Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BATs Letters to Senator Lamar Alexander and the H.E.L.P. Committee

From Jan. 16-Jan. 21 members of the Badass Teachers Association emailed the H.E.L.P. Committee regarding Testing and Accountability.  This Blog post took up 85 pages and contains the heartfelt love and passion that teachers have for children and teaching.  The letters in this post represent teachers, parents, and retired teachers from Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey, New York, and many more states.   

Dear Senator Lamar Alexander,
I am a third grade teacher in Washington State and I have been teaching for ten years. 7.5 in the classroom full time and 2.5 as a substitute teacher . For every year I have taught third grade in the past ten years I have given the a standardized test to my students. At first it was the WASL, then the MSP, and for this year it is the SBAC. Every year I have on average of 23-26 students, this year I have 26. My 26 students are a diverse group of students who love to learn, are eager to do well in school, and love to be creative.

In my classroom I have students reading at a middle school reading level and some who are still beginning to read and struggle with reading basic sight words. I have students who are able to do multi digit multiplication problems and others who still count on their fingers to solve 15-8. I have students in my room who are not at grade level and students who are well beyond grade level. Each one of my students deserves the best education they can get and when I take time out of teaching them to give them the SBAC this spring, or the myriad of other SBAC related practice tests prior to them taking the ELA and math SBAC.

As an educator I am all for assessments that are meaningful, inform my instruction, are beneficial for my use as well as beneficial for my students. The SBAC and other high stakes tests are not useful. Giving my students tests that can take up to several hours of one day, that I am not able to know the questions, or the answers, or even the results until after my students are no longer my students, is not what is best.

When, a student is sitting for a long period of time using a computer to test on, working to try to understand the questions, figure out logistically how to answer them and cite information from the text, as well as type responses, there is a whole lot that can go wrong. My students are 8 and 9 years old, they are learning how to type and for some still learning how to read.

The SBAC or any other high stakes test puts a huge spotlight on ONE day of their school year for ELA and ONE day of their school year for math. Their score can be affected by many things:
1. Lack of sleep from the night before.
2. Lack of a breakfast that morning.
3. Not being able to read at grade level and taking a test that is developmentally inappropriate.
4. Having a rough day, anything can upset a student in the morning and can affect their entire day and mood, as well as how they test.
5. A student who is ELL and is not tested in his or her own primary language.
6. A student who is on an IEP or 504 that is still given a test at their age grade level, even when they are in special ed and are below their age level peers academically.

This list can go on forever. I have students who have off days who normally do really well in the classroom. I have also had students who rush through their work just to get it done. I have students who stress over the smallest thing and want to get things all correct or shut down when things are too hard for them (perceived that it is too hard or it is actually too hard). My students are kids, young kids who are learning and working hard on a daily basis. We do a lot of great things and the biggest indicator of their success or lack of success to measure what they are learning are the daily observations or assessments I create, make, or give, not a high stakes test. My students are more than just a test score. They are students, they deserve to be learning in school not taking test after test.

In Washington State, we refused in the last legislative session to tie teacher evaluations to test scores and won. These types of tests that are created by Pearson; are setting up kids to fail, increasing the achievement gap in our students of color, as well as putting pressure on teachers especially if the test scores of their students are directly tied to if they get to keep their job or not.

Why not take a look at what we all do in our classrooms on a daily basis and ask us the best way to assess students? We can tell you that toxic tests like the SBAC and PARCC are not what we would use.

I thank you for taking time to listen to my testimony and I hope you spend some time reading up on Diane Ravitch's blog on this subject matter as well as reading one of her books; Reign of Error. Not only do I spend my days teaching, learning, reflecting, and growing with my students I also spend my free time as an educational activist who is fighting for what is best for my students in my classroom, my city, my state, and in this nation. I am one of 53,000 members as well as a member of the leadership team of the Badass Teachers Association and my local Washington Badass Teachers Association, sub group.

Michelle Ramey
3rd Grade Teacher
Washington State


Dear Senator Alexander,

I am an ESL teacher. My students are tested more than others. I lose time from instruction due to the tests and the prep for the tests. These students are not incapable , they just need more time to learn English. Testing has overrun the purpose of schools, derailed the ESL curriculum and impacted the speed of their language aquisition negatively.

Tears, peer pressure, humilation, and stigma result from, and are attached to high stakes testing.

Teachers are forced to be less nurturing and understanding and encouraged to go against what is developmentally appropriate for children. Those that are afraid of bad evaluations will do anything to get high scores resulting in drills and less quality instruction.

Activists warned against NCLB. Years later , they were right.
Race to the top is highly debated. Years later the same thing will happen.

Help restore integrity to teaching and joy in classrooms.

Sincerely,

Aixa Rodriguez
Bronx NY



Dear Senator Alexander,
Thank you for taking an interest in our public schools and investigating the culture of testing which has taken over our classrooms. The voices that have been silenced in the debate over our public schools are those of the children and their teachers. I am writing on behalf of myself and my colleagues but also for the hundreds of children who have come through my elementary art program since the advent of NCLB. They have no way to measure or compare their experience in school since this is all they know. I have been teaching since 1979 and I know that schooling can be different.

The pressure on teachers and children caused by the "teach to the test" culture of NCLB/Race to the Top has stifled creativity and created a sense of failure in so many otherwise bright, capable children. As teachers we know better and can do better. Rather than compete with one another, we need the intellectual freedom to collaborate and solve the problems facing our schools and communities.

Please end the hegemony of federal mandates for testing and let us serve our children and their families using our best professional practices. It is my great hope that you and your colleagues will reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) without the jargon and mandated standardized testing.

Sincerely,

Robin Brooks, K-6 Art
Augusta, Maine


Dear Senator Alexander 
Thank you for taking an interest in reforming NCLB. It is my belief that this legislation has led to a dangerous time in public education. The idea that standardized tests can rank and rate schools, principals, teachers, and students is ludicrous. I am a retired teacher and I can tell you that even when working with a gifted child, performance on one measurement can vary from one experience to the next. Did the student have a fight with their parent that morning? Are they coming down will an illness, or even possibly sick? Did they just have a fight with their best friend? My own daughter (now a successful attorney) freaked out before the SAT because she had "lost her lucky pencil" and she therefore got abysmal scores that day, in spite of the fact that she was identified gifted/talented. That is what happens on a daily basis when you are working with youth who are taking a test. To tie school funding and teacher assessment to these tests is at best, not well thought out and most certainly is an idea put forth by someone who is very out of touch with reality in the classroom.
As if that was not bad enough, discrepancies like this brought forth the Value-Added Methodology (VAM) that is supposed to be the magic wand that alleviates all the things that go wrong with using the standardized test as a measurement tool. Let's just figure out the effect of poverty, and add a mathematical formula to alleviate that variable -- this has been called junk science by those who are much more steeped in statistics than I am. Yet people like New York's Governor Cuomo want to tie a teacher's entire professional career on these measurements. Cuomo believes that if a teacher receives an ineffective on the rankings for two years in a row (with the State test governing all of that criteria because it overrides the other local measurements) then a teacher should lose his/her job. I have a real issue with plans like this. In my middle school, I knew some MASTER teachers. One was a language arts teacher - one of the best teachers I shall ever know. Her students' writing came alive under her instruction and they were motivated, interested perhaps for the first time in voicing their thoughts in creative and well-written prose and opinion pieces. She used technology and her students wrote scripts and produced public service announcements on various topics. Yet, because her students did not show significant growth (they were already at the top since it was a high-performing school), and she had a class that included many special ed students -- she was labeled ineffective and forced to come up with a teacher improvement plan. What a humiliation and slap in the face to someone who should be celebrated for their effectiveness in the classroom. The other teacher was a teacher who worked in an AIS room with remedial math students. Most of her students, no matter how hard she worked with them (and I also consider her an above-average teacher with an incredible work ethic) would never show the growth that was required. She worked with mostly special education students with severe disabilities. They showed growth in other ways that could not be assessed with one written test. She also received an ineffective after nearly 20 years in the classroom and having produced stellar results for her students. She literally changed lives and helped students to feel good about what they COULD do, thus building confidence and helping them to do more. Math phobia is a real phenomenon and this teacher helped students to overcome it.
Speaking of special ed students, during my last two years I mentored state tests with small groups of students. One year I was with students who had been identified as needing extra time on the test. One student proceeded to try to scratch her arms with the ruler. Another got nauseous and had to go to the bathroom. The second year, I was in another classroom with the most severely disabled students - yes, they are also required to take the test in spite of the fact that they CANNOT SPEAK, READ, OR WRITE. One student must have understood what was expected of him on this test, and knowing he WOULD NEVER be able to answer questions like the ones being read to him, all he did was put his head down and cry, his entire little body heaving. Because -- in New York and other states, it is my understanding that there is no provision to opt out more than a small fraction of the severely disabled. If the school is over that fractional amount, no matter how disabled a student is, they must still take the test. This is nothing less than child abuse, institutionalized.
What are we doing and why are we doing it? Do we want public schools to fail? Do we want generations of our students to believe they are not capable, and look back at their public school experience with revulsion? The testing takes time away from the creative educational pursuits that used to be the experiences that students looked back at fondly. The Medieval Fairs, the 1920's Day, the outdoor experiences, the field trips -- all gone in the name of test prep and testing. If it is not because of the actual time taken out of the schedule, it is also due to the testing being an unfunded mandate -- one more thing that takes away budget from enrichment experiences. Gifted programs are gone or have been severely cut. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves and enrollment in college teacher preparation programs has also decreased. This is going to lead to a critical era in education. Any democracy needs great educators and a thriving public education system in order to survive.
Assessment should occur. But it should be multiple measures (not just tests, but authentic assessment, portfolios, etc.), and the results of the assessment should be available to teachers to inform instruction, as well as students, and parents. The assessment should also be under local control so that individualization can occur. One size fits all does not fit, and we are harming a generation of students and teachers by force-fitting this system.
Deb Escobar


Senators,
I am writing to you as a thirteenth year classroom teacher. I began my teaching career at roughly the same time that NCLB began to take effect in our school systems, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that, while the intentions behind NCLB may have been good, the outcomes have been far from positive. In the past thirteen years, I have seen children cry, vomit, shut down, and completely lose hope as the accountability-based, drill and kill, testing factory approach has become more and more pronounced. However, it is not my intention to tell you about the past, but to write to you in hopes that the future might be brighter.
I have read about 1/4 of the 300+ page proposed draft bill that would replace NCLB. I have read far enough to see that we find ourselves, once again, on the wrong path. While I appreciate that the stated purpose of the bill is to restore freedom in education to parents, teachers, state representatives, governors, etc, I wonder, where in the long list of recipients of "restored freedom" do we find students? They are not mentioned at all. This leads me to believe, senators, that you do not believe students deserve any such freedom. In fact, after continuing in my perusal of this bill, I do not see any real restoration of freedom at all.
Let's begin by discussing the statement of purpose of Title I:
Sec. 1001. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE. "The purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a fair, equitable, and significant opportunity to receive a high-quality education that prepares them for postsecondary education or the workforce, ..."
Stop right there. Senators, is this really the vision of education we want? Is this why we want children to learn? Is education nothing more than a means to an end, a path that leads to college or career, and that's it? Do we not want citizens, thinkers, entrepreneurs? You have an opportunity to change the course of this country and its future, right now. We all know that any society's future is dependent upon its children, and if the only goal we as a society have for its children is go to work or go to college, then we are missing much. This is a sad and narrow vision of the future. Where are your values? The answer, sadly, lies in Sec. 1002- Appropriation of Funds. Three hundred, seventy-eight million dollars for the purpose of state assessments. I see that our all-consuming belief in the magic bullet of standardized testing remains steadfast. The belief that assessment is the purpose of education is the problem with No Child Left Behind. It is not just a matter of unrealistic expectations. It is the problem that No Child Left Behind really meant No Child Left Untested.
As I continued reading, I see that assessments will "be aligned with all standards", "provide timely, coherent, and relevant feedback", and be used for "appropriate purposes". Let's begin by discussing alignment with standards. There is no standardized test or assessment that can test all of the standards reliably. It has never happened, it will never happen. If this rewrite focuses on assessment, you will not solve any problems with education. We will continue down the same road, with the same failures, and we will continue to throw generations of children away. You cannot assess cooperative learning, speaking and listening, complex analysis, or the ability to work cooperatively with a silent room and a bubble test! And, no, the answer is NOT better tests! You cannot standardize human beings. Therefore, the most important things students learn in school will remain at the bottom of the list of "things to cover" because they cannot be tested. Students who have successfully learned to participate in society will be graded as failures, because what they learned cannot be tested. We cannot assess anything but the narrowest slice of education with a standardized test, and the skills contained in that narrow slice are not the most important things we teach.
Secondly, a brief note on timely and relevant feedback. Do you realize that the feedback teachers get from standardized tests is, for all intents and purposes, useless? Do you know how I get timely and relevant feedback? I ask. I talk to my students. I watch their faces. I grade their assignments. I listen to their discussions. I don't need a standardized test to tell me which students struggle. I know. It's my job to know. Let me anticipate your next argument for standardized tests: So parents can receive timely and relevant feedback? I am also a parent of a third grade student. Do you know how I know my child is learning? I ask. I talk to him. I ask him questions about school and I help him with his homework. I ask his teacher if there's something I don't understand. I read with my son. It's timely, relevant, and not at all standardized. I don't care how he stacks up to other kids. I don't care that my classroom is different than the teacher next door, or the teacher at another school across the county, or a teacher in Los Angeles. I don't need to know how I compare to other teachers. I know my weaknesses, and I try to correct them. All of the teachers I know do this. At least twice a week, I sit down with my colleagues and discuss how the students that we have in common are doing. We discuss patterns and trends, we let each other know if there is an approach with students that has worked, if there's a situation at home that kids are dealing with, etc. We talk. We don't crunch numbers or compare data. We don't need to. It's our job to understand and talk about the kids we teach. If we are analyzing data, we are jumping through hoops the state has mandated we must jump through. Test data is not useful. Once again, humans are not standardized.
Finally, test data is to be used for "appropriate purposes". I would like very much to know what those purposes are. If we are to head down this road again, senators, at least be honest about why we are using standardized tests. I am perfectly capable of doing my job and of being a parent without standardized state assessments. I know my students are learning. In fact, I firmly believe that I would be much better at my job if I did not lose so much instructional time to mandated testing.
I stopped reading at the discussion of the "State-Designed Academic Assessment System"-- with this list: "performance-based assessments, formative assessments, multiple statewide assessments, and any other assessment". It is clear what a sad and limited vision of education is being set forth. When was the last time you were required to take a standardized assessment for your job? When was the last time you were asked to sit in complete silence, in a room with 20+ other people, and complete a task completely opposite from everything you are asked to do on a daily basis? Did your job depend on that task? Was your entire performance judged based on that task? No? Then why on earth would we set this up as the gold standard for our students?
There is much about this rewrite that needs to be changed. We must begin focusing on learners, not on proving what they learned. America was founded on individualism. How can we pay lip service to individualism but seek standardization as an outcome? It makes no sense! I sincerely hope that you will consider the suggestions that are made by the people who are actually carrying out the education of our children. No one has bothered to seek out educators as a source of information for how to understand education. You have an opportunity to listen. You have an opportunity to turn back from this path. Please don't waste it. Thank you for your consideration.
Christine Lackey


 Dear Chairman Alexander and Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee: I am a retired English Language Arts teacher from the RI School for the Deaf, a parent of two young adults who successfully graduated from Cranston, RI public schools and now have college degrees, and a concerned citizen. I have an extensive background in linguistics, early language development, and literacy development, as well as more than 25 years of experience working with struggling readers and writers at the RI School for the Deaf. I also administered English, reading, and writing evaluations one-on-one to middle school and high school students there in preparation for their IEPs. In addition, I had worked as a sign language interpreter at the Community College of Rhode Island in the early 1980’s, so I understand the demands of post-secondary instruction. I have spent the more than three years since my retirement researching the so-called education reform efforts of the federal and RI state Departments of Education. I am particularly disturbed by the lack of professionalism and the lack of transparency that resulted in the development, promotion, and implementation of the Common Core State (sic) Standards and the accompanying PARCC testing. During these years of researching I have made contact with many parents, teachers, and concerned citizens across RI and the country. I am writing today because I want to be sure that you and the other Senators on the HELP committee are aware of the negative impact that Secretary Duncan's policies are having on the most vulnerable students, those with special learning needs. As a retired teacher of the deaf, I wholeheartedly agree with the concerns expressed in the letter that the special education teachers and parents submitted to Secretary Duncan and Mr. Michael Yudin (which I am attaching here), and with the urgency required to address them. Everyone wants each special needs student to be challenged to their potential. No one wants these students to languish in resource rooms with inappropriate goals. Yet Secretary Duncan's policies and pronouncements are totally counter-productive to providing the free and APPROPRIATE education that these students, with their enormous variability in cognitive, perceptual, sensory, and neurological conditions, deserve. I graduated from Gallaudet University with a Master's degree in Education of the Deaf in 1975. This coincided with the passing of PL 94-142, which was intended "to assure that all children with disabilities have available to them … a free appropriate public education which emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs." (http://www2.ed.gov/.../osers/idea35/history/index_pg10.html) This groundbreaking law was strengthened in 2004 by The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The path that Secretary Duncan is taking, while claiming to benefit the students, does the opposite, by holding them to the same artificial timelines of achievement, in the same artificial formats, that students without special needs are held to. This is a recipe for disaster. Please work with your colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to thoroughly investigate Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education for their tampering with federal laws and creating havoc for the professionals and families that have the expertise to work with special needs students to provide the appropriate educational strategies to foster the blossoming of the unique potential of each student. Thank you. Sincerely, Sheila Resseger, M. A.
Thirty-five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA-- Pg 10
Thirty-five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA
WWW2.ED.GOV
Sheila Resseger



Dear Senators:

I am a Parent, a Taxpayer, and a Badass Teacher.

