Monthly Archives: April 2016

Sooo… You Think I’m a Conspiracy Theorist Because I Oppose Common Core & High Stakes Testing?

I have found there is an interesting phenomena with people who do not know how to handle an individual who is putting information on the table to be considered.  The information may run counter to the main stream or contrary to popular belief.  I am learning at my older age, most people value conformity over divergence.  We are to do and believe exactly what those in charge tell us to do and believe.  Anyone who asks the hard questions, researches, and looks underneath the surface… running counter to the “group think”… are often deprecated.

Albert Einstein once said, “Question everything.”

To question is to think.

To follow blindly in order to respect “authority” will not improve the world or promote change.  When the Jews were being slaughtered by Hitler, who risked their lives and stood against him?  When the blatant discrimination swept our nation forcing human beings to sit at the back of buses, drink from different fountains, and go to separate schools, who raised their voice to stop the inequity?  When people have been enslaved, who fought to free them?

When our school system is putting practices into place harming the most innocent of all, who has the moxie… the courage… and the voice to crusade against the malpractice?

Recently, I was on a discussion thread in Washington’s Paramount Duty, a group fighting for full funding of our public schools.  An individual asked if I was worried about the cost of “microchips inserted into kids brains to measure their biometric rhythms” and followed up to reassure me this was already considered in the cost of the assessment.

Obviously, the sarcasm bled through the screen and was meant to vilify my questions and contributions to the discussion thread.

Interestingly, this individual is the Policy Director of the Washington Round Table and Partnership for Learning.  Both of these organizations are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and promote common core and the high stakes tests.  As I looked further into his past it was found his history included working for:

  • Data Recognition Corporation
  • Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Consider his motivation, as I asked questions and presented my findings on the discussion thread, for denigrating my contributions.  He basically pulled the “Conspiracy Theorist” card and tried to paint me out as some wacko doodle.

Later, he also defamed Dr. Wayne Au, University of Washington Professor.  Dr. Au is a well renown researcher regarding standardized testing and publishes many articles and authored a book exposing the discriminatory nature of the one hundred year history of testing.

Most recently, the “Conspiracy Theorist” card has been pulled by some of my colleagues.  They’ve accused me of aligning with a crazy legislator and buying into all of his “conspiracy theories”.

Let me set the record straight.

There are nine legislators serving the Spokane Region.  Three are in the Spokane Valley, three serve the bulk of the middle section of the city, and three others the district I live.  I write to all nine legislators.  (I actually write to legislators statewide). I’ve asked to meet with all nine legislators.  I have had the opportunity of speaking personally with five of the nine.  Currently, one is being scheduled with a sixth.

I think of the song played often on Saturday mornings when I was growing up, “I’m only a bill.”  This song has been instrumental in teaching many young people the process of getting laws changed.  Thus, my motive to write my legislators and meet with them.

One of the legislators in particular, has been called a “looney” and a “wack job” by same colleagues.  I was questioned as to why I would meet with him.


Soooo… why, by me meeting with him last summer for an hour and a half to share my concerns about common core and the high stakes tests, does this imply I’ve aligned with him and become a “Conspiracy Theorist”?  (I appreciated this legislators time. Many give only 10 minutes with their constituents or none at all).

For the record.  I’m bi-partisan and pretty disenfranchised currently with the two largest political parties.  As John Sheffield, New York teacher said, “I’m beholden to no group except to the children of (my state).”

