Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Keep it simple…

We are not going to win this battle against the corporate reformers backing Common Core unless we become unified under a valid banner.

It’s simple.. Common Core Standards and high stakes testing have no pedagogical validity because there are no empirical studies that verifies they actual are capable of results the so called reformers claim. In addition, high stakes testing is a form of institutional abuse that must be halted immediately.

Unfortunately, that important message is being destroyed by some who claim they are against the Common Core.

Read David Brooks opinion piece this past week . He calls it a circus. He describes the Right Wing attacks and misrepresents the Left.

There are groups of all political persuasions that are against the Common Core, high stakes testing and education reform. That said, just because another group may be against something that I am also fighting, they are not considered my ally. You really need to explore the agenda of all groups.

I am against the Common Core and high stakes testing due to pedagogical reasons, while groups on the Right are against it for political reasons. Political arguments are self serving, they reflect a much larger agenda. Calling it Obamacore may feel good to some but it does not help our cause.

In this case these Right Wing groups are pushing a much darker agenda. They look at Common Core as a grand conspiracy by the left, meant to indoctrinate our children while creating a mega database of ammunition that will be used against the masses. I can’t be an ally to that rhetoric.

I have  called out that agenda by posting links on Twitter that demonstrated that their agenda is so far to the Right that all of us should be wary. These groups are against teachers unions, they are against tenure, they support vouchers, they claim liberal teachers are brainwashing their children, and they claim Common Core is a tool to undermine Christian values just to start.

I have been vocal about these groups before, I have shown links to the Heritage Foundation, Freedomworks, the Koch brothers, and other similar groups.  I posted proof that their keynote speakers ally themselves with Glenn Beck and the Cato institute.

I will not ally with any group that is looking for my demise as a public school teacher or as a union member. I won’t risk the war, to save our nation’s important asset, our public schools and teachers, to win any battle.

Don’t kid yourself, these Right wing groups that are fighting education reform, with their not so hidden agendas, will ultimately destroy any chance we have to beat back the reformers. They will undermine the foundation of our cause, And once they erode the very ground that public education stands on, all will be lost.

Case in point…Those of us in New York are doing battle with Democrat Governor Cuomo. The more the Right pushes their agenda, Cuomo digs in deeper ignoring the Democrats in the group appealing to pedagogical senses.

Is this any way to affect change?

It’s time to call these groups out. Expose their true agendas.  Then and only then will we really have a chance to save public education.

Keep it simple.. Common Core Standards and high stakes testing have no pedagogical validity because there are no empirical studies that verifies they actual are capable of results the so called reformers claim. In addition, high stakes testing is a form of institutional abuse that must be halted immediately.

 

Common Core Test Abuse

Today my 5th grade class was subjected to day 1 of a  3 day Common Core exam that according to New York Governor Cuomo will result in “unfair test results.” He even said students must be protected from these results. The legislature took the extraordinary (not really) step of including a bill in their budget proposal that says districts should not use the results of these tests, unless of course they want to.

Confused yet? During last’s night debate ( not really) on the New York State Assembly floor, Assemblyman Graf asked if it was true that they were voting to reduce a 90 minute test to 90 minutes! ( Yes!, Really, 90 minutes!)

Today, Cuomo announced that he needed to look at the impact of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations. ( Yes, he really said that!) Cuomo said Common Core testing has been rolled out too quickly and it is not a fair indicator of student success.

Has the campaign begun??

As Cuomo fiddles, the students in my class are being put through the fire. They sat today trying to decipher ridiculous questions that asked, among other things, relationships between paragraphs, which paragraphs contribute to the structure of a story, and what should have been included in the summary of a story they read.

The read 6 essays, and answered 42 very difficult and abstract questions. The stories had characters with names that would be unfamiliar to 98%  of New Yorkers. They were uninteresting and the students told me later just how  hard they struggled to stay motivated. Observing,  I witnessed students struggle through the first couple then they seem to just skim and randomly select bubbles to fill in. One student said, “This was the worst 90 minutes of the entire year.”

Students wondered if they failed, students were drained and wondered what they would face tomorrow.

My question to the governor,

Why did we abuse New York’s children today?

 

 

 

My Constitutional Right

A quick update.

