AIR, Data, Education, Ohio, Public Schools, reading, Schools, Testing, third grade

STOP 3rd Grade SOUL THEFT

Jackie blog cover

I teach third grade. Every one of my kids, age 8 or 9, has talents and dreams. This past Wednesday, we had a circle of friendship. That’s when we sit on the carpet in a circle and take turns saying something nice about each other.

The desks were all spread far apart, since we have been MAP testing in Reading, Math, and Science this week on computers. So we had plenty of space.

The first time I did a circle of friendship, it was hot, early in the year. We kept having to unclasp our hands because they were sweating. The kids were uncomfortable.

This time, right after lunch, I told them we were doing a circle, and they cheered. See, they look forward to the affirmations. From peers and from me.

I ended up talking the most, because when they were done, I did the whole circle.

I told them that I know them really well now. And I named the things I saw in them, each one. Their abilities, their struggles, how they had grown over the year, and I ended up telling them that I believed in each and every one of them.

Later, I asked them to trace their hand on the blue paper and write about what they thought I would say about them at conferences.

One student, who has struggled, wrote that I would say he has gotten his anger under control, that he was smart, that he was good in math, and that he liked to dance.

These are PEOPLE.

I put their essays in their conference folders.

We took our MAP Reading test the next day. The test is on a computer. Everyone gets different questions, depending on how they are doing, they get harder or easier questions. They worked really hard, since a score of 196 during one of the tests can equal promotion under the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee.

Less than half of my class has met a promotion score so far. Only a few more surpassed the 196 that day. And that is to be expected, since the nationwide mean is 198.6 at the END of the year. But this is technically the END OF THE YEAR. April. Because in order for the State of Ohio to decide what sort of a job I have done for my evaluation, we need scores by early May.

I have some kids that need to score a 672 or higher on the AIR/TIDE test, which we are taking next week. If they don’t, they will have to attend summer school attended then take MORE tests.

Like the MAP, the AIR test has passages we have never seen, questions we have never seen, it is taken on a computer, and the kids have to read 2 passages and then write an essay which includes evidence cited from both passages.

It is going to be scored by a computer.

The computer cannot read.

The computer is looking for conventions like capitalization, end punctuation, an introduction, use of transitional words, and a conclusion.

The prompt asks them to write a “multiparagraph essay”. The same rubric is used for grades 3-5. The “exemplars”, which are essays written by I-don’t-know-whom, but are available on the ODE website, are mostly beyond what my kids can do.

Children who are 8 or 9 are not developmentally ready for keyboarding, based on their fine motor skills. Nor have they entered the cognitive level of formal operations. But let’s ask them to do this, because we can defeat them easily at this age.

And so, today, in the Plain Dealer, appears this article:

Computers mis-grade 5,300 state tests after programming error by American Institutes for Research

There are days I can’t wait to get to school. There are days I would prefer not to go. But I do, anyway.

I love my kids. I raise butterflies in the summer, and teaching is better than butterflies, but in some ways, the same. It’s seeing the potential. The egg hatches into a caterpillar, and if you provide what it needs, you end up with a butterfly.

Teaching can be like that.

Honestly, though, I am feeling defeated tonight.

I know that computers can’t read. I don’t buy into the snake oil…I don’t want to live in a world with self-driving cars. I don’t see technology as the answer to everything. I look at my kids and no matter how hard I try, I don’t see data points.

I see organic people. They have strengths. They have weaknesses. We have a culture in the classroom that allows us to say that out loud. As a teacher, I too have strengths and weaknesses. So does EVERYBODY.

And I feel very WEAK. Right now.

Because what I know about those people in my class doesn’t mean jack squat. What the computer “knows” means EVERYTHING. Except WHEN IT SCREWS UP.