Childhood and Learning is a fundamental Right for All Americans. You have the opportunity to re-craft legislation that has been punctured by profiteering and greed. Effective teaching, like learning, has been turned into a multi-million dollar commodity.

The intrusion of Edu-Biz is absurd and should no longer be countenanced let alone codified. American children cannot learn while being measured by a one-size-fits-all set of expectations that render the work life of American Teachers ineffective. American children cannot learn when being measured by corporate standards that are no more than developmentally inappropriate tools set up to predestine their failure.

American Teachers do not perfect their craft by treating their students like data, nor should tools used to "measure" their performance be anchored by it. I do not teach my students to spit out answers to scripted questions. A teacher's job is to transform and inspire, and teacher professionalism is achieved by standards which do not appear on a quantifiable business plan.

Thank you for your on-going work and take care to listen to the voices of your teachers, not tainted, profiteering experts who have had little or no classroom experience.

Sincerely yours,

Mrs. Susan M. Goncarovs



Dear Senator Alexander 
I am a teacher in Sacramento California. PLEASE stop the insanity, stop the madness of toxic testing. It is DESTROYING the fiber and fabric of our public schools! There MUST be a better way to asses students than TESTING them to death!
Owen Jackman



Dear Chairman Alexander and Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee,

I think very few people would argue that the spirit of the law of NCLB is inspiring. However, since its inception, the chasm between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law continues to grow wider. I thank you for taking the lead to fix this broken legislation for our country’s public schools.

I am a sixth grade teacher in the Columbus, Ohio area. I have taught for eighteen years. In that time, I have witnessed the stakes tied to standardized tests for my students increasing exponentially. With the addition of Race to the Top, our schools are mere shadows of their former selves, with children playing second fiddle to their test scores. It has blown the chasm to smithereens.

I teach an Extensions class daily. It is required of any student who did not reach the “Proficient” score of their last year’s Ohio Achievement Assessment in Reading. This class is in place of one of the students’ elective classes, so that they do not miss other grade level content that will be tested. While the other “Proficient” students switch to new electives at the end of each grading period, the students in my Extensions class will remain there all year.

A sad and frequent part of my job is now to have conversations with students about this situation. They often make comments that they feel “dumb” and like they “can’t read” because these tests and their companion high-stakes continue to reinforce this concept to them. I have always been and always will be a cheerleader for my students, reminding them that these results do not define them. They are unique and talented and wonderful young human beings! They deserve to be recognized for their gifts and they deserve our commitment to helping them gain needed skills and knowledge. We can surely do better than sending this test and punish message to our children.

There are a plethora of options for evaluating student learning without the use of yearly high-stakes standardized tests. Further, it is evident that the tests themselves are not valid measures of what students know and are able to do. NCLB has effectively, though inaccurately, labeled schools with high incidences of poverty as failures based on students’ scores. It is past time for a resolution to NCLB’s letter of the law policies that are harming our most vulnerable and needy children.

Thank you for you time and attention to hearing my concerns.

Sincerely,
Brittany Alexander
Ohio public school teacher



Dear Senator Alexander,

I am writing to you on behalf of my students and my grandchildren. I have been a teacher since 1987 in both California and Oregon. I am writing to BEG you to fight for our children in the reauthorization of ESEA.

I have seen from both sides of the schoolhouse door how the absolute obsession with standardized testing has affected our children. Both of my daughters are excellent readers and were designated Talented And Gifted in reading while in elementary school. They are 10 years apart in age. When my oldest daughter was in elementary school during the 1990s, reading was taught holistically. Stories and novels were read with an emphasis on enjoying the literature, and ideas and opinions were discussed with an emphasis on exploration of different points of view. Sometimes there was even an agreement to disagree on what the author meant. This daughter has always loved reading and currently belongs to two book clubs.

My youngest daughter arrived in her kindergarten classroom the year that NCLB was enacted. As she went through school, her experience with reading was very different. Reading was highly leveled by “ability”. Every story or novel was accompanied by vocabulary drills and right or wrong answers. By sixth grade, my younger daughter, who loved stories when she was little just as much as her big sister did, no longer read for enjoyment. She declared that she hated reading. Reading was a chore to her. Just as her senior year drew to an end and the pressure let up was when she started to believe that maybe books could be her friends after all and again read just for fun. It makes me incredibly sad.

I have seen the love for learning stomped out of multitudes of children since this regimen of “rigor” and testing has begun. I work in a school that has a high population of second language learners. Year after year, perfectly capable children come to believe that they are stupid because they did not pass one test. They cry. They avoid. They give up. By fifth or sixth grade, many already believe they will not graduate from high school, that they are already failures, when all they need is a little more time to learn English and a little more support. There is a concept called “self fulfilling prophecy” in the experience of teaching and learning. When there begins to be a belief, on the part of either the teacher or the learner, that the student will not succeed, that is often what comes to pass. These policies are harming all our students’ motivation at a very young age, when all most of them need is a little more time to grow at their own pace.

We are told we need “data” to make sure that all children are “achieving”. We have plenty of data, and what that data tells us is that children who live in poverty and children who are English Language Learners generally do not score as well on standardized tests as children whose first language is English and come from more fortunate circumstances. Over a decade of testing children has not changed this. New research is coming out across the country indicating that not only is this testing regimen not helpful, it may in fact be harmful. Reducing children to nothing but a few numbers which can be easily quantified does nothing to enhance the quality of their educational experience.

This testing regimen does the same kind of damage to the emotional well being of our Special Education students, too. When they are tested on standards that are already ridiculously developmentally inappropriate for their age group, and in addition have a disability that might result in their taking more time to master a concept, they frequently give up. They always feel stupid, and feeling inadequate to perform a difficult task does not motivate a child to attack it. It may make them break down in tears, or act out. They are children.

Concerns are also being expressed about the vast amount of our children's data that is being gathered and disseminated and how that data will be kept private. This collection of data is invasive and unnecessary. The only people who need to know how a child is doing are that child’s parents and teachers. The data on that can be kept at the local school, and decisions on how to use that data should be determined by the local school district and state, as should all decisions made about curriculum and instruction. The only part the federal government should play in our schools is to ensure that children and families are not being discriminated against in educational settings and that schools receive equitable funding regardless of where they are located and who attends those schools.

We continue to spend huge amounts of money on these testing regimens when our schools are cutting programs like physical education, sports, music, the arts, and foreign languages. Even Social Studies and Science programs are being short changed for time in order to prepare students for annual high stakes testing in Reading and Math. Why? And exactly how much are we spending? Would it be enough to restore PE, the arts, and provide for smaller class sizes? These are things we need across the country!

Get ESEA right. No more high stakes testing that punishes students, teachers or schools for the effects of poverty. No more high stakes testing that punishes students, teachers or schools for the fact that all children develop at different rates and in their own way.
Kathleen Jeskey



Dear Senator,
Thank you for this opportunity. Others have spoken far more eloquently than I on the subject. I only wish to say that the original ESEA signed into law by LBJ recognized that economic disadvantage and inequality, not teacher quality, insufficient "rigor" or any other such nonsense, was and is the real problem.
The new ESEA should restore the spirit and promise of the original, without any of the disingenuous market-based reforms that distort its intention and destroy its promise.
Sincerely,
Andrew Pfaff


Chairman Alexander:

Last year, my second grade daughter told me she was nervous and couldn't sleep. When I asked her what was wrong, my daughter said she was worried about taking the (standardized) test at school the next day.

I reassured her everything would be fine, stated that I was proud of her, and told her to do her best. My daughter said to me, "Mommy, what if there is something on the test my teacher hasn't taught me yet? What if I don't understand the question? What if the right answer isn't listed?"

No matter how much I reassured my daughter, she continued to voice her fears over the test that night and even during our ride to school the next morning.

This is a child who usually loves school. Our nighttime talks were normally about a book she had read in class or a fun science experiment she enjoyed doing.

This was my daughter's nightmare preventing her from peaceful sleep. A seven year old child should not be experiencing this level of pressure and stress from testing anxiety. This is what high-stakes, standardized testing is doing to our children.

Effective teachers differentiate their teaching and classroom assessments to meet the needs of their students - those who are English Language Learners and Special Needs students, for example. If this is best practice and effective teaching, then why are we continuing to use a one size fits all test to allegedly measure student achievement?

Isolated high stakes standardized testing does not provide an accurate measurement of student learning, growth, or achievement. Student learning can be measured in many different ways. A portfolio assessment can more accurately measure a student's progress over time.

The amount of money spent on standardized tests is shameful considering many public schools are being financially starved and not provided adequate funding in order to ensure equity in learning.

This money could be used to fund the dwindling arts programs being cut in today's, new enrichment programs to enhance student learning and remediate students who need improvement, and provide better resources for both students and teachers.

The testing obsession and misplaced focus on data points have stifled both authentic teaching and stripped the joy in student learning.

Please stop this detrimental practice that only pads the pockets of third parties while robbing students of adequate resources that would actually impact their learning!

Sincerely,

Stacy E Holcombe
South Carolina Educator and Parent



Dear Senator Lamar Alexander,
Thank you for considering actual citizen input regarding NCLB. For too long, the only voices in education policy have been those who can spend the most to influence policy or those who stand to earn the most providing goods and services to implement policy.
I teach third grade in Ohio. Our state has enacted the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a law which requires students to pass the annual state reading test or face retention in third grade. If we, as a society, are moving toward data-driven decision making based upon current research, then why are we retaining 8-year-olds when research shows that grade retention increases the risk of dropping out? We look at Finland's schools as the best national school system in the world, but Finland begins formal reading instruction at age 7, while here, we expect and test kindergartners on reading fluency.
On the Federal level, NCLB has weakened public schools to the point that we are gasping for breath. My district is filled with poor children who come to us cold and hungry. We feed them breakfast and lunch for free. In our classrooms, we try our best to spark their curiosity and also to make them realize that they have the power to learn. My students come to me with a variety of past experiences, and each one is at a unique level on the continuum of learning. I am expected to communicate to children and their families that, if they do not pass the test, they will remain in third grade. Our district, like all others in Ohio, tests students at the beginning of the school year and we use this information to determine which students are in danger of failing the test. We offer parent activities and extra school work, as well as intervention during the regular school day.
My school is in a poor district. Every student in our district receives free breakfast and lunch. The families of my boys and girls would probably be classified as the working poor, since most of them have at least one job. Some have more than one. The problem is that it is hard for them to make ends meet, let alone to work with their children at home after school.
Secretary Duncan feels that it is a moral imperative for schools to do something about children who aren't learning. I agree that access to effective education in a safe environment is a civil right. I disagree with the implication that schools are not trying to help every child. Where is the evidence that schools deliberately do not try to help students learn? No Child Left Behind, the name itself, is an accusation. Teachers do not want to leave children behind, either. Teachers see the causes and the effects in person. What looks like a child was left behind on a spreadsheet, as a number, does not tell the whole story.
I get differentiation. I get accommodations. I get peer tutoring, homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping and when to use which. I get the achievement gap in subgroups and I get what I need to do to narrow it. I also get that I am one person and while my practice narrows the gap, I have not figured out yet how to eliminate it.
What I don't get is why I am constantly bombarded with mandates to prove that I am doing my job correctly. I don't get how a standard, one-size-fits-all curriculum is supposed to miraculously change the backgrounds of all of my students and make them learn the same way all the time. I don't get NCLB. Does the name itself imply that prior to the law, teachers were purposely leaving children behind? I don't get Race to the Top. Who is in the race? Who decides where the top is? Who makes the test questions? Who determines the cut score? What would happen if every child passed the test? Would it then be made more "rigorous"?
Another thing I don't get is why education has to follow the "business" model. Business is all about competition, producing a product for the least amount of capital and selling it for the highest profit. The business model is about creating a favorable return for shareholders. When NCLB was first visualized, it had this nice, soft name, but it was really about shaming students and teachers and school districts into better performance as measured by a standardized test.
Really smart legislators would examine the evidence and see that the "business model" does not work with human students. It works with cars and shoes and shampoo and cereal, but it is an abomination to equate children with products.
Rather, smart legislators would rewrite NCLB using a healthcare model. Truly. They would look at schools and they would realize that some are more ill than others. They would understand that some diseases cost more money to treat than others. Diabetes costs more to treat than poison ivy. They would treat education professionals they way they treat doctors. If doctors were threatened and punished and publicly shamed for their patients' mortality rates the way teachers are for their students' test scores, there would be no oncologists.
Smart legislators would see that this country is already at the top. It is paranoia to bring up China or Finland or Singapore and claim that our nation's very future depends upon our ability to be educationally superior to all other nations. Smart legislators would look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics' job projections and realize that true problem with our economy is not bad teachers, but the lack of middle-class jobs both now and projected for the future. They would examine the facts about the "shortage" of engineers and scientists. They would hunt down American college graduates and find out where they are working, and why. And what their salaries are. And how much student loan debt they have.
I am hoping that, regardless of political party, there are some smart legislators who will devise a fairer, more humane and compassionate law than either NCLB or RttT. It is what the children deserve.
Thank you for your time and for allowing me to share my views.
Jacquelyn Betzel-Conrad
Avon, Ohio


Dear Senator,

I am writing to plead that you eliminate high stakes testing from any plan to improve the educational outcomes for at-risk students.

For decades the only consistent correlation for test scores is family income. High stakes tests tell us what we already know - poor kids don't perform well on them. High stakes tests consume billions of dollars that could otherwise be spent lifting these children out of poverty by providing school experiences rich in arts, music, physical education, field trips, and small class sizes, along with core subjects.
That money could be spent to provide counseling, health care, housing, transportation, and other primary needs that prevent students from learning at optimal levels.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity.

Please step off the crazy train. Trust the people who work with children every day. They don't need to be threatened or bribed. They just want to help children succeed and they know what works. Let them teach.

Sincerely,

Christine Geerer




To whom it may concern:

I am a thirty-three year veteran teacher. I have witnessed many changes throughout my career and have adapted as well as I could to the changes.

When the NCLB legislation was adopted, I spent quite a bit of time trying to read it and understand it. Much of it made no logical sense to me, but as it was implemented I struggled along with my colleagues to make it work. As I have throughout my career, my first and most important job is to do what benefits my students. They have always come first. After much thought, planning, and effort as well as ignoring NCLB, my students began to show growth in reading and writing skills. The students who struggled continued to struggle. You see, when someone's instructional level is three grades below their peers, they are not allowed to take a state assessment on their instructional level. They must take it at their assigned grade level, securing their failure.

Then Common Core was implemented. We (teachers) were not provided with quality training regarding Common Core. John King (NY) proclaimed that we were "building the plane as we were flying it". Teachers were inundated with forms and goals. What already was a job that required more time outside the school day, teachers found themselves working late into the evening and on weekends in an attempt to keep up with the demands. Administration instructed teachers to put teaching and learning on the back burner and to concentrate on showing kids how to pass tests; tests created by Pearson Corporation and by people who had no experience, understanding, or training on developmental issues appropriate for each grade level. Students who struggled now failed miserably. Average students began to struggle.

I ask that you imagine a scenario where a corporate business evaluates its employees based on a single test given one day each year. No one, especially managers and CEOs, have any idea what will be asked on the test and are not allowed to look at it after it is given. Five months pass before any employee scores are released. Only 30% passed the test therefore indicating that their managers are ineffective. When asked to improve these scores, managers are not given any information about the test. The next year, without having any forewarning, only 30% of employees pass the test again. Managers then discover that the test scores are altered in a way that only 30% of employees will ever pass. While this may seem like an outrageous scenario, I assure you that is exactly what happens to students and teachers.

Changing and improving the NCLB is not going to fix the problems in education. I ask that you instead consider mandating that teachers work with their districts to create appropriate curriculum, differentiate instruction for struggling students and develop local assessments to verify improvement at each child's level of ability. I ask this not for myself as I am retiring at the end of the school year. The stress of NCLB and Common Core has taken its toll on my health.

I ask that you do the right thing for the many students in public education. As you know from recent reports, a high percentage of our public school students are economically challenged. They come to school each day hungry for nourishment and searching for a better life. That is very hard to achieve when they feel like a failure.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Ann MacAbee



Dear Senator Alexander 

After nearly 20 years in public school classrooms and after having received numerous awards and accolades for my teaching, I feel confident in saying that public education in America has been nearly ruined during the past decade. Three things have ruined it: Focus on Testing, Teacher Accountability Initiatives, and Failure to Make Parents Partners in Educating their Children. Money is being drained from school districts to pay for technology and training to administer tests. Instructional time is being wasted on worthless test prep and teachers are being robbed of their autonomy while being judged by how well their students perform on tests with absolutely no validity. Parents have never been asked what they want for their children. Parents with money take their children out of public school and enroll them in private schools where kids are free to create, invent and dream without an onslaught of bubble tests that prove nothing. I used to teach like a private school teacher. Now I teach my kids strategies to pass tests I don't even believe in. I used to help them invent, create and dream. Now I teach them how to write formulaic crap to appease the testing gods. I used to have 180 days to inspire. Now I fight to be inspired myself. Bring back creative learning, teacher autonomy and let's get the parents onboard and involved. America was always best at innovation. Put it back into the classroom where it belongs and let me teach the next Einstein, Hemingway or Dr. Ben Carson.
Sincerely,
S.O.S. (Save our Schools)
Michelle M. Hammond
2007 MD Teacher of the Year
(Google me- You'll see me standing with the president who started this insanity)



Dear Senator Alexander:

I am a middle school English teacher for grades 6–8 at the Garrison Union Free School (gufs.org), a small public school in the Hudson Valley. We’re a good school, no doubt about it. In 2010 my school was awarded Blue Ribbon status for the strength or our program and test scores. You would think that we would be in a great place in terms of the yearly testing that the NCLB and RTTP programs have required, but let me assure you that the truth is very different.