If you have been reading my blog, you would know that I have documented my unfortunate encounter with my NYS Assemblywomen Michaelle Solages. I have gathered enough evidence that Solages has used her office to attempt to destroy my career. I know a NYS Assembly Computer was used to impersonate a NYSUT member ( New York State United Teachers) . I know she tracked down where I worked and called my principal. I know that she call the regional office at NYSUT asking them to do something about me. I know my district received an mysterious e-mail that included the same details the message sent from the Assembly computer.

Too many patriots have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the ideals of our nation. Our elected representative, are suppose to represent us not the party line. Our elected representatives are not allowed to abuse the power of their office. When a constituent asks a simple question like I did, an answer is expected. A vendetta is not.

Something I haven’t posted. I called Ms. Solages office the other day and demanded an apology. I also warned them if an apology was not received I would take this further. Yet another opportunity lost by her to do the right thing.

Therefore, my complaint to The New York State Office of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau has been mailed. I do not do this lightly. I am fully aware that any false statements made by me are punishable by law.

 

Attorney General Time?

This saga with my Assemblywomen appears to be reaching a level that I never expected. I was informed tonight that an e-mail was sent to my district that accuses me of some sort of wrong doing. So now an internal investigation into the incident is underway. I am 100% confident that I did nothing wrong and that nothing will come out of this that will have a negative affect on me.

That said, yesterday I received the following comment on my blog. I deleted it, not because I am afraid of negative comments, but because something was just not right. Let’s see if you can spot the problem. Click on it to enlarge it.

comment

Did you notice the I.P. address?

A simple I.P. address search reveals the origin of the comment.

Check this out.. Click on it so you can read it.

IP address

Surprised? Not me..

Now once I get my hands on the e-mail sent to my district and check out that I.P address it may be time to contact Albany.

Agree?

Representative Government 101

 

For those of you who do not know me, I am a fifth grade teacher on Long Island. I am also someone who believes in teaching my students much more than what is required on some asinine Common Core assessment. I teach them how to be truly prepared for the wonderful futures that each one of them deserve and hopefully achieve. Today was one of those days when they learned much more that my planned aims of today’s lesson.

I have been teaching about the American Revolutionary  War and our nation’s struggle  to establish a form of government that is … “of the people, by the people and for the people.” We have been having discussions as the the importance of representation on government and what that really means. So today, I planned on demonstrating to my students that anyone, even them, can contact a legislator that represents them and either find out where they stand on an issue or to give their own opinion on any issue.  I have also been teaching them that opinions back with facts and background are far more powerful than just plain opines.

Today, I called my NYS Assemblywomen Michaelle Solages, while my class watched. First I showed them how they could find their assembly person and how they could contact them. We went to the Assembly website and searched. I explained that yesterday there was a controversial vote regarding the Board of Regents and that I wanted to find out how Assemblywomen Solages voted. I also gave them some background as to why I was interested. I explained that there were many people who were looking for a change in the Board and that Assemblwomen Solages had led many of her constituents to believe that she would not vote to reappoint  four Regents.

I showed the class that I would be taking notes during the conversation and asked them to be patient. I called her office and a staff member answered the phone. I introduced myself as a constituent, the staffer asked my address and why I was calling. I stated that I wanted to know how the Assemblywomen voted on the Regent issue. The staff member then told me she did not know, and that she would have someone call. I asked if I could hold on while she found out and she said, that this is an issue that is of high priority. I then asked if that was so, why can’t she just tell me how she voted. She again said, someone would call me.

Three minutes later, the Assemblywomen called. The first thing she wanted to know was my address. I told her, then asked her how she voted on the Regents issue. (Please keep in mind, at no time was she on speaker phone. My class was merely listening to my words only not hers.) As I was talking to her, my principal walked into my room, I handed her a note, that said ‘ lesson in representative government, Assemblywomen Solages on the phone”.

The Assemblywomen, began by telling me that people move into my village because of the schools and how they affect our property values. I interrupted her and said, I merely wanted to know how she voted. She then went on to ask me if I had children and what age they were and how long I lived in my Village.

I again asked her how she voted. I explained to her that I was a teacher and that I grew up in the village. I know how important our schools were and that I didn’t understand why she just could not answer my question.

She threatened to end the call if I would not let her speak. I explained once again, all I was looking for was a simple answer, “how did you vote?”