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

Head’s Up! Action Alert! #OhioGradCrisis

laser pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOARD MEMBERS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AT-LARGE MEMBERS: 

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings   (614) 256- 9317

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

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

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

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

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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, Opt out, Public Schools, Schools, Test Refusal

Go Big or Go Home (Part 1 of 2)

go

Go Big or Go Home

This was my approach to the only two OEA Representative Assemblies I have attended. While this second one lacked the element of surprise in what motion I would make, it certainly sparked some lively debate among delegates.

In a year’s time though, things did change. Most importantly, I built connections with other delegates and friendships with many of them. The level of support was astonishing to me. I am truly grateful for the many people who spoke in favor of and helped with the motion. I must acknowledge Kevin Griffin who agreed to second and help tweak the phrasing umpteen times. We were optimistic and felt we had language that would request a very simple, but significant action.

I submitted the New Business Item (NBI) form and returned to my seat. The day was busy and many people had thoughts to share with me after that paper got turned in. Some wanted to clarify the intent and just get more information. Some wanted to share the concerns they have. Some wanted to share their support. It was pretty overwhelming.

Here is what was submitted:

NBI: OEA will educate members and parents about their right to refuse statewide

standardized tests. OEA will request that ODE notify parents of their right to

refuse any statewide standardized test that is not required for grade promotion or

graduation.

Rationale: This NBI shows that OEA supports parents and their right to direct their

children’s education.

At some point that morning, my local president informed me of news that really touched my heart. She called a vote in our district’s delegation. They unanimously voted to support the NBI and to have her speak in favor of it on their behalf. That means more to me than I can adequately express. I am grateful to Mary Kennedy and our entire Hilliard EA delegation for their support.

As I approached the microphone, an inexplicable calm washed over me. I had sobbed while writing my speech the night before and felt certain I wouldn’t make it through without crying. I technically didn’t, but I’m OK with that. I can rarely talk about what is happening to my students without crying. So what if that happened to be in front of a large number of people? I didn’t feel nervous, just sad.

I finished and Kevin eloquently explained further. He made excellent points about the sharp differences in how school districts are handling refusal requests. He even quoted from the NEA President’s blog to show how far-reaching the support for parents’ right to refuse the tests is. I was again humbled and blessed that he agreed to help.

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Uncategorized

A.J. Wagner, Ohio B.O.E. Member, Writes to the Senate Advisory Committee on Testing

testing costs thinking capAnother letter to the Senate Advisory Committee on Testing:

Dear Senator Lehner and Committee Members,

Please forgive me for pestering you with, yet, another concern relative to testing. As I was listening to Dr. Ross comment at the Board of Education meeting yesterday it occurred to me that cost should be a consideration in testing. How much bang for the buck are we getting in Ohio?

I did some very crude calculations to come up with a few figures. I’ll show my work if it fits in this comment space. If not, I may have to remove it and risk a lesser grade. First, there is the cost of PARCC at almost $30 for approximately 1.6 million students. In round figures, that’s about $50 million. Each teacher is now spending 4% to 8% of their time on testing with about 40% of that time dedicated to federally mandated exams (PARCC). There are about 108,000 teachers in Ohio and I crudely estimate, 85,000 of them teach grades 3 – 12. The average pay with benefits for a teacher in Ohio exceeds $60,000.

So, 85,000 teachers at $60,000 is a payroll of $5.1 billion. Apply that to 4% of our teachers time and you’re at $204 million plus for testing. Separate out the 40% for PARCC and you get a little over $80 million.

That’s a total of $130 million before looking at administrative costs such as administrators, extra staff to monitor and read to IEP students, IT costs, general overhead and much more. This is a guess, but we could well be looking at $150 – $200 million in dollars. Then their’s the cost in lost education time for students.

My figures must be questioned as they are very crude. I am asking you to do the math yourselves. Determine the total cost of the exams and answer the question, “What’s our bang for the buck?” There will be no more Race to the Top Dollars to help us. Where does the money come from now?

Judge A.J. Wagner, Retired
Member, Ohio Board of Education
District 3

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