As I mentioned before, my school is quite small, and I am the only English teacher in the middle school. The students' English education is my responsibility, and mine alone, something I take very seriously. Yet this mission is constantly being thwarted by federal testing mandates. A true English education would mean that kids get a great exposure to complicated, challenging, and interesting texts, yet the need to do test prep pushes me in exactly the opposite direction. Instead of classic literature, I am forced to give my students short essays, dozens and dozens of them, and then make them answer questions about them. My students hate this. They’d rather be learning poetry, or sailing with pirates, or crafting short stories, or strutting across Shakespeare’s stage. Yet NCLB has created just this, test preparation instead of a rich curriculum.

The critics may counter with, “No! That’s not how it’s supposed to be! You’re supposed to integrate the test prep within the curriculum!” True, there’s only a certain amount I can organically integrate test prep. After a point, I need to Xerox those hated essays and drop them on my kids’ desks. I estimate something like 10–20% of my year is engaged in test prep skills. This is the reality that NCLB has created. It’s made these tests so important that they dominate my curriculum like nothing else. Truly, was that the goal of NCLB?

Let us not forget that every student’s test score is also a measure of me. I am now evaluated by this one test, as if this is the very best way to know what I do in my classroom. How about that Shakespeare play I do every year? Sorry, that’s not on the test. What about the colonial era party, where every student makes a dish from the Revolutionary War period? Nope, not tested either. What about my journey through Ancient Greece through myths or leaping through space in my science fiction unit? Should I stop these? The testing regimen forced upon me seems to say that I should, because all that content doesn’t count anymore. My students and I are only measured by that score.

And what shall we do with the students who don’t do well, the ones who struggle? I can control, mostly, what happens in my classroom, but what about at home? I can’t force a kid who doesn’t study to put his nose to the grindstone. I can’t heal a child whose family life is chaotic, whose emotional turmoil prevents him or her from learning well. I can’t finance a family that’s stressed by poverty, who isn’t eating well and can’t focus. NCLB seems to insist that I employ god-like powers to fix these children so they do well on the yearly tests. It will even punish me with low evaluations if I don’t fix these children. How is this fair to my students or me? How is this even rational?

A testing moment I’ll never forget happened in the spring of 2013. One of my best students, let’s call him “Sam”, was taking the new Common Core tests for the first time. Sam was a student who wanted to do well, who always did well. His average for me was over 95 for three years straight. After the second day of testing, Sam came to me in tears. He pleaded for more time on the test because he hadn’t been able finish. My heart sank, because that was impossible. All I could do was say to this child, one who painstakingly wrote essay after essay for me, was “I’m sorry.”

If you want to use annual testing in a sane and meaningful way, you must take away its stigma. If you must test, give them in the beginning of the year and give teachers results in a timely manner to see what deficits that child has and help him/her. Right now we receive results about five months after they are given. It’s such a long period of time that the kids have already graduated to the next grade. What good is a test where you don’t get timely results? My tests evaluate what my students have learned and what I still need to teach them. The NCLB results come so far after the actual test that they are meaningless in terms of helping that child.

Even more importantly, you must remove the “high-stakes” part of the testing. Punishing kids, teachers, and schools for low test scores is damaging. It doesn’t help kids, or teachers, or schools. We are all trying our best to help children. We want to help kids no matter what his/her ability. Every child deserves our best efforts. Unfortunately teachers are now being punished for not being perfect. Who among us is that? Who among us can heal every wound? Who among us can lift up every single child? We do our best, of course, but that perfection is denied us. We are human. Yet NCLB demands my perfection, and my students and I will be punished because of low test scores. How is this ethical?

It needs to be said too that in my high-end public school I am shielded from many of these problems. Those who work in poverty-stricken or stressed neighborhoods are under much more stress from NCLB. These true heroes of education, those that spend their lives helping disadvantaged kids, are now failures because of low test scores. Their students too are punished. They must attend remedial class after class in this quixotic quest for high numbers, denying these needy kids art, music, and creative expression. How is this improving education? But of course, according to NCLB this enrichment is no longer important. It doesn’t measure a child’s musical ability, or verbal expression. Only test scores matter.

Please consider how damaging NCLB is to public education. It hurts rather than helps. It punishes children in poverty, stress, or those who struggle in a subject as well as their teachers. That said, if you truly want to design an effective education policy, please speak to teachers. We in the trenches of education are the experts in this matter, and we can help you. Too much education policy is designed by those who are not teachers, and this is one reason why it has gone so wrong. Listen to us. We speak the truth because we care very deeply about the children of America. So when we say high-stakes NCLB testing is destroying American education, we say this because that is the truth.

Sincerely,

Ian Berger

Garrison Union Free School Home Page
Garrison Union Free School
GUFS.ORG




To the Honorable Senator Alexander:

The intent of the education law passed in 1965 was to help poor schools. However, it has morphed into a huge and overbearing federal bureaucracy. More tests and more federal control are not improving teaching and learning. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Responsibility for education rests with the local school boards and the states. What NCLB has done is to enrich corporations at the expense of children and the taxpayer. It has employed hundreds of thousands to manage data and paperwork.
We insist that drugs and devices are pulled off the market when evidence shows these do not work or are dangerous. In most cases we have faced stonewalling tactics by corporations and have had to threaten lawsuits. I am seeing similar stonewalling with NCLB. The lobbyists are busy and the propaganda is flowing. But the evidence is pointing to the truth of NCLB. It is time to remove NCLB from our children's classrooms.
I am a parent, grand parent, and teacher. I taught before and during NCLB and can state that this law was misguided from the beginning. Why in the world would poor schools be closed and teachers fired? Why would children who struggle be punished by losing their local school and their teachers?
NCLB turned classrooms into test centers and it took all the joy out of learning. My children, all successful, were fortunate to have graduated before NCLB was enacted. Unfortunately this is not the case for my grandchildren. It seems everyday is a test day or a practice for the test day. This is a sure recipe for making the children of this great country hate school.
The federal government's role in education should at minimum be rolled back to 1965. Our current approach to education and accountability is doing the opposite of of promoting those American ideals of responsibility, ingenuity, and self-sufficiency, We became the greatest economic power in the world by having a system of locally controlled schools. Teachers were accountable to locally elected school boards. It is time we returned education to "We the people".
I thank you for providing this opportunity to listen and hope that you will use your considerable influence to help restore our education system to what it was - - the best in the world.
Sincerely, Mary Ollie



Senator Alexander and Committee Members,
There are five things I know as a grandparent of a school aged child and as a teacher.
1. The costs, levels, and uses of tests in our schools is out of control, destructive, and a total waste of instructional time and tax dollars. The test data is worthless according to both teachers and statisticans. Yet, the testing mania currently at large is destroying the quality of our greatest democratic institution.
2. The Common Core standards being used to fuel these tests are ill-conceived and badly written, and distort the programs of studies and offerings nationwide. USDOE’s pushing of them through funding blackmail is misguided at best, and horrific for students and systems at worst.
3. The promotion of school choice and charters syphons off money from our local schools which need both the freedom and funding to meet the deep needs of our students, and shares that money with educational con-artists who are undermining the success of their students and taking much needed funding from communities who cannot afford twin systems for the haves and have nots. The charter experiment has been a failure, and needs to be stopped before it does more damage.
4. The USDOE policies using testing to evaluate teachers creates misinformation about teacher quality and makes a work load of data collection that is driving the best and brightest from the field. VAM is useless, expensive, and destructive.
5. What we do need is equitable funding. As long as school funding is based on real estate taxes, wealthy communities will have good ones, and poor communities will suffer. Please consider a non-punitive and well-structured funding plan for the programs that you do propose.
We need a return to a sensible and non-partisan educational policy, and must reverse the last 20 years of destructive policies if we are to save our greatest asset—A public school system that provides quality education for all.
Schools are not the place to experiment with unproven initiatives pushed by inexperienced and untrained people operating outside their own fields of expertise.
In reworking ESEA and NCLB, please listen to teachers, not the ones who have been paid by Bill Gates to speak the Reform line, but those who teach in the classroom every day, and who understand the deep crisis reform has pushed our education system into.
Thank you for your thoughtful efforts to change and reverse what has been a gargantuan mistake on the parts of both the Republican and Democratic reformers.
Yours truly,
Cheryl Binkley
Grandparent
High School and Community College Teacher
Former local PTA President


Dear Senator Alexander

I have taught school since 1978 and have been recognized for my excellence in teaching repeatedly. Please repeal NCLB and REMOVE the high-stakes testing from our student’s lives. It has limited the scope of teaching, put undue strain on localities in terms of funding, driven good teachers from the classroom, driven down the number of hours devoted to TEACHING while re-tasking important resources for TESTING. It has warped education as will happen when any metric is applied to a human endeavor.
Eight days just last semester were devoted to TESTING, not teaching and meant all technology in the building was devoted to the tests and could not be used for instruction or real-world projects. This semester we have been warned that it will take the entire MONTH of May to cover all required tests (AP, CTE, SOL, etc.) so we must adjust and shorten instruction in order to accommodate this blizzard of tests.
The annual tests are not useful to designing instruction, are questionable in nature since many have been untested, are time consuming and expensive and discourage the students who struggle as they are labeled a FAILURE long before they are given the time and opportunity to learn. This is especially true of our second language learners.
In the past (pre NCLB) I found tests like the ITBS and Stanford Nine useful in diagnosing student challenges. These tests are no longer provided.
In the past, I always knew which students struggled and who might benefit from additional resources, time, or one-to-one human contact. This was never provided but now testing is. We measure and measure and break knowledge into finite, measurable pieces where we need to help student think and explore the larger picture so they can enter the world ready to confront issues in their lives.
Ironically, the NAEP, a useful tool for seeing how our nation’s students are progressing is used to determine the effectiveness of NCLB and this tool has shown little growth over the life of the testing mania. Return to using this tool as a barometer for student learning. Professionalize and pay the teachers a respectable wage and let us work with our students again.
Please.
Mary Tedrow, NBCT, M.Ed
Porterfield Endowed English Chair
John Handley High School
Director, Shenandoah Valley Writing Project


Honorable Senate Education Committee:
My name is (Gen Erous). I teach geography, history and debate at (school) in Utah.

I am writing to you as you discuss the reauthorization of ESEA. I am extremely concerned by the continued emphasis on standardized testing that is being discussed.

My major concern is the hyper-focus on the math and reading that are on the tests has destroyed the time for students to learn history, geography, and civics. Some schools in my area are being told that they can ONLY teach reading and math, because of the testing, which now takes a minimum of 20 hours per year, beginning in third grade. As a result, students are not learning about their country, other nations, and what it means to be American. By the time they come to my 8th grade U.S. History class, I have to start teaching them things that they should have learned in third or fourth grade, such as the continents and oceans of the world. I have to cut important things out of what I teach because I have to teach the basics.

Our country's foundation depends on an educated populace. Students MUST learn how our government functions, how to vote, how to be informed voters. The huge focus on the tests eliminates those important lessons. Adding a standardized test in history won't help, either, because the test would focus on minutiae and would not really focus on the important knowledge and critical thinking that are so important to the survival of our republic.

Please do NOT mandate this atrocious annual testing. Let schools get back to their primary focus: education. Thank you.



Dear Senators:

I am a parent of 9 year old and a 5 year old (both who attend public school), a taxpayer, and a Badass Teacher. I have MA degrees in Music Education and Music Therapy and have been working as a music teacher in NYCDOE for 15 years. 7 of those years have been spent working with some of the most disenfranchised students in the city-namely Special Education students with a designation of "Emotionally Disturbed" in their I.E.P. Many of the students I teach have extremely unstable home lives which is the origin of their behavioral problems. Simply put, I teach students that are so handicapped in their ability to control impulses and manage their emotions, that sitting down for a standardized test is an achievement, regardless if they pass it. On a personal note, I just spend 2 hours with my 5 year old, helping him do his CC aligned math hw requiring him to count by 2's, 5's and 10's when developmentally, he is mastering counting by 1's to a hundred. Would you want children in your family subjected to this type of educational malpractice?

Childhood and Learning is a fundamental Right for All Americans. You have the opportunity to re-craft legislation that has been punctured by profiteering and greed. Effective teaching, like learning, has been turned into a multi-million dollar commodity. We have become the equivalent of gold mines in the Great Gold Rush. Instead of mining for gold to get rich quick, investors are looking to mine children's test scores in an attempt to find the best way to children learn. Problem our children are human beings, not minerals to be exploited for personal gain.

The intrusion of Edu-Biz is absurd and should no longer be countenanced let alone codified. American children cannot learn while being measured by a one-size-fits-all set of expectations that render the work life of American Teachers ineffective. American children cannot learn when being measured by corporate standards that are no more than developmentally inappropriate tools set up to predestine their failure. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that the only thing that NCLB had done is make a further divide between the. HAVES and the HAVE NOTS. Those students who were born into families who could afford private school, are not restricted in their education by maladaptive testing policies while their counterparts whose family can't afford private school enroll students in public school where their children are tested constantly in the name of educational research that financially benefits investors of the testing industry.

American Teachers do not perfect their craft by treating their students like data, nor should tools used to "measure" their performance be anchored by it. I do not teach my students to spit out answers to scripted questions. I teach my students to solve problems creatively-something that often cannot be evidenced in a standardized test (Nevermind the fact that the Arts have been marginalized by those areas that are easy to assess from a standardized test). My job is to transform through modeling for students, inspiring students and adhering to a code of teacher professionalism that is not dependent on a set of standards which are developmentally inappropriate. The same standards that covertly serve the purpose of forcing many teachers to break their union contract out of fear of not being given a satisfactory rating if they do not put in all the extra hours without pay for those same standards to be achieved.

Thank you for your on-going work and take care to listen to the voices of your teachers, not tainted, profiteering experts who have had little or no classroom experience.

Sincerely yours,

Dan Leopold
---------------------------------


Dear Senator Alexander,

I believe I am qualified to make a few recommendations about fixing NCLB. I have been a teacher since 1972, continuing to teach and earn advanced credentials through this year: Master's degree in 1974; teacher supervision credential in 1982; National Writing Project Leadership credential in 1988; a doctorate in curriculum and instruction in 1992; and post-doc credentials in environmental education in 2003 and 2006.

I have taught in elementary schools for 15 years; served as Director of K-12 teacher preparation and graduate studies at universities for 13 years, including NCATE re-accreditation and NAEYC accreditation of early childhood programs. Also, from 2003 to 2015 (ongoing), I have served as a graduate faculty professor for school administration licensure and environmental education programs.

All of my teaching, service, and research have been structured to support pedagogy, assessment, and evaluation. I have learned how important it is for students to experience inquiry as it arises from the developmental reach of one's sense of self and knowing. The research evidence is absolutely significant and conclusive. There are four irreducible dimensions to pedagogy, assessment, and evaluation that are equally important and must be included in multiple ways, for the teacher and the student: subjective experience; objective behaviors; cultural values; and, dynamic systems.

Communities of teaching and learning thrive only when inquiry remains dynamic and meaningful, supporting engagement and commitment from all members at developmentally appropriate levels.

NCLB and its related measures have devolved, through excessive testing and a torturous implementation of CCS, into a menacing strangulation of teaching and learning. Teachers and the administrators many of them become have made costly sacrifices in order to develop professional expertise and place it in public service to their fellow Americans and their families. Serving public education remains a standard of patriotism, even if some of the nation's elected and appointed representatives have abandoned that position. The teaching profession is deserving of respect and support; instead, current NCLB measures have become a blame game, enabling those who would profit from the destruction of public schools to amass wealth at the expense of taxpayers, students, and professionally prepared teachers. Replacing certified, experienced, and committed teachers with inexperienced and unprepared college graduates who are recruited to charter schools is fast becoming the legacy of NCLB. It is a shameful contradiction of all that NCLB promised.

School administrators, fearful of opposing the threatening insistence of politicized state and federal DoE enforcers, have been required to implement policies that penalize teachers, students, and families who are prepared to employ developmentally appropriate practices. At a meeting of Council of Chief State School Officers where I was in attendance, and in discussion with school administrators in New York, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Texas, I have talked with district and building administrators who wring their hands and report any number of unconscionable experiences they have had trying to oppose testing madness and woefully ignorant politicians. Many continue in their work hoping the madness will soon cease; others cannot bear the personal and professional costs, and like many of the teachers they have been forced to discredit, choose to leave public school service.

Teachers have been forced, under threat of job- loss, to abandon teaching in order to comply with mandatory test-preparation schedules and scripted instruction that shames students and often forces them to fail. Many teachers are fighting the system on behalf of their students and school communities, but many others have paid a terrible price in terms of their own physical and mental health, and of those many have resigned. Their profession was destroyed by those who seek political and personal gains.

