Opine I will

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

Archive for the tag “teachers”

Anger doesn’t describe it

New York State assessments conclude today. Half of my fifth grade students will have sat through over 9 hours of abusive assessments while the other half opted out and today is the worse day of all. Today’s math test includes overly complicated questions that most of our members of Congress would flub. They are multi-step atrocities that are designed to confuse and befuddle.  I am prohibited to post any of the questions until a select few are released to the public. I am pretty positive the hardest questions will never see sunshine.

Here is a general  idea of what one of these questions looks like.

A factory produces 4,861 items in 30 day. They then package them in crates hold 8 each. These crates are delivered to 26 distributers daily. How many are delivered each week to each distributer?

Ten year old children must be able to answer this question correctly, otherwise their teacher may be labeled ineffective.

Now here is the rub…

The New York State Department of Education issued the following  statement in a press release this week.

 Commissioner Elia said. “With substantive changes and increased guidance for educators, teachers will be able to develop curricula and lesson plans to meet the needs of students in their classrooms. “

The key words here are substantial changes.  That is admission that the standards that today’s tests are designed around are faulty.  Why subject children to 9 hours of abusive testing based on standards that require substantial changes? A warped political agenda is being driven right smack dab at the children on New York.

Anger doesn’t describe my feelings. Our society is being driven over a cliff by an extreme ideology that will destroy our nation. When we look the other way when children are being forced to fulfill an agenda, when we allow school children to go hungry, when we refuse to provide health care, when we demonize a segment of our population, we are heading for a fall.

Resist.

A Nation in Distress

distress-flag

I love our nation, I say the Pledge every day with my class and yes, we do say “One nation under God!”  I respect the lives lost defending our national symbol that represents the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers. I would never wear a flag, burn a flag or otherwise desecrate it. I am the son of a veteran and I am fully aware of the controversy surrounding those who would use the flag as a symbol protest.

So why then am I displaying an upside-down flag? Flying our flag upside down is not disrespectful if it is being used as signal of distress. Our nation is in a state of distress and it is about to be destroyed from within if we do not wake up as a nation. My upside-down flag signals that we are facing pain. I fear pain that we have never seen before. I am frightened. Frightened foremost for my children and grandchildren, as well as everyone else.

The election of Donald J. Trump happened because our country is in distress. Ultra- alt-right Tea Party types have brainwashed the masses (even though more people rejected Trump at the polls) into believing our country is no longer great. Our news outlets gave free reign to give un-American rallies air time and our radio airways have been taken over by propogandists spewing hatred.  Social media has been a breeding ground for false news, hatred, racism and worse. Congress has hijacked our Constitution and effectively stole the right of President Obama to appoint a member to the Supreme Court.

A huge segment of our population has been brainwashed into believing that America needs to be great again and that our national identity has been hijacked by ‘undesirables’. The result is Donald J. Trump! You may disagree with my analysis of our situation, and that is your right. However, you need to understand what is about to happen.

Trump is putting together a cabinet of individuals that pose a huge threat to our way of life. His potential Supreme Court nominee or nominees will lead our nation down a dangerous path.

Looking at Trump’s cabinet we see a crew should frighten us all.  Trump’s ties to Russia are emerging as he is considering appointing a Secretary of State that will ease sanctions so he can close his ExxonMobile deal with Putin. He has chosen a Secretary of Education who has actively worked to destroy public education. His choice for Homeland Security is a General. What’s next, martial law?

Trump’s cabinet will include an EPA Secretary who disputes climate change and wants to roll back regulations that protect our climate, and the very air we breathe. His choice for the SBA comes from his pals at the WWE! What’s next, death cage matches on the Mall?

It gets worse, he wants a General with the Nickname “ Mad Dog” to lead our Department of defense and a certifiable lunatic who got booted from the NSA as his top security adviser.  His top pick for HUD is psychotic according to Trump himself.  Even if we  survive this cabinet of fools, the middle class will not survive his Supreme Court.

Labor will be in distress. Workers across our country are about to be economically slaughtered. Trump’s first salvo was his attack on the United Steel Workers this week. Trump paved the way for Carrier to move hundreds of jobs under the guise that they are saving jobs. When called out on his lies, we saw Trump’s true agenda. He told them they needed to work harder and implied that they should accept a salary cut that would take them below the minimum wage.

Be prepared for a bloodletting on the labor front. First on his agenda will be a National Right to Work Law that will target every private sector union in the nation. Anti-Labor National Labor Relation Board appointments will make it impossible to correct unfair practices in the workplace. A SCOTUS decision that will allow ‘free riders’ to benefit from union bargaining and protection. Even those ‘free riders’ will lose the benefits of collective bargaining when it is banned (see Wisconsin). SCOTUS will rule that public school budgets can be raided to fund private and religious schools. Hedge fund controlled Charter Schools will eventually finish off our public-school system, Trump’s push for privatization will take a death grip across every public service sector across the nation. Teacher’s across the nation will watch their tenure and seniority rights get stripped away and students will be at the mercy of the power-brokers.

