Thursday, April 17, 2014

Common Core in Portland - Why So Silent Seattle?

I had been seeing a lot of Twitter buzz around Portland School District and the outspokeness of one Board member but now it's ramping up.

(The Seattle Times put it in their ed news roundup but blandly said, "Portland school board members express concern over Common Core.")

What is fascinating to me is the silence from the district and our own School Board on this issue.  I suspect once CC really hits schools and impacts curriculum, test prep and resources, Seattle Schools parents may wake up.  

Most of the concern of Board members is one of the issues I have raised - where was the preparation for Common Core for schools and teachers?   From The Oregonian:

Despite clashing opinions on a group of controversial state standards, six Portland School Board members appeared united on at least one issue: They all had concerns about the rollout of new state exams aligned with the Common Core state standards.

“Is the state providing sufficient time and resources for professional development, for the transition, for even acquiring the technology and materials that the districts need?” she asked.

Knowles said district officials appeared to be on track, but PPS administrators also noted the district only received money from the state specifically for the transition of the core this year. A state grant gave the district about $496,000 until the summer of 2015.

"That money would have been great to have four years ago," said Goff.

The most outspoken member of their Board is Steve Buell who has crafted a resolution against Common Core standards. 
 
Highlights of his resolution with emphasis mine (with complete text below these):
  •  Whereas, the CCSS were developed and vetted by committees of individuals, almost none of whom were K-12 educators, through a process which was not subject to public scrutiny; and
  •  Whereas, the funds spent to implement CCSS could be better used in well known, effective educational methods such as reducing class size, increasing reading support, adding programs such as the arts or CTE and alleviating the impacts of poverty on education; and 
  • Whereas, the CCSS were developed mostly by non-practitioners, implemented too quickly, were not piloted correctly, and may not reflect the learning needs of many of our students; and
  • Be it resolved money spent directly on CCSS shall be clearly identified in PPS budget documents. 
  • Be it resolved money spent on CCSS and testing shall be carefully reviewed during the budget process by a committee which includes strong representation from parents, the community, and Portland Association of Teachers. This shall include money spent on testing materials, additional staff, additional computer equipment, professional development, and curricular materials. 
  • Be it resolved all data generated by district response to CCSS shall meet a high standard of privacy.
RESOLUTION ON COMMON CORE AND PPS (April 16, 2014)

Whereas, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed and promoted by two private membership organizations (The National Governor’s Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers), and by other organizations none of whom are connected with Portland Public Schools, and these organizations received millions of dollars from private third parties, philanthropies, and corporate interests to advocate for and develop CCSS for the benefit of corporations; and

Whereas, the corporate profit motives that drive the CCSS are often in direct conflict with good education and can work to the detriment of the children of Portland Public Schools; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed and vetted by committees of individuals, almost none of whom were K-12 educators, through a process which was not subject to public scrutiny; and

Whereas, in our own state CCSS were adopted without open and transparent public scrutiny, and with minimal input by Oregon educators; and

Whereas, the implementation of CCSS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing is a substantial financial burden on Portland Public Schools and Portland’s taxpayers; and

Whereas, CCSS have never been piloted, tested, or proven in any arena to increase student learning or prepare students for college, career or citizenship; and

Whereas, the funds spent to implement CCSS could be better used in well known, effective educational methods such as reducing class size, increasing reading support, adding programs such as the arts or CTE and alleviating the impacts of poverty on education; and

Whereas, high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and emphasizes teaching to the test at the expense of other important educational topics and learning experiences; and

Whereas, there are serious questions about the validity of standardized testing to inform instruction, evaluate teachers or other educators, and measure the value of a specific school’s educational quality; and

Whereas, data collected under high-stakes testing has been shown to be vulnerable to misuse; and

Whereas, the purpose of education is not solely preparation for college and career, but to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable as citizens of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives; and

Whereas, top down imposition of the CCSS adversely impacts students of highest need, underserved students, emerging multilingual students, and special education students; and

Whereas, curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom and district professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed mostly by non-practitioners, implemented too quickly, were not piloted correctly, and may not reflect the learning needs of many of our students; and

Whereas, significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying our curricula to the CCSS takes precious resources away from meeting the actual needs of our students; and

Whereas, the Portland School Board and its Superintendent have a responsibility to make decisions which are in the best interests of its students

Be it therefore resolved PPS educators shall use the Common Core State Standards as only one factor among many in educating PPS students and put no more emphasis on these standards than other important educational factors, not listed in the standards, in an effort to make sure PPS students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Be it resolved district administrators and teachers take into account educational equity in implementing CCSS. This includes, but it not limited to, making sure students in all schools have nearly equal access to the following:
  • A broad range of educational offerings.
  • Access to courses outside of tested subjects which are both considered electives and/or part of a traditional education. 
  • Appropriate testing practices which take into account the background of students including underserved students, special education students, ESL students, and poverty factors. 
  • Equal testing support at each school where necessary. 
  • Field trips, recreational activities, educational projects and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Parent communication regarding testing. 
  • Computer access throughout the year.
Be it resolved money spent directly on CCSS shall be clearly identified in PPS budget documents.

Be it resolved money spent on CCSS and testing shall be carefully reviewed during the budget process by a committee which includes strong representation from parents, the community, and Portland Association of Teachers. This shall include money spent on testing materials, additional staff, additional computer equipment, professional development, and curricular materials.

Be it resolved all data generated by district response to CCSS shall meet a high standard of privacy.

Be it resolved CCSS shall not unnecessarily burden teachers with the following:
  • Inordinate amounts of professional development or training to implement the CCSS, both in amount of time spent and in overemphasizing CCSS professional development instead of other forms of professional development or classroom instruction.
  • Mandated use of CCSS curricular materials.
  • CCSS use by educators as a part of teacher evaluation or plans of assistance. 
  • Use of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing as part of teacher evaluations unless specifically mandated by state law. 
  • Time spent on identifying CCSS use in teacher’s lessons. 
  • Required practice testing for district-wide testing.
Be it resolved PPS administration shall convene a committee to assess the validity of CCSS and their use within PPS. This committee will include strong representation from the PAT as well as PPS parents, students and community members. This committee will review and report on the following questions:
  • Are there standards which we believe are incorrect for PPS students?
  • How much of the time spent on teaching to the CCSS could be better spent on other educational endeavors and what guidelines should be developed? 
  • How much instructional time should be dedicated to intervention programs and test preparation classes for students who do not meet the CCSS requirements on the SBAC? 
  • Are there standards which are developmentally inappropriate?
  • Are there CCSS related decisions which are not helping the education of PPS students?
  • What testing procedures or protocol might create a validity problem for SBAC testing?
  • Is the administration promoting CCSS in a realistic manner, making claims which are backed by peer-reviewed research and experience in other states or locales?
  • What steps should PPS take in order to correct any validity problems?
  • What is the effect of high-stakes testing on children and what can be done to minimize any negative impacts?
  • Are restrictions on children brought about by their scores, or their school’s overall scores on high-stakes testing appropriate? (i.e. missed electives, missed recess, loss of extra-curricular activities)Be it resolved PPS make a concerted effort to inform parents concerning PPS’s use of CCSS as well as their right to opt out of testing.
Be it resolved inordinate pressure to perform on CCSS testing shall not be placed upon students, teachers or administrators.

Be it resolved pedagogy responding to CCSS shall be based upon well established educational principles which do not include an overemphasis on scripted curriculum, one type of approach to educational problems such close reading or non-fiction, wholesale diminishment of literature, developmentally inappropriate instructional practices, inordinate importance placed on testing, or the narrowing of curriculum.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position which opposes state and federal mandates which require PPS to use testing to label schools, personnel, or students based on test scores, including the labeling of focus/priority schools and subsequent consequences for these schools.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position that the state should suspend the implementation of Common Core for a period of at least three years and until this untested mandate has received adequate research and been field-tested.

7 comments:

Mark Ahlness said...

Why? One word: Fear.

When what's been going on in the classrooms of SPS finally leaks out from teachers afraid of saying ANYthing counter to ccss, heads may come up and eyes may open. It'll go like this: Parents, then Board, then Union. Ugh.

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Melissa, have you spent time interviewing teachers who are implementing the standards in their classrooms? I know this is just an anecdote, but my children's teachers (elementary) are pretty happy with the CC standards, for the most part. They have small quibbles, but overall say the standards are better than what they had to work with before. They also have looked at the practice tests and think they will be ok. So, not wild excitement, but generally happy with them. I would love to hear what other teachers are saying.

- Elementary parent

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the parents I have a chance to mix with at our school, a K-8, have no clue about Common Core. They not only don't know much about it from their own reading and inquiry, but how it will impact our school is not clear. It's all been the usual pablum so far. Getting this to come to the light of day is even harder because there is so very, very little communication out of the teachers at the middle school grades, where my child is now. We barely know what the kids are doing in class, much less what the teachers think about the direction of things, what concerns they have. Parents don't have many chances to interact with teachers, whose class loads include 33 kids in a class. There could also be fear as you say, Mark. We are one of the schools whose principal is moving on to another school.

--Still waiting

Anonymous said...

Teachers I have spoken with on Twitter about Common Core say that our local teachers enthusiasm is just because our students haven't had the assessment yet. Just wait they tell me.

The irony of the pain of the assessment is that part if the goals if the tests is to raise the bar that teachers are teaching to. I'm sure Melisaa came across that reference as well, of David Coleman speaking at event and saying exactly that. I will post a link if I come across it again.

Ann D

Awaiting Storm said...

The hammer will fall after students take SBA tests and results are in. It is important to note that CC field test results will not be shared. OSPI isn't clear how much of the test results will be shared with them, either.

Teachers are very concerned about the lower quartile of students.

Lynn said...

What is their concern? We're not going to hold students back. As far as I can tell, we're not going to do anything with the test results. Am I missing something?