Students experience some of the harshest effects of NCLB in its current state. What the student experiences as his/her own unique path to inquire and learn about the world is systematically denigrated and treated as of no value, while data about the student's academic performance is gathered, organized, and inserted into a complex system of data, treated as currency, in a marketplace where creativity and authorship no longer matter. NCLB presently assigns very little value to students' and teachers' lived experiences while inflating the value of data and data streaming. This is managed in a way that although there may be appropriate channels for revising NCLB policies and for personal redress, such as the Hearings you are planning to hold, to the student, the chance for redress seems overwhelmingly out of reach. Students encounter NCLB as if it were a mindless, terrifying overlord, who will neither incline a listening ear nor lend a hand to those who struggle on the students' behalf. What a monstrous presence NCLB now occupies in school communities.

It is my sincere wish that your commitment to integrity, ethical practice, and judicious reflection will lead you to take up the cause to revise NCLB and free public school communities from the tyranny of over testing and CC standards. The only winners in our current situation are the test mongers, the privateers, and those who would advance their political careers at the expense of U.S. Public Schools.

Respectfully,

Mary Ann Doyle, Ph.D.



Senator:
I speak to you as 37 year veteran special education teacher. I am distraught over the damage that NCLB and RTTT has done to education as I know it. Students are experiencing daily stress and learning ceases to be pleasurable. I have never seen Teacher morale so low. Teachers need to do their job and use their special expertise to guide student learning. Instead, we are forced to plow through scripted curricula and leave those children behind who do not understand. In particular, I am concerned about my Multiple-disabled children with IEP's. Despite what Secretary Duncan says, many of these children will never pass the tests. That is why they are in self-contained classes. They do show growth, as indicated on their IEP's, but are considered failures as are their teachers.
I am attaching articles for you and your staff to review as you research and discuss this issue. Thank you for your attention.
Judith Strollo
Neptune Township Public Schools
New Jersey


Dear Senator Alexander,

Thank you so much for taking the time to look into the practice of over testing our students.

I am emailing you while wearing three different hats. I wear the hat of a special education teacher, an elected school board member, and as a parent. As an FYI, I was also on Congressman Rob Wittman's Education Advisory Committee, a couple of years ago.

As a Virginia teacher, of students with disabilities, I have seen anxiety, frustration, and loss of self-confidence in my students. I have seen emotionally disabled students completely bubble an answer sheet without opening the test. I have seen an autistic student click through a computer test because he "got click happy". I have seen a learning disabled student have anxiety attack so badly during a test that he had to go to the nurse. I have also seen students, who have never passed the state test, go into the test saying, "I'm just going to click whatever I want because I'm not going to pass it anyway." These examples of how testing can affect are just a sampling of my students' tribulations.

Due to our ESEA and state laws, our student's have lost the I (Individual) in their Individual Education Plans. Their IEPs must contain goals that are linked to our state curriculum. This brings me to another concern. Many of our students with disabilities are tested in the same format as our general education students, including gifted students. The gains they must make are at a greater trajectory than any other "subgroup". Would you expect a paraplegic person to train and run the same race in the same amount of time as a person who in not a paraplegic? Would you expect a swimmer, with Down's Syndrome, to train and compete on the same level as Michael Phelps? Our students with significant or severe disabilities are expected to learn the same material as their same aged peers, then expected to show that they know it. As an example, 13 year old students who are unable to walk, talk, and still wear diapers are expected to do algebra, name the continents and oceans, and understand the periodic table of elements.

I teach students who are in the general education curriculum who have multiple reasons for their IEPs. Many of the students have working memory and processing deficits, yet they are expected to remember information taught months prior and be able to use it at a higher order of thinking. This does not include the students who have a reading disability, such as dyslexia or a math disability. Although these students show growth year after year, they may not be on grade level, yet they are expected to take a grade level test and pass it. If enough students don't pass the test, the school goes into improvement, because the progress the students have made doesn't matter and the teachers are to blame.

I also have concerns about what is happening in our school, as a whole, because we did not meet all of our Federal Annual Measurable Objectives (FAMO), and barely made state accreditation. The students who did not pass their last state test are now in remediation during their elective. An elective may be the one class where a student has had success, but now that is ripped away.

As a school board member, my thoughts are based a bit different. Many of my concerns are based on the Virginia's waiver from the US. Department of Education. As mentioned above, the teacher the growth that is required for students with disabilities is staggering, and it is not much lower for our students who are Limited English Proficient (LEP). I do not understand how we can expect someone who has immigrated to the US, who may never had attended school and/or has never spoken English, to be able to read, write, speak, and understand new information within a short amount of time. We never know how many students will be coming in who don't speak English, so to have a number that must be met is ludicrous. As long as there are FAMOs for students who are LEP, our school divisions are being punished for being required to teach all students, no matter their native language and educational background.

All of our schools where doing very well, then Virginia revised the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests to make them "more rigorous". In other words, they made them more tricky, harder, and with more computer adapted items which have no clear answer. Suddenly, we have schools who are not meeting their FAMOs due to possibly one subgroup. The community thinks the school is suffering, yet it is one test, one day and the reason for not making the FAMO could have been due to one student. The undue stress on our staff due to this, adds to the stress of the students. The time, effort, and funds to "improve" the school might be better served in other ways for the entire division, versus just the schools in improvement.

Some things that would be helpful for our school divisions would me to find alternative ways for students to accrue credits outside of standardized testing, initiatives to assess and address individual student's reading and math ability, and vary the learning time and how to teach students based on their individual learning differences. Get away from the FAMO model.

My last, but most important hat, is that of a parent. I have two children, one of who is now in college and the other still in high school. Throughout the years, my children have been overworked and stressed during SOL testing time. Although they have passed all of their tests, the stress that comes with the testing is horrible. Their teachers have given extra homework, as reviews, no matter what they remembered or not. My children have had trouble sleeping and have lost their appetites at one time or another, due the stress. My children have been blessed that nothing has ever happened right before testing that may impact their scores. What if something had? It's one test on one day. What if they saw our dog get run over just before going to school, what if I was put into the hospital the night before the test, what if a grandparent's funeral was the next day? A student's knowledge of content cannot be judged on one test on one day, nor can a division's, school's, or teacher's performance be judged on one test.

Once again, I thank you for taking this huge endeavor. If you would like to discuss any of my points, please feel free to contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. I would gladly speak to you or one of your aides, or even come to Washington to meet with you.
Dawn Abboud Shelley

The first year I taught in my current district, I was told by a veteran teacher that as a Title I teacher, my job was to teach to a test. Since I didn’t know any better at the time, I listened to him. I spent the better part of 10 years researching and reading and experimenting to make test-taking strategies fun and engaging for students.
I changed my thinking about this time last year. I was reading and discussing a story with a small group of struggling 3rd grade boys when one of them got so frustrated he began to hit his head against the wall. He left a mark on his head; I felt absolutely horrified that something I was doing contributed to his feeling of utter frustration and defeat. I realized then and there I – and that veteran teacher – had it all wrong. These boys needed to enjoy reading. I spent the rest of the year listening and reading and rereading and discussing song lyrics. The boys read biographical information about many artists. The struggling boys enjoyed learning new songs. Each Monday, I introduced a new song. Most of the boys would tell me they didn’t like the song. After discussion, each boy wanted a copy of the lyrics to keep. I was doing something right.
I will not teach to a test again. I will do my best to make reading fun and engaging and interesting. Test-taking reading is not fun or engaging or interesting. Test-taking reading teaches kids there is one right answer to a question. Teaching kids to believe there is one right answer to questions is definitely not what our society needs.
I spent about ½ a second worrying about what my decision would mean for my OTES score. I am a skilled teacher. I work hard. I spend as much time with students as possible. I constantly read books, professional journals and blogs by experts daily. I learn the research. I belong to professional organizations. I speak with expert teachers daily. I know the best professional development conferences; I spend my own money to go. I establish routines and continue to learn ways to make my instruction reach each student. I get frustrated when a child doesn’t make progress and I seek guidance to help each child. Most important, I enjoy the students’ company and they know it.
Last year, I worked with the struggling readers in grades Kindergarten – 3rd. Our students took the online NWEA test (ODE approved assessment) for the first time last year in the first weeks of school. I was trained to get students on the site and how to put students back on the site once they were kicked off (this happened a lot). This test did nothing but cause frustration for students and teachers. When we expressed our frustration, administration said at least it would show growth. But, I watched how some students approached the test and I saw scores that contradicted what my own individual assessments indicated, so I have serious doubts about this test showing ‘growth’. Each student got a score. That’s it. If my district’s administration valued this test, certainly professional development and time would have been given in order for me to figure out exactly what the score means. Yet, I received no information that helps me plan instruction for any child. We are in year two, and nothing has changed.
The test was given again in December prior to winter break. I learned in January that those two tests would determine my student growth measures. We had approximately four and a half months of instruction – minus the days for testing – to show a year’s worth of growth. How is that fair?
All of a sudden, my expertise in assessing is no longer good enough. I gain valuable information about each student’s strengths and weaknesses from the assessments I use and that informs my instruction. I sit next to each child. I listen to each child. I watch what each child does at point of difficulty.
Parents were given NWEA testing scores for their children. Some children did not perform well on the NWEA; however, my assessments prove some of those same students are on track or better than on track. Students who are struggling were not considered struggling according to NWEA. Parents got conflicting information about their children. Teachers were put in the position of not having answers and not being allowed to talk honestly about the online test, making us appear incompetent.
I struggled to come up with a list of students to give my administrators. Quite frankly, I think it is absurd. I had students enter my small groups and leave my small groups throughout the entire year – even within the short four months between the testing windows. If a student left my group, that was a good thing. Administrators didn’t care about any of this; they needed a list of students.
I will continue to grow professionally with or without help from my administration. I have what Carol Dweck calls grit. I will do my very best not to allow bogus testing lead me astray. I will continue to focus on what’s most important – each student’s growth. That growth will not be measured by NWEA but by the professional assessments I use.
Respectfully submitted,
Karen Linch


Dear Senator Alexander:
I am a retired elementary school visual art specialist. I worked for 18 years in a Title I school in a Detroit suburb and loved my job. The work I did was so very important to my students and their families as was apparent every spring when the children showed off their accomplishments at our annual art exhibit of work they had created during the year. I matted all the art work and typed up written or dictated reflections for a minimum of two pieces of art from each of my 700+ students in two or more buildings. More than 1,400 pieces of art were thus presented in the same way you would see in a gallery setting.
While many of my students struggled in academic subjects such as math or reading, they were very capable—even talented—as young artists and took great pride in their ability to express their unique understandings of the world in a language understood by all people across the globe. Many of my former students went on to pursue art studies in university, becoming professional artists or are in art related positions. Currently, a former student of mine is completing his MFA at the Yale School of Art on a scholarship. He was a special education student all the way through middle school at least. Thankfully he was ahead of the current wave of education reforms or he might still have been in 3rd grade instead of living his dream. And I might still have been busy at my profession—except that I left it in 2011 when my evaluation as an art teacher would have been based on my students' math and reading scores!
Students like mine are mostly doomed under the kind of testing and accountability schemes that have been forced on students and teachers under NCLB and RttT. The titles of those programs declare that no child will be left behind—except for the thousands that don't make it "to the top." Surely it must be obvious to you by the current failure rate of schools across the country that many, many children are being left behind. And the same students who have always made it to the top—children of the white, upper classes are still getting there. This obsession with useless tests, the results of which are never seen by the ELA and math teachers (not to mention art, music and physical education teachers), the students or their parents, and therefore can be of no use in guiding instruction, has only one objective: the destruction of public education in favor of profitizing an $800B annual revenue stream for testing companies and the charter industry.
I urge you to recognize this reform movement for what it is and use your power to take the federal government's foot off the necks of our students, teachers and public schools, before it is too late.
Sincerely,
Linda Eastman



Senator Alexander and Committee Members,
 As a constituent, teacher, parent, and taxpayer, I would like to share my concerns about the current state of education in this great country. The obscene amount of money being spent on the multitude of tests being administered in schools across the country has reached the point of absurdity. We are paying test publishers exorbitant sums to create narrowly-focused ‘assessments,’ and we are paying equally ridiculous sums to companies to score the tests, “analyze” the data, and, ultimately, label students as being at a particular proficiency level from one test given on one day at a given grade level. Education professionals know that it is impossible to accurately measure one’s scope of knowledge or one’s capacity to learn. The current obsession with test data has created an educational environment that is narrowly-focused, harmful to students’ learning trajectory, and does not allow teachers to fully implement appropriate pedagogy. The Common Core standards being used to fuel these tests are developmentally inappropriate, vague, and do not follow a logical or meaningful sequence. The Common Core standards are harmful to productive teaching and learning and inhibit teachers from fully exercising their craft so that students reach their full potential. Allowing charter school investors access to our schools is shameful, at best. Courting parents and families to participate in an investment scheme is appalling and disgraceful and should be stopped. I can only imagine the tax incentives being promised to the individuals and groups, all on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. The current wave of charter infiltration is simply reprehensible. Teacher evaluation based on test scores has been proven time and again to be invalid and detrimental to authentic learning. Data-driven teaching promotes “teaching to the test” and is seriously undermining comprehensive educational opportunities for students by eliminating the arts, humanities, and ancillary activities that are necessary in addressing the development of the whole child. Using value-added measures reduces our students and teachers to nothing more than data points, which is destructive to the development of a rich educational experience for all concerned. Stop the madness. We have an excellent, committed, and highly-educated teacher workforce in this country. We implore you to do whatever possible to alleviate the current destructive trends outlined above so that our public education system can return to fulfilling a goal of productive and engaged learning for every student. Schools are not the place to experiment with unproven initiatives pushed by unqualified non-educators for financial gain. I appreciate your efforts to reverse this precarious path being forced upon our schools. I look forward to seeing your efforts come to fruition.
Yours truly, Lu Howard Tennessee Middle School Mathematics Teacher


.Senator Alexander, 
This is my nineteenth year teaching and I am sincerely worried about our children and their futures. The excessive testing has replaced the time we need to get to know our students allowing us to help them on personal levels. We are expected to prepare the students for tests and then test them. We use the data to create a group, regroup, prepare them for another test, test them and begin the process again. There is more time spent on test prep and testing than there is on instruction. As said many times, we are teachers, not testers!!! But that has become debateable. This is a problem! We are letting our students down. Data has become the goal, rather than children actually understanding the content being taught. We spend our time developing data dashboards, analyzing them, making predictions according to the data and then trying to manipulate schedules to have enough time to reteach students in order for them to pass the next step with a specific score. Did you read what I wrote? We are trying to develop strategies for a child to test proficient or advanced. This does not mean that the child developed an understanding of an important skill. It means we found a way for him or her to pass the test on a certain level. We are creating testers rather than independent students. This is a problem. We are letting our students down. Elementary students are slipping through the cracks because of the testing. We are so focused on having all the test prep leading to TCAP that we lose instructional days. we have so many field tests and other tests that do not count. The tests that do count are bad enough, but to expect students to endure more time on tests that are not used for any purpose related to the students or teachers makes no sense. There are too many tests like this, such as the MIST writing assessment given this year. That is ninety minutes of testing on a test that will not count in addition to the time spent preparing for it. Many teachable moments (which students remember) are lost because they are not on the test. Many teachers are so worried about the high stakes tests that they are afraid to deviate from the tested skills. Students lose out when this happens. Our students and classrooms are not all the same so we cannot all teach the same, but "teaching for a test" creates cookie-cutter classrooms. Again...students lose out when this happens. There are weeks that go by when teachers have not heard their elementary students read aloud due to test prep and testing. Teaching, not testing, must be the focus! This is a problem! We are letting our students down. I am a parent and a grandparent. My five year old grandson does not have the opportunity for a developmentally appropriate kindergarten according to the state's requirements. The state thinks they should read at this age. The state thinks they should be testing along with the rest of the school. They lose the magical time for discovery of learning that allows the teacher to instill a love of learning. We lost the kitchen and social sets so stereotypically kindergarten because it took time away from the academic time. These children need the "playtime" to develop the necessary socialization skills that will better enable them to work together as adults. Maybe this is the "college & career-ready" aspect of kindergarten we hear of so often?! Did you read how silly that sounds? A college & career ready kindergarten child? My grandson hopes to be Spiderman and we support that at five years old. Childhood is such a short time period. Who are we to rush it along? Why are our schools even allowed the option of testing the babies? SAT10 should not even be allowed for any of the younger students, especially our kindergarten students. They should not even know what a test-taking environment is like. It is not developmentally appropriate to require our young students to sit still that long. We all know they cannot focus for any length of time. The money spent on this test could be spent on resources to better assist teachers in the classroom or on supplies the students need. We all know that we cannot "test" away the obstacles facing our students. No amount of bubbles and multiple choices will help reassure children of divorce, warm children with no heat, comfort the abused child or one witnessing someone else being abused, feed a hungry child, clothe a needy student, assist one with a handicapped parent, or numerous other issues that affect our children on a daily basis. These are the issues we, as caring teachers, need time to help our children with and to account for as they participate in class through the day. These factors weigh in on their test scores much more than some lesson taught last week. Sadly these factors will not be taken into consideration when everyone is discussing the students scores in the data meeting. The issues discussed will be what the scores are, did they increase or decrease, why did the teacher not fill the gaps and get the student to the projected score, what is the new strategy and grouping for the students. Until we get back to working with the "whole" students rather than looking at them as data points, there will be no success. No success for our students, teachers, or schools. Truth be known, the big businesses only make money if we test enough for our students to do poorly (which they will), so we reteach and use all their interventions, and retest again, and so on. The businesses make the money. The students suffer, as do the schools and teachers. You know the game. Please take this into consideration because this scenario is a daily one at our school, as it is at many others. We are not doing our children any favors. I am a fellow Tennessean of yours and I am hoping you are honestly listening to these stories with good intentions of making a difference!
 Thank you, Lee-Ann Nolan Tennessee Teacher, Parent, Grandparent, Concerned Citizen


