Category Archives: High Stakes Tests

Wanted… A Few More Sheepdogs

My Husband Sent this to me Recently:

I read the other day that 95% of humans are equal to sheep… they just follow the rest of the herd.  Around 1% are wolves… predators, people outside the norm of society. Then there are the other 4%, the Sheepdogs… the ones that protect the sheep from the wolves and lead them in the right direction.

Thank you for being a Sheepdog! I know how frustrated you get with the sheep, but thanks for being a loyal protector of them and herding them in the right direction…

Reflection

I never thought about myself as a Sheepdog.  I thought I was one of the sheep, looking around at all the other sheep, popping my head up once in awhile and saying, “Hey, something is not right here!”

Stand Up 2The massive, fluffy herd continued to head in the direction the Superiors told them too.

I continued my travel along with the crowd.  Something hit my gut, and I popped my head up above the rest and kept it there.  EEKS!  This time I raised my voice louder and shouted, “Hey, something definitely is not right here! Stop!”

The herd continued, slightly hindered by my heels in the ground. Some tilted their heads, and a few started popping their heads up to look and see what I was seeing.  Most continued to move forward, avoiding my fluff and my “bark”, by moving to the left and to the right of me.  Heads remained down and determined.  The course was set. The Superiors knew best.

I heard, “Baa Baa”, all around me… and an occasional “Bark Bark”.

Every time I heard the “Bark” I lifted my head up high.  Something became familiar about that sound.  It made me stop.  It made me look.  I was able to see above all the other fluffy, bleating four legged creatures.  Alas!  There were a few that looked a lot more like me…  Their “Bark” was loud and confident… giving clear warning of danger.

A Little History of the Sheepdog

From: “Are You a Sheep or A Sheepdog? Part 1“, By  Brett and Kate McKay

Sheepdogs are society’s protectors.

While both herding dogs and livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) are known as sheepdogs, their roles are quite different. The former bark at, nip, and stare down animals to keep them together and moving in a certain way. Livestock guardian dogs, on the other hand, live with their flock of animals full-time, allowing them to blend in and watch for intruders within the herd. LGDs are placed in the flock as puppies so that they “imprint” on the animals they will be tasked with caring for and protecting. Strongly bonded to them, the LGD will perceive other species as predators and protect those it knows from these potentially hostile outsiders.

If a predator is not dissuaded by the presence of a LGD, it is ready and willing to attack and fight the predator to the death. And the LGD does not simply wait for a predator to attempt to infiltrate the flock – it also actively patrols its territory. Yet despite their fierceness, LGDs make loyal, gentle companions, and are especially protective of children.” (Emphasis Mine).

The Sheep/Sheepdog Continuum

The business of being a sheep or sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. Rather it’s a continuum. Some folks live at the extreme ends of the spectrum and are completely passive sheep or hardened ultimate warriors. Most people, however, fall somewhere in between.

Your “sheepness” or “sheepdogness” can change depending on context.”

Sheepdogs are Made, Not Born

Being a sheepdog isn’t a matter of birth; it’s a choice – a matter of mental and physical training.  In order to become a sheepdog, you have to consciously decide to do so and then slowly upgrade your mental, physical, and emotional hardware from Sheep 1.0 to Sheepdog 2.0.”

My Personal Transformation

Raising my head and seeing ahead of me a first step.  I was among my herd.  The herd I loved.  At first, it seemed hard to see.  As I heard the barks from the few, my mind resonated with the warnings.  Something was ahead and wrong.  Imprinted with the herd, and caring deeply about my peeps, I had to do something!  I discovered my true identity and realized I could “bark” too.

Sheep Dog 3“Bark Bark Bark!”

I joined the Watchdogs.

It is a difficult place to be to sound different and look a bit different than the group.  I’m still a fluffy being, just a different sort.

My heart and mind are very focused upon the truth.  I encourage everyone to actively dig, research, and question.  Do more than tilt your head, raise it!  Find the Sheepdog in you.  Learn who the predators are and what is driving them… Our children need you.

My Bark

Common Core was written without transparency.  Common Core is an untried and untested set of standards written by a group of non-educators. Common Core is developmentally inappropriate for many children.  There are flaws in the Common Core Standards.  The high stakes tests aligned with Common Core are invalid and unreliable, and also developmentally inappropriate.  Children are being harmed.

“Bark, Bark, BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK!

Capture 11

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

Join Other Sheepdogs:

No President Left Behind (NPLB)… A Presidential-Reform Bill to Ensure Every President is “National and DC Ready”

NCLB:  No Child Left Behind… 

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, President George W. Bush’s education-reform bill, was signed into law on Jan. 8, 2002.

NPLB:  No President Left Behind…

The No President Left Behind Act of 2015, submitted as a presidential-reform bill in August of 2015.

