Opine I will

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

Ashamed to be a teacher today

Today was the first day I was ever ashamed to be a teacher.

Today I finished administering the sixth day of New York State Common Core assessments. I was a facilitator in a process that made my 10 year old students struggle,to the point of frustration, to complete yet another 90 minute test. I sat by as I watched my students attempt to answer questions today that were beyond their abilities. I knew the test booklets I put in front of them contained questions that were written in a way that 95% of them had no chance of solving. I even tried to give my students a pep talk, in hopes of alleviating their angst, when I knew damn well they didn’t stand a chance. Today I was part of the problem.

As I watched my students, I was angry that my efforts to stop this madness were not successful. I was angry at my students’ parents for not opting out their children. I was angry at my administrators for not stepping up to the plate and attempting to end this madness. I was angry at Governor Cuomo, NY Education Commissioner King, the Board of Regents, my state senator, my state assemblyman, President Obama, and even my state union. I was angry that my students were victims in the abusive game to drive a political agenda.

I lost it today. I lost a little bit of my self esteem. I lost my faith in my Party. I lost my faith in my ability to protect my students. I lost my faith in our future.

I watched my students valiantly attempt math questions that most adults could not answer. These questions were wordy, and purposely confusing in a warped way to prove some vulgar point about our public education system. Historically, my students excel on standardized tests, often finishing near the top of our district and state. Today I witnessed , no I was part of!! students enduring an abusive situation.

Today I am ashamed. I am ashamed I didn’t do enough to stop this madness.

But, I am not done. I am pledging to double my efforts to stop this form of institution abuse. My state senator and assemblyman be warned that if you do not work to end this madness, I will work to have you replaced with someone who will. Governor Cuomo, be warned that I will work harder to ensure your sick agenda is exposes you for what you really are. Commissioner King, be warned that I will do whatever I can to make sure you are replaced.

Today is a dark day…but not for long.

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67 thoughts on “Ashamed to be a teacher today

  1. ag1970 on said:

    When this Californian took the sample ELA Common Core test, it took all the courage he could summon to keep from tossing the CPU out the window of the computer lab. It was tedious, infuriating, Rube Goldberg-ish, and, ultimately, meaningless. I have taught, among many other courses the last 29 years, AP U.S. History, AP American Government and, for 18 years, AP European History. I am a product of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, was a newspaper reporter, and an editor at a publishing house before I became a teacher.

    I don’t know whether I would’ve been able to pass the Common Core English Language test.

    You have my support and my admiration. Beyond our anger, we have something else in common: It’s obvious that both of us love the children we teach and care about teaching them well, but what drives us does not drive data. Shame on us.

  2. Michael Paul Goldenberg on said:

    Understandable, Ralph. Hard to martyr yourself unless there’s no other choice worth making.

  3. As Fletcher Reede would say, “I hold myself in contempt!”

  4. Nicole Gibson on said:

    Great post! Heartfelt and just courageous!

  5. Peggy on said:

    I will be fighting with you in Alabama.

  6. Cherie on said:

    It is sad that those outside the classroom believe that common core is good for our students just because of the use of its moniker. We need to spread the truth so we can educate the public of the irreparable damage we will be doing to kids and the education system of this country. Teachers unite!

  7. This is the attitude I expected our teachers to have… I expected they didn’t support me for fear of reprisal and of sending mixed messages to their students. I told my kids that as we refused I bet their teachers were silently applauding them and would treat them with courtesy and respect on testing day, because in the end, we are supporting and trusting their ability to teach, not their ability to preach common core rhetoric. WOW, how wrong was I? My 6th grader and 8th grader both received nasty comments in front of their whole class about refusing. Lots of head-shaking, lots of attitude. A junior high math teacher said to my daughter “what you did is stupid, and you’ll realize that when you apply for college”. My other daughter’s 6th grade teacher said “Oh well, it’s your choice but I would NEVER opt my kids out of these tests”. Can you tell me why teachers would say things like this? Did they drink the koolaid or something?

    • Laura on said:

      They are sheep. They don’t question….they just follow.

    • Yes sadly, many DO drink the koolaid for fear of job loss. Teachers who do not promote critical thinking and creativity are most likely the ones who think these tests are just great. I wonder if they have really even read them or tried to take them themselves.

