Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

The Lie/The Reply

mandy's blog

Remember when I worked very hard to get people to a Town Hall with Dennis Kucinich so he could talk about how charter schools receive unfair funding? The meeting was basically taken over by charter school proponents, most notably, those from the Constellation Schools. They all came in expecting the meeting to be about us trying to close all charter schools. That was not true, but it is what they were told. While I do not know for sure if parents of kids in the Elyria Constellation Schools were given a letter like the one that was given to parents in Parma,

I know for sure that there were many parents at our meeting and they were mad. The letter that was sent to the Parma parents was sent to them by Richard Lukich who helped found the schools and is president of the board of directors. This man, aside from being rude to me personally and blocking people from the info I had on a table while he stood at the door like he owned the place, sat in that meeting and said over and over again that charter schools have to adhere to the same accountability and transparency standards as public schools. He also said that everyone there was free to ask him anything that they want and he will tell us.

So I took him up on his offer. A few weeks later I sent him a public records request asking for a long list of information including salaries of staff (including his and the rest of the board), how much they send to their management company, how much money they spend on operational costs, and a few other things. This letter was mailed to him May 11th.

I just received a response from their lawyers this afternoon. In what should be a surprise to no one, they denied my request for information. The letter stated that the schools are not a public entity so they do not have to give me any of the information that I requested. They also stated that since there is no list of the salaries of those I requested, they do not have to give me those or create a list for me. And even if such a list did exist, they are under no obligation to give it to me even if Constellation was a public office.

I know what the treasurer of the Elyria City Schools (where my son attends school) makes but I have no idea what the treasurer of the Constellation School that is three blocks from my house makes. He was also at this meeting and was talking about how the Constellation Schools have nothing to hide.

So now I am just flummoxed. If the Constellation Schools, and Richard Lukich in particular, are such an open book, then why did he pass my letter off to his lawyers who subsequently denied my request? I am sure all of the people that followed him to that meeting would love to know the truth about what he said too. I know I would not be too happy if I found out that the schools I sent my son to were trying to hide something from the public.

Here is the reply:

let 1let 2

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#OhioGradCrisis, Education, Ohio, Public Schools, School Board, Schools, seniors

Head’s Up! Action Alert! #OhioGradCrisis

laser pic

Apples have been set on the students’ heads, and the ‘archers’ are yelling “Be still—our accuracy is arbitrarily set!”  What could possibly go wrong?

Ohio BATs recently chose very intentionally to laser–focus lobbying efforts towards securing a safe harbor for the graduating class of 2018. Our efforts set two Senators into motion to write language into the budget bill demanding a one-time-exception for those with a specific set of high stakes being attached to the receiving of high school diplomas, since the PARCC testing was a one-year-failed-experiment.  Our demands were quickly voted out. A set of extra criteria, developed for those striving to ‘walk with their class’ were inserted instead.  Amazingly, those extra graduation requirements remained in the budget bill. They somehow missed the sword swipes of Governor Kasich’s veto powers.

Ohio BATs will NOT be celebrating the fact that they remained. We are tired of crying out for the freshest of bread loaves for the children and receiving some kind of paltry moldy crumb sprinklings. There is this wrong notion circulating that you can only ask for what you think you might possibly be given, and even then you should be prepared to be haggled down to even a lesser amount.  The power remains with those abusing the power. The oppressed keep their heads bowed and eyes on the ground, acquiescing by profusely thanking those in charge for the tiny appeasements. Those “reforming education” and being motivated by dark monies are artists at keeping with their profit-seeking agendas, and then appearing or acting as though they care for the peasantry by occasionally letting the people think they are getting what they want. This groveling game is growing tiresome and is unbecoming of the what these primary stakeholders more than deserve.

WE, Ohio BATs and others, are not done yet! WE are going to demand a study be done on how this list of extra things the hopeful and stressed out seniors can try and do, will actually impact the kids that still don’t have the points! The study will include data from the spring tests too, (like they did last time). Head’s up! Stop settling!

