Monthly Archives: April 2015

Turn the Spotlight on The Viper… Story Four… Guest Peggy Robertson… Aurora, CO

About a year ago, I came across Peg with a Pen. Her blog fascinated me… and exposed me… to so much information I hadn’t been aware of before. Have you ever had one of those moments when you were handed a nugget of knowledge, and with it, there could be no going back? Peggy Robertson’s words instantly traveled off the page and made their way into my heart. The truth has a way of doing that to a person. The realization I had been handed a set of lies was startling. As educators, we often embrace ideologies without question.

I began to question.

And I found Peg with a Pen.

I hope you will spend some time getting to know her too. She is one of those gifts, meant to grace our earth, and reveal truth to the innocent and unknowing. More of us need to spend time unraveling the tangled web, research with eyes wide open, and understand what is happening to our children, teachers, and schools… The maze is complex, yet the interconnection between all the major players slithers from dot to dot, and leads to the same dark cave every time. There are powerful people in high places making decisions with the purpose of making large profits off of our children.

How are they doing this?

Write a set of standards, don’t involve educators, offer large sums of money to educational organizations to gain support, write expensive tests designed to fail 70% of children, track every student from womb to work, and develop products to sell to schools to use to help children pass the test.

What if you found out it was the same people involved in each of these steps?

Would that give you pause?

I sure hope so.

So, if you haven’t had the honor, let me introduce you to Peggy Robertson, administrator and founder of United Opt-Out. She is an instructional coach in an elementary school, like myself, and resides in Colorado. Her perspective, from inside the walls of a poverty school, will enlighten anyone who is ready to lift their head out of the sand, and learn the truth.

Just within the past few days, I was honored by Peggy accepting my friend request on Facebook.  The first post I read, written by her, reached out to me and shook me from within.

Why?

Because the story she shared is nearly identical to my own.

Story Four

Peg’s Post,

“So this is what it looks like in elementary schools in Aurora, CO today. CMAS (Colorado’s state test) for fifth grade.   DRA2 testing for everyone and PALS testing plus DRA2 for our READ act kiddos (remember our children with the greatest need get tested the most). TS Gold and god knows what else for kindergarten. All due by May 8th.

I spend my days walking around with my computer testing kids with PALS and/or helping teachers figure out how the hell to keep the ENRICH goals/data up to date online.

Meanwhile teachers are all completing their teacher evaluations which are 31 pagers long I believe, and require filling in so many bubbles – I think I counted 270 – plus leaving comments and adding evidence (which I refuse to do because it’s BS). After you click on all these bubbles, etc. etc., you are supposed to go in and type comments about how you are meeting your goals – of which none of us have a clue what our goals are anymore by the time we’ve filled the damn thing out. All of this online, of course, a data mining extravaganza. Just a side note: did you know a military evaluation for employees is only 2 to 3 pages long?

Back to the reality in my school…

I am truly the data manager and data collector.

If anyone expects this to stop anytime soon, all parents must refuse all these corporate tests. I want to quit, but I can’t imagine leaving the children alone in there with no one on watch to expose it… and… we need more teachers to expose it.   Next year, we must have more teachers on board, educating and speaking the truth to these parents in urban areas.

The revolution is truly just beginning. It tipped this year, but now we’ve got to flood the airwaves, the neighborhoods, and drown out the messaging, the testing, and the arrogance of politicians and business folks who continue to spout untruths to save a test and punishing system which harms children, while keeping the light focused on the wrong folks. We must turn this light on the POLITICIANS who continue to attempt to keep a system in place, which denies reality of social policies, and MUST change if we ever hope to end child poverty and truly create equitable and democratic schools.”

Concluding Thoughts

She is right.

Does any of her short story resonate with you?

Anything she writes sound familiar?

Is your school saturated with tests?

Mine is.

WaKids for Kindergarten, DRA, ELA Curriculum Tests, Math Topic Tests, Math Mid Module Tests, Math End of Module Tests, Math Exit Tickets, ELA SBA Practice Tests, Math SBA Practice Tests, ELA Practice Performance Tasks, Math Practice Performance Tasks, Amplify Interim Assessments, Amplify Quick Checks, (next year add Amplify Benchmark Assessments), and the SBA Snake itself. For 5th graders add the MSP Science Test and the state Social Studies Test.

Next year, schools will have to implement State Superintendent Dorn’s technology standards in Washington State starting at kindergarten.   All tested of course. It seems all the school’s computers will be used for… is testing. I’m interested in how we are supposed to teach keyboarding and technology standards, let alone use the computers for quality instruction and research, when they are consistently unavailable because they’re ransacked by curricular, district, and state tests?

When does this end?

Listen to Peg.

It is time to drown the serpent and OPT OUT.

We need more parents and educators to speak up and speak out.

Our children need us to expose the Viper.

It’s time.

My blood is boiling… is yours?

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

References:

1.  Peg With a Pen

2.  United Opt Out

3.  Opt Out Washington

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A High School View of the Reptilian SBA… Story Three… Spokane, WA

Finally, the Spokesman Review prints a story about The SBA Test. It has already been established in my first two stories, story (one) and (two), how the venomous reptile has entered our schools. The harmful practices bleed into high schools.  This article fully discloses the stupidity of the constant testing of our children and steers the reader to the invalidity of the reasons being given to…

test

Test

TEst

TESt

TEST.

Jill Barville, correspondent,  wrote eloquently of her own reasons for opting her 11th grader out of The SBA. Her article appeared in the Spokesman Review on Friday, April 24, 2015.

In order to expose how this looks at the upper grades, I will highlight some of Jill’s statements capturing the essence of her article. If you are interested in the full article, click (here).

Story Three

SBAC 3A

“Normally, I’m a compliant complainer. I’ll follow the rules, however asinine, while rolling my eyes and making sarcastic jokes in the back of the room.

This month is different. I’m joining some rebels with a cause. Sort of. I’m opting my 11th-grader out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.

