Opine I will

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

Archive for the tag “charlotte danielson”

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.

The perils of one size fits all.

We’ve all tried it.

You know, that great deal. One size fits all. Than to our dismay, we wonder what were we thinking?  We thought it would work than we realized, hey we’re all different. It doesn’t fit at all!

Why are education reforms now taking the one size fits all approach?

We’ve been taught that our society is the great melting pot. There is no other country in the world that is as differentiated as ours. We’ve come to realize that we all have individual needs and wants. Some of us even celebrate all the differences between us. Legislation has been fought over and won that protects those differences. Yet today we find ourselves in the position where the one size fits all mentality seems to be driving the education debate.

No Child Left Behind is an enormous unfunded mandate that sought to pigeon hole everyone into one category.  Every child will  read on grade level, 100%. An impossible task that follows the one size fits all mantra. Everyone will be tested, everyone will be ranked and everyone must be labeled. The goal was to fit everyone into the same mold of success. No one was to be left behind. What really happened is that no body moved forward.

Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top campaign pits states and school districts in a competition to conform with his initiative. Unfortunately every state or school district that does not fits into his idea of conformity loses out on much needed funds in these hard economic times. Holding needed funds hostage to high stakes testing, designed using the one size fits all approach, is devastating local budgets while doing an immense injustice to our children and teachers.

The new Common Core State Standards is another one size fits all campaign. The architects of this approach promise that all children will become college and career ready. All students will be required to master certain skills  at the same age, regardless of their differences. They’ll be tested with a one size fits all test. The Common Core ignores differentiation, ignores regional differences and needs, and stifles creativity. The standards state,

Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade-specific standards and retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades.

Or  else! How’s that for one size fits all?

States like New York have adopted new teacher evaluation systems that use the one size fits all approach. In addition, to being graded on how a teacher’s students do on a test of the Common Core Standards, they’ll also be observed utilizing a specific rubric or check list such as Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching . Another one size fits all approach. So now we’ll have administrators visiting our classroom with checklists on their I pads to see if we’re all conforming.  March in step, forget innovation, experimentation or common sense. Follow the rubric and in some cases follow the script. because one size needs to fit all.

Yesterday, Randi Weingarten proposed a Bar Exam for potential teachers.  Ignoring the different needs of each region she proposed a national standard for teacher readiness. yet another one size fits all approach. Feeding the naysayers, here proposal implies that yes, perhaps the one size fits all approach just might work.

The Texas GOP’s new platform is the most disturbing attempt at the one size fits all approach.  Here are a couple of there planks ( splinters really)

  • American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups.
  • Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Texas buys 48 million textbooks every year. Their influence can be seen in every textbook across the nation. Is this the one size fit all approach we really want?

So what’s really  going on? Why has the one size fits all approach taken over education reform?  We’ve all heard the argument that schools should follow a business model.. really. ( We all know how well that has worked in business over the last 10 years)

Here’s the challenge to those naysayers out there. Spend a year in any  classroom across America, try to use your one size fits all approach, and then let’s talk.

Multiple Measured Madness

Multiple measured madness is underway across the country. No where is this madness  more evident than in New York State.

All Hail the Governor!

Last week our own Governor Cuomo “announced a groundbreaking agreement on a new statewide evaluation system that will make New York State a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement.” Standing side by side by side with union leaders they hailed the “state’s commitment to put in place a real and effective teacher evaluation system.”

Governor Cuomo said,”Today’s agreement puts in place a groundbreaking new statewide teacher evaluation system that will put students first and make New York a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement.”  Impressive right? Just like a true ‘lobbyist for students’ would be proud to stand up and proclaim.   Holding teachers accountable, yeah! bravo Gov!

You would never know  that Richard Iannuzzi,  president of New York State United Teachers, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers were standing alongside our Governor as he spouted those words. It’s pitiful that these union leaders would stand by as anyone would say that teachers should be held accountable.

It’s even more disturbing that they succumbed to the Governor’s threats and approved what will become a death knell for public education in New York State. Yes, it will kill public education in New York!

Multiple Measures Madness

There has been an outcry of disgust and dismay across the state regarding the provisions of the deal.  Twitter feeds have been lit up, blogs are being written, teachers are considering their next move, administrators are wondering how to implement, school boards are wondering how to pay for this, consultants are jumping for joy as they await a windfall, students are wondering why another test, parents are confused, local papers are opining as fast as they could, researchers are combing for any supporting research, politicians are plotting their next strategic step, and the madness escalates

Carol Burris’ posting clearly lays out a doomsday scenario that will most like befall many teachers. Diane Ravitch calls the new system ‘madness’. Over 1300 principals have signed a letter asking for the state to hold off on this mandate. They demand more evidence, more research, and a sensible approach towards teacher evaluations. They offered research to back their concerns and were ignored.

What makes this so maddening is the outrageous behavior and comments by our own union.  They seem to be doubling down on their decision to bed with the Governor and have blatantly disregarded the concerns of their membership.  Nothing is more evident than this tweet sent out by Randi Weingarten last night.

  • UFT debunks myths abt new NY teacher eval agreement-bottom line-80% has to be negotiated. 20%,not 100% state tests.. http://bit.ly/A8Vrhe

Debunking myths? Calling concerns myths? From union leaders about union members? Talk about madness.

Debunking the DeBunkers

So let’s really set the record straight Mr. Casey. I’ve read your nasty piece and now it’s my turn.

