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Dr. Jesse Turner: I Love Public Education

Jessie Turner 2015

Dr. Jesse “The Walking Man” Turner: 

  • “I am a man on a mission to bring the joy of learning to the classroom. An advocate and activist for children, parents, and teachers.”

    I’m am pleased to share with readers the writing of Dr. Jesse Turner. This piece of writing, in particular, is being shared far and wide because it is touching so many hearts. At a time when the field of education, the practice of teaching, teachers and public schools are under attack, these words strike a chord in those of us who understand the forces at work against us and the price being paid by everyone, especially our children, until we take back the reigns of control from the heartless, monied interests.

    I Love Public Education
    I cried the first time my Mother left me at your door,
    I would learn to love you with every morning cookie and container of milk,
    I would love you more with every song we sang within your hallowed walls,
    I found your love in every teacher’s smile in your halls
    I loved the reverence and respect you showed our flag every morning.
    When the evil darkness of assassination
    took the life of President Kennedy ~ you were there,
    You calmed us, and helped us understand that although things could never be the same ~ our nation would be mended,
    You kept us warm during the winters from 9:00 to 3:00 ~ when there was no heat in our old cold-water flat,
    You were there when they murdered our heroes Martin and Bobby, to help us wipe away our tears,
    You ensured that although they were taken from our world ~ these men would remain in our hearts forever,
    You gave us hope through the riots and the protests,
    You gave us color when there were no crayons in our homes,
    You gave us poetry to ease our pain,
    You gave us poetry to celebrate our lives,
    You gave us history to give us roots,
    You gave us geography, the stars and the moon landing ~ just to let us know we had no boundaries,
    You taught us mathematics and science,
    But most of all you gave us literature,
    You gave us a love of books,
    You handed us a little more of our dreams every single day,
    You were there, year after year, as we spent our summer vacations under the cooling spray of fire hydrants ~ dancing in the streets,
    As every summer ended we longed for another school year to begin,
    You were beaming with pride at every graduation,
    My loves still grows
    I am confused by:
    A nation’s leaders ~ who bash public schools at every opportunity,
    An American media ~ that ignores 150 years of noble service to our nation’s children,
    I find myself distraught ~ by the titans of industry, who blame you for every social ill, while they drink from the cup of plenty, time and time again,
    I am troubled by their mantra of testing will save us,
    I am saddened by their infatuation with fictional heroes like Superman, and homage to those with no real classroom experience,
    I am bewildered by leaders who say teachers are the essential ingredients to success, and then in their next breath say our teachers are not good enough.
    All I am I owe to you,
    I can’t remember one single standardized test,
    I do remember teacher after teacher telling us those tests were no measure of who we really are,
    I remembered loving Mr. Bass’s reminders that poor boys and girls could be anything they dreamed,
    His boys and girls were more than test scores,
    We were his endless possibilities,
    Yes, I love public education,
    I love public education enough to fight for it,
    I love public education enough to stand up for it,
    I love public education enough to take it back from the
    The billionaires club,
    The politicians,
    The policy makers,
    The ones who only see test scores,
    The ones who count numbers not tears,
    The ones who refer to America’s children as “Data”
    Yes, I love public education; enough to walk to Washington DC again in 2015.
    Forever in your debt,
    Jesse Turner

    Jesse Turner profile pic
    Follow him Twitter: @readdoctor

    Dr. Turner will start his walk at Central State University on June 11th and it will end in Washington, D.C.  He will walk about 400 miles in 40 days.  Check out his event page at: https://www.facebook.com/events/297723840427078/

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If my child is going to sit for 500 minutes to take a test there better be a good reason.