  8. Ann on said:

    This week our 9th and 10th graders were asked to take a pilot on-line standardized test just so the district could get $65,000. And next week these same students are required by our district to take a pencil and paper version of the ACT/Aspire because we do not have the technology to give it on the computer ar this time. Because of this student will miss hours of instruction time as the school year ends, the high school will not get the results this school year, and we have to hire readers to accommodate 40+ students with reading disabilities.

  9. Nikki on said:

    I’m right there with you. I see it as a teacher, and now as a parent. I sat in a parent teacher conference looking at 7 different standardized test scores for my 3rd grade daughter thinking, “She’s already taken this many standardized tests?” It was only October. I felt so sorry for her and so ashamed that I can’t afford to enroll her in a private school to avoid all of the politicized bureaucracy that public education has become. The reason I can’t afford it? I’m a teacher, and that sort of luxury is out of my reach on a teachers salary.

    I clicked on this article because the title jumped out at me. Yesterday, as I drove home from work, I thought, “I am so ashamed of what my profession has become.”

    • Christine A on said:

      A teacher friend of mine home schools after work. I found her not to be the only teacher choosing not to send their child to public schools. That speaks volumes. I have an interesting suggestion for fixing the schools… Get rid of all the administration, school boards, department of education ; all of it. Let each teacher operate as a small business owner. Design their own class room and curriculum. Create a website where each teacher can “pitch” their teaching style and curriculum. Let parents choose which one is right for their child. On average, we spend $10,000 per child enrolled. A teacher with 10 children in her class could gross $100,000 a year. Bad teachers would go under and GREAT teachers would start franchises.

      • Shannon on said:

        What you would end up with is exactly what the real gist of the CCLS was to fix…inequity. It was supposed to create more even standards for all students. The assessments stink. The idea of providing all students with a highly ambitious somewhat even curriculum is a good one. I didn’t drink the kool aid. If you did what Christine wants some kids would get a great education and others would get a lousy one. Still others would get information that interested their great teacher, but didn’t match what they needed to learn.

  10. Barbara ann tronsgard on said:

    I agree! We ,”all”, need to understand that the politicans are not educators. Actually, the children are the ones that will voice their opinions, and those of us
    as adults will assist them in change!

  11. Kristie on said:

    Im a Kindergarten teacher (special education) and this was my worse year due to all the new and horrible common core curriculum that we were asked to implement. We continued to do what we know works, we are trying to stay hopefully that some of this maddness will change and Kindergarten (s) can be just that again! School can be a place children want to be again.
    Loved your article, I feel your pain and disgust! Your words brought tears to my eyes 😦
    -West Islip, New York

  12. If the fake education reformers win this war, it will be because there were too many fools in America. That’s when Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote about fools will be wrong.

    Lincoln said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

    Instead the correct quote will become: “You can fool most of the people all of the time to get what you want. You just have to have most of the money. The hell with everyone else.”

  13. The CCSS is not the problem. It is the ridiculous way we are assessing student learning. We need to stand up to testing that doesn’t measure student learning. If teachers can help create standards we should be creating the assessment. We are masters of measuring student learning. Pearson, smarter balance, etc are in it for money. We need to assess, but lets (teachers( create these assessments. Fight for meaningful assessments.

  14. Pingback: In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Week—Who Are They Kidding?

  15. Gerri K. Songer on said:

    Keep your chin up – you’re not alone.

  16. Pingback: Ashamed to be a teacher today | Jerz's Literacy Weblog

  17. Thank you for putting into words my feelings exactly.

  18. Thank-you for your courage and your honesty. We need more teachers like you who care about the students enough to be this vulnerable… and to fight the good fight for them!

  19. Holly Olson on said:

    I love you. I mean it stranger-because I’ve been feeling beaten-like the cheese that stands alone. I feel dirty-I am a part of something impure and I rail and rail and it has been feeling futile. I find myself angry at everyone’s apathy-their cowardice pisses me off. I needed this. I’m actually sitting here crying right now. I needed to cry too. Just haven’t been able to.

  20. Standing with you in Oklahoma! Kids are worth fighting for!

  21. Elizabeth Lynch on said:

    I have seen wonderful teachers cry after administering these tests out of pure frustration over what they are doing to children. Thank you, Ralph, for being brave enough to state publicly what so many teachers feel. I celebrate the news that so many children refused these worthless tests. And I believe strongly that APPR was forced as a hand in hand measure with the new standards and testing because this provides an effective means to threaten teachers into silence and to punish dissension. This was a well conceived, vile corporate plan to commodify students for profit and wage war on our schools. We need to vote out every elected official who supports this nonsense!

