data-secuirty
Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

Dare to Discuss the Data?

data-secuirty

A little bit of information.
The inequality of education in Ohio.
A superintendent from SE Ohio compiled this.

An analysis using Ohio Department of Education Report Card, Ohio Facilities Construction Commission’s Valuation Rankings, and the Ohio Department of Education Typology finds the following:

Not one district with MORE than 18% poverty received an “A” on Indicators Met.

524 districts have more than 18% poverty.

83% of schools have more than 18% poverty.

Only two districts received an “A” on Performance Index Score.

One has 0% poverty and the other has 9% poverty.

One is ranked in the top 16% while the other is in the top 10% for property value.

None of the 100 poorest schools, by property valuation, received above a “D” or an “F” in Indicators Met.

No Rural High Poverty Districts received anything higher than a “D” on Indicators Met.

3% of Rural Districts received an “A” or “B” in Indicators Met.

No Small Town High Poverty Districts received anything higher than a “D” on indicators Met.

4% of Small Town Districts received a “B” on Indicators Met, there were no “A.”

All but one “A” for Indicators Met was received by a Suburban District.

There are No High Poverty or Medium Poverty Districts with the Suburban District typology.

All but one Urban District received an “F” on Indicators Met. One received a “D.

Also, click here: to view a PowerPoint for graphic illustrations demonstrating the same.

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thank-you-2012-680x300
Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

Expressing Gratitude for Judge French’s Ruling Regarding ECOT

thank-you-2012-680x300

Ohio BATs, affiliated with Badass Teachers Association
October 4, 2016

The Honorable Jenifer French
Judge, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas
Common Pleas Courthouse, Courtroom 6A
345 South High Street, 6th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Judge French:

We are writing to you today with our sincere gratitude on behalf of the students we serve in our learning environments every day. The ECOT decision handed down by you will have a rippling effect on the virtual school industry in Ohio.

For the past nearly twenty years, our state has operated all of its 614 school districts under an unconstitutional funding system. Further compounding this problem is the funding of charter schools, including virtual schools like ECOT. This is the crux of the real problem with our public schools. Many of our public schools are underfunded, especially the schools serving students who are living in poverty. Quite frankly, public schools serving students who live in poverty require more resources to ensure all students are successful (yet they continue to have those resources stripped). We do not define success by using test scores.
ECOT receives higher per pupil funding than most all public schools and they continue to fail our students . . . most often our most vulnerable students. We wonder what our public schools would look like if each of our students received the same amount without restrictions. We are quite confident we can do a much better job than ECOT. We already know we do a better job with less money.
Those of us who advocate on behalf of our students everyday oftentimes feel we are not heard and we feel helpless – not a good feeling! Then a decision from a judge reinforces our
determination to ensure our students are provided with everything necessary to be successful.

Again, thank you!

Ohio BAT Administrators

 

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triage-schools
Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

Teaching in Triage

triage-schools

Written by Emily Alberty.

As posted in the public Facebook group Cleveland Caucus to Reclaim Our Schools/CLE United Rank & File Educators (CURE).

I wrote this last March, after looking outside at the school playground and seeing the Cleveland police seemingly reenacting the events surrounding the death of Tamir Rice.

I feel like everyday I see posts from teachers about current or former CMSD students who have gone missing, been shot, or have been killed. Our city and our babies need help. I had to get this off my chest.

“Cleveland is a war zone,
and classrooms are the triage.
Teachers are the doctors,
to students who are on loan.

“Get to school. You can make it!”
But will their life be taken?
Walk past the memorial,
and let us give you a tutorial.
Another Cleveland kid who did not make it.

Schools are hospitals.
Poverty and violence are the infections.
Breathe, bandage, repeat.
Do they have food to eat?
Cleveland students are in this.

Why are test scores low?
Because Cleveland kids are taking blows.”

