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Boycott of Standardized Tests Spreads as Seattle Teachers Revolt January 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Labor.
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Roger’s note: Here is a conspiracy theory “you can believe in.”  Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, are complicit with those whose objective is to destroy democratic public education in the United States.  Schools whose students do well on standardized tests will be the recipients of greater funding, while those who score low will lose out.  And guess whose white upper  middle class children, well-fed and beneficiaries of economic and emotional security, will ace the tests and receive the benefits.
Published on Saturday, January 12, 2013 by Common Dreams

Teachers in Seattle schools refuse to administer ‘specious’ standardized tests. Will others follow their lead?

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Opponents of the nation’s relentless push for standardized testing in public schools have new champions in Seattle this week as teachers at one high school and now another have refused to issue such exams to their students, calling them a waste of “time and money” amid “dwindling school resources.”

The entire teaching faculty at Garfield High School (with only three abstentions) voted to support a boycott against administering the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) this week or ever again. Garfield is the largest of thirteen high schools in the Seattle Public School (SPS) system.

In a press release, Kris McBride, Garfield’s academic dean and testing coordinator, said the test “produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources” during the weeks the test is administered.

On Friday, teachers at Ballard High School said they would join the boycott as well. National support for the teachers was also growing online, as a petition circulated and a facebook page for the teachers materialized.

Following some fear that the Garfield teachers could face disciplinary action, well-known education policy expert Diane Ravitch was among those using social media to garner additional support for their cause on Saturday:

In an interview with Seattle’s KUOW Radio, Ravitch said, “This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the entire staff of a school has said ‘no, we will not do this. It’s not good for the students, and it’s a waste of time and money.’”

A letter issued by the Garfield teachers said they would all “respectfully decline to give the MAP test” to any of their students this year.

“I’m teaching by example. If I don’t step up now, who will?” –Mario Shauvette, Garfield High math teacher

“We have had different levels of experiences with MAP in our varied careers, have read about it, and discussed it with our colleagues,” they said. “After this thorough review, we have all come to the conclusion that we cannot in good conscience subject our students to this test again.”

The Christian Science Monitor recounts the teachers’ press event in dramatic fashion:

Forty-five minutes after school let out Thursday afternoon, 19 teachers… at Seattle’s Garfield High School worked their way to the front of an already-crowded classroom, then turned, leaned their backs against the wall of whiteboards, and fired the first salvo of open defiance against high-stakes standardized testing in America’s public schools.

To a room full of TV cameras, reporters, students, and colleagues, the teachers announced their refusal to administer a standardized test that ninth-graders across the district are mandated to take in the first part of January. Known as the MAP test – for Measures of Academic Progress – it is intended to evaluate student progress and skill in reading and math.

First one teacher, then another, and then more stepped forward to charge that the test wastes time, money, and dwindling school resources.

“Our teachers have come together and agreed that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress,” McBride told the crowded room. “Additionally, students don’t take it seriously. It produces specious results and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.”History teacher Jesse Hagopian discusses Garfield High School teachers’ decision to refuse to the give the MAP test to their students during a press conference in Seattle on Thursday. (Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

In addition to the detrimental impact on students, teachers also pushed back against the test as a way to evaluate teacher performance.

“To use this (MAP) as a tool to evaluate our teaching makes no sense,” said Jesse Hagopian, a history teacher at Garfield High. “They’re setting us up for failure. And Garfield High School is not a failure. We’re the home of (former students) Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee and Quincy Jones.”

Hagopian told Common Dreams that Garfield has a proud tradition of teaching to the “whole student” and that its faculty came together because they understand that test results do no adequately tell the story of who students are or will go on to be. “No one cares how Jimi Hendrix scored on a high school math test,” he said. “And no one should.”

“We really think our teachers are making the right decision,” said Garfield student body president Obadiah Stephens-Terry. “I know when I took the test, it didn’t seem relevant to what we were studying in class – and we have great classes here at Garfield. I know students who just go through the motions when taking the test, just did it as quickly as possible so they could do something more useful with their time.”

Asked if teachers were worried about what lessons students might take away from their defiant boycott chairman of the math department Mario Shauvette, stepped forward and said: “I’m teaching by example. If I don’t step up now, who will? I’m taking charge of what I do here.”