Dear Chairman Alexander,

I started teaching in 1999. Initially, there was this vague sense of confusion when the NCLB legislation went through. “How can we defy the Bell Curve?” I asked myself. I chuckled thinking, “Ha, just wait ’til ‘they’ figure out that it can’t be done!” I was teaching special education at the time.Over the next couple of years, pressure mounted. My kids couldn't pass those tests... they were with me for a reason! Most were at LEAST 2 grade levels below their peers. I moved to a state with a beach, thinking that if I had to push kids so hard, I needed to live someplace where I could easily take a break after school. The first slap in the face was that I couldn't get a job in a public school; my degree and years of experience made me “too expensive.” A charter school was willing to hire me though; they liked having someone w/ a sp.ed. degree and experience. Since the school was in an area with kids from low SES backgrounds, they wanted and were willing to pay someone with my education and experience. I was grateful that I had a job!Fast forward… more and more rhetoric and “accountability” was heaped on teachers. If the scores aren’t high enough, then we’re not working hard enough. THAT is the proverbial Kool-Aid, because most teachers are overly responsible, and they bought into the idea that “if we only work harder… .” This results in pushing the kids harder. Is THAT what childhood is about? The U.S. Department of Labor says, " Child labor provisions under FLSA are designed to PROTECT EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES of youth and prohibit their employment in jobs that are detrimental to their health and safety." What's happening now is becoming child labor without payment under the guise of education, and it is detrimental to children's emotional health and safety. After two years at a charter school teacher in a low SES community, the state tried to close our school by revoking the charter due to low test scores. Unlike many charter schools, we took ALL of the kids! Many of our children were challenging. Many of our children struggled with learning. The school’s charter was picked up by another sponsor, so it did not close that year. In the meantime, I’d educated myself on the difference between charter, public, and private schools. I discovered that this anxiety that had been growing over the years in me was being experienced by other teachers all over the country. More and more pressure to pass tests creates a climate of having to push WORK harder and harder onto even very young children. If the kids don't pass the tests, their school will be closed. Teacher's careers have been de-stabilized.
The stress took its toll on my health. I had to get out. I now work in a Catholic school with middle to high SES children and very few with special needs. I have more financial stress. The pay is remarkably lower, so I have two other part-time jobs, and I'll never pay off my student loans. BUT, the majority of the children have passed the almighty tests, and I can TEACH again as opposed to test prep. The children in my current school have music, art, p.e., foreign language and computer class. They have morning, lunch, and afternoon recess. Many of their public school counter-parts have had these specials programs cut. High-stakes testing has destroyed much. It destroys the teaching/learning environment. It creates unnecessary levels of stress for students and teachers. It makes good teachers want to avoid teaching high-risk students. It punishes the very children NCLB was supposed to help.
 Sincerely, Hannah JoanneMorgan, 3rd Grade Teacher


Senator Lamar Alexander: I thank you in advance for these hearings. The idea that this is getting a hearing so soon in the GOP senate shows how much you care about education. As a Social Studies teacher, it does show that regardless of past differences this brings liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, Pro-Union and Anti-Union people together. These hearings show Washington can be fixed. I am pro-union and have voted for President Obama twice(the second time I made a mistake), however, I am disappointed with his education policy. His Race to the Top Program did nothing but double down on past failure of NCLB. Ohio is a swing state for Presidential elections, but, in state politics we are Republican(it is not because of redistricting). The idea of this much testing and tying student test scores to teacher evaluations was never thought of until President Obama. Ohio accepted RttT funds under former Governor Strickland. Governor Kasich continued the plan mostly because he had to because of the economic issues in Ohio at the time. Testing has become all too powerful. It has created massive costs for schools in the need for new infrastructure, the Common Core is costing money in new materials. The need for new revenues are coming from local tax payers in the form of new levies. Our economy is still fragile and asking for new taxes is the last thing that we need to ask for. The increase in testing was supposed to improve teacher quality by tying a student performance to test scores. However, that has not happened. These tests do not take into account non-academic barriers students face. This is a problem many urban districts are facing. Testing is a one size fits all approach. Teachers did nothing more to teach to the test to score well on teacher evaluation. It has become drill and kill and as a result of this, we are creating a child that is unable to think or create. All we are producing is a student that can recite facts. Proponents of testing will say it is getting them ready for college and career. This is untrue. I believe students prior to testing were prepared for college. The only reason they were unprepared for college was because college has become unaffordable. The increase in testing will not lead to better jobs because job creation has struggled. I do not pay attention to the unemployment rate because the under employment rate is a better indicator of economic conditions. That number is still very high. There are few quality jobs for students. How is testing going to improve upon that? As a union advocate, I understand that we need to be held accountable. Evaluation is not going away. The use of grade ban testing can solve both problems. Perhaps we can tie yearly teacher evaluations to test scores at the end of each grade ban. For example, we could say all teachers share in an 8th graders test scores. Our district already uses shared attribution, so this would not be a new thing. Each grade level should see a vast majority of students taking the test, each teacher would have shred in the success of a student. All we would need to do is open it up collective bargaining so local districts can decide what is best for their locals- this is the exact opposite of what is happening now. We could create testing in k-2(the test would be in grade 2), 3-5(testing occurring in grade 5), 6-8(testing occurring in 8th grade) and 9-12(testing occurring in grade 12). There would need to be informal testing at the end of each grade level to check student progress-these informal tests would not be subject to evaluation-so students can learn in non-pressure situations. This solves the use of over testing which is what unions are asking for and still maintains accountability that anti-union groups demand. This is a clearly a moderate approach to education, and is something that everyone can live with. The passage of this bill can not only improve education, but, be the driving force behind making Washington work and restoring Americans’ faith in our elected leaders.
Greg Soper North Canton, Ohio 


Chairman Alexander, Thank you for asking for input from the public before deciding what to do in reauthorizing ESEA (NCLB). Public schools have been a very different place than the one you may remember from your youth since the passage of NCLB. Test based accountability and the emphasis on standardized tests have changed what it means to be in school and has changed the focus of our schools. Children do not get the rich and varied educational opportunities that they did when I was younger. Projects are passed over as teachers rush to ensure that students are prepared for tests that are not written by their teachers or communities, but by a testing company that has arbitrarily decided what they should know. Local communities need to regain control of their schools and states need to be held accountable to funding schools equitably so that all students are given the opportunity to have a rich and well rounded experience. Standardized tests are good measures of family income and of very little else. They are not helpful to teachers, no matter how much the testing companies want to claim they are. They sap critical resources from schools and provide no useful information to parents, schools or teachers. Cut scores are arbitrarily set and changed to fulfill political agendas and are not about improving education. If politicians and those involved in corporate education reform really wanted to improve student outcomes, they would know how schools work and more importantly would know how people work. Students are not widgets and they must be approached on an individual level. They develop differently and at different times. They have areas of strength, weakness, passion and apathy. They come to school from different homes - two parent, single parent, grandparent, foster homes, shelters. They do not come to school with the same experiences and their educational experiences will not be the same. There is a plethora of research out that specifically addresses these differences. Poverty, instability in the home, malnutrition and many other factors impact how and when students learn. This does not mean these students won't learn everything they need to, it simply means we need to provide them with the appropriate environments with wraparound services that will help them to grow and reach their potential. Teachers know how to reach their students, they know what they need and they should be trusted to make decisions in the classroom to help their students succeed. Contrary to what the rhetoric is - teachers do not mind being held accountable. We welcome it. No one hates a bad teacher more than a good one. We want accountability systems that truly measure what we are doing for our students. We want to be judged by people who know and understand our populations. If you had ever spent any time in schools, you would know how laughable the narrative is that urban teachers are not of high quality. Teachers in affluent districts teach students who come in with full tool boxes and stomachs. Students who have had varied experiences and parents who hold them accountable and get them tutors when they struggle. Urban teachers are magicians who provide the experiences (though often virtually), who work to fill the toolboxes, who buy food (with their own shrinking salaries) to fill the stomachs and stay after school to provide the tutoring. We know our students won't get the scores of our more affluent neighbors, yet we work twice as hard. We reassure our students who are often being tested above their ability levels or in a language they just started to understand. We hold their hands when they start to cry and tell them it is ok. Our country, while it didn't provide public schooling at its inception, has been built on our public school system. A democracy can only survive as we people it with individuals able to think critically and question what is in front of them. A school system focused on standardized tests is not creating critical thinkers. We do not need to compete with countries like China whose own people have written about the horrific consequences of their test driven education system. Please consider speaking to people who are ACTUAL experts on education before making your decision. From what I have seen from your list of individuals speaking (I am hoping what I saw was wrong), you don't have any scheduled. Education policy with no educators makes no sense.
Thank you for your time,
Shauna Margerum


Dear Senators,

I am writing to encourage you not to fix the so-called No Child Left Behind law, but to dismantle it entirely.

This year my middle school students will be taking the Smarter Balanced test. As a result, they will miss a minimum seven full days of Humanities (English + Social Studies) instruction. More likely, they will lose 9–10 days of Humanities instruction, since there will be at least two days dedicated to a practice SBAC test. That is two full weeks during which my students will not be learning at all. They will be losing 5–7 days of Math instruction for the same reason.

Not only that, but starting in March, every computer in our school of 1,100+ students will be in use solely for testing, rather than actual learning. All research projects must be eliminated, and students who have no access to computers at home will not be able to type up their papers or projects. This is not eduction; it is bureaucracy. Data collection does not improve teaching and learning; it gets in the way of teaching and learning.

This entire education "reform" movement is harmful to children, as it distracts from real issues. I'm sure that you are aware of the ever-increasing numbers of U. S. public school students who live in poverty. Poverty and economic inequity are the real reasons that so many of our children are having difficulty learning. Instead of "fixing" a fundamentally flawed initiative, the Senate should instead scrap it entirely and use the resources to address poverty in America. The Senate might also use its position to encourage education "reformers" to use their vast wealth towards the same end, since these people certainly have no interest in listening to teachers. I hope the Senate, unlike these education "reformers," will listen to the professional opinions of teachers.

Thank you for your time
Nikki  Suydum



Dear Honorable Senator Burr,
I am writing to you today as a North Carolina resident, parent and teacher in our public schools. I have lived in North Carolina since 1995, raising four children who have all matriculated through North Carolina Public Schools and moved forward to college and graduate school. I taught in the community college system through 2001 and moved into teaching in Wake County Public Schools in 2002, where I am still today.
When I was first hired, No Child Left Behind had been enacted and our high school had the opportunity to add a mathematics teacher who knew how to work with students on high school level mathematics. I had been a developmental mathematics teacher at Durham Technical Community College for 6 years at that time and was hired on the spot for my experience. Holding a master’s degree in mathematics and statistics, I met the requirements of a Highly Qualified Teacher per the NCLB standards.
Over the years I have progressed from teaching Algebra I to teaching AP Calculus and AP Statistics. I have taught every mathematics course in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study except for one, and have taught two of the three new high school math courses under the Common Core State Standards. Over my years as a public school teacher, I have seen NCLB and CCSS implemented in this state.
The purpose of NCLB legislation was to provide some mechanism by which to judge the progress of students under the various state education programs. Has that been accomplished? Are we any closer today in 2015 to the goal of 95% student proficiency than we were in 2008, when my last two graduated from high school? Are we closer than we were in 2002 when NCLB was enacted? Let me share with you the report card on NCLB published at its 10-year anniversary by Lisa Guisbond at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing:
NCLB’s ten-year report card offers little cause for celebration, whether you judgethe law narrowly on its own terms or look more deeply at its impact.
• NCLB’s own narrow gauges of progress reveal major shortcomings: growth
on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has stalled,
achievement gaps are stagnant, and predictions of widespread school “failure” are coming true.
• The curriculum has narrowed, test preparation has displaced broader
schooling, cheating is rampant, there is too little help for schools in need,
and NCLB has contributed to the growth of a pernicious school-to-prison
pipeline.
• A narrow focus on testing and punitive accountability has caused policymakers to ignore the real educational consequences of child poverty, which has grown significantly in recent years.
Source: http://fairtest.org/NCLB-lost-decade-report-home
My own high school has been highlighted as one in North Carolina with a significant school-to-prison pipeline. The achievement gap has not narrowed for us. The school’s poverty rate, currently around 34%, has held steady, but has increased across our state. Our school now offers the first food pantry for students in Wake County, and I am saddened to see such a need. Cheating is so rampant at schools today, that our own North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has a half-inch thick testing manual on test administration that teachers are required to read and adhere to during any high-stakes testing.
What do we need? More testing is not the answer. CCSS is not the answer. What we need to address are the inequities in our state that highlight why some schools do far better than others. We need to address childhood poverty. Our poverty rate has climbed from 21% in 2002 to 25% in 2013. Just last week the Southern Education Foundation released the data that now over 50% of our school-aged children live in poverty. It is very difficult for a child to do well in school when basic needs, such as food and a house over ones head, have not been met.
We need to provide state control of our educational system. We are not here to determine which state trumps the other in terms of educational attainment. This is not a contest. While there needs to be consistency from state to state as far as educational standards are concerned, those standards need to be educationally sound and developmentally appropriate. Those standards need to be developed by teachers and child development experts. The CCSS fail on all of those accounts.
I would like to ask you to invite some key educational leaders to testify at the hearings this week. Specifically, Dr. Mark Naison of Fordham University, Dr. Yohuru Williams at Fairfield University, Dr. Denisha Jones of Indiana University, and Dr. Diane Ravitch. All of these people are educational leaders in support of our youth and speak openly and publically about today’s educational system, the toxic testing that is so predominant today in our schools and the needs of our children in America. Even to invite one of these leaders to the table to speak on behalf of children and teachers would be a move in the right direction.
Thank you for your time. I am a proud member of the Bad Ass Teachers Association and the North Carolina Bad Ass Teachers.
Kind regards,
Celia A. Rowland, MS, NBCT



To those who make the education laws:

From all the talk about teacher accountability and student testing, many people might assume that no teacher or student has ever been held accountable.  I guess all those years of chapter quizzes, unit tests and final exams were not valid, yet somehow I managed to earn a BA and an MA in my chosen field, and for the last 20 of my 22 years have been happily and effectively teaching drama in a public magnet school for the arts in Akron, OH.

You should know that our school came about because of federal funding.  In the early 1990s, our district applied for money to establish magnet schools in our city, the idea being that by providing a variety of educational options, our urban schools would integrate in an authentic way, rather than through random assignment based on race.  Students would apply to schools that emphasized the arts, or science & math, African-American studies, an academy format or Montessori approach and so on.  From the beginning, our arts school for grades 4 - 8 was a resounding success.  Students from across the district applied and were selected solely based upon talent.  The idea was that the arts would be integrated across the curriculum.  Academic teachers would tap into student interests and strengths by employing the arts as project-based learning tools.  Arts teachers would also integrate their subjects and every student would grow as a result of this work. (Note that this is an example of federal dollars going to local districts, with programming to be determined by the community — not the feds.  Nowadays, the feds are determining every aspect of education policy and if you don’t follow it, the money will be withheld.)

When testing time came around, it was not a big deal for teachers and students.  Nobody was teaching to the test. We knew our students were more than ready and the results always placed us at top of the district.  Even under NCLB, our students continued to do well on the test which allowed us to spend the rest of the school year doing exciting collaborations and projects that always were created with the goal to further our students’ abilities to think out of the box, collaborate with each other, and present their work through a variety of means:  writing, art, video, dance, drama, music.

Last year, the demands of Race to the Top took over our school district.  Now our students are tested all year long.  Carts full of cheap computers (that break down constantly) were purchased to enable the testing online.  When testing is going on, we are treated to PA announcements that remind us to stay off of our classroom computers and devices because the bandwidth must be dedicated to those testing. Every subject must now be tested on a computer so that digital scores can be analyzed through “data diving” in weekly sessions known as PLCs (professional learning circles) that are anything but professional.  We must meet in PLCs once a week, four times per month, which means that class time has been shortened to accommodate the meetings.  Teachers lose valuable planning time, students lose valuable instructional time and every student is now looked at as a set of numbers, not as a unique individual with specific challenges and strengths that go way beyond math and LA scores.

Last year, I became angry as I found my time constantly chipped away.  A theatre teacher’s most precious resource is time.  Time to get everyone and every thing ready to meet the ultimate deadline — the curtain going up.  Take away valuable time and both the process of creating and the product itself are diminished. Having had the honor and the privilege of building our school’s drama curriculum from the beginning, I became enraged every time I was forced to chip away at what was good and replace it with what was a waste of time at best.

Those of us teaching subjects not in the main stream of LA and math/science were forced to create an SLO (Student Learning Objectives) for their subject which could then be put into a computerized test format and given to students at the beginning of the year and then once again a few months later. This would allow the technocrats to come up with a Value Added Measurement that supposedly would determine teacher effectiveness along a standardized scale known as the Danielson rubric.  All this assumes that teachers should all teach in the same way at the same time.

