For the news and views you might have missed
Excerpt from the Chicago Teachers Union position paper:
Corporate reform groups such as Advance Illinois and Stand for Children claim teachers are the main factor in student academic achievement. Recent research shows otherwise: as much as 90% of variation in student growth is explained by factors outside the control of teachers. Children who do not have access to health care, who are hungry, who are exhausted from nighttime symptoms of asthma, who are fearful of violence in their communities, who do not have books or access to other informal learning at home, whose parents have limited education, whose families are constantly stressed by economic problems, and who do not go to libraries and museums in their free time are at an academic disadvantage.
These factors are highly related not only to testing outcomes, academic achievement, future education and socioeconomic success, but also to the racial, ethnic and class origins of individuals. The inequitable history of American society, politics, institutions and economic relations are at the root of these relations. As a result, when academic outcomes are averaged across subgroups such as race and class, glaring gaps appear.
Corporate reformers use the academic achievement gap to justify increasing the frequency and consequences of high‐stakes testing. These policies have nothing to do with addressing the root causes of how such gaps arise and persist in society, nor do they improve student learning. In fact, these policies typically worsen academic outcomes for students impacted by them.
A Seattle Public School parent told me that her student missed four recesses out of five in one week because the child, a 2nd grader, had to continue doing her Common Core Standards lesson in preparation for a corresponding standardized test. That amount of homework is not suited for such a young child. The reason that the 2nd grader had to stay in class while others played was because her fingers would get tired from all of the writing she was required to do so it took her a long time to complete her lessons.
This is what Bill Gates and his $300M investment in Common Core Standards with the related standardized tests have wrought upon the rest of us; mind numbing homework, 10 pages for a second grader to do in one night, as well as daily lesson plans that take all of the creativity out of teaching and do not provide room for responsiveness to the needs of the students, lost class time while students take days and weeks of standardized testing and a bill in the millions of dollars to buy the required tests, lesson plans, books, computers and technical upgrades needed for students to take the tests. The estimate for Seattle is $15M for the costs of all printed materials and training required but doesn’t include tech upgrades required or the costs of computers to implement the testing. For more on the cost for Washington State, see Cost Estimates for Implementing the Common Core State Standards in Washington State.
We won’t even go into the lack of student privacy involved in tracking students from Pre-K through high school and beyond demanded by this program.
It’s no wonder there is now a teacher, parent and student revolt happening around the country. The resistance to the Common Core Standards and the testing related to it is so great that Mr. Gates, in front of a paid audience, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, tried to explain why teachers should back the Common Core. Amazing.
I’ve been receiving information on opting out activities around the country and there are more than I can post here.
If you want to stay up to date, there are several websites that I have noted at the bottom of this page that will provide you with additional information. Another way to stay informed is to create a Google Alert on the subject. I receive three to four opt-out actions described daily in the alert report.
To follow are a few articles I gathered in the last week.
Cindy Rose of Frederick County has taken the matter of MSA opting out to court by filing an emergency motion for injunctive relief. She is asking the court to force Frederick County Public Schools to allow her child to remain in her classes and not be administered the test.
Her daughter is in sixth grade and has a recognized anxiety disorder, and having to take six hours of high-pressure assessments in a week’s time on material that is not even being taught in the schools this year would cause her unnecessary and avoidable stress. When Ms. Rose tried to work with her school to opt her child out of taking the test, the school refused, saying she would have to keep her out of school for the entire testing period of 12 days.
Even though, like many parents are doing, Ms. Rose could simply have her child refuse to take the test when it is administered, she said, “I’m not putting her in the middle of that, nor should I have to, especially this year when the MSA means nothing. It isn’t a valid measure of student achievement or teacher effectiveness.”
To read this article in full, go to examiner.com.
Also in Maryland, teachers dressed as clowns protested the Maryland State Assessment, calling it a joke.
The U.S. Department of Education is allowing California to bypass federal requirements by giving standardized tests in math and reading to millions of public school students this spring without publicly reporting results or using them to hold schools or teachers accountable.
The reprieve, good for only the testing season that begins in the state on March 18, ends a months-long standoff between California and the department over the state’s testing plans.
At one point, Education Secretary Arne Duncan had threatened to withhold at least $3.5 billion in annual federal funding — money that California uses to educate poor and disabled children.
But in a letter sent to California officials Friday, Assistant Education Secretary Deborah Delisle wrote that her department has approved the state’s plan. “I hope you find this flexibility helpful,” she wrote.
She has issued similar approvals in recent months to Montana, Idaho and South Dakota.
To read this article in full, go to the Washington Post
WORCESTER — Parents who do not want their children to be part of the field testing for the new PARCC standardized test now have the option to opt out of the process.
