Every Child Deserves a Great Education

Archive for May, 2015

Common Core at the Learning Store? 0

Posted on May 19, 2015 by dmayer

So I walk into the learning store to see what’s available for parents to purchase in their attempt to assuage the dreaded Common Core beast that has entered into the lives of their children, uninvited. As a teacher I had frequented the store and spent considerable time and way too much of my paycheck there. As a retired teacher, I sometimes buy games and flashcards to tutor struggling students. I have to admit it. The #2 Ticonderogas, the scented fluorescent markers, legos, scores of smiley-face stickers, laminated posters hot off the press, paints and puzzles, more legos . . . I love that store.

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I chat with the sales clerk. I want to know about how parent resources have changed since Common Core State Standards and high stakes testing have become the driving force in our public schools. I refer to Arne Duncan’s assessment of suburban moms, the very parents who frequent her store:

It turns out that many suburban and middle-class parents have issues when those reforms are extended to the schools that educate their children. This has been taken as a sign that these parents are ignorant or selfish. As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has put it, “Pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who – all of a sudden – their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary.”

I offer up some more facts about the test, and she listens patiently. “Although some parents are beginning to opt-out their children from high stakes standardized tests, others are hunkering down for the challenge believing that their children will defiantly beat the odds — as only one-third of students are predicted to pass the SBAC or PARCC,” I explain. She nods and sighs deeply.

“Parents come in and ask for books to help their kids with Common Core and the tests, and I direct them to these shelves,” she says as she gestures. She directs me to shelves of books displaying  Common Core icons on the cover. I browse the math selection.

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I expect to find booklets rich in worksheets and answer keys delineating the 108 steps required to solve a Common Core fourth grade word problem as demonstrated by this Arkansas mom.

Instead I find the same standard content from the same familiar publishers. There are no convoluted word problems with 108 steps that can just as easily be calculated in two.  Confused, I ask the sales clerk what had changed in the new booklets the store is now selling as Common Core material.

She grins sheepishly, shrugs a little, and says, “The Common Core icon on the cover.”  She timidly bites her lip and hurries away to help other customers offering no further explanation.

I get it. This store isn’t in the business of selling out kids by providing the ridiculous CCSS resources that make a mockery of learning. They aren’t betraying families with children who need a little boost to learn math. On the other hand, it’s deceptive to market math materials as Common Core relevant when clearly they are not. It must confuse parents who are trying to figure out what all the fuss is about.  They miss the opportunity to find out just how convoluted Common Core math really is.

Immediately, I see the predicament the store had been forced into by an education system that no longer makes sense. Selling education materials should not present a moral dilemma to shop keepers promoting the joy of learning. UGH!

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Yong Zhao Keynote at the Network for Public Education with Script 0

Posted on May 06, 2015 by dmayer

Thank you Yong Zhao for the wonderful and entertaining insights in your keynote speech to over 600 parents and educators at the Network for Public Education in Chicago this past week. And thank you, too, to Mercedes Schneider for transcribing it so masterfully so that we bloggers can highlight delightful excerpts from it for our posts. Without further adieu, Yong Zhao:

Yong Zhao from Schoolhouse Live on Vimeo.

The script from the Deutsch 29 website appears in 5 posts:
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

John Oliver and PAA on Standardized Testing 0

Posted on May 05, 2015 by dmayer

For the record, John Oliver must be recognized for doing the reporting that seems to elude mainstream media. He nails standardized testing and the nasty profiteers that proliferate a horrible hoax on the American public at the expense of our children. The report begins with pep rallies being staged to celebrate the taking of the tests.

I cringe to think that at some time in the near future a video of me circa 1991, surrounded by my Indianapolis Public Schools colleagues leading a cheer for the ISTEP, will emerge.  It was a time before standardized tests determined the future lives of children, teachers, and schools — a time when a test was just a test — no high stakes. In those days, teachers sought to gain favor with their principals, and principals with administration, by championing THE TEST. We were all naive.

Nearly 25 years later, as tests have evolved into instruments used to facilitate student data collection, teacher evaluation, and school quality, we know the harm these tests can do. When John Oliver exposes the standardized test deception on an HBO comedy show, it’s time to say, “Enough is enough! We’re not going to give/take these stupid test anymore.!”

We can no longer use naiveté an excuse.

My friend — also a teacher, Mercedes Schneider, who blogs prolifically at Deutsch 29, recently posed this question: Opting Out Interfering with the “Civil Right” of Testing?  She provides contexts for the bigger picture that encompasses high stakes standardized testing:

As I write this post, I have in front of me my permanent education record from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is by way of an unusual set of circumstances that I have this file. The short of it is that the records clerk at the first high school I taught at gave it to me in 1992.

It includes my standardized test scores for grades K, 1, and 4-8.

Yes. I took standardized tests beginning in kindergarten. My first was the Metropolitan Readiness Test, Form B (1973). It assessed my readiness for first grade, in six areas: word meaning, listening, matching, alphabet, numbers, and copying.

My teacher used it to help determine whether I should advance to first grade.

The test was not misused to grade my teacher or school.

None of the other six tests were used to grade my teachers or my school. They were used for diagnostic purposes related to my education.

My tests were not used to make me feel bad about myself by way of expected failure rates publicized in the media. My test results were not manipulated by those who possessed the political power to set any cut scores. There were no cut scores. There was no media hype surrounding my testing. There was no need for my parents to be concerned about my emotional well being due to any punitive consequences that might befall me. I was not worried that my scores could be used to fire my teachers or close my school.

There was no need for my parents to consider opting me out of testing.

Those days do not reflect the testing-pressure-cooker reality of 2015.

Coincidentally, at the same time John Oliver presented his bittersweet expose and Mercedes wrote her fantastic blog post, Parents Across America published its position paper against Common Core, SBAC, and PARCC complete with Common Core Basics and annotated references. Add it to your arsenal of resources to opt your child out of high stakes standardized tests.

While editors at the Oregonian continue to serve up platitudes to its readers, a comedian invites us to digest the evidence surrounding high stakes standardized testing.

President George W. Bush in just his third day in office announced his No Child Left Behind program. It passed Congress with bipartisan support because of course it did. Voting against No Child Left Behind is like voting against No Puppy Left Unsnuggled.

It’s a false conundrum. Enjoy.