Opine I will

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

Archive for the tag “assessments”

A question for the new year

This is usually the month that a so called pedagogical  necessity  is used all across our nation.  I think we all need to think about the following.

Were the engineers, scientists, or contractors who designed the lunar module and put men on the moon ever forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?comamndandlunar

How about the engineers and laborers who tamed a mighty river and designed  and built the Hoover Dam to supply electricity for millions, do you think they ever were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?


The Empire State Building was construct in only one year. Do you think the architects, contractors, laborers, financial backers of this monumental icon were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

The ” Greatest Generation ” saved the world and guaranteed a future for all of us. Do you think they were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?


Do you think scientists and doctors who achieved medical breakthroughs, such as Dr. Jonas Salk   were ever subjected  and were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?


Look at this shot of the construction of New York’s Verrazano bridge. Fifty years ago, the people who imagined, planned, and built this might structure were never subjected  or forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity!verrazano

My question today is, where is the evidence that subjecting our elementary school children to hours of ‘ benchmark testing’ to assess their readiness for high stakes standardized testing, helps our nation?

All across the nation, elementary school children are being ‘measured’ by this  so called pedagogical tool. Ask yourselves why?



I will not be ashamed this year!

Almost a year ago I wrote ” Ashamed to be a Teacher” because I just 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 6 days of 90 minute tests. I sat by as I watched my students attempt to answer questions 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. That day last year I knew I was part of the problem.I pledged  to double my efforts to stop this form of institution abuse.

And I did..

I attended the New York State United Teachers ( NYSUT) leadership institute. I made sure I attended as many  workshops, meetings, conferences and protests as I physically could. I helped plan Nassau County’s “Stand Up Speak Out for Education” forum. I reached out and educated parents who formed their own alliances. I increased my presence on social media, relentlessly driving the message that high stakes testing was institutional test abuse. I educated the members of my local to ensure that they knew and understood that we were at war with those who are looking to destroy public education for all.

I was not silent when my local elected officials tried to persuade parents that they were for public education while casting votes that have dire consequences for our schools.I confronted them, hounded them, and continue to do so.

But I am not alone..

All across New York State thousands of teachers, parents, and citizens are doing the same thing. I predict hundreds of thousands of parents will refuse to let their children take New York State’s Common Core tests next week. Parents and teachers have been standing arm in arm with a single voice exclaiming that it is time to stop this madness.

On April 1st, New York State adopted a new budget that failed to fully fund schools. This budget also provided provisions that doubled down on high stakes testing, eroded due process rights, and took aim at the livelihoods of every public school teacher. It also put every public school student smack dab in the middle of a political agenda fueled war.

Parents from across the state have been swarming to their legislators who voted for this budget and are demanding that they fix it. I have never witnessed this much vitriol and outrage at state senators in my lifetime.

Even though, I will be forced to administer these abusive tests this week, I will not be ashamed this year. I am proud of the many students in my class,  and across the state that will be refusing to take it. I am proud of the parents who stood up and demanded that we need to end this madness.  I am proud of my union sisters and brothers who have tirelessly educated their communities that our nation’s most important assets are under attack.

Yes, the tests will go on this year, but the data will be meaningless. Thanks to the multitudes that have put their shoulders into this battle, the pendulum is beginning to move in the direction we need it to go, ‘excelsior’!

I will not be ashamed this year, I am fired up and ready to win this war.

Duncan’s Line in the Sand

Building anything on sand will lead to an eventual collapse. Sand is constantly shifting and provides little foundational support. Yet legislators often make policy decisions based on the shifting sands of political agendas. So, be wary when policy makers declare they are, “drawing a line in the sand”.  That line will often shift or even disappear due to the winds of political donors and lobbyists.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is about to build upon his education reform agenda and promises to “draw a line in the sand” that will continue abusive high stakes standardized tests in reading and math. Public education in our nation is about to collapse as Duncan’s continues to use tests as a cornerstone of education reform. He just doesn’t understand that when you build anything on sand it is doomed to fail.

