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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Education, Elections, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

Rep. Andy Brenner—you have been called out!

are-you-up-for-the-challenge

via Janet Breneman
·
************************
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
************************
I CHALLENGE MY OPPONENT REP. ANDREW BRENNER TO A DEBATE!

Columbus- October 3, 2016

Democratic candidate Janet Breneman, candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives 67th District, challenges incumbent Andy Brenner to a debate.

Janet Breneman, a progressive education and health advocate, challenging the seat of State Representative Andrew Brenner, says it’s time for citizens to break the stranglehold, which Brenner has held on voters.

“For too long voters have accepted the empty rhetoric of Andy Brenner- a lackluster mouthpiece of local conservatives- and now we are holding him accountable.”

Brenner further had the audacity to text me stating “I’m in a Republican District where the index is over 65%, why are you running against me?’

A recent position statement by media outlet Cleveland.Com notes the state wide concern regards the performance and costs of charter schools-and specifically lambastes Andy Brenner for referring to public education as “socialism”, a statement for which Brenner later apologized.

“It’s the teachers of this country, and public schools which provide the backbone for education in our great country”, adds Janet Breneman. “I challenge him to a debate on the topic, and I want the public to see whether he can rise to that challenge, or cower.

Further, I hereby now ask Andrew Brenner to return the campaign donations he accepted from ECOT founder, William Lager.

Ohio taxpayers are spending $108 million for only approximately 8,000 ECOT students to attend- which is significantly less than what ECOT said was their attendance figures, according to the Ohio Dept. of Education.

Janet Breneman may be reached at: BrenemanForOhio@gmail.com or by phone
419-410-0017

debate

 

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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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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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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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