There is nothing standardized about teaching drama, especially in middle school.  My students,  indeed all children, learn at their own unique pace. They learn in fits and starts, and giant steps backwards, then zoom ahead only to fall down flat then pick themselves up with or without our assistance. Standardizing this process assumes that children are widgets on an assembly line. We are putting an entire generation of students at risk.  All because some technocrats think that teachers and students are not held accountable.

Back in the day, when our magnet school was in its youth -- our principal handled the teacher assessments in this way: Teachers were to create an arts integrated lesson for their evaluation. We met with the principal to discuss the lesson ahead of time. She being the one who created the school and who had done the research on arts integration, would often have ideas and suggestions to help us make the lesson even better. She then observed the lesson, and we met for a post discussion. Her evaluation comments were also written down and given to us at the end of the evaluation process. She was always helpful, insightful, and collaborative.  Thanks to her, I have grown as an educator and have become an expert at integrating arts and academics in the classroom.  We had this experience for the first 13 years of our school's existence, until she retired. And then it was downhill all the way to the present when our evaluations have nothing to do with what our school was set up to be.

Last year, I created an SLO for my drama students that did not involve testing on a computer.  There are very few things in drama that could be validly tested  on a computer over the course of five years (which is how long I have my students in drama classes).  Just because you can answer questions about acting or technical theatre does not mean you can actually act or design a set.  So I created a digital portfolio for each student.  I took pictures of work in progress, videos of pantomimes, monologues, acting scenes, improvisations and collaborative projects.  I set up a link for each student’s family so that they could visit their student’s portfolio and view the work.  I encouraged students to discuss their work with their families, just like they will be doing as adults when presenting portfolios to prospective employers.  Technology finally had reached a point where I could do this without spending hours of time uploading and downloading things.  I submitted an SLO based upon this portfolio concept.  It was initially accepted and so I went on with my school year until reaching my final teacher evaluation conference.  My principal told me that my SLO had been thrown out and my Value Added Measure would be the average of district scores in math and LA — that would be scores of students I never met with in subjects I do not teach.

This year began with another demand for an SLO but this one would be on a computer.  I decided I could not ethically do this to my drama students.  We do not take tests in drama.  We work on acting skills, on writing skills, on reading skills, sewing skills, collaboration skills, on building, designing, drawing, collaborating, taking on leadership roles, giving and taking direction. There is no way to put all that into a test that has any validity whatsoever.  In fact, the entirety of drama class is a test:  a test of focus, preparation, communication, cooperation, self-discipline, ability to rehearse and grow.  Often times it is a test of whether or not you have an interest or ability in one or more aspects of theatre.  Some students eventually decide that acting is not for them, they would rather stage manage or design costumes and makeup.  Should they get a lower score because they are better at some things than others?

So I thought, well maybe this is the time for me to make a Rosa Parks move and refuse to do the SLO.  My union leaders acted like I was insane.  They told me I could be brought up on charges for insubordination.  They even told me to stop referring to students as “my students.”  They aren’t my students, they belong to Akron Public Schools and I must do as I am told.  It was then that I began to see no other way out than to leave my beloved job and profession.  When I found out that the state allowed teachers to opt out of OTES and all the other regulations once they declare they are retiring at the end of the year, that is what I decided to do.

I have been teaching drama since I was 19 years old, my first job was teaching creative dramatics at the Akron Urban League’s summer camp. For 44 years, I have taught a wide array of diverse populations, from pre-school to senior citizens, special needs students of all types, students from the poorest neighborhoods to the wealthiest.  I have studied with master teachers across this country and developed my own methods of teaching drama utilizing research, experimentation, experience and the experiences of others.  I consider myself to an expert on middle school drama. Everything that I have learned can be condensed into this personal maxim:  each student develops at her/his own pace and it is my job to help them discover what they need to flourish.

I cannot blame my school district, the administrators or the union for any of this.  They are following laws created by people who have never taught in a classroom, have never studied education theory or engaged in any research of best pedagogical practices.  However, I would like to see the district administration and the union speaking up against all these expensive and coercive policies that are destroying public education and working together to bring sanity back to the educational process. Education is now a big business, run by profit-seeking corporations determined to close up public schools and replace them with charters funded by Wall Street hedge fund types.  Communities no longer have any say in what type of schools are to be placed in their neighborhoods.  Children are stressed beyond their limits, constantly being told that their test scores determine their standing in life.  Teachers are forced to teach from scripts provided by Pearson Inc so that their students will do better on the standardized test.  Meanwhile, students are no longer taught to think for themselves.

I am leaving public education in order to continue teaching in ways I know work.  Along with a partner, I am forming a non-profit entity called The Center for Applied Drama & Autism, where all my teaching skills and knowledge can be put to the best use of all — helping young people develop social and emotional abilities through the use of drama.  I am taking a big hit in leaving now before age 65.  My pension will be small and I will have to find ways to support myself in addition to the pension. I will have to pay for medical insurance until I reach Medicare age. However, I will be able to teach in the ways I know are best for my students — and yes, I will be calling them “my students” because the student-teacher relationship has been and will always be a bond and connection that fuels the learning process.

Wendy S Duke
Drama Teacher at Miller South School for the Visual & Performing Arts
Co-Director of The Center for Applied Drama & Autism
centerforada.com
Akron, OH

Dear Senator Alexander 
Please offer a common sense fix to NCLB. Our students are over tested and anxiety ridden. Assessments have a place in the classroom but it should not be the only focus in the classroom. The flawed NCLB has been the cause of this. I am a parent of two children in public school. Hours and hours of testing is damaging my children. It is robbing my kids of the joy of learning because of all the preparation for high stakes testing. I would prefer actual work samples of what my student can do rather than how well they can fill in the bubbles.
The answer to poverty, ELL, and SPED needs is not to divert millions of dollars to the testing companies and away from schools at the expense of the Arts, PE, Librarians, and class sizes. If you think back on your experience in school remembering something that had a great impact on you, that “ah ha” moment, I can guarantee you it was not a test. It was probably fond memories of a subject area, experience, or teacher.
It is also time that Educators are included in these conversations! I am not talking about someone who has a PHD and no classroom experience at all. The professionals in the trenches are the people who will make the differences in the life of a child not someone writing misguided policy.

Public education helped to make this country great, stop trying to destroy it in the name of profit.
Jennifer Dorsey
Oregon

Dear Senator Alexander 
I have been teaching for 26 years. I have taught over 700 children in grade levels 4th, 5th, and 6th ranging in reading levels from pre-primer to 10th grade. I have administered annual standardized testing to these kids since the NCLB mandate started in 2003. Nothing, in my humble opinion, has changed my teaching methods as much as giving those tests. Teaching became all about the results my students were getting on the tests. My district in California mandated the materials for teaching, the pacing of the curriculum through district benchmark testing, and required the amount of minutes spent teaching the core subjects so there was precious little time left for science, history, playing outside, and art. School became drudgery for me and my students. Our kindergarten teacher cried when she was told that her students could no longer chase the Gingerbread Man.
I have been reading a great book by Pasi Sahlberg's entitled Finnish Lessons: What The World Can Learn From Educational Change in Finland. I highly recommend this book if you really want to know what it takes to turn around our educational system. It takes great teachers which we already have. It takes early intervention with students who appear to be struggling. Up to 50% of kids in Finland, by the time they reach 16 years of age, have received special education to help them in some way to improve their learning. Finland's national standards are but a guideline that can be interpreted by the teachers at each school site in their own personal way. There are no high-stakes tests until students are to matriculate in the upper-secondary school. Of course teachers test and give semester testing as we do in the United States, and the districts periodically and randomly test groups of students to get a pulse on the achievement of their students. But at no time are these tests ever used to evaluate teachers or compare schools or districts. Why you say? Because Finland trusts their teachers. Why should we care about what they do in Finland? Because that government made substantial changes in their educational philosophies to make sure that ever Finnish child was taught high standards without regard to socio-economic status providing equal educational opportunities for all. Finnish students, since these changes, have been consistently scoring at the top of international tests like the PISA ever since.
So my suggestion to you, my elected representatives of the Senate, is to stop standardized testing, trust your teachers, return autonomy to school sites and districts' and learn from the Finnish.
 Thank you for your consideration. Virginia Tibbetts


 Dear Senator Alexander 
I retired 3 years ago after 36 years of elementary public school teaching in Massachusetts. I have a BA in art, M.Ed in elementary and special education and an Ed.D in mathematics and science education. I am proud of my many accomplishments and feel fortunate to have touched the lives of so many students and their families as well as worked in collaboration with dedicated staff. There is one thing that I regret. I was taken astray by high-stakes standardized testing.
After 11 years working as an elementary special education teacher, I chose to transfer to a fourth grade classroom teaching position. Massachusetts began its state standards-based assessment initiative (MCAS) in 1998 and my 4th graders in that first year were tested in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies/History and two writing tests. In total my students took at least 18 hours of testing that first year - all in one month. Right from the beginning, I saw the problems with the tests and how they were affecting my students. Special education students were frustrated and defeated. Other students exhibited stress with physical ailments like tension headaches, nausea and even vomiting. No one was learning during and after the test period.
Our state tests are untimed which means a student can be given up to an entire school day to complete a test session. Most students needed twice the recommended time suggested in the test administration manuals, but some students needed all day. This meant that unless other staff was available to proctor, the students who were finished needed to sit silently at their seats to read so the other students could complete their tests. No instruction could therefore take place in the afternoons of each test session.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) realized that all these subject tests were too much for one grade and in subsequent years, fourth grade had just English/Language Arts, Mathematics, and one Writing test. Science and Social Studies/History were moved to fifth grade. Eventually, Massachusetts gave yearly standards-based tests from grade 3 to grade 10. English/Language Arts and Writing tests are given in March and other subjects are given in May. More tests means less teaching time.
I decided to become as informed as I could about the assessments to help prepare my students to do their best. First I studied our state curriculum frameworks for each subject, I worked on the state MCAS assessment development committee for mathematics and I was appointed to the blue ribbon panel to select the cut scores for the fourth grade mathematics MCAS. At the district level, I helped develop learning standards that aligned with the state curriculum standards and I provided professional development for teachers about the MCAS. I also studied test taking strategies for each section of the tests. For example in the MCAS for mathematics, there are multiple choice, short answer and open response questions.
Until 2008, the Massachusetts DESE released all test items used to score the student tests. That meant teachers and parents were able to see the actual test items as well as how their students scored. At the district and building levels, teachers were able to see how their school did by test item, content area and item type. When I became a district elementary mathematics coordinator, I took seriously the analysis and dissemination of the yearly MCAS scores. I trained teachers in test preparation strategies. I modeled lessons for teachers with their students. I kept refining the test prep techniques that I thought would help students “beat” the test. I planned my lessons and unit tests so they would mimic test sessions. I was sold. I had become a high stakes test teacher leader and that is what I regret. I had lost my way.
There are a number of reasons that changed my mind:
1. The school scores are publicly posted in the newspapers and online. One newspaper even ranks the schools based on the scores. Schools have increasing difficulty meeting AYP and many scores remain flat over time. Schools are rated based on their student test scores.
2. MA DESE in 2009 started releasing only about half of the items which put the district/school score analysis in the dark by 50%. We could no longer see all the problems our students were challenged by. The data no longer could inform our instruction.
3. Our state rates individual student scores on four levels (Advanced, Proficient, Needs Improvement, and Warning). A certain number of items on each test are rated higher in difficulty (i.e. above grade level) but the ratings are not provided.
4. In 2011 MA released new curriculum standards aligned with the Common Core State Standards and a 4-year plan to gradually align the MCAS with the Common Core. The new standards are not as comprehensive as the 2000 MA standards and not developmentally appropriate especially for grades K-3.
5. I started to see almost all of the publishers of curriculum materials being bought out by Pearson Education, Inc. which is the same company that is producing the PARCC test.
I realized I was bought out myself by the entire idea of high stakes testing based on inappropriate curriculum standards. The unfair testing of students is now being used to evaluate teachers. By unfair I mean testing a full year of curriculum standards that in reality teachers only have 6-8 months to teach and especially for special education and English language learners who are not ready to be tested or need special accommodations. For example, the fourth grade math test in Massachusetts is given at the beginning of May which means that a teacher only has 7 months to teach a 10-month curriculum before the test minus the time for any previous subject test or for test prep practice.
Now we are facing the prospects of mandated PARCC testing in Massachusetts to replace the MCAS tests. We need to take a step back to reflect on what are we doing to our students and what are we doing to our teachers with an over-focus on high stakes testing. What about love of learning, creativity and the development of individual expression and interests? School cannot be just about test scores. Test scores really just describe the demographics of our students.
In 2001 the Donahue Institute analyzed the MCAS results and reported, ″One of the consistent findings of this research is that demography explains most of the variation in test scores from district to district. Results from this year's research are similar to results from last year's work: about 84% of the variation in test results (scores for all of the test-taking students for the nine MCAS tests combined) is explained by demography. That is why Weston and Wayland have high MCAS scores and why Holyoke and Brockton have low MCAS scores. Thus, though demography is not destiny, it sets a strong tendency… In the end, the MCAS scores tell more about a district's real estate values than the quality of its schools.″
Gaudet, Robert D. Effective School Districts in Massachusetts: A Study of Student Performance on the 1999 MCAS Assessments. The Second Annual Report. Sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, March, 2000. http://www.donahue.umassp.edu/.../effective-districts...

Sincerely,
Amy Wolpin, Ed.D.



Dear Senator,

Although to non-educators, using tests to promote accountability sounds wonderful, so wonderful, in fact, that many civil rights leaders support high stakes testing as a way to ensure equality for all students, the reality could not be further from the truth.

I began teaching English in 1986, and have watched the quality of education decline year after year since the beginning of the 21st century. It is no coincidence that this decline began after NCLB went into effect. I saw my own high school move from interesting, engaging classes, to classes filled with test prep and tests. As a department, we used to meet to plan lessons that could reach all of our students. As my school’s population changed from being mostly middle class white students, to being mostly working class Hispanics, we looked for ways to reach this changing demographic. However, once the sanctions hit as a result of our test scores, our administrators began stressing we teach only those skills that were on the test. They began requiring weeks of test prep before the big state tests used for accountability. In fact, my principal referred to those test prep days as our “21-Day Diet.” I am not sure he realized what an appropriate name that was, since it was indeed a diet. We had cut out all the joy, exploration, and discovery of learning, and spent four weeks subsisting on the educational equivalent of bread and water.

Many people point to these examples and say it is the individual school’s fault for stressing test prep over good pedagogy. But when a gun is held to their heads, schools and districts have no choice but to emphasize tests. We must reduce or eliminate the power of the government (whether it be federal or state) to demand schools spend so much time and money on useless standardized tests. These tests may show that we still have an achievement gap (even after all these years of NCLB), but they do noting to eliminate the problems causing that gap. If you are honest with yourself, you know that poverty is the cause of this gap, since these tests are only predictors of a family’s socio-economic level. Thus, we must spend our limited tax dollars on supporting children living in poverty (since that number is now 51% of school-aged children) instead of spending it to support multi-national corporations like Pearson.

Please, use the power to reauthorize ESSEA in a way that will truly result in an equal, quality education for all students. Spending millions of dollars on testing has not, and will not, bring about this equality.

Thank you,
Carol Singletary, MAT, NBCT
English Instructor
Eastern New Mexico University



Dear Senator, After teaching for 28 years in Title 1 schools, I was forced to retire long before I was ready due to NCLB, and also the extreme measures that selling out our public schools to privateers has wrought. All the librarians in my district were eliminated so that technology could be paid for, so that high-stakes tests could be paid for.....and since all of us were over 50, we were also at the top of the pay scale....most expensive, first to go...I guess you would say I was over-educated, having a BA, then post-bacc years to become licensed, then two master's degrees....but all of that made me the best teacher I could be...and I loved my work and my kiddos...please put an end to the travesty, and restore public schools to communities, parents, students, and teachers....we know what is needed. Sincerely, Kathie Larysn M.Ed., M.C.


