhood school.

It is, as one local activist put it, much like the post-apocalyptic scenario created in the 2008 novel “The Hunger Games” by author Suzanne Collins. 

In the book, boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen by an annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, where the participants fight to the death until only one child remains. As the intensity and stakes grow higher in the quest for survival, and some children are seen as appealing for their prowess, it becomes easier for those in power to secure the money and supplies to help them live.

Our public school system creates a similar paradox, where it high stakes test scores that are designed to “prove” that children are worthy of resources, instead of viewing them as one of life’s most precious resources. 

To read this post in full, go to the Chicago Teachers Union website.

And in Philadelphia:

Corporations Advise School Closings, While Private Charters Suck Public Schools Away

As charter proponents aim to cash in on major investment returns, Philly braces for a massive schools shakeup.

On Dec. 13, 2012, Philadelphia became the latest major American city to recommend sweeping school closures for the next academic year. Under this new proposal, a total of 37, or about 16 percent, of the district’s 237 public schools will be shuttered this June. That’s down from the 40 schools the city designated for closure back in May, but still represents an unprecedented move in Philadelphia’s history. The School Commission Reform, an outside body appointed to govern Philadelphia schools, has scheduled its final vote for March 7.

Overall, 44 schools will be affected by the shakeup: Of the 37 to be closed, three will relocate by merging with other Philadelphia schools. Beyond this, seven other schools will face major restructuring – i.e., though these school programs will remain intact, the schools themselves will be uprooted and moved to other buildings, merged with other schools, and/or forced to add or subtract grade levels. About 15,000 students will be affected by the proposed changes. And though official numbers have not been released, hundreds of teacher and staff layoffs are also expected.

There is nothing democratic about how this happened to the City of Brotherly Love. Though officials gave lip service to the idea of “parental empowerment” through “ school choice,” in the end, parents had no role in deciding what policies would be enforced. Everything was outsourced. As a Pew study reports, the city consulted with “URS Corp., a California-based engineering design firm, and DeJong-Richter, an Ohio-based company that specializes in school-closing issues” to come to its final consensus. Though town hall meetings were organized between 2010 and 2012 to hear citizen concerns, the closures, relocations and reconfigurations  were ultimately decided by the consulting firms, with no serious input from locals.

To read this article in full, go to alter net.

When parents and teachers fought back with an ethics complaint, the foundation in question decided to apply pressure by not funding anything in Philadelphia.

From the Parents Across America Weekly Update:

PAA Founding Member Helen Gym speaking at a press conference.

PAA Founding Member Helen Gym speaking at a press conference.

In response to an ethics complaint filed against them by Philadelphia PAA chapter Parents United for Public Education, the William Penn Foundation suspended funding to all city agencies until the ethics board ruled on the complaint. The move potentially holds up millions of dollars in city projects.

In December, Parents United filed a lobbying complaint against the Foundation and the Boston Consulting Group, arguing that a contract between the two entities constituted an effort to lobby the School District of Philadelphia around a controversial plan to close dozens of schools, privatize District management and expand charters. The Foundation had solicited millions of dollars from private donors to pay for its contract with BCG.

Parents United co-founder Helen Gym called the move by the Foundation an “unreasonable and unnecessary response to an important lobbying complaint currently before the ethics board.” Parents United’s full statement is below.

Read more about Parents United’s efforts at transparency on their blog post, “Dear Philadelphia, we are above the law.”

This week, I’ll leave you with Bill Moyers & Co.

The Fight to Keep Democracy Alive

As President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Tuesday, many wondered why there was not a word in the speech about taming the power of private money over public policy. There’s no question that big money calls the shots, or at least tilts the debate, on many issues vital to America’s democracy and integrity.

Dan Cantor, Executive Director of New York’s Working Families Party, and Jonathan Soros, co-founder of the Friends of Democracy super PAC and a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, join Bill to explore the virus in our politics, and what can realistically be done about it. The two have joined forces to curb the influence of money on politics, even if it means creating yet another big money super PAC to battle for – instead of against – democracy.