So… since the accusation of me becoming a “Conspiracy Theorist” is now on the table, let me take some time to share all the “Conspiracy Theorists” I’ve aligned myself with:

  1. Joint Statement of Early Childhood and Health Professionals on The Common Core Standard Initiative
  2. Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors, Anthony Cody, National Board Certified Teacher and author of Living in Dialogue.
  3. Save Maine Schools, Emily Talmage, 4th Grade Teacher
  4. Peg with a Pen and founder of United Opt Out,  Peggy Robertson, ELA Coach and Reading Interventionist
  5. EduResearcher, Dr. Roxana Marachi, Educator, researcher, and youth advocate with 15 years of experience connecting research findings in the fields of educational and developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, social development, and school safety with practical applications for improving learning, motivation, and behavior.
  6. Four Seattle Teachers Declare, “We Refuse to Give the Test”, The four teachers of conscience are Julianna Krueger Dauble, Judy Dotson, Susan DeFresne, and Becca Ritchie.
  7. More Than a Score, Jesse Hagopian, high school teacher, author, and crusader against high stakes tests.
  8. Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards, 22,000 members strong.
  9. Over 100 Education Researchers Sign Statement Calling For Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing
  10. The Smarter Balance Common Core Mathematics Tests Are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used, Steven Rasmussen, SR Education Associates
  11. Dr. James Milgram – Common Core Forum Baton Rouge, former NASA Mathematician, the ONLY mathematician to serve on the validation committee of the common core, refused to sign validation document of common core math standards. Dr. James Milgram bio.  Google his name and there are many presentations made by Dr. Milgram across the United States.
  12. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the ONLY ELA representative on the validation committee of the common core.  She, too, refused to sign the validation document of the common core ELA standards.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky bio. Google her name and there are many presentations made by Dr. Stotsky across the United States.
  13. About This Testing, Denis Ian, veteran teacher
  14. A Chronicle of Echoes: Whose Who in the Implosion of American Public Education, Dr. Mercedes Schneider, teacher, researcher, EduBlogger, and author.
  15. Dr. Diane Ravitch, educator, author, worked for National Education Department.
  16. Dr. Gary Thompson, Early Childhood Psychologist

There are many other educators who I could place on this list.

It is a growing list.  More and more of us are coming to realize the truth behind common core and the common core tests.  Trying to discount those of us willing to speak up and out for children, by throwing out the “Conspiracy Theorist” card, exposes the person’s fears and unwillingness to do their own research and seek out the truth.

I personally will not remain a compliant conformist when witnessing children being harmed through the current education reforms.  I want to scoop them up and hide them in my “attic” so the “Testing and Accountability Regime (TAR)” can not touch them.  This Regime is definitely “TARring” many children as the blackness covers their hearts and minds.

Throwing out the “Conspiracy Theorist” card is typically an attempt to defame, slander, disparage, insult, denigrate, deprecate, vilify, and assassinate the persons character and point of view.

Those of us giving up hours of our time for children, teachers, and public schools are far from “Conspiracy Theorists” or “Helicopter Moms”.  We have growing evidence exposing the flaws in the common core standards and the invalidity of the common core tests.

So next time, before anyone pulls the “Conspiracy Theorist” card,  they may do well to offer their perspective to the conversation respectfully with peer reviewed research… rather than tossing out words vilifying others.


Passionately Submitted,









About This Testing… By Denis Ian

“In the heart of a child, one moment …. can last forever.” – Denis Ian

About this testing …

There is no virtue in making children so brave that they might withstand the idiocy of adults. Nor is there any virtue in lying to children so as to protect adult ridiculousness. And when adults trip over their own commandments and reason away the subtle wounding of children … then they themselves have committed a great sin.

Childhood is an extraordinary moment. It has its own sanctity because it is the maker of first memories … and we make big deals of firsts in our lives. And first memories should never be ugly. Not ever.

But what has become of us? Why have we arrived at this moment when children become fair game in an adult controversy? Instinct tells us never to place children in the middle of a muddle. But here we are … hearing unbelieving tales of adult unfairness that seem such the antithesis of what is expected from the guardians of our children.

Life is a long frustration. The great beauty of maturity is that we learn to keep our cool and to react only to the most insistent frustrations. Adults learn to separate the important from the unimportant … and it prevents us from the nasty human inclination to settle on easy scapegoats … and then to punish the weakest and most vulnerable.