Dear Senator Alexander
I am writing you this letter from my heart. I am a teacher and I am a mother. I have been a teacher for 29 years and I have been a mother for 12 years to an incredible young man who we were blessed to adopt from Russia.
I know this week you will be hearing testimony regarding Testing and Accountability in public education. I am humbly asking you to take my words and understand they not only come from my role as an educator but my role as a mother.
The culture of punish and blame testing must stop. Testing every child, every year is not about good education it is child abuse. Testing every child , every year, is about sorting the haves and have nots. Research shows us that children from high income do well on tests while children from poverty do not. In fact last year in New York State 97% of English language learners, 80% of children of color, and 95% of children with disabilities failed the Common Core testing.
The testing has not influenced my son because he has been refused from testing since 3rd grade. My mantra will always be “my son will never take a state issued test unless his teachers get back the test results to help him.” The case in New York State is that kids take the state tests but teachers do not get the results back until late into the next school year. The child has already moved on and the results are already 4/5 months old. How does that help children? When you do not get the test results back in a timely fashion – how does that help children? I have surmised that this testing is NOT about children it is about profit. I am sorry NO one is going to profit off my child and off other people’s children. The whole point of testing is to use the results to help children. That is NOT the case. We must also stop using test results to close our schools. One of the most heartbreaking moments in my life was watching the tears of my friend Rousemary Vega fall down her face as she told of the closing of her children’s school in Chicago. As well, one of the most poignant moments was watching young Asean Johnson address a crowd in Chicago about school closings and calling out the Chicago Public Schools for their policy of closing 50 schools in 2014. Children and mothers should not have to watch their neighborhood schools being closed. It destabilizes and traumatizes neighborhoods. We need to stop American education being about testing and make it about kids, equity,and equality!
I also know that you will be hearing testimony about Accountability. I will now put on my teacher hat for this portion. How do we hold schools and teachers accountable for teaching children? My answer to that is NOT using test scores. Research shows us time and time again that testing does not, and cannot, evaluate good teaching. There are so many variables that play into student test scores. The biggest factor is family income. We know historically that children from poverty continue to score poorly on tests. That has not changed because our child poverty rate continues to rise. There are many ways in which we can gauge the health of a school and whether or not it is meeting the needs of children. You could walk into any school building and see that without testing. The accountability sword that has been handed down by Race To The Top and No Child Left Behind has demoralized teachers, administrators, and children. When you are told that you are “failing”, “ineffective”, and “not proficient” it is demoralizing. I am a teacher of English as a Second Language students. ALL of my students came to America for the education system and a better life (Pakistan, China, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic).
I could write you a book Senator Alexander but this is from my heart. Please end the punish/blame testing culture thrust upon us by Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind. Please stop holding our schools, children, and teachers accountable by test scores. Let’s focus on funding equity and equality. As a country we owe our children an education that is defined by the diversity of our nation and blanketed in joy.
Sincerely,
Marla Kilfoyle, NBCT
Teacher and Mother



Dear Senator Alexander and the Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee,

I will keep this very short, as I know that you've already received dozens, perhaps hundreds of emails from people at least as eloquent and informed as I.

I received my Master's in Early Childhood Education in 1997, my heart set on working with children and sharing with them the spark of joy for learning that I myself had. For ten years I did just that.

When we studied earthworms, I brought in a bunch and we examined them up close (but didn't hurt them) and watched how they responded to light and dark. The kids took notes, drew pictures, and asked questions that were in their heads, not in a textbook.

My third grade class wrote several letters to the company that published our literature series. They'd found grammatical errors in the textbook you see, so I used it as a jumping off point for teaching formal letter writing.

I taught my children the song "Free To Be" and we had many discussions about the importance of being who you are...not who or what others think you should be. We sang that song every week and wore our tie-dyed t-shirts (a first day of school project) every Friday.

None of that was written in a curricular guide.

None of that would have fit in a Common Core classroom.

I could list a dozen different ways Common Core and PARCC have negatively influenced public education, but I won't. I think I've already said enough.

Please allow our children to experience that spark of joy for learning. Please allow our teachers to be their guides and trust our teachers to take them along a good path, always keeping in mind that it is in the side trips where the very best learning takes place.

Very Sincerely,
Tova Felder



Dear Senator Alexander and the Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee,
Thank you for soliciting public input as you consider renewing or revising ESEA/NCLB.
I am the mother of two public school students, a writer, a former educational publishing editor, and now I am a public school teacher. I am in my 6th year of teaching and my 17th year of parenthood.
Six years ago, I predicted that the education pendulum would swing away from NCLB and its harmful, punitive, unrealistic expectations. Little did I anticipate that the NCLB pendulum would become a wrecking ball in the form of Race To The Top and Common Core.
I teach 8th grade language arts. My students and I began the year by reading the historical novel Chains, which is set in 1776 America. The students panicked a little bit about their first test, which was to write an argument that urges people to support the Loyalists in their attempt to assassinate General George Washington.
They were upset because they really didn’t know who George Washington was.
They knew Washington was our first president, and they were pretty sure that he was a great leader, but they didn’t know why. They knew Washington died. They were pretty sure he had three wives. That was the extent of their knowledge about our country’s founding.
My students understand the difference between a short answer question and an extended response, but they do not know the difference between a verb and an adverb, nor can they explain what makes a sentence “complete.” They can explain what it means to “darken the bubble completely,” but these 13 year olds cannot sign their own names in cursive. They can’t read it, either, and their printing is atrocious.
They also know they should know these things, and they're angry that they don’t know. They remember when their educations were derailed in third grade, in the days when they were still excited about learning. They feel short-changed, and with just cause: The education of these children has been narrowed to focus intensely on reading and math, the only subjects students need to know to pass the standardized assessments required by NCLB.
What else are our kids NOT learning while everything in their school day revolves around passing high stakes tests?
There is so much that we as adults assume that children know because we ourselves learned these things when we were in school. The fact that students are NOT being taught the basics beyond reading and math is alarming to me as a teacher and as a parent. How can we claim we are preparing our children for their lives as citizens of the United States when they don’t even know how to sign their own names?
Race to the Top and the Common Core State Standards were supposed to remedy the nightmare created by NCLB. In actuality, CCSS is making education even worse by narrowing the scope of the curriculum and learning, and we have only just begun working with those educational reforms. Everything in my school district has been retooled to fit the PARCC exams that accompany the Common Core. Our curriculum team is designing units that are modeled after a test our students have not yet taken. The tests are dictating the curriculum, because measurements dictate performance.
As a second career teacher who is a former writer, I am no longer charged with teaching my students to develop skills that will make them successful writers in high school or college. Instead, I am being directed to “teach them how to write so they will pass the PARCC” – artificial test-answer writing that looks nothing like the high quality writing we expect from our standards. The reading standards demand that students limit their reading to the “4 corners of the text,” but students don’t have the background knowledge they would have gained through studying history, science, and the arts, so they are left foundering around on a page wondering who George Washington really was.
I have been directed by my principal to teach only writing that is tied to text that someone else wrote. My students are not to write creatively or think independently. Everything my students write must be tied to some kind of text written by someone else. Everything they write must be grounded in evidence generated by a third party. The ONLY reason for this is because this type of thinking and writing is not covered on the state tests, and passing the state tests is more important than encouraging any kind of original thought.
Think about this.
My students -- your children, your grandchildren, your neighbor's kids -- are not allowed to and are not encouraged to develop their own ideas. They are not to think, to dream, to create unique products unless they are basing their thinking on another person's ideas. Originality is banned.
We're raising an entire generation of kids who are being instructed to NOT be creative in their thinking.
My hands are tied. I so badly want to cut my students looks, allow them freedom of pen and mind, and I am told I cannot do this, because, again, measurements dictate performance, and passing The Test is of paramount importance. To do anything else is insubordination, and since my performance evaluations are now tied to these test results, I am effectively harming myself as a professional by teaching what I know is best for kids.
The truly ironic thing is that teachers don’t get test results in time to actually help shape our teaching, and even if we did, the only information we receive is a numerical score that ranks the students. The data we are given is not correlated to anything other than an overall proficiency rating, which teachers discover on their own through classroom-based assessments. The standardized data is useless to the classroom teacher.
I am not opposed to accountability, and assessment is part of learning. But how many standardized tests do we need before we realize that what we sacrificed to the gods of the education reform movement? In our quest to be at number one in the world in test scores, we are failing to educate the whole child and prepare them to become citizens of the world. Instead, our children will know less about their heritage and the world they are inheriting than their counterparts in Europe, and they will sign their names with an X instead of in flowing cursive. The whole plan is backfiring.
The hours lost to high stakes standardized testing and prep cannot be replaced, but you have the opportunity now to remediate the damage that has been done. Our country must put an end to the insanity of relentless and endless high stakes testing before an entire generation of children misses out on receiving the great, well-rounded education their parents received and they were promised.
I urge you to enact “Option One” and eliminate annual testing in favor of grade span testing. It is time to allow teachers to teach and students to learn.
Sincerely,
Mary Hufford, MAT
Teacher and Mother









Dear Senator Alexander,

Please reduce toxic testing in our schools! I retired from my 23 year job as a teacher because I could no longer look at myself in the mirror. I could not participate any more in the abusive over testing of children. I actually KNEW I WAS HARMING children when I gave them a test, but did it anyway. It was MORALLY WRONG and UNETHICAL. I could tell you horror stories about things I’ve seen happen to children because of standardized tests. As the stories are personal I won’t retell them here, but please call me at 512-739-0906 so I can give you a full account of what goes on in a testing culture.

Sue Cavanaugh
Retired Fourth Grade Teacher
Austin, Texas



Senator Alexander,
I thank you for hearing the voices of the nation as we clamor for a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The stress that schools have been placed under has reached almost a boiling point level and the ones that will have to suffer the consequences of these courses of actions, if not changed, will be our children.
The stress of "do better", "perform better", "get a higher grade" has been forced down from the federal to the state level, the state to the district, the district to the school, the school to the administrators, the administrators to the teachers...to where it finally stops. On the shoulders of our children that are not equipped and not able to withstand such pressure. Something will give. Unfortunately, what will break will be the minds of our little ones as less coping skills are taught, less social behaviors and interaction skills, and less time to enjoy childhood is being caused by the need to simply race to the top.
I am a teacher of students with disabilities. My first classroom placement was in an alternative setting. I had a student that had witnessed her father kill her mother, one that had stabbed his brother, one that wore an ankle bracelet, and one whose mind had not progressed beyond the level of a 6 year old first grader, yet he was 14.
These students were still required to take the state assessment. the test had no concerns over if the child had slept the night before. The test did not make sure the student ate a good breakfast. The test did not see to it that the student had a coat when the weather was cold. these are things that teachers worry about when their is a disconnect between the way a child's home should be, and the reality of what it is.
Now, I am in a resource room, teaching math to sixth through eighth graders. We try to follow the standards as much as we can, with modifications. But some of my students are not mentally developed for the level of understanding that they are expected to reach. Some of them take a week of practice to grasp a concept that may take others a day or two. yes, we are given the same tests. I have one student that tells me on a daily basis, just how smart she feels in my class and how much she loves math this year. How can I face her and look her in the eyes as she takes the standardized assessment when inside, I know, that the likelihood is she will not understand a lot of the questions. How can I knowingly do this when, at the end of the day, she will be calling herself stupid, and losing a part of the joy math has brought her this year.
Schools are teachers are being held accountable for issues that cannot be fixed by education alone. Yes, a good education can help a person raise him or herself up to achieve more than the previous generation. but without the resources to make the possibility of a good education viable, there is less of a chance of that happening.
We need a new discussion about standards. What about the standards of what all schools should have, so the real issues can be addressed and those in positions of decision making be held accountable.
We need a new discussion about testing. What is it that we really want to test? Do we want to test what a student knows? Or how hard a student can try to gain understanding, how much perseverance can they put towards a task, how can they maintain what they need to do, at such a young age, when the odds are stacked against them? What is the true meaning of rigor and grit?
We need a new conversation about evaluation? What is it really that we want to evaluate from teachers? Scores based on factors that are out of their control? Or a teachers involvement in the community, in the improvement of a school, in the families that the school houses, in the investment that a teacher makes in the child, for however long or short that teacher and that child are in that community. These are some of the characteristics that make our really wonderful teachers a true blessing.
Communities across this nation are in danger of dying. It is our responsibility as adults that shape policies to recognize that and to create a system of support that will assist these communities in restrengthening and rebuilding. Schools need to be the corner-stone of rebuilding these crumbling foundations.
Testing, evaluations, assessments, new standards laden with corporate created curriculum materials are all merely diverting our money, our energy, our focus and our strengths away from where they should be as they tell us we need to strive to compete in the 21st century global economy. Our eyes are looking out at the world, yet ignoring what is right in front of us, our children that are in need.
Respectfully submitted
Melissa Tomlinson
Mother, Teacher, Citizen



Dear Senator Alexander,

I am writing to you as a teacher and a mother. I have been teaching for 16 years as a middle school history teacher in Massachusetts, and have three children, ages 19, 17, and 10. I graduated in the top 5% of my high school class, graduated college with honors, and have degrees in both history and education. As a mother and a teacher, I have seen "my kids" (three biological and over 1,000 in my classroom), increasingly stigmatized and anxiety-ridden by the onslaught of standardized testing they now face. I have seen my colleagues question who will want to teach our neediest students when their test scores will be tied to our professional evaluation--when we all know well that test scores most accurately reflect parental income, nothing more. I have seen parents make heart-wrenching decisions in meetings to take their student out of that last "special" they still have left in their schedule (gym, chorus) in order to give them yet another math class in the hope of boosting that test score just one more time. I have seen more and more adolescents turning away from school, giving up, feeling helpless and hopeless because of a system that defines them by a series of test results. And I fight weekly--daily--trying to make sure my kids know that they are so much more than data points, scores, "advanced," "proficient," "needs improvement" or are "in warning." I challenge my kids to think critically, to question, to empathize, to make their own knowledge, to create, to take risks, and to try again, though these are things that are not "on the test." And yet, year after year, the anxiety grows; the number of students I have this school year alone being treated for anxiety is alarming. The number of mandatory tests grows; we are drowning in federal and state mandates. Frustrated colleagues and worried parents--the numbers grow. Why are we doing this to our children? Why have we allowed public education--the hallmark of our democracy--to be dictated by millionaires and businessmen, and quite frankly, politicians, who have never, ever stepped foot in a classroom? We are creating a generation of test-takers in the name of "accountability!?" Senator, I urge you to please call for a moratorium on high stakes testing in our schools, end to it altogether in our earliest grades, and insist, in earnest, that educators' voices are the the ones guiding the conversations about education. While NCLB and RTTT may have been well-intentioned, the damage they are continuing to cause must be stopped as soon as possible. A generation of children is counting on it.

Sincerely,
Laura O'Keefe



Dear Senator Alexander,

I’m writing your committee to state that I am hopeful that federal mandates for annual high stakes standardized testing and all the stakes they tie into (teacher ratings, student graduation, school ratings, etc.) will be completely eliminated when the No Child Left Behind law is “fixed."

I had been teaching for over 10 years when No Child Left Behind first became law in 2001. I have always worked with urban students in high needs areas. I spent the first 10 years of my career working in a variety of alternative educational settings for students who came to school with many challenges. I worked in a GED program, a group home for teenage girls who’d been removed from their homes, and an alternative public school outside Atlanta. I have taught many students who suffered from poverty, abuse and neglect, psychological problems, court-involvement, and other difficulties. In 1999, I began teaching in a more traditional urban public high school that is over 80% high needs and am still there today.

I remember when NCLB first became law, and those of us who worked with actual students in actual schools couldn’t believe that anyone would pass a law mandating that ALL students perform to the same high level by the year 2014. Despite the fact that many of us believed that we were being set up to eventually fail, we did everything we could at my high school to bring up scores for students in all the subgroups every year so we could meet AYP. My school found creative ways for us to work together to raise test scores without completely sacrificing electives and teacher autonomy, and we were lauded many times for our work in raising our high-needs urban students' achievement on the MCAS, our Massachusetts state tests. We were able to narrow the achievement gap enough to meet AYP for almost every subgroup but special education every year, and our school's MCAS scores met or approached the state average for most tests most years as the years went on.

But this has all come at a price. While we have been concentrating on raising scores on these tests, our budget was cut again and again. We have had to divert a lot of funding to the tests and other elements of NCLB and Race to the Top. As a result, we have lost many great electives and creative opportunities for students. And while our students have become very good at taking this particular test, our SAT scores remain near the bottom of the state because that is an entirely different standardized test that requires different test-taking strategies and knowledge. It is widely known that SAT scores track along the socioeconomic standings of students almost to the letter.

So what we have been doing at my school is, we have really taught to that one state standardized test as well as we can to meet the mandates placed before us. These high stakes tests demand that schools teach to them or be punished.

Because the test is given in 10th grade in our state, our students learn formulas to respond to writing questions for the tests and have great difficulty in 11th grade when it comes time to write essays on original topics. Many of our seniors have no conception of how to write a paragraph that is not part of a five paragraph response to a test question. Many students don’t even put any paragraphs at all in their essays because almost all they have learned is how to write for the tests. We talk about making students college ready, but if they cannot compose a basic essay on a topic of their choice, how will they write for college classes? In addition, many of them are not learning the necessary skills for how to do research until 11th grade because that isn’t on the state tests, either. Research is a huge part of college, but it’s not easily tested on a standardized test.

We are also leaving behind the students who might want to pursue something other than college. I’m proud to say that my school has retained great programs like automotive repair, nursing, and engineering, as well as other vocational options for students, but we used to have even more offerings for students who might want to go on to a career instead of a four year college. Many of the vocational and practical arts courses have been squeezed out, and some students who might benefit from them aren’t able to enroll in them because they spend much of their elective time in test-remediation.

