Saturday, October 24, 2015

USED's Latest Nonsense

The statement on testing was embargoed and held until 12pm on a Saturday. What's with that? The US is out picking out pumpkins and Halloween costumes so let's release it then and maybe no one will notice? 

Well, of course, we noticed. We also noticed that major news outlets like the New York Times wrote an entire article without bothering to talk to a single teacher. What's with that? Afraid of what a teacher might tell you about this release? 

I'm not a teacher, but here's what I got out of that release. 

First, and this a biggie. Reducing test time to 2% of the number of hours students are in school per school year. For those of you who grew up without Common Core math, that's roughly 23 hours. TWENTY THREE HOURS

Second, "the assessments must be worth taking." Excuse me while I laugh so hard I snort. That's great. Presumably every teacher on the planet would agree. So why has USED forced the adoption of standardized tests? And more to the point, ones that do not do what they claim they do. Why are states, like New Jersey, having committees look at "assessment" with the aim of doing away with tests created by teachers, for the students they are currently teaching, and will be able to immediately use the results to inform their teaching? (hint: no one makes any money on that) How many of your kids no longer have midterms or finals? Mine doesn't. 

Third, and this one cannot be typed with a straight face,  "No standardized test should ever be given solely for educator evaluation." USED offers this up now? When all states that took the NCLB waiver were coerced into creating a teacher evaluation in which standardized test scores are required??? Really?? I'm pretty sure teachers would have a lot to say about that.

Fourth, the babble about students with disabilities and English language learners is the usual trite language about leveling the playing field. If anyone was interested in actually doing that, you wouldn't require these populations to take standardized tests, you would make sure IDEA was fully funded, and you would come down like a ton of bricks on districts that didn't provide appropriate services for their students. 

My take away was not one of a victory in any sense of the word. Yes, I fight like mad to get rid of the crazy testing and, more importantly, the ridiculous high stakes that go with them. Yes, I'm glad that someone in Washington is at least willing to give a nod to the infatuation with testing, but this statement did not make clear which "assessments" they really mean, nor did they back off from the high stakes that go with them. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Jersey PARCC Scores *yawn*

From the Dyin-From-Not-Surprise Column, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) announced today that the majority of students who took the PARCC exam failed. If you're like me and you've been following/studying/banging your head against the wall while this crap unfolded over the last several years, you're not fazed. Here's why. 

We have watched New York go through this already. My New York friends have been warning me to "brace" myself. I'm braced. The scores look as expected. This is a multi-million dollar yawn

The spin will be that it was really good first try. We have a new benchmark (Really? You are setting a benchmark using a test that hasn't been validated? Explain how that works exactly...). Our kids can do better. The teachers suck, but Pearson is going to sell you a few more millions of dollars worth of test prep, teacher prep, and prep for the prep. And, if that doesn't work, well, the children clearly have issues with lack of grit and we can test for that too

The sections in the NJDOE explainer (page 7), comparing scores to NAEP and SAT are really interesting. They forgot to tell the average reader that "proficient" in NAEP-speak represents a very high level of achievement. They also forgot to mention that SAT, beginning with last week's in-school data-mining project delivery of PSAT, is now aligned to Common Core, like PARCC. So, very nice of them to explain SAT, but going forward, for students who are a junior or lower, this does not apply. They have no idea what PARCC scores will look like compared to SAT. 

Note to parents of juniors: Brace yourselves.

And, I can't let this go. What the heck is up with NJDOE making this announcement to only invited guests on the front lawn of New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company? And why did the list include (frankly, continues to include) the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association? Those two, even more than the Gates and Prudential money taking PTA, really bothers me. They clearly have a fair amount of influence over NJDOE and our legislators. Why aren't parents and students afforded that kind of access? 

So, practically speaking, what does this all mean? Standardized tests don't teach. As parents, we need to speak up. Our children deserve so much better than this. Oh, and Opt Out of the tests. 

I'll leave you with a nod to Chris Tienken:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dear Mr. President, Really????

Dear President Obama,

It must be Friday. It's one of those days where you just can't believe how incredibly stupid the education news of the day is. First, Arne is leaving. Ok, we can just file that under "Dyin' From Not-Surprise" because, let's face it, it sucks living several hundred miles away from your family and well, no one thought he'd hang in there with you until the bitter end anyway. His temp replacement, though, that is a bit of shocker. I'll get to why in a sec.

So, Arne, your good b-ball buddy, has left quite the boot footprint on US education. Pushing the unproven, not-validated, not-internationally benchmarked Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on all of us (btw, that is something you and your family have never had to endure). Pushing the ridiculous, expensive, time consuming testing that goes with CCSS. Pushing the invalid teacher evaluations. And, my personal favorite, selling the insipid notion that "high expectations" will magically make students with disabilities perform like their neurotypical peers. My goodness, Mr. President, did he ever read any actual peer-reviewed work on education? Ever? Speak with actual teachers and parents? Ever? If you need to see what I'm talking about, read Diane Ravitch and Mercedes Schneider for CCSS and testing; read Bruce Baker for why teacher evaluations are a sham.

Arne's latest foray into practically abolishing special education is especially heinous. He made sweeping changes, with barely a nod to those of us who wrote in protest over the last couple of years. And, he did this while citing research that either cannot be found or using research in specific areas as the basis for major changes that don't apply the way he says they do. Really, someone has to answer for that. Will it be you? It certainly doesn't look like it will be him. 

Now for the temp. John King. I'm laughing as I write that. Surely, Sir, you know what a disaster his tenure in New York was. Right? Well, maybe you don't. Your education policy suggests you haven't a clue what's happening out here. So let me help you. 

I have watched the education war in New York for some time. They are about a year ahead of us in the unmitigated disaster that is CCSS. I've watched the progression of teacher and parent advocacy. The growth of the Opt Out movement. I have helped bring that advocacy here to New Jersey. I have watched in stunned horror at the treatment of parents and teachers as they tried, in vain, to advocate for their children and students. And, I have watched John blow them all off"Unfortunately, the forums sponsored by the New York State PTA have been co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to "dominate" the questions and manipulate the forum." [emphasis mine] Glad to know that people like me, the ones who are able to speak up (loudly when necessary), are considered a "special interest." Duly noted. Of course, that set off an even louder outcry and the meetings were rescheduled, but pretty disappointing that the guy in charge of New York ed was willing to just walk away because he didn't like what he heard. I hope his skin is thicker now because he will have parents and teachers from all over the country to listen to. 

You, Sir, also have in him a charter cheerleader. He co-founded one. He led Uncommon Schools. Curious that he's now going to be overseeing US public schools. I wonder if he'll give more to charters than Arne...

And, then there is the teacher evaluations. Yeah, in case you didn't know, a New York teacher filed suit against NY ed officials, including, get this, your new SecEd. A highly regarded educator all of sudden was deemed "ineffective" because of the new teacher evaluation. That's the one that Bruce Baker, above, shredded.

I know the response in the education advocacy world has been swift. But, you know (or maybe you don't), we're getting used to whatever it is you throw at us. Our kids deserve so much more than the Arne Show Part II you're about to unleash on them and their teachers. We aren't going anywhere. Our numbers are growing and we will not give up.

Julie B.
Mom, aka Special Interest
I've decided the new acronym for this is #OOF  Opt Out Fuel!