Scapegoats are born of frustrations adults cannot control … and we have loads of frustration surrounding this wretched reform. But frustration is never a green light to exercise a disturbing dominance over the smallest of the small. If that is the first impulse of an adult, then they are in a queer orbit.

Children cut off from pizza parties and ice cream treats because their parents exercised their right right of refusal? Little humans in little desks made to sit and stare for hours … in of all places … a school? Children confronted by some towering goliath … insisting that they revoke their parents’ own wishes? What the hell is going on here?

Where is the wisdom in gluing children to desks for hours as they squirm their way through some asinine educational gauntlet that has no real purpose other than to pay homage to some testing god? Who thought that a good idea?

This is a mess that cannot be unmessed. When will we start over … and get this straight?

Is this how children should ever be treated? Are there not school campaigns to disarm bullies … and to champion kindness? Have those champions vanished? Were those just paper heroics? Empty nonsense? I sense adult ugliness seeping through a holy firewall behind which childhood is protected. It seems too many are now comfortable liars … even with children. And worse, some have become hypocrites.

There is never an excuse to scar a child. And if you’re in the child business … that sort of action condemns you to a special sort of hell.

For children, school is a majestic cathedral. A near shrine where every minute should be crammed with as much wonder as a minute might hold. To disturb that atmosphere is to violate the inviolate.

A school has no place or space for anyone unable to plug into their memory bank for recollections of their own childhood. If one cannot stay linked with with the memories of their own past, perhaps they shouldn’t be in the memory-making business at all.

When one’s memory of childhood evaporates, so does one’s empathy. And that is a signal to move on.

“Childhood is a short season.” Give it its due.

Denis Ian

Just What Is At Stake With The “High Stakes” Tests? How About Childhood?

I wrote my local school board a letter with some of my concerns in regards to the High Stakes Tests and misinformation being spread in the local community about the parents right to Opt Out of these tests.

The first two sentences of the short reply to my letter are as follows:

Thank you for contacting the school board with your comments on testing.   Could you please clarify what tests you consider to be “high stakes” at the elementary level?

Sure. I’d be happy to answer.

  1.  Any test taking two months of a teachers time at the beginning of the school year and requiring over 80 data checkpoints to be collected one on one with 5 year old children is HIGH STAKES. This robs the teacher of the time to set up a welcoming classroom community and an atmosphere of safety and warmth.  Rather the children are out doing “independent activities” while the teacher meets with individual children.  This is the last thing children need with their first experience in school.  The teachers time is saturated with collecting data and entering in data… and for what purpose?
  2. Any test determining a placement for the next grade is HIGH STAKES.  Whether it be a third grader whose ELA scores are being considered for promotion to 4th grade… or a 6th grader whose MATH scores determine the track they are placed in for middle school (especially when said tests are being found to be seriously flawed), and ignoring classroom work and classroom based assessments… is a complete HIGH STAKES tragedy.
  3. Any test claiming to determine if a child is “College and Career Ready” and ignoring years worth of classroom accomplishments and work patterns is HIGH STAKES.  When the ex U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, said we should be able to look a 7 and 8 year old in the eye and tell them whether they are on track for college or not, um… we have a high stakes situation being pushed early.
  4. Requiring any test to be taken in order to graduate is HIGH STAKES.
  5. Any test used to rank, sort, and compare children and schools is HIGH STAKES.
  6. Any test requiring a 95% participation rate by a State Department of Education in order to be recognized for outstanding and innovative teaching and learning is HIGH STAKES.  (A school who has a high number of parents opting their children out of the tests because they believe the tests are invalid, does not decrease the incredible teaching and learning going on in said schools.  Currently, Seattle School District has 40 out of 98 schools reporting higher than 5% Opt Out rates.  Are those schools not outstanding?  Are those schools not innovative?  Are those schools filled with inept teachers?  Are the principals of said schools inept leaders?)
  7. More importantly still, the HIGHEST STAKE of all… is the loss of CHILDHOOD.  The loss of play and developmentally appropriate classroom experiences in the youngest grades will have long term effects beyond anyone’s imagination.  Worksheets and dittos do not grow dendrites. (Depression and Mental Disorders are on the rise for a reason).

