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

Archive for the tag “standardized test”

Open Letter to Commissioner Elia

Dear Commissioner Elia,

This past Thursday your visit with Long Island teacher union presidents has validated the concerns I have with you as our Commissioner of Education and with your agenda. I listened carefully as you attempted to spin an agenda that was set by your predecessor, John King, and Governor Cuomo. You often hid behind federal policy or existing legislation as you addressed the concerns and questions posed to you that evening. Your attempt to blame our union for “agreeing” to the use of high stakes testing was sophomoric.  In addition, abruptly ending the meeting when you knew several of us wanted our turn to “ dialogue” with you was an insult to us and the thousands of teachers,( and teacher as parents ) on Long Island we represent.

I take exception to many things you stated when you met with us. You claimed that parents and teachers wrongly put everything that is negative in education today under the Common Core. You then attempted to spin that your Aim High NY survey somehow supported Common Core because they are high standards and that we just have to “rework” some of them.

Your Aim High NY survey was akin to a “push poll’ in politics. It was nearly impossible to condemn the Common Core Standards, it was cumbersome to answer and the survey taker was forced to work within the Common Core to offer changes. Yes, you were right when you stated we want high standards, who would be against that? You use that premise as you continue to spin faulty, abusive standards. New York had high standards, and before your predecessor push for the Common Core, NYSED was working towards improving them. I would like to know, how much was spent on that effort and where did those recommendations go?

When questioned  about the state assessments and with comments that we felt these tests were abusive and hurt children, your response was cold hearted and left me feeling that your really don’t care what children are facing as long as we meet a federal mandate. Your claim that the tests will be shorter and that tests will be untimed was addressed by those in attendance. We asked about ESL students, students with special needs and the concern that this new plan will not work. You fell back on your reform agenda to provide answers that only led to a validation that things are not changing and that you have been charged to drive Governor Cuomo’s and John King’s reform agenda.

Your simplistic view that parents and teachers are ‘stressed’ and that you are attempting to relieve that stress by listening to us and working towards some sort of change is nothing more than spin. You said that you believe in a standardized evaluation system that uses assessments as a component of that system. That is not relieving stress, that is signaling that the state will continue to abuse children with high stakes assessments that are meant to drive a political agenda.

When you were questioned on APPR, you stated that some state that there is a 4 year moratorium on using those scores but you prefer calling it a transformational period. You stated that scores will not be used for 4 years. Yet, when someone questioned that they may be used in the future you claimed they would not. You did not address the fact that the new scores will still be generated and distributed to teachers, districts, parents and the press. You did not address the fact that those scores will be used as advisory scores for districts. You did not address the fact that the assessments are based on standards that you admit are seen as inappropriate for many children and that are currently being rewritten. You claim these assessments are mandated by federal policy. My question for you is this; does federal policy require 8-9 10 year olds to take 9+ hours of exams?

Your response to the Opt Out movement was disturbing. You said that New York had the highest Opt Out rate in the nation and in the same breath you said, that Opt Out was not a factor that has driven you to do anything you have done in the last 8 month. Then you went on to say that you hoped that parents would let their children take the tests this year. You were then told to expect Opt Out rates to soar this year. We informed you that these tests have no instructional value. Your flip response was that additional questions have and will be released. You failed miserably to address our concerns and as a result many of us have begun to double down on our support for the Opt Out movement.

You touted that in Hillsborough, Florida, you worked with the local union to develop an evaluation process. With all due respect, New York is not Florida and Long Island certainly is not Hillsborough. The results on Long Island are clear; if we were a state we would lead the nation and the world. We do not need your “fixing”.

You claim that you have been throughout the entire state “listening”. Your social media campaign, including your Twitter account is chock full of your attempts to spin the comments on your so called “listening tour”. But one thing became perfectly clear to me on Thursday evening. Your “listening tour” is not about you listening to the parents and educators in the state, it’s more about we should “listen” to you. And that Commissioner is a shame.  This local president listened and I have no confidence in you or your agenda.

