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Portland Pearson Protest — Photo Archive 0

Posted on June 24, 2015 by dmayer

Shemanski Park,  June 23, 2015 — 11 A.M. to 1 P.M.

About 100 people attended a rally organized by Oregon Badass Teachers to protest Pearson, a corporation whose name has become synonymous with high stakes testing. Many attending belonged to organizations that fought to pass legislation that would make it easier for parents to opt their children out of such tests. Stand for Children opposed the bill with saber-rattling threats urging the governor to veto it. Kathleen Hagans Jeskey, event organizer, announced during the march that Governor Kate Brown had just signed the Opt-Out bill into law drawing ecstatic cheers from the crowd.

Protesters, adults and children alike, took the stage to attest (no pun intended) to the horrors of high stakes tests in their lives. Johnny-Moneybags-Pearson literally offered kids money with strings attached — to no art, no music, no library, and so on. They weren’t having any of it.

Bill Gates surprised the crowd by arriving from Seattle, Washington in the Opt-Out Bus. He graciously posed for photos with members of the group causing some to wonder, “Does he finally realize the harm Common Core high stakes testing is doing to America’s children?” We can only hope.

All in all, it was a good day for Oregon’s children.

Related stories:

Badass Teachers protest Common Core testing at conference in downtown Portland

Protesting Pearson @ Teacher Talks Truth

Governor showed courage in signing test opt-out bill (OPINION)

Click on any photo to view the entire archive.

 

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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.

Opt Out PDX — Photo Essay 0

Posted on February 15, 2015 by dmayer

Parents with their kids in tow flocked to Play Date PDX Sunday evening to learn how to opt their students out of high stakes standardized testing. The kid-friendly venue provided a pleasant atmosphere to share information about the worrisome test their children will be subjected to this year.

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In December of 2013 the Oregon Department of Education said the new tests are needed primarily because Oregon’s current tests, known as OAKS, don’t cover the skills schools must impart under the Common Core State Standards that Oregon mandated schools cover by 2014-15. But parents and teachers say not so fast. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools, headed by the Opt Out of High Stakes Testing Committee chaired by LuAnne DeMarco, organized the event to share information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC (referred to as s-bac) and how parents may request that their children not be required to take the test.

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Quintessential primary teacher Emily Crum objects to the new tests for several reasons. In states where the SBAC has already been given, two-thirds of students failed. Similar results have already been projected for Oregon students. Too much time is spent preparing for tests that are developmentally inappropriate for children. The tests take away valuable teaching time and leave little time for kids to be kids. Emily asked families to create  posters citing their reasons for opting out of the test. You may view the posters here.

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Elizabeth Thiel (left) gave testimony before the state legislature this past week explaining why she opposed the test as a teacher and a parent. Listen to Elizabeth’s fabulous speech here.

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More than 90 people came to receive information and resources to support their decision to opt out. You can find that information and opt out forms here.

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Many parents are finding out more about the dark side of high stakes testing and are not willing to simply follow the order of the task masters who are not acting in the best interest of children. Read here why one mother and educator will be opting her children out of the SBAC.

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Oregon is not alone in questioning the efficacy of the new tests that supposedly align to the Common Core State Standards. Fair Test and United Opt Out are promoting resistance to the tests nationwide.

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Jesse Hagopian, teacher and editor of More than a Score, happened to be in town and stopped by to talk with parents about his experiences in Washington state and how the Opt Out movement is affecting teachers nationwide.

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Ultimately, the question becomes, “What kind of school experience do we want for our children?” Do we want schools with rich curriculum and exciting experiences, a place where teachers and children want to learn and work and play?  Yes. We have the power to opt out of standardized testing!

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How do I know what a good test looks like? 0

Posted on November 11, 2014 by dmayer

What does a GOOD test look like? Stand for Children has the answer.

Before reviewing the test, a word about the graphic design. Skimming this web page, it is clear that some designs are more legible than others. That’s true for test, too. Many people  think a computer test is “more standardized,” and therefore more fair than an old-fashioned pencil and paper test. That’s a misconception. Differences in the age of the computer, the brand, speed, monitor size, display, sound, and other tech attributes can make a difference in student performance. Some readers may find this page visually difficult to read and understand, just as some kids will find the test format and instructions difficult to read and understand. And, that doesn’t begin to take into consideration the range of dexterity and computer skills kids bring to the test.