Assessing student growth, once provided teachers with the mortar that allowed teachers to build upon lessons that provided what was necessary to help their students grow. Today, assessing student growth, with Common Core tests, has been transformed into a wrecking ball that is destroying teacher’s ability to adapt to the needs of individual students.

Duncan  is about to double down on his wrecking ball strategy as Congress revisits No Child Left Behind (NCLB).   Insisting high stakes tests be performed every year and using these tests to evaluate teachers erodes the foundation of public education in our nation.

I believe standardized tests should be used to drive differentiated instruction for every child in our classrooms. Common Core tests do not do that. They are used to force teachers to get every student walking lock step or else. The or else part is the threat that if a teacher does not get their students marching together in time, then the nation will declare that teacher ineffective and they must be discharged.

I believe teachers should be evaluated every year. The method of these evaluations should be collectively bargained at the local level and the local community should be deciding who should teach their children, not federal or state bureaucrats driven by political agendas.

As Congress revisits NCLB this week, they must abandon the NCLB legislation that was built on sand and is destroying our schools. They must build on the bedrock of our nation, the legacy of our public schools. They must fully fund public education and beat back those who are turning our schools into business ventures.

NCLB, CCSS, and RTTT are nothing more than flimsy acronyms that camouflage the fact that they are policies built on sand. Education should not be a race to the top, our diverse nation is anything but common and our children should not be judged that way, and all children should be allowed to progress individually. Once we get back to those basic principles then we are truly building on firm footing.

End of Year

It’s that time of year when we start seeing end of year lists in review. We become inundated with lists of everything from soup to nuts. Especially nuts this year!

Here is my list of questions,  still unanswered, as 2014 comes to a close. Feel free to provide an answer if you can or pass them along.

  1. Why are graduation rates at historic levels ( high school, college and post secondary) if our public schools are failing?
  2. The stock market is at an all-time high, so why are public schools underfunded?
  3. In New York State and many other states, property values are driven by the quality of the school district, so why is Governor Cuomo tying the hands of local communities to fully fund their local schools?
  4. New York State is no longer in financial trouble, so why does Governor Cuomo continue to use a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” scheme ( Gap Elimination Adjustment) that robs public schools of budgeted school aid?
  5. Why is New York State funding schools below 2009 levels while giving tax breaks to casinos?
  6. Where is the evidence that Common Core State Standards are age appropriate?
  7. Just what does the term “college and career ready” really mean. Especially when it is used to assess kindergarten through 6th grade children?
  8. Why does the New York State Education Chancellor and Governor Cuomo continue to state that our teachers are failing students when 93.8% of all high school graduates ( excluding NYC) are earning a ‘Regent’s Diploma”?
  9. Where is the evidence to support the underlying requirement of the Common Core that all students should be at the same level of understanding at the same time?
  10. Where is the research that supports the current practice of having elementary age children take hour upon hour of tests to measure teacher, administration, and district effectiveness as well as their own level of understanding?
  11. Why is it acceptable to dismantle and hand over our communities’ most important assets ( our schools) to private entrepreneurs?
  12. Why do our legislators do so little for the social needs of our communities while at the same time blaming our schools?
  13. How do states justify reducing the number of teachers while at the same time proclaim all students deserve a good education?
  14. Why have our public school teachers become the nation’s scapegoat for poor public policy?
  15. Why are special needs children being denied special education services?
  16. Just where is the evidence that supports the ideal that Charlotte Danielson and her contrived rubric should be the standard for teacher evaluation?
  17. Why are teachers’ unions unfairly labeled when the evidence shows that where they exist student achievement is higher?
  18. Why has President Obama been silent on high stakes testing since his State of the Union 2 years ago when he said testing should be limited?
  19. When will states be up front and honest and inform their residents that Lotteries do not increase funding for schools?
  20. When will all public sector unions join together and demand in a collective voice, “workers’ rights, pay, benefits and pensions for all”?