It is critical that we all understand that everything about the PARCC test is a sharp departure from the previous kinds of standardized testing that has ever been done. The standards upon which they are based were agreed to before they were even written. They were backwards designed from college all the way down to kindergarten. There were few people who are experts in the field of education and zero early childhood educators to help create them. The few who were knowledgeable in their fields have since come out against the standards. The standards are copyrighted and therefore OWNED by this one group and cannot be changed, except by them. And now these tests are going to take longer than those that adults who wish to become lawyers or doctors must take. There is something significantly wrong with this whole process. It has been highly secretive, left out important stakeholders in a democratic society, and has not been proven to accomplish what it claims to do: assure to prepare kids to be college and career ready. Yet they are being forced upon us, regardless of the legitimate concerns expressed, full speed (and a FAST ONE AT THAT) ahead! This speeding train needs to be stopped. Children are on board. Their safety (mental and physical) is at stake! We need to have our kids refuse to take these unfair, unproven tests that will be used to close our schools and continue to unjustly justify opening up more non-community, privately owned and operated charter schools that hand-pick which kids they want to serve. Save your communities by saving your public schools! Say no to PARCC testing and to the Common Core non-State $tandards they rode in on!

lacetothetop

 

If my child is going to sit for 500 minutes to take a test there better be a good reason. To date, I have not heard of any.

 

What we know:

 

-The results are given in 6 months.

 

-We can never see the test.

 

-We are told every answer is “plausible”.

 

-We are told the text is above grade level.

 

-Only15% of ELA standards are tested. Writing, listening & speaking are left out.

 

-Field test questions are on the test.

 

-Prepping for this test has taken a month (or more) out of our children’s education and fractured a love of learning.

 

-There is no proof that this is a measure of college/career readiness.

 

-We are not preparing them to become “good” test takers, because this is the only 500 minute test they will ever take (regardless of college/career).

 

-We love…

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How I Came to Be a Teacher Despite the “Standardized Test”

Standardized test no teacher ever

Introduction

Some teachers always knew they wanted to become a teacher when they grew up. But, I wasn’t one of them. I didn’t really think much about what “I wanted to be” when I grew up. It was too far away to matter to me then. No, I spent my days at play, mostly outside, around the neighborhood. It was made up of only boys, so you can probably imagine what that meant. We rode our bikes up and down the sidewalk of our block. We set up our armies of little plastic soldiers and played war. We shot baskets at the hoop on their garage. We played with the bazillion toys they had in their garage or what they would bring up from down in their basement. We played tennis across the street at the junior high tennis courts. Dreaming about becoming a teacher wasn’t in the cards right from the beginning for me. I was having way too much fun making up games with the boys or negotiating my place in those games. I was busy, busy, busy from the time the sun came up until dusk and the street lights came on. Then it was time to go home for dinner.

The Elementary School Years

I was a pretty quiet kid in elementary school. I did okay with math, but didn’t really enjoy it. My passion was reading. I remember how much I loved to spend time in the library whenever I had the chance. The library was in the center of the school. To me, it was huge! There were two key spots that were my favorites. One was being able to climb up to the top of a wooden structure that reminded me of a treehouse where we could hang out and read books. The other was sitting in an old-fashioned bathtub with the four feet. It was filled with comfortable pillows and was only big enough for one person, so that was the one I tried for first. I would get lost in the Little House on the Prairie series and sometimes forget to go back to my classroom on time. But I don’t ever remember getting in any serious trouble because of it.

I remember being given some opportunities to work with younger kids, like a tutor. I think I was in fifth or sixth grade because my school was grades 1-6, with kindergarten being at an off-site annex a short drive from the school. I liked teaching the younger kids things although I don’t remember what I was teaching them, but it was very enjoyable. I think that was my first taste of “teaching” when I was young.

At the end of the school year, teachers often gave away leftover worksheets and other piles of papers to anyone who wanted to take them home. I remember there were a group of us girls who would swoop in and gather up all that we could carry and take them home. One year, one girl had a small playhouse that her dad had built in their backyard. She decided to start a club. It wasn’t long before our club evolved into many afternoons of “playing school.” We would pass out papers and go through the motions of what we thought it meant to be students and teachers. Of course, we took turns being the teacher. But I also think it was the experience of being a student in that playhouse that convinced me that I didn’t really want to be a teacher when I grew up.