On to the test. From the Stand for Children website:

BETTER TESTS: YOU DECIDE

We are finally moving to higher academic standards for our kids.

With those high standards come better tests that measure critical thinking, replacing bad tests that are just rote memorization.

Pop Quiz: Are the new tests better? Come decide for yourself.

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Questions about the tests.

  • Are the higher academic standards referred to above the Common Core State Standards?
  • What are the names of the old tests and the new tests? Is the old test the OAKS? Is the new test the SBAC?
  • In the first 3rd grade math problem, the new test is measuring area, not perimeter. Drag and drop! Drag and drop! Drag and drop! What is the correct answer to the old test problem? Should the question on the old test have been: What is the area? Was this an actual old test question?
  • In the second 3rd grade math problem as in the first, the student is simply asked to answer more problems at once. Dragging and dropping several answers instead of selecting only one answer. No partial credit?
  • Does the 5th grade Reading/Writing test require kids to do more than drag and drop to answer the question?
  • Does drag and drop now equal critical thinking?

Find out more about opting out of high stakes testing:

United Opt Out

Oregon Save Our Schools

Standardized — The Movie 0

Posted on May 02, 2014 by dmayer

Portland area organizations are joining together to present Standardized. The movie is gaining attention around the nation as parents, teachers, students, and community members are becoming aware of the true cost of standardized testing. A national movement is growing to opt out of high stakes testing. A panel representing students, parents, and educators will answer questions following the screening. All are welcome.

You may reserve a ticket at Eventbrite.

Find a printable, interactive poster to share here: Standardized Poster

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For decades, standardized testing has been a part of public education. Within the last ten years, however, education reform has promoted even more testing. Test scores, mistakenly viewed as effective assessments of student ability and teacher/school effectiveness, are anything but. STANDARDIZED sheds light on the invalid nature of these tests, the terrible consequences of high-stakes testing, and the big money that’s involved.

NPE asks Congress to hold formal hearings on K-12 testing 0

Posted on March 11, 2014 by dmayer

During the first week of March, 2014, hundreds of educators, parents, and students met for the Network for Public Education Conference in Austin, Texas to address the topic of so-called “education reform” of America’s K-12 public schools. On the last day of the conference, Diane Ravitch, representing all those attending, called on Congress to conduct formal hearings on the misuse of high-stakes testing in our public schools.

From the Network for Public Education website:

The call for Congressional hearings – addressed to Senators Lamar Alexander and Tom Harkin of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and Representatives John Kline and George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee – states that high-stakes testing in public schools has led to multiple unintended consequences that warrant federal scrutiny. NPE asks Congressional leaders to pursue eleven potential inquiries, including, “Do the tests promote skills our children and our economy need?” and “Are tests being given to children who are too young?”

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If Bill Gates did this one thing, student test scores would soar 0

Posted on February 03, 2014 by dmayer

For decades Bill Gates and his billionaire buddies along with high ranking government officials have been “reforming” our public schools. They have invested hundreds of millions of dollars creating charter and virtual schools, de-professionalizing teaching, manipulating standards and curriculum, eliminating libraries and art, music, and P.E. classes, promoting larger class sizes, and legislating policy initiatives that defund schools. Have these interventions produced higher scores on competitive tests and improved the education experience of students?  No.

Here’s a suggestion for Bill and his buddies who want to reform our public schools: FEED THE CHILDREN. Concentrating on this one thing would cause test scores to soar.

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Feeding students good food without unhealthy additives, preservatives, and fats leads to high achievement.

On January 30, 2014, America learned that, “Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.”

Apparently this is not the first time children at that school have been denied food because as school officials pointed out, “The children were given milk and fruit instead of a full lunch — the meal that the school says it gives any child who isn’t able to pay.”