[The author of this blog saw this on September 21st. BUT the author of this blog finds it worthy to point out that the original post was made on August 29th, 2016…. PRIOR TO the unacceptable (and unnervingly similar) death of 13-year-old Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio.]

aug-29

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dream-eraser
Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

RESA—Dream Eraser

dream-eraser

*LINKS ARE IN BOLD PRINT

I would like to share my story of why I became a Special Education teacher with you and how Resident Educator Program or RESA  is affecting my life today. I grew up in a large family with many aunts, uncles, and cousins. I have two cousins who I was always drawn to while growing up. My younger cousins have diagnoses of Cerebral Palsy and Downs Syndrome. I watched them grow up and am still amazed by their accomplishments today. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something with my life to make a difference in the lives of adults and children with disabilities.

My early adulthood got off to a rough start with career choices and college, but in the back of my mind I always knew what I ultimately wanted to do with my life, and that was to become a Special Education teacher. People would always say to me, “why would you want to be a teacher, teachers don’t make any money.” I didn’t care about the money and I would always tell those people that being a teacher is what would make me happy. In 2005, I began working at a group home as a Habilitation Assistant for a group of adult women with disabilities. In 2008, I became a nanny for a wonderful family with four children, one who had been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at a young age. While working for this family, I started my college career at the age of 25. Most people have graduated from college and have begun their careers by this age, but I was determined to graduate and pursue my dream. In 2011, at the age of 28, I graduated with my Bachelors from Cleveland State University. I have never seen my parents so proud of me as they were that day I walked across the stage. I will remember that day forever. I could finally begin my teaching career! I co-taught in a 5th grade Special Ed classroom at a charter school in the Parma area for three years and then taught in a self-contained K-2 ED classroom at a public school for two years. Along the way, I decided that one day in the future I wanted to teach Pre-School Special Ed. I would have to go back to school for that. I went on to get my Masters at Cleveland State University in 2015. I sacrificed part of my summer that year because I was required to complete a second student teaching because I needed the Pre-K experience. I never thought in a million years I would be able to tell people that I have a Masters degree. It might not be a big deal to some people, but it is to me.

June of this year, I received the worst news of my life. I was unsuccessful at passing one task of the Ohio Resident Educator program, my license would expire that month, and I would not be able to teach. Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this? Something that I had worked so hard for was being taken away from me, something that I had earned. Maybe teaching really isn’t my calling. Those were the thoughts going through my head. I was devastated to say the least. I will remember that day forever too. Many days of mental exhaustion and crying during my summer off, which was supposed to be a happy time spent with my daughter, my first child, born March 13, 2016. I rob my daughter of happy moments with me because I am upset every day. It is September 6th and I am still upset every day.

Because I was unsuccessful at passing RESA, in order to ever be able to teach in Ohio again, the requirements are to work as a substitute teacher for a year and enroll in a RESA college course. The short of it: I’ll have to do student teaching a 3rd time. I’ll have to provide lesson plans, assessments (even though those weren’t the tasks I was unsuccessful at), and be observed 4 times using the OTES rubric. You can check out the letter they send to educators who were unsuccessful in their third attempt here.


College? Again? I thought I was done with that. I think about RESA every day. I constantly think about what I did wrong. How can I be rated as a skilled teacher with OTES and not pass RESA? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t understand how assessors who have never met me, worked with me, or even stepped foot in my classroom can determine my professional fate. Well in Ohio, they can, they did, and they will continue doing so. I’m not the only teacher in Ohio that lost their job and I won’t be the last. They need to have people fail or there would be no point. I fall into the 2% of educators who started the program the year it launched who were unsuccessful. The score reports that educators receive include the score you received on each individual task and extremely vague strengths/areas of weakness. How am I supposed to better myself as an educator if I don’t receive adequate feedback? If I gave my students feedback like we get, I wouldn’t have held my teaching position for 5 years. With the first attempt at RESA we were not provided a rubric and we received no feedback whatsoever on the score reports. It was either pass/not passed. My score report for one task on my second attempt revealed no strengths. A teacher with 4 years experience received no strengths whatsoever. How can I be allowed to teach for 5 years and then be told I’m not fully prepared to be a teacher? RESA changes on us every year. A new change this year is that there are courses now being offered to educators with 1 or 2 unsuccessful attempts at RESA. Where were these classes when I was in jeopardy of losing my job? Resident Educators can now use artifacts from previous years, but up until this point you could only submit artifacts from the current school year. Each district works differently as far as mentors, facilitators, and program coordinators are concerned. Every school participating in RESA should abide by the same rules. I have heard from far too many people of the differences in support that districts provide to their resident educators. My district failed me. The state failed me. You can read more on the enhancements for the 2016-2017 year here.