  22. I feel the same way. I’m a third grade teacher in Florida, and I want to send home a disclaimer saying that these math homework assignments in no way represent my professional opinion as a teacher of an effective method of teaching math.

  23. I also see that the CC$$ is an unholy three way marriage between the Standards, the testing and the aligned textbooks.

  24. AJ Cannon on said:

    This is where we are as a nation. Doing the WRONG THING for the WRONG reason. A nation who declares a war on bullies while picking on its kids. EVERY LEGISLATOR in NJ… IT is on YOUR HEADS. NJ could have opted out as an entire state. I am sickened that parents have to fight the battles elected officials are sworn to fight. VOTERS WAKE UP the names you recognize do not recognize you. they care about their SEATS more than your kids. THIS ALL means the only future they are protecting is their own.

  25. carene on said:

    Thank you for reminding me that the ones who really do suffer the most with all of this BS CC reform is our students. We get so wrapped up fighting for ourselves with the APPR mess, we forget our kids really are the ones who leave each day of these exams feeling defeated! We aren’t doing our jobs if we don’t double our efforts to take a stand for the sake of our kids!

  26. Andy Cous on said:

    Why don’t you teach them to think analytically, to solve problems, and to weed through what is relevant and what is not? Seems like that is the issue you have with the test, they can’t succeed because they haven’t been taught how to.

    • The problems with this test were it was way to long, the questions were worded in a way deliberately meant to confuse, the reference sheet provided was useless, the tools supplied were not needed, the kds could not relate to the context of the questions. Keep in mind this was day 6 of 540 minutes of testing.

      My kids are always taught to succeed, this test was designed to make most of them fail. That’s not a test, that is institutionalzed abuse. I only wish the public can see this test, then you would realize your assumptions are incorrect.

  27. Bill on said:

    I applaud your determination and fortitude in protecting our students from politics that stifle creative learning and teaching I wish you well. Please continue this fight all the way to President Obama.

  28. Pingback: Ashamed to be a teacher today | Florence Carlton Advocates for Better Education

  29. I left to teach in Europe before the Common Core took hold. But I used to resent the ridiculous amount of time and money my district wasted on testing kids before the test (3x a year) to see how they would test for the test. Then the state tested them every year for reading/writing, math, and various other subjects. The pressure was terrible. And every year, regardless of our efforts the scores were the same. Poverty was too great a nemesis. Hang in there and kick some New York butt!

  30. Perhaps the “No Child Left Behind” mantra should be changed to “Every child left behind.” Those who make our laws and guide educational policy have no idea of what goes on in the classroom. Some of the so-called “common core” material has little relationship to the real world. But, when there are big bucks and politics involved, guess who loses? ‘Nuff said.

  31. Christina on said:

    Love to see more posts, letters, comments, anything regarding teachers who have seen how common core has hurt our kids. How they are against it and want to fight to change children’s education for the better. I was so disappointed to see in my daughters 7th grade class that only two refused the math state test, my daughter and another boy. I will admit we were nervous that my daughters teacher would take it personally. My daughter even went on her own to talk with her….Would love to see more parents and teachers stand up against this!! Love your article. Thank you for sharing…

  32. Maryann on said:

    When are we going to go back to “teaching!” Teach to learn, not to pass a test. My father knew so much, he amazed me. He didn’t go to college. He had to go to work after graduating high school. I used to ask him how he knew so much. This was his response, “You forget, I went to school when they actually taught you something!” He was right on.

    I am a retired Broward County Florida School Board employee. I’ve watched these kids struggle with the FCAT test that was our illustrious governor Jeb Bush implemented. What really pushed me over the edge was when my 3rd grade granddaughter came home with a math problem I couldn’t help her with. Here is the problem: Using the distributive property of multiplication approach, solve the problem 6 x 4 = 24. I looked over her notes and I still couldn’t figure it out.

    I applaud this person for admitting what most teachers feel and are angry about. I say let’s go back to old school teaching when teachers actually taught something and not just to pass a test!

  33. Sometimes I think the CCSS are not the problem, it is just the whole system. But the more I learn about the standards themselves, the more I believe that Yes, the CCSS are the problem. They are the closest things to our students, before the tests. They will drive what teachers expect from students, they will drive instruction, they will drive the assessments, and they are build on a foundation of non-research based made-up “college and career ready” goals.

