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

Archive for the tag “Race to the Top”

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?

hoover14

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?

warship

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?

salktime_covercroppedbest

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?

 

 

“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.”

Frank Luntz  is famous for his focus groups and language testing, and was behind phrases like the death tax (instead of the estate tax) and the GOP’s Contract with America. He is also behind the moniker

“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” 

Remember the “ Patriot Act”? Do you really think true patriots would have supported a law that violated our Constitutional Right to privacy?

While Luntz is not responsible for ‘ No Child left Behind” ,  “ The Common Core”, and  “ Race To the Top”, each phrase can be described the same. The phrase has nothing to do with what we hear. It’s a purposeful misdirection, much like a magician’s sleight of hand.  Say one thing, but mean another that will drive an agenda that cannot survive in the daylight of public opinion.

In 2012 President Obama charged the nation with the following  in his State of the Union ,

Teachers matter.  So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal.  Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  And in return, grant schools flexibility:  to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.  That’s a bargain worth making. “

Since then as we raced to the top, more teachers have lost their jobs, resources are being diverted towards test prep, good teachers are not able to really teach, schools and teachers are following test prep scripts, and high stakes testing is out of control.

Yesterday President Obama called for a 2% cap on testing! It sounds good and already the NEA and others are applauding this statement has a huge shift in policy.  Well those of us in New York know it’s just another case of  “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” 

We know Obama was given this talking point by new acting Secretary of Education John King. King was basically run out of New York when, as our Commissioner of Education , he doubled down on high stakes tests, then tried to blame local districts for over testing. He then declared his own 2% cap.

We now test for 9 hours in New York and  if we actually went to 2% our test time would soar to approximately 25 hours! Is that what they are saying? Test for 25 hours?

We also have another devastating 2% cap in NY. A 2% tax cap that has resulted in  an increased class size, many being programs cut, thousands of teachers to lose their jobs, school districts to be thrown into  financial distress, and children to lose out on a full education. Perhaps John King forgot to mention to Obama that using a 2% threshold may not be a good talking point.

In New York, our new Commissioner of Education Elia has set up a new initiative called  AIMHighNY.  Remember,  “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” 

After over 250,000 opt outs of state tests, Commissioner Elia, fresh off her listening tour (“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” ) has  created a website that contains a survey on the Common Core. She states,

 “NYSED is conducting a survey in order to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the standards.”  That’s what we hear.. but this is what she goes on to say.. The survey’s intent is to Improve what already exists; don’t start over.

I spent 3 hours today attempting to go through the 5th grade standards on this survey. The survey is cumbersome, time consuming and designed to make us all fall in line.  Elia tells us,

that this survey is  not a referendum on the standards. Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered.

I bet she will use it as her own referendum.  Watch for her upcoming comments after the flawed results are in.

When Elia, Duncan. King, or Obama say.

 …we want the best possible standards as we continue to move forward on the progress that has been made in academic achievement.

As we watch the political fiasco surrounding presidential candidates, ask yourself a simple question, does what I am hearing really jive with what they are saying?

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.

The Big Lie

The Big Lie
time mag

It’s been said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Time Inc.’s website touts them as , ” Time Inc. (NYSE: TIME) is one of the largest media companies in the world reaching more than 130 million consumers each month across multiple platforms through influential brands such as Time, People, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, Real Simple, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, Wallpaper and NME.”Notice their descriptor… ‘influential brands’. Time Inc. admits their magazines are out there to influence the public.

Time knows their covers influence, they also know that most of their readers won’t take the time to actually read. That’s why this cover is so dangerous. Yes… dangerous!

You see folks, we are at war and it’s a Civil War.  The weapons of this war are  influence,strategy, and power .

Influence( some examples)

Time magazine ( at the top of today’s list)

Think Tanks..

Gates Foundation

Koch Bros.

Pearson

Media outlets

Strategy ( some examples)

Promote the Big Lie;

” Our schools are failing”

“We are losing our standing in the world”

“Kids are not career and college ready”

“Teachers are ineffective”

“Our learning standards need improvement”

“Data can be used to make all kids learn”

“Teachers can overcome all other influences in a child’s life”

Power ( some examples)

“Elected officials”

Groups like New York State’s Board of Regents

ALEC

Governor’s Association

US Department of Education

 

 

This Civil War is being fought around the “Big Lie”.  Their aim is to gain control of our Nation’s most precious assets, our public schools so they may reap the huge profits of their conquests. The victors will gain control of our Nation’s hearts, minds and souls.They are filling their coffers with the spoils of each battle.

