Category Archives: Series: School Board Presentations

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..

Sincerely,

R

Parent

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,

RAZ ON FIRE

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

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The Impact of High Stakes Tests… Presentation to WA State School Board

January 13, 2016

TO: The Washington State School Board

FROM: Raschelle Holland, Educator and Parent

RE: Two Minute Presentation: The Impact High Stakes Testing is Having upon Our Children and Schools

Good Afternoon Washington State School Board Directors,

I’m Raschelle Holland, a K-6 Math Specialist/Instructional Coach from Spokane working in the highest poverty school in the district. We have the largest homeless population and one of the highest ELL populations. I’m a 26 year, accomplished, award winning, and National Board Certified Teacher.

I also have an 8 year old child of my own. I speak for him as well as for all the children who don’t have a voice.

Vigor Trumps Rigor

The definition of “rigor” the Superintendent of this ESD gave this morning was enlightening. Let me add the following… VIGOR TRUMPS RIGOR. When I was a teacher in my own self-contained classroom it was filled with many of the suggestions made this morning around Career Readiness. My students were engaged with hands-on learning, out in the community, and experiencing many learning expeditions. These were the days when teacher creativity was honored and I was given the flexibility, trust, and autonomy to make learning come alive, and the core of my instruction was based on the love of life-long learning.

Then NCLB hit in 2001 and slowly, but surely, I have watched the unraveling of teacher’s abilities and freedoms slowly erode to “academic rigorous” curriculums lock stepping educators into scripted and dry curricular adopted materials.

Young Children Are Being Filtered Based on a Single Score on a Single Test

Discrimination 2The high stakes nature and discrimination of the current tests absolutely begins early. In Spokane Public Schools, they sent out information to teachers that any 4th or 5th grader (9, 10, & 11 year olds) who scored a level 3 or 4 on the Mathematics portion of the SBA would be eligible to participate and have access to a new computerized advanced math program. As I reviewed the elementary school data, the affluent schools will have near 80% of their students “qualify”, whereas in my high poverty school, only 25% will “qualify”.

Furthermore, the school district produced a video and posted it on the SPS Weekly News. Every single student featured is Caucasian and from the same affluent school ranked an “A” by the state according to their incredible test scores.  My school was given an “F” ranking.  I’d sure like to send the gifted teaching staff in my school to the affluent school to teach for one year.  Wonder what the test scores would show?

Video Link Here: Accelerated Math Program Lets Students Stretch

This screams discrimination. And… The opportunity “achievement” gap widens.

Note: One young man on the video shared how a computer was bought so he could use the program more at home. More valuable hours… valuable hours the students in my school do not have access to. 

No home internet access + No home computer = No Accelerated Math Extra Hours

Discrimination 1Children are being filtered at 9 and 10 years old based on one score from a single test. Research shows once a child is tracked, they are typically stuck within that track forever. (See attached from OSPI: Strengthening Student Outcomes, Technical Report on Best Practices and Strategies for Mathematics)

The test itself and the information received from the test is not usable at the classroom level. More and more studies are coming out regarding the lack of validity and reliability of the test. Every legislator, school board member, superintendent, and district administrator must be willing to dig and read these findings.

Study #1: The Common Core Mathematics Tests are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used

Note: This document breaks down many items and shows specifically why the test does not measure a student’s abilities in mathematics.

 Study #2: Using computers widens the achievement gap in writing, a federal study finds

Withdraw From this Flawed Test

Many states have or are in the process of withdrawing from either the SBAC or PARCC. I’ve been through the WASL, MSP, and now the SBAC. Of all of them, this test is the most time consuming and is taking days away from instruction. Young children (8, 9, & 10) are on the computers from 9 – 3 on test days… children… whose hands barely span the keyboard. The ELA Performance Task took many children 2 – 3 days to complete.

I will end on this…

As a Data/Math Coach, I have the “heart ache” of proctoring many tests and…

I. See. It. All.

Discrimination 6A 9 year old with big brown eyes and the most beautiful, smooth chocolate skin, an African Refuge with limited English, enters the computer lab. She looks up at me and says in her endearing accent, “Another Test? Another Test?”

Oh. My. Heart.

She stared at her screen most of the day. What else could she have been doing? Um… hmmm… A hands-on enriching project perhaps? What are we sacrificing in the name of “accountability”?

I am protecting my own son from all of this, which is my parental right. I will continue to opt him out and refuse to allow the system to categorize or track him based on a score on a single test. I wish I could protect other children and shield them from The Testing Abuse.

I seriously question the ethics and morality of what we are doing to children.

C H I L D R E N.

I hope you will take the time to look within and question too.

Passionately Submitted,

Raz on Fire

(Bio)

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

Good Evening To All The Board of Directors.

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

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

Action #1: Amplify Testing

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

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

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

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

Exhibit A  Arabic Multiple Choice / Constructed Response Sample Test

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

How So?

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

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

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

Exhibit B       5th Grade ELA Interim Amplify Assessment

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

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

Exhibit C       Item #31  Constructed Response.

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

Action #1 Request

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

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

Action Item Request #2  EngageNY  (Eureka) Mathematics

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

new-york-teacher-statement

 

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

Diving 2

 Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

 References:

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

 

 

 

 

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

Good Evening To All The Board of Directors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Steps… A Call to Action

Action #1: Amplify Testing Diving 1

Please solve:

5 X (16 + 8 ÷ 4) – 5 X 2

Answer: ________

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

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

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

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

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

C H I L D R E N.

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

Spokane School Districts Testing Calendar

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

Action Item #2 EngageNY Mathematics

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

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

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

Congratulations

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

You. Can. Make. A. Difference.

Passionately Submitted,

Raz on Fire