As a Running Start student at Eastern Washington University he’d miss four days of college classes in order to take a test that’s supposedly designed to “accurately measure student progress toward college and career readiness,” as stated in a letter from our school district.

We already know he’s ready for college-level work. He’s in college classes.

As an aside, I’d like to thank his teachers for preparing him so well, despite how many hours they had to skip teaching because they were stuck administering tests.

Our decision to opt out was a no-brainer. That’s the kind of decision that’s so obvious you could make it even if you’re a scarecrow without a brain.”

This is interesting when considering State Superintendent, Randy Dorn, just sent a blanket letter out to high school students and parents expressing how important these tests are and how much they are a predictor of college readiness.

Bunk.

Jill went on to write,

“We’d also opt him out if he were still taking high school classes, where instruction is canceled for four days for juniors taking the test. Haven’t they been tested enough?

I can hardly count the number of tests he’s taken over the years, like the reading proficiency tests in elementary school that made him think he was stupid when he just wasn’t developmentally ready to read. That took years to overcome. Then there was the controversial WASL, followed by the MSP, HSPE and end-of-year exams.

To top off all that testing, juniors with college aspirations are steeped in additional standardized tests thanks to the PSAT, SAT and ACT. He’s taken two out of three so far this year. So why do we need another new test in 11th grade?”

Ye$, Mr. $uperintendent Dorn, why do we need another new te$t?  Could it be to fill the pocket$ of the te$ting companie$?  Between the Robo-call made a few week$ ago, and now the blanket email from $uperintendent Dorn, I wonder what the next deceptive $trategy will be to encourage people to drink the cider-aid pre$$ed from the poisonous apples?

Jill did her digging.  Like me, if anyone spends just an itsy bitsy amount of time, the absurdity surfaces.

This is what Jill’s quarrying found,

“I turned to smarterbalanced.org for answers. Maybe I was missing something. I hoped to find a compelling reason that this test is an effective use of educational time and money.

According to the site, the SBAC is designed to “gauge which students leave high school with the English and mathematics knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level, transferable, credit-bearing work.”

In short, are students ready to take college classes that count toward graduation?

This sounds a lot like the SAT and ACT, which the College Board website states, “are designed to measure students’ skills and help colleges evaluate how ready students are for college-level work.”

But don’t start celebrating, students. The SBAC isn’t replacing the SAT or ACT. You’ll still want to take those tests unless you know your university of choice isn’t one of the thousands that require one of them.

The SBAC marketing material concedes it won’t replace the SAT but asserts it’s different, that the SAT is for admissions and the SBAC isn’t. Huh.”

As an educator, I find her following statements the most endearing.  She uncovers the cry of my heart, as I witness the sacrifice of time for authentic learning experiences being replaced with test prep and testing.

At Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, the computers are tied up for 64 days due to the testing.  There are 180 days in a school year. One third, 33% of the year, this school’s schedule revolves around the constant testing.

“While I agree some periodic standardized testing is necessary and important, I’m concerned with how much time my children have spent in school taking tests when they could have been doing science experiments, reading literature, discussing politics, making music or art, and learning new math skills.

Testing is only one part of the picture.

Our public schools are staffed with educators who have demonstrated their qualifications and expertise through college degrees, teacher certification, and ongoing clock hours and education. Most of them have also earned highly qualified status. Their expert assessment of student achievement and progress should not be minimized.”

Alfie Kohn 2

In my twenty-five years of being an educator, I have seen the continual erosion of how I am treated as a highly, qualified professional.   More and more canned curricular materials are being force fed to teachers, espousing their silver bullets (which they never are), with strict guidelines to follow the lock step programs. The problem with this philosophy is we are teaching children, not robots.  Innovative and creative teaching creates innovative and creative children.

I agree with Jill’s final thoughts,

“I’ve been a compliant complainer about testing for years. But the discussion this opened in our family makes me think I’ll soon be a full-fledged rebel, pushing back against excessive standardized testing because enough is enough.

My son said, “Mom, it’s not going to change until my generation has kids. We know what it’s like to take so many tests and we won’t want that for our kids.”

I don’t want it for mine, either.”

Jill Barville writes twice a month about families, life and everything else. She can be reached at jbarville@msn.com.

A Correspondent with a conscience. (emphasis mine)

Concluding Thoughts

This certainly isn’t what I want for my young son.

There is way too much testing starting way too young. The over testing is stealing hours and days of instructional time. More testing is not the answer. Quality and actively engaged instruction is the key.

My son is only eight and we are facing this toxic testing craze. We can’t wait for the next generation to fix it. Parents and educators need to stand up for our children now!

This testing IS harmful to children. Period.

What message are we sending them?

  • A test score is the end all be all?
  • A test score at 8 years old shows whether a child is on track for college?
  • A high score on a test means they have a bright future and a low score dooms them to failure?

Bunk.

Snakewash.

It is time to starve this scaly beast and OPT OUT.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

References:

1. If you are at all interested in following the money in this SBA slithering mess, you may find it interesting to look at how much money has flowed to Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and what interest Randy Dorn may have in saving face by allowing the poisonous snake into our state.

Dora Taylor (Seattle Education), exposes this in:

“State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s “interpretation” of the Common Core SBAC testing and opting out: Truthiness in education”

The Venomous SBA Strikes Again… Story Two… Pasco, WA

Let’s just get real.  Right from the get go.

Let’s call a snake a snake.

The SBA is a snake.

It coils itself around classrooms and injects its poison into the hearts, minds, and spirits of everyone it touches.

Story Two

This next story came to me from a parent of a 3rd grader living in Pasco, WA.  As you read this story consider the time element and impact this test has on classroom instruction time.

The Parents Letter

I have a 3rd grader that I have opted out/refused SBAC.  His class took the ELA part April 14th and 16th.  The math portion is scheduled for May 5 and 7. I kept my child home with the plan being, I would take him into school as soon as testing was over, around lunchtime. 