She then told me that she could not in good conscious vote for some of the candidates due to their stance on guns. I then asked her if she voted to reinstate the incumbent Regents. No answer.

I then asked her if she voted for Finn.

She responded, “Justice Finn?”

I said yes, “Did you vote for her?”

She said, “yes.” I then asked her how justice Finn was able to bypass all the other candidates and get pushed to the front of the line? No answer. I then said something like, well now we have a “spiritual adviser’  as a Regent.

I then asked her again if she voted for the others. This went back and forth without any definitive answers.

It was futile, I then told her that I was in front of my class ( Where else would I be at 10 A.M.) and that I will have to tell my students that my representative in government refuses to tell me how she voted.

At this point she said that I was wrong for doing this, how would my students parents feel about my call, and I shouldn’t use children this way. I told her, I was teaching my students how they can find out how their representative voted. She then abruptly hung up on me.

I then turned to my class, they asked me how she voted, I told them she did not answer me and that she hung up.

I thought the lesson was over, not quite…

I needed to explain that what she did was wrong, that she should have answered my questions and that she most likely avoided  answering because she knew I would not have agreed with her. I then explained that my only recourse was the ballot box .

Several minutes later, my principal walks in at informed me that the Assemblywomen, called her and complained that I was doing something wrong and requested my principal talk to me about it. ( How did she know where I worked? I never told her. Did she misuse her official office for an attempt at revenge?)

I then called her office back, and informed her staff member that her attempt to get me in trouble failed and that now it is “game on.”  I explained that I would actively campaign in my village to ensure she never gets reelected.

I thought my day was done the, but not quite.

On my way home, I received a call from NYSUT. She called my regional office to once again complain about me. I calmly informed NYSUT what transpired, assured them I never had her on speaker phone and that she never answered my question.

I then call Assemblywomen Solages office once again, and told them that I was informed about her call to NYSUT. I told her staffer that unless the Assemblywomen called to apologize I would approach the press.

So far no call at 7:35PM.. Therefore the blog posting.

The sad thing is, if she would of allowed her staffer to answer my question, it would have been over, my students would have learned a little something about representative government and all would have been fine.

But no, the Assemblywomen  demonstrated behavior that should never be tolerated in representative government and my students learned much more than I even dared to dream they could learn in one day. Thank you Assemblywomen Solages!

Village of Mineola- A Village of Shame

The following is off topic but is something that I need to get off my chest. And yes, I am using my blog as a sort of bully pulpit ( all be it a tiny one) to bring some attention to what I feel is a form of organized thuggery.

The nature of local governments to create local fiefdoms,  that have bloated patronage laden payrolls, have a stranglehold on our lives. The following letter is to the Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Mineola. For those of you who don’t know, Mineola is located in the heart of Nassau County and is also home to  our county seat. It is a Republican controlled village that has a thriving tax base, a major transportation hub, and schools that are struggling to stay afloat financially.

Mayor Scott Strauss

Village of Mineola

155 Washington Avenue

Mineola, New York 11501

 

Dear Mayor Strauss,

Attached please find my check for $50 for payment of  ticket that I received on Marcellus. After spending a stressful day with my father in the emergency room at Winthrop Hospital, I returned to my car ( after moving it several times) to find that I have been ticketed by your village.

Please convey my sincere regret to your village residents, that they feel the need to consciously raise revenue on the families of those seeking medical care at Winthrop. Your village’s predatory nature of issuing tickets, in front of the hospital, is something that has marked your village as a village of shame.  It’s bad enough that your parking meter rates surrounding the hospital are exorbitant; you also have parking enforcement thugs that prey on those who are facing medical emergencies. Your village’s snow removal is poor and has forced many of us that must go to the hospital to scale huge snowbanks to feed meters or move our cars.

Attached please find my $50 check. I pray it is used to help you and your village to reset your moral compass. In the meantime, as I make my daily visits to Winthrop Hospital, my thoughts of my ailing father will be shared with a disdain of your village.

Respectfully submitted,

Ralph Ratto

What the heck are we doing to our children?

It’s time to stop the madness of corporate driven education reform. We are hurting our children emotionally and intellectually. Some may call that an extreme statement based on a zealous opposition to the Common Core Standards and I agree, it is!

It’s the time for extremes.

