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.

New York Delays Common Core Testing

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Thanks to outspoken parents, teachers, school leaders, and community members, the NY Board of Regents just announced that it has delayed implementation of new tests. The announcement naturally claims foresight, asserting that ‘We knew we’d need to do things like this, all along.’ Of course, there’s far more to do to get education accountability onto a more productive track in New York, but this is a good first step.

Teacher voice can make a difference.

As Challenges Increase Teachers ARE Speaking Up

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Many of us grow discouraged when we see that our voices, even when we use them, go unheard and are left all too isolated. But maybe the pain has to really get intense to motivate more of us to begin to step up. In any case, as challenges increase teachers ARE speaking up — and it’s having an effect.

So here in Illinois, I’ll be interested to see how teachers respond when the new PARCC tests come online. Meanwhile, the rest of us should be writing and Tweeting to support these courageous educators.

Passionate Parent Speaks Up Against Common Core Testing

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She may now be a darling of Fox News, but at least this passionate parent speaks up against Common Core testing. Watch her on Youtube (sorry if an ad comes on first – you can skip past it). We’re going to need lots of people speaking out like this if we are to stop the endless march of testing that is inevitably going to hurt kids in poor neighborhoods the most. A blizzard of state-wide piloting of new tests will be coming to Illinois in the spring. Perhaps that will wake people up, here.

If Only the Public Knew How Things Really Work in Schools

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If only the public knew how things really work in schools . . .

They would be so much more supportive of us! But we’re the only ones who can explain it to them. Here are two examples, one rather discouraging, the other more hopeful.

So in California, teachers are beginning to learn how “close reading” will be tested by the Smarter Balanced assessments. Anthony Cody shares a guest post by a teacher describing her growing dismay as a presenter stresses that students will be expected to analyze texts like the Gettysburg address without having any background knowledge about it. As an exercise, the participants are to analyze the “Little Miss Muffet” nursery rhyme, after which they’re told it was actually about Mary Queen of Scots — which would of course alter the entire meaning of the text. This is what we’re spending billions of taxpayer dollars on. And by the way, even David Coleman conceded that background knowledge was a good thing. But after his first condemnation of it, the test makers apparently never heard the retraction.  Anyone want to comment?

Next up: Peter Smagorinsky responds, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution to the many online commenters who propose dealing with school budget cuts by eliminating everything but STEM subjects. Peter describes the power and success of an outstanding theater program and its teacher, Michelle Thorne, in Conyers, GA, and how essential it is to the students, the school culture and the whole community. One wondering, though: he sympathizes that budgets have to be cut, since funds are short. But I have to ask: in this recovering economy, why are education funds short, when the stock market is zooming? Anyone want to comment?

But if you comment, don’t just say it to Teachers Speak Up. Tell it to your community