Every time they take over part or all of a school building they get stronger. Every time a district succumbs to the fear that they may be labeled as a failure if they don’t follow a Pearson scripted curriculum we lose a battle. Every second a teacher is forced to march their class through test prep, we are one step closer to losing this war.

It’s time to treat this as a real war. We have a weapon that is more powerful, more influential, more effective than anything they can throw at us.  That weapon is solidarity!

Solidarity has been used effectively to advance real change through history. We need to build strong grassroot links across our communities. Educate parents and your neighbors on the perils of losing their neighborhood schools. Visit with local Chambers of Commerce’s and discuss with them that education and tax reform are two separate issues and they should not be used to drive each other. Boycott media outlets that influence and not report. Get active in politics and drive those, who desire to split our nation, into the haves and have nots out of our state houses, governor’s mansions and even our city halls. Demand that your local school boards treat their teachers with respect and focus with laser like precision on what children really need rather on trying to jump through some reformer’s hoop.

And most importantly ….VOTE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to reflect.. but not for long

As I sit in my backyard,  contemplating another end to another school year, I am drawn to the thoughts of why does this year seem so different than others. In the past, I would often look at summer break as an opportunity to unwind, reflect, recharge, and prepare for the following year’s challenges. But, this year is different, much different. The distractions caused by education reformers, political agendas, corporate raiders, and social upheaval have taken a toll. It has taken a toll on me, on how I teach,and on my students.

Education reformers have been successful in turning my classroom into some grand social experiment. We now march through a curriculum that is  geared towards a Common Core test that is meant to evaluate teachers and administrators. Our vocabulary lists now include words most likely to be found on these tests and we are now told to assess our students against these one size fits all standards. I have to test my students several times a year on an internet based program to determine their growth against students of their own ability. This is the true Race to The Top, as students are placed in categories and their growth scores are calculated to determine my effectiveness. They have turned our classrooms into assembly lines.

My administrators visit my classroom almost daily with a clipboard and  a  rubric used to again measure me. They look at my room and judge me on everything from what is on my walls to whether or not a kid may be daydreaming. I guess in today’s world, kids are not allowed to daydream, especially when an administrator happens by.

Political agendas have also been successful in upending my teaching apple cart. Here in New York, we have Governor Cuomo, who proclaims himself to be the state’s only student advocate. He proudly proclaims his tax cap policy is good for the state while  he funds his schools below 2009 levels. He seeks out tax breaks for millionaires while those of us in the classroom scramble to secure needed resources wherever we can. I have watched teachers lose their jobs all across the state as the concept of one person one vote has been thrown under the wheels of  his bus. This year we have seen the same Regents, that have approved the mess we are in, reappointed by our legislature. I have also personally felt the rage of my NYS Assemblywomen when I dared questioned her on vote.

On a national level, I supported President Obama’s re-election and heard his State of the Union as he praised teachers and asked for less high stakes tests. Yet, his Secretary of Education has failed or refused to do anything about it. Now we have to defend against an attack on  a teacher’s right to due process,and  justify our earned pensions. I have watched schools closed in places like Chicago and teachers’ unions vilified for standing up for the students their members teach.

Corporate raiders have begun the takeover of public education. They have discovered billions of dollars meant for educating the children of our nation can now be theirs. They have driven the Common Core, which in turn requires new resources which they then sell. They have opened their own schools, often turning those with special needs away, as they rob the budgets of local districts. They have even taken over public facilities, driving public schools into corners of their own buildings.

Social upheaval often is by design. We now have lock down and lock out drills in our schools. We often have to use valuable resources on security plans as as we must now fortify our schools. All the while the gun lobbyists point at others every time another school  shooting occurs. When a nation averages 1 school shooting a week and does not mobilize resources to change our mindset, one has to conclude this is by design. When a nation refuses to address poverty as the real reason some children do not succeed, it is by design. When one segment of our population fills our prisons and as a nation we do not direct our resources into those communities, it is by design. There is no other answer.