    They turn the entire philosophy of educating children around, and force teachers to impose developmentally-misaligned beliefs on our children, instead of teaching children to rise to their potential. This is why the older, more experienced teachers will leave because they see how wrong this is, and they will be replaced by young, inexperienced teachers who will begin to “label and identify students as failing, because they have no experience on which to base the fact that the expectations are wrong.

    This has very serious implications for the future of our children.

  34. Be the change.
    I wish you all the very best in your endeavors.

  35. Jada on said:

    I really appreciated reading your post! I am a teacher but not in a public/private school setting. I home school my child. It’s awesome to see more teachers speaking out against the garbage the government pushes on our kids. It is such a shame to see people with millions of dollars and absolutely no brains to back them as to what to do with it! It would be really wonderful if the powers that be actually stopped thinking that we are all a bunch of sheep that need to be lead around. We are all humans and smart enough to know how to live our lives without their political agendas because they think they can eventually rule the world. It would also be wonderful if those in their cushy little offices got out and actually spent the time researching things like CCSS in person instead of just assuming that because they are in said cushy little offices, they are smarter than everyone else. Put the true numbers in when they ‘show’ how low we are on the education totem pole. We educate pretty much all our people whereas countries like China do not. They think that we, the people, can’t handle the truth. No, the problem is, they can’t so they live in their warped little senses of reality and do their best to make everyone else live there also. Eventually, home schooling will probably become unlawful. Why? Becuase the powers that be will have to go up against those that were taught to fight for their rights, think outside the box and use their own brains. It is such a shame that teachers in today’s society are no longer allowed to teach their students to think for themselves! Teachers are now forced to push children to fit in their nice little boxes, be medicated so they all act the same and conform to what the government thinks they should be. I still have yet to figure out at what point the government forgot they work for us, THE PEOPLE! Parents and teachers are threatened if they do not follow along like good little sheep. If the government really want our kids that bad, have the GUTS to come try to take them outright. Stop trying to slip things in there without us as teachers and parents noticing it. I’m guessing they’re pretty afraid that if they came at us outright, they wouldn’t stand a chance!

  36. I teach second grade and actually see the standards as not terrible. If I use them to gude my teaching, then in 4 years,the INCOMING kindergarteners should be ready to take an appropriate assessment designed by educators. What is happening now is like requiring a dentist to take a pilots test to become a certified dentist… it is CRAZY!

  37. anonymous on said:

    I have worked for NYS for close to thirty years now and can greatly appreciate his predicament for I too am ashamed. Although I am not a teacher, I signed on to be a teacher of sorts, to bring forward thinking to bear on problems, to be creative in finding reasonable solutions to benefit individuals and the “greater good”. Politics, both upper and lower case, have ruined that. We no longer work to solve problems based on reason and merit, we solve problems on which ever power broker is charge at the time. We are not a state of excellence, we are a state of whimps and martinets. I am ashamed.

  38. I wrote this protest song to echo your thoughts.

  39. Kerry on said:

    Wouldn’t the testing nonsense go away if the majority of parents opted out? Parents have all the power to make this test obsessed, money- hungry, reform driven culture implode. They just don’t know it. We need to encourage our parents to be more proactive.

  40. Parents and teachers need to unite…..I have tried to organize here in Florida; everyone is fed up with standardized testing but no one is getting active to change things. There needs to be a massive protest where parents either keep their kids home during testing week or parents tell their children to not take the test. It is the only way the legislators will listen. The problem with the recent bills that have come to Florida is they are made by legislators and lawyers, and NOT teahers/educators….i have writted our Governor, senatrors and congres, and I have not herad hack

  41. Pingback: Ashamed to be a teacher today | Hamilton Wenham – Stop Common Core

  42. this is the right atitude to have, childrean don’t come standardized in this world,each and every one of them is unique. They should be treated like that,not like they are all the same. It’s amazing to me how we don’t understand this at society level.

  43. rick on said:

    Maybe it is time for teachers across the country to follow the tactics that the NBA players used to force the hand of the NBA over the Sterling issue.

    What if every teacher committed to not showing up until we get more control over our classrooms.

