Category Archives: SBAC Series

The Silence of the Teachers… While the Lambs are Slaughtered

The last day of the SBA test for my school was this past Friday.  There may be a few makeups and loose ends to tie… but for all sakes and purposes we all made it through another Hurricane Season.  The “Testing Coordinator” for our school, a teacher who maintained her real job during the storm, ripped the testing schedule into tiny pieces in celebration as a handful of us looked on.  The pressure this test creates in our schools is indescribable.  The time it steals from real and joyful learning even more tragic.

And the silencing of the teachers … is loud.

One teacher expressed on their personal Facebook page:

“Right now in our state hundreds of thousands of students and tens of thousands of educators are engaged in giving or taking a test. None of those adults or students involved – and the students are as young as eight – may ever discuss what was on the test. This thing that the state and federal government has spent literally billions developing and implementing can’t be discussed by those involved in it. If they do, the kids could have their scores invalidated, educators could lose their licenses and, if they talk about it in some ways, they could be sued by the corporations that created the tests. Educators can be punished if they suspect someone is talking about it and they don’t report that.

Vast numbers of people compelled to never discuss the specifics of days they spent in school, under threat of punishment, and to report on those who might be talking.

When did this become normal? Acceptable?”

Exactly.

When DID this become normal? Acceptable?

The public at large must grasp the silence being imposed on professionals and children.  Any of us involved in the testing in any way had to do a proctor training.  Thank Golly our testing coordinator whittled down the PowerPoint sent out by OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) from over 100 slides to about 50.  Still… we are in the business of teaching… and yet this is just another time zapper robbing educators of precious planning time and a hoop we all must jump through.

Then… we all must sign “The Form” swearing our “Oath to Secrecy”.

See:

We walk up and down the aisles, ensuring there is no cheating, pat a few shoulders of the students sighing throughout the five hours of testing in ONE day (knowing they will face three more), wipe tears off the faces of those who cry, clean the vomit from the mouths of children who can not handle the stress, and deal with escalated behavior problems during the testing window.

Reality.

But, Alas!… We have the Badass Teachers (BATs) who resist this slaughtering of our precious lambs.  We are shouting from the rooftops about how insane this system has become and exposing this mental child abuse for what it is.

One fourth grade BAT tried to resist signing “The Oath to Secrecy Form”…

She writes:

“I just went through this at school. Threatened to NOT SIGN the non-disclosure statement. Talked with admin as well as local and state union reps. Ultimately was assured that I could speak out anytime anywhere, but could not QUOTE secure content. We need parents, our union leadership, legislators, and anyone else in positions of influence to be active in this issue. WHO gets to see their secure content that is so creating the data that is DRIVING decisions affecting kids’ lives? Driving school ratings. Driving real estate values. Apparently I don’t, or I risk being fired for insubordination.”

Albert Einstein Quote

A few weeks ago a teacher came into my office and said, “I know we aren’t suppose to talk about anything on the test, but the performance task my students just had to complete today was horrible.”  It did not align with the Common Core “Standard” for her grade level, and the readability level was above the student’s current grade level.

See:

Then there is this strange world for those of us who read the test to students.

I personally had the awful “pleasure” of reading some of the SBA to a few students this year.  They are on IEPs and it is an accommodation.  Think about it.  I read the test items to students, but I sign a form saying I won’t look at or discuss the items.

Twilight Zone Strange.

And from my humble and professional judgment, many of the test items were outright ridiculous.  I found myself saying, “Wait, What?” on more than one occasion… and I’m an adult with a Master’s Degree… not a special needs child or an eight, nine, or ten year old.

Sigh.

Another teacher puts it this way:

finger whisper“I am one of those who lives in the strange world of reading ‘the test’ to students who have IEP accommodations. What I read makes me frustrated, crazy, and sad. Its even worse for the students I teach. Ever since the testing mania started in our state (think WASL), I have had students melt to tears at some point during testing. But I’m not supposed to talk about that.”

What is all this demand for silence about?

Giving an assessment is suppose to inform a teacher’s instruction…  allow teachers to analyze strengths and weakness of their students.  If a test is given in which:

  • test items are above grade level in readability
  • the testing platform is complicated
  • the interfaces of the test intricate
  • it expects children to type answers when they don’t know how to type
  • children are tested to the point of exhaustion
  • test items can not be analyzed by the very people who give it

Then…

What. Is. The. Point?

Another teacher laments:

“It is a travesty, a rape of public education by the corporate elite. Fear tactics to destroy public education. Let’s get back to teaching and learning in engaging, creative ways. Nobody wants to be a teacher anymore. Where is the fun?”

As our precious lambs are led to the Testing Slaughter Houses… teachers, the one’s entrusted with our children, are silenced.

lambs-2-slaughter

*All educators quoted gave permission to use their words and are in classrooms across Washington State.

*We will not be silenced.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

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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.

Okay.

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.

conspiracy-theorist

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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”?

And…

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,

RAZ ON FIRE

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

 

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