Tuesday, I called and spoke with the teacher at noon and she had two still testing, but they were being moved to another room to finish. She said I could go ahead and bring my child in for the remainder of their day. 

Thursday, I called her at 12:17.  She said no one was finished yet.  She also had no idea how much longer they were going to be.  She said she had a student in tears. She began to cry as she was telling me this. She is a 24 year veteran third grade teacher.  Together, we decided it would be best to keep my child home for the remainder of the day.  My son and I went in after school to take his wonderful teacher a gift to cheer her up.  I spoke with her and another teacher regarding their day.

Here is a bit more detail regarding Thursday, the second day of testing for these children. School begins at 9:00, she had a “lesson” to teach prior to them starting the test. This “lesson” gives the students the context for what they will be facing in the ELA Performance Task. By 9:30, the class was logging on and beginning their test.  They all were still working on the test at lunch time. The students have lunch at 11:55.  They were given a short lunch break.  They had been given bathroom breaks. The kids began again after lunch.  School is out at 3:40.  There were students still testing at 3:35.  Those students did not finish. 

These children are 8 and 9 years old. 

They did not go to recess because there is the chance that these children would discuss the test with other children who had already finished. (Because when you are 8 or 9, cheating on a test is the only thing on your mind.) 

The other teacher had two students finish the test in 35 minutes.  Another class had about 25 finish by lunch.  There are five 3rd grade classes at this school.  There are about 28-29 students in each class, so approximately 145 students are in 3rd grade. 

Out of the 5 classes, one teacher is retiring, one is not coming back after the birth of her second child, and a third is trying to decide if she will retire this year.  All due to the testing and teaching to the test.  They want to teach.  They don’t want to teach their kids how to test.

Currently, this week the children are MAP testing. This is ANOTHER test required of the children by the district and involves a day of testing ELA, and another to test Math, also on the computer. Add the Math portions of the SBA coming in May and this equals 3 weeks in a row of testing for 3rd grade.

I only know of one other child in 3rd grade that was opted out/refused in this school.  There will be more in the higher grades (4th & 5th) because word is getting out parents can opt their children out.

Teachers will talk in private, they hate the testing.  They hate what they “have” to teach.  I have a relative that teaches 3rd grade in the next city over and she said “Thank You!” when I told her I was not allowing my three kids to take the SBAC. I personally am very involved with my younger kid’s school and the district.  I have talked to so many people within this district, teachers, administrators, parents, PAE.  The staff are walking the fine line they have to. 

I don’t have to. 

I can and will speak up for all these kids. 

I have to! 

Our kids, our country, they depend on me and others like me to speak up.  Our children are NOT getting the education a country like the United States should provide.  We are not a leader in education.  We are not making these children ready for college or life by teaching them to the test.

Sincerely,

A Parent of a 3rd grader with a conscience (emphasis mine) 

Concluding Thoughts

Ask yourself if you really believe the above four components only take a 3rd grader 8 hours.

Dare the truth be exposed?  Some (many?) District Offices, Departments of Ed, and others are saying, “This testing only takes 8 hours.”

Another bold faced lie.

Deceptive.

These children often take two days on the ELA performance task, and there are still 3 other test days, some of these sucking up more than one day, depending on the class and the students.

Do the powers that be think they are getting valid and reliable results from these young minds? How many adults sit from 9 – 2:55 in front of a computer with only a 30 minute lunch break…  facing question after question requiring high levels of reasoning.

REALLY?

Educated adults are for this?

Educated adults in charge, casting their votes, want to continue to pour billions of dollars into testing?

For what?

This is horrific and wrong and awful and unethical and putrid and poisonous to the core.

It is time to starve this scaly monster and OPT OUT.

The venomous testing snake is here.

Unless, of course, we slay the reptile.

My blood is boiling… is yours?

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

The SBAC Seeps with Poison… Story One… Spokane, WA

It’s only the first few weeks of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and already stories of its poisonous venom are striking into our children’s lives. This is only the beginning. More of these stories will be cascading in, as the toxic testing continues.

Poison Apple 8The testing puts our children in developmentally inappropriate conditions as they are made to peck at their keyboards. The performance tasks require paragraphs. This test is discriminatory in more than a handful of ways, and it is definitely not a tool to measure how well our children are doing in school.

The stories of threats to those opting out are seeping into the walls of Washington State Schools, including to the children themselves, who are being told at school without their parent present… “if they don’t take the test they will have to repeat the grade, not be allowed to go to the next grade, or go to summer school.” This is rotten to the poisonous core.

Deceptive.

A bold face lie.

This story is the first in a series as I know there will be many, many more.  It comes right out of my home school district, Spokane Public Schools. I have opted to protect the names of the principal, teacher, and the school this occurred, to maintain their confidentiality. The saddest part is all the people involved are wonderful educators who I admire and respect. They too are victims in this toxic web.

The teacher sent this letter to the union president, Jenny Rose, of Spokane Education Association. This teacher made the request it be sent onto me, as well as the WEA President Kim Mead, and all legislators. I was asked to publish it on this blog.

The Letter:

Hi Jenny,

I recently sent you a copy of a letter that my principal wrote to the parents of my students regarding an SBAC testing screw up.  My third graders had to retake the SBAC ELA (non-performance) assessment because the state issued the wrong test to my students last month.

Once we discovered the mix up, my principal did his best to fight the state testing administrators to accept responsibility for the error they created.  But, we were told that my students had to retake the assessment.

So, we started the make-up process this past week.  Due to a tight building testing schedule, my students had to take the SBAC Performance Task Assessment AND re-take the SBAC ELA Assessment (non-performance).

Needless to say, this past school week was extremely stressful for my students. Monday through Wednesday was wall to wall testing. There was no teaching happening those three days.  By late Wednesday, my principal and I realized we needed to let students finish the ELA Nonperformance assessment (retake) in order to meet a state imposed deadline. So, Thursday morning, nearly half my class spent more time testing.  Again, no formal teaching due to kids on computers testing. Yesterday (Friday) was the first full day of the week I was able to teach any of my time bound curriculum.