It could be a vicious cycle for those who choose to jump through the hoops of the remediation year. A teacher who is unsuccessful a 4th time will lose their license again, be ineligible for any type of license, and go back to working as a substitute and completing 3 hours of additional coursework. You can view the “Pathways to Completion” flow chart here.

Who on earth would even want to teach at that point? I’ll put that into perspective for you: 6 years teaching experience plus a year of substitute teaching. Ohio can still say that you are not fully prepared to be a teacher. But… if you are one of those brave people that will be taking RESA for the 4th time in the 2017-2018 school year, here’s a tip for you: you can buy your way out on Teachers Pay Teachers.  (Thanks Tim! )

My husband and I struggled with infertility for 2 years. That period of my life was emotionally and mentally exhausting and I never thought I would have to go through something that intense again. The situation that I am in today is just as emotionally and mentally exhausting as then. I go through a mental battle every day whether to stay in this or get the hell out. Is this remediation year worth my sanity and happiness? I think not. I love teaching and I want to teach, but I do not want to jump through these ridiculous hoops that insult my education and teaching experience.

 

 

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Temporary-jobs-Wanted
Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools, Uncategorized

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game like Pros

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game like Pros

Temporary-jobs-Wanted

***Note: Links are bold and faintly underscored***

When chain-style charters come into a new area, such as the Phalen Leadership Academy (or Learning—I have seen it written both ways) who are trying to wheedle their way into Cincinnati, they bring along all of their transient and temporary employee plans.

It is not a new ‘think-tank’ like the reformers like to taut, but rather a crew that has been trained to puppet the reform talk. This is why I wrote such a harsh statement in the first piece of this 3-part series, insisting that they (these businesses) are “cult-like”. It might seem like a million different battles with thousands of different names, but in reality it is all one greedy game, and the foundational pieces are all the same. The selling points are part of the training programs in a brain-washing manner.

June 13th, was a crucial meeting
for the Cincinnati Board of Education to “explore” the possibilities of opening an expansion charter(s) from the cluster of the PLAs in Indianapolis. The vote should not have even gone forth because the charter(s) are too new. PLA was in operation for only one year prior (2015-2016). This ‘newness’ detail does not surprise me. Tom Vander Ark, who is the original visionary of all of these privatization and personalization takeovers, was considered an education expert after he happed into a position as a suburban school superintendent. Only one school, in only one area (Federal Way, Washington), for only one single time slot of five years with no prior education-related experience or degree and Bill Gates deemed newbie Tom Vander Ark worthy of having enough knowledge to completely redo all education premises in the United States. Billions upon billions of dollars and two decades later, and Tom Vander Ark (having left Gates’ Foundation to make the millions on his own),  is still turning tricks and selling his bullshit in all forms and forums. Oh, and he is still using Gates’ and others’ money pots. Phalen charters are a sickening example of all of this.

These type of charters are notorious for rough starts while they move and jostle their own people all around. Transient environments are the last thing these community members seek. Stability is a rare commodity that children and their families from socio-financially disadvantaged areas need. But they will not reap that as a benefit from PLAs. One month (July 2015) before Phalen Leadership Academy was to open in Indiana, their reform pick (to the tune of a $100,000 MindTrust fellowship grant), was suddenly and without explanation, out of the picture. ““Yes, Marlon [Llewellyn] has done a great job during his fellowship year but will not be leading us forward as the school leader next year,” Phalen said in an email Thursday. Phalen has not responded to requests for further clarification as to why Llewellyn was removed. Llewellyn did not respond to a request for comment.” This was not a one-time fluke. Such are the broad patterns of such dysfunctional happenings with charter business startups.