Any Sponsors?

I think each presidential candidate should have to take a Presidential Balanced Assessment (PBA) designed by a Consortium of people who have never held a political office. I think the American people should set the Cut Scores.

Temps are hired from Craigslist and paid $11.20 an hour to “score” the test.

When they complete the 100 hour test, involving 8 sections with reliable computer adaptive capabilities, and performance tasks, each item shall become a data point. No political aid or speech writer can help them with their extended responses.  They must take the test on a computer, other than their own, in a sterile room monitored by a test proctor.  They are allotted a 30 minute lunch and may only leave the computer lab to use the bathroom.  No other breaks allowed.

President 4The presidential hopefuls can see their results 4 months after taking the Balanced Assessment.  It will help them improve upon presidential skills necessary to be “Presidential Ready”. The data points are utilized to create graphs in multiple colors and placed on a data wall. This allows for easy data tracking throughout their campaign.

Only those deemed Highly Qualified shall be able to proceed.  To maintain their Highly Qualified status, they must be observed four times throughout the preliminary race.  They will be scored in 41 Elements, within Components, within overarching Domains, to see if they indeed meet the Criterion.  Only a Score of a 4 shall keep them in the Highly Qualified Status throughout their campaign.  If at any time, they received a score of a 1,2 or 3, they shall be placed on probation and retested, utilizing the highly reliable and valid PBA (Presidential Balanced Assessment).

The majority of the candidate’s evaluation will be based on the test score.

If they can not maintain the Highly Qualified status, they are completely removed and can not run in the final election.

NPLB 5If passed, this new presidential reform bill will be the most valid and reliable way to ensure the best candidate becomes the president… The test score, (number), reveals everything essential to determine the most “National and D.C. Ready” person for President of the United States.

There’s gotta be National Common Presidential Standards written somewhere… right?

If not, no worries, those can be whipped out in a manner of months too.

There has been growing concern of the failure rate in past presidents.  This new presidential-reform bill will help ensure a 100% success rate by 2020.

Please support NPLB (No President Left Behind)… Our Nation Is At Risk.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

References:

None necessary.

Description of The SBAC… This Is What Children Face

For those of you who are new to this slithering mess the acronyms are as follows:

SBAC: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Snake 2AThe Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is a service provided by a public institution (University of California, Los Angeles), governed by member states/territories and funded with member state/territory fees. Smarter Balanced has claimed to have “developed next-generation assessments to ‘accurately’ measure student progress toward college and career readiness in English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics”. Complete information on the Consortium and its assessments, including full practice tests for each grade and subject, can be found at www.smarterbalanced.org.

SBA:  Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balance Assessment is just exactly what it says.  It is the assessment itself.  Each child in 3rd through 8th and 11th grades, will take the Smarter Balanced Assessment in both ELA (English Language Arts) and Mathematics.

What is required of children taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment?

There are four components a child encounters throughout this assessment series.

The ELA Performance Task:  Children read varying texts on different screens.  They then are given a prompt they must “write” to, comparing and analyzing the texts they have just read.  The student then goes about writing their response and typically this involves several paragraphs.  These paragraphs must be typed into a text box.  Younger children are known to enter the computer lab first thing in the morning and often are not finished with this task by the end of the day.  They then come back the following day to peck at it again. Their hands do not span the keyboard.

The Math Performance Task:  Children read a contextual problem.  They are asked various questions around this problem and are asked to explain how they solve each layer of problem.  Children are required to type their explanations into the text box provided.

ELA Computer Adaptive Test (CAT): This portion of the test has children encountering approximately 30 multiple choice and short answer questions.  Some multiple choice questions have more than one correct answer.  The child must select each correct answer for that question or they get the entire question wrong.  Furthermore, if a child gets a few questions right, they then throw them a progressively harder question.  If the child misses a few questions in a row, they get thrown progressively easier questions.  Essentially, each child encounters different questions depending how they answer each individual question.

Math Computer Adaptive Test (CAT):  This component of the test is essentially the same as the ELA CAT.  The children encounter 30ish questions on this day, the level of difficulty fluctuating up or down, depending upon how the child answers each question.  The math problems involve multiple steps and typically require the child to utilize the frontal cortex of their brain, the place holding the capacity for reasoning and problem solving.  According to neuro scientists, the ability to reason and problem solve is solidified sometime between 11 and 15 years old.

Conclusion

The performance tasks are known to take a day a piece.  Some children take a second day to complete the task.  They begin the test, often once they arrive at school, and are still pecking away up to the ending bell.  Imagine, 8 year olds, sitting before computers for an entire day for ONE of the FOUR portions of this test.

Young children are taking this test for lengthy periods of time, more than is required of college age adults on final exams.

