Tag Archives: Teacher Evaluations

TALI Hosted Diane Ravitch And I Was There!

Last week I was so blessed to have the opportunity to see Diane Ravitch speak to Take Action Long Island (TALI) in Woodbury, NY. The audience was filled with over 1,100 educators, parents, activists ready to learn more about the state of public education in New York and the country.

Topics of her speech included: the widespread attacks on unions (which in her words are an attack on the middle class), Race to the Top (origins and effects), High Stakes Tests, Charter Schools, Vouchers, and Cyber Schools, Teacher Evaluations (APPR), Data Mining, and ALEC. Her comments were succinct and insightful, and she provided many sources to back up her analyses.

Her explanation of high stakes testing really struck a chord with me, especially since my school aged children are right at the heart of testing years. Her words resonated one at a time, as she discussed the goal of these assessments – they don’t close the achievement gap, they measure them. She spoke of the achievement gap, which is more accurately an economic gap because it is clear that economically challenged students suffer the most from high stakes tests. She explained that tests aren’t scientific instruments, but social constructions. As many parents know firsthand, she explained that high stakes tests destroy real teaching as instruction inevitably becomes “teaching to the test”.

The educators in the room all applauded when she said that the true purpose of public education is to nurture and promote character, integrity, and citizenship.

Diane shed some light on charter schools, exclaiming they are not public schools, but private schools using public money. They cherry pick students and either kick out or deny students with IEPs and English Language Learners. These students are then sent back to public schools where all students are guaranteed an education. The problem becomes that public schools are depleted of funds because monies are going to local charters, cyber schools, and vouchers, leaving the district without proper funding for these children. The most remarkable fact she shared was that even after these schools weed out “undesirable” or challenging students, they still score lower than public schools. Charters have been wrought with scandal. There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t hear about embezzlement, impropriety, or other questionable acts. The sad truth about charters is that they have no local allegiance, only a desire to make a profit.

There were positive moments when Ravitch shared the reason why this moment in public education will pass – because it’s wrong. She said we all must take action to ensure this happens. Speak up, tell politicians that high stakes tests are wrong, that basing teacher evaluations on tests are wrong, and that we won’t stand for charter schools, vouchers, and cyber schools taking our public school monies.

After an emotional hour, she responded to a question by a member of the audience. The crowd roared as she ended her talk with this sentiment – I have a dream….that all Long Island will opt out of high stakes tests.

For more information on Diane Ravitch – http://dianeravitch.com/

ALEC exposed – http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

Making the Grades, Todd Farley  – http://www.amazon.com/Making-Grades-Misadventures-Standardized-Industry/dp/098170915X

Network for Public Education website – http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

United Opt Out National website – http://unitedoptout.com/

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Common Core Assessments & Teacher Evaluation Testing – Enough Already!

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For the past few weeks, I have spent many hours in meetings with administrators, teachers, and parents discussing the changes that have been integrated into our schools since the adoption of the common core standards. We’ve talked about the “rigors” of the core. We’ve talked about the new focus on language in all subjects. We’ve talked about the new programs that the district has purchased to address the core. One thing we haven’t discussed very much – the assessments and the schedule.

It wasn’t until the other night, that I came across a tweet that linked to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) website. What I read shocked me. The pdf discussed the testing schedule for the 2014/15 school year. To my surprise and disgust, it said that there will actually be TWO PARCC tests scheduled for our children. Beginning in 3rd grade, our children will take TWO high-stakes tests per year –

A performance-based assessment (PBA) component, administered after approximately 75% of the school year, and an end of year assessment (EOY) component, administered after approximately 90% of the school year.1

When did this happen?  Add in test prep, when are these kids learning? When are teachers not prepping, benchmarking, and testing? When is enough enough?

Please don’t take this as an affront against my school or district. I have so much respect and admiration for the professionals teaching and running our school system. They work their hardest to provide the best education for our children every day. Because of the delicate nature of this subject, I asked not my children’s teachers but teacher friends (elementary school) about how public education has changed since the integration of common core standards and APPR (the NY State teacher evaluation system) assessments. The answer was unanimous – Dreadfully.

More than one friend reported teachers crying after school hours, once the children had gone home. They cry for the children and they cry for themselves. These professionals entered the field with a love of children and education. They were given opportunities for creativity, relationship building, and even some fun. Now their time is spent addressing common core mandated assessing and APPR  mandated assessments as well. Their districts are scurrying for the best common core aligned programs. Professional development can’t keep up with the changes. Throw in the economic climate; funds are tight for materials, professional development, and other resources. APPR also requires assessments throughout the year. The assessments are meant to measure the efficiency and skill level of the teacher on the backs of our children. And the worst part I learned – the children are feeling it. They noted visible stress-related behaviors like students crying, having bathroom accidents, and children vocalizing feeling sick.

To paraphrase an analogy from an article written about high stakes testing in Texas:

You can keep weighing the cow, but it’s not going to gain weight until you feed it.

The timing of this post seems perfect. Yesterday two amazing things took place:

1 – The Texas House of Representatives voted 145-2 to reduce high-stakes testing. The legislation reduces end-of-course exams from 15 to 5 needed for graduation from high school. The win is largely attributed to parent activism.

{http://www.statesman.com/news/news/heated-debate-in-texas-house-over-testing-graduati/nW4qF/}

2- I was fortunate to watch a live Google Hangout discussion from Finland, discussing the success of the Finnish Educational System and what America can learn from their practices.  Finland, as well as South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore top the list of best global educations based on international test scores. One amazing difference between Finnish and American education is the absence of high stakes tests and test-based teacher evaluations.

For more information on Finland’s educational system  {https://www.facebook.com/PennFinn13?fref=ts}

http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC%20Assessment%20Administration%20Guidance_FINAL_0.pdf 1


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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