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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Uncategorized

Massive Testing: Been There, Done That – 100 Years Ago

Intelligence tests_clip_image002_0000

I am NOT an expert.  As a matter of fact, I am humbly brand new to the topic I am about to discuss. These are my singular opinions and observations – not the words of any group affiliations. I am writing from the simplest level of comparison rather than conclusion. In toggling back and forth between a hundred years ago and today, if one did not know the dates, some of it might not be able to be discerned if it is from the 20th or the 21st century.

I am unquestionably a grassroots activist fighting for PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and advocating for children and teachers. Simultaneously I am in my 26th year of homeschooling my five children. My two sons, who are still being taught at home, are 15 and 18 – a freshman and a senior. We are studying from the book Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement.This is a Resource Book by Facing Ourselves and Our History. When I say “studying” we are reading verbatim straight through the book at a pace of one section daily. It is part of our studies this year in order to better understand racism in a broad institutionalized manner, not just from current news events. For them it has been an eye-opening experience and for me it has been a jaw-dropping journey.

We are well over half finished with the book, but I know for myself I will never be finished with this subject. This book has jolted me in ways I never expected. In an uncanny, disturbing manner, while we are almost weekly holding meetings to help parents REFUSE TESTS in the Ohio Opt Out Movement, and as I am daily reading about PEARSON’s ugly oligolopy in worldwide education, the book’s quotes from one hundred years ago seem relevant today. Seriously, I have been startled by the way much of “intelligence testing” in its origins and explanations, all pompous in junk-science with a drive towards being able to (wrongly) sort and categorize the people with faulty data exclusive of important variables and by way of completely ignoring all other valid sets of research, aligns with today’s toxic testing propagation.

I truly hope I do not give the topic disservice because it is deep, and there is no way in a blog to do anything more than entice the reader to explore more on their own. It is tricky to pull these paragraphs out of the book, without expounding and building on the whole topic, or without supplying the background and context. I long for every single person to read this book cover to cover and for teachers to teach this material. Thankfully, when I scoped out the availability of related resources online, I found a researcher’s treasure trove.

Please do not let the brevity of this blog be the end of your exploration into these matters. Please also, if you pass the link on, do not let that be the end of the discussion but rather the rippling beginning of necessary conversations. I feel this all is important enough to warrant hundreds upon thousands, well truthfully, I would like to see millions digging into this. There are horrible dangers and ramifications to all of this current-day data-collecting and rigid competitive comparisons of whole people groups (THINK PISA) that are looming. There are inhumane terrors that skulk in the shadows of assessing people on a grand scale and then assigning people their “place in the world” via numbers, and bogus sets of numbers, at that.

100 years ago (from ch. 5 intro):

Eugenicists believed that French “intelligence tests”, designed to examine school entrance readiness and thus offer extra help to those who needed it, were the perfect tool to separate the “fit” from the “unfit”. They touted the tests as being able to “not only improve education but also end poverty, prevent crime, and wipe out disease…” But instead, these tests grossly “limited possibilities” for individuals and groups. Science or data was skewed “to justify social inequalities, deny opportunities, and legitimize discrimination.” In an intolerable manner, these tests and their results were used to create an onslaught of punitive, life-altering consequences, which kept children from schools, adults from college or certain jobs, and blocked entrance into our country for immigrants. Actually the extent of the damage from the misuse of the results from these tests had folks unnecessarily institutionalized, prevented  from marriage, and cruelly sterilized, and yes, this was in America. Tons of ‘uncivil’ laws were formed as a result of these tests. But by far and wide the most abhorrent misuse of these early tests was to build a huge agrument of the superiority of the white race over others deemed, damned and doomed by a set of drudged up data.

Today (From a Washington Post Article):

Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, waves his banner of the power of tests to help the neediest schools, yet the punitive side to those falling short of meeting the marked requirements of the tests are unacceptably harming individuals, and whole people groups. Detrimental life-altering consequences to students, teachers, schools, and districts, have washed over any of the supposed intentions.

“No Child Left Behind dramatically expanded the federal role in education. For the first time, states were required to annually test students and make public test scores for different groups — including racial minorities, the disabled, English-language learners and the poor. States were required to make progress toward academic goals for those groups or face penalties.” Conversely RttT test sets are nearly completely void of accomodations for any challenged learner groups. IEPs are being ignored. ESL students test in English only. Unfunded mandates shred the gap between the have’s and have nots.
“The waiver strategy and Race to the Top exacerbated the test fixation that was put in place with No Child Left Behind, allowing sanctions and consequences to eclipse all else,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “From his words today, it seems the secretary may want to justify and enshrine that status quo, and that’s worrisome.”

100 years ago (from reading 7 of ch. 5):

“…Ellwood Cubberly, a professor if education at Stanford and an eugenicist, wrote in 1916:
Our schools are factories in which the raw products are to be shaped and fashioned into products…The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of 20th century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down. This demands good tools, specialized machinery, and continuous measurement of production,”

Today:
What comes to your mind when you read that quote? I immediately pictured this popular meme:common-Core-1

“Specifications laid down”  = Standardized: Common Core??
“good tools” =  Chromebooks at $200 a pop that will be outdated in two years??
“specialized machinery” = robotic, scripted, low pay-grade transient teachers (TFA)??
“continuous measurement of production” = 27 hours a year of seating tests per student??