So this year, I am ending my year by reflecting. There is no time to unwind. I need to recharge because our nation is at war. we are at war to protect our nation’s future.. our children. Our public schools are needed, and I am not ready to be defeated by those who want to destroy and then steal our nation’s most important asset. Will you join me?

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??

 

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Every campaign has talking points.  I usually don’t quote from Wikipedia but this time it’s spot on target.

Talking point

  
“Talking points memorandum” redirects here. For other uses, see Talking point (disambiguation).

talking point in debate or discourse is a succinct statement designed to support persuasively one side taken on an issue.[1][2][3][4] Such statements can either be free standing or created as retorts to the opposition’s talking points and are frequently used in public relations, particularly in areas heavy in debate such as politics and marketing.

A political think tank will strategize the most effective informational attack on a target topic and launch talking points from media personalities to saturate discourse in order to frame a debate in their favor, standardizing the responses of sympathizers to their unique cause.[citation needed]

When used politically in this way, the typical purpose of a talking point is to propagandize, specifically using the technique of argumentum ad nauseam, i.e. continuous repetition within media outlets until accepted as fact.[citation needed]

The framing of political discourse in terms of simple talking points has been criticized by media personalities such as comedian Jon Stewart for being a superficial examination of issues.[5]

The drivers of the Common Core State Standards and high stakes testing have been using the same talking points to sell their agenda. Media outlets all across the nation mimic these talking points with a ” monkey see, monkey do”  precision only seen in well choreographed campaigns. These media outlets repeat these talking points without challenging their authors’ authenticity.

Let’s start  challenging these talking points.

Let’s start with Race to the Top. What does that really mean? We hear it over and over. States turned their education agendas upside down over this so called race. Has any media outlet challenged these words? All races have losers, only 1 entity really can win any race. What does this really mean?

 “College and career ready” is another talking point mimic-ed by the media without thought. What does that mean? Where is the data that supports it. Considering our colleges have enrollment and graduation rates at historic highs, where is the data to support this point?

“Rigor” is another favorite of the reformers. Schools must have rigor in their  assessments and curriculum has been the rally cry for the reformers. Yet when we look for definitions of rigor in their press releases we find nothing. New York State even demands thatall district created assessments developed to evaluate teachers have rigor, yet New York State leaves out what  rigor is. They leave that term up to local superintendents to certify that rigor exists.  So what is it?

“Critical thinking” The Common Core is supposed to be geared to promote critical thinking. Yet when one looks at these Common Standards there seems to be little critical thinking across the board. Is critical thinking a method of evaluating points of view and creating arguments? Can critical thinking be achieved by skewing literature with short reads? Is critical thinking developed when teachers follow carefully worded scripts across the nation? It is ironic that the supporters of the Common Core promote critical thinking while stripping away the ability of professional educators to utilize their critical thinking abilities to teach their students.

The new talking point introduced this week is ” a new baseline”.  This week New York State released state test score results that created a frenzy throughout the state. Scores dropped to unthinkable levels, due to hastily created exams designed to create ” a new baseline.” On average 70% of all NY students are now labeled as not on grade levelThe media has instantaneously bought into this new baseline theory without challenging the authors to its authenticity. The tests that created this new baseline remain locked away to prevent scrutiny of its content or validity. The”new baseline’ seems to appease the masses for now so we now see ” a new baseline” used in editorials across the state.

What if this “new baseline” is really an error? What if this national social experiment titled ‘ Common Core” really does not promote critical thinking? What if “rigor” isn’t in the best interest of the child and rigor ignores the developmental abilities of the child? What if the  “college and career ready” rhetoric is nothing more that shrill of a side show barker?

What would happen if the news media really did their job and stopped repeating these talking points without intellectual thought?

 

 

Why?

Why is our public education system being labeled as failing when graduations rates are at historical highs and achievement gaps are rapidly closing?

Why are teacher’s being categorized as either effective or ineffective based on any test?

Why do we allow communities’ most important asset, its schools, to be chopped up, divided, leased out, closed, neglected, and given away for political gain?

Why are we abusing our children with test prep, test booklets, test coaching, pretests, benchmark tests, posttests, and multi-hour multi day state tests?

Why do very small powerful committees in  46 states think it’s alright to adopt the un- piloted, un-tested Common Core Standards as a prerequisite to a Race to the Top award promise?