I loved animals. In the summer, I would go to southern Iowa where my parents grew up and where many of my relatives lived. I would stay with my grandparents and sometimes my aunt and uncle, as well. I got to ride horses, play with cats and dogs. I watched chores being done with cattle and sheep. I was pretty sure that with my love of animals being so strong that one day I would grow up to become a veterinarian. That only lasted until I found out that I would have to go to college for about 8 years and take a lot of science classes. Back to the drawing board.

Junior High School Years

In junior high, sports became a focus of much of my time. I played tennis and volleyball all three years (6th, 7th and 8th grades). I played basketball only one year. It wasn’t for me. Academically, I was given a chance to chose some electives. This was a time for me to be able to explore areas of interest. So I remember taking home economics, typing, accounting and French. I’m sure there were others, but those are the ones that stick with me. I did like the accounting. A lot. But when it got into the higher levels, my mind started to wander. I knew it wasn’t for me. French, on the other hand, was fascinating because I was learning how to speak and write in a language that not everyone knew. A friend of mine and I loved writing letters back and forth to each other. It gave new meaning to “passing notes.” I stuck with French through 7th and 8th grades and liked it enough that I knew that I would continue with it into high school. Besides, we were always told that knowing another language would be “helpful” one day and make it easier for us to get a job.

High School Years

In high school, my interest in playing sports continued. At some point, I ended up choosing volleyball over tennis because both sports happened during the same season. I continued with French and my interest in it grew because we learned not only the language but about the French culture as well. My French teacher had a major influence on me. She was like a second mother. She talked to us about life and about our futures. She was the first teacher who really got me thinking seriously about my life beyond high school. As she taught us, she spoke to us as if we WOULD, not SHOULD, but WOULD be traveling to France and taught us as if preparing for that eventuality. She introduced us to a student exchange program and my family hosted two girls from France to come live with us. Each one came for a month. The exchange program told my family that since we had hosted two students that they would allow me to go on the same program to stay with the families of each of these same two girls, even though I wouldn’t be doing it until a year AFTER I had already graduated from high school. But I had a goal. It was the first of many goals to come.

After High School / Before Starting College

During my last year in high school I had gotten a part-time job. I worked at the Dairy Queen. It was a chance to get my feet wet in the world of work and earn a little money. Some of my friends were doing it, why not me? But my grades suffered and I started getting a D in at least one class. So, I quit. I got a lecture from the DQ owners the night I told them I had to quit due to my poor grades. They assured me that if I quit that I would always be a quitter. They said that anytime anything were ever to get too hard that I would just quit and that I would never turn out “to be anything.” As if their lecture wasn’t bad enough, I was even MORE TERRIFIED of what my labor-union-president-father would say. I was SURE that he would be furious with me for being a “quitter.” But, I was wrong. He was actually glad that I was no longer being taken advantage of by being given randomly changeable hours and often working until midnight on a school night. With the blessing of my dad to spur me on, I promised myself right then and there that I would PROVE those Dairy Queen owners WRONG. I would NOT be a quitter and I WOULD be SOMETHING.

By late spring of my senior year, my dad helped me get a job at a YMCA as a janitor for the women’s locker room. During the summer, they promoted me to working behind the front desk: selling memberships, making racquetball court reservations and handing out towels. I was now earning money and working toward that goal of going on the exchange program to France. As luck would have it, a full-time job starting in the fall was opening up. I was asked if I wanted it. My mother was opposed because she wanted me to start college classes at the local community college. But I wanted to go to France. In order to go, I needed more time to earn enough money. I was convinced that I could not only earn enough money to travel on the program to France, but also begin saving money for college. Mom was sure that as soon as I started earning money that I wouldn’t want to stop and wouldn’t GO to college at all. But I wouldn’t back down. Just like when the DQ owners told me what my future would be, I was now determined to prove my mother wrong, too.

