Monthly Archives: December 2015

What A Difference A School Board Can Make… A Call to Action… Part Two

Good Evening To All The Board of Directors.

I am honored our district gives community members a chance to contribute to the conversation.  My dual role as parent and educator drives me to encourage everyone to dig deeply into the reforms and ask the hard questions.

School Boards can make a huge difference.  You are the first line of protection in regards to our children.  What you approve or disapprove impacts each school and child vastly.

Action #1: Amplify Testing

Diving 1Two weeks ago, I shared the 3rd Grade Math Benchmark Assessment given to 8 year olds.   I hope you had the time to review the last item and its’ scoring guide, as well as the student responses, while keeping in mind the students were required to show their thinking using Microsoft Word.

I posed the problem:  5 X (16 + 8 ÷ 4) – 5 X 2

The answer is 80 and was the first question on the 5th Grade Math Benchmark Test.  I watched as children stared at their screens.  Minutes went by.  Already defeated, they went on to attempt other items.  I pondered what we were told regarding Amplify being contracted to write custom assessments for our school district based on our pacing guide and content taught from EngageNY Mathematics.  I reviewed the first two modules at 5th grade and the above item had not been taught to this extent, nor was it the focus of the first two units.

  • How can we pay an outside source from our limited funds to write “custom assessments” and the items come back not aligned?  After all, we do have a “shortfall”… correct?
  • How can we ask teachers to replace their module assessments from EngageNY and use the Amplify Test for grades?
  • How can we afford to lose precious instruction time to deliver this test, and for what purpose?
  • Is it discriminating? Is it valid? Is it reliable? Is it the best measurement of student growth?

Exhibit A  Arabic Multiple Choice / Constructed Response Sample Test

I’ve included 3 Multiple Choice Test Items in Arabic and one constructed response.  I would like you to pretend you are a student, a non-Arabic speaker, and being asked to take this short “test”. (3 Multiple Choice Questions, one constructed Response) What you are looking at is simpler than what the non-english students in my school experienced.

How So?

  • Not one word would be in English.
  • The Multiple Choice letters would be Arabic.
  • If an able body is available they would be able to read each item to you out loud in Arabic.
  • 11 peers in your classroom speak 4 other languages and can have it read in Arabic too.
  • There is one teacher in the classroom.
  • This is the only accommodation.
  • No translations are allowed.
  • You observe 3 special education students at a table with the teacher, because she can read it out loud to them too. (All reading 2-3 grade levels below 5th grade)
  • The other 7 Arabic speaking students raise their hands to ask questions periodically, in which the 5th grade teacher must leave her table to answer.
  • The Special Education teacher is not available because she has 32 other qualified students she is expected to deliver individualized instruction to in other classrooms.
  • The Arabic Language Teachers are also unavailable because they are in other classrooms delivering instruction to the over 100 students qualified as ALL. (Arabic Language Learners)
  • You must type your answers into a machine you have had very little experience with because you had never seen one before or your family can not afford one.
  • All the Keys on this foreign machine (keyboard) are in Arabic.

How well would you perform?  How would this make you feel about school and learning?

Can you clearly see the issue and concerns teachers are having with this kind of testing zapping instructional hours which eventually turn into days of instruction?

Exhibit B       5th Grade ELA Interim Amplify Assessment

Now flip through the 31 Item, 23 page, 5th Grade ELA Interim 1 Amplify Assessment.

Imagine every single word, every single item, being written in Arabic.  You face the computer screen and listen to your teacher say, “Just do your best”,  or “all I can do for you is read it out loud in Arabic”, or “???????????????!” .

Exhibit C       Item #31  Constructed Response.

Consider completing 30 items and then facing this Item.  The students are expected to write a full story with eight criteria to include.   During the WASL years, fourth graders were given a full day to complete a prompt like this.  Even then, it was inappropriate and does not mirror the authentic writing process.  Examine the scoring guide and then review the six anonymous student responses.

Action #1 Request

Please consider equitable ways in which we can assess our most struggling learners.  I hope we can begin looking at ways to promote Assessment for Learning over Assessment of Learning.

Children’s brains are not standardized.  Just like walking and talking, they learn at different rates and at different times.  They have different passions and talents.  They need learning experiences and expeditions.  This, indeed, will close the “opportunity” gap.

Action Item Request #2  EngageNY  (Eureka) Mathematics

I received the following quote from a veteran, dynamic, engaging 1st grade teacher in New York.  After reading and considering her words, I urge the board to allow a committee to be formed ASAP to begin the process of finding a researched based math program with sound pedagogy embedding how young children learn mathematics.  Please do not wait until next year.

new-york-teacher-statement

 

Thank You and May This Season Bring You Never Ending Peace.

Diving 2

 Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

 References:

  • Wayne Au, University of Washington Professor, Author: Rethinking Multicultural Education
  • Jesse Hagopian, Garfield High School, Author: More Than A Score
  • Carol Burris, New York Principal of the Year, now Executive Director of NPE
  • Anthony Cody, National Board Certified Teacher, Author: Living in Dialogue & The Educator And The Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges The Gates Foundation
  • Leonie Haimson, Co-Chair, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Founder and Executive Director of Class Size Matter
  • Following The Common Core Money: Where are Millions of Dollars Going?  (Valerie Strauss highlights Carol Burris.  The history of EngageNY Math revealed)

 

 

 

 

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What A Difference A School Board Can Make… A Call to Action

Good Evening To All The Board of Directors.

Paul and Jerrall, I warmly welcome you to your new role. I was one of the crazy ladies driving my car around town with both of your campaign signs attached.

Deana, thank you for meeting with me and the time you have given to the community. Thank you for expressing your concerns with the over-testing of our children.

For those who have not met me yet, my name is Raschelle Holland. I’ve been an educator for 26 years and have been honored with the National Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, the National Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Award, the United States Senate Innovative Teacher Award, and was one of the first in this state to become Nationally Board Certified. I stand here this evening, not just as an educator, but as a parent of an 8 year old, and active tax payer within the boundaries of Spokane School District.

I moved back to Spokane 8.5 years ago after having my son and desiring to live closer to my mother. I am a graduate of Shadle Park High School, Whitworth University, and completed a 3 year graduate degree at Gonzaga University in Teaching Mathematics.  I’m a Spokane “girl” through and through.

In my previous school districts, I had strong, trusting relationships with each of the school board members and the Superintendents.

In the past two years my passionate concerns regarding what I see occurring nationally with the current reform efforts, trickling into our states, seeping into school districts, and the walls of our schools have prompted me to crusade for our children and fight for what is right and true. Many of the reforms are harmful to children and … Need. To. Stop.

Too many have been afraid to speak up or to share their voice in regards to some of the results and consequences of the reform efforts. NCLB has failed. I also have grave concerns with the ESEA Reauthorization… a 1012 page document being voted upon today by our Congress. Who has time to read it? What is hidden within the document? Some say it is better. What I wonder is if it is like President Coin in the Hunger Games? She battled against the Evil Capitol, yet in the end she was just as evil and just as bad. Will the ESEA rewrite just be another Hunger Games using children for profit? We all must Be Aware, Be Leery, and Be Wise in the current times.

After all, we are talking about C H I L D R E N.

School Boards can make a huge difference. You are the first line of protection in regards to our children. What you approve or disapprove impacts each school and child vastly.

First Steps… A Call to Action

Action #1: Amplify Testing Diving 1

Please solve:

5 X (16 + 8 ÷ 4) – 5 X 2

Answer: ________

What grade level do you think children encountered this problem on the Amplify Test our school district has purchased?

The SBAC paid Amplify $12,000,000 to write practice tests. Rupert Murdoch of Fox News Corp owns Amplify. He has recently sold the company because it is losing money. In fact, 9 states got rid of it due to the way it shared the student data with 3rd party vendors. Parents spoke up and out.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. So I am speaking up. Parents and teachers have been contacting me over the past few months. Here are some facts:

    1. The questions are convoluted in math. Nearly every question is a reasoning question.
    2. There are no accommodations for ELL or Special Needs students. Zero.
    3. There are 26 questions on the 3rd grade Amplify Math Benchmark. This is deceptive. Look through the 3rd grade test I have provided for you in your folders. One item is not one item.
    4. Look at Item #26, a constructed response. Review the scoring guide. Look at the student’s responses.
    5. We teach them with manipulatives and how to draw pictures to show their thinking. Look what the question(s) asks for. How does an 8 year old do this in a Word Document? Is this the best way to assess their knowledge at 8?
    6. Our district paid Amplify to write custom assessments in math based on our pacing guide. The problem above… I asked you to solve… was not addressed in Module 1 or 2 of EngageNY Math.
    7. Every 4th grader in my school failed this test. The data on the other grades will be similar. Every student? Is this about the teaching? Or the test? Or the math program being used?
    8. A parent contacted me from an elementary school in our district. She had asked to opt her child out of the Amplify Testing. There are grave concerns about the data collection and how the data is stored. She was told she couldn’t because it was being used for grades. Very concerning. The children are being asked questions they haven’t been taught yet and using these for grades? Her response… She’s moving forward with the Opt Out, because she said “she wasn’t concerned about her child’s grades at 8 years old, and if one test was what the teacher would base a whole trimester on… have at it.”
    9. What is the validity and inter-rater reliability across the district in scoring the items?
    10. After the children finish the math test, they then take the ELA Interim Test. The ELA 3rd grade test is 27 pages back to back when printed. Therefore, the test is 54 pages long.                       (8  y e a r   o l d s)
    11. My school has been using our two computer labs since mid-October and will go through Dec. 18th for Amplify Testing. Guess when the next testing window starts for the next round of Amplify Testing? Answer: Feb. 1st.  (By the time SBA rolls around, the children will be puking tests up. The SBA ties up all computers in the school April through May)

My personal questions revolve around the ethics and morality of doing this to children.

C H I L D R E N.

Current statistics say children take over 112 standardized tests from pre-k to graduation now. How necessary is this? What message are we sending our children? What is truly important?

Spokane School Districts Testing Calendar

Please dig and learn more about Amplify. Learn more about the company, how it got started, on whose dime, and how it is failing. Is this how we want to put forth $300,000? Please. Let’s ask ourselves if this is right for our children and if this is the direction we really want to head?

Action Item #2 EngageNY Mathematics

It has been put out there we may be stuck with this math program for two more years. I would like the board to consider doing the same with EngageNY as I am requesting with Amplify. Check out its history. Where it started, who wrote it, and on whose dime? I understand it is just an “interim” math program. However, four years of an elementary aged child’s life is not “interim”. These are children’s foundational mathematical years.

I’ve spent the past few years researching this program and I will express the angst I have with it, and the heartache many educators feel in this district using it… especially at the K-3 level. I have a long list of issues I can send you if desired. In my building it is ineffective for most of the children because our children come 2-3 grade levels behind. For ELL students it is a nightmare. It will not close the (“achievement”) opportunity gap, rather it will widen it.

I’d like a push from the School Board to start looking at elementary math programs as soon as possible. I do believe there are better programs for elementary children.

Congratulations

Diving 2Again, my sincere congratulations to the new Directors. I look forward to a positive working relationship and doing my part to help pave the path towards positive solutions.

You. Can. Make. A. Difference.

Passionately Submitted,

Raz on Fire