The School Board, and School Boards at large, may also take some time to consider why the behavior problems have escalated in our elementary classrooms.

  • Just how much recess are children getting in our schools?  Many only get a total of 30 minutes to eat and play combined. (This was the case for my son last year.  He came home with uneaten lunches because he learned he gained more play time if he didn’t eat).
  • The current adopted curricular materials are filled with worksheets… is boredom a problem? What happens when children are bored?
  • How much time are children spending on testing and test prep?

Maybe we all should be asking, rather than what tests are considered “high stakes”…

1) What exactly is at “stake”?


2) How are our children being robbed of their childhoods in the current Testing Accountability Regime?

Denis Ian, teacher and child crusader extraordinaire, sheds some light on these questions in “About This Testing“.

“In the heart of a child, one moment …. can last forever.” – Denis Ian

“Childhood is a short season.” Give it its due. – Denis Ian

Thank you, Denis.  You are SPOT ON.

The “Highest Stake” of All… Childhood

Passionately Submitted,


HIGH STAKES TESTING: Education System Malpractice and Mental Abuse… Some Humans Have Lost Their Damn Minds

This Story Comes From Clayton County Georgia

Warning: After reading this story, the reflux to vomit may take over.

Report from a Clayton County Teacher

“Yesterday, before and after testing, a colleague who is a first year third grade teacher lost her damn mind. She assaulted a third grade student of hers and told him he was dumb, shouldn’t have been in the room testing because he was going to bring her scores down. She berated him and the class telling them they were going to cause her to lose her certification.

This young first year teacher said, “Unless they have $50,000 to pay for her teaching certificate, they had better score well.”

She was furious 50% of her evaluation was dependent on “stupid third graders”.

The boy was reduced to tears and promptly vomited all over the floor.

Her colleagues refused to report the unprofessional, abusive, and vicious behavior yesterday.

This test… Georgia Milestones… is destroying our kids”.

This System is Breaking Kids and Teachers


It sure is.

I’m outraged.

As an E D U C A T O R and P A R E N T…

I. Refuse. To. Be. Silent.

breaking silence

Shame on the U.S. Department of Education

Shame on all legislators who continue to vote for this abuse.

Shame on any educator at any level who believes these tests are valid.

Shame on School Boards at the local and state levels who promote these tests.

Shame on all the lies and propaganda and rhetoric being spread and paid for by the corrupt Oligarchy.



Teachers are being forced to give these tests to children who are not ready. Teachers know the students do not understand the skills or concepts, yet are forced to deliver these outrageous assessments. Teachers are being told it is their fault if their students don’t meet the standard. (Flawed standards). Teachers lose their jobs when their evaluations are based on these tests… tests with reading levels above the children’s grade assignment and questions demanding high levels of analysis.

Mental Abuse.

These tests put everyone involved in the pressure cooker.

Eventually an explosion happens.

The Joy of Learning

No Teacher Should Feel Pressed to this Point of Breaking

“Parents MUST BE THE ONES to make this testing stop. Teachers cannot control this. I 100% in no way condone the actions, words, etc of this teacher, but I can tell you I understand the PLACE she was pushed to and that is not within her control. How she handles the weight is certainly something she has to work on, but these teachers need parents advocating, demanding, and speaking up… ‘We won’t stand for our children or teachers to be put through this abuse’!” –Georgia Parent of a 4th Grader

The Testing Bomb

nuclear bombWho built this Testing Bomb?

Who placed the Bomb in our schools?

Who asked teachers to hold the Bomb?

If the Bomb goes off, who is to blame?