Time is NOT on our side. The next State Board meeting is Tuesday, July 11th. Please email each of the Board members and voice your concerns that the graduation requirement list for 2018 does not go far enough to help ALL of those families who will now not know until nearly the last few weeks of school, if their students will graduate or not. This is not a game. This is not time for politicking or partisanship. These children were wronged and the wrong needs righted.

Matt Jablonski’s email: http://testingwindow.blogspot.com/2017/07/graduation-problem-it-ain-over-it-over.html

BOARD MEMBERS:

Linda Haycock                    Linda.Haycock@education.ohio.gov                  (419) 979-6438

Kathleen A. McGervey  Kathleen.McGervey@education.ohio.gov               (440) 669-0780

Charlotte McGuire          Charlotte.McGuire@education.ohio.gov                 no ph. #

Pat Bruns                             Pat.Bruns@education.ohio.gov                               (513) 310-8953

Lisa Woods                        Lisa.Woods@education.ohio.gov                             (330) 410-6733

Antoinette Miranda        Antoinette.Miranda@education.ohio.gov                (614) 565-7926

Sarah Fowler                     Sarah.Fowler@education.ohio.gov                          (440) 563-8535

Nancy P. Hollister (VP)   Nancy.Hollister@education.ohio.gov                         (740) 373-6523

Stephanie Dodd                Stephanie.Dodd@education.ohio.gov                       (740) 629-1333

Nick Owens                       Nick.Owens@education.ohio.gov                              (513) 706-2634

Meryl Johnson                 Meryl.Johnson@education.ohio.gov                         (216) 561-1396

AT-LARGE MEMBERS: 

Tess Elshoff (Pres)           ElshoffTess@education.ohio.gov                               (419) 753-2583

Cathye Flory                       Cathye.Flory@education.ohio.gov                            (740) 603-6365

Joseph L. Farmer              Joe.Farmer@education.ohio.gov                                (740) 862- 8649

Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings   Rebecca.Vazquez-Skillings@education.ohio.gov

Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings   (614) 256- 9317

Martha Manchester       Martha.Manchester@education.ohio.gov                (419) 303-2672

Eric Poklar                           Eric.Poklar@education.ohio.gov                              (614) 519-5526

Kara Morgan                      Kara.Morgan@education.ohio.gov                           (202) 297-4555

Laura Kohler                       Laura.Kohler@education.ohio.gov                          (614) 425-0183

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#OhioGradCrisis, Education, Ohio

Why I Cannot Support More Graduation “Pathways”

We met with a handful of Ohio Senators last week. Since it matters for this discussion’s sake, 6 of the 8 we talked with are Republicans. Not one of them disagreed that we need a solution for our Class of 2018. Not one of them defended the nightmare they have created for our now seniors. But, when it came down to it, they did not support the logical and humane solution for our kids with their votes.

We’ve discussed ad-nauseum the impending graduation crisis for Ohio’s now seniors. In Wednesday’s vote, state senators had an opportunity to provide relief to our students through “safe harbor.” The amendment offered would allow students in the Class of 2018 to use course grades for the seven content areas in lieu of standardized state tests to earn points toward the required minimum of 18. This amendment was tabled on a party line vote of 24-9.

Instead, the amendment which remains in the Senate’s version of the budget bill would require students to jump through even more hoops to meet graduation requirements. After changing tests in three of the last four years and changing the cut scores for passage with a new vendor, after 12 years of learning and hard work in their classes, after taking seven end of course state tests (and retakes for any with scores of 2 or 1, plus their required remediation), these seniors could now be faced with two additional hoops to jump through in order to earn their diploma.

While I am glad these new, unnecessary hoops remove the burden of scoring 18 points through the seven standardized tests, I am irate that students will still be required to retake any state tests for which they scored a 2 or 1. Though they need not earn a passing score, they must serve the testing gods. This is the definition of state-sanctioned educational malpractice.

