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My remarks in support of parents opting out from PARCC 4

My remarks in support of parents opting out from PARCC

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in EduPolicy

I got the opportunity to present comments on the side of parents and students who are refusing the PARCC standardized tests being administered statewide in Colorado today.

For those of you that don’t know, PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.  It is supposedly aligned with the Common Core Standards (but not neatly), and the test itself was written by Pearson, a UK company.

I got some great feedback from folks via social media today after announcing that I would be participating in today’s telecast.  The feedback is great, so I’ll just share some with you here.

  • “I heard a rep from CEA say that many teachers spend 30% of their time preparing students for tests and would llike to get that instructional time back. One of my main complaints is that a huge portion of educational funding is being sent to testing companies (read Pearson) instead of being used on legitimate instructional expenses.”
  • “I simply don’t believe that teachers should be judged based on how students perform on a test. We know, or I believe we do, that tests are only one way of assessing student performance; and, as people are sharing here, many kids struggle with the test format and it is not a fair means of assessing their learning. Not only that, but it appears to me from watching my ex-wife teach that we are forcing educators to operate within such a small stage of space where they can bring their own creativity and insight to bear, much of that because of teaching to tests and standards, that there is too little room for teachers to trust their instincts and address each child individually. We need involved teachers, peer review that is honest but not harsh and degrading (same with review by those in management). School is NOT the place to bring a corporate performance based mindset. We are teaching kids, not producing workers, right?”
  • “We spent the bulk of our tech time teaching kids how to use the tools provided during the test. It’s a good exercise for adults to get on the website and do a practice test to see what these kids are having to deal with and the instructional time we forgo to make sure they can maneuver through this inanely organized mess.”
  • “The kids are worried about their teachers and also because they don’t understand why they are taking tests if they don’t get grades or it doesn’t impact their lives. No matter how teachers explain it, kids don’t quite understand (neither do I).”
  • “When our kids don’t take the test, and the schools don’t provide supervised activities, that’s a problem. If the options for high schoolers are to remain in a room doing nothing or leave campus when it’s 10 degrees outside, what are they suppose to do? Why is the test a priority over providing a safe learning environment at the schools?”
  • “Last week I got a new arrival from Mexico and she doesn’t speak any English and I don’t think she’s ever used a computer. Yesterday, they wanted her to test and I said no way. Her family needs to be presented the option of opting out considering her situation.”
  • “Every 6 weeks the kids are tested at wills school. Interim cmas, a-net…will has completely opted out, but from what I hear they are pushing a-net on the title 1 schools across the country. All will hears is ‘you are so lucky to not take the tests’ data mining, who knows what they are doing with our kids information and who they are giving it to.”
  • “Why am I even at school if the entire year is test prep?” (from a student)
  • “I’m sorry, but how do you measure the fire about lunar eclipses that has been lit in my son’s mind from his teacher? Or the teacher who took her own time to help me figure out my son was eating dairy and gluten from a school lunch, that is why he was acting up? How is that measured in a standardized test?”
  • “Testing on a computer makes the chasm between the haves and the have nots even wider as higher income students in more resourced schools have more experience using technology and have likely learned to navigate, troubleshoot and type better on a computer than kids who do not have access to a computer at home or whose schools have not had a technology teacher.”
  • Quoted from angelaengel.com: The 2014 Draft APA Report on Assessment Use in Colorado Districts and Schools listed actual seat time at more than 72 hours for nine and ten-year olds in the fourth grade (pg. 24). While 49 hours is the average amount of time a student spends on state mandated standardized tests each year (this does not include formative or informal assessments), the Graduate Record Exam, GRE, requires only 3.45 hours for adults applying to graduate school. The LSAT, required for entrance into law school, averages four hours. The 2012 READ Act dramatically increased testing for young children in the primary grades between kindergarten and third grade. Testing time has tripled in grades 3-5 between 2012 and 2014. It is also important to note that the congressionally mandated standardized test, NAEP(National Assessment of Educational Progress) is not included in these time estimates. NAEP is administered each year in all 50 states to a representative sampling and has been providing valid and reliable data on student performance since 1969.
  • 1. Whether the test is good or not, every child should be treated respectfully when they are non-compliantly standing for what they believe in.
    2. The PARCC forces ELL students to take the reading test entirely in English with access to a translation dictionary. Would the other speaker be willing to take a test in a completely foreign language with only a dictionary.  3. The test violates federal law by not respecting modifications and accomodations required by students’
    4. States should not pay corporations to pilot tests, nor should students be pushed to take them without choice or compensation.
    5. Many of the passages so far are jingoist, sexist or poorly written.