For his part, Wayne Au, former Garfield student and now assistant professor of education at the University of Washington, says teachers at his alma mater are offering their students—and others involved in the fight against corporate school reform—many valuable lessons.

Writing at ReThinking Schools, where he is assistant editor, Au explains:

At the most basic level, the national corporate school reform agenda requires teachers’ compliance. So regardless of individual motives, when a group of teachers collectively and publicly says NO, that represents a fundamental challenge to those pushing that elite agenda. The growing support for Garfield teachers’ resistance to the MAP test is a testament to just how much the collective action of teachers at one school means to the rest of the world.

Having all of the teachers at a school decide to support a boycott of a high-stakes, standardized test is a rare and beautiful thing, one that hasn’t happened since some Chicago teachers did it over a decade ago. That is powerful and inspirational stuff, and as far as I’m concerned, because we don’t yet know the district’s response, the teachers at Garfield are showing a level courage and heroism that I love and admire.

When nearby Ballard High School joined the boycott, teachers there cited numerous and various reasons for aligning with their colleagues at Garfield.

The test—teachers at Ballard said in a letter explaining their decision—has “been re-purposed by district administration to form part of a teacher’s evaluation, which is contrary to the purposes it was designed for, as stated by its purveyor, making it part of junk science.”

The Ballard High teachers, who spoke as one unit, said they were in full agreement with and would stand in support of those at Garfield. “Specifically,” they said, “the MAP test program throughout Seattle Public Schools ought to be shut down immediately. It has been and continues to be an embarrassing mistake. Continuing it even another day, let alone another month or year or decade, will not turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.”

As Reuters points out: “The revolt… comes at a time of fierce political battles over teacher evaluations that has played out in cities from Chicago to Los Angeles.” And continues:

The MAP test that has become a point of contention at Garfield is given at schools around the country but is not required by Washington state.

Unlike the tests required by the state, which are the High School Proficiency Exam and the End-of-Course exams, it has no bearing on students’ grades or their ability to graduate.

Education journalist Valerie Strauss, writing at her Answer Sheet blog, adds:

The boycotts are part of a growing grass-roots revolt against the excessive use of standardized tests to evaluate students, teachers, schools, districts and states. The high-stakes testing era began a decade under No Child Left Behind, and critics say that the exams are being inappropriately used and don’t measure a big part of what students learn.

Parents have started to opt out of having their children take the exams; school boards have approved resolutions calling for an end to test-based accountability systems; thousands of people have signed a national resolution protesting high-stakes tests; superintendents have spoken out, and so have teachers. It has been building momentum in the last year, since Robert Scott, then the commissioner of education in Texas, said publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be.

The Worst Teacher in Chicago September 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Chicago, Education, Labor.
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Roger’s note: sorry to inundate you with articles on the Chicago Teachers Strike, but here is one more I found interesting and insightful.

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For the OccupiedChicago Tribune
This is a true story. CHICAGO.   In a school with some of the poorest kids in Chicago, one English teacher–I won’t use her name–who’d been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn’t do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year.  Under Chicago’s new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.
In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.  No teachers’ union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field – for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.
You’ve guessed it by now:  It’s the same teacher.I t’s Back to School Time!  Time for the editorialists and the Tea Party, the GOP and Barack Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan to rip into the people who dare teach in public schools.
And in Arne’s old stomping grounds, Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is stomping on the teachers, pushing them into the street.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. This is what Mitt Romney and Obama and Arne Duncan and Paul Ryan have in mind when they promote charter schools and the right to fire teachers with tenure:  slash teachers salaries and bust their unions.


Greg Palast is the author of the new Book Billionalres and Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.  For two decades, Palast was an investigator for Chicago-area unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union.


They’ve almost stopped pretending, too.  Both the Right Wing-nuts and the Obama Administration laud the “progress” of New Orleans’ schools–a deeply sick joke.  The poorest students, that struggle most with standardized tests, were drowned or washed away.
One thing Democrat Emanuel and Republican Romney both demand of Chicago teachers is that their pay, their jobs, depend on “standardized tests.” Yes, but whose standard?