Thus, those of us who are in the trenches, looking at the eyes of our students, are proclaiming the developmental inappropriateness of this testing beast.  Not only is this unethical, it is also harmful to a child’s confidence and attitude toward learning.  Layer this with the studies coming out regarding the unreliability and invalidity of this test.

Testing is not learning.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

Toxic Testing Loses… How We Beheaded a Bully Snake

It has only been a few days, but longer than 24 hours.

I mentioned in Story Eight, There Are Some Bully Snakes When It Comes To Toxic Testing, how my peers have imparted the wisdom of waiting for 24 hours before responding to anything when angry.

I didn’t wait…. and I wrote Story Eight instantly.  This is the follow up to the original story.

So many of the stories dealing with the high stakes test pull at the heartstrings.

After all, this IS about our children…

nia 8

Children, who are forced, at younger and younger ages, to sit in front of computer screens testing for up to six hours in a day.

Children, who sit in front of computers testing longer than college age students.

Children, with hand spans not large enough to reach all the keys on the keyboard.  Peck, Peck, Peck… for hours.

Children, as neuroscience shows, are not developmentally ready to show mastery of deep levels of reasoning.

So… it has been longer than 24 hours.  And I still feel mad and infuriated and want to get on an airplane and fly to Michigan to give this 3rd grade little girl a great big hug.  Since it’s not possible, my son and I took a different approach.

We considered what some bully snakes did to this little girl who was the only one opted out of the State Test in her grade.  We considered her tears, as she was made to sit amongst her classmates while they made ice cream sundaes and ate them in front of her.  We considered all the amazing things this little girl accomplished in her third grade year.  We asked questions like:

  1. Did she read some amazing books and increase her vocabulary this year?
  2. Did she learn how to multiply?
  3. Did she try hard to learn all the other days in the school year?
  4. What learning did she show IN her classroom?
  5. Does the teacher have any evidence of growth in this child?
  6. What gifts and talents did this child bring to her classroom?  Were they encouraged?
  7. Does the teacher have the test scores back for the other children in the class?  How well did they do on the test?   (I’m sure the test scores won’t come back until after school is out)
  8. What do we hold most dear in our children?

I’m tired of the message we are sending to the youth in our country.  I’m tired of the mandates put upon our youth’s shoulders pushing them to test constantly, in order to prove their worth.  I’m tired of a score on a test speaking louder than a creative story they put weeks into, and illustrated in artistic ways.  I’m tired of the emphasis placed on arbitrary numbers playing King, when children are capable of more than what is measurable.

Common Core Tests make no Common Sense.

Common Core Tests are limiting.

Common Core Tests do not measure curiosity, creativity, imagination, innovation, perseverance, tenacity, passion, or the love of learning.

Common Core Tests will never compete with the portfolio of evidence I’ve been given as a parent and hold in my hands… can see with my own eyes… beaming with pride of course… and the enriching conversations I have had throughout the school year with my child’s teacher.

Common Core Tests do not measure what children at young ages know and are able to do.

Common Core Tests are Snakes.

Common Core Tests turn some people into Snakes.

Bully Snakes.

Bullies.

Beheading the Bull Snake

Nia 10

It has been one of my missions as a parent to teach my own child empathy (another attribute not measurable by a test).  After writing Story Eight, about this little girl and how she was treated by some “adults” in her school, my son and I went shopping.  We decided to fill a basket full of an Ice Cream Sundae Party!

Nia 5Included are: A “Frozen Theme”, appropriate for an ice cream theme, and… invitations, the DVD of “Frozen”, syrups, sprinkles, summer towel, sun screen, and more!  My son sets aside part of his allowance to give towards others…  He placed enough cash in an envelope so she and her momma can buy a big carton of ice cream.

We hope this unique and precious child makes the hugest ice cream sundae ever, and giggles with her friends through the movie “Frozen”.  She has a lot to be proud of as she completes third grade.  We added a spiral notebook so she can start writing down all the amazing things she does and can do.  We also hope it will be a place where she will write all of her dreams.  A place where her imagination will soar.

Our letters to a True Princess:

The first two pages in the spiral notebook contain our letters:

Nia 2           Nia 1

Today we beheaded a Bull Snake with an Act of Kindness.

We countered bullying behavior with a “Frozen” ice cream sundae party to celebrate the accomplishments a little girl made in an entire school year…  Those accomplishments out weigh a Toxic State Test.

Today we send a clear message to: our legislators, congress men and women, National Department of Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, Michigan State’s Superintendent and all Michigan State Government Officials, and our own Superintendent of Washington State, Randy Dorn…

Stop Measuring Our Children With Tests.

Stop Profiting Testing Companies.

Start Focusing on How Children Learn.

Gifted ChildrenParents know their children well.  We are opting our children out of the toxic tests because we do not believe it is right for our children.  It is harmful and child abuse.

