Thursday, April 23, 2015

Quite the Day on the Opt-Out Front

First up, apparently poor Minnesota got hit by an overloaded processor AND some kind of hacking which lead to a shutdown of their testing on Tuesday.  Minnesota is using PARCC and that means our friends at Pearson had some explaining to do.  Pearson got it back and running but the Minnesota ODE was not quite prepared to say all was well.  From MPR:
"We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly," department spokesman Josh Collins said.

The department hopes to restart testing on Thursday if it gets those assurances, he added.
The hacker attack went away after about 30 minutes.

I'm just going to interject at this point.  Look, even without opt-outs, multiple states had to shut down testing.  ANYONE who knows how testing goes at a school, knows that it is a carefully planned event and anything that changes, throws the whole thing out of whack.

My point is that anyone - Arne Duncan, I'm looking at you - who believes that these state test results should be taken seriously is wrong.  It is wrong for students, for teachers, for districts. 

Then we have the New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition group of 50 parent/educator groups, who have come out with their demands for public education.  From their press release:
The educational program of the state is in chaos. Leadership is more important than ever. On Sunday, April 19th the Editorial Board of The Journal News declared, “The stunning success of the test-refusal movement in New York is a vote of no confidence in our state educational leadership” in calling for Chancellor Merryl Tisch to step aside. 

New York State Allies for Public Education, a grassroots coalition of over fifty parent and educator advocacy organizations from all corners of the Empire State, stands with the Editorial Board of The Journal News.
 They go on:
“Parents have been left with no choice. We will submit our refusal letters, which is our parental right, on day one of school, next year and every year and if those in power will not listen, we will free our children from a test driven, developmentally inappropriate education,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.
 But next door in New Jersey, public education officials say they will drop the hammer.  From NJcom (bold mine):

Any New Jersey school that fails to have 95 percent of its students take the PARCC exams will be placed on a corrective action plan, and schools with especially high opt-out rates could have state funding withheld, state Education Commissioner David Hespe said Wednesday.  

"We are going to do whatever is necessary to make sure that we have a comfort level moving forward that we are going to hit that 95 percent," Hespe said. "This is not a no harm, no foul situation here."
 Like what?
Hespe said Wednesday that the first step is corrective action plans, which could require schools to hold more informational meetings about PARCC or to schedule face-to-face meetings with any parents who want to opt their children out of the tests.
What school or district would have the time to sit down with every single parent?  To what end?   Are they going to threaten or shame parents?  Good luck with that.  What if the parent refuses the meeting?
Before levying any additional sanctions, the state would take into account whether this is the first year a district missed the 95 percent target, how much it missed it by and whether the school took actions either to prevent or promote opt outs, he said.
"We are going to go and we are going to spend some time there and we are going to find out what happened and why," Hespe said.
Apparently that "prevent" went as far as one principal telling teachers to tell on other teachers who may have spoken to parents about opting out (not even promoting it but just answering parent questions.)

That last line is pretty funny.  What happened?  Parents did not get listened to when they express ed their concerns about their child's education.  That's what happened. 


Anonymous said...

Arne Duncan, I'm looking at you..WTF

I'm sure Arne is looking back.

Get over yourself!


Melissa Westbrook said...

CES, it's a rhetorical phrase.

I'm fairly certain Sec'y Duncan does not listen to me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Also, no swearing. I'll let that one go but please do not do that again.

Anonymous said...

Given how the Dept of Education has evolved into nothing more than knee-capping goons for the perpetual standardized testing industry, I think it's outlived it's usefulness.

What was once a great idea of Kennedy & Johnson has become an agency that does more harm than good anymore. It's certainly long past the point of being worth the price of our tax dollars, which it then turns around and blackmails us with if we don't genuflect to the whims of it's masters - the corporate lobbyists, hedge fund managers and tech titans.

The irony of having such a dim bulb as Arne Duncan presiding over the Dept of Education would be laughable if it weren't so sad. This is what the Dept of Ed has come to? What a boondoggle.


seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

NJ's actions are very scary, and represent the transformation of schools from places of learning to extensions of oligarchy. By creating funding rules, laws, and an atmosphere of control and intimidation, Duncan (ex-CEO of Ariel Charter School, a tax write-off of Ariel Investment Corp - a "school" with an investment-themed pedagogy and curricula) and others in politics and industry have created mechanisms which they believe, with a straight face, they can use to "restructure" (read: TFA, charters, firing expensive, intractable veteran educators, create hedge fund opportunities, buy new curricula and test systems...) public schools on the flimsy, insulting rationale that educators are responsible for making sure 95% of students Take The Test.
That we as a people stomach even the existence of such a misbegotten belief; that Duncan (and Christy) still holds his job is an astounding thing that saddens me so very much. Whither goes the American people that we could countenance such Orwellian absurdity?

Anonymous said...

The New York Times tonight has a front page story on parents pushing back hard against school districts who refuse to allow kids to do other activities (educational or not) during the SBAC and PARCC tests. The so-called "sit and stare" policy, it must be said, sounds a lot like what SPS has mandated for our students, especially the younger ones.


Anonymous said...

@EdVoter, where have you heard about the "sit and stare" policy here for students whose parents opt them out? I think that's terrible!
I'm making sure my son takes some good books to school on the testing days.

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marcob said...

Starting today for the next three mornings (3 1/2) hours each morning, my sixth grade students will be taking the Smarter Balance Math Assessment. So far 6 families out of 58 students have opted out. (thankfully they will be home reading or going to a museum) Seattle schools are right in the middle of this madness of testing whose goal is to destroy confidence in public education and turn it over to the private sector. I love my students and this math test will show that at least 70% of them are well below the ridiculous standards set for sixth graders. However, I know that all of my students have made great gains in their understanding of math this year, regardless of what this test says about them. If adults had to take these tests they wouldn't stand for it, however most students have not choice and the reality is that these test make them feel stupid! There are so many ways these tests make teaching a toxic enterprise! These test reflect so much of what is wrong with our nation and we need to change the course of public education in our nation.
Our students are learning, but the test will say they are not!!!!

Anonymous said...

Marcob, when they're done with your SBAC math test, oh goodie, they get to take the ELA which is even longer. Sadly, our school only allocated 4 days of 2 hour blocks. 2 ela, 2 math. The kids simply aren't finishing. Now they'll have to cut into more school time to finish.

Reality Bites

Anonymous said...

Nyland has said that opt-outers are to be given 'no instruction' during test time. That has left a wide open door for various principal interpretations. Some schools have allowed alternative activities. Some schools have allowed book readings. Some schools have made things uncomfortable for the parents by making opting out difficult and also have made things difficult for students. I'll leave it at that and let parents or students recount further if they wish.


Patrick said...

During practice for the math SBA, my child was allowed to study independently or read. This is at Hazel Wolf. If they had her just sit and stare, and I knew about it, I'd take her home and have some words with the principal.

Anonymous said...

Parents of 11th graders in SPS received e-mail yesterday, with a link to this letter from Randy Dorn:

Nothing here about opting out.

Roosevelt Dad