This isn’t the first time a child has been denied food by school officials. Just a few months earlier, according to KTRK the same Dickensian behavior was witnessed in Dickinson (irony noted), Texas, “A 12-year-old Dickinson student’s breakfast was tossed in the trash, because his account was short by just 30 cents.” He didn’t ask for more; he just asked for some.  Even though children in America aren’t forced to work off their debts in poorhouses as English children were centuries ago, many students come from poor houses where scrounging up as little as 30 cents for a meal is often a struggle. As families are faced with food stamps cuts, they must spend more of their income for food at home.

Both schools defended their actions by hiding behind policy. One might wonder how many school districts have such policies and how many children across the nation go hungry each day because they can’t afford to pay for food at school. In this age of education reform, when a student’s fate rests on how high he or she scores on a standardized test, shouldn’t we insist that all students be fed and fed well? The inhumanity of this intervention is undeniable. Shouldn’t any intervention taken on by the school be one that leads to student success instead of failure? Suppose instead of denying students food, schools provided them with nutritious and delicious meals. Wouldn’t that make a difference in student achievement? Yes.

The ideas of Donella Meadows, known for Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System, are overlooked in today’s education reform climate. Education reformers prefer to replace the whole system with one of their own liking, one they can ultimately own. Reformers, who are not educators themselves, are prone to believe that scholarship is irrelevant to the education profession. Their process is to ignore tried and true strategies that work, and instead to propose a hodgepodge of punitive initiatives using students, teachers, and even entire schools as guinea pigs while they determine which ideas are most profitable for them.

If sustained high student achievement is in fact the goal of true education reform, feeding children nutritious meals at school might be considered a small shift that could produce big changes. According to Meadows:

Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in “leverage points.” These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.

Leverage points and interventions are ignored by reformers who insist, without a shred of credible evidence, that teacher quality as measured by student standardized test scores is the sole valid indicator of learning at school. The agenda and policy set by wealthy non-educators and government officials is so narrowly focused on the teacher/test correlation that it eliminates consideration of all other small interventions that might produce huge positive results, the nutrition – hunger/achievement correlation for example.

Fortunately for us, a study measuring the effects of a nutritious diet on student achievement has already been conducted. Before holding-teachers-accountable-for-every-single-ailment-of-our-education-system became fashionable, school districts experimented (in the true sense of the word) to find data to support the hypothesis that poverty and achievement are related. It’s hard to believe that just 30-some short years ago we cared enough about kids to try a jaw-droppingly innovative experiment like this one. Even though it was conducted some three decades ago, the results are every bit as valid today as they were then.

According to the New York Times, the experiment was initiated as a result of a lawsuit filed in 1978:

A settlement has been been reached in a three-year-old class action suit brought by Consumers Union in an effort to force the City of New York to improve the nutritional quality of its school lunch program. In light of the Reagan Administration’s recent proposals to lower the requirements for the national school lunch program and the improvements already made in the city’s program, however, the settlement may be moot.

The suit, based on a 1978 audit conducted by the General Accounting Office, found that 40 percent of the lunches served did not provide adequate amounts of food or the variety required by law.

Elizabeth Cagan, director of the Board of Education’s Office of School Food Service had already joined together with researcher Dr. Stephen Schoenthaler on The Impact of a Low Food Additive and Sucrose Diet on Academic Performance in 803 New York City Public Schools to determined the effects of a healthy diet on student achievement.

In the spring of 1979, New York City’s public schools ranked in the 39th percentile on standardized California Achievement Test scores given nationwide. That means that 61 percent of the nation’s public schools scored higher. They had been in the lower half of the country for years. However, for a few years in the 1980s, these same 803 schools ranked in the upper half of the nation’s schools. They went from 11% below the national average to 5% above it. What happened?

The introduction of policy based on the Feingold diet which lowered sucrose, synthetic food color/flavors, and two preservatives (BHA and BHT) over 4 years in 803 public schools was followed by a 15.7% increase in mean academic percentile ranking above the rest of the nation’s schools who used the same standardized tests. Prior to the 15.7% gain, the standard deviation of the annual change in nation percentile rating had been less than 1%.