The mother of the child in this story got a call from the school principal after the school district’s phones rang off the hook, and letters were posted on the school’s Facebook page, sharing outrage of her bullying behavior from all over the nation.  She left a message with an apology, and asked how she could make this up to the child.

The mom wants to establish humane treatment for all children who are opted out of the tests.  Next steps are being considered…

One Snake Slain, and Several More To Go…

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

AND

SON

There Are Some Bully Snakes When It Comes To Toxic Testing

I’m mad.

No.

I’m infuriated.

As I have grown older and wiser, and taken the advice from many peers, they have often suggested “to wait 24 hours before responding”.

Cool Down.

Sleep on it.

Chew on it.

Wait.

Breath.Bully 2

In this case, 24 hours will not change the red I see, or the shame I feel, about an adult BULLY in any school.

This principal is 100% Bull Snake.

This is uncalled for and inexcusable.

Period.

What am I so infuriated about?

Read the story first and see if your blood will boil like mine before I comment further.

Story Eight

bully 7“My daughter’s school awarded the students who completed the M-STEP (Michigan’s state test) with ice cream sundaes today. My daughter was the only one in her school who refused the test. Soooo… she sat in her class and cried while the other kids ate. She was most hurt by her principal (who explicitly let her know she could NOT have a sundae) and her teacher who coughed out, “don’t give N#% a napkin” to the little girl who passed them out.”

As of 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time, June 4th, 317 comments have been posted to this mother’s story.

Here are four selected comments to give a small taste of the outrage:

1) “What?!? These brainwashed educators are seriously in the wrong career, if tests are more important than a child’s social and emotional well being in their brain, then they need to leave the field. Blindly following those in control is a serious issue in education right now.”

2) “This is abuse!”

3) “This happened to my daughter last year in 5th grade. She was the only one in her entire GRADE who was excluded. She sat for 2 hours alone outside and watched her classmates eat hotdogs and Popsicles and drink Gatorade and play games. I cried for a week straight knowing that my actions caused my daughter to be hurt but I finally realized it wasn’t me who was to blame. It was our rotten admins who are nothing but bullies!”

4) “That’s beyond disgraceful! Every school employee involved in that debacle should be immediately fired! Good teachers and admins would NEVER do that to a child.”

Final Comments

It has been 6 hours since I first read this mother’s frustration and heartache for her daughter. 

I’m still infuriated.

My blood is still boiling.

bully 5The sad part regarding this story out of Michigan is knowing other children are suffering the same treatment.  What is it about some schools treating children with dignity who opt out of the reptilian, invalid tests… and others who have educators acting like snakes?

Bull Snakes.

Bullies!

The little girl in this story is in 3rd grade. 3rd Grade! She is 8 or 9 years old.  She sat and watched her classmates making sundaes, eating them, smiling, happy and she was made to sit and watch.

And shamed.

“You’re a bad little girl.  You didn’t take the state test.  We’ll show you.”

Hmmmm… did this school offer an ice cream party to the children who turned in all of their homework for the year?  Did this school offer an ice cream party to the children showing growth in math or reading in their classroom work?  Did this school offer an ice cream party to children who wrote a story or a top notch book report?  Did this school offer ice cream sundaes to the children who attended school all year and worked hard?

No.

Hmmmm… for what reason, then, do the children in this school get an ice cream sundae party?

For taking a test.

A Test.

The other 179 days of school don’t matter.

The test does.

This is putrid.  Each time I read the story,  I can smell the rot.

The love affair the politicians and other powers that be have with this testing obsession… are directly responsible for creating venomous environments for our children.  It is sad how some educators, trained to inspire children, are becoming snakes themselves.

Bullying Snakes.

Take Action

Bully 4

Please write the superintendent of Saginaw Public Schools, and let her know this little girl deserves better.  I have included the contact information below:

Chester F. Miller Elementary School Facebook Page

Contact this school

2020 Brockway Street

Saginaw, MI 48602

Chester F. Miller Elementary School Website

Phone: (989) 399-4850

Fax: (989) 399-4855

Saginaw Public School Website

The Superintendent of Saginaw Public Schools:

Kelley A. Peatross, Ph.D.

She says:

“Know that we are committed to being ‘all in’ for our students and we hope that you are as well.”

Ali 2

Dear Dr. Peatross,

I’m “all in” for this little girl. I hope you make this right. This little girl deserves a sundae in your office and an apology to her family. I also hope you consider next steps for how principals in your school district are allowed to treat children. This principal publically bullied this little girl in front of her teacher and her peers. As an educator, I am appalled and ashamed by this behavior.

 Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

Join: OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement

A High School Junior Beheads a Snake… EOC Biology Test

Sometimes stories start bad… and end well.