My children are out of school, they all graduated college and have great careers ahead of them. They didn’t need Common Core, they didn’t need to have their teachers evaluated by high stakes tests and some ridiculous teacher rubric. They weren’t graded on a 1-4 basis. They participated in music and other extra curricula activities. They had time for sports, scouts, movies, TV and fun. They never attended a clinic to help them on standardized tests, they never even experience test prep. Was I happy with all of their teachers? Of course not! There were up and down years, but that only helped build their character. They had the advantage of having a loving family in a middle class neighborhood that supported their schools. They were ready for college and the careers, and they did it without racing to the top of anything.

This week I was shocked to learn that the very same district that my children attended has jumped into the reform movement . My neighbors’ children will not be any better for it and based upon their new report card, I believe that they will hurt theses children emotionally and intellectually.

They have adopted a ‘Standards Based Report Card’  that has several extremely disturbing statements in it.

Let’s start off with some definitions;

Definitions of Proficiency Levels
The grading scale approximates the same proficiency levels found in the NY State
ELA and Math exams. Proficiency levels are defined as follows:

Exceeding Standards (4): The student consistently exceeds standards as demonstrated by
various assessment rubrics. The student shows in depth understanding of grade level
concepts. Produces outstanding work.

Meeting Standard (3): The student consistently meets standards as demonstrated by various
assessment rubrics. The student shows independent understanding of grade level concepts.
Produces quality work.

Approaching Standard (2): The student occasionally meets standards as demonstrated by
various assessment rubrics. The student shows inconsistent or incomplete understanding of
grade level concepts. Produces work with assistance.


Below Standard (1): The student rarely meets standards as demonstrated by various
assessment rubrics. The student shows minimal understanding of grade level concepts.
Assistance is necessary to produce work.

Sounds harmless?? Take a closer look..

Exceeding Standards (4): The student consistently exceeds standards as demonstrated by 
various assessment rubrics. The student shows in depth understanding of grade level 
concepts. Produces outstanding work

A student must consistently exceed the standards!

Has anyone of us consistently exceeded the expectations of others?  They are stating that in order  for any child to be labeled a 4 they must exceed the expectations of an untested standard developed due to a misguided reform agenda.  What does that do to a child’s emotional well being? Especially if that child is a hard worker who gives 110% and just may take a little more time to grasp a concept. It is especially crushing to a special needs child, who may exceed these standards. Are we telling them they will not be ‘college and career’ ready’?

It get’s worse. Take a look at this rubric..

FPBS rubric

In order to get a 4 a student must … MUST… be in the 95th percentile as measured by a computer generated assessment called STARS. They are basing a report card grade on 1 test that is designed to measure growth, not proficiency. STARS is not aligned to the curriculum taught at a particular grade level and it validity is questionable in test- retesting scenarios.  What the heck are they thinking??

Now take a look at this..

fpbs outstanding

What is the difference between, outstanding and quality work? What is the difference between in-depth understanding and independent understanding? And the big question… HOW DOES ONE EXCEED A STANDARD?????

How do you tell a 8 year old child, sorry you consistently meet our expectations, you work independently, you understand everything I teach you, and you do quality work, but I can not give you a 4 and you can not be on the Honor Roll?   What the heck are we doing here folks?

The district tries to answer this question by stating in their informational handout..

We want to stress that a mark of “3” indicates that a student is meeting grade-level expectations
consistently with independence. A “3” is exactly where a student should be.
“Getting a 4” is not about what more a student does. It is how a student applies what they already know;
types of higher level thinking applications which exceed what is taught in class. A score of a “3” shows
the student is meeting the state’s expectations and should be celebrated.

What about the child’s emotional well being?  The bottom line, either they don’t care or they don’t know what the heck they are doing.

I lean to the former.. based on this statement in their handout regarding what they call, “Special Populations of Students”

All students must be graded according to grade level standards. Proficiency levels
given on the new Standards-Based Report Card must be based on expectations for
that grade level. This means any student performing below grade level cannot receive
a “3” or “4” in any content area, including reading. Students with IEPs will receive a
Progress Report based on specific goals which informs parents about their child’s
progress toward these goals. This will be distributed with the report cards.

That to me is evidence that they have no concern about the emotional well being of their students.