So, I worked full-time for the year after high school. I saved my money. When the year was up, I quit the full-time job and went to France on the student exchange program. That experience changed my life forever. My whole world expanded. It was like I had entered a time machine that put me into a different world. To experience a language and a culture from the inside changes you. It just does. I had to learn what was expected of me in different social settings, in different families and in different regions of France. I stayed with one family in an area just outside of Paris for two weeks. I was taken all over the city of Paris for one week and then went on vacation for the second week with my family in the Normandy region near the English Channel. Then I was driven to the airport and flown to the south of France to stay in a town near Marseilles for two more weeks. This family drove with me down the French Rivera. I got to visit Monaco/Monte Carlo and see the Palace of Prince Rainier and learn about Princess Grace, the former American actress, and her untimely death. I got to swim (float buoyantly) in the salty Mediterranean Sea and sunbathe privately on the rocky ledge. I got to shop daily at the outdoor markets for food that the family prepared each day. I got to drink wine and eat cheese and feel very grown up.

College Years

Just like I promised my mother I would do, I enrolled at the local community college. I had no idea about what I wanted to study, but I knew that I needed to take certain kinds of basic classes that could transfer to a four-year school. So my first year, that is what I did. I took a full load of classes, worked part-time at the YMCA and continued to live at home….for a while. But eventually, I needed to spread my wings, so when an opportunity to rent a room in a house that belonged to someone I knew, I convinced my parents that not only could I learn to be responsible for myself, but I could also gain financial independence from them so that I could qualify for more financial aid. So I moved out.

While at the community college, I met many international students. We became friends. I helped them with learning English. They often asked me the meaning of words or to look over the papers they had written to give them pointers on their grammar and word choice. At the end of the first year, I had also been searching for a direction for myself. I found out about a two-year program called International Trade. It was a business program that would help me understand the ins and outs of import and export. After completing the program, I could either get a job in the field or I could go on to a four-year college and continue studying business. So I entered this program which took me two more years to complete, thereby spending three years at a two-year school. I enjoyed most of the classes and was excited about the possibility of being able to travel, use my French (although I knew it wasn’t good enough to do much yet) and one day make a comfortable living. But then, I took marketing and economics. It was mostly marketing’s fault that I didn’t pursue business. That class basically taught me that I would have to lie to be successful in the business world. NOT FOR ME!!!

So when I transferred to a small, private, liberal arts college the next fall (because of great financial aid), I was starting over again to figure out my direction. The one thing that kept coming back to me was my experience helping international students learn English. I kept remembering how they complimented me, telling me that I would make a great teacher someday. So I decided that I would figure out how to become an E.S.L. (English as a Second Language) teacher.

Initially, when I told my adviser about wanting to become an E.S.L. teacher, he, being an English professor, apparently didn’t know what that was. He counseled me to sign up for an English literature class that really wasn’t my “cup of soup.” I read the material and did the work, but I didn’t understand how this was going to prepare me to teacher English to those just learning it.

Ironically, at the very same time, I was a work-study student in the Education Department of this college. I was complaining to the secretary in the department one day about my English class, telling her how crazy it seemed for what it was I really wanted to do. She asked me some questions, like what age students did I want to teach. To teach college level students, I would need a master’s degree, she said. So then, thinking back to my previous experiences of working with kids, I said that I thought I’d like teaching elementary aged children. She told me I should become an elementary education major and that the professor I was working for in the Education Department should be my adviser! Sure enough, I spoke with him and made the switch.

From that point on, I was taking classes that made sense. I took Schooling in American Society. I took Philosophy of Education. I took methods classes and many others that I saw as directly related to preparing me for the kind of work I expected to do in the classroom. I also went on a program called “Urban Education.” This program was held in the city of Chicago. It provided me with the coursework I needed in order to learn what I needed to know to teach English learners. Upon completion of the coursework, I earned the endorsement needed for teaching.

