Tuesday, February 17, 2015

@NYSUT @AFT @NEA @OptOut The post that gets everyone pissed off

I started a Facebook Event on January 25th. It was intended to get people to write to Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Tisch about their education agenda, specifically about manufacturing the educational crisis and more importantly, about ending the GEA and not holding school aid hostage to the governor's issues with the teachers' union.  Since I wanted a large reach, I was reticent to say some things I truly believe. The event ended on February 14th with 7,100 people saying that they would or did write. Meanwhile I got nasty messages and fielded trolls and stayed silent while others took the time to say that THEIR way of protesting better than the one I was proposing. Different, yes, better...who knows?

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!

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