This district, under pressure, passed a resolution.. Read my comments in (red)

Resolution

Approved by the Board of Education unanimously on December 9, 2013:

Whereas, every student deserves a quality public education dedicated to preparing engaged
citizens, creative and critical thinkers and lifelong learners ready for college and careers;  (there goes that college and career mantra we been hearing form the education reform people)

and

Whereas, the decline in state support for public schools has forced our district to reduce
programs and limited our ability to implement new programs mandated by the state such as
Common Core Standards creating an uneven rollout of the standards among the school districts
around the state; (They would have more funds available is they didn’t waste money on STARS and standardized report cards)

and

Whereas, while the implementation of the Common Core will ultimately help students, ( no evidence available to back that up, more reform mantra)  teachers ( no proof of that either)
and learning ( learning is not a person)  it is vitally important that a full and complete understanding be achieved prior to
shifting to a program of instructional accountability ( read evaluate teachers) and fostering a broad and diverse curriculum ( Common Core actually narrows the curriculum)
for today’s students preparing for tomorrow’s world;

and

Whereas, the rapid rollout of these initiatives has clouded the understanding of the inherent
future benefits of the Common Core( inherent future benefits?? More mantra of the reform movement)  to the point where the excitement about the creation of a
more rigorous   learning environment ( I would rather have a vigorous learning environment) is being overshadowed by the controversy ( that is a reference to those of us who rigorously oppose Common Core) caused due to a 

failure to build statewide capacity for productive change;( In other words,the state failed to get everyone to drink their Kool Aid)  

and 

Whereas, the federal elementary and secondary education act’s testing policies for the special
needs student have not embraced best practice models creating multiple and alternate pathways
towards the acquisition of knowledge  ( Folks, notice nothing here about high stakes testing) 

and
Whereas, the specter of the misuse of student data to third party vendors is both raising questions
about the ultimate agenda and detracting needlessly from the important goal of raising standards
as we prepare our students to answer questions not yet formed and create new solutions to old
problems.( pure nonsense) 

Therefore, Be it resolved that we call upon the Commissioner of Education, the NYS Board of
Regents and the NYS Legislature to rethink and reevaluate the sequence of events leading to the
current fractious climate in communities around the state which will undoubtedly move the
admirable points of reform into a cloud of mediocrity; ( we all can see which side of the fractious debate  this BOE stands on)  

and

Be it further resolved that the NYS Legislature amend and authorize current law and regulation
that will enable the Commissioner of Education and the NYS Board of Regents to apply for
available waivers through the US Department of Education deferring full implementation of
Race To The Top requirements until 2016-2017 allowing a rational and meaningful development
of the standards and accountability that are essential to the preparation of our students for the 21st
century.  (This BOE fully supports the Common Core and teacher evaluations via high stakes testing) 

Floral Park/Bellerose Board of Education– What the heck are you doing??

 

Yes, the Kool Aid must stop

I took some heat last week for accusing some  pro Common Core Tweeters of serving up the Kool Aid. They accused me of labeling them Jim Jones and called it  disturbing, hyperbolic, and offensive. They claimed their position is not as dangerous as ordering 900 to commit suicide by drinking grape-flavored Kool-Aid laced with potassium cyanide.

They used that lame argument to deflect my statements that called them out for pushing an education reform agenda that they are profiteering from. There is a whole flock of vultures out there looking to profit from Common Core, teacher evaluations, and the privatization of our public schools. And yes they are serving up Kool Aid to those who follow them.

Some may say, my words are too harsh. I’ve been called a anti- Common Core zealot. Even so, I stand by my words.

Ineffective teachers or administrators, teacher’s unions,or  poor curriculum have not caused many of our schools to be in trouble.  Education reformers  have ignored the root causes of our nation’s education based discourse  and have added sugar to the mix to disguise the real problems our schools face.   If we drink the Kool- Aid being served up by the reformers, we blindly agree that education reform, in the form of some magical set of common standards, tests, and evaluations will solve our nation’s problems.

Poverty, racial segregation , and  inadequate funding are the real culprits. In reality, education reforms do nothing to address the 16 million children in our nation that live in poverty and they  ignore the fact that 5 children die each and every day from abuse and neglect. It allows mayors like Rahm Emanual to  close the largest number of schools, at one time,  in our nation’s history, claiming he can’t afford them, while spending $55 million on a stadium. 

