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Weekly Update: A charter school bill dies in Alabama and more testing pushback


Alabama, as Washington, does not have charter schools and for several very good reasons. See The Charter School Myths.

One of the reasons that Alabama opposes charter schools was stated by a member of the Alabama Education Association:

Dr. Henry Mabry, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, consistently told lawmakers during the session that the state didn’t need a dual system of schools when it couldn’t afford to adequately fund the single system it has.

Mabry noted the state has lost more than 12,500 education employees since 2008, and stands to lose hundreds more in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

“This is a victory for the schoolchildren of Alabama and the underserved public schools all over the state,” he said. “We don’t need to dilute even further the precious little funding for our elementary and secondary students to gamble on the unproven model of charter schools.”

To read the article in full, go to Charter Bill Dies.

As I noted in last week’s update, there has been much push back in terms of the unrelenting testing that has been occurring around the nation due to the big push by Arne Duncan in terms of his ill-conceived Race to the Top initiative. One of the reasons is provided in a survey that was given to 8,000 parents in the state of New York.

Over the course of two weeks, 8000 parents across the state responded to a survey developed by New York principals regarding their children’s experiences with the recent state 3-8 Assessments in ELA and mathematics.  The parent survey was conducted by www.newyorkprincipals.org   The purpose of the survey was to find out more about the effects of these exams.

Teachers and principals of 3-8 students were also surveyed. 6,641 teachers responded and 792 principals responded. Both groups expressed serious concerns and frustrations with the state testing program.

Parents who responded expressed serious concerns regarding the impact that these tests have had on their children and their learning:

  •  75% reported their child was more anxious in the month before the test
  •  Nearly 80% reported that test prep prevented their child from engaging in meaningful school activities.
  •  87% reported that the current amount of time devoted to standardized tests is not a good use of their child’s school time.
  •  95% were opposed to increasing the number and length of tests
  •  91% were opposed to standardized tests for K-2
  •  65% reported that too much time is devoted to test prep
  •  70% reported that the increased emphasis on high stakes testing has had a negative impact on their child’s school

In addition to responses to questions, about 4000 of the respondents left comments and short anecdotes revealing the following effects on their children:

  •  Physical symptoms caused by test anxiety, including tics, asthma attacks, acid reflux, vomiting;
  •  Sleep disruption, crying;
  •  Refusal to go to school;
  •  Feelings of failure, increasing as the tests progressed’
  •  Complaints of severe boredom and restlessness from students who finished early and were required to sit still for the full 90 minutes of each test.

To read more about this survey in, go to Results of survey from 8000 parents about impact of this year’s state tests.

In Florida there is also growing push back against high stakes testing. One school board member became a vocal opponent after taking the tests himself.

Last year, Orange County school board member Rick Roach took the 10th-grade level FCAT and failed the mathematics portion while getting a 62 percent on the reading portion.

“I have two master’s degrees,” said Roach. “I teach 19 graduate courses in four colleges, and that had me as a poor reader.”

Roach is part of the Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition, which is now requesting an external audit of this year’s results and Pearson.

Pearson is an international company that has virtually no competition in standardized testing.

For parents, one of the biggest problems was that they don’t get to see their child’s test afterward.

Roach said he failed because there were many secondary answers that could have been considered correct.

“You could justify that B is the correct answer, although A is what the test taker wanted you to pick,” said Roach.

The other question is school district officials don’t know who’s really scoring the tests. That information is kept confidential.

However, scorers that have gone public complain about having to read and score hundreds of papers a day at a rate of one per minute.

To read the article in full and watch an interview with the superintendent, go to Orange County school board member wants FCAT eliminated.

The superintendents in Florida also began questioning the value of the testing particularly because of the sudden drop in test scores. From an article written in the St. Augustine Record:

While the State Board of Education is lowering the passing grade for Florida’s standardized writing tests, district school superintendents say it would make more sense to first find out why the new test caused students to score so low.

“There’s something wrong with this exam,” Superintendent Joe Joyner said Tuesday during the St. Johns County School Board meeting.

Other superintendents agreed during a conference call with Florida Association of District School Superintendents directors on Monday, he said.

“We need to find out what the issue with the test is, not just set an arbitrary score,” Joyner said, adding that was a “pretty consistent comment” of superintendents in on the call.

“It was loud,” Joyner said of the call. “It was hard to get a chance to talk.”

The hoopla began Monday morning when the Department of Education, or DOE, posted word on its website that preliminary data showed only 27 percent of fourth graders in the state scored a Level 4 or higher on the test. Last year 81 percent made the cut. Eighth and 10th grade scores also showed steep drops.

That unleashed a fire storm as educators and parents sought to find out what had happened. The State Board held an emergency meeting Tuesday morning to look at how to handle the decline. They eventually decided to drop the required score from 4 back to 3.

District 2 member Tommy Allen said the problem began years ago when the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test was introduced.

The article continues:

“I said we were teaching to the test and I was fussed at. … I was right,” Allen said. “We’re not considering the student.”

It’s more important to help students accomplish goals and then move up to the next level rather than come up with “artificial grades,” he said.

To read the article in full, go to Superintendents: What is wrong with writing test?

On Education Radio this week the focus was on the Teaching Performance Assessment. To follow is the introduction to this radio program

In this weeks program, we listen to an episode we originally aired back in March about the development of a national Teacher Performance Assessment, driven by the testing giant, Pearson, Inc. Thanks to a recent story in the New York Times, this topic has gained new relevance and has opened up the discussion to a wider audience. Michael Winerip’s article, “New Procedure for Teaching LicenseDraws Protest,” appeared in the New York Times on Monday, May 7th. The story featured University of Massachusetts Amherst student teachers and instructors who are refusing to take part in the field test of a Teacher Performance Assessment being implemented by Pearson, Inc., a private company and the largest assessment and testing provider in the United States.

Both our program and the NYTimes article feature teacher educator, and Education Radio producer, Barbara Madeloni and her student teachers explaining what the TPA is and why they are resisting it. After our original broadcast, we heard from teachers and teacher educators from around the country who were also struggling with ways to resist. The article in the Times has, excitingly, further opened the discussion of the privatization of teacher training and resistance to this national audience. Since the story was published, we’ve received an incredible amount of feedback and comments that have affirmed the work of Barbara and her student teachers. This outcry of parents, teachers, activists and others who have contacted Barbara or commented on the article should remind us all that there are many out there who disagree with the current trend of privatizing public education. And that the act of teacher training cannot and should not be reduced to an assembly-line, Taylorist logic.

To listen to this broadcast, go to Education Radio’s program Pearson’s Teacher Performance Assessment: Exposed!

And finally this week, an interesting and recommended watch, the History of Occupy as viewed by a reporter for Al Jazerra.

Dora

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