If mechanics used Common Core testing methods…

If you took your car to the mechanic and he told you hang out in the waiting for 6 months for the results- you’d probably laugh and walk away. If he told you the test would cost $32 million- you might chuckle and begin to question his sanity. If he told you that as a result of testing, your car is a high 2 and would need billions of dollars of work to become a 3- you’d call the cops.

Yet when it comes to children, parents readily accept this BS from testing companies.

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If you are going to #calloutCuomo, call out his Common Core tests too

We can ‪#‎calloutcuomo‬, but it won’t get us very far. Cuomo is a small part of a much larger problem. Common Core is a test driven mechanism designed to fail our students, teachers, and schools. Everywhere it is implemented, it comes with a warning of raised bars and new baselines. This equates to ridiculously high failure rates of both students and teachers. Politicians attempt to minimize the damage by saying these tests don’t count for students, but that is only temporary and does not stop student learning from being held hostage by abusive testing practices that is meant to punish teachers.

NY will lose Cuomo in 4 years, but if we don’t take a significant stand against Common Core and its testing it will not matter.

Common Core and its tests have empowered Cuomo and his band of merry charter operators. It is time to take that power away. It is a difficult task when state and national union leaders are willing to harm members to uphold their promise to the Core, but it is our only hope of preserving education.

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DIBELS Raises Common Core Cut Scores to Show More Students Below Grade Level

Yesterday, I wrote a piece on Fountas and Pinnell. It was clear that the newly identified below grade level readers were not a result of a sudden reading crisis, but a shifting of F & P cut scores.

Rupert Murdoch (who once claimed ed was a $500 billion industry) and happens to own DIBELS, also decided to raise the bar for children. Under the guise of Common Core, the cut scores for DIBELS have been changed. For instance, pre Common Core a 1st grader was expected to read 40-64 words per minute. Under the Common Core, they are now expected to read 69+ words per minute.

There is no money to be made in labeling children as successful, but labeling them failures has continued to fuel the perceived crisis in education and increases profits.

I was in finance before I became a teacher. If someone tried to push this through, they would be laughed right out of the door. Yet, we are making decisions for millions of children with these flawed metrics without giving it a second thought.  Time for a close read…

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Fountas & Pinnell Create More Rigorous Common Core Guided Reading Guidelines

Common Core continues to place greater demands on our youngest students with little to no regard to years of research on child development.

For example, take the Fountas and Pinnell research based guiding reading levels that have stood the test of time. They spent years creating a system that matched students with just right books. They even warned, “…through detailed coding of thousands of readings, showed that when a text is too difficult for the child the process breaks down and the child does not develop inner control of effective actions for processing texts.”

When Common Core was introduced, Fountas and Pinnell decided it was time to put research aside and go against their own advice in order create more rigorous thresholds for their guided reading levels.

For kindergartners in the pre Common Core days, F&P recommended students reach guided reading levels of A-C. With the introduction of Common Core, F& P raised the expectation to A-D.

The shift continued for first graders. Pre Common Core students were expected to reach levels B-I in the past. Now, F&P raised the expectations to C-J for the grade level.

Why would F&P change the criteria after all of these years?  They claim kindergartners are entering school more ready than before.  This claim isn’t based on research, but a hunch that only helps to grow their profits.  The only plausible explanation is that this rigorous shift occurred to generate revenue for the F&P intervention program LLI.  F&P has created  a new crisis in education- they just so happen to sell the cure.  Seems to be the Common Core business model.

While we would never ask less of our children, F&P warned of the risk of placing unrealistic and untested expectations in front of students. Yet, this is what the Common Core manages to do time and time again.  Let’s bring common sense back to classrooms and leave the baseless raising of bars for the playground.

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NYSUT Officers Need Our Help

Alarm bells are ringing.  Cuomo and his hedge fund backers are out to destroy public education and the union of teachers that protect it.  NYSUT Officers need our help to fight.  Perhaps that’s because for the last year, we were the only ones fighting.

The current leadership started off in the right direction.  They opposed Common Core, APPR, high-stakes tests, Cuomo, and King.

Soon after they were elected, Cuomo signed Karen, Andy P., and friends’ double pensions.  It has been downhill ever since.

During the summer of 2014, the very officers that were elected to oppose Common Core took the stage and declared their love of the standards.  The UFT’s Mulgrew even threatened to punch those in the face that opposed “his” standards.  Not exactly what we were expecting.

Later that summer, a NYSUT spokesperson made the bizarre claim that state tests seemed fair and developmentally appropriate.  We have been screaming for years that these test are designed for students to fail.  How did they not relay our message?

Things appeared to be better in the fall.  We applauded the officers non-endorsement of Cuomo, but they dropped the ball by failing to back a candidate of our own.  They also dismissed Cuomo’s threats against teachers as election rhetoric.  Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come when Randi Weingarten put out a robocall supporting Cuomo’s Lt. Gov Hochul and by default- Cuomo.