You still think using the analogy, ‘”drinking the Kool- Aid” is too harsh? I don’t think so.

The Common Core is a dangerous social experiment that will eventually destroy our education system and lead us on a path to no where. It ignores individualism and prevent differentiation of thought and techniques. It demands that all students be at the same place at the same time, uniformly marching through texts and math problems.

The assessments used to measure, not the student but the teacher, abuses children while ensuring we maintain our lockstep  cadence through the years. It ignores the emotional  needs of our children by demanding they cite evidence for their innermost feelings and thoughts. It sends the message to our children that the world doesn’t give a shit about what you think, just answer the question or you may be labeled a 1 or 2.

All the while we hear the mantra of step right up and be college and career ready, just take a sip of this Kool- aid and all will be right.

Yea, say that to the hundreds of   children that were killed by guns this year , the 7.5 million children without health insurance, the 16 million children who come to school hungry, or the 1.6 million children that are homeless.

@DataDiva, this one’s for you.

Yes, today I am in a pithy mood. It could be because on Wednesday, NYS Education Commissioner King along with my State Senator  are holding a faux forum to discuss education. I hope to get one of the golden tickets that will allow me entry. I have submitted my faux question in an attempt to be able to address the Commissioner with my real statement . So I wait for the powers to say whether or not I can attend.

I am really getting tired of education consultants making grandiose baseless statements.  This blog by consultant John Spencer really annoyed the heck out of me today. After reading his post on Twitter I responded that he was still wrong. My sometimes Twitter Stalker and yet another consultant @DataDiva decided to weigh in, wondering what I really though was wrong with Spencer’s post. Not in the mood to communicate via 120 characters I have decided to address both my pithy mood and Spencer’s post.

Spencer’s article is below.. my pithy comments will be in red. @DataDive this is for you.

Twelve Things I Was Wrong About

 
Heads-up: Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard is already out. You can buy a copy here.

I used to have strong views on just about everything in education. While I often pushed for nuance and humility, I was unable to see how little I really knew. So here I am a decade into this gig and I’m more uncertain about what I know than ever before. Here are ten things I’ve been wrong about:

10 years into this gig? This is from your blog:
Chad has experience as a teacher, principal and director in math, science and instructional technology, in both low-income and urban schools. He has also taught university classes on math strategies and workshops on standards-based assessment and language acquisition.

John has experience in teaching all subjects in middle school and in coaching teachers for technology and in language acquisition.  He has taught professional development on paperless math, language acquisition, classroom management, social studies, critical thinking skills, digital citizenship and social media.

Really, so if I take you at your word you have about what, 1 year of experience in each position?