In the fall of my senior year, I was ready to do my student teaching. As luck would have it, I returned to Chicago to do it. I was placed in a public school in Evanston. I was able to do a split student teaching experience during the time I was there. So I spent part of the day in a fourth grade classroom and part of the day in an E.S.L pull-out classroom. I had two fabulous cooperating teachers. The E.S.L. teacher in particular was invaluable in helping me develop the kind of confidence I needed for this work. I watched how she worked with her students. I watched how she created materials for them to learn. I learned from her work with the school’s drama teacher how to involve the students in using English in a non-threatening way. The work I did in the regular classroom setting was much harder for me. The personalities of those students were much more challenging. They tested me in ways that the E.S.L. students didn’t. I did my best and learned to reflect on the successes and the failures of my lessons and on my interactions with students.

I returned to my campus for the spring term to finish my senior year. While everyone else was creating resumes, going to job fairs and filling out employment applications, I was doing homework. I was not given good advice and had no idea that I should have been engaged in all of those activities as well. I was hardly aware that those things were even being done. But, I did keep in touch with the E.S.L. teacher with whom I had done my student teaching. She asked me if I would be interested in teaching summer school in her district. She also said that if that worked out that she and another teacher would provide me with a place to stay. I would house sit for the traveling teacher and I would exchange housekeeping duties for my room and board with her. So I taught summer school with her and another teacher in Evanston. I learned even more about collaborative planning and we had a wonderful time working with those children.

The Job Finds Me

Then, as luck would have it, this same E.S.L. teacher told me that she had flipped a coin and decided to switch schools for the following year. That meant that her position was now open in the same school, in the same classroom where I had done my student teaching! So I immediately applied for the job. But the answer didn’t come for quite some time. By law, they had to advertise the job. In the meantime, the E.S.L. teacher also told me that she had heard about another job opening and she gave me the number of a man who used to work in the Evanston district, but who was, at that time, a principal in Elmwood Park. Just based on the recommendation of my E.S.L. teacher, he told me that he would recommend me for the job in Elmwood Park, if I wanted it. He also told me that he understood that the job in Evanston was my first choice. So I told him that if Evanston turned me down, I would definitely go to work in his district. Luckily, with this other district ready and willing to sign me up and enough time having gone by, I was able to convince Evanston to make a hiring decision and they agreed to give me the job.

And that is how I came to be a lifelong teacher of English learners, in the same school, in the SAME classroom where I did my student teaching. I think it is apparent based on the many twists and turns in my history of becoming a teacher that it truly was my destiny. I used to giggle when the E.S.L. cooperating teacher used to tell me that I was “born with chalk in my fists.” But, I never forgot what she said. I have been told by many teaching colleagues, principals, parents and students that I am a wonderful teacher. Many even say that I have “a gift.”

Standardized Tests Proved Nothing About Teacher Quality For Me

But what I do know is this. I didn’t become a teacher by receiving high test scores. In fact, I was one of those students who typically didn’t do well on standardized tests. In fact, one year in high school, I purposely didn’t even try. I just filled in the bubbles. I was tired of taking those kinds of tests by that time. I just didn’t care. I HATED those tests. I HATED the way the test questions were worded and how the answer choices made my head spin. I never saw the results (what I missed) from them, so they mattered not one bit to me. I also had to take the ACT test. I did. I tried my best on that one, but when I got my score back, I knew it wouldn’t get me into college. Yet, I knew that I was a good student who got good grades in school based on classroom work, papers written and teacher-created assessments. So, I got into college with my grades by attending a community college, proving myself and getting excellent grades all through college. Was I ready for college? Why, yes. Yes, I was. And I have been a very effective teacher for 25 years based on seeing the results of my daily work with children as well as the successful, happy people so many of them have become as adults.

For the sake of our children, and for the future of our society, I hope many more wonderful teachers find their way into this necessary, marvelous profession. I plan to work hard to preserve it and to improve it from the INSIDE OUT!

The Vergara Trial Teachers Were Not “Grossly Ineffective”

A big “Thank You” to Diane Ravitch for digging into the facts of this trial to uncover the politics behind plaintiff’s case.