Cuomo won the election and declared war on public school teachers and their union.  He even went so far as to say the union was protecting teachers convicted of sexually abusing students.  NYSUT officers made few attempts to correct this potentially damaging lie.  No NY teacher who has ever been convicted of such a heinous crime has been allowed to keep their job.

We have been inundated with questionable magazine covers.  AFT’s latest cover is offering to restore the promise of charters at a time when charters are looking to rob public schools of funding and credibility.  NYSUT’s United Magazine cover declared Cuomo has no respect for “You and Your Profession”, leaving some to question why not a more united “Us and Our Profession”?

To date, the only resistance offered by these officers has been a $1 million dollar ad dedicated to funding, a twitter campaign #inviteCuomo, a video (that did a good job identifing problems, but failed to suggest dynamic solutions) and two sparsely attended rallies-one on New Year’s Eve and another in the middle of a school day.  We applauded their 2nd opt out fact sheet.  It was only sent out after an all out assault on their first lackluster attempt.

It is clear that the NYSUT officers need our help.  They have put our union in a difficult position.  They held the door open an allowed an all out assault by testing companies, corrupt politicians, and others seeking to destroy OUR profession.

It is time for local unions to shut the door and remove the cretins from public education before they are allowed to do any more damage to our children!

If these NYSUT officers are willing to help OUR cause, we are more than willing to meet them with open arms.

It’s time our state and national union leaders made it their mission to end high-stakes testing and the Common Core horse they rode in on.

When 70% of NY students failed the Common Core tests, our state & national union leaders said we needed more time and more resources.

When 67% of the students failed for the second time, they celebrated growth and asked once again for more time and more resources.

Now, the Governor has declared war on teachers for failing to produce results on these flawed tests.

We’ve had enough time & exhausted enough resources. It’s time our state and national union leaders made it their mission to end high-stakes testing and the Common Core horse they rode in on.

Should Your Child Take High-Stakes Tests?

Your children should take high-stakes tests if you agree with:

Using state tests for 50% of evaluations

The benefits of rigorous test prepping for months

Subjecting children to tests that are 10+ hours long

Not being able to see the tests or even discuss them

Adjusting test passing rates to match political agendas

Defining students, teachers, & communities by 2 tests

Giving Pearson $28 million for tests that contain advertisements & multiple errors

Removing local control

Putting you child’s education in the hand$ of hedge fund traders

Corrupt politicians

If you don’t agree, opt out.

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What if Parents, Teachers, & Students Weren’t Afraid Anymore?

Students and teachers are about to head back into the schoolhouses and will be met with the reality that the witch-hunt in public education is well underway. The Governor and Chancellor have released their plans to fire 10% of teachers in NY. Their strategy is to undermine local control to manipulate the teacher evaluation system and carry out the demands of billionaire hedge fund traders. These same fund traders financed Cuomo’s run for Governor with 4 million dollars. In return, they want to take over our schools.

So what are parents, teachers, and students to do? Do we feed into this system of fear and allow it to dominate our classrooms, faculty rooms, playgrounds and dining rooms? Do we allow our children to be reduced to data points on the machine set to destroy their education? Do we put our faith in the hands of the same corporations that bankrupted our entire nation and set us spinning into a recession that we still have not recovered from? Do we remain passive hoping for someone else to save public education?

Instead of cowering in fear and isolation we must stand united and empower each other. Classrooms must not be ruled by fear, but be guided by compassion. Where the corporate reforms and their Governor see failure, we must see an unwavering belief in the promise of our students, teachers, and parents. While the threats the reformers make are very much real, they are promoting a blind faith education policy that is crumbling by the second. It is time we knock it down. Do not be passive. Voice your thoughts and concerns, because the concerns are real and the impact of firing 10% of our teachers is too monstrous and punitive to ignore.

We did not put green laces in our shoes, green looms on our wrists, and green lanyards around our necks because we hoped we would win. We put them on as a bold and impossible to ignore reminder of why we will win. We will win for our children, our schools, our teachers, and our communities. As one…

Lace to the Top

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Lace to the Top Commissioner Test (Scantron not included)

We need a new benchmark for commissioners. We looked at the data, and realized the quality of educational leadership in NYSED is far below that of Singapore and Finland.

Parents told the soon to be previous commissioner, children are tested too much. His solution was to reduce the amount of time students had to take the same developmentally inappropriate tests. Parents were so disgusted by the previous commissioner, they refused state testing by the tens of thousands. Teachers passed a vote of no confidence in the previous commissioner. The time, energy, and resources wasted by John King have revealed what New Yorkers want in a commissioner.

To help identify such a candidate, we have created a test to assess the new commissioner who will welcome in a new era and end the reign of error. The new era will put kids above profits, learning before testing, and teaching before politics.

We at Lace to the Top believe in finding the good in people and learning from mistakes. John King’s legacy as Commissioner is a consistent series of decisions actions, and speeches that reflected what parents and teachers do not want for their children.

The following is the Lace to the Top Commissioner selection instrument to help the Merryl and co. find a commissioner that will not need a police escort to escape forums. 