In the 3rd year without a contract

Our Teachers’ Association is the third year without a new contract. As president of our association I made the following comments at last evening’s School Board meeting.

I  would like to start off this evening by congratulating you on your successful resolution at the New York State School Board’s Associations convention to enhance school safety by bringing to the forefront our district’s concerns with having elections in our schools while school is in session.  I would also like to congratulate the NYSSBA for rejecting their own Board of Director’s resolution to support the continued use of student performance data in APPRs. Even though it was rejected by a slim margin, I am hoping that our Board also voted to reject that resolution.

We all agree that some sort of evaluation process needs to be in place that fairly measures teacher and district effectiveness. Unfortunately so called educational reformers have hijacked the conversation and have created a system that relies on high stakes tests that creates invalid data that we all are unfairly judged on.

Our students are subjected to hours upon hours of tests that are used for multiple purposes Effective Assessments are not supposed to be designed that way. Effective Assessments should be designed to help a child, not label them or label their teacher, school, or district.

At last month’s Board meeting we were presented with bar graph after bar graph that were designed to show how we did on last year’s state assessments. They showed that we excelled at all grade levels and that our teachers do extraordinary work.

Despite the fact that we lead most of the state with our scores we still heard we need to work to increase the ‘stamina’ of some of our students and  that more work needs to be done to raise these scores even higher. That may make logical sense because we all want to do better and better however,

 I must say that, I believe that our students and your children are much more than a test score.

The current APPR evaluation system measuring student growth using

standardized testing is a not a  valid assessment of an educator’s job performance.

These tests do not take into account that our students are more than a test score. They don’t measure a student who may have come to school hungry, or is simply suffering that day from hay fever, They don’t take into account if a child may be dealing with problems at home, or a problem with their best friend. It doesn’t take into account that the child may be just having a bad day, after all we all have them. There are thousands of issues that impact on student learning on any given day and to make believe some standardized test can measure that, ignores the fact that your children are much more than a test score.

My colleagues know that, that’s why when you visit our classrooms you witness first hand the caring and nurturing that our wonderful teachers do. You see our teachers teaching the whole child  going above and beyond any contract language or some made up rubric to ensure our students, your children, are prepared for the yet unknown future they face.

When we speak of stamina, it should not be in the context of student taking tests, it should be in the unbelievable stamina our teachers have. They often work well into the night and on weekends developing lessons and experiences for their students. They attend workshops and classes to improve their craft so that their students and this community benefit.  When you believe that students are much more than a test score you do those things regradless of what any contract says or whether or not your contract has been settled or not.

 Teachers are an extraordinary bunch, they need to be. You see we all depend on teachers. What we do here day in and day out effects the lives of the children and the families we teach, it effects the property values of all that live here whether you have children or not. It even affects the local businesses in the area. Without a strong schools and strong property values, local businesses would flounder and disappear.

Hopefully, one day, we won’t have to sit and look at bar graphs that attempt to label our students and our efforts and our schools. Hopefully our elected leaders will come to believe that our children are much more than a test score.

And hopefully one day soon, our teachers will be recognized for their extraordinary efforts with a fair contract that recognizes that today’s teachers and our future teachers are vital members of this community.

Mr. Duncan- 90 periods lost forever

Dear Arne Duncan,

Your latest tweet got me thinking. 

Just how much will my kids miss next year, due to your policies? Looking at our new teacher evaluation scheme in NY (APPR), Race to the Top, NCLB and the infamous Common Core, I’ve done some rough calculations.

  • New York State now requires 9 hours of standardized testing
  • APPR mandated District assessments ( approx 3 hours)
  • Special area subject assessments due to NYS’s APPR ( Science, Music, PE, Art,  etc)  twice per year ( appox 1 hour each)
  • District assessments due to APPR for Science and Math used to evaluate teachers ( twice per year each= 4 hours)
  • District benchmark assessments per quarter for Math and ELA ( 8 hours)
  • I now take attendance 3 times per day for VAM data – ( 1 minute each time= 9 hours/year)
  • Due to new Common Core standards, I’ll most likely have at least 1 day of professional development ( 7 hours)
  • New York State usually has a their students complete a field test – ( 1.5 hours)
  • Practice time to expose kids to testing procedures and format- ( 1 hour/day for 2 weeks= 10 hours)
  • Common Core standards requires  Math fluency that must be assessed ( 1 hour)

Approximate lost learning time next year due to your policies–  60 hours!