It is INCREDIBLY troublesome when a case so full of holes can make it through a court system that is supposed to be just and fair. What was fair about this outcome?

If the appeal fails to throw out this verdict, we need to fill the streets of this country in protest. I, for one, do not intend to live in a country where corruption and lawlessness are a way of life. That is NOT what our founders envisioned and not what we can let happen to OUR country. It belongs to WE, THE PEOPLE, not to the monied profit-mongers who want to throw good people under the bus in order to take over our schools, our neighborhoods and our civil society.

Let’s all follow this case and publicize it from the point of view that demands FACTS to find justice!

Diane Ravitch's blog

I was curious to learn whether the plaintiffs in the Vergara trial actually had “grossly ineffective teachers.” The answer is “no, they did not.”

Not only did none of them have a “grossly ineffective” teacher, but some of the plaintiffs attended schools where there are no tenured teachers. Two of the plaintiffs attend charter schools, where there is no tenure or seniority, and as you will read below, “Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara both attend a “Pilot School” in LAUSD that is free to let teachers go at the end of the school year for any reason, including ineffectiveness.

It turns out that the lawyers for the defense checked the records of the plaintiffs’ teachers, and this is what they found (filed as a post-trial brief in the case): (See pp. 5-6).

“Plaintiffs have not established that the statutes have ever caused them any harm or are likely to do…

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Literacy Expert to Obama on PARCC Test: Too Hard, Too Confusing, or Absurd?

About TeachingWhat knowledge is important? And who gets to decide?

This post by Diane Ravitch is a good follow-up to my post called “Reality Strikes.” It also explains how the level of difficulty of text and questions on the PARCC test are outrageous and make no sense.

But, something else also occurred to me when reading this. Diane ends with, “These are not good tests of reading comprehension. They are traps and snares.” So what is her conclusion? Does she think that the tests need to be improved or does the icon of fighting education reformers think Common Core $tate $tandards and the high-stakes tests that are inextricably linked should be eradicated altogether?

I wonder why this position wasn’t made clear at the end of her post. Would love clarification. I hope she will continue to advocate for an end to both!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Rebecca Steinitz is a literary consultant, writer, and editor in Massachusetts. She has a Ph. D. In English, coaches in urban districts, and has a daughter in seventh grade.

She wrote a letter to President Obama about the PARCC Tests, which her daughter must take, but the President’s will not.

Her daughter has always done well in school, but the PARCC test was a trial.

Here is a typical question:

“You have learned about electricity by reading two articles, “Energy Story” and “Conducting Solutions,” and viewing a video clip titled “Hands-On Science with Squishy Circuits.”In an essay, compare the purpose of the three sources. Then analyze how each source uses explanations, demonstrations, or descriptions of experiments to help accomplish its purpose. Be sure to discuss important differences and similarities between the information gained from the video and the information provided in the articles. Support your response with evidence from each…

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Reality Strikes

Bullying Teachers

A recent staff meeting was interesting. We had been asked by our principal to take a PARCC practice test (at least part of one) ahead of time so that we, as a staff, could have a discussion about it at this staff meeting. My principal is someone who I would not consider to be a drinker of corporate reform Kool-Aid, but who also seems to be, in my opinion, only somewhat aware of the larger issues involved in corporate education reform. He is the kind of person who doesn’t like to dwell on what he has “no control over.” That is an amiable quality in most cases and has helped us focus more on what we can and should do much of the time, rather than get overly frustrated with the nonsense that has been flooding into our daily existence as teachers. But this time, it was hard to focus on getting “past” the outrage.

The teachers couldn’t get over how HARD the tests were. I will say that I never heard the word “rigorous.” Not once. There had been those who, when the standards were first published, had taken a look at them and actually liked their organization. They thought that it “made sense” to start at kindergarten and  have the standards “spiral upward” from one grade to the next (yet they were DESIGNED BACKWARD from college level down to kindergarten). In professional development book groups, these same teachers had been engaged in reading about and discussing how to transition from the current set of state teaching standards to the new Common Core $tate $tandards and were pretty gung-ho about the mission of getting ready for “what was coming.” Some stated that we “had no choice” because the new standards were “the law” and “were here to stay.” After all, we teachers seem to have it in our DNA to rise to any occasion and “make it happen,” right?