    6. The questions are literally impossible for read aloud students.
  • “From the point of view of a specials/ elective teacher. the tested students are not the only ones effected. the Whole school has to be “silent” during testing hours, so PE, and music classes may need to change their plans around testing. Having Kindergartners walk silently in the hall is a stress to those teachers, and kids who don’t yet understand what is happening.”
  • “On use of technology, all classes not testing will likely have to put their technology away or give to classes testing. Couldn’t load my streamed video today or download an app for kids to use because all the band width is take for testing.”
  • “Parents/students who opt-out are not against all forms of assessments. Most are against high-stakes, excessive assessments. The 1% theory is completely ridiculous as students and teachers spend so much time on other mandated tests (interims, etc.).”
  • “In terms of loss of class time for kids, during testing some schools release some students while others are taking PARCC. For ex, at DCIS, high schoolers don’t have school while middle schoolers take the PARCC. Quote from one such high schooler yesterday, “I really hope they keep PARCC ’cause it’s awesome having days off.” I know that at EAST they’ve been finishing early on some days.”
  • “There are fewer than three weeks in the spring semester during which a state-mandated test window is not open. WIDA Access (for ELLs) closes mid-February, parcc opens first week of March, cmas opens before parcc closes, then parcc part deux opens again before the cmas window closes, and stays open through the end of the year. Add interims and DPS-mandated ‘beyond the common core’ (elective) pre and post tests, and SRI testing at the beginning and end of the year, and there are fewer than six weeks in the school year during which some DPS or state window is NOT open.”
  • “what results really say when they arrive 7 months hence…”
  • “Schools in Boulder are not in danger of closure. Multiple schools in Denver are threatened each year.”
  • “I wish the conversation were not limited to PARCC but all the benchmark assessments that are purportedly in place to track progress towards proficiency on PARCC. READ Act assessments administered three times a year K-3 plus trimester interim assessments plus ACCESS assessments. It’s overkill, not limited to PARCC/CMAS.”
  • “1. People argue about whether test scores fairly evaluate schools or whether resulting sanctions serve educational goals. Either way, wouldn’t it be smarter to invest more in teacher and school development and less in evaluation?2. If testing is a good idea, let’s expand the concept. Shouldn’t all public servants be evaluated based upon objective tests of their clients and constituents? Shouldn’t corporate supervisors be evaluated based upon objective tests of those they supervise?”
  • “The truth is that PARCC, like the CSAP, TCAP, and CMAS before it, have NO published independent studies supporting the validity or reliability of the test. This means they are testing kids with tools that have NEVER been tested. This violates all statistical scientific principles for compiling evidenced based research and constitutes experimentation, not accountability. If the measurement tool is invalid and unreliable, then all of the data collected from that tool is invalid and unreliable. More here: http://www.angelaengel.com/faq/”
  • “The moving target that has been acknowledged – the cut scores for proficiency ranges – have not been determined yet because they want to see the results first – then determine the rankings and levels. This is one explanation for the delayed reporting of results we are expecting later this fall possibly into winter.”
  • “As the test coordinator many hours (three full days specifically) were spent to get all info uploaded in the Pearson system. All of it was said to be uploaded but we found it wasn’t so I had to spend more time entering students that were supposedly uploaded. During the test….students at our school are absent, the chatter is that “I just won’t come when I should test”. I would call that opting out. Students not taking it seriously, as you have said it has no impact on their schooling. They don’t understand the ramifications for the school on poor performance until it actually happens then they get it. All non English speaking students have to test no matter English Proficiency…..our monolingual Spanish speakers have to test. I asked about this and only if they have an ILP, IEP, ALP or 504 that states specifics around language they have to test just like the other students. 11th graders are saying that people lied to them since for a long time we have said just 9th and 10th graders have to test in CSAP, TCAP…so they are not coming to school or just clicking and typing to make it seem like they are answering questions out of spite. In the math, math teachers that have taken practice PARCC say the directions and tasks are confusing for them, so our students are lost. In the ELA class there is a lot of scrolling up and down to just answer a few questions. In classes our teachers teach that writing is a process the students don’t get to go through a process during the ELA part, they write once and move on. From the tech standpoint there needs to be computers that have sound working (this has been an issue for us because we don’t have all shiny new computers, some have been around several years and the sound card it shot). Why do they need sound? Because one question that I could see had a video they needed to watch to answer the two part question. Maybe it was three part, but that is all. Testing time and scheduling is a nightmare. Especially when you are a small school with limited staff. We are using all staff to help out without interfering with the instructional time of those not being tested. This window falls at the end of our 3rd quarter so students are worrying not just about passing their class, they are worrying about PARCC. Unneeded stress for a teenager with multiple stresses in their life already. Since the window opened on the 2nd for us, 85% of my time daily has been testing and we are not done until next week. This is the PBA and in a few weeks we do it all over again with the EOY assessment, same students same subjects essential the same assessment.”
  • “The system we use as coordinators to monitor testers and tests is very involved and not intuitive. Multiple steps to do what is needed. As any test online or paper, a lot of paper shuffling that will just be shredded later. Each user manual is a professionally bound book of over 122 pages. Our received 14 of them. I am sure hundred if not thousands are printed. Very costly. The cost of testing is really a major problem I have with all this. We could hire more staff to give the support our students need. What info do we get from the test? In my experience as a teacher and administrator I learn that I have students that are not meeting the standards, why? Limited basic skills in math, reading, writing. I have learned that my students are not great at reading and interpreting technical graphs and charts. I have learned that summarizing is a skill my students need. Did the test tell me all this? No, I learned this from classroom observation and practice, listening to students, conferencing with students. Not learned from a test which is a one time snapshot. Or a test that I get results from a few months down the road when my ideal teaching moment with certain skills has passed long ago.”
  • “The testing regime has completely disrupted the operations of schools, have placed undue and inappropriate stress on children, and the results, if and when we get them, will be meaningless to their educational growth. We know where our kids are and how they are achieving. PARCC/CMAS add nothing to the conversation.”