“Findings: Our analyses show that charter schools had a higher principal turnover rate than traditional schools and very different principal transition patterns.” (Yongmei Ni, Min Sun, and Andrea Rorrer, Principal Turnover: Upheaval and Uncertainty in Charter Schools? Educational Administration Quarterly August 2015 51: 409-437, first published on June 26, 2014)
A Hechinger Report article stated “…nearly 30 percent of principals who lead troubled schools quit every year. By Year 3, more than half of all principals leave their jobs.”  Add this in with the fact that turnover rate is much higher in charters and one spells ‘disaster’.

The article went on to say that “ Looking broadly at the effect of principal turnover on student learning, a researcher from Mount Holyoke College studied 12 years of data from North Carolina public schools. They found that when principals leave, student achievement generally declines for two years.” So these commonplace leadership attrition rates are a huge realistic risk for Cincinnati. It is a dangerous dance of one fancy faux step forward and several irreparable steps backwards.

Principals are not the only temporary hires of MindTrust. Teachers are pulled from TFA (Teach For America) and TNTP (The New Teacher Project). For more background see this article; the author, Doug Martin, has been fighting MindTrust’s ways and writing about such in Indiana for a long time.  A study out of Vanderbilt University lays teacher turnover out in a comprehensive manner: “Using multi-nomial logistic regression, we found the odds of a charter school teacher leaving the profession versus staying in the same school are 132% greater than those of a traditional public school teacher. The odds of a charter school teacher moving schools are 76% greater. Our analysis confirms that much of the explanation of this “turnover gap” lies in differences in the types of teachers that charter schools and traditional public schools hire.” (Italic emphasis mine)

This “type of teacher” is one who has had no previous classroom experience, with extremely abbreviated training times, and whom are promised yet other roles in reform if they meet the contingency of teaching in one of these startup urban situations. Ads are perpetually run. When we, the Badass Teachers Association, lobbied in DC in 2015, we were startled at how very many Representatives’ and Senators’ Education Aides were directly from TFA. Dr. Mitchell Robinson writes: “Teach for America uses its teaching program as a direct line into legislative assistant positions through the Capital Hill Fellows Program.” This is no coincidence on TFA & reformers’ parts. It is intentional through and through. For these fellowship teachers, entrance wages are ridiculously low, the newness pressures are exasperatingly high, and the non-union positions are precariously unprotected. The reward is that they can move on. Teaching is temporary. Never mind the tire tracks on the children’s backs.

Is this the environment that best serves America’s most vulnerable students?

Now, as a final consideration about the atrocious attrition rates associated with opening new charters, please consider the language in THIS CONTRACT. It is the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF PROPOSED INNOVATION NETWORK SCHOOL AGREEMENT BETWEEN PHALEN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY-INDIANA, INC. AND IPS [Indiana Public Schools] FOR OPERATION OF GEORGE FISHER AS INNOVATION NETWORK SCHOOL. This one sentence leapt out at me:

“In addition, given the importance of having staff experienced in implementing the Project: RESTORE model, if staff turnover exceeds 75 percent in any year, IPS may terminate the agreement.”

Am I the only one totally perturbed and disturbed by that number?? So, in actuality it is A-OKAY……for just shy of three-quarters of the entire school staff from top down and middle to middle, to turnover, creating chaos and churn. Never mind the time and energy resources to replace. Don’t worry about the training aspects, TFA and TNTP can carry that all off in five weeks. Don’t fret about the folks being from the community itself; they will be complete passers-by, stopping in for a brief stay and then headed out to the next time and place. Game board pieces with their marching orders.

FLIP THE TABLES!

