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 EducationI 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 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,
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/
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!
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).
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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!
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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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!
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!