Given a 40 minute typical class period, my students will lose 90 class periods of learning time. Lost forever Mr. Duncan, forever!

So what’s the plan to deal with these unintended consequences Mr. Secretary?

I guess the buck didn’t stop there.

NYS Education Commissioner King’s recent take on Pearson’s numerous errors, negligence, abuse, and pineapple fraud on this years assessments give us all a peak at  his unfortunate bias against NYS’s hard working dedicated teachers.

As reported in the NYTimes ;

“At a Regents meeting on Monday, John B. King Jr., the commissioner of the State Education Department, suggested that the public outcry had less to do with the content of the exam and more with students’ access to social media and teachers’ concern about the new evaluation system, in which at least 20 percent of their rating will be based on their students’ test performance.”

When he approved the removal of the “Pineapple and the Hare” he blamed teachers for the ridiculous story and even more asinine questions. King said,

This particular passage, like all test questions, was reviewed by a committee comprised of teachers from across the state, but it was not crafted for New York State.

According to King, we have it all wrong, It’s not the tests, it’s the teachers! What can we expect from a charter school advocate, with no real public school experience.

So my questions are simple Commissioner King. Since our students have suffered  through 6 grueling days of tests, and many teachers are now struggling to accurately score this garbage, who is responsible for the poor scoring instructions?

Who is responsible for this?

Some extraneous sample responses have been inadvertently included in the scoring materials that have been provided on the CD for Grades 4, 5, 6, and 7. To restore a seamless alignment between the materials provided in the scoring leader training documents with those in the scorer training documents, it is necessary that these extraneous pages be crossed out, either prior to being distributed to scorers or shortly after they have been handed out.  (click to read more)

Or this..?

There is a correction in the possible exemplary responses for the scoring of Question 64
on the Grade 6 English Language Arts Test Book 3. ( click to read more)

Or this..?

There are typographical errors in the score and annotation provided for CAS Set 1 (for Question 63) on Page 1 in the Grade 7 Mathematics Test, 2012 Scoring Leader Training Materials, Volume 2, Practice Set and Consistency Assurance Set. Please make following corrections in all copies of this document.  ( click to read more)

How about this Commissioner?

This notice pertains to typographical errors in the Practice Set Answer Key on page 51 of the Practice Set portion of the Grade 8 Mathematics Test, 2012 Scoring Leader Training Materials, Volume 2, Practice Set and Consistency Assurance Set. Please make the following corrections in all copies of this document. (click to read more)

Here is a good one..

This notice pertains to Question 36 on the Spanish edition of the 2012 Grade 3
Mathematics Test Book 2, Form D only. Due to a typographical error, there is no
correct answer to Question 36 on this form. ( click for more)

Still more mistakes.. who’s fault?

This notice pertains to Question 23 on the Spanish edition only of the 2012
Grade 4 Mathematics Test Book 1, all forms (A, B, C, and D). Due to imprecision
in the transcription of this question, there is no correct answer (Click for more)

Let’s make it easy for you..

Who is a fault for the errors noted here http://www.p12.nysed.gov/apda/scoring/612ei/home.html

NYS paid Pearson $32,000,000.00 for flawed tests, riddled with so called pilot questions that flustered and distracted children across the state. How much is Pearson going to compensate these children for their labor as test guinie pigs for Pearson’s corporate interests?

Pretty soon our students will sit a suffer through field tests.. more forced labor for Pearson? Where is the educational objective for my students? Where do field tests fall within the Common Core?

Commissioner King may have a little trouble answering for this years mess (aka Pineapplegate). Perhaps he should be asking New York’s “only student advocate” Gov. Cuomo. Just where does that buck stop?