But now there was a decidedly different feel in the room. The tenor of the discussion that followed had shifted from “let’s get ‘er done” to “this is ridiculous!!!” To his credit, the principal focused the discussion by asking teachers to notice what the demands of the test were, which did two things. First, it allowed teachers to vent about all the “major issues” they saw with the test. Second, he prepared us for the idea that we would look at those issues and see what was “within our control” to address through common sense instruction. Again, to his credit, he did suggest that he really wanted to see us continue the good quality instruction that he sees currently happening all over our building. And what he did suggest is that, based on these observations, maybe there were certain shifts or certain instructional techniques that we could implement that might help kids be more successful on these test when they are forced to face them next year.

So teachers noticed issues such as:

  • how sophisticated the level of text was for the grade level being tested;
  • how the excerpts were taken out of the context of the story in such a way that it really put the reader at a distinct disadvantage when trying to answer the questions without enough of the story line or background knowledge about relationships between characters;
  • how sometimes there seemed that there were at least two answers with supporting evidence for each that seemed like it COULD be correct and it wasn’t clear how the students were supposed to be able to figure out which one was more correct than the other, especially if we ADULTS weren’t sure;
  • how there were so many questions that required the student in one way or another to find evidence from the text to support their answer choice;
  • how busy the page looked and how students wouldn’t know what all of the tabs and buttons were for;
  • how there was more than one scroll bar on the screen at one time so students would need to know how to scroll the text of the story differently than scrolling to see the questions on the page;
  • how there could be up to three different texts that the student would have read and to be able to “keep in their head” as they thought about what the question was asking them in order to compare or to analyze;
  • how testing “stamina” was going to be an issue for MANY children, even those who hadn’t typically struggled in the past;
  • how there were essays that they would have to type with whatever keyboarding skills they had;
  • how they would have to type their essays into a text window that may require scrolling if their answer exceeds the space provided.

After compiling the list of what was noticed about how this test is different than the previous state standardized test and briefly talking about some the things teachers could do to help get kids ready to take this new test next year, teachers couldn’t help but share the angst that had been building up ever since they had taken the practice test themselves. One teacher said that we seriously need to get ready for students who are going to be emotionally and psychologically DEVASTATED by the experience of taking this test.

Others shared their own experiences and feelings as ADULTS when they took it. One teacher said that she had taken it at a time when she was pretty tired. She figured that her fatigued condition might somewhat mimic or help her compare her mental abilities at the time of the test to what a student’s ability might be like and she said that she was seriously straining to answer the questions and couldn’t imagine how frustrated and exhausted this was going to be for the students.

Another shared how she had her OWN son, who is a math whiz, take the math practice test. She said that not only was he exhausted when he was done, but he wasn’t even sure how well he may have done on it.  And yet another teacher actually asked a top engineer adult friend of hers to take a test and he didn’t see the importance or relevance of MANY of the questions on the test. He deemed it a HORRIBLE test of knowledge for ANYONE who would want to be ready for HIS career. And of course, that begs the question of, “How can ONE set of standards and ONE set of tests prepare all children everywhere for every possible career out there, including future ones that haven’t even been created yet?”

Near the end of the meeting, one of the comments that our empathetic principal made to a group of teachers that he recognized as “feeling panicked” was something like, “In New York where they have been field testing this test, their scores have dropped from around 70-80% testing proficient to around 25-30%. And historically, anytime a new test has been introduced, there has always been a drop in scores until everyone has had a chance to adjust to the changes that have been made. So just know that we won’t be the only ones experiencing these drops. It’s going to happen everywhere, across the whole country. And then something is going to have to happen so it will all wash out. They will have to do something.”