    Even the powerful billionaire owners of the NBA didn’t care call the players’ hand. The owners knew the players would walk. Until teachers a united enough to use this kind of power, we will be stuck with being used as political pawns.

  44. Mary J on said:

    I am not a teacher! The politicians are trying to get rid of public education! Just think how much they will profit when the own their own schools! I see what teachers and students go through with this nonsense! I see good teachers leaving the profession. I see parents who just don’t care! I see administrators jumping through every hoop there is! I see students crying, becoming school phobic, etc., and maybe worse of all after the MCAS (in Mass.) is through, not wanting to do ANYTHING! One size DOES NOT fit all! I wish it was mandatory for the politicians to take these tests and PASS them!

  45. Bless you for your honesty, caring, and willingness to fight. I am a teacher who retired mid-year because I was too burned out from the fight; I recognized that continuing to teach was not good for me, my family, my colleagues, and most importantly, my students. I’m not proud of that. I wish I still had the energy and fortitude to fight the good fight, but I’m only human. I admire you for what you are doing.

  46. Thank you for writing and sharing. I applaud your dedication to your students. Keep fighting the good fight. I am a certified teacher. I took some time off to raise my son, he starts kindergarten in the fall. The plan was to go back to the classroom when he was school aged. However, I find myself at a moral crossroads – I love teaching and watching young minds soak up knowledge. I love that feeling that comes over me when I know they “get it”. There is a a spark in a child’s eye and confidence in their smile when they have truly learned a new concept. To me, it was always a privilege to create an environment where real learning took place, and children held their heads high. I took the responsibility of getting the next generation on their way very seriously, and loved it. I can not imagine how anything I just described can possibly occur in a common core classroom. I’m honestly unsure if I can teach the common core way. I think a huge disservice is being done to both students and teachers. There appears to be too much frustration, both student and teacher, for any real effective learning to take place.

  47. KimN on said:

    Whine. WHY aren’t the students prepared?

    • John J. Viall on said:

      You do realize these tests often involve needle-in-the-haystack type questions? For example, here in Ohio, the last standardized test asked students ONE question about Roman history. There was one question on Islam. What ONE fact matters most above all others? There was also a question about mercantilism. During one hearing, I asked the members of the House education committee of the Ohio General Assembly if any of them could tell me the definition. None could.

      Our OAT subtest on social studies covered 3 years of material in 50 questions. It’s not whining to call this idiocy.

      The State of Ohio soon realized their social studies test was stupid and killed it in 2009, after a brief life (RIP: 2003-2009).

      This teacher clearly cares about his students. That’s not whining. In fact, it seems to be more like a problem of blindness on your part.

  48. Geoff on said:

    As a parent and a teacher (high school math), I am considering opting my 6th grade daughter out of the Common Core tests this coming year. Thanks for this insightful post.

  49. I am a 7th Grade teacher in NJ and I recently gave my students the NJASK state test. My thoughts were very different in that I walked around the testing room proud of my students as they struggled with the test. Proud because they wore pencils out, Proud because they used their time wisely, and Proud because they really tried. My thoughts were I would not want to be in any other room in the country with any other students. You see I believe to teach students that you can lose a battle, but to win a war requires perseverance. When they walk out of the room I tell each and everyone of them how proud I am of them and of their hard work and willingness to persevere. They also know I would not want to be with any other students in my school or world at that moment. My students are special education students and I feel lucky in life to have been their teacher for the school year we are together. What bothers me about testing is bias that my students are subjected to because they are from a poor urban setting and the tests being made for them are by people with different ethnic, socio-economic backgrounds, and agendas. The test is not a true level playing field and is used to further degrade public institutions in places that need the pillar of support that a public school provides.

    • You sound like a great teacher Joel. I too am proud of my students. Unfortunately I had to witnessed them struggle to get through 540 minutes of testing.

      Even in a marathon, race organizers don’t layout a course that contains a steep uphill portion the last 3 miles of the race. Why then, does Pearson place their hardest ridiculously worded questions at the end of 540 minutes of testing?

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  51. I support your cause!

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  53. David on said:

    hope i don’t get beat up for this. I just went through the draft New York common core 6 grade math test. I really don’t see the difference between this test and what i received in the 1960’s Minnesota. The teachers need to teach as they test and I don’t think they are doing that.. I think the real problem is the teachers not teaching in a way that prepares the students .

  54. Pingback: The culture of testing continues in NYS. | Opine I will

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