Passionately Submitted,



Opt Out of Testing Policies and Protocols Request… A Letter to a Local School Board

April 17, 2016

RE: Opt Out of Testing Policies and Protocols Request

TO: Spokane School Board Directors

CC: Dr. Redinger, Dr. Gering, Dr. Dunn, Mr. Travis Schulhauser, Heather Richardson, Dan Jenkins, Jenny Rose

Dear Spokane School Board Directors,

It has come to my attention from a variety of parents and teachers in differing schools there are some inconsistencies in the procedures and messages being given regarding the legal right of parents to Opt Out of the various state tests. (WaKids, MSP, SBA) I think it is critical for the Spokane Board of Directors to know and understand what the experiences are of parents in the schools you oversee.

Personally, my conscience is pricked with the current testing practices and believe whole heartedly these tests are harmful to children and send them a wrong message about what is truly important in their educational careers. I believe the tests are invalid and do not measure accurately what children know or how they have grown in their learning.

I am not alone. Recently, a report just was published with research, guiding questions and recommendations. One hundred (100!) education researchers have called for a moratorium on the SBA. I am attaching this report here. It is lengthy, but they expose clearly why the SBA is an inaccurate and invalid measurement of student learning.

Over One Hundred Education Researchers Calling for a Moratorium on High Stakes Testing

There are other reports, however, this one is the most in depth I have found with peer reviewed and accurate links.

Misinformation Being Spread

I would like to share with you some stories coming from schools in the Spokane School District. It is my hope, the School Board begin a process for setting protocols and policy.

  1. We have some principals in Spokane telling parents who submit opt out letters their children will not pass their grade. This is not the truth. The bill passed in our legislature says NOTHING of the sort. What makes me so angry about this is: These adult educators are promoting the idea that the classroom based learning the children have shown means very little. Really? A child could be making excellent progress in their classroom, and these adults, being put in charge of our little people, think they can hold children back from being promoted to the next grade because they don’t take a test at 8, 9, 10, & 11 years old? I think of my own child performing well above grade level in mathematics and reading. I find it hard to believe he would be held back a grade because he did not take a high stakes test. Principals who are stating this to parents who have submitted opt out letters need to be educated and be asked to stop spreading this inaccurate information.
    • The actual RCW 28A.655.230
    • The actual language clearly states a child can only be held back with parent consent.
    • The reading levels are being found to be higher than the grade level tested. How can we as a system bank one score on a child’s potential success in the next grade?
  2. These same principals are also telling parents they are setting their children up for failure in high school. Oh? Really? Based on what peer reviewed, sustainable research?
  3. Principals are also stating schools lose funding if they do not get 95% of their students taking the test. There is not one school in the United States that has lost funding. There have been threats, however, not one school with high opt out numbers have lost one dime in funding.
  4. When parents submit an Opt Out Letter to the school they are being told they must speak with the principal first. There is absolutely NO state requirement the parent has to meet with the principal first. This is another tactic being used to coerce parents into allowing their children to test. Most parents opting their children out of the testing do not need a special meeting. They are not allowing their child to test because it is an invalid measure of student learning, and they are unwilling to have their child’s instructional hours wasted.
  5. On a positive note: I just got word one principal in Spokane handed their teachers a simple Opt Out Letter to give to parents. This principal understands the rights of the parents and is not spreading the misinformation above. For this, the parents and teachers are thankful.

