Growing Protest on Tests So Why Not Add Your Voice Too

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We see growing protest on tests so why not add your voice too? And it’s coming from a wide variety of places. A group of famous children’s book authors, headed by Maya Angelou, has written to President Obama, pointing out that the tests are destroying kids’ love of reading. 6,000 Long Island students have opted out of the latest tests. PBS Newshour education reporter John Merrow published a letter from a teacher on the testing mania and reveals that his own daughter has quit teaching as a result of this atmosphere. Pennsylvania Middle School Principal of the Year, Greg Taranto, who leads a top-performing school blasts the growth of testing in a letter to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

And today, we find an op-ed piece by New York Principal Elizabeth Phillips in the NY Times on the crazy gag rules that surround the tests.

Who’s ready to stand up next?

More and More Ways teachers Can Use Their Voices

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We are seeing more and more ways teachers can use their voices to speak up on issues like testing. The website http://testingtalk.org just went up a few days ago and already has 174 posts by teachers and administrators as of this writing. You can post anonymously if you’re worried about getting punished for speaking out.

Then there’s the new New York Times “Room for Debate” site that presently features 4 writers’ points of view on the question, “Should Parents Opt Out of Testing?” There are presently 77 comments, many clearly by teachers.

And for your entertainment pleasure, here’s an Indiana parent who points up some of the silliness of the math instruction engendered by the Common Core (Indiana has recently dropped its endorsement of the Core, by the way).

Many Voices Are Protesting Testing

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Looks like the backlash gaining momentum, as many voices are protesting testing. Here’s Diane Ravitch’s tally of the numerous articles, reports, and critiques as March pummels us with unsettled weather. A wide variety of voices can be heard — parents, teachers, reporters, commentators, and – hey – even Texas state legislators! Here in Chicago, one piece of this is the considerable dust-up as public school officials harass kids and parents who opt out of the present obsolete state test.

Teacher JoAnn Gage, writing for the ASCD Express, urges fellow educators to tell the stories of their classrooms to help the public understand issues like these. (Thanks, Jim Davis, for reminding us about this piece.)

And to help keep this process going, here’s education advocate Nancy Flanagan’s guidance in the Phi Delta Kappan for teachers on what to say to state legislators about better understanding of public education and issues like this one. (Thanks, Nancy and also Marilyn Hollman, who called this to our attention)

Administrators Speak Up Against Attacks on Public Schools

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We’re especially pleased to see so many administrators speak up against attacks on public schools. This includes — can you believe it? — over 230 Arizona school SUPERINTENDENTS through their organization. And the courageous New York high school principal, Carol Burris.

Hopefully, if administrators start speaking truth to power like this, more of the rest of us can begin to as well.

Pitiful Preparation for a Pointless State Test

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If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at this pitiful preparation for a pointless state test, in Chicago. And next here’s an explanation of the occasion for the video, since some people questioned whether it was taken out of context (I hope you can access this — it’s on Anthony Cody’s Education Week – Teacher blog).

So the teacher who outed this has spoken out, though she needed to remain anonymous in doing so.

How much do teachers need to be demeaned before we stand up against scenes like this? Perhaps someone would like to comment on this in a letter to the editor for a Chicago newspaper!

Rochester Teachers Are Getting Slammed

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Rochester teachers are getting slammed by new evaluations that fail to take account of widespread student poverty. 40% of the teachers across the city have been told they are below par and must prepare remediation plans. The Rochester Teachers Association has filed suit with the New York Supreme Court. In Syracuse, even high school gym teachers are finding their evaluations dinged when kids math scores are low. Read about this NOW! And read more on the Progressive magazine’s new website, Public School Shakedown (which we’re glad to see joining the fray).

So will you write to the Rochester newspapers and elsewhere to support these teachers? Or are you going to just wait and hope this doesn’t come to your school? Bystanders all too soon find that they too are in the cross-hairs.

 

Opposition to Excessive Testing Is Heating Up in Chicago

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Following up on New York, opposition to excessive testing is heating up in Chicago. Teachers at two Chicago schools, Saucedo and Drummond, supported by large numbers of parents, have unanimously voted to boycott the upcoming state tests, which are about to be replaced by the PARCC exams. Kids are over-tested as it is, these teachers are saying, so why take precious time and energy for tests that are already seen as outmoded? Read about it here.

Of course, we know that the Illinois tests never really reflected many of the most important ways that teachers help their students learn — and the new tests coming promise to be even more problematic. Nevertheless, not surprisingly, the city administration is threatening punishment.

Now it’s time to support these courageous teachers who are simply saying out loud what so many of their compatriots are already thinking. If a groundswell of teachers were to stand up with them, it would be impossible to simply fire them all. The more teachers involved, the less the risk.  So if you are a Chicago teacher, or know some, it’s time you added your voice as well.

New York Testing Struggle

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Here’s a quick report on the New York testing struggle: The NY Regents’ recommendations for delay in consequences for the new tests includes a number of important points. And even state legislators are getting in on the act. It’s really important for teachers everywhere to be aware of what’s happening, and to speak up in support of New York teachers. The new tests there were chaotic and brutal, as we’ve previously reported. And similar events are coming to YOUR state as well.

We’ll continue to follow this situation and encourage teachers to support their New York colleagues.

Two Outstanding High Schools Get News Coverage

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While it’s all too rare, it’s great to see when two outstanding high schools get news coverage. The Chicago Tribune, in it’s “Trib Local” online edition spotted, somehow, that the two Downers Grove high schools, in Chicago’s west suburbs, are doing great things to help kids strengthen their reading in all subject areas, with teachers across the schools participating in in-depth PD. I’ve visited Downers Grove South, and you can read about it in the soon to be published 2nd edition of Subjects Matter.

We need more of this kind of recognition!

When Real Kids Are Turned into Data Points

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Peter Smagorinsky explains with great clarity what happens for teachers and students when real kids are turned into data points. Cheers for reporter/blogger Maureen Downey and the Atlanta Journal Constitution for publishing Peter’s cogent reflections for the larger public to read.