Some claim the new pathways somehow “soften” the state’s graduation requirements. To them, I’d offer the following, albeit imperfect, analogy:

If each of the four years of high school are the leg of a relay and the team is your diploma, here’s a look into that race. In the first leg, your time is measured by PARCC, so results take over a year to determine and be reported to you. Meanwhile, you’re trucking along in the second leg, and it is announced that your time will be measured by AIR. You also have to stop intermittently along this stretch because you need to go back and recomplete the first leg of the race, this time measured by AIR. As you enter the third leg, you learn you have to go back to leg 2 for a new AIR measurement with a higher cut score while also needing to make up time you’ve lost in the overall race. Somewhere along the third leg, you learn that you still haven’t met the required AIR time from the first leg and must go back again to the start. Now it’s time for the final leg. Hopefully, you’ve made it back to this point by now to continue on your race. You are almost there! Wait, what’s that? This leg contains a maze of obstacles, from which you must choose two to complete successfully. Each obstacle will take most, if not all of your final leg to complete. Oh, and all those restarts, they don’t matter now, but you still have to go back to leg 2, though that time won’t count in the end. See, wasn’t that so easy?

I wish I could think of an analogy that actually fits this scenario our kids are in, but I cannot. Because it is utterly ridiculous. Instead of admitting their mistakes in the regulations of the relay, the majority party seems to want to continue this charade. Meanwhile, our students pay the ultimate price when the race is stacked against them.

#FixItOrOwnIt #OhioGradCrisis

Brittany Alexander

Ohio BAT and Educator

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#OhioGradCrisis, Education, Ohio, Public Schools, School Board, Schools

Safe Harbor for 2018

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Chairman Hite, Vice Chair Sykes, and members of the Senate Finance – Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony today. My name is Brittany Alexander and I am a public school educator of (almost) 20 years. I am an education activist, serving in leadership roles in both National and Ohio BATs (Badass Teachers Association). I strongly urge that the subcommittee include language offering a “safe harbor” from standardized testing requirements to specific students in the Class of 2018 to Substitute HB 49.

To my knowledge, there is not state-level data on where students land in relation to earning a minimum of 18 points in the End of Course (EOC) exam pathway, explaining the variance in reports of the number of students whose graduation will be negatively affected. The recommendations sent forth from the State of Ohio Board of Education are commendable in that they reduce the role of standardized testing in graduation requirements. However, even with these recommendations in place, there will still be some number of students who land between being able to meet 2 out of the 6 recommendations and earning 18 points on EOC exams. Those students who are between these two options, and have met all other graduation requirements, will still be in the same situation they are in now: an untenable one.

The Class of 2018 is not only the first to be held to the pathway graduation requirements, but they are also the only people in Ohio to be accountable (i.e. without “safe harbor”) for PARCC assessments they took during their freshman year. In an effort to “make up” points needed for graduation, students with a score of 1 or 2 on any PARCC assessment have to retake their EOC exams with American Institutes of Research (AIR) assessments. Educators know that these retakes have a high cost of lost instructional time.

The “safe harbor” for which I am advocating is a short-term solution intended to help specific students in the Class of 2018. However, it is important to note that Ohio is one of only 14 states that currently require exit exams for high school graduation. In the long-term, I advocate that we rid Ohio’s students of EOC exams tied to graduation requirements. To foster and develop the skills students need beyond their K-12 years, we have to switch our focus away from high-stakes standardized tests.

I ask you to consider my testimony and provide “safe harbor” from EOC tests to students who will land in between the recommendations from the State Board and the requirements of the EOC exam pathway. Their very future is in your hands. Thank you again for your time and consideration.

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Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

Testing Season in Ohio, AGAIN!

testing season

Today isn’t “Good Morning” to me. I’m angry. I awoke non-refreshed after yet another night of broken sleep because of state testing. This is all really getting to me. I’m sick of dreams about kids crying, computers shutting down, trying to hurry to cover more information in class, etc…

Maybe it’s because there is one week left before my fifth-graders will start sitting for 90-minute sessions (which will affect weeks of our school routine) taking state reading tests that I feel with ever fiber of my being are so developmentally inappropriate I could prove it in a court of law.