Thursday night, the Worcester School Committee decided to allow parents of Worcester Public Schools students selected to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) pilot test to say that they want their children to participate in regular classroom instruction or other education-based activities during that time.
The decision came after two parents asked members to send a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education similar to one sent by the Norfolk Public School system on Feb. 11, saying that parents should decide whether their children take part in a “test of a test.”
“I didn’t sign her up to be a lab rat. I’m sending her to the public schools to be taught, and testing is not teaching,” parent Ed Moynihan said earlier Thursday. “I want the school committee to affirm my rights as a parent to opt out on testing.”
To read this in full, go to MASS LIVE
Last year, Manheim Township mom Renee Heller was one of 15 parents in Lancaster County to opt her children out of PSSAs, the state-mandated tests for elementary and middle schools. This year, if her efforts with a new group are successful, she’ll be one of dozens.
Lancaster County Opt Out held its first public event last month and administrators at four local school districts have already reported increased numbers of parents opting their kids out of the upcoming PSSAs. Some say that trend could wind up hurting schools.
It all started with a movie screening. “Standardized,” a documentary about standardized tests and public schools, played at Zoetropolis theater in Lancaster in January. The discussion afterward turned to the little-known provision of state education law that excuses students from state assessments if parents object to them for religious reasons.
A small but growing number of local parents, like Heller, have used that exemption as a vehicle to express frustration with standardized tests in recent years.
“(At the screening) someone said, is there a Lancaster County group? So we chatted and decided that it needed to be done,” said Heller.
Heller and Leslie Gates, a Millersville University art education professor, joined forces to form Lancaster County Opt Out. Similar groups are cropping up throughout the country, according to published reports.
To read more, go to Lancaster Online.
BY ILINA EWEN AND PAMELA GRUNDY
This spring, across the nation, tens of thousands of families will say “enough” to the high-stakes, standardized testing that has done such great damage to American public schools in recent years.
Ours will be among them.
We have informed the principals at our sons’ schools that our boys will not participate in this year’s End of Grade tests and North Carolina Final Exams.
Study after study has detailed the multifaceted damage caused by high-stakes testing, from the narrowing of school curricula to the elimination of time for art and music to the spread of the mind-numbing strategy of teaching to the test.
These studies include strong evidence that the greatest harm has come to special education students and low-income children of color. They make it clear that out-of-control testing has done nothing to improve national achievement levels. Still, the tests keep multiplying, and the stakes keep rising.
No one wins here but the testing companies. Parents need to take a stronger stand.
To read this Op-Ed in full, go to the News Observer.
by Ceresta Smith, Co-Founder of United Opt Out
During the process of opting your child out of testing, you will probably meet with the following comments by administrators and district officials.
It is important that you ask that any of the following statements be put in writing on stationery with the school or the district’s letterhead.
I have listed the comments with the responses you may need to use to complete the process of opting your child out of standardized testing:
Your child has to stay home during the testing window.
I am a taxpayer, and you do not have the authority to bar my child from accessing this public good of which I contribute in the form of tax payment. I will call the police if you attempt to bar my child from entering the building.
Your child has to report to the test site.
Having my child report to the test site only to sit and stare into space for hours at a time is tantamount to solitary confinement. If you attempt to force my child to do so, I will report you to the child abuse authorities. If anyone places their hands on my child after he/she has respectfully declined to report to a test site, he/she has been instructed to call the police and file charges.
Your child will not graduate w/o the test.
As the parent, I have legal rights to the final say when it comes to my child’s education. My preference is the use of the PLAN or ACT test to prove my child’s proficiency in math and reading, as they are voluntary and allow me to receive a copy of my child’s actual test for review.
Your child will be retained.
The goal here is to demonstrate proficiency, and as a parent I have the legal right to request the use of a portfolio or alternative assessment to demonstrate my child’s ability. Upon review, together we will decide if that is necessary.
Your child will be placed in remedial classes.
The goal here is to demonstrate proficiency, and as a parent I have the legal right to request the use of a portfolio or alternative assessment to demonstrate, my child’s ability. I will be the one to decide along with your expertise if remediation is necessary.
We cannot supply alternative activities for your child during testing.
It is my child’s right as a public school student to receive instruction daily, and if you do not do so, I will file a discrimination report with the district and consult an attorney.
You will cause the school to be deemed failing, and it will be under sanction or closed down.
To date no school has been closed for parents opting their children out of testing; they have been closed for parents opting their children in.
For a parent flyer on opting out, go to United Opt Out.
I will leave you with this radio program about parents opting out in New York:
For more information on opting out and the movement, go to: