Monthly Archives: February 2016

Reasons to Consider Opting Out of State Tests 2016

Saving your child from the experience of taking harmful high stakes tests, and promoting the importance of classroom instruction by a certified, quality teacher are critical first steps towards ridding our state of this horrible and costly practice.  It will send a clear message to your child’s school, school district, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction(OSPI), and the state legislature that you have had enough with all the mandates being placed on your child, your child’s teacher, and your child’s school.

Refuse.

Opt Out.

It is costing millions and millions of dollars of limited tax payer dollars to continue the use of invalid and unreliable testing instruments.  This money should be going directly to the classrooms and used for instructional purposes and learning experiences.

Consider your child’s test may be scored by someone hired off of Craig’s List at $11.20 an hour.  They are not educators, yet they read your child’s responses, and assign a score.

Consider the problems given in the test itself.  View the kinds of questions your child faces in the report entitled, “The Smarter Balanced Common Core Mathematics Test is Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used. From there you can download the full report.  The items are quite confusing and worth exploring.

Consider the latest research :

  1. Critical Questions about Computerized Assessments and Smarter Balanced Test Scores
  2. Scientists Raise Concerns about Health Risks with EdTech. How Will The U.S. Department of Education Respond?

Consider the hours teachers are spending test prepping.  It is not their fault.  They have to.  The platform used on the computer requires your child to deal with confusing interfaces.  Therefore, the teacher, in all fairness, needs to expose your child to the ins and outs of utilizing all the controls and understanding how to interact with all the tabs.

Consider how 8, 9, and 10 year olds are sitting in front of computer screens from 9:00 a.m. until the bell rings at 3:00.

Yes.

Many children take this long to complete one section of the test.  And… there are four total sections to complete.  See: “Description of The SBAC… This Is What Children Face.

The exhaustion experienced by these children is incomprehensible.  College aged student’s finals don’t take this long.  Yet our youngest learners are expected to perform for hours at a time.  Can you say developmentally inappropriate?

D E V E L O P M E N T A L L Y   I N A P P R O P R I A T E.

Consider the size of their hands.  Many tiny hands do not span the keyboard.  Yet they are asked to write full paragraphs into a window with a Microsoft Word Toolbar above. See how “Using Computers Widens The Achievement Gap in Writing“. This means teachers need to devote more instructional hours and their only choice is to instruct them in programs like Microsoft Word and using typing programs.  How long did it take you to learn to type?

Ask yourself… is this the most critical learning necessary for an 8, 9, 10 year old?

  • Can they read?  Do they love to read?
  • Are they curious?  Do they want time to explore their world in the classroom?
  • How are they progressing in math concepts and skills?
  • Is there time for your child to be exploring social studies and science?
  • What do you value most for your child in their classroom with their teacher?
  • Do you desire to see evidence of their classroom work?
  • Do you like to see a story they wrote on their own and made up from their imagination?

Consider the narrow focus of the test.  (Math and Reading)

Consider your child’s teacher is not allowed to look at the test items.  (Either are you).

Consider the test scores don’t come back until August or September of the following school year.  What benefit do they have to the teacher then?  She has a whole new class of children with different needs than the class before.  The new teacher can look at the scores, but she is now expected to teach the new grade level standards.

Consider the exhaustion, stress, and tears teachers see in their student’s eyes.

Consider the morality and ethics of withholding a child’s ability to graduate based on this test.  Thirteen years of their education, passing classes, and solid report cards boil down to this one test.  (The Washington State Senate just passed this requirement with a vote of 27-20, and it is now on to the House. Stay Tuned.)

Consider whose money is backing these policies.

Consider which Legislators are “bought” and voting for these mandates.

O P T  O U T.

R E F U S E.

Send a clear message to Olympia.

Send a clear message to Washington D.C.

This. Is. Not. Okay.

Go To: How to Refuse/Opt Out of State Tests 2016

OPT OUT SPOKANE!

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

 

Advertisements

How to Refuse/Opt Out of State Tests 2016

How to Opt Out a Kinder – 8th Grader in WA State

State Tests:

  • WaKids (Kindergarten)
  • MSP (Measurement of Student Progress)
  • SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment)

For this span of years it is simple to opt your child out of the tests.  Write a letter to your school’s principal and send a copy to the district office.  You can explain why you are opting your child out if you wish to help educate them in regards to the invalidity of the test.  You can attach articles to help educate them (Like the ones linked in “Reasons To Consider in Opting Out of State Tests 2016“).  Many have not been exposed to these reports.

justiceYou can even mail a copy of your opt out letter to OSPI and your local legislators.  Sending a clear message will help them understand how wrong this is, and the impact it is having upon our children, teachers, and schools.

There are no consequences to your child for not taking the test.  However, principal’s have been trained to meet with you and convince you otherwise.  Hold Firm.  You are fighting for a bigger cause than opting out your own child.  No child should have to face this abuse.  The higher the number of Opt Outs, the louder the message.

If they threaten you with not allowing your child to advance to appropriate courses in the next grade based on this one test simply ask, “Are you going to prevent my child from being placed in the appropriate (math) class next year, despite the fact she has shown mastery of these skills, and her teacher knows she is ready for the next level of (math)?”

Ask them if they are going to place your child in classes they have already mastered, (instilling boredom), and prevent them from advancing to the appropriate instructional level.

Call out the bluff.

Do they not have evidence from your child’s classroom work from the entire year to guide their decisions?  Are they seriously going to consider placing your child in classes based on one test with no research to back up its validity?

Do not back down.  The test scores are invalid.  Filtering children at young ages based on one test is D I S C R I M I N A T O R Y.

Consider test score trends in New York State.  Standards are changed, cut scores are changed, and the test itself changes year to year.  The ole’ Apples and Oranges Comparison.  It is all such a scam.

NY Testing Trends

Advocate for your child.  Make an appointment with the Superintendent if need be.  Attend a School Board Meeting and share your concerns.  Copy the reports.  Hand them out!

How to Opt Out in High School in WA State

This is a tougher one with the current legislation.  Staying on top of current bills and requirements are critical.

For now here is the latest:

You can opt your high school aged child out as long as they meet graduation requirements in other ways. Sadly, this ends up meaning that the SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment) is the easiest way.   However, if your child takes the SAT or ACT, they could use those scores.

An Opt Out Letter to the principal is necessary. Then call or email the high school principal and explain how strongly you feel about your child not taking the state’s high stakes test.  Ask them for clear direction and honesty in regards to the current other available paths for your child to graduate.

The more letters, emails, and phone calls they receive, the more they will hear the message regarding the unethical high stakes testing policies.

Other options could be available too…. Like writing your legislators in opposition of high stakes testing.  Have your child write them too!

Sample Opt Out Letters

The following are the Opt Out Letters I wrote:

1)  My Son is More Than a Score… My Reasons for Opting Out of Testing

2)  Short Form Opt Out Letter to My Son’s Principal

If you are still unsure about why to Opt Out… 

Go to: Reasons to Consider Opting Out of State Tests 2016.

My best to all parents joining this crusade for all children.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

I Feel Like I’m Doing Something Illegal By Actually Teaching My Kids

Teaching.

Real authentic teaching.

The art and science of teaching is a talent.  Those of us who are passionate about our profession, are deeply trained in instructional pedagogy, and know how to light the fire and love of learning in our students… are the ones growing more and more down and disheartened when the latest and greatest “new” reform or mandate hits our classrooms.

Being handcuffed to these mandates and reforms (many are wasteful and ineffective) and seeing the transformation of the teaching profession slowly erode… sends teachers into the grief cycle.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

The Teacher Grief Cycle

Denial… No way are “they” expecting me to do this!  What?  This isn’t good for children.  Seriously?

Anger… This is complete B.S.!  I want to throw these materials out the window.  I want to burn them.  I want to tear them up and send them to my curriculum director.

Bargaining…  Well, maybe I can figure out a way to tweak these lessons to make them more accessible to my students.  Maybe I can sneak in a creative lesson now and again and work around this pacing guide.

Anger… Oh my GAWD.  This lesson is the stupidest thing I ever read in my life.  I refuse to teach this one!  I don’t give a rats booty if my principal walks by my room and asks me how many lessons I have completed from the adopted “program”.

Depression…  I can’t keep doing this.  Every single lesson needs revising and I have to rewrite it so my students can learn.  I’m exhausted.  The end of module test is garbage.  Now I need to use my prep to rewrite it and put it in a better format.  When I get home, I’m going to bed.  The alarm sounds in the morning… do I have to go to school? How many sick days do I have left?

Anger… Oh crap!  For the next three weeks I have several tests to administer.  Test Test Test.  I haven’t had the time to teach the content because three weeks ago, I just finished the last round of testing.  Anyone have a hammer?  I’d like to smash all the computer screens.

Bargaining…  Hang in there.   Get up.  Once I walk into the classroom and the students arrive their faces will put a smile on my face.  They need me. They are my purpose. I can figure this out.  I can work around all the expectations and mandates placed on me.  Maybe I will stay until 7:00 p.m. tonight and get caught up.  I think my spouse is golfing this evening.  Hmmm… who can I call to watch Johnny?

Depression/Bargaining…  I’ve been late home every night.  I’m missing out on being with my family.  Johnny has basketball tonight.  Did I turn in the form he needed?  I can’t remember?  Wonder if I can make a healthy meal before we leave for practice?  I’m exhausted.  Maybe I can get away with one more night of fast food?  After I get Johnny to bed, I have 30 tests to grade.  Each item requires me to use a scoring rubric.  I wonder if I can grade them in one hour?  Maybe I can get to bed by 10:00 p.m. tonight?  I have to be to school by 6:30 a.m. so I have a little time to prep for my lessons and get materials ready before the 7:00 – 8:00 a.m. grade level morning meeting…  then I need to greet my new student before the bell rings… puts my class size at 28.  Sigh.

Anger… I hate this job.  I don’t love it anymore.  If I hear the word “rigor” or “data” or “I Can Statements” or “unpacking the standards” one more time, I am surely going to explode!

Depression… How many more years do I have until I can retire?  Too many?  Hmmm… what else can I do?

Bargaining…  But… But… But… I love TEACHING.  I mean when I really really get to authentically TEACH.  I love creating engaging lessons and inspiring my students to find their talents and passions.

Acceptance…  Well, since this crap doesn’t seem to be going away… I’m going to close my door and do what I’ve been trained to do.  I am a TEACHER.  I TEACH.

Consider the Following Story Written By a Talented Middle School Teacher in Ohio

“We had a PLC yesterday (which is what they call these meetings when they simply tell us how its going to be; no real “learning,” sharing among colleagues or enlightenment going on).   They told us that our test scores were absolute crap. They did say that they know the tests are garbage, but that we still needed to show more “rigor” in how we taught our students so that they could rise to the challenge.

There’s that damn word again.

Rigor.

I DESPISE that word.

We are now being told that all of our assessments should start to look like questions from the AIR test that Ohio has been saddled with to “get the kids used to them.” I’ve been assessing my kids for understanding for years through projects, stories, journal entries, formative assessments, and numerous varied ways for years, and I think I know how to tell if my kids understand something by this point.

What’s killing me is that EVEN THOUGH MY CURRICULUM DIRECTOR KNOWS THIS IS WRONG and HAS TOLD US IT’S GARBAGE, he is still encouraging us to do it, knowing full well that our kids don’t think, don’t even have the capacity to think, on the level that the tests want them to…

Alas, it served to depress the hell out of me yesterday. Then I just said ” ‘F’ it.” And went right back to what I normally do. This is insanity anymore, not real, authentic education.

I feel like I’m doing something illegal by actually TEACHING my kids.”

-Ohio Middle School Teacher

The Five Stages of Grief are Alive and Well in Classrooms Across the U.S.A.

The 5 Stages of Grief are alive and well.  Educators bounce back and forth between each stage often, sometimes daily.

Consider the national teacher shortage.

Consider the reports of the number of teachers leaving the profession after only 5 years of classroom experience and those retiring early.

Consider what all “The Testing” and “Mandates” and “Reforms” are “Gaining”.

Improved student learning?

Consider the thousands of teachers who are standing strong and staying.

Consider the real reason they stay.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE