Saturday, February 28, 2015
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
So while I was staying silent I was honestly wishing that I could buy into the absolutes that well meaning organizations were spewing. I have always had the issue of thinking just a little differently than the masses- no matter what side the masses were on. Alas, I am the female Don Quixote and there are some huge windmills.
Viewpoint 1- There are bad teachers. Not 67% and not necessarily measurable by standardized tests, but I would hazard that about 5% of teachers currently teaching are bad, and another 5% are poor. No, I have no data to back that up, just my gut. Those teachers either 1) should never have started teaching; 2) would be good teachers if they taught at a different level; 3) have burned out; or 4) are resting on laurels they never had. You know the ones I mean. They call kids 'fucking stupid' or 'morons'. They haven't changed a lesson plan in years, regardless of the make up of their classes and talk about 'this is the way we always did things.' I actually had a colleague ask why I was redoing some lessons because the ones I had were 'good enough.' Say what?
I acknowledge that there are bad teachers, and they are the ones giving the rest of us a bad name. It is incumbent upon administration to remove them, through an expensive and time consuming due process 3020a. I am totally in favor of due process, but I am sure there is a way to make removal less expensive and quicker if our unions put their minds to it there could be a good solution. To say that 'it is the job of administrators' is true, but a cop out. If we truly want to make our profession professional, than we also need to have a hand in removing those who need to go. One bad apple does spoil the whole basket- at least in public perception.
Viewpoint 2- The Common Core standards are good standards. The fact that they are certainly not easy to understand is crazy, and there are standards that are inappropriate for the grade level. Having said that, the haste with which they were rolled out meant that revisions would have to be done as they were piloted. The fact that no meaningful revisions have been made is one of the two major problems with the standards. The second major problem with the standards are that they were rolled out and used without proper professional development. The verbosity of the standards that lead to the lack of comprehension of the meaning of each standard, the lack of professional development and the rush to use the standards meant that teachers were nearly forced into using the modules or Pearson's consumables. The modules themselves are over long and, other than the tri-state rubric, there is no evidence that their use would increase test scores. Furthermore, standards should not be linked to grade levels, but their mastery should determine promotion to the next level.
Ah, test scores. The NCLB tests meet RTT meet CCLS. What a mess!
Viewpoint 3- In New York State there is a history of testing, the most recent being the Common Core tests. Testing is not inherently bad. The major difference between the tests before NCLB were created by teachers in NYS for students in NYS. The questions were field tested in NYS and then used in PEP, PET, RCT and Regents exams. The passing grades were determined prior to the administration of the test and only on rare occasions were questions deleted after administration, thereby changing scores. Those tests meant something and those tests could be revived.
Viewpoint 4- As a parent I believe that my husband and I are the best people to determine what our daughters should or shouldn't do. Therefore we are deciding to have our 5th grader take the common core tests. When asked, she said that she wasn't stupid, of course she doesn't WANT to take the tests, but since they are required she wants to do her best to defeat them. I understand the arguments that the only way we can make a statement that the common core tests must go is to refuse to allow our children to take them. I believe that I can make my opinions of the state tests known through emails, tweets, letters, and phone calls to my legislators and to the Regents. The parents who want to refuse the test for their children are well within their rights, and I will support their decision. They believe that they are practicing civil disobedience or saving their child from abuse. That is their belief and they are entitled to it. I believe that in life there will be hardships and obstacles my daughter will face that will make state tests look like the ant hills they are. My husband and I are teaching my daughter to do your best no matter what, that her self-worth is not dependent upon a test score anymore than it is dependent upon her looks or her athletic ability. The tests can't teach resiliency, but taking them knowing that they are a not real determinants of ability and merely a waste of time actually is a life skill best learned young. I would no more have her skip the state tests than I would tell her she couldn't try out for any activity in which some people get chosen and others don't. The test is only abuse if the adults make it a big deal. Oddly enough, the most rabid of parents who are touting their right to refuse the state test for their child are the ones that are most against my choice to have my child take it.
Let the games begin!
Monday, February 9, 2015
Dear Governor Cuomo,
You, like King George, have ‘a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny.’ In the parlance of the Declaration of Independence, "To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”
* You have refused to assent to the release of school aid runs, “the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
* You have hinted that you will refuse to pass a budget “ of immediate and pressing importance,” unless your ethics reforms are passed.
* You have held promises of additional money for school districts, only if they relinquish the right of local control over districts, ‘a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.’
* You have promised to create more charter schools, whose directors boards are not local and are at places ‘unusual, uncomfortable, and distant’ from the families of the students they purport to serve.
* You have declared your objective to take down the teachers union, ‘for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.’
* You have endeavored to obstruct the Dream Act and the tax credit for education by making both conditional with the other.
* You wish to obstruct the Administration of Justice, by desiring to destroy due process, a right negotiated by collective bargaining, which is a protected right in the NYS Constitution.
* You desire to make teachers made Judges dependent on flawed tests alone, ‘for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.’
* You plan to erect a multitude of new districts, called charter school, and sent hither swarms of corporate cronies to harass our school districts, and eat out their substance.
* You have given your recommendation to ‘Acts of pretended Legislation:’
o For imposing a tax cap without removal of unfunded mandates
o For depriving schools and counties of needed revenue in times of recession; but not restoring same during times of prosperity
o For suspending your own ethics panel
* You have abdicated Government here, by declaring teachers out of his Protection and waging War against us.
* You have plundered our schools, ravaged our counties, imposed tests created by corporate donors, and destroyed the joy of learning for our children.
In the Declaration of Independence the paragraph immediately following the list of injuries and usurpations reads. “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Governor Cuomo, do you feel the anger emanating from the population you are supposed to serve, but you wish to rule? Do you see the Fates snipping the thread from which hangs your ambitions for higher office? Can you be so blind, so deaf, and so ignorant that you cannot see that your education agenda has made you a despot such as was overthrown in 1776? Do you not understand that you were re-elected governor, not anointed king?
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Thursday, February 5, 2015
The governor’s education agenda is just plain wrong. First, there can be no doubt that teachers can and do have an impact on their students. In small schools and districts that impact is even greater. In 1989, researcher Craig Howley indicated that smaller schools and smaller school districts have a larger impact on students in poverty than larger schools and larger districts; and the more recent (2000) Matthew Project concurred. Additionally, there is also no doubt that tests measuring student growth can contain valuable information for parents and teachers. The best method of determining student growth is to have reliable and valid tests. Furthermore, an achievement test in third grade, assuming a student has had adequate teaching, should reasonably predict the child’s ability to succeed on the next year’s assessment. These facts are missing in the governor’s agenda.
What is wrong with Governor Cuomo’s agenda? First and foremost, the problem in New York is poverty. Long standing measures like the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that middle and high social economic students are learning material quite well, it is the poorer students who are not. Second, the governor’s insistence that small school districts merge is not only an attempt to rob people of local control of their schools, it is contrary to research on what will best help students. Third, the governor’s agenda demands that teachers be evaluated on assessments, yet there is no mention of the ability of a score on any of the assessments to predict with any reliability the score for that same child in subsequent years. The teacher never even sees the areas in which a child succeeded or failed, so there is not a way to improve teaching or truly help the child. Finally, his Gap Elimination Adjustment, his refusal to equitably fund schools, and even his Tax-Free NY initiative rob counties and school districts of necessary revenue; especially those schools that serve the poorest students.