Our social safety net will be ripped apart as public service worker’s pensions will be stripped bare. Medicare and Medicaid may be destroyed. Healthcare for all may be a thing of the past. Our most vulnerable will be labeled as burdens and interlopers.

Our Country is in distress. Head the distress signal. Resist!

The End is Near

 

the-end-sign

Public education is our nation’s most important asset that is responsible for protecting and nurturing our nation’s most precious asset, our children. Public Education is about to be dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder in every state of our nation. Trump’s legacy will someday describe this real estate scoundrel as the demolition expert that has destroyed an American institution that began in 1690.  Unfortunately, a large portion of our populace do not realize that the end is near.

No matter which party you support or who you voted for, you will soon feel the real pain of a Trump administration. Some have said, we may survive four years of Trump, but will we survive many years of an ultra-Right Wing Supreme Court? Will we survive a Tea party controlled Congress? Will our schools survive?

The “end” for public education is one step closer with Trump’s pick for Education Secretary billionaire Betsy DeVos. DeVos is a conservative activist that has pushed for school vouchers across the nation. She supports raiding taxpayer revenues and funneling them to private and parochial schools. She has no experience in education and will be the chief architect in Trump’s demolition plan.

Trump’s demolition plan includes the destruction of unions. The very same unions that advocate for highly effective schools, strong standards that are appropriate, school safety, and protect the needs of our most challenged students.   Trump has signaled that he would establish Right to Work laws nationwide. Trump’s plan would impede all unions’ abilities to provide the much-needed advocacy that has protected our schools and in turn our middle class.

The end will arrive for many of our union sisters and brothers when a Trump Supreme Court dismantles public unions’ bargaining rights and his wrecking ball destroys tenure protections. Public schools will be immediately impacted when teachers that advocate for their students are fired without due process. Public schools will be systematically taken over by private for profit corporations that will not be subjected to collective bargaining. Profits and the bottom line will be the only measure that is important.

The end is near for public pensions. Trump’s demolition crew is about to blow up a system that has allowed hard working public sector employees to contribute to a system that would protect them in their end years. Trump’s crew will raid our pensions and turn them over to his private sector buddies. Public sector employees will now face the same questionable future as the private sector workers who have lost their future.

The end is near for our curricula. Our Science programs will be distorted with creationists warped views, Social Studies will be used as a tool to indoctrinate and not liberate the mind. The Arts will be lost forever. The focus will be on a false accountability system, based on a failed business model invented in some boardroom.

The end is near for our freedoms. Our freedom to worship as we choose, love who we choose, opine as we choose and severely limit our individual life choices. Trump’s demolition crew is about to dismantle our Inalienable Rights.  Disguised as the Righteous, his crew is about to destroy the very fabric of our nation.

We all know what we witnessed the day after election day. Many of us saw our own union sisters and brothers celebrate Trump’s win. Many of us lashed out on social media and even got into heated arguments. We could not believe that our sisters and brothers and even our loved ones failed to see that Trumps win will destroy us all.

If we put aside Trumps racism, bigoted, misogynist statements. We are still left with the unpleasant truth that the end is near. Unfortunately, it will be pain that will eventually open the eyes of many of our union sisters and brothers. The pain will be swift and devastating. It will be too late for I told you so’s. It will be our demise. Unless we stop him!

Resist! Resist! Resist! Put your niceties aside. Inform, argue, debate and be relentless. Boycott when told to, protest when you can. Throw up roadblocks, stand your ground. Don’t accept “maybe things will get better” or give him a chance. All the signs are there. Point everyone out. Point every threat to our way of life. Point out every conflict, every attack, every enemy.

Do what we do best. Teach! Teach others how the end is near and how it will be a reality if we do not wake up. Our national nightmare is here.

Not This Year

Nine and ten-year-old children are a curious bunch. They are on the cusp of adolescence and are just beginning to get a grasp on the outside world. Their minds are like sponges, soaking up everything that is around them. This is a very special time in their lives where they have opinions based on their own schema.

As a fifth grade teacher I have always looked forward to election season to introduce the concept of opinions, fact and fiction. I particularly always enjoyed introducing my young students to presidential campaigns, the Electoral College, and the importance of debate in our democratic process.

Not this year.

In the past, my students looked at candidates, discussed their campaigns, looked at the issues, and debated themselves. We always had mock elections and looking at the results were often an interesting exercise. My students usually began by parroting what was heard at home or they would disagree with what they heard at home. I encouraged them to read the news and watch news channels. We often discussed the different viewpoints presented. We read opinion pieces and discussed that opinions were worthless unless backed up with real facts. I also encouraged them to watch the debates and be prepared to discuss them the next day in class.  Yes, we did that in fifth grade!

Not this year!

How can I? This year I cannot discuss the issues with children. In addition, I am faced with families that are so polarized on the candidates that any discussion is viewed as an attempt to indoctrinate children. So how am I supposed to explain Trump saying he and other rich men have  the privilege to grope women when some think it is ok?

