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The Opt-Out Update: The AFT finally pushes back, “Rigor” in Portland, WA State, Alabama and New York fight back

Opt out postcard

It looks like teachers and the teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have FINALLY smelled the coffee and decided to push back.

The American Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers and the Alliance for Quality Education got together and put up a website titled Democrats, in name only, for Education Reform.

They nicely connected some of the dots in an easy to understand graphic that’s visually pleasing.

This is the first paragraph:

What is Democrats for Education Reform?

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is an education privatization group started by hedge fund managers who wanted to influence Democrats’ education policies just as the Wal-Mart family had influenced Republicans’. In the words of one of DFER’s founders, in order to get Democrats to emulate Republicans on education, it would have to be an “inside job,” and they needed a group that would be named Democrats for Education Reform.

It’s definitely worth checking out and sharing.

Parents have been pushing back from the beginning of the drive for privatization of our public school system. We lost some battles and we have won some. If we, as parents, unite with teachers, students and concerned citizens in fighting back, we will win the war. What is important is when the smoke clears, we will have solidarity and therefore the ability to decide how best to educate our children, all children.

To follow are examples of parents and teachers, sometimes separately, sometimes together, pushing back on the takeover of our schools by outsiders who have no idea what’s best for our children.

First up, a parent in Portland.

Rigor” is defined as cruelty and severity. Portland parent Bruce Scherer mocks the use of the word by education poseurs and talks about why it is a horrible word for schools.

In Brooklyn, teachers and parents fight back.

new york parents (1)

Protestors in New York object to Common Core tests. They object to the high stakes attached to a student’s performance, as well as the secrecy surrounding the questions.

New York parents opt out of high stakes tests

Last year, Amelia Costigan watched as her twin sons and their fourth-grade classmates prepared for the new state tests. It was the first year New York’s assessments were based on the Common Core, the nationally standardized curricula that many states have adopted in recent years. And, a lot was at stake in New York. The kids literally worried themselves sick.

“My kids had trouble sleeping,” Costigan says. “Other kids had stomach aches. Kids were going to the doctors, and the doctors were saying it looked like it was stress from the test.”

The tests determined whether her sons advanced to the next grade, or got into a top middle school. Scores also played into teacher evaluations and school rankings. This year, Costigan and the parents of eight other kids at her school decided they didn’t want their kids to participate.

Parents’ groups estimate about 1,000 kids in New York City won’t be taking the Common Core assessments this year. Statewide, it’s about 35,000.

At a rally in Lower Manhattan last week, Liz Rosenberg says her fourth grade daughter wasn’t scared of the tests at first.

“She was super psyched to take it,” she says.

But Rosenberg was anything but psyched. Part of her objection is that questions and answers are not released after the test, so it’s hard for kids to know what they don’t know. She convinced her daughter that the tests are a bad idea. This year, she’s opting out.

“It’s important to stand up. It’s important to talk back,” Rosenberg says.

To read this article go to Marketplace.

opt out update

And in the fair state of Washington:

Washington Teachers’ Union Supports Families Opting Out Of State Testing

The state’s largest teachers’ union has passed a motion to support parents and students who opt out of statewide standardized tests. The union also promotes opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium state test coming next school year to align with the new Common Core State Standards.

Noam Gundle, who teaches science at Ballard High School in Seattle, introduced the motion at the Washington Education Association representative assembly in Spokane on Friday.

“This motion is about promoting positive learning in the classroom, as opposed to a fixation on testing,” Gundle said.

Although many teachers and parents agree with that sentiment, Gundle said they often aren’t aware that state and federal law does allow students to opt out of standardized tests.

He predicts that as teachers and families become aware of students’ rights, the growing national opt-out movement will flourish. “When parents do organize, they have a lot more power in a lot of ways than teachers do, because they’re the ones that schools and administrators and testing companies listen to,” Gundle said.

To read this article in full and hear the segment, go to KUOW.org.

And in New York teachers and students fought back against the high stakes assessments.

unnamed

A group of teachers at the International High School at Prospect Heights on Thursday refused to administer a city-mandated ELA test.

To follow was the media advisory that went out last week:

26 Teachers and Staff of International High School at Prospect

Heights refuse to give NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test

 

WHEN: Thursday, May 1, 2014, 7:45-8:20am,

 

WHERE: International High School at Prospect Heights, 883 Classon

Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225

 

WHAT: Teachers will hold a press conference to announce their

refusal to administer the NYC ELA Performance Assessment. 26

teachers and staff at Prospect Heights International High School are

refusing to administer a new assessment that is part of the new

teacher evaluation system pushed by Bloomberg’s DOE and the UFT last

spring. 50% of parents have opted their children out of the test.