A little less than 100 years ago (reading 3 ch.5):

Tests and their sets of scoring and data collection permeated every social institution, and most pervasively the schools. With the tests came their own sets of labeling language. The intelligence tests designed to sort the “fit” from the “unfit”, became tests to spot “feeble-mindedness” created by Alfred Binet, which in turn were translated by Henry Goddard, who added his own labeling system. “He labeled those who earned 25 points or lower “idiots,” those who scored between 25 and 55 “imbeciles,” and those between 55-75 “morons.””

Today:

Teachers recieve labels, based on students’ scores on the tests. These numbers are tatooed on their permanent professional records. This is known as Value Added Measures or Models.
25% growth/VAM:
Highly Effective  22-25
Effective  10-21
Developing  3-9
Ineffective  0-2

100 years ago (reading 3 ch. 5):

The very creator of the original tests, Binet, stated in a powerful, but totally ignored warning:
“Some recent thinkers seem to have given their moral support to these deplorable verdicts by affirming that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity that cannot be increased, We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism: we must try to demonstrate that it is founded upon nothing.”

Today:

Students and schools are being forever labeled, based on test scores as FAILING OR NOT FAILING.
Schools are being closed from findings based “on nothing!” Highly qualified, experienced, passionate teachers are leaving the profession via this ruthless smear campaign in dangerously high droves. Others, many others, are reacting by fighting back. They are demonstrating protest through the third check system in the United States, as lawsuits are now springing up everywhere.

I could easily fill another 17 blogs with this same amount of direct comparison of testing-related quotes, either in the form of the one’s selling their “snake oil” or in the truths presented but evaded. At the turn-of-the-century much research refute and many warnings were offered in sound scientific manner but those pushing “their agendas” marched on and saturated the higher learning institutes, all public k-12 schools, churches, and numerous other large groups with so much literature and “data sets”, that people by the majority masses were duped into believing their validity. The ripple effects of all of this are still sadly seen today. We are still cleaning up the toxic mess the eugenicists and racists of that era made, 100 years later.

Why, oh why has all of this hypertesting mode even been allowed to get as far as it has gotten?? How, oh how will we be able to stop ‘it’ all dead in its path. How long will it take us to clean up all of the macro-scale mess being made??

In Ohio, just yesterday, an emergency education bill came into play that would seek to completely halt all PARCC testing for the remainder of this school year. (Round 2 of PARCC tests start in two weeks.) In the last few months SAFE HARBOR BILLS have had to come into play to protect students and districts from Ohio’s other education ‘distortion’ bills. (I am still trying to wrap my mind around bills needed to protect us from bills.) Parents’ protective sensors are kicked into high gear as they are firsthand seeing the TIME these tests steal and the STRESS they induce. But no one can see around the future bend of these tests. If a listing of who is “career and college ready” is being collected,  it only makes sense that a list will also exist of who is NOT “career and college ready.”

We must discuss the pride and greed that had some so worried after our international rankings in certain subjects. Those pushing reform have never once been shy in saying it is so we can be globally “competitive.”  We also need to own that there is a very real potential for all of this macro-scale competiveness to go horribly wrong.

We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what disgusting social dangers all of this can hold. A teacher last night could not emphasize her words enough, that it is NOT JUST PARCC (or SBAC) but this massive testing mentality that must go. I concur!

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Education, Ohio, Test Refusal

Portal to PARCC Chaos

Portal to PARCC Chaos
chaos (1)

A View of Posts from Ohio BATs in One Day!

We are growing by leaps and bounds—100 members per week…for several weeks now. 1600, with connections and branches into several other groups that are easily coming up on the same numbers.

I should be excited, elated even, since we have worked towards being a huge enough presence to make the huge difference we are looking to make. But, I have actually found myself literally clenching my jaw, and almost depressed as our numbers increase. Two nights this week I slept horridly, my rest affected directly by all that folks are sharing. I guess one can imagine how bad something is going to be or feel, but the accuracy of that prediction is something so painful to the psyche when it all becomes reality, that I do not know how to even express it all. Staying calm in the clamor of the chaos as Ohio embarks on this ‘over-testing white-water rafting ride’ is grueling. And for a person, such as myself, who needs humor like we all need air, I am feeling underneath some of it, for NONE of this is funny.

Here are some two-word glimpses just from today’s postings: cautioning teachers, terrible system, frustrates me, stepped on, can’t speak, scare tactics, complete insanity, moral outcome, money maker, just sick, organize more, madness stop, very non-supportive, black sheep, stop bullying, scare tactics, so wrong, [make] them suffer, bitter pill, to blame, got irate, demeaning behavior, real concern, a disaster, going nuts, about to cry, cut-off score, philosopher kings, so sickening, destroy education, manipulate data, smell something rotten, jump ship, massive bribery, government control, every aspect, slip-sliding away…

Amazing what just two-word snags and snippets from a plethora of threads and posts can offer up to others not reading all of it. The negative emote goes on and on and on… Parents, Teachers, and Students…all sharing their ire and/or confusion!

cha·os ˈkāˌäs/

complete disorder and confusion.

“snow caused chaos in the region” [PARCC IS CAUSING CHAOS COMMONLY EVERYWHERE]

synonyms: disorderdisarray, disorganization, confusionmayhembedlampandemoniumhavocturmoiltumultcommotiondisruptionupheaval,uproarmaelstrom;

muddlemessshamblesfree-for-all;

anarchy, lawlessness, entropy;

informal hullabaloohooplatrain wreckall hell broken loose

PARCC = Pure*Asinine*Ridiculous*Corporatist*Chaos

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