1.You’re a student at Columbia and notice a pleasant man with a goatee. When you meet him you

A. Inquire about his availability to be Commish.

B. Ask him about his failing charter school.

C. Ask the students at Columbia about any silent protests planned for “honorees.”

2. What is the best way to close the achievement gap? A. Harder tests

B. More tests

C. More museum visits

D. smaller class sizes.

3.Have you ever required a police escort to prevent an audience from causing you physical harm?

A. yes

B. no

4.How many years of public education experience do you have?

A. 0-2

B.3-7

C. 8+

5.How many charter schools have you run?

A. More than 1

B. 0

6.When sitting at a forum, how would you describe your countenance?

A. Disinterested

B. Disgusted

C. Anxious

D. Attentive

7.When selling a child’s data to a private corporation, what is the most important detail to remember?

A. Profit

B. Political benefits

C. Follow Orders

D. Sell what?

8.If you are told your actions are hurting kids, what actions should you take?

A. Ignore and make sure your children are still in Montessori schools

B. Stare and rattle off from the script about rigorous college and career readiness.

C. Stop the source of harm and fix it or scrap it.

9.You plan to establish a new benchmark. What percentage of children should your plan fail?

A. 100-70%

B.  69-0%

C. The people who created the plan to fail any children should be reassigned to work in an occupation that does not involve children… or human beings.

10.How would you improve Engage NY modules?

A. More rigorous scripts and less room for teachers to respond to students’ needs

B. Ezra Pound poetry moved to second grade.

C. Open source lesson plans

11.What is the greatest problem with Common Core?

A. The roll-out challenges of the initiative were exacerbated by the confabulation of white suburban moms.

B. Teachers want lower standards

C. It is still here

Answer Key: If you answered “A” to any of these questions, please submit your application to Scotts fertilizer. They like reformers. You cannot be the commissioner of ed in our state.

I Wish Laryngitis on the Reformers

I wish laryngitis on all of the reformers. They need time to stop talking and start listening. I lost my voice last week with laryngitis. Although this made my demonstration lesson on how to speak publically a lesson in irony, it forced me to speak less and listen more.

My students seemed to listen better to my hoarse voice during me lessons last week. If their presentations on Monday are any indication, they understood more too. Their assignment was to present Prezumes, which are resumes made with Prezi to the class. The students spent 5 days putting their presentations together. I began each class with a 5 minute tutorial on using Prezi or public speaking. The goals of the Prezume-tations were to 1. be memorable and 2. be honest. I created a rubric for students to peer-grade one another based on the elements of public speaking we reviewed in class.

What happened on Monday was beyond my expectations. I introduced each student even though I sounded like Harvey Fierstein’s interpretation of Don Corleone. After each presentation, the students clapped and yelled “Positive reinforcement,” a part of our classroom culture created on the first day of school.

The presentations were memorable and honest as was discussed in days prior to the presentations. However, I could have not expected them to be as moving and inspirational as they were.

One student shared his dream of working in theatre, how over coming dysgraphia made him a faster typist, and showed how he worked up to a position of leadership and responsibility in the school’s theatre department. The presentation ended with an empty slide because his moment of greatness had yet to be reached.

Another student shared her impressive academic achievements reflected in a perfect grade point average. But even she is more than a score. She is part of a nationally recognized dance team, an award-winning flutist, and aspires to be a music teacher.

A third student’s presentation focused on his pursuits outside of the brick and mortar school house but were no less impressive. He creates music, flies on a skateboard, and drinks philosophy. His presentation included a video he created of him skateboarding that could have part of an ESPN feature.

The last student shared the journey, struggles, regrets, and dreams of a child uprooted from his home. It was riddled with spelling errors and used only basic features of Prezi. It ended with the loudest claps and the most “positive reinforcement” shouts.

The presentations were not perfect. But that’s the point; they did not need to be. All students start from where they are. It is the discover of what is not perfect, and journey to make what is imperfect better that gives meaning to students’ lives.. It gives the students a reason why to engage; because it matters to them.

Whether it is lack of imagination, financial gain, or indifference to our students’ futures, education reformers do not have the tools or hearts to improve what goes on within our schools any more than they can fix the brick and mortar outside. They do not have the tools, experience, or motivation to do either.

Transformative teachers, inspirational leaders, and informed parents can no longer allow this flight on a plane being built in the air to continue. Leaving no children behind has dragged the underfunded unfairly and has raised no students to new heights. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

From a reformer’s perspective, Monday’s class was a success because a special education student, an honors student, an African American student, and an ESL student completed a summative assessment using computer technology to address CC speaking, listening, and writing standards (which by the way, none of which are part of state tests). The students in my class listened to four peers share who they are and what they love to do with people who care about them. They inspired their classmates, increased their self-esteem, and evaluated their lives.

To listen, love, and inspire is a noble dream for school leaders to have. Perhaps if those who have assumed control listened with loving ears, they too could inspire.

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