You claim that multiple measures, evaluations will be more comprehensive, more accurate and fairer. Really, based on what? Your instinct? The state can’t even determine what an effective teacher really is? What’s effective? Is it determined by some value added algorithm? Is it determined by student income potential? Is it determined by whether parents just love their child’s teacher?  It seems as though some arbitrarily thought out multiple measures will be used to determine what effective really means.

You call concerns “alarmist alchemy” yet your own explanation of the magical 100 evaluation absurd. You claim that 60 of these magical points may include observations based on the  Danielson  frameworks. That’s great for Danielson and her company but may not be so great for kids and teachers.  There are major concerns with this approach.

There is a major concern that  many evaluations will not be accurate. Inconsistent applications of the Danielson framework has been a problem in the past.  Let’s say,  teachers follows this arbitrary framework, does that make them effective? Where’s the measure, what’s effective? Will the person doing the evaluation recognize innovation? Will innovation in the classroom be allowed? If it’s not on the check off list is it valid? What’s valid? There is a plethora of education research that contradicts Danielson’s methods and frameworks, some have been successful models some not. But then again, how do we measure success.

Mr. Casey you claim,

 “Burris incorrectly assumes that the entire 40 points in the measures of student learning will be derived from standardized state exams. But the use of value-added growth measures from state standardized exams need not take up more than 20% of the total teacher evaluation – and then only for a minority of teachers, those teaching English Language Arts and Mathematics, grades 4 through 8.”

You have quite selectively stated that standardized exams need not take up more than 20% of total teacher evaluations. “Need not” also means that  they could. Will districts already facing difficult economic times be able to afford to develop local assessments or even pay for their development? You claim it’s negotiable, yet we all know that means trade off based on funding.

You also claim that only a minority of teachers will be effected. Does that mean our union leaders effectively created separate classes of employees. Will we be able to collectively bargain now based on these classes? How does one not affected get to negotiate on the issue?

You also tout that,

A compelling approach to the issue of using value-added scores in teacher evaluations is found in the Hechinger Report blog post of Columbia University sociologist Aaron Pallas. Pallas sensibly suggests that where value-added models of standardized test scores are included in a teacher evaluation, the scoring needs to take into account the margin of error in a teacher’s score.

Quite to the contrary, “researchers have documented a number of problems with VAM as accurate measures of teachers’ effectiveness.”  Yet a very important percentage of teacher ‘effectiveness’ will be determined based on this questionable method. How in the world did our union leaders agree to this?

How does this teacher evaluation take into account outside influences, parental issues, societal issues, medical issues? How does it compensate for the child dealing with a family member that is ill? Or the child that comes to school exhausted? Or the child that is dealing with turmoil at home. what about the child that has a stomach ache the day of a test, or just has test anxiety? How do we account for the child who suffers from allergies every spring? Or the one who came to school upset because their pet died? So many variables out there, yet those who agreed to this terrible deal can’t  address them all.

Casey you closed with, “change is necessary.”

I’ll close with, change for the sake of change is dangerous.

We need to stop the multiple measured madness.

The Silly Season

The ‘Silly Season’ seams to have begun. In New York State high stakes standardized testing time is rapidly approaching. Since it’s getting close to test time, it seems that ‘test prep time’ aka ‘Silly Season’ has arrived.

So why do I call it the  ‘Silly Season?

Some background..In NY, because we have signed on to the Race to the Top nonsense, all districts must come up with a way to evaluate teachers, Many districts have signed on to implement  Charlotte Danielson’s ” Framework to Teaching” rubric which is officially an approved ‘teacher practice rubric.’ This framework for teaching provides four domains that all teachers should be evaluated on. Through observation and evidence teachers  (and some already are) will be evaluated  on planning and preparation, the classroom environment ,instruction, and their professional responsibilities. Sounds good right? Well the jury is still out on how well this will work, however, it seems as though the rubric seems to be forgotten once the  ‘Silly Season’ comes around.

Even though many of us have sat through endless hours of professional development (that’s what administrators have to label it for reporting purposes) on  Charlotte Danielson’s ” Framework to Teaching” rubric, when the  ‘Silly Season arrives we are more or less told to abandon some of these approved teacher practices, we are going to be evaluated on. You see the  ‘Silly Season has arrived. It’s the season where test prep gets ramped up all across the state, and we strive to make 2’s 3’s and 3’s 4’s! Sounds silly doesn’t it?


Silly Season Traditions

Now I’ve search these new rubrics, even read them backwards looking for typos, yet I can’t find standardized test prep anywhere. Why just today I had to administer a ‘practice test’ simulating test taking procedures to my class, there by wasting over 1 hour of valuable class time. Silly isn’t it? Plus some of the topics on the practice test haven’t even been covered in class yet, super silly!

In my district we offer ‘clinics to all 3rd graders’ to help them prepare for these tests, and today we kicked off the  ‘Silly Season’ with the start of after school clinics. We were all given math practice test question workbooks, we administered an opening benchmark test, and we began marching our charges through multiple choice problems.Many by the way, math problems that the children haven’t even been taught yet. Again, I’ve looked through Charlotte Danielson’s ” Framework to Teaching” rubric and I can’t find this teaching ( is it teaching?)practice anywhere. So what are we doing? We’ll it’s Silly Season, in NY and that should be answer enough.

Silly Season Guidelines

1. Chuck the rubrics and raise the score!

2. Drill baby drill!

3. Gather as much useless data as possible.

4. Smile and tell the kids, don’t make careless mistakes.

5. Teach kids how to fill in bubbles

6. Drill baby drill! ( reminder)

And most importantly do what I do!

During Silly Season, when no one is around, shut the door to your room, teach your heart out and the Silly Season will be over soon.


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