Why do these same people turn a blind eye to the very dangerous national social experiment that shuns the very diversity that has made our nation the economic powerhouse and model of the world?

Why would we accept the premise that no one gives a shit what you think?

Why do we allow the decimation of local community schools and think it’s alright to have 5 year old children commute to any school?

Why do we allow the ‘application’ to any local community school?

Why are we closing schools that need improvement instead of improving them?

Why do we continue the segregation of education?

Why do allow any governor to prevent local communities from fully funding their schools via a democratic process?

Why are labor unions suddenly being labeled as the problem, when historically they have prevented and solved many problems?

Why have we abandoned the notion that teachers should be respected?

Why do we ignore poverty and pretend it’s the poor’s fault?

Why do allow companies like Pearson to make billions while many teachers can barely afford to live on their meager salaries in most of this country?

Why have we turned a blind eye to the extensive research on education and instead believe people like Gates, Rhee, Coleman, Stein, and other so called reformers?

Why is it that a country that once was able to build the Empire State Building in one year, built the Interstate system, developed the TVA, and put men on the moon, cannot ensure that our neighborhood schools are in good physical shape?

Why are our children not safe in schools or in their neighborhoods, due to the lack of gun control?

Why are children still coming to school hungry?

Why is it viewed as a terrible thing to ensure all of our nation’s children have adequate health care?

Why are so many of our nation’s teachers being laid off at the same time the stock market is at historical highs?

Why have we lost our way as a nation?

Dear President Obama

The deadline to send emails to the President to support the Campaign for Our Public Schools is October 17. Here are instructions about where to send them.

Send them either to this blog or to Anthony Cody at Anthony_Cody@hotmail.com.

Here’s mine 

October 15, 2012

Dear President Obama,

This election will be very close, unnecessarily close in my humble opinion. I’m afraid that some teachers may be reluctant to vote for you due to your often contradictory statements and policies regarding education reform.  Due to your perceived unwillingness to truly listen to the concerns of teachers across the nation, we may be facing a situation that could bring us the devastating educational consequences of a Romney presidency.  It’s never too late for true change. Even for you.

Mr. President, teachers aren’t interested in dedicating their life’s work to a competition. We’re not interested in having a “Race to the Top” or having to worry about financial awards or punishments based on junk science. Financial incentives may work in sales, but they don’t work when working with children.

Mr. President, you proclaimed, in your State of The Union, that we need to stop teaching to the test and we need to respect teachers. Unfortunately, your policies do neither. Race to the Top has spawned even more testing than ever. In New York State, under our new teacher evaluation plan (APPR) students are tested multiple times in all subjects (even in gym) to measure their teacher’s effectiveness!  I calculated my students will lose at least the equivalent to 90 periods of valuable learning time due to APPR and Race to the Top. 90 periods lost forever! That’s not change to believe in, that’s abusing teachers and students.

My school has been named a ‘Reward School’ in New York State. That means we are one of the top performing schools in the entire state. Yet, Mr. President, our students must undergo even more testing, to ensure we teachers are effective. Is this respecting our accomplishment? Is this respecting us as professionals? As teachers?

Teachers have become our nation’s scapegoats and we are waiting for you to push the pendulum of blame towards the real culprits. Mr. President, graduation rates are at all-time highs, the achievement gaps are closing rapidly, college enrollments are up, and more students are graduating with advance degrees than ever. Yet you have us “Racing each other to the Top”.

Most importantly, Mr. President, our public schools are what sets our country apart from everyone else. Public school teachers are the true backbone of our nation. Our public school doors’ are open to all, unlike private and charter schools. Mr. President, we need you to stop endorsing the privatization of public education. 84% of charter schools underperform public schools. Thousands of Public schools outperform the best charter schools. Our future should not be for sale to the highest bidder or to the ‘reformer’ that’s more focused on profits than children.

Mr. President, your policies are demoralizing our nation’s teachers. It’s time do what you promised us. End Race to the Top, put an end to abusive testing, and respect our nation’s teachers. It’s time to move forward and give us the real change we can believe in.

Mr. President, it’s not too late, we really want you to win. It’s up to you.

Respectfully,

Ralph L. Ratto

Proud Teacher

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?

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