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A-misty-phantom (1)
Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 1, Forming the Foundations

A-misty-phantom (1)

***Note: Links are in bold and faintly underlined***

Positioned atop of his self-made pinnacle of one of the most cult-like pyramiding schemes I have ever seen, is none other than Tom Vander Ark. But somehow he seems to go unnamed and unnoticed most of the time, misting about like a phantom in all aspects of ruinous reform.

phan·tomˈ fan(t)əm/ noun (Google definitions)
*a ghost. synonyms: ghost, apparition, spirit, specter, wraith
*a figment of the imagination.synonyms: delusion, figment of the imagination, hallucination, illusion, chimera, vision, mirage*denoting a financial arrangement or transaction that has been invented for fraudulent purposes but that does not really exist.modifier noun: phantom”he diverted an estimated $1,500,000 into “phantom” bank accounts”

In Ohio, I have more than learned, any time something related to education reform arises, that Tom and his profit-pointed poisons and, purposefully-packaged propaganda will be forming the fortunes in the foundation, working the middle-man-game like pros and gleaning the gold dust that seems to magically disappear into thin air.  His public school takeover plans or new charter start-ups are quite the practiced prescribed sales pitches. Through iNACOL and NACSA (and a score more of such groups), he uses heavily-lobbied-legislation which he templates and passes out like addictive-drug-laced-candy to the well-intentioned, the unaware, or the greedy.  A combination of these three sectors works the best for Tom’s charismatic churning up of yet another minefield of coffers for him and his collaborators. And, there are an extensive amount of the zombie-bitten ones on the public education deathship at this point. I know, I know, no one will wade through this (I certainly have not all the way, but rather have skimmed numerous times and I long for the time to go line by line through it and bring along all of the articles of related FAILURES, CHANGE-UPS and SCANDAL) but here is a 270 page paper that covers so much of Tom Vander Ark’s vision and the connections.

Through the scope of his financial engineering (Tom: “I’m an engineer by training, and moved into finance.”) Cincinnati has long been a target of Tom’s.  Yes, a long time, to answer Michelle Dillingham’s wonderings about how long they have been planning the takeover of taxpayers’ turf. Specifically, Mind Trust has been looking to set up their (scholarly-sounding) scheme for quite the while. In a manner similar to the buying and selling of fast-food chain restaurants, a formula has been finited and the exponential spread of the ‘brain-washed marching repeaters’ are ready to be strategically inserted into YOUR CHILD’s education world. They (Mind Trust and Tom Vander Ark) have been deviously developing this formula for privatization since 2006.

Tom Vander is the CEO of Getting Smart, and under that are all of his books, blogs, and hashtags by the same names: #SmartStates #SmartCities #SmartParents. This is one of the main ways he pumps his pompous unproven ideas. This is one of the hundreds upon hundreds of avenues from which he gets paid. It is all a huge hype for his one-man-show on how he (and all of his fortune-seeking followers) are going to set about to transform schools or get rich depending on which tongue Tom is using in the discussion.

Mind Trust and Cincinnati are discussed numerous times in the same articles in his tons of different blogs and tweets. Search it– you will immediately see.  I will give him this, he is OBSESSIVELY PROLIFIC and DETERMINED, but that does not make him any less WRONG, and at this point EVIL for all the irreparable demise that has come about in education realms.

His engineering degree was in mining. He writes about the barriers to completely overhauling education, and compares those barriers of experienced teachers, unions, local boards, legislation and so on as being “Gordian knots”. But he has bore through those barriers like he is using the largest mountain-tunneling machine ever built along with the similarities of using large amounts of dynamite to open up deep, dangerous shafts. Imagine the noise of such devices and the permanent scarring to the landscape. And yet, to my utter frustration and lack of understanding, he has done it all nearly as silently as though he were an apparition walking through walls. By this I mean there have been 100s of conferences leading into this current proposal push in Cincinnati, but we who are fighting to preserve PUBLIC education, seem to only hear about all of it when it is already a done deal. Most find it unbelieveable when I try to show all the areas Tom is haunting.