Some links and resources crowdsourced for better context:

 

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Andrea Merida offers Green Party rebuttal to state of the union address 0

Andrea Merida offers Green Party rebuttal to state of the union address

Posted by on Jan 24, 2015 in EduPolicy, Legislation

I was honored to offer the Green Party of the United States’ rebuttal to President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, on the aspect of education.

In case you didn’t know, I am the co-chair of the Denver Green Party, a delegate of the Green Party of Colorado’s central committee and a delegate to the Green Party national committee representing Colorado.  It was an honor to represent the vision and mindset of everyone who opposes the corporate reform (deform) agenda and who resists the commodification and privatization of our public schools.

Check it out, and give the video a like.

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Poverty, PISA and the power of working families

Posted by on Sep 14, 2014 in EduPolicy

Well, this week the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of its world-famous study, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 2012.  The release of this data causes flurry of activity and commentary in the educational world because this data ranks nations against each other in student performance across various academic disciplines.

Now, before I comment on what the analysis means for the United States, I’d like to shed some light on who OECD is and why we have to take their results and framing with a grain of salt.  The organization is an offshoot of the Marshall Plan, the package of economic aid offered by the United States to Europe after WWII, with the hope of protecting markets from communism, which was thought to be looming from the then-Soviet Union.

The goals of the Marshall Plan were to, “…rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and make Europe prosperous again,”  which sounds suspiciously like NAFTA and the new ominous TPP, doesn’t it?

The point I’m making by shedding light on the roots of OECD and the attention they pay to test scores around the world is simply that they are yet another entity that regurgitates data to serve the “free market,” or my new favorite term, “casino capitalism” (h/t Dr. Henry Giroux).  We have to take any of these data results with a grain of salt; still, they can be an indicator of what’s happening in our classrooms.  But just an indicator.  Don’t get carried away and start closing schools with this stuff…

Long story short,

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On the different yard stick for some Comments Off

On the different yard stick for some

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Race and class

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few interactions with folks who swear up and down that they’re not racists but who can’t admit that things just aren’t what they seem.

One of the most frustrating things, as a working-class woman of color, is to hear from people you care about that you’re “overreacting” when expressing feelings about issues regarding race and/or class privilege. The common theme is that I’m just looking for something to fight about, or that I have severely misjudged the person/institution and that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Statements such as those are immediately privileged, because they (a) say that my concerns aren’t important; and (b) the same courtesy that would be afforded to someone else (i.e.; politely listening instead of refuting) can’t be offered to me because of the topic.

Even though I was raised as a Latina by immigrant parents, I do have some experience navigating in an Anglo world. My understanding of “conventional” courtesy is when someone is talking about an issue that is troubling, the listener waits patiently, perhaps offers some words of consolation or empathy but doesn’t try to shame the speaker into admitting that he or she is totally wrong. That would be considered rude and possibly confrontational in the dominant culture, right? So why is it that when many people of color broach topics relating to privilege, we’re automatically overreacting?

I think privilege itself causes normally kind and gentle people to circle their wagons around their own.

But what is this thing called privilege? And how is it different from racism? I’ll give my own perspective here. Privilege is benefiting from systems designed to support your success. For example, take the “it’s who you know” approach to networking for jobs. Because non-minorities are already in positions of influence within companies, people in their circles can take advantage of those relationships. If you’re not in that person’s circle, you can’t.

The biggest challenge we’re going to have in any policy arena, be it public education, economics or anything else, is for those who have the privilege of not worrying about inequity to be humble enough to allow the voices of those who suffer inequity to speak and be heard.  Non-minorities, to a great extent, need to learn how to be allies.

Here are some resources, although some might be hard to stomach.  Suck it up and learn.

 

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About the election (or, he who knocks on the most doors, wins) 0

About the election (or, he who knocks on the most doors, wins)

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Board of Education, Community, Politics

I just thought I’d share a few observations about this past election.  Of course, everyone knows by now that the board elections were swept by the pro-corporate reform candidates, which now brings the count to 6-1 in favor of such free market-based philosophy for public education.

It is what it is.

One can’t really look at this outcome and declare a mandate for the free-market side without also taking the Amendment 66 implosion into consideration, though.

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