Opine I will

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

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

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)


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)


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)


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;


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)  


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) 

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)  


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??


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