I’ve spent the past few weeks working late in my classroom. Some nights, I come rolling into my driveway after 7 p.m. I tell myself EVERY YEAR that I will no longer care about this or get sucked into the testing madness. Yet, I take to heart the care of the children on my watch. Because I want to soften and buffer the test-prep for ten-year olds, I keep working after hours to come up with themes of learning and “surprises” to help keep them jumping through state hoops. I try to make the testing game fun, even though everyone loses in the end.

Don’t even tell me schools shouldn’t be doing test prep. Have ‘ya seen the computer program students must master for testing? It’s NEW to them. Actually, it’s the newest of new to them. This is the freaking third state ever-changing test our little elementary children have had to take in the past few years.

They’ve been the victims of:
Ohio NON-Achievement Assessments
then
PARCCC is CCRAP Assessments
and now
“AIR”HEADs MADE THESE TESTS Assessments

Our poor guinea pigs.

Unless you’re a classroom teacher, you can’t fully understand. Even administrators who care so much and have test scores attached to their evaluations, miss parts of the ins and outs of what state testing is doing in mass to individual children on a day to day basis. You have to work like a dog to make preparing for this test fun and engaging. It’s exhausting. (A word of thankfulness: Our superintendent is speaking out at the state level, too. I know from experience he will always put children first.)

Sadly, parents definitely don’t fully understand the assessments that are going on in classrooms because the state specifically withholds information from them. Parents aren’t allowed to see the tests, or even the surveys the students are taking at the end of the tests. Parents aren’t even allowed to know what data is being collected.

Most districts candy coat information to parents (to deter them from refusing the testing for their children, no doubt) going so far as to say that these tests give us valid information.

It’s a lie.

There is nothing valid about this testing. There is not one released test question or graded tests we’ve been “allowed” to see. There is not one way we have of knowing which question a score is attached to in any way, shape, or form.

The phantom scores don’t even come until AFTER a child has moved on to a new grade or in my students’ cases, the middle school.

The people who should be screaming from the rooftops are the teachers because they are in the room on test day to see how inappropriate the testing is and yet, the state has effectively attached their evaluations to these same test results.

In short, a child’s test score equals half of a teacher’s AND a principal’s job evaluation score.

Legislators have removed the Safe Harbor for this bogus system, so guess what?

This year’s student scores will count for a teacher’s 2017-2018 evaluation cycle.

This makes the Ridicu-List.

(To be honest, the Ohio Teaching Evaluation System (OTES) is the least of my concerns. I’m on my way OUT of education and thus far, have been given the state’s top label rating, so my stress isn’t on behalf of me, it’s on behalf of kids.)

High-stakes standardized testing is an education tumor that appears in kindergarten, metastasizes in third grade, and has started to spread by fifth. In middle school, children are so sick of testing they’re becoming lethargic. By high school, some students are goners. Literally. #dropout

Two-thirds of my students came in reading below level this year. Why is that when they had an incredible fourth-grade reading teacher and they passed the Ohio Third-Grade Reading Guarantee?

Because:

Education testing tumors are stealing classroom learning time from children. You can’t keep stealing children’s learning time year after year for dozens of hours of state testing and expect children to learn more, not less.

Education testing tumors are stunting natural reading growth. We don’t read in real life the way we test. We don’t, as adults, do the new “A/B” questions or the “hot text” questions after we read the newspaper. We are unnaturally pushing 8-year olds to be able to type multi-paragraph essays on Chromebooks “on-demand” without even one comma out of place. TOO MUCH TOO SOON!

Education testing tumors are zapping children’s love of literature. Most schools have even gotten rid of their librarians or cut their hours or traded them in for computer programs.(I detest this the most.)

FYI, Ohio elementary schools give one test after another to third-graders, watering them down as they go, until a child can finally pass one test, any test, to fulfill state guidelines. Of course, this means that third-graders are enduring a true theft of critical learning time that can never be regained.

How many hours have my fifth-graders (who were once those same third-graders) already had butt-in-the-seat classroom hours taking high-pressurized, high-anxiety standardized tests prior to this year in which I have to make them do it all again?