Other Considerations for the Spokane School Board of Directors

  1. Opt Out friendly schools are finding worthy and child friendly alternatives during testing hours. Suggestions include allowing them to help out in another class, work on a project in a non-testing room, help out in a Kindergarten Class and read to other children, etc… there are stories from across the United States in which children are made to sit and stare at their computer screens. They are not allowed to read. Just sit. For an entire day. This is mental abuse and educational malpractice. I hope I do not get one story from one parent in Spokane a school is practicing this procedure.
  2. There are stories of schools throwing parties and giving food awards to only those children who test. Excluding children who don’t, and using shame tactics, are a form of mental child abuse.
    • I have already published a piece asking teachers to avoid this malpractice. I’ve asked them to think about what they want emphasized in their student’s educational experience.
    • Think about this: The parents opting their children out of these tests are standing up for TEACHERS. They believe what teachers do every day in their classroom are way more important than the tests. They don’t believe schools should be compared or measured by these tests. They are fighting for the autonomy and flexibility of educators to create powerful learning experiences.
    • SUPPORT THESE PARENTS. It is their legal right to object to and resist these tests. And remember… 100 education researchers just came out with a signed document asking for a moratorium of the SBA.
    • When the former Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, made a statement, “The Opt Out Movement is led by white suburban mom’s because they don’t want to hear their children aren’t as smart as they think they are,” many parents across the nation were infuriated. This is an outright lie. He later apologized and retracted this statement.

Please Promote The Truth

With the diversity of misinformation being presented in Spokane Schools, PLEASE promote some sort of policy or procedure for principals and teachers to receive and dispense accurate information on the topic of Opt Out. We need to stand up for all children. Many do not have advocates or guardians who will protect them from harmful mandates. My role continues to grow in the state of Washington as I continue to raise my voice against what I am seeing directly from the trenches. I understand clearly during contracted hours, educators cannot suggest Opting Out of the test nor can it be discussed. Okay. BUT, if a parent initiates this option, it is an educator’s legal obligation to dispense truthful information. The new ESSA rewrite of NCLB states this. It also holds educators maintain their first amendment rights.

No Bullying or Empty Threats Should Be Tolerated

No bullying or empty threats should be tolerated. We do not allow it in our students. Adults who have our children in their care should not be allowed to threaten, lie, or bully parents from exercising their legal right to opt their children out of the state tests… Nor should they be allowed to shame any child who is opted out.

As testing season approaches, parents are already contacting me with their personal experiences. For their protection, I am not naming the schools or principals. I do thank the principals who are being honest and honoring the parents who wish to exercise their legal rights and to do what is best for their children.

Seeking Answers to Previous Letters

Sidenote: In previous letters to the board:

  1. I asked what the protocols and policies are in Spokane School District in regards to your position with the parent’s right to Opt Out of State Testing. It is my understanding from the response to my letter, the Spokane School Board of Directors had not had time to meet around this issue. It is my hope the Spokane School Board begins the process of setting policy, if you have not done so already. I am specifically requesting this on behalf of several parents and teachers who are part of the Spokane School District community.
  2. I also requested what the Spokane School Board’s understanding of the data collection practices are in regards to the tests and other educational programs being used in our schools. I was told the email was being forwarded to Travis Schulhauser because he is the Assessment Coordinator in Spokane. To date, I have not received any word upon this important concern and topic by many parents. My understanding and research regarding data collection has found much data is not private, it is being shared with third parties, and it can be sold to third party vendors to be used for their profit. Many of the educational computer programs being used state clearly the company owns the data. Although I respect Mr. Schulhauser’s position with the district, it seems this is a larger issue then his role. It seems the Spokane School Board would desire to play a larger role in understanding how the data is being collected and used, and the privacy of the students served in Spokane. I am wondering if the board needs to set up procedures for computerized education programs and testing platforms to go through a “rigorous” review process and create a transparent process in which parents can review the privacy policies of these programs. If they disagree with the privacy policies and do not want their child’s data to be collected by these programs, they can choose to opt their children out and be provided with alternative, quality educational experiences.

Educators Across The Nation are Opting Their Own Children Out of the Tests

In conclusion: Please think about this. Many teachers are opting their own children out of these tests. (myself included). I know of school board members, principals, and superintendents who have and will continue to opt their own children out of these tests. Think about the reasons EDUCATORS are opting their own children out..




National Board Certified Teacher (2001 – current)

National Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics

National Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Award

Washington State Christa McAuliffe Teaching Award

United States Senate Innovative Teacher Award

Passionately Submitted,


Link to Print Friendly Document (Word Doc):  Opt Out Policies and Protocols