The mean ole’ step sisters wouldn’t let Cinderella go to the ball… yet in the end, the glass slipper fits, and she lived happily ever after with the prince.  Or…

The kingdom is saved when the knight slays the dragon.

The mystery is solved.

The bad guy is caught.

The treasure is found.

In this story… A Snake is Beheaded.

And for me that is definitely a very good ending.

I’ve been writing stories regarding the SBA Snake and its impact on our children.  I pretty much classify snakes in the “do not like, close to hate” category.   The image of the slithering, tongue flicking reptiles are the nearest metaphorical picture I could conjure up when I thought about the SBA. A scaly, toxic, harmful, serpent … injecting poison into our schools.

Then Story Seven came my way, and I realized a den full of snakes lurk.

Especially for our high school students.

The End Of Course (EOC) Biology Test… one of the vipers.

The Quick Short Story

A frustrated mom sends out a cry for help for her son. The words are written and shared.  A science teacher in Western Washington provides guidance, and an amazing retired teacher reads the story.  Within one week, the mom, courageous son, and darling kindergarten daughter find themselves on a road trip to Seattle from Spokane. The amazing retired teacher opens her home, hosts the family for their stay, and they are invited to a retired teacher’s dinner.  The courageous son is asked to speak.

And…

None other than Randy Dorn, Superintendent of OSPI, would also be in attendance at the retirement dinner.

The evening of May 26, 2015 begins and the climax of the story arrives.

The courageous junior is introduced, hands Superintendent Dorn a letter, and takes the mike.

In two minutes he Beheads the EOC Biology Test:

Tomie 3

And his letter completely slays the beast:

Dear Superintendent Dorn,

My name is Tomie Leeds; I am currently a junior attending John R. Rogers High School. I am writing to you today about my experience with the problems that the EOC testing has created for many others and me. I have felt extreme tension due to the qualifications that have been put on my graduation and future progress.

Speaking for many other students and myself, I think its safe to say, that we are angry, irritated, and being considered “Not College Ready”, because we are not able to pass one or more of the EOC tests required for graduation.

I have currently taken the EOC Biology test twice and have gotten the scores of “385” and “390”. Although these are high numbers, they don’t meet the requirements of a “passing” score of “400” – which is required for being able to graduate with a High School Diploma! In the event of failing once, or multiple times, it is a stressful and seemingly impossible road when trying to study for any of the EOC tests or retests. Our teachers are required to “prepare” their students to be ready for the test, but they aren’t privy to what will be in the test, are not allowed to review the tests, or to grade them. How then, can a teacher truly be able to “prepare” others, or myself to be ready for testing!?!

I’d like to address my own testing failures. I have taken the Biology EOC 2 times, and failed, as previously mentioned. I will take it again on Thursday when I return home to Spokane. However, I have no idea what I got right and what I got wrong the last two times, so I am unsure how to prepare this time or on future preparations and test taking, in the event that I fail again.

Mr. Dorn, I am not a stranger to working hard and pressing through. Until 3 ½ years ago I was being raised in an abusive, neglectful, and unsanitary environment (to be gentle). I had not attended most of the 7th grade, but “No Child Left Behind” sent me through to the 8th grade. I dropped out of the 8th grade just weeks after it began and locked myself in a “safe place” in my room and disappeared into a role-playing video game for hours and days on end. In February of 2012 I relocated to Washington State where I moved in with my Uncle Michael and his wife Jenn. I attended only 6 weeks of the 8th grade, and because I had a 3.5 GPA, again, they pushed me through to attend High School. I completed my freshman year with a 3.975 GPA. At that point it was decided that I ”must be bored out of his head” and I was then placed and have been placed in honors and AP classes ever since. This has not been easy for me but I have done well. I am not a 4.0 perfect scoring student. I don’t believe I am just average either. I have performed to the best of my abilities, with a lot of push from Jenn. But recently, having learned that my opportunity to graduate was on the line because of EOC testing, not even Jenn’s pushing was helping.

To be honest, sir, I had given up. It felt like it didn’t matter what I did or didn’t do because no amount of success and achievement on my part would compensate for failing the EOC in any of the 3 areas. I am an individual with abilities that do not match anyone else. My testing in class should be sufficient and if I pass, I pass. My success, or passing grade is not the result of my teacher’s abilities or lack thereof. My success and my failure have everything to do with what I put into my education. I am fortunate to not have learning disabilities, to not have been born under the influence of drugs or alcohol or to live homeless, though my situation was close. But, there are many that have been. These testing and forms of Education “reform” makes it impossible for those to meet the standards of “passing” scores unless the education system is brought to their level. Education is and should continue to be a limitless universe of possibilities. It should be designed or returned to the education that encourages fun in learning, flexibility to teach and discover at an individual level while meeting the class as a whole in the middle somewhere. Education cannot be confined to a tiny, limited space. Put a goldfish in a bowl and he will grow only to his spatial limits, but give him a tank or fresh water pond and his size is limitless. Each child from my little sister in kindergarten to myself and beyond has all been given different talents, levels of ability both physically and academically. We cannot sit and think that each child born is simply a number to be passed through a system of data and data regurgitation. We need each child to be seen as what they are, an individual with limitless possibilities that will vary from one to another with the opportunity to succeed as such!