Jenny, I am providing you this detailed narrative so that you can add this example to future SBAC talking points with our members, the media and our state legislature. I just finished reading a letter to the editor (Seattle Times) written by Kim Mead. In that letter she indicated that other third grade classrooms, one in Richland and the other in Mukilteo, experienced the same testing fiasco that I am currently trying to correct.

In conclusion, I am disgusted by what has happened to my 8 and 9 year old students.  As their teacher, I’m feeling defeated and helpless. Starting Monday morning, I have about 11 students who still need to wrap up the ELA Performance Task Assessment. And, another day will be spent testing and not learning.

Sincerely,

A 3rd grade Teacher with a conscience (emphasis mine)

Concluding Thoughts

This is a tragedy and a disgrace to our current educational system.

  • How can the results possibly be valid and reliable for these students?
  • How can the legislators even think about using this test to measure the value of a teacher?
  • Who can justify the money being spent on this test (billions) denying our public schools low class size and decent compensation for those serving our future?

It is time to starve this monster and OPT OUT.

The venomous testing monster is here.

Unless, of course, we slay the beast.

My blood is boiling… is yours?

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

Mirror Mirror on the Wall… Beware of Apples Dripping with Common Core Poison

Mirror mirror on the wall,

Who is the most deceptive of all?

Snow White

Poison Apple 9

A lovely child I see.

Rags cannot hide her innocent face.

Alas, she is more honest than thee.

Lips red full of questions filled with curiosity.

Hair speckled with creativity.

Skin colored with diversity.

The Evil Queen

Alas!  Who is this evil queen?

Who plots to feed our children apples laced with poison?

Is college and career ready truly the reason?

The Hunter

At first she summoned a kind hearted man,

Who disagreed with the queen’s devious plan.

The hunter loved Snow White, an admiring fan,

He spared her life, cut out a deer’s heart, into the forest she ran.

The Apple

One apple will no longer suffice,

it is masses the Empress must now entice.

Children see shiney and red,

innocently eating the venom they’re fed.

 

One juicy bite lulls parents and educators to sleep in their bed,

slumbering soundly convinced of standards state led,

and dreams of warm sand buries their head.

 

Still others willingly sip its arsenic cider instead,

guaranteeing the deception will certainly spread.

Motivated by greed and using their powers,

they push through the contagion from money laced towers.

The Seven ‘Giantly’ Dwarfs

Behold! The growing numbers kissed awake from the dead,

For Snow White, their life blood freely shed.

The grass roots movement shouting truth from roof tops,

Dispelling the lies with their fact saturated mops.

The Tangled Labyrinth

I consider my own journey through this labyrinth of common core. The ideology originally shared, my innocent heart passionate for kids, soaked in the information, returned to my school and began assisting others in its implementation. This being the fourth set of standards in 13 years, once again, I helped teachers transition from the last set of standards to these new common core standards. I was biting and chewing the bright red apple, attending professional development sessions, learning new curricular materials filled with silver bullets of rigor, and obeying the charge given to me, just as the hunter obeyed the queen… at first… that is…

As time passed, and I looked into the eyes of Snow White, an undercurrent of bitterness hit my tongue as I continued to chew. What? What is this vinegary taste?

I held up the apple, examining its core…

Behold! My eyes saw the rancorous folklore.

I threw the black apple with all putrid garbage, indeed!

Opened my computer and researched until my fingers did bleed.

A year and a half free from the contagion,

Exterminating the propaganda, now my one true mission.

Poison Apple 19

The Common Standards… Poisonous to the Core.

From the inception of the idea of the common core standards, to the gathering of the key writers, to the actual writing of the ELA and Math portions from 2009 – 2010, to forming a validation committee putting their stamp of approval upon them, to the implementation nationwide thereafter…

  • How would you go about pitching the ideology to the multitudes?
  • How would you saturate the states to adopt the belief these standards solve every woe education faces today?
  • How would you make the apple appear?

For Sale… Cider Pre$$ed Poison 

Poison Apple 6The key players behind common core had to concoct a plan. They knew sending the wicked witch herself wouldn’t work. “Here, my sweet, eat this delicious apple,” Cackle Cackle.

  • Who would you pay to sell the apples?
  • Who would you get to hand out the apples?
  • Who would you put out in front of the public testifying to its crisp, sweet juiciness? Someone who seemed trustworthy? Credible? Innocent?
  • How would you convince someone to take a bite?

As the money hungry players contrived their devious scheme, they discovered a problem as they plotted and planned…


Poison 17It’s not just Snow White they needed to deceive,

but an entire Kingdom who must be made to believe.

Handing out apples worked for awhile,

but too many discovered its bitterness vile.

Voices were raised, and heard through the press,

the truth surfaced, despite the attempt to depress.


“What now?” The queen declares! “One apple at a time is no longer enough. We must increase our efforts to hand the multitude some fluff.”

The fallacious key players all agreed,

a change in strategy was needed indeed.

The apples discovered, less were taking a bite,

Thence the idea of the cider press took flight.

Million$ and billion$ of apple$ were gathered, and placed in the cider machine.

Poison Apple 14No longer an apple to bite,

the juice now ready for anyone to delight.

They found a willing player and recorded his voice,

into the homes of everyone who had no choice.

A Robo-call went out costing someone a pretty penny.

Who would drink this juice? Would it be many?

“Hi- I’m Lyon Terry, the 2015 Washington State Teacher of the Year. I’d like to talk to you about the Common Core State Standards. All children deserve a high quality education to pursue whatever path they choose. That journey starts with high expectations and tools so teachers and parents know how their students are doing. As a teacher I know each student is unique but to succeed there is a basic set of skills that all students need. That’s what Common Core is all about, and Smarter Balanced tests help us measure how each student is doing on these basic skills. Learn more at ReadyWA.org.

Poison Apple 5The call was sponsored by ReadyWA.org., an organization supported by Washington Roundtable. Washington Roundtable’s motto is, “Building demand for education reform in Washington” and is linked to Partnership for Learning. Partnership for Learning is supported by contributors; Thomas Fordham Foundation, Achieve, Bill & Melinda Gates, and Center for American Progress, amongst others.

This newly announced Teacher of the Year (a member of Teachers United) may very well be an outstanding 4th grade educator worthy of this award. However, has he partaken and slurped from the Cider Press Poison?  Which is he… I wonder? The one lulled to sleep with misinformation, the hunter who obeys and hides his true heart, or a joiner of the money mob willingly sipping and spreading the deception?

Whatever the case, he let his voice be used… the words toxic vapors reaching into our homes.  The motive is known, it came from the queen, to encourage the populace to drink the spiked cider-aid.  How many more will the apple drippings affect, and who will rise up and fight this mess?

The SBAC does not measure our children’s basic skills.

The common core standards are flawed with countless ills.

Do not allow yourself to be confused,

These two things are the cause of children being abused.

In the future, if you hear more of the same,

it isn’t too hard to dig and discover who is to blame.

Poison Apple 4

There are many organizations receiving benefit$ from the apple cider pre$$. 

Be leery! Beware!

Poison 15

Other recipients of funds from the Gates Foundation:

  • www.CRPE.org  (Center on Reinvention of Public Education)   A group currently focused on Washington State, with the goal of turning school systems into “Strategic Portfolio Districts” like Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York.   Spokane and Seattle School Districts are both working alongside CRPE with aims towards their mission.
  • www.Edreports.org  A curricula materials research organization who interestingly found Eureka Math the “only” math program meeting all the criteria necessary to align with common core.  Even more interesting, Eureka Math, once EngageNY Math, has history of funding from the Gates Foundation.Poison 16
  • Stand For Children
  • Teachers United
  • National PTA
  • Teachers Plus
  • Business Alliance for Education
  • National Governors Association
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • Educational Trust
  • National Congress of Parents and Teachers
  • National Education Association
  • Thomas B. Fordham Institute

The list goes on and on… weaving into the dark, dangerous woods… See References.

The Song of the ‘Giantly’ Dwarfs

Poison Apple Dwarf

 We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in a mine the whole day through

To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we like to do

 Hi ho, Hi ho

It’s off to work we go

Hi ho, Hi ho, Hi ho!

Those of us who have taken the time to dig, looking underneath the shiny, red skin, have found the illusion of an ideology masterminded by a handful of self-serving philanthropists. We are the dwarfs who adore, love, and protect Snow White.

We work all day for very little pay,

but at night, we collaborate and write,

The wings of truth take flight.

Behold! The Dwarfs, who really aren’t small.

They are the kingdom’s GIANTS standing strong… standing tall.

The true ROYALTY accepting the call,

Delivering truth’s kiss to us all.

It is diamonds and gold that emerge from the mine,

singing a genuine line…

“Don’t sip the cider, or take a bite,

the common core standards all of us fight.

Hear what we say, we are as credible as he,

teachers and parents, full of integrity.”

Royal Dwarf One

Nancie Atwell, won the inaugural Global Teacher Prize, which intends to be the ‘Nobel Prize for teachers’, and comes with a prize of one million dollars which she donated to her school. On “New Day” she was asked what she would tell kids who wanted to be teachers when they grew up. She responded:

“Um, honestly, right now I encourage them to look in the private sector, because public-school teachers are so constrained right now by the Common Core standards, and the tests that are developed to monitor what teachers are doing with them. It’s a movement that’s turned teachers into technicians, not reflective practitioners. And if you are a creative, smart young person, I don’t think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you.”

Royal Dwarf Two

The second teacher, Stacie Starr, winner of the National Top Teacher Award in 2014, had this to say:

“I can’t do it anymore, not in this ‘drill ‘em and kill ‘em’ atmosphere. I don’t think anyone understands that in this environment if your child cannot quickly grasp material, study like a robot and pass all of these tests, they will not survive. Each and every day, I have to look in my students’ eyes and tell them I can’t help them because the state has decided they have to prove what they know…It’s just hard because, as teachers, we are playing a game where the rules keep changing.”

Starr resigned her teaching job as a direct result of the standards.

 Royal Dwarf Three

Cynthia Jones, an inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame told The Federalist:

“They’re saying to teachers, ‘This is going to help you,’ no it’s not. They say it’s going to be richer than your paper-and pencil-tests because it’s going to teach higher-level thinking skills. If you’re going to teach higher-level critical thinking, you teach higher-level critical thinking. The only thing I can find in their materials is because they’re going to ask children to write, it’s teaching critical thinking skills. No, it’s not. It’s asking children to write a line or explanatory paragraph. None of their major rationales hold water on just a cursory look. It’s bogus.”

Jones quit her teaching job after the principal of her school told her to shut down the class’ garden in order to spend more time teaching to the Common Core tests.

Royal Dwarf Four

Another nationally recognized teacher, Chasidy White, wrote an op-ed on her concerns with Common Core. She writes:

“One of my favorite writings about education from Dr. King is a paper entitled ‘The Purpose of Education.’ In it, he wrote ‘To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

When I sit in faculty meetings about Common Core, I hear ‘curriculum specialists’ tell me that Common Core is here to stay and I must ‘embrace change.’ I am forced to drink the kool-aid. These specialists don’t tell us to search for facts about Common Core on our own, they simply tell us what the people paid to promote Common Core want us to know. Didn’t Dr. King want us to separate facts from fiction? Why are we only given information from sources paid to say Common Core is a good thing? Isn’t that the exact same type of propaganda Dr. King discussed in his writings about education? Shouldn’t we discuss why thousands of Americans are calling for a repeal of the standards?”

Royal Dwarf Five

Jamie Highfill, initially supported the standards, and even served on a committee to assist in their adoption. However, Highfill is now a vocal opponent of Common Core after seeing what it would do to her classroom. Highfill’s students were already the top performing students on the tests in her entire district, but in spite of this, she was still required to make changes to her lessons. She was asked to cut six weeks of poetry and fiction in favor of nonfiction texts. As she puts it:

“I can read the word ‘Camelot’ when we’re talking about the Kennedy administration, but if I don’t understand King Arthur, how can they understand the significance of that?”

Royal Dwarfs Six – Twelve

Seven Teacher of the Year Recipients from New York wrote a joint letter to their Governor (here). They wrote:

“We have also endured a difficult rollout of the Common Core Standards. A reasonable implementation would have started the new standards in kindergarten and advanced those standards one grade at a time. Instead, the new standards were rushed into all grades at once, without any time to see if they were developmentally appropriate or useful.

Then our students were given new tests—of questionable validity—before they had a chance to develop the skills necessary to be successful. These flawed tests reinforced the false narrative that all public schools—and therefore all teachers—are in drastic need of reform. In our many years of teaching, we’ve never found that denigrating others is a useful strategy for improvement.”

Royal Dwarfs Thirteen – Twenty Two

On April 2, 2015 a panel of experts was put together to speak truth in a Senate Hearing. Part One (here), featuring all ten panelists, captured critical nuggets of gold dismantling common core and the high stakes testing. This Hearing demolished the robo-call and countered the claim of the standards being “basic”.

Put the apple aside, and don’t sip the cider…

listen to these giants who dispel the evil spider.

The speakers included:

  • Senator Chase
  • Senator Roach
  • Dr. Diane Ravitch (Previous U.S. Assistant Secretary Department of Education, Education Historian, Author)
  • Raschelle Holland (Parent, recipient of national teaching awards, Instructional Coach)
  • Karen Larrssen (Parent Extraordinaire, Co-Administrator Washington Against Common Core Standards)
  • Dr. Wayne Au (University of Washington Professor, Historical Testing Specialist)
  • James Wilson (Co-Founder Truth in American Education)
  • Sharon Hanek (Education Watchdog, Researcher, National Presenter)
  • Sue Peters (Director of Seattle School Board)
  • David Spring (Author, parent, and teacher)

There are many other Royal and ‘Giantly’ Dwarfs throughout the land.  Mercedes Schneider, Anthony Cody, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, and Dr. James Milgram, to name just a few.  There are masses arising to join in this fight.

Who, my dear reader, who might you be?

 Walk to a mirror and look within.

Ask yourself, “Who have I been?”

The queen? The giver of poison and taker of profit$?

A servant of the queen? Doing her bidding and spreading the contagion?

The Hunter? Sparing Snow White her life, yet sending her into the dangerous forest alone? Closing your door, doing the best you can? Hiding your head? You’ve been spared the wrath of the queen, but Snow White is still in the forest unprotected and unsafe.

A Royal Dwarf, giant at heart? Digging and Working to save the princess? Protector of children, the future of the Kingdom?

What of the Prince?

Who could he be?

Could it be you or could it be me?

The one that holds the ultimate key?

It’s truth’s kiss that brings Snow White from her death,

Will you help her return to life’s breath?

 Poison Apple 22

The prince is simply… the deliverer of truth.

It does not take a super sleuth.

The caress of the lips depart honesty.

With this knowledge, it is this I plea…

 

Bright, shiny apples are not always what they seem to be,

Examine them closely, avoid the toxins and be set free.

Join the ‘giantly’ dwarfs in this fight for liberty,

a warrior leaving behind all complacency. 

Become a member of the royalty…

The Dwarfs have the heart of the Prince,

it is only the truth their mouths evince.

Be a part of this child crusade,

Offer your voice so their freedoms don’t fade.

 

Mirror mirror on the wall,

Who is the most deceptive of all?

Poison Apple 2

Passionately Written,

RAZ ON FIRE


References (Click on the title(s) below if interested in digging deeper):

  1. Have you received a robo-call from Ready Washington about the Wonders of Common Core and the SBAC?
  2. Teachers of the Year or Just TOYS for Billionaires
  3. The Assessment Itself is Completely Artificial, Noam Chomsky
  4. 6.1 Billionaire Fake Grassroots (Gates Money)
  5. Where Bill Gates Money is Going in Education World This Year
  6. Bill Gates bankrolls College and Career Ready programs, aka the Common Core Standards
  7. Stunning revelation Bill Gates has spent $2.3 Billion on Common Core – #PARCC
  8. Meet 5 Award-Winning Teachers Who Reject Common Core, By Joy Pullman (Royal Dwarfs #1-5)
  9. You Have Made Us the Enemy.  This is Personal. – 7 New York Teachers of the Year Blast Cuomo
  10. Senate Hearing (Part One) April 2, 2015. Olympia, WA
  11. Raz and Son, Our Testimony at the Senate Hearing, April 2, 2015
  12. Senate Hearing (Part Two) April 2, 2015. Olympia, WA

Senate Hearing… Our Testimony on Common Core… By Raz and Son

Senate Hearing

Olympia, Washington

April 2, 2015

1)  Part One of Senate Hearing

2)  Part Two of Senate Hearing

Raz and Son (Part One): Minute 21:57 – 30:49

Good Afternoon Ladies, Gentlemen and Senators. I am Raschelle Holland, currently an Instructional Mathematics Coach from Spokane, Washington and this is my 8 year old son.

Son: “Good Late Afternoon, Ladies, Gentlemen and Senators.”

I would like to thank those of you who are sitting here today, to give us, parents and educators, a voice, to tell our stories regarding Common Core and the impact it is having as it ripples through the walls of our schools and homes and into the lives of our children.

Son: “A Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”   Abraham Lincoln

I am one of those people living in the trenches everyday alongside incredible educators working in a 90% poverty school. I am a National Congressional Teacher Scholar and National Board Certified since 2001, one of the first 100 in the state, and have facilitated several through the process since. I have been awarded the National Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, the United States Senate Innovative Teacher Award, and the National Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Award. I’ve attended University of Washington, Whitworth University, and achieved a Master’s Degree from Gonzaga University. (Go Zags!) I am endorsed in Mathematics, Special Education, Psychology, and Elementary Education.

And… most importantly, I have spent 25 years working in Title One, low income schools.

I have a heart for these children. They are smart and courageous and face situations unfathomable. I could spend more than my allotted time telling you the stories from the trenches, of children with no running water, children living in homeless shelters, children from refugee camps in Africa who don’t speak one word of English, children who check their back packs several times throughout the day after receiving meals for the weekend on Friday mornings.

I am here, this late afternoon, vouching and standing for every single teacher who give their heart and soul to these children every single day.

The SBA takes way longer than 8 hours. It does. Children begin the test at 9:05 and many are still working at 2:55 for the ELA Performance Task. The same is true for the Math Performance Task. Young children whose hands barely span the key board, typing their answers.   Then there is another day for the ELA multiple choice and short answer test, then another day for the Math multiple choice and short answer test. Add to the plate, computerized interim tests developed by Amplify, to practice for the SBAC, to see if they are on track for the SBAC, and often, 4-5 months of the computers are tied up in a school year, doing testing.

Carol Burris,  New York Principal of the Year in 2013 said,

“I do not believe that any of the players in this project are evil people trying to control the minds of kids.  Rather they are true believers with an ideological allegiance to untested curriculum. The Common Core has some features that are good and others that are awful.”

For me, the awful part is the one size fits all approach demanding all children meet the same learning goals and targets at the same exact time.  Our children are not robots or machines spewing forth correct information on the spot lickety split.

What do we hold most dear in our children?

What is it we hope for them as they grow into their potentials?

Will standardization be the answer?

Rigor? The new favorite word traveling around the education world.

RIGORRRRRRRRRRR!

I, for one, am tired of hearing that any of us who question the standards in any way do not believe in high standards for our students. This is a huge untruth. We believe in high standards for each individual student from their individual starting point.

Is more Rigor the answer?

Higher, Longer, Deeper, Harder, Broader, More, and then younger and younger?

Is this the answer? Is this how learning works?

Let’s take a moment to examine this. One summer day, when my son was two, we attended a neighborhood pool party. A mom was going on and on and on about how her two year old son knew all of his alphabet letters, could say each one in order, and now he was mastering the letter sounds. I inquired as to how this had occurred? She shared how every day when her son took his bath, how she had him place the bath letters across the tile in order and then point to each letter and say their names. I looked at my son giggling in the sun, and I was pretty sure he didn’t know one letter yet, nor did I care, at that time. I just wanted him to play.

Hmmmmm… how is my son doing today at 8?   I just had his parent teacher conference and he is reading nearly two grade levels above 2nd grade. The other little boy moved away. I’m curious. I wonder what his reading level is today? Did knowing his letters at two become a predictor as to what kind of reader he would become? Better than his peers?

Have you ever looked up the definition of Rigor?

Son:

 “Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie,

Took some tests that made him cry,

When the computers came on in May,

Georgie Porgie ran away.”

Welcome to Georgie Porgie’s “rigorous” world.

I went to my friend, Merriam Webster, and the word is defined as:

  • rigor: the difficult and unpleasant conditions or experiences that are associated with something
  • rigor: the quality or state of being very exact, careful, or strict

Full Definition of RIGOR

  1. a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment :  severity (2) :  the quality of being unyielding or inflexible :  strictness (3) :  severity of life :  austerity  b :  an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
  2. a tremor caused by a chill
  3. a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially :extremity of cold
  4. strict precision : exactness <logical rigor>
  5. a : obsolete : rigidity, stiffness c :  rigor mortis
  6. b : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli

Are we raising the rung so high our children can walk right under it?

What are we doing to our children in the name of rigor?

Are we letting go of those things that are not measurable?

Creativity.  Curiosity.  Innovative.  Imagination. 

Let’s examine a few of these standards.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.3 Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

This is 2nd grade.  Draw a connection between a series of historical events.

Let’s look at a kindergarten math standard.

K.OA.3  Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g. by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or an equation.

I really don’t think there is any necessity for a five-year-old to use college level vocabulary to explain complex math terms when many still need to develop one-to-one correspondence. Of course, someone who supports common core would say that all they are doing is raising the bar. However, this is a bar that is twenty feet up and for most five year olds, impossible to master.

Here are the voices of teachers from Spokane:

“I don’t understand why any of these things are needing to be addressed. We know so much about stages of development…why are the ‘decision makers’ choosing to ignore what we know to be true and push forward with high stress, developmentally inappropriate standards…?  Completely baffling and a waste of everyone’s time. (Especially the children’s!!) You can buy an infant a two wheel bike and even set them on it every single day…they still will not ride it until they’ve learned everything that they need to learn first…until THEY are ready!! Seems so simple!!”

“They keep changing/raising the standard, but kids are essentially the same as they have always been. They are humans, not robots that can be reprogrammed at the whim of a given standard. It’s great, even important, to set and reach for high standards as long as we recognize that children develop at different rates because each one is a unique and precious creation that was never meant to fit into an idealistic matrix of rigid, time bound demands.”

Did these “Standard Setters” have a deep understanding of how our youngest learn? All considered, is anyone else pondering and reflecting upon the developmental appropriateness in our youngest children? The frontal cortex of the brain that is able to reason is not solidified until approximately 12 years old. Yes, classrooms in younger grades need exposure to higher order questioning, experiences, and thinking skills. However, this gives children the opportunity to grow their brains and ability to learn how to reason logically. To set standards of mastery, and to espouse that all children learn skills and concepts at the same exact time seem incredulous to me.

Do all babies walk by 6 months old?

Do all children say their first word in the same exact month?

Do all children learn to read at a DRA level of 4 by five years old?

To demand that all children learn skills and concepts at the same exact time and then to “test, test, test” in the early grades, and demand reasoning in performance in order to meet these standards, seems a far stretch and may very well be setting our children up for failure. This failure will not breed the love of learning or prepare them for their future paths.