  1. Homeschooling / Unschooling: I used to be opposed to both systems. I believed that opting out was dangerous for a child’s social development. Now I see that it works for some kids and for some families. I wouldn’t say it’s the only system or that it’s the best system – just that it’s a system that can work. - Homeschooling may work for a very very small section of our population, due to specialized needs. It is by no means an alternative for the average child or family. The social- emotional well being of the student is not being met when a child is home schooled. Don’t like your school? Then make it better.
  2. Homework: I have lashed out against homework before. But after having three kids of my own, I am convinced that every child is different. I now believe that homework should be optional and based upon a conversation between the child, the parent and the teacher. I still don’t assign it as a teacher, but if a parent asks for it, I’m open to that. Homework is a critical component to a child’s academic success. Proper homework, provides needed practice, reinforces knowledge, develops independence, and promotes learning as a lifestyle. You are doing your homework right now, reading this blog. Why take that away from your child?
  1. Charter/Private/Public Schools: I used to believe that charter schools were evil. Then I saw how amazing SLA is and I realized that there are great ones out there. I felt the same way about private schools, until I met people who worked in them and realized that they weren’t evil. I just wish we could have the same freedom, in terms of policy. Charter schools divert needed funds from the public schools. Often their results are below those of the counterparts. They often cherry pick their students, and rarely meet the needs of students in real need. If you don’t like your public school, make it better, don’t bleed it dry while diverting $$ to the private sector.
  2. Tests: I once believed that tests were vital to learning. My kids took tests every Friday. Then I turned anti-test. Now, I can see the role that some tests (even standardized) can have in helping identify when kids need help. A simple fluency test can be a small example of helping figure out where a child is struggling. There’s a lot of nuance I missed along the way. The only tests that are valid are those developed by teachers for their own students. Teachers use these tests to check on comprehension, and to drive their instruction. Standardized tests are abusive and their only goal is to fit children into neat well organized boxes. 
  3. Data: Along with tests, I’ll add data. The truth is that data can be incredibly helpful in finding trends. Thmetricse issue is the kind of data we gather and the way we choose to analyze it. A project rubric can be a great way to gather meaningful data.Data is a four letter word that has been used as a weapon against public education. Data can be skewed. Most data is not valid. Kids are not numbers, the human brain should not be measured by arbitrary metrics developed by those who claim they know better. 
  4. Gamification: My kids are in a club that uses gamification. To my surprise, they seem to enjoy both the process and the badges. There’s a nuance there that I couldn’t see before. Am I going to embrace this in the classroom? Not yet. Do I now see why teachers are using it? Yep. Gamification?? Hell… a made up word to justify game playing. Why are children being taught  everything is a competition? A game? You  really think the engineers that build Hoover Dam or designed the series of aqueducts that provide water for NYC from hundreds of miles away, spent their school years playing learning games? Why does everyone get a trophy? Why can’t kids play anymore unless it is organized by adults?  
  5. Behaviorism: I don’t know what I believe about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. I’m now at a place where I see the mind as a mystery. It’s complicated, complex and harder to understand than what my own mind can comprehend. Here ‘s the rub.. If you really believe this, then how do you explain #’s 1-6?
  6. Mandatory Coding: After teaching my kids to code, I am starting to see why people say “All kids should learn this.” Here’s the thing: I don’t know what all kids should know. I don’t know if programming should be a requirement with math and science. I can see where it helps them as thinkers and I know that’s a good thing.  Should we shift from computational practice to coding? Maybe. Or maybe not. I’m fine with that.Make up your mind.. maybe or maybe not??? Coding is very systematical, our kids should be trained to think outside the system. 
  7. Boredom: I used to believe that a bored student was a sign that the teacher was screwing up. Then I realized that even in the best projects, kids will hit moments of boredom. Sometimes we hit a wall and it’s not as fun as it once was. People often confuse boredom with the need for solitude. Read Diane Senechal’s Republic of Noise. Hitting that wall is often linked to the need to learn how to think, ponder, imagine. lately all we want from kids is answers, and they better be correct. 
  8. Hard Work: I used to believe that teaching required 50-80 hours a week. Those who showed up during contract time were simply “phoning it in.” Now, as a father of three, I am that teacher I once scoffed at. I’m not against people putting in crazy hours. I just don’t see the point in making it the standard of being a good or bad teacher.Teaching is a craft, an art, a calling. Successful teachers don’t measure their hours, they don’t view it as crazy. They love their work, they live their work. Your comments are quite baffling and are more towrds being part of the problem than the solution
  9. Best Practices: I don’t believe in a codified set of best practices. It’s often about context and using certain practices wisely. So, lecture? Fine, just not all the time. Independent projects? Great, just not every moment of every day. Sentence stems and vocabulary support for ELL? Sounds good. Just make sure you pull them back as they master the language. Another baffling comment. Best practices evolve and change every day in every classroom. When we teach we must be flexible enough to meet the needs of the students we face. No one ever masters the language, even the best author’s go back and modify their work, some even after it’s published. 
  10. The union: I used to get frustrated that the union “protected bad teachers.” Now, I see that they protect due process, stand up for teacher’s working conditions. I’ve seen moments where the union protects us from crazy pay cuts or helps a teacher that was falsely targeted by administration. Unions do a lot more than that. Oversimplifying the role of a teacher’s union plays into the hand of the anti- union crowd. The facts show that states that allow collective bargaining fare much better than states without. Unions ensure schools have what they need and a whole lote more
I have fewer beliefs about education than I ever have before. However, the few that I have (embracing critical thinking, learning for wisdom, problem-solving, nuance, creative opportunities, etc.) I believe more strongly than ever. 
As you gain more experience, (a decade is not enough) hopefully you will realize that your beliefs about education grow exponentially rather than diminish. If they don’t you will never find fulfillment.  
Pithy enough?

 

 

King’s Scarlet Letter

New York State Education Commissioner John King must resign. 