Dozens.

My kids will take more hours of testing this spring than they have even had art, music, or physical education classes this entire fifth-grade year.

These kids are 10 years old for God’s sake.

At least some kids are getting spared from the madness. Private school kids and homeschooled kids don’t have to hit the 100 Hours Club of Public School Testing.

Good on ’em. All parents should fight for the same rights and freedom for learning for their children as well.

Actually, parents should be RISING in MASS to stop this insanity. After all, these are their kids and it’s up to them to protect them.

I would NEVER, EVER allow the state to treat my OWN children this way. Heck, I’m the bigmouth who is speaking out about the way the state is treating other people’s children!

There is so much more to say and I’d love to spew about the specifics (like the state’s 10-point writing rubric children are scored on or the compare/contrast three essays insanity), but I need to get ahold of myself, have a cup of coffee, and try to stop thinking about what is in store for these poor kids the week after next.

Testing Season Sucks. Any legislator who is fighting for this (the same legislator who didn’t even have to take a test for his/her OWN job) should have to sit and take these tests, too.

Oh, that’s right. He’s not even allowed to see the same tests he’s mandating.

Nice.

Have a great day.

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Education, Ohio, Public Schools, School Board, Schools

Gunlock Talk

Mr. Gunlock,

According to your opinion piece in the Dayton Daily News on March 22, 2017, you are still locked into the mindset that Ohio students are failing. And, that we, the truly committed and concerned, are not willing to set ‘high enough bars’.

You callously, and continuously, combat the majority voices of primary stakeholders (literally thousands of students, parents, educators, principals, counselors, and superintendents) who are, and have been, against this entire high-stakes testing mess in Ohio.

For the record, I believe that high school credit hours should stand as the requirements for high school diplomas.

In vain, while you sat on the Ohio State Board of Education, we who are currently in the education field or who are raising children who currently attend public schools, have sought to bring you data and research proving the ills and harms of this obsessive testing culture. We carried first-hand experiences and observations to you through countless emails, editorials, phone calls, blogs, webinars, meetings, protests, civil disobedience and committee hearings only to be met time and time again with your haughty disregard and disrespect. We were defeated before we began to speak for you already had it set in your mind that we the teachers and parents do not desire success for those we have based our whole careers and lives around.

So, I thought, in this instance, to speak in your language of boxes and numbers, since you seem to relish those more than real-life stories. I am frankly very tired of this “we are failing” talk. It is false narrative for a slew of reasons.

For the sake of this weary argument about cut scores, and what scores Ohio students have to have to represent what in your eyes is success or not, I offer some numbers for you. These are comparative side-by-side sets of data from the first, last, and only year (2014-15) that Ohio took PARCC tests. I believe PARCC scores are the cut-scores to which you were referring in your last ditch chance to redeem your stance. (Or, perhaps they were the AIR cut scores that had to be modified post factum?) At any rate with either sets of data I am certain I would be able to make my point.

If one reads through this entire 67-paged pdf of data charts, one would quickly see as I did, that in comparison to the other states who took PARCC tests in the 2014-15 school year, Ohio in fact did great!

gunlock

For my response here to you, Mr. Gunlock, I have taken the combined numbers of the 4th and 5th levels (Accelerated and Advanced) and pieced together from 3 pages of the pdf, the averages of the other states right next to Ohio’s averages.

All the red percentages indicate that the other states’ combined averages were below the numbers Ohio produced. The two blue percentages show where Ohio’s numbers were slightly below the combined averages. (Grade 5 and Grade 8 by .9% and .1% respectively.)

One who enjoys tooling around with all of these numbers, I suppose could come up with a bunch of comparison bites. But ultimately these numbers show what they show — scores of tests — period the end.

They do not inform instruction. They do not inspire students. They do not build community support. They confuse and complicate communication about real causes to achievement gaps. They cost too much time and energy. They squander far too many resources and public monies.