Respectfully submitted

Ralph Ratto

President

New Hyde Park- Garden City Park Teachers’ Association

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

So, what is success?

We all know the line about success. It’s something we want, it’s something we work for, it’s something  we’re rewarded with, it’s something we measure by, and it’s something we judge by.  We all know of ‘successful’ people, ideas, programs, communities, schools, etc. that we can point to and proclaim success. So if we all know it, or think we know it when we see it, and we’re always supposed to be working towards it, what is it?  What is success?

I’ve been reading A Republic of Noise  by Diane Senechal . Her chapter “ The Cult of Success” really has me thinking about the whole concept of success. (I leave it up to you to read her fine work for yourself.) I’ve been wondering, do we really measure success accurately? Can we measure it ? Do we know it when we see it? Is there such a thing? Is failure and success polar opposites or are they really side by side?

Success seems to be the universal standard to which all in education seems to be measured by lately. Successful students, successfully achieve a certain percentage on a standardized test on specific day. Students must successfully communicate, successfully solve problems, successfully write, read and understand. We even have new schools touting ‘success’ in their actual names, “Success Academies”, “Schools for Success”, you get the idea.

So what is success? If we look at it in simple terms, is it as simple as answering a problem correctly? Is that success? We’ve solved a problem and then what happens? Are we done? Of course not, successful people move on, forge new frontiers, meet new challenges. Right?

What happens if we didn’t answer the problem correctly? Did we fail? Is that a failure? Do we stop? Of course not! In reality, we move on, learn from the mistake, forge new frontiers, meet new challenges. Don’t we?

We all have said, learn from your mistakes. Many advancements in every aspect of human history has been the direct result of mistakes or failures. Remember Columbus? Is failure and success opposites?

Who is more successful, the business tycoon or the hard working middle class father who toils in a factory day in and day out. Doesn’t that all depend on what we call success? The business tycoon may have more money, but may have a life with little personal interaction and spends most evenings battling loneliness. While the hard working factory worker, feeds his family pasta three days a week on a tight budget, yet is surrounded by a tight knit family and community that shares similar values. So who is the real successful person?

There are literally thousands of similar anecdotes that can be conjured up to poke holes in the misconception of success.

In education today the big push is to identify successful schools and teachers and quite simply get rid of all the others. The debate rages on how to measure success. Standardized testing has emerged as the miracle tool to measure success. One test on a specific day is suppose measure the success of a child, a teacher, a principal, a school, a school district, and a community. We have new “Common Core Standards” state that if followed, ”Students also acquire the habits of reading independently and closely, which are essential to their future success.” Ironically these new Common Core Standards recommend that students read The Fallacy of Success” by G. K. Chesterton (1909).

Chesterton states, “To begin with, of course, there is no such thing as success. Or, if you like to put it so, there is nothing that is not successful ” He goes on near the end of his essay to state, ”At least, let us hope that we shall all live to see these absurd books about Success covered with a proper derision and neglect. They do not teach people to be successful, but they do teach people to be snobbish; they do spread a sort of evil poetry of worldliness.”  Pretty good!

President Obama in this year’s State of the Union even drew a correlation with effective teachers, increased income of students, and success.  That’s pretty bold considering, as a society, we have conflicting views of success.

Chesterton sums it all up nicely for us, “Nobody would dare to publish a book about electricity which literally told one nothing about electricity; no one would dare publish an article on botany which showed that the writer did not know which end of a plant grew in the earth. Yet our modern world is full of books about Success and successful people which literally contain no kind of idea, and scarcely and kind of verbal sense.”

Written in 1909, Chesterton effectively sums up the current debate in education. We have so called experts, that haven’t spent any time in a classroom dictating their definition and measure of success.  The only outcome that can be effectively measured so far is the millions of tax payer dollars being funneled to these so called experts and their cohorts.

I guess that’s why they think they’re successful.

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