The high school serves almost exclusively recently arrived English

Language Learners.

 

WHY: The test was constructed and formatted without any thought for

the 14% of New York City students for whom English is not their

first language. The level of English used in the pre-test

administered in the Fall was so far above the level of our beginner

ELLs that it provided little to no information about our students’

language proficiency or the level of their academic skills.

 

Furthermore, the test was a traumatic and demoralizing experience

for students. Many students, after asking for help that teachers

were not allowed to give, simply put their heads down for the

duration. Some students even cried.

 

Teachers at Prospect Heights are drawing a line with this test.

Standardized, high stakes test dominate our schools, distort our

curriculum and make our students feel like failures. This test

serves no purpose for the students, and ultimately only hurts them.

 

26 Teachers have signed a letter to Chancellor Farina declaring that

they will not give the exam. The letter expresses gratitude for

Farina’s immediate turn around of the DOE’s attitude toward

teachers, and asks that the Chancellor reconsider the use of the NYC

ELA Performance Assessment with English Language Learners.

And in Madison, Alabama Shea Spiers explains why she wants to opt her student out of standardized testing in this video.

The following article goes into further detail about the parents in Madison, Alabama who are fighting back:

4 reasons parents want to opt kids out of standardized tests (It’s not just about Common Core)

Here is an excerpt:

One such group of parents, whose kids attend school in the Madison City School District, have been meeting with district officials and communicating with state school board officials, airing their concerns and questions.

“There is a fairly small group of people within Madison I have been working closely with on this issue,” said Brad Sparks, father of an 8-year-old son who is in the third grade at a Madison City school.

“However, we have been using social media to communicate with other parents, primarily within the state of Alabama but also throughout the country, who have similar concerns and are discussing opting out, and discussing the problems we have with Common Core.

“This is certainly a large issue both within our state and our country.

The concerns they list are:

1. Student privacy .

2. Testing is not an effective way to gauge school performance, or to show educators or lawmakers how to best help failing schools.

3. Too much ‘teaching to the test.

4. The exact content of the test is a secret.

To read this article in full, which I recommend doing, go to AL.com.

In New York

Concern leads to state test opt outs

Some parents would give the state math tests a score of zero, saying the curriculum is difficult and too complex for their children’s ages.

As they did with last month’s English language arts tests, parents across the state are opting their children out from taking the state standardized math tests for grades three through eight.

Amanda Bywater of Malta, who has been a music educator herself for about 20 years, said the test questions are long and it can be difficult to determine their objective. The vocabulary is complex, with questions referencing “inverse operations” and “distributive property of multiplication.”

Another Capital Region parent who is opting out, Katie Thimineur of Ballston Spa, said the new math curriculum requires too many steps to solve a simple problem.

“The kids aren’t ready. Their brains aren’t set to learn these ways until later ages,” she said.

Her biggest concern is that student performance on these tests affects teachers’ evaluations — constituting 20 percent of the score. The tests don’t take into account students who are affected by child abuse and other factors, according to Thimineur.

“Our teachers are going to be graded on things that are outside of their control,” she said.

In Texas, from Politico’s Morning Education Newsletter:

In Texas, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis recently called for a reduction in standardized testing and more local control over assessments. She’s also been blasting her opponent, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, for seeking to subject 4-year-olds to standardized tests. But the Austin American-Statesman rated that charge as “mostly false.” Abbott wants to assess how much students learn in publicly subsidized pre-K before expanding funding for the programs, but he’s not insisting on fill-in-the-bubble tests for young children; he would leave it up to districts to decide how to measure academic gains. Davis is calling for much broader and more immediate public subsidies for full-day pre-K.

Look for more students, teachers and parents opting out of the Common Core Standards (CCS) and high stakes testing in the Fall as CCS rolls out with the concomitant testing in several states and districts..

Dora Taylor

One comment on “The Opt-Out Update: The AFT finally pushes back, “Rigor” in Portland, WA State, Alabama and New York fight back

  1. Michael Elliot
    May 15, 2014

    34,000 New York children refused to take the ELA state tests. Many more refused the math. Speak up! Watch and spread the video. Parents have a right to refuse!

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