A high school diploma IS symbolic. It represents 11,700 hours a student spent with passionate professionals and peers. It represents 702,000 minutes of memories a child stored up. It is a holistic accomplishment mark at nearly a fifth of a century of a person’s life. It should not be reduced to data digits.

A professor once taught me that all data is skewed in the same manner that all maps reveal some distortion. Perspective matters. One cannot accurately assess the education field from afar. I think some tremendous insight and enlightenment could be effective if people had education expert ‘fitbits’ on their wrist. Instead of counting steps, it would count teaching encounters with children. One could only offer input into education policies if they had such and said number of direct teaching interactions with Ohio’s youth and little learners.

Mr. Gunlock, you and C. Todd Jones have relieved yourselves of service on the State Board of Education. I hope, as my graduating class of 2031 might sing to you, that you both are able to “Let It Go!”

Sincerely,

Kelly A. Braun,
Mom of a 2018 graduate, (my youngest of five),
PreK Lead Teacher,
Badass Teachers Association Admin,
& Ohio BATs Admin

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Education, Ohio, Public Schools, School Board

Oh Really, Gunlock?

mandyI find it very interesting that Mr. Gunlock is still trotting out the same tired old rhetoric about the OGTs measuring eighth-grade knowledge even after he quit the state school board mid-term. We have asked for proof of this claim over and over yet he has failed to provide it. I would love to read any information you could provide on the topic, Mr. Gunlock. Of course this is not even the real problem anyway. The problem is anyone who thinks that a child’s score on some tests is a true indicator of his readiness for the future. You did not take exit exams, Mr. Gunlock, yet I am sure that you consider yourself a success.

Why do we continue to insist on giving these exams and tying them to graduation when study after study shows that this is not only unnecessary, it can actually be harmful? We are one of only fourteen states in the entire country that require children to pass exams to graduate. Are those thirty-six other states full of kids that are not prepared for the future? Of course not.

As for business leaders complaining about a lack of qualified candidates for the workplace, I have yet to hear that from an actual business leader. A 2014 study done by The National Association of Colleges and Employers and published in Forbes magazine found that the top ten skills employers seek are:

  1. Ability to work in a team structure
  2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
  3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
  4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
  10. Ability to sell and influence others

Is there any proof that these new tests measure ANY of these qualities? How can we know for sure when no one has ever seen these tests?

I would also like to know why you left the state school board so abruptly, Mr. Gunlock. Was it because you couldn’t bear the thought of admitting that perhaps you got it wrong? That maybe, just maybe, these kids are not the problem? That the fact that only 24% of students scored proficient or above on the Geometry test may have more to do with the actual test than the kids themselves, regardless of how you feel about them only needing to answer 35% of the questions correctly? I am inclined to believe the children who took these tests when they tell me that there were questions on there on topics that they had not yet covered in class. Of course that would only make sense given that, despite what the name implies, these end-of-course tests are given in March and April.

Is taking the word of  PARCC about its cut scores even though their tests were deemed so poor that we dropped them after only one year fair? How about switching testing vendors after one year while simultaneously raising the cut scores of the new tests? Or giving these same kids three different sets of Math and ELA tests in three years while providing little to no information to districts about these ever-changing testing requirements?

Does it matter that some students were taking these tests online while some used paper and pencil? While PARCC claims that it did a study and found no discernable difference, the results from states around the country say otherwise. As a matter of fact, Derek Briggs, professor of research and evaluation methodology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who also happens to serve on the technical advisory committee for both PARCC and Smarter Balanced (whose tests are created by the same vendor we now use for all of our state tests), is quoted as saying, “In the short term, on policy grounds, you need to come up with an adjustment, so that if a [student] is taking a computer version of the test, it will never be held against [him or her]”. Yet we are still holding current juniors responsible for the results of these tests that nearly everyone else was given a safe harbor from.

Like Representative Fedor said recently, the adults got it wrong, not our children. I am incredibly grateful to her and the remaining school board members who recognize that we have a serious problem here that needs to be addressed so that the 35,000 of our current juniors who are not on track to graduate next year get the opportunity to do so.

Written by Mandy Jablonski, Ohio BAT

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