It is my hope that my family’s visit today will help to make this process begin in a direction that reform becomes restore. I would appreciate a written response from you to my inquiries and concerns. Thank you for your time and I’ll be looking forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Tomie E.T. Leeds
Junior at John R. Rogers High School

The End

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

Testing is Becoming A Den of Snakes

I received the following story from a mom of a junior attending a high school in Spokane School District.  It crossed my computer screen late last night.  My sleep was restless.  Each time I woke up, this story entered my heart and made my blood boil.

Tossing and turning.

What can little ole’ me do?

For those of you who are close to me, one thing you know is I am a snake phobic.  I have been since I was a very small child.  Kind of silly.  Yet, here I find myself writing a SBAC Snake Series.  Just seeing pictures of snakes makes my skin crawl.  I envision the Indiana Jones scene in which the snakes are slithering over and under each other in the temple.  I couldn’t watch.

Another story came out of California, of a family who built their home over a snake den.  Unaware.  I again envision the hoard of snakes wiggling over and under each other and crawling up through the vents.  The occupants would kill one snake only to face another and another and another.  A snake exterminator didn’t work. Eventually the family vacated their brand new home after trying every avenue to eliminate the snakes.

Deep Breath. Den of Snakes 2

Mercy.

The following story made me feel like this family.

I’ve got my machete out and I’m trying to chop off the heads of all the Testing Snakes.

The SBA is like a huge King Cobra.

And there are many other snakes among us.

Story Seven

“I’m having an impossible time with my son’s High School (Spokane WA) My son is in the national honor society, an ACE Scholar, 3.8 GPA, honors and AP classes, has 18 of the 22 required credits for graduation (he’s only a junior) and he’s being told he won’t graduate next year because he hasn’t passed the Common Core standardized test (EOC) for biology (missed by 10 points). He got a C when he took AP biology. I’m so angry. What can I do?! Who do I talk or go to? I’ve been to the counselor, the vice principal, and now here. I need help. I’m going to explode with rage soon. Can anyone help me help my amazing son get this EOC test off his back?!?”

From a Mom with a conscience (emphasis mine)

Concluding Thoughts

What are we doing to our children? What messages are we sending? Can anyone honestly say this young man isn’t “college and career ready”?

Seriously.

He has four years of high school. Taken AP classes. Shown the new buzz word… “grit” and he won’t graduate because of one biology test? And he passed his AP Biology Class.

UNETHICAL.

What is this kind of stress doing to this young man? Is this test crazed data addicted system making him feel like a failure?

This is complete BS. Yep, my blood is boiling.

I wonder if they will make him take a “remedial” biology course his senior year from curricular materials written by Pearson? This wave of over testing is all about the “dang” money.

While the Chinese pay for IV Drips to keep their children awake to test prep, and the United States tries to “be more like them”, our children are pushed to have more “Grit”.

Yep.

We are fighting a den of snakes.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

This Story has A Happy Ending…

Read: A High School Junior Beheads a Snake

References:

1)  Why Teaching Kids To Have Grit Isn’t Always a Good Thing

2)  Chinese High School Pays For IV Drips For Studying Students

A Courageous High School Senior Stands Up To The SBA Snake

As I contemplate upon this story, my mind travels to Rosa Parks. This courageous woman was willing to defy the law and make a stand. Who has this kind of courage? What kind of person does it take to stand against the norm or what is accepted as “law”? Who has the ability to make a ripple in history and curb its trajectory?Ali 4

“On December 1, 1955, African-American seamstress Rosa Parks (1913-2005) was returning home from her job at a local department store on the Cleveland Avenue bus. She was seated in the front row of the “colored section.” When the white seats filled, the driver, J. Fred Blake (1912-2002), asked Parks and three others to vacate their seats. The other African-American riders complied, but Parks refused. She was arrested and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees.”Montgomery Bus Boycott

There are two key phrases above worthy to highlight:

  • The other African-American riders complied
  • Parks refused

Doesn’t this exemplify the parallels of today?

There are those who are quietly complying with the “laws”, being good boys and girls, men and women.  Quietly taking marching orders, and doing exactly what they are asked to do.

Then there are those who refuse. (Despite the complacent souls all around them).

Boycott.

Opt Out.

Declare, “Enough is Enough!”

Ali 5Rosa Parks’ small act of refusing to give up her seat, spearheaded the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and is regarded as the first large scale demonstration against segregation in the U.S.  The boycott of public buses by blacks, in Montgomery, began on the day of Parks’ court hearing and lasted 381 days.

Wrapped within this story is a hidden little nugget.

Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, 15-year old Claudette Colvin (1939- ) was arrested for the same act.  The city’s black leaders were going to stage a protest, but it was found out Claudette was pregnant with a child.  Therefore, they deemed her an inappropriate symbol for the cause.

Such were the times.

However, this does not negate the fact a 15 year old had the moxie (courage) to refuse. A fifteen year old, young, black woman, stood against the “powers that be” and the “law”, in a time when African Americans were looked down upon and considered less than those in charge.

The following young woman sent me this story yesterday.  There is no doubt she possesses the same fearless spirit of Rosa and Claudette.  A young woman, with a bright future ahead, speaks out, speaks up, and takes a stand.

Complete Moxie.

Courageous.

Story Six

High School Senior Challenges The Reptilian Monster

Ali 11

Hi,  

I am a senior attending a high school in Bellingham, Washington.

I was in Algebra 2 this a.m. when my teacher started to excuse the juniors in my class to practice for the Smarter Balance Assessment. I stood up in the back of the room where my desk is and said, “You do NOT have to take the test, you can opt out.” 

My teacher, we will call her ‘Mrs. L’, said, “No, you kids need to go, and if you don’t take it, you will be suspended.” 

I then said “No, that is wrong, it is not required what so ever.”

She then excused the kids and told me to go on up to the office. I said “Fine, but I know I am right.”

I go up to the office and the principal, ‘Mr. K’ asked me, “What’s up? Why did you get sent up here?”

I said, “I just told the kids that they can opt out from the SBA and ‘Mrs. L’ told me to come up here.”

He said “Okay, I’ll be right back.”

I was not put in any of the offices in the main office. He just told me to sit in a chair next to the main office secretary. My counselor never came in. ‘Mr. K’ never left the office. He came back about 10-15 minutes later, looked at me and just said “Alright, go back to class (me).”

I never got written up, my parents were not called, and nothing that I know of went into my file. Even if it did, I don’t care. I stood up for what I believe in and I graduate in 40 days. This is the first time I have EVER been sent to the office. We will see how the rest of the week goes. Practice testing is for the rest of the week, and the real testing is happening for the next two weeks. I plan to speak up every day until everyone knows.  

Here is the Facebook event link that the kids from three Bellingham High schools have made. You can share this on your blog also:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1055265677834398/

Thanks so much! 

A High School Senior with a Conscience (emphasis mine)

Concluding Thoughts

I’m extremely proud of the youth from these three Bellingham High Schools. They are refusing to blindly follow a state “mandate” and are willing to use their voices and boycott what is ethically wrong. Read their stand:

Ali 1

This is the courage it will take to rid our nation of the Toxic Testing Snakes.

Ali 2

In honor of the brave, young lady who stood up in the back of her classroom, and to all the gutsy students attending a Bellingham High School, I dedicate the following:

“Robert Kennedy once said that few will have the greatness to bend history,

but each of us can work to change a small portion of events,

and in the total of all those acts,

will be written in the history of a generation.”

I personally thank each of you for being dauntless.   Your stand for what is right and true will make a difference in the future of many children… including your own you may have someday.

Respectfully Submitted,

 RAZ ON FIRE

The SBA Being Sold Like Snake Oil… Story Five… Puyallup, WA

In my previous posts in this series, it has been established the SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment) is a black snake injecting its venom into our schools. It continues to flabbergast me each time I hear a story about who is promoting this test. A vision entered my mind of charlatans peddling snake oil. I see them around oval tables in ivory towers squeezing the SBA for all it is worth and figuring out ways to sell it to the public.

Drip. Drip.

Bottles are filled.

Robo-calls are made.Snake Oil 3

Letters are sent out from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Schools signed by Mr. Randy Dorn, espousing the “wonders” of the SBA, and “how it helps determine who is career and college ready”… “Without the scores, there is just no way to know who will be successful in college”… “The SBA is ‘THE’ answer we all have been waiting for to solve the ills of the educational system”.

The snake is squeezed.

Drip. Drip.

Threats are made. Superintendents of school districts feel the pressure of the poison. They in turn, pressure the administrators under them, and those put pressure on the principals, and they in turn drip the venom onto the teachers.

Snake Oil.

Story Five

The following story comes from a parent of a junior attending a High School in Puyallup, WA.   (It has already been determined 11th graders do not need to pass the SBA in order to receive a diploma in Story Three) Read what she shares, and determine if this is a case of a swindler selling snake oil.