I see pictures of high school students in very diverse schools wearing Trump hats saying “Make America Great Again” and I want to weep because I know their parents love it.

I would love to discuss the issues of the campaign, with my students, but not this year. I just can’t!

I can’t discuss Trump rating women, calling them pigs, calling immigrants rapists, saying POW’s are not heroes, or saying Muslims are our enemy. Trump has brought our nation into a dark hole.

How can I? How can I with fifth grade students?

I will teach them history.

I will teach them about the peoples’ history!  I will teach them why our nation is the greatest in the world and about the mistakes we have made in the past. I will instill in them the importance of learning from the past. I will prepare them to create their own opinions based on facts not rhetoric. I will teach them about respect and the rights and responsibilities we all have as citizens.

As teachers we touch the future every day as we teach our students. We need to ensure our future is bright and we need to prepare our students so our nation never ever has to return into this very dark hole politics has brought us into.

So not this year! This year we look to the future. We ignore Trump and we defeat this ugly narrative by educating our students to learn from the past. And hopefully our great experiment will survive. We will survive not through fear and intimidation. We will survive through knowledge. Because, knowledge is power. And once we have the power, America will continue to be great.

Before you vote…THINK

To my Republican teacher friends,
Last night we heard every Republican candidate say that they would promote charters, vouchers, private schools, and home schooling. We heard them call teachers and schools failures.

If any one of them wins, know this, (as Ted Cruz would say) your public school will be at risk, children will lose necessary resources, and your careers will be at risk. You may not have a job, and their will be no social services available to help your family survive.

The Supreme Court will become a weapon that would destroy our way of life, your children will fight endless wars, you won’t afford health insurance, your pension will be a memory and you will have to work until you are dead or 70 years old.

And if you vote for any of them, please please never try teaching Social Studies.

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.

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 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

A Teacher’s Labor of Love Can Not Be Measured

As we celebrate Labor Day 2012 teachers all over the nation are beginning a new school year with a dark cloud on the horizon. We have been labeled failures by politicians , media outlets, corporate raiders, and movie makers. The need for education reform has been touted by both sides of the political aisle in a blind effort to pander to the raw emotions of a thoroughly hoodwinked electorate.

I’ve previously posted  data that clearly shows that graduation rates and college admissions are at historical highs. Historians like Diane Ravitch have shared data that explains the misleading nature of comparisons with other nations. Union leaders like Randi Weingarten have celebrated the gains we have seen over the last 20 years. Yet, we have been labeled as failures.

Yes, there is a need for reform!

Nothing should remain stagnant, we must constantly change and reform our ways to remain competitive. No one is disputing that. The problem arises with what has become a bastardization of true reform.

All to often, we’ve been told, it’s those ineffective teachers fault. Ignoring poverty, social needs, emotional needs, under funding, and the lack of resources, both sides of the aisle have their spiny fingers pointed right at us .. it’s those teachers that have to be fixed. As a result states have embarked on huge budget buster evaluation plans fueled by the funds held out, like  a carrot on a stick, due to Race to the Top. Here in New York State we have this debacle of an evaluation system called APPR.

The centerpiece of this frightful evaluation mess are high stakes tests ( you know, the ones RTTT was supposed to give us relief from) , district wide tests, and a third component based on observations and other evidence extracted magically throughout the year.  Using a Value Added Model which Diane Ravitch has labeled ‘junk science’ NYS hopes to root out those ineffective teachers.

Does this look like education reform?

Take a look at my district’s APPR plan.  I can’t fault my district and my fellow teachers for negotiating this nonsense because they were left with no choice. They must follow the laws of NYS.  They did their best, but unfortunately we’re now going to be judged by junk science, computer generated assessments, and a rubric that will attempt to put a numerical value on everything we do.

It’s demoralizing and unforgivable to attempt to place a numerical value on everything a teacher does.

60% of every APPR plan in NYS is based on placing a numerical value on everything we do! 

Administrators will be visiting classes with check lists and rubrics attempting to match the actions  of the teacher with a point value that will be used to measure teacher effectiveness.

A teacher’s labor of love is not measurable!

How do you place a numerical value on, the lives we have touched, the futures we have enhanced, the confidence we have instilled, the manners we have taught, the morals we have strengthened, the civic values we have formed, the smiles we have created and the country we have created?

How do you determine a numerical value on a teacher’s compassion  and understanding of a child who  faces anxiety when encountering challenging work? How do you measure the trust a student and/or a parent has in their teacher? How do you measure the hours teachers spend, looking at the ceiling in the middle of the night, as they ponder new strategies to help their students? How do you measure the tears wiped away from a frightened child as the teacher comforts and builds confidence?

This  Labor Day as we gear up for the new challenges of a new school year,  we face the unfair scrutiny endorsed by our state. Remember,  you have the power to protect your love of teaching.

It can not be measured no matter how hard they try.

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