All schools and all children showed improvement, but not all children made a 16% improvement. Rather, the lowest achievers improved the most. That bears repeating: the lowest achievers improved more than the mean average of 16%. The children who had not been helped by any other intervention improved the most. Incredible, but true! Literally a recipe for success! (Click here for a clearer image of the graph below.)

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So, what happened next? Why did the high test scores last for only four years? The reforms instituted by Cagan were not preserved. Soon the improvements made in the NYC lunch menu were altered to again include foods with unhealthy sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, food dyes, and fats. Children stopped eating or ate the cheap, poor quality food. Test scores dropped. Cagan’s tenure at NCY Food Services is a testament to the difference one person can make in the lives of millions. That her legacy was not preserved is a travesty for the children of New York City.

So, Bill Gates, and you, too Arne Duncan, I challenge you to a noble experiment. Feed the children. No more harmful sugar additives, flavors, food dyes, preservatives, or fats. None of that genetically modified stuff, either. Feed the children well, and they will achieve more, much more. This must be a nationwide systemic intervention, not a competition where some kids get good food and some kids don’t.  This isn’t The Hunger Games, after all, and besides, we can afford it. Feed all the children well. Then, install safeguards to keep  this fine intervention in place for years to come. Your goal of improving education will be a successful and sustainable one!

Don’t know how to get started? The Feingold Association is an all volunteer organization that offers nutrition education about healthy eating. If you watch nothing else, view the slide show, LET’S DO LUNCH! It seems to have been prepared especially with you in mind. Watch the whole thing — it’s long but worth it. Then, view the videos below. I’m sure you can take it from there. Let me know if you need help. I know of about three million others who will be happy to assist. And, after the Feed the Children Well project is up and running, we have some other suggestions for you.

Erase to the Top — Michelle Rhee’s DC cheating scandal 0

Posted on April 14, 2013 by dmayer

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A memo exposing excessive erasures on high-stakes standardized tests of DC students during Michelle Rhee’s tenure as Chancellor has emerged.

This image was created by a student whose mother is a 7th grade teacher and posted on Susan Ohanian. I can’t imagine a cover more fitting for Michelle Rhee. She was hand-picked by the Billionaire Boys to be Chancellor of Washington, DC Public School, a position for which she was sadly unqualified. It’s no wonder that she would result to cheating or at least a cover-up to prove her worthiness. When she came to Seattle recently to promote her new book and StudentsFirst, our protest wasn’t covered by any news outlet. So, it’s good to see the light of day shining on Rhee’s questionable actions in regard to cheating in DC schools.

In a PBS report, The Education of Michelle Rhee, she is shown ceremoniously bestowing bonuses on principals and teachers at high achieving, or greatly improved, schools. The enormous gains in test scores raise eyebrows and lead to questions of possible cheating.

In an amazing investigative piece, John Merrow exposes the memo that could be Rhee’s smoking gun. Here’s an excerpt on Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error, but read the entire story at Learning Matters.

Rhee failed to act on evidence of cheating because it undermined her success narrative, according to Merrow. He concludes his lengthy piece with:

This story is bound to remind old Washington hands of Watergate and Senator Howard Baker’s famous question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” It has a memo that answers an echo of Baker’s question, “What did Michelle know, and when did she know it?” And the entire sordid story recalls the lesson of Watergate lesson, “It’s not the crime; it’s the coverup.”

That Michelle Rhee named her new organization “StudentsFirst” is beyond ironic.

PBS reporter, John Merrow talks further on All In with Chris Hayes, MSNBC (Emphasis mine.):

Chris Hayes: Michelle Rhee is presented with this document. That much we know. At least her deputy for accountablility presents her with it. Presumably she saw it.

John Merrow: I know she saw it. I have a reliable source. We verified this. Incidentally, people are very afraid of Michelle Rhee. A source high in DCPS confirmed the authenticity of this. And, I have been reporting now for 39 years. When I took it to this source’s home, that person was trembling as I presented it to that person. I have never seen anyone quite that scared. The other confirmation came from the DC inspector general. So, we know it is authentic. We know from reliable sources that Chancellor Rhee saw this and talked about it.