Assistance, please….I have written my daughter’s high school three times to opt out my junior. No response to date. Today, she received her SBA schedule. She let the teacher know that she has been opted out and will not be taking the tests.

The teacher’s response was, “Too bad. You’re taking them anyway. It doesn’t matter what your parents say, they are state mandated.”

I need to know what I can do because I work 3 minutes away from the school and am about to go there and go ninja spider monkey crazy on them….

I’d want to go ninja spider monkey crazy on them too. As an educator, it makes me sad teachers have been pressured to enter into this sham. More teachers are rising up and pushing back, however, others march to the music of the snake charmers. They deliver the snake oil in hypnotized fear imparting the message of the money backed con artists.

The next day the parent updated the group with the following:

***Deep Breath***

I finally succeeded in opting my junior out of her SBA. Today, her English teacher told the class, while explaining the tests: “Those of you who have opted out will show a zero on the transcripts that colleges will see. This means you won’t be able to take any 101 classes, only 98 classes which are High School level. They also base these on my performance, so if you fail or opt out, I get fired.”

Grrrrrrrr.

Drip Drip.

Snake Oil.

Here are some responses from other parents to this story:

1) For the record, I had absolutely no problem at the elementary school or the Junior High my children attend in Puyallup. It was truly hassle free and one of the principals actually called me to tell me when they were practice testing ahead of time. So the high school principal is the root of the issue. You could also talk with administrator (name left anonymous) in the downtown office 1:1. She’s nice.

2) This is not acceptable and is emotional manipulation in addition to being a blatant lie.

3) It was a lie, the teacher is speaking out of fear or anger….either way the teacher is uninformed. As a parent, I feel for all our teachers who are having to deal with what their districts push on them. They are feeling it from up above. It’s coming from the top down, and it’s sad. Parents need to attend board meetings and make these things known.

4) My 6th grade son’s English/Social Studies teacher told her class if they didn’t do well on the test, she’d be fired. It’s INSANE!

Grrrrrrrr.

What eats snakes?

Mongoose devour them.

However, I feel more like this Tasmanian Devil.  Watch 30 second video clip (here).

Tasmanian devils have been known to eat a reptile or two.

Concluding Thoughts

Those of us who desire to go “ninja spider monkey crazy” are people who have done a lot of research. We have charlatan radar and refuse to buy the bottle of snake oil. The definition is as follows:

Snake oil is an expression that originally referred to fraudulent health products or unproven medicine but has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. By extension, a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is their self a fraud, quack, charlatan, or the like.

The SBA is one of those PRODUCTS.

It IS questionable and it DOES have an unverifiable quality.

And… of course… NO benefits.

Thus, essentially, the SBA is a $nake being milked and $old just like Snake Oil.

And, then, there’s this…

“Standardized test passing rates are based on arbitrary and political decisions about how many students decision-makers want to fail. SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college. In fact, SBAC declares that the achievement levels “do not equate directly to expectations for `on-grade’ performance” and test scores should only be used with multiple other sources of information about schools and students.” –A System that Labels Children as Failures, by Wendy Lecker (See References)

This is what turns me into the Tasmanian Devil… The SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college???!!!

Huh?

Sheesh!

Um. Clearing the throat.

Snake Oil 2Why, oh why, are those who are supposed to be the leaders in our state, allowing this charade to continue? If the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium itself admits they cannot validate the test as a predictor to success in college, why, then, are the citizens of Washington State receiving robo-calls paid for by ReadyWA.org (funded by Gates Money) or letters from Superintendent Randy Dorn (CCSSO funded by Gates Money)?

Snake Oil Salesman.

Why is the SBA being promoted by Gates funded organizations? Why is the educational leader of our state, Superintendent Dorn promoting the SBA?

$$$$$$$$$$$ssssssssssssssSnake…. Oil….. $$$$$$$$$$$ssssssss

More and more studies are emerging to expose the faultiness of the SBA. There are several links in the reference section exposing the greasy and VERY expensive bottle of lard for what it is.

Don’t buy it.

Opt Out.

Refuse.

My blood is boiling… is yours?

Speak Up. Speak Out.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

References:

  1. A system that labels children as failures, by Wendy Lecker, was first published in the Stanford Advocate on Friday, December 19, 2014.
  2. Jonathan Pelto posted Lecker’s article on his blog entitled, “Wait What?”
  3. The Smarter Balanced Common Core Mathematics Tests are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used
  4. Full Report: The Smarter Balanced Common Core Mathematics Tests are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used.  (Last Updated 4/29/2015)
  5. Common Core SBAC Test Shows No Validity or Reliability
  6. Common Core Testing Disaster, FLASHREPORT
  7. SBAC Test Shows No Validity or Reliability, Missouri Education Watchdog
  8. The Common Core SBAC: Separating fact from fiction, the top ten FAQ’s and answers about opting out

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