I followed up the principal’s remarks with a few of my own. I first made it clear that I was speaking 100% for myself and not for him or for anyone else. I told my colleagues that it was my opinion from all of the books I had been reading, education groups I had become members of and from conversations with other teachers all over the country that these tests and the CC$$ that we are being required to teach have been carefully designed to, in fact, PRODUCE this failure of our children. I said that the corporate backers and the politicians they have cozied up to are working together to ensure that they can continue to label our schools and us teachers as failures so that they can close our public schools and open up charter schools to come in and save the day. They plan to break our unions by replacing us horribly ineffective, veteran teachers with cheap Teach for America minimally-prepared, temporary teachers. They plan to sell all of the states that have bought into this scheme all new CC$$-aligned materials in addition to the new online tests which require upgrades of technological infrastructure in ALL schools across the country. Cha-ching!

I told them that, in MY opinion, now that they have gotten a look at this test and are beginning to see where it’s headed, that they MUST become active in the fight against these forces. I told them that I respectfully disagreed with our principal’s assertion that “it will all wash out” when people all over the country experience the same level of difficulties or failures. I said that I wanted to personally encourage each one of them to read the research that is out there that is connecting the dots between corporate billionaires and the politicians that have passed the laws that tie our evaluations to all of this nonsense. I told them that it was MY opinion that it wasn’t going to go away without a fight and that I hoped they would read books like Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools as well as Kris Nielsen’s Children of the Core and Uncommon: The Grassroots Movement to Save our Children and Their Schools. I encouraged them to search for groups to connect with so they could join with other teachers around the country to resist these destructive forces and to actively fight back to save our public school system.

Some heads were nodding as I spoke my piece. Many of them know that I have been speaking up about this for a long time. Some of my closer colleagues know that I “do my homework,” but even so some of them and many others have been waiting for it to pass, like so many other trends in education have done in the past. But I hope that after this bit of reality struck them recently, they will decide that there’s a good chance I may be right and that, in this case, it’s time to actually DO something about it!

The Two-Year Anniversary of This Blog: Today!

The Two-Year Anniversary of This Blog: Today!.

Diane Ravitch posted this yesterday. I wanted to re-post it here for a couple of reasons.

One is because I am thankful, so thankful, that she brought attention to the assault on teachers and our public school system when she did, especially so widely and on a daily basis. She gave me and so many others hope when there was nothing but despair all around me.  I do not put her up on a pedestal and find her infallible, but I respect her for all that she’s done and continues to do to bring much needed attention to the issues involved with the efforts underway (and have been for a very long time) by corporate reformers to privatize our children’s schools and limit their learning and to put pressures on the PTB (powers that be) to make changes and give back autonomy over our schools to those closest to them and who have the best know-how.

The second reason I appreciate her post is the following excerpt:

“My purpose when I started was to create a space where parents, students, teachers, principals, superintendents, public-spirited citizens, school board members, and anyone else who wishes to do so could share their ideas, dreams, fears, and hopes about the current state and future of American education. My guiding principle has been “a better education for all children.” I have never been so presumptuous as to assert that I know how to teach or that I have the answer to all questions. I rely on you, the readers, to share your knowledge and experiences as we together examine some of the ruinous policies now mandated by the federal government, policies that place more value on data than on children, that trust metrics more than professional judgment, and that prioritize standardized tests over learning and real education.

We have that space. We have the most vigorous discussion of education issues on the Internet. We don’t bar dissenting views [emphasis mine], although I do ban certain curse words that I don’t want on my blog and I do not tolerate personal insults. We even have trolls. I have said repeatedly that this blog is my virtual living room (although sometimes it is my virtual classroom), and I expect a certain level of civility. You may feel angry, and you can express your anger or frustration or rage, but please mind your language. And remember, if you want to insult me, do it on another blog, not here. Other than those rather limited rules, the floor is always open.”

Notice, she has rules–and not many of them, but she values open discourse and expects and encourages dissenting views. She’s not afraid of them! That’s the sign of a real leader!

So let me add my congratulations to her here and encourage others to read her blog if you don’t already!