The next time I write about Vander Ark, I truly would like to really show in as full-blown of a manner as I can, how dastardly his omnipresence in Ohio has become. Each time I set out to write about how Tom is connected to and orchestrating so much of this reform, I become almost instantly overwhelmed with a sickening migraine. It is that much. It is that big. It is that nauseating. But, for the here and now, I am about to bombard the readers with as much as I can, as it will relate to the current Cincinnati cash clutch. Here is where it all is headed. This is what it will look and sound like. Not at all like the ‘MIND TWISTS’ they will paint for you as the future.   Just insert Cincinnati where you read Indianapolis.

“The Indianapolis Star tells us The Mind Trust is sticking its fingers in the affairs of our Indianapolis Public School system again. The nonprofit education group, which is nothing more than a front organization for wealthy education profiteers, is awarding two $50,000 grants to IPS to transform George Fisher School 93 and Cold Spring School into what is called “innovation network schools.” These schools are in fact charter schools operating for profit within the IPS district using our public school property and tax dollars to operate schools free from all of the burdens and regulations imposed on traditional public schools.”

“[IPS] to the Phalen Leadership Academy to operate its for-profit charter school using our public school property and tax dollars. You heard that right. As much as $3 million has been given to operate their for-profit charter school within the IPS network. Phalen’s hands aren’t tied by the collective bargaining agreement IPS has with its schools. Phalen pays nothing to use our public school building. The entire tab and then some is picked up by IPS. How’s that for driving a good bargain? Thanks to a state law passed by state lawmakers who accepted large campaign contributions from the very people who profit from charter schools, it’s all legal. Under an agreement IPS entered into with The Mind Trust, it will eventually convert 15%, or about nine schools altogether, into profit centers for these greedy bastards.”

“ All of the $100,000 paid to the two school in these grants will go to a group of consultants and attorneys who will work out the logistics of transitioning the schools into for-profit places of learning according to The Mind Trust’s spokesman, Steve Campbell, another political crony of former Mayor Bart Peterson. Naturally, there is no disclosure in advance to whom those consulting and legal fees will be paid. Don’t be surprised if it includes people listed on the campaign finance reports of the best school board money can buy. This IPS board doesn’t approve anything unless there’s something in it for their political cronies.” (taken from the comments section)

“With $1.19M in surplus revenue and an 84.7% margin in 2013, Phalen Leadership Academy-indiana Inc. was profitable.”

I could go on and on for great lengths of time establishing the FOR-PROFIT side of all of this. I want to wrap this piece up by shedding light in one or two more dark and dank dreads of going forward with this Cincinnati. So, please skim through this 24 page pdf: Boosting Impact: Why Foundations Should Invest in Education Venture Funds.” Getting Smart, March 2014.   It is Tom speaking in his non-child-concerned true voice. It is the language of the lust for money. It is mind mining. Written to those who have money and want more money. By the time it all gets to the public, it is donning a shimmery, sugary sheath of ‘save the children’.  But underneath is an ugly specter looking to suck the very souls from our schools. Enter the Eerie Era of Educational Entrepreneurships.
The Phalen Phantom strikes again and again.

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game Like Pros

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 3, Gleaning the Gold Dust that Seems to Magically Disappear Into Thin Air

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open letter
Education, Ohio, Opt out, Public Schools, Schools, Test Refusal

What is Your Point Pearson?

open letter

Here is the critique of the 4th grade PARCC exam  by an anonymous teacher, as it originally appeared on Celia Oyler’s blog before she was threatened by PARCC and deleted key sections.  See also my post about my tweet that was deleted  after PARCC absurdly complained to Twitter that it infringed on their copyright!

As an act of collective disobedience to the reigning testocracy, I urge all other fellow bloggers to paste the below critique and copy it into their blogs as well.

As the teacher points out below, “we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States. ”

No high-stakes test that is used to judge students, teachers and schools should be allowed to be kept secret to escape accountability for the test-makers — especially ones as flawed as these!

 

The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

  1. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”

Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

 Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3

  1. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

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