How many years have we had in NCLB? Fourteen years? Isn’t this enough time to paint a pretty clear picture this standardized, one size fits all, standardized world…and the high stakes testing madness…

Does.   Not.    Work.

So… what’s our new solution?

Create yet another set of standards. More “rigorous” standards.

Spend billions more.

Allow testing companies to make huge profits (billions) off of our children, yet there seems to be no money to reduce class size or compensate the very people working in the trenches every single day with the future in their hands.

The individual state’s set of standards supposedly failed, so these National “Common” Standards are supposedly filled with magic bullets of “rigor”.  Rigor, the supposed cure all to every educational woe.

I respectfully disagree.

My son deserves more. 

My students deserve more. 

Our children deserve more. 

Children are meant to fly.

Diffferent Butterflies!

My Letter to Senator Baumgartner February 18th, 2015… Please listen to SB6030

Good Morning Senator Baumgartner,

I am an accomplished, veteran educator of 25 years.   I am also a mommy of an 8 year old.  I have been rewarded with several national teaching awards including the United States Senate Innovative Teacher Award.   My full bio can be found (here).

I have taken it upon myself to research this past year regarding the Common Core State Standards and the SBAC test because things just weren’t sitting right in my gut.  I uncovered a wealth of information that raises red flags and I have become very, very concerned.  My concerns have heightened as I see what is happening in the walls of our public schools.  Webpages look wonderful as school districts highlight the wonderful things going on, but underneath the surface there is more to the story.

I am concerned regarding the lack of transparency to the public regarding the standards.   Randy Dorn agreed to adopt them on July 20, 2011.   Most of us educators didn’t hear a word until the year of 2012, ranging from the spring through the fall.  Why is this?  Why was there not a comprehensive review of these standards?

Why no elementary teachers on the writing committee?  Why no early childhood specialists?  500 Early Childhood specialists wrote a joint statement expressing their concerns with the K-3 standards.   I have heard many of them speak, and my awareness level has continued to increase.

Why the rush with these standards?  If they are so wonderful and so amazing, why no transparency?  Why the secrecy sworn by the validation committee?  Dr. Stotsky, the only ELA specialist serving on the validation committee did not endorse the standards and refused to sign.  This is true of the only Math specialists.  He wouldn’t sign either.

This is concerning.

Dr. Stotsky is speaking throughout the country to raise awareness.  She speaks eloquently as to why the standards are flawed.  They truly are Senator Baumgartner.  I have links and information showing how the SBAC test was written in a hurried manner and is being found to be invalid and unreliable.

I feel so strongly about this I have started a National Blog.  “My All Babies Walking By Six Months Old… A Satire on the Common Core Charade” has been read by 30,000 people across the United States and in about 86 countries, the last time my son looked at my stats.  Please read: (here).

I also have been so moved by the idea of teacher evaluations being linked to the SBAC.    I am so tired of people claiming it is because us teachers don’t want to be accountable…  I am accountable to my students every single day.   There are so many layers to tying test scores to teachers performance….  there are simply way to many variables.  I feel so strongly about this I wrote another article called:  A Tale of Two Teachers…. Linking Teacher Evaluations to a Test… Lunacy.

I am passionate about teaching and working with teachers… I have been an instructional coach for many years and served as a District Math Coordinator in my previous school district.   In October, I just switched schools and went to the poorest school in Spokane, WA…  90 poverty and given an F rating by Washington State….  We have 15 new staff members willing to teach these wonderful children.   Many come to us 2-3 years delayed.

I believe the SBAC test will be discriminatory and will not give accurate information about what our children know.   Doing a test on a computer, expecting children to type their reasoning of how they solved math problems and type algebra equations at 8, 9, 10, 11 is so unreasonable.  It will not get at the heart of what they know.  Their hands are developing fine motor skills, some more advanced, some less.   Will the better typers score better?

In my school only 2-4 kids in a class have access to the internet at home.   My son goes to a affluent school on the south hill.  He gets fed a hot breakfast every morning… goes to school with a packed healthy cold lunch… he is secure… so are all of his classmates.  My son spends time on his iPad and computer at home.  We research nightly…

The achievement gap widens.

How will my 8 year old perform compared to children that have none of what he has?

How can we compare?

My heart is so sickened by what I am seeing in the walls of the schools.  They truly are becoming test prep factories…  My district ordered the Amplify Testing…. It has 3 Interim Assessments and then there are checkpoints between the Interims.  Our children are funneled constantly into computer labs to test, to prepare for the test, to analyze data to see if they are on target to pass the SBAC.   I am the Amplify Testing Coordinator in my building.  Not one 3rd – 6th grade student passed.  All were red and a level one.

Why are we funneling children to troughs of failure?

How can we continue this ethically?

It is well known the SBAC is set at 70% to fail.  Why would we send our children to that kind of day?  Why bother?

I challenge all of us to look to countries like Finland…  their educational system is a haven.  I have been reading so much about this, as well as all the research around PLAY and movement for our youngest children.

Senator Baumgartner, I am so convicted about this, I have opted my own son out of all this testing…  I care about the classroom based evidence his teacher provides at this young age.  He is developing… growing… give our children a chance to mature.  The pre-frontal cortex of the human brain doesn’t solidify what we are asking of our children until 11/12ish years old.

I still teach higher order thinking skills.  I still challenge my students and have high expectations… I do this to help them develop their capacity to reason and think and learn.  However, to expect mastery of these things is near child abuse.  I have seen the tears in the testing labs.  It is profound.

This isn’t about accountability anymore… this is about going down a path that is harmful to children and their natural curiosity and love of learning….  until they hit this madness.

Thank you for your time.  I would love to speak with you personally if you would honor me with your time.

Please give SB 6030 a listen.  It isn’t perfect, but those putting it together, often are people like me that have full time jobs and don’t have the luxury of time like many lobbyists who are paid by special interests.

Passionately Written,

Raz

Mommy and Educator