Here is an actual question from the standardized test that were given third graders here in NYC by the nation’s biggest test-for-profit company:
“…Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private clubs.  In this sentence a private club is….”   Then you have some choices in which the right answer is “Country Club – place where people meet.”
Now not many of the “people [who] meet” at country clubs are from the South Side of Chicago–unless their parents are caddies.  A teacher on the South Side whose students are puzzled by the question will lose their pay or job. Students on the lakefront Gold Coast all know that mommy plays tennis at the Country Club with Raul on Wednesdays. So their teacher gets a raise and their school has high marks.
And while Mayor Rahm promises kids in “bad” schools new teachers (the same ones at lower pay) at high-score schools, in fact, they are never actually allowed in.
But Rahm, after all, is just imposing Bush education law which should be called, No Child’s Behind Left.
You want to know what’s wrong with our schools?  Benno Schmidt, CEO of the big Edison Schools teach-for-profit business is a creepy, greedy privateer.  But he told me straight: that before Hurricane Katrina, his company would never go into New Orleans because Louisiana spent peanuts per child on education.  He made it clear: You get what you pay for.  Not what you test for.
So the charter carpetbaggers slither in, cherry-pick the easy students, declare success. The tough cases and special ed kids are left in the public system so they can claim the public system fails.
Here’s what the teacher who was terrible at $70,000 but brilliant at $41,000 told me:
“They’re not doing this in white neighborhoods.  And they want to get rid of the older, experienced teachers with seniority who cost more.  Get rid of the teachers and, ultimately get rid of the kids.  And the charter school gets to pick the kids who get in.”
It’s simple.  When you look at the drop-out rates in New York (41%) and Chicago (44%), the solution offered is to pay teachers less. They punish those who dare to work in poor schools where kids struggle and you can bet that “washing away” half the kids in our schools is, in fact, exactly what they’ve planned.
It’s notable that, when he lived in Chicago, Barack Obama played basketball with city school chief Arne Duncan, but Obama sure as hell didn’t send his kids to Arne’s crap public schools. Those are for po’ folk.
His kids went to the tony “Lab” School in Hyde Park.  Obama believes what Duncan believes and what Romney believes:  there’s no need for universal education and no need to spend money on it.  Yes, they like to say that “children are our future.”  But they mean the children of China are our future, the Chinese kids who will make the stuff we want and the children of India who will program it all for us. After all, how much education does some obese kid from Texas need to stack boxes from China in a Wal-Mart warehouse?
Education is no longer about information and learning skills.  It’s now about “triage.”  A few selected by standardized tests or privileged birth will be anointed and permitted into better and “gifted” schools.
The chosen elite are still very much needed:  to invest in India and Vietnam, to design new derivatives to circumvent the laughable new banking laws, and to maintain order among the restless hundred-million drop-outs squeezed out of the colon of our educational system.
Democrats’ Bantustans, Republicans’ Value-less Vouchers.
The Obama/Duncan/Emanuel plan is to create Bantustans of un-chartered, cheaply-run dumpster schools within a government system.  But Romney and the GOP would give every child a “choice” even outside government schools with “vouchers.”
Of course, the “vouchers” don’t vouch for much.  Romney’s old alma mater, Cranbrook Academy, runs at $34,025 a year, not counting the polo sticks and horse.  The most generous voucher program is Washington DC’s, beloved of the GOP, which pays about $7,500, or if the student’s “choice” is Cranbrook, about 2 months of school.  Hyde Park Day School Chicago is $35,900.  To give each kid a real choice, not just a coupon, means a massive increase in spending per pupil.  I didn’t see that in the Republican platform, did you?
The experienced teacher in Chicago who took the pay cut was offered one consolation.  She was told she could make up some of the pay loss by quitting the union and saving on union dues.
So that’s the program.  An educational Katrina: squeeze the teachers until they strike, demolish their unions and drown the students.Chicago’s classroom war is class war by another name.

Class dismissed.

 

http://www.gregpalast.com

Author of the New York Times and international bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse, Palast is Patron of the Trinity College Philosophical Society, an honor previously held by Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde. Palast (more…)
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