The Fruitcake and the Big Banana – a tale inspired by a pineapple

The Fruitcake and the Big Banana

(A tale inspired by the Pineapple and the Hare)

In recent times, politicians all across the country, thought they knew a way to get everyone to speak English just like them.  One day a fruitcake, to appease those politicians, challenged all teachers in the country to a race to the top.

(I forgot to mention, fruitcakes have been dictating education policy lately.)

I should mention, that teachers all across the country have graduate degrees and are always perfecting their craft by utilizing professional development. So they seemed surprised by the challenge.

“Mr. Fruitcake, why are you challenging us teachers to a race to the top?”  the teachers asked. “ Are you kidding, after the NCLB fiasco your predecessor thrust upon us?”

“Sure,” said the fruitcake. “ The big banana approved my plan to challenge you all.” He said, “Yes you can.”

“You aren’t even in a classroom, you don’t understand all the challenges!” the teachers said. “ You’re a Fruitcake!”

All the educators across the country thought it was strange that the Fruitcake would want to have a race to the top. You see teachers all over the country supported the big banana and his ideas, except this one.

“ The fruitcake must have some sort of hidden agenda,” the skeptical professor said.

“Fruitcakes are full of mysterious green things that have hidden meanings, ”the Sly Fox broadcasted.

“ Well you know, if a fruitcake wants teachers to race to the top, it must mean there is a really good reason.” the Peacock with the fancy right wing said. “ After all, we’ve heard that they haven’t been to the top for a very long time.” “The fruitcake must know what he’s doing.”

Everyone all across the country, well not quite everyone, started to believe that the fruitcake knew what he was doing. Even the big banana thought the race to the top was achievable. So all many of those with right and left wings started to proclaim that they believed in the fruitcakes grand plan.

When the race began, the teachers resigned to their fate, attended meetings in anticipation of readying their small groups, to sprint to the top. They coached, drilled and practiced with their teams every available minute. Some teams even gave up some luxuries such as meaningful discussions, exploring their imaginations, and yes dreaming. All in an effort to race to the top.

As the race to the top  became an anticipated spectacle all across the country, all those standing by in the country, realized that there was going to be a cost to race to the top. Suddenly, the mood of those standing by began to change, and the sly Fox broadcasted, that the teachers are really scapegoats. The Sly Fox began to lead many of those standing buy in the country to chant, that the teachers were the blame for the need to race to the top.

Now the Big Banana saw what was happening in the country, So he took to the air and proclaimed that teachers should be allowed to have meaningful discussions, explore the imaginations, and yes let their teams dream.  Just as the teachers began to jump for joy, they realized the Big Banana didn’t call the race to the top off. The Fruitcake’s cohorts all across the country, were still constructing challenges , obstacles and hazards for the race. So the teachers had no choice but to lead their teams to the starting line.

There they were, the Sly Fox, belittling the teachers, the Fruitcake promising rewards at the top and punishment for those who don’t make it, the bystanders looking confused and some not seeing evil, hearing no evil, and saying no evil, standing by. The skeptical professor went from one end of the line to the other, trying to convince the masses that the race to the top is a trick, because there was no top.

Then the race began….

The teachers took off, as fast as they could. Working earnestly they approached their first obstacle. Strangely enough it was a pineapple.

And that’s where we leave our little story. Only time will tell if the teachers can overcome the pineapple. Will the Fruitcake be eaten by the bystanders? Will the Big Banana remain the Big Banana? Will the Sly Fox continue to confuse those who listen? Will the skeptical professor convince the bystanders to help the teachers and end the race?

One thing I do know, teachers all across the country overcome pineapples, fruitcakes, and those who try to turn them into scapegoats every day. Big bananas always start off green and either turn deliciously ripe or just plain rotten. Teachers want the big banana to ripen beautifully but if it turns rotten, no matter how much they can, even if they want to, they won’t, if it turns rotten.

Moral: Be careful where you race to

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