Over the last several weeks the call for King’s resignation has increased exponentially. We all have read how he cancelled a series of ‘Town Hall” meetings after be lambasted by parents and teachers. We all know how he called these same concerned parties ‘ special interest’ groups. We all know how he runs to hide behind Regent Tisch’s skirt whenever he faces opposition. We all know how he refuses to engage in any sort of meaningful discussion on the horrible effects his policies have on children.

King’s Scarlet Letter

King’s latest move to quell the masses of dissent is the last straw for this teacher and parent. King’s latest memo should be pinned to his chest. like a scarlet letter, as he is forced to take the walk of shame into oblivion. His lies, distortions, arrogance, and outright ignorance should be evidence enough to force his immediate dismissal.

The media has it all wrong this time. They are running articles that say King is looking to reduce testing. Unfortunately, they need a close reading lesson themselves.

Why did they miss this little lie?

..the number and frequency of state assessments has remained relatively constant over
the last decade….

Everyone knows, state assessment times have dramatically increased under his reign.  Eight year old children are now sitting for over 540 minutes of testing over the course of 2 weeks each Spring. He also  mandates that children as young as 5 years old be tested. This is far from a constant.

In big bold letters King shouts;

,…the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to
inform effective decision-making.

He goes on to lecture us..

Test results should be used only as one of multiple
measures of progress, and tests should reflect our instructional priorities.

This distortion combined with his arrogant lecture really set my blood to a boil. If King really believed these two statements, then why are these tests being used to evaluate teachers? Why is my class mandated to take pre and post tests? Why are my students facing another 540 minutes of testing that includes many questions (embedded field questions) that have nothing to do with student progress, or instructional priorities?

King goes on to blame teachers for test anxiety, and all of the other problems associated with his test mania policies.

Students are best prepared to succeed academically through rigorous and
engaging instruction, not rote test preparation.

Really?? Students will not succeed with rigorous instruction, they need VIGOROUS instruction. Why do we continue to allow a misuse of a word as educators? Why hasn’t the media and editors across the nation question the use of this term?

He goes on to begin to blame teachers and districts for ‘rote test prep’ . He further goes on to offer a yet another poisoned carrot and stick approach. He offers grants to districts to support his ” Teaching is the Core” nonsense.

It’s laughable that yet another attempt is being made to drive the conversation with a new sales pitch. “Teaching is the Core” is suppose to convince us minions that we need to do better. He is offering some mysterious grants in the future to support this new principle. Where has he been? We don’t need grants to get us to do more projects, research, and activities. We need time and support. We need the burden lifted of constantly being judged by  some made up rubric, administrators with clip boards, computer assessments, and state assessments. We need the elimination policies that promote HEDI labels, growth scores based on junk science, modules that are mandated by some,and  scripted curriculum, just to name a few.

The vision is simple.

I agree with him that the work is complex and his vision is simple. That’s the problem. His vision and the Board of Regents vision is simple. They think they can simply determine who is effective and who is not. They think if we simply follow some simple set of common standards all will be well.  They simply think the problem is ineffective teachers. The simply ignore the effects testing has on psyche of children. They simply say that we need to be supportive and affirming to reduce the stress their abusive tests is placing on our children.  Yes their vision is simple.. simple minded.

Kings goes on to lecture us with this  statement;

There are approximately 64,800 minutes in the typical school year. Each year, a maximum
of 540 of those minutes are devoted to State tests in Grades 3-8 ELA and math – less than
1% of the school year. It’s what we do with the other roughly 64,000 minutes that will
determine how successful our students become.

King tries to simplify his argument by stating that his tests also account for 1% of the year. My question for him is does he believe that it is acceptable if someone abuses a child for only 1% of the time, because that is what he is doing. 540 minutes of testing is abuse. Embedding field test questions that children may view as too hard or that they are failing is abuse.

King closes by stating that we must teach our way through this moment. He has that wrong as well. We need to get rid of him, that and only that will get us through this moment.  Just saying, “teaching is the core” is not enough. Teaching is not  the core. Teaching is an art, teaching is a passion, teaching is a lifestyle, teaching is an  ability to reach a child in ways that will make that child a lifelong learner, teaching is a calling, teaching is shaping and touching the future. Teaching is not the core.

King must go..

 

 

 

 

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 216 other followers