Dora Taylor

7 comments on “The Weekly Update Part 2: More school closings, tests for tots and Seattle still scraps the MAP

  1. journal6other
    March 1, 2013

    What do they do with the pre-K children who do not pass the test? Do they send them to the tuna factory or to the glue factory?

    • seattleducation2011
      March 1, 2013

      So far with the MAP test, nothing is done if a student doesn’t do well on the test because there is no time or money to 1-understand the results and 2-do anything about it.

      With three MAP tests, by the time the school is finished administering one, it’s time to set up for the next one. The entire process is ridiculous, time consuming and expensive.

      There is to be some sort of intervention for pre K but nothing has been described. But then again, after spending our non-existent money on the test, there isn’t anymore money for follow-up.

      Dora

  2. David Fisher
    February 17, 2013

    Thanks again Dora.

    As you have so eloquently articulated, the testing of pre-schoolers is abusive, counter productive and a waste of public funding. In fact, developmental psychologists consider self-regulating abilities like development of a stronger locus of control, such as a better ability to delay gratification, control impulses, and achieve higher sustained attention spans to be a better indicator of early academic achievement than measures of intelligence.

    These abilities are developed through exposure to hand craft activities, not testing regimes. The real world behavior of hands-on explorations involve a complex network of brain cells that stimulate social and cognitive processes as well as perceptual and motor abilities. (1)

    Stop the test, its a mental mess.

    (1) Sigman, A.K. (2008). Practically Minded: the benefits and mechanisms associated with a craft-based curriculum. Published by Ruskin Mill Educational Trust.

    David

  3. Anonymous
    February 16, 2013

    Your concern about WaKIDS is misguided. Remarkable variance in skills are prominent at the beginning of kindergarten and quantifying this is important to insure funding supports high quality pre-kg programs. I suggest you follow the work of Dr. Gail Joseph at UW for more information about the efficacy of the WaKIDS initiative. This is far from another MAP test but an invaluable component to strengthen preschools in Washington.

    • seattleducation2011
      February 17, 2013

      No Anonymous, I have not been misled.

      I understand the importance of programs such as Head Start, the program that Dr. Joseph is a part of. My father was Director of Head Start for Southern California many years ago. That’s not the issue. We all know that some families need help in feeding their children or teaching them the basics that are necessary to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. That’s what Head Start was all about and still is.

      The completely unnecessary component that has been added is the testing.

      It doesn’t take much to see when a child needs help learning their abc’s, or needs to have something to eat so that they can concentrate. It doesn’t take a battery of tests to know that a child doesn’t know their colors or doesn’t recognize a few basic words.

      I went back to the Head Start website and now it’s all spiffy graphics with all of the typical catch phrases like “quality”, “excellence” and “achievement gap”.

      The money needs to be spent on opening up more Head Start programs not testing 3 and 4 year olds to see if they can stand in a straight line. We already know the obvious.

      You need to visit the Central District and ask those mothers, particularly the ones who are recent immigrants, what they want and they will tell you in no uncertain terms “Head Start!”. I heard them say that to the mayor a few years ago.

      Those millions of dollars that are being used to devise more useless testing needs to go directly into those neighborhood programs.

      Dora

  4. Ken Mortland
    February 16, 2013

    Not sure what you mean, when you say the Settle Times is corporate owed? The Blethen Family owns 51% & the McClatchy Newspaper Company owns 49%. The Times is one of he largest family owned newspapers in he US. How does that make them “corporate owned”?

    • seattleducation2011
      February 17, 2013

      Ken,

      I should have written that passage the way I thought of doing initially and have gone back and changed it to what I wanted to say originally.

      I have used the term “corporate bell hops” before and even though it fits what the Seattle Times has become, I don’t like to overuse the term but after reading your comment, I decided to use it anyway.

      The phrase does not come from me though. The phrase was coined by Mike Lofgren and used in his book “The Party is Over: How Republicans went crazy, Democrats became useless and the Middle Class got shafted”. The book is highly recommended by the way.

      Dora

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