Standardized tests are a great indicator of socioeconomic status but not much else. I know this is not in your domain, but we need to work on fixing the income gap, and that will automatically help with the achievement gap. I hope you are able to pass legislation that removes all the punitive measures of No Child Left Behind. School districts and their teachers should not be penalized for trying to work with and educate the neediest students of all. They should be helped, and making us focus on endlessly preparing students for tests that will not help prepare them for a career OR college is not the way to go about it. I urge you and your committee to push for legislation that removes ALL high stakes testing mandates from the federal laws.
Sue Doherty

After nearly 20 years in public school classrooms and after having received numerous awards and accolades for my teaching, I feel confident in saying that public education in America has been nearly ruined during the past decade. Three things have ruined it: Focus on Testing, Teacher Accountability Initiatives, and Failure to Make Parents Partners in Educating their Children. Money is being drained from school districts to pay for technology and training to administer tests. Instructional time is being wasted on worthless test prep and teachers are being robbed of their autonomy while being judged by how well their students perform on tests with absolutely no validity. Parents have never been asked what they want for their children. Parents with money take their children out of public school and enroll them in private schools where kids are free to create, invent and dream without an onslaught of bubble tests that prove nothing. I used to teach like a private school teacher. Now I teach my kids strategies to pass tests I don't even believe in. I used to help them invent, create and dream. Now I teach them how to write formulaic crap to appease the testing gods. I used to have 180 days to inspire. Now I fight to be inspired myself. Bring back creative learning, teacher autonomy and let's get the parents onboard and involved. America was always best at innovation. Put it back into the classroom where it belongs and let me teach the next Einstein, Hemingway or Dr. Ben Carson.
Sincerely,
S.O.S. (Save our Schools)
Michelle M. Hammond
2007 MD Teacher of the Year



Dear Senator Alexander and Senator Murray,

I am an integrated kindergarten teacher and voter who has lost faith in our Democratic leadership when it comes to health, education, labor, and pensions. NCLB has a detrimental impact on our society.

I teach students with special needs and their typical peers in the same classroom. Last year I was asked to administer a WELPA bubble test for determining whether my students who are just learning English were proficient or not as required by our state. Most of my students did not understand what was expected of them and several of them filled in all of the bubbles because of course the more bubbles the better answer to kindergartners. This test took well over an hour and a half. Several students were crying and begging me to please stop, telling me that they wanted to go home. Mind you - on no day prior to or subsequent to that day last year - did my students cry and beg to go home.

This year the state required that we administer the CogAT to all kindergarten through second grade students. Again this was a bubble test that took an hour and a half. The resulting painful process, tears, and begging were repeated once again.

Last year our entire staff took the practice Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC) practice tests. The room was a buzz with teachers remarking "This test is not developmentally appropriate! My own children will not pass." None of the teachers were able to pass the practice tests.

Have you taken any of the practice tests for either the SBAC or PARCC exams? Why would we use cut scores that will fail anywhere from 70-97% of our students - thereby widening the opportunity gap for our students of color, our ELL students, and our students with special needs -yet claim these tests are for the purpose of civil rights?

Teaching and learning in my classroom and classrooms across the country reminds me of climbing Mount Everest, and it is not a positive outcome, I am afraid.

The oppression to children and teachers is palpable. The workload on both is unbearable.

From the movie, Beyond the Edge:

Above 26,000 feet is what we call the death zone…the death zone because you are slowly dying.
Just as the mountain above 26,000 feet is uninhabitable – classrooms in public schools across the country have become uninhabitable for human beings – teachers and students alike.

The climbers of 1953 spoke of how much effort it takes for each step forward, how confused their oxygen-starved brains became. When struggling to take the oppressive steps of corporate reform, I too feel I need to take 15 breaths to cover just one step of one of their new initiatives. I haven’t caught up with completing the last initiative, when a new one is presented, we’re asked to implement the new initiative in yet another lesson to teach, we’re asked to be observed teaching the new initiative while under scrutiny of more data points to collect, and then it is time to go off to another meeting about what evidence we need to collect for our next data meeting, then have another meeting to plan our next data meeting.

With each step further into the world of corporate reform, I become more confused about why I chose this profession and I recognize that a small part of me is dying slowly – as is a small part of each child. Where we once had art, music, creativity, joy, love, learning through play, and autonomy – many of us now have endless testing and data collection, data entry, data analysis, and meetings upon meetings about data.

The corporate reformers have sucked the life out of teaching and learning. The real purpose of education is lost in a blizzard of data – numbers entered onto a rubric to become bits of data – trillions of 0’s and 1’s about each child are flying at high speed, tracked and collecting in data banks like so many feet of snow to be mined for corporate profits – icy cold they create systems of punishment as dangerous crevices – an abyss of corporate created failure – a place devoid of all humanity for children and teachers to try to traverse. We can feel the heaviness of fear and oppression — and the sense of impending death — as we deepen our voyage into this uninhabitable space.

If this continues we will lose another generation of children who will be good at nothing but test prep and will have a hate for learning. Teachers will leave our public schools in droves. But you can prevent that.

Return ESEA to it's original intent which was to provide equitable funding to promote true civil rights. It was never intended as an ever-increasing world of testing that is sucking the life out of a full generation of children.

Stop annual testing. If poll results are accurate when sampling a random .09% of a group, then that should be all we need to test to give us the results we need to be reliable. Rely on the NAEP for the accountability measures without any high stakes attached.

Put the money saved on testing into wraparound services including nurses, counselors, librarians, and libraries. Put the money into small class sizes with more teachers, professional development for teachers, tutoring for children, and get it right this time.

Now is the time to end test and punish. Closing schools is a violent, I believe criminal act. As Jitu Brown, National Director of Journey for Justice says: "Not one more child. Not one more school."

With hope,

Susan DuFresne
Integrated Kindergarten Teacher
Washington State



Dear Senator Alexander, I am writing you to ask you wholeheartedly to do more than change NCLB. I am asking you to eliminate it altogether. What we’ve learned about the No Child Left Behind law since its inception is that incessant testing does nothing to help our students grow in any way other than becoming masters of test prep. I am an elementary teacher in Mtn. View, California that works with first through fifth graders teaching both intervention and enrichment to the school’s students depending on their personal need. If the kids are succeeding with what they are learning in class, then I provide what they need to push them to learn on a higher, deeper level. If the kids are struggling with what they are learning in class, then I’m there to help them practice and improve on those skills until they master them. For some lesson units, a student might be in the group receiving intervention, but for other lesson units, the same student might be receiving intervention. It all depends on the immediate needs of the students themselves. Because our students are not robots or machines, what their needs are will vary greatly depending on learning topic or timeframe. While they may struggle with one idea one month, they may do extremely well on another idea during the next month. I am there to help these students exactly when they need it based on their need. I work with the teachers of the students to look at our students’ work to see where they struggle and where they succeed. We look at authentic classroom work that include formative assessments, daily work, and summative assessments of our students that has happened over weeks and months of time. These teachers and I also work together to find out what type of home life our students experience. Do they have parents at home that can help them practice or do they come home to hours of an empty house where they are expected to take care of, feed, and help their sibling instead of practicing their school work? Why is this important? Why am I writing this to you? Because what these teachers and I are doing is working immensely well for our students. These teachers and I are reacting to the needs of each of our students exactly when they need help and for exactly what it is they each need individually. The result? Our students are thriving. What we do is exactly the opposite of what high-stakes standardized tests of NCLB and the upcoming Common Core tests do. These tests take a faulty snapshot of our students over a few days. These tests do not take into account the social, emotional, physical, or behavioral well beings of our kids. As well, these tests definitely do not look at what each students needs to succeed individually. Senator Alexander, I implore you to eliminate the standardized testing of NCLB and Common Core. I ask you to remember when you once struggled with something. What was it that helped you succeed? A caring teacher or mentor who guided you carefully through the steps you struggled with until you mastered the content or a standardized test created by the employees of a huge corporation thousands of miles away from you?
Thank you. With respect, Kimberly Cosmas San Jose, CA



Dear Senator Alexander and Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee,
Thank you for providing both myself and others the opportunity to provide input as you convene to discuss possible changes to ESEA.
I am in my 25th year of teaching. I am highly qualified to teach all secondary Science courses offered in the State of Nevada. I hold a Master's degree and I also have taught 8 semesters of Masters-Level Teacher Education courses at two different post-secondary institutions. I am also the father of two school aged children.
I have watched our Education system move from one in which a Teacher's assessment of a child was all that was necessary for graduation in Nevada to one in which students must pass 4 high stakes exams and pass their classes in order to graduate. In fact, when NCLB was in its early stages, students in my district had to pass the 4 state mandated exams as well as 4 more district exams to be eligible to graduate. Elementary and Middle school students have moved from grade span testing to yearly testing. This increase in testing has led to my school district adding "diagnostic" testing to the already busy test calendar.
The tests I speak of are not transparent. Teachers are not able to see either a child's test or an item analysis of said test. Parents are also excluded from this information. The results are not returned during the same school year so that neither theTeacher nor the Parent can address the learning of the children.
During the testing windows the computer labs and libraries are closed, removing those tools and resources from student learning. And the costs of those tests drain the school system's already limited resources.
This year Nevada students will be piloting, for free, tests that were developed by entities outside of the public school system. Cut scores will be developed from these pilots based on percentages, an arbitrary procedure which assumes that a certain number of students are guaranteed to fail.
Children are at the center of everything that Teachers do.
Standardized test scores correlate more closely with a child's socioeconomic level than any other factor. Poverty correlates to low test scores. Every child has a right to an education equal to that of any other child, regardless of where they live. Children also deserve to be educated through inspiring lessons and programs that arouse their curiosity. Besides robbing schools of resources to complete this task, standardized testing does not support inspired learning. How does a standardized test evaluate curiosity? It cannot.
Children deserve to be taught be caring, committed and qualified Teachers. In many parts of the country, poorly performing schools (as measured by standardized tests) are turned over to privately-operated charter schools and the Teachers are fired. These schools often hire unqualified teachers (Teach for America) to replace the qualified teachers who were "let go". Standardized testing with high stakes punishments attached removes children from the opportunity to be instructed by a caring, committed, qualified teacher.
Teachers already regularly assess students and can track student growth. Teachers can also use these assessments to adjust their teaching in order to best serve their students. By eliminating the overuse of standardized testing and investing in Teachers through trust and respect of the profession your committee can truly make a difference in Education in the United States of America.
It is time to end the cycle of test-and-punish!
Sincerely,
Phil Sorensen
Teacher and Parent



I am writing in regard to the hearings beginning on Wed. in relation to the reauthorization of NCLB. I am an elementary school teacher with 24 years of teaching experience in grades 4, 5, 7 and 8. I am presently teaching 4th grade in the state of Washington.
NCLB and its mandates requiring testing, reporting, and ranking of schools and students all over the country has opened the doors to privatization of our public schools by corporate “reformers” who would have us believe that U.S. schools are failing. As charter schools proliferate, and neighborhood schools are closed, especially in poor and minority communities, what we are seeing is increased segregation by income and color, as these charters pick and choose the students they want, siphoning the less desirable ones (i.e. students with disabilities, behavior problems and English Language Learners) back into the public schools.
The emphasis on testing, and the insistence by the Obama administration that teacher evaluations be tied to student test scores, has narrowed the curriculum, created anxiety among teachers, and caused massive stress for students. I see many excellent teachers, who have good years of teaching ahead of them, looking to take early retirement. I see young teachers wondering what they were thinking when they chose this profession. I see principals who know better, being forced to evaluate their teachers on the basis of test scores that at best, reflect a one-day snapshot of a student’s performance. I see 9 and 10 year olds in tears, as they attempt to answer test questions and perform tasks that are clearly developmentally inappropriate.
As an experienced educator, I am asking that you remove the punitive aspects of NCLB and the mandates which require that high-stakes, standardized tests be used to rank students, schools and teachers. I have seen the negative consequences of NCLB and Race to the Top in my own classroom and school. I am asking this on behalf of myself, my colleagues, and my students.
Linda Anderson M.Ed.




My name is Lynn Fedele and I have been teaching English in New Jersey for 24 years. I am writing to address the problem of standardized testing and the problems it has created in our schools.
When we look to see how to measure student learning in schools, we are looking for an answer to a complex set of qualitative questions. How do we measure learning? How do we measure a child? How do we measure teachers? How do we measure student-teacher relationships and how these relationships impact learning? What type of learning is most valuable to our society at the present moment? In the future?
I believe these questions are crucially important to the health of our society and democracy, to the growth of our children. In my experience, these questions are not in any way accurately measured by standardized testing.
Standardized tests have become increasingly relied upon in recent years for information they do not measure, especially since the advent of No Child Left Behind. What might have begun as an attempt to discern how public schools perform has come with a host of unintended, negative consequences that have damaged many students’ classroom experiences, damages that are being exacerbated by the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the impending PARCC assessments and the federal government’s Race to the Top program. Literacy is, of course, of incredibly important, but simply achieving literacy has replaced the broader and better goal of truly understanding literature and language. We have come to accept functionality as being good enough. Stories are now read for a small set of easily measurable skills, not for independent thinking and development, and most certainly not for enjoyment.
Where I teach, for the first many years, test prep was a small part of my teaching duties, and my life as an English teacher was an interesting mix of reading and writing both creatively and academically. There was time and space for students to explore their own ideas, to develop their own relationships to language and to literature. There was time to prepare for college and time for students to explore their creative interests and skills. I loved my classes and their variety; I loved my job.
Part 2: Enter NCLB. The New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), which had been an important exit test, suddenly became paramount. To ensure that students passed, my school eliminated electives for juniors and all had to take a full-year test prep class. For ten long, dull years, more than half my day was spent teaching this course. Instead of poetry, we read dull articles about mundane subjects designed not to be in any way controversial, and therefore holding no real interest for the students, much like the HSPA itself. Gone were personal reactions to stories and characters, replaced by formulaic searches for the textbook’s notion of theme and main idea. Instead of writing to explore and develop ideas, to express critical thinking, students wrote strict five paragraph essays summarizing what they had read or expressing their opinions of topics in which they had no real interest. Instead of taking classes in psychology, sociology, nutrition, astronomy, statistics, art, music, or a third year of a
foreign language, students practiced bubble tests and wrote perfunctory essays. On the state exams in past years, sixteen-year-olds have been asked to write persuasively about stray cats and about postage stamps. I have never been able to truly understand what the students were meant to learn from these exercises beyond how to sit still and follow directions.
Part 3: As the years progressed and NCLB engendered testing in more and more grades, I began to see a change in my high school students, and not for the better. My students who have grown up facing year after year of standardized tests are now afraid to think for themselves, are widely panicked about finding the “right” answer. They also now largely think in threes, as they have been drilled into finding three reasons to support their opinions in their five paragraph essays, and into writing a minimum of three examples in each detail paragraph. When I now ask them to describe something, they immediately list three adjectives, frequently synonyms. Additionally, as the state writing rubrics for all levels of the standardized tests put grammar and mechanics at the bottom, making them the least important aspects of writing, my high school students have close to no knowledge of how English functions. It wasn’t on the tests, so far too frequently, it just wasn’t taught. The overwhelming majority of my seniors this year cannot define the terms “subject” and “predicate,” never mind understand how a sentence functions to present meaning. Yet they all passed the HSPA.
Now that we are facing the prospect of the PARCC assessments, we are being told that there will be a vast improvement in the assessments, that the reading will be “relevant” and that these are not “bubble tests.” These claims are misleading and disingenuous. I have taken the sample PARCC assessment in high school Language Arts Literacy that is now available online. While the readings do involve actual literature as opposed to the stale reading selections of past tests, this does not give them relevancy. In the samples, the students have close to no knowledge of how English functions. It wasn’t on the tests, so far too frequently, it just wasn’t taught. The overwhelming majority of my seniors this year cannot define the terms “subject” and “predicate,” never mind understand how a sentence functions to present meaning. Yet they all passed the HSPA.
Now that we are facing the prospect of the PARCC assessments, we are being told that there will be a vast improvement in the assessments, that the reading will be “relevant” and that these are not “bubble tests.” These claims are misleading and disingenuous. I have taken the sample PARCC assessment in high school Language Arts Literacy that is now available online. While the readings do involve actual literature as opposed to the stale reading selections of past tests, this does not give them relevancy. In the samples, the students are asked to compare two related works of literature from two very different historical eras and cultures. As the students are given absolutely no information regarding the historical context of the tests, the questions that pertain to how they differ—in particular the comparative essay assigned—are too obscure to answer with simple common sense, nor do the questions promote a clear understanding of what is written. If they do not know, for example, that the two texts are separated by close to 2,000 years and were produced in such incredibly different circumstances, understanding the themes of the texts is impossible. The fact that one selection is actually narrative and the other a lyric poem also adds to the difficulty of a simple comparison. Without the appropriate historical context, without properly studying, and without the time it takes to truly reflect upon what they have read, the students’ essays are bound to be filled with broad generalities and false assumptions. Many who advocate the PARCC say that these types of questions show “rigor,” but true rigor, truly asking students to apply themselves to challenges, does not mean they should be asked to do something that is next to impossible to do well, or even to do properly.
The informational texts are no better. Given excerpts of texts that are written beyond their grade level, students not only struggle with basic understanding and vocabulary but the historical context and relevancy of the texts. These become an exercise in frustration and provide no opportunity for actual learning.

Additionally, while the PARCC assessments are not technically “bubble tests” as they are taken online as opposed to on paper with a Scantron sheet, much of the assessment is still multiple choice, but the questions utilize technological functions with which the students are unfamiliar. This means that opposed to generating their own ideas about the meaning and importance of a text as a whole or of portions of a text, they are still being guided to answer to somebody else’s idea of what is most important and what text means, even though literature is always, always open to interpretation, meaning that there is more than one right way to understand a narrative or poem. The questions that ask students to identify, select, and use the computer mouse to drag supporting information into a text box are also truly multiple choice questions. If they are selecting 2 out of 6 possible choices to find an answer, then that is multiple choice, regardless of whether they are filling in a bubble or clicking with a mouse. On the whole, the students hate the testing and the preparation it entails, as do I. They are not learning to love reading or writing; on the contrary, for far too many of my students, these things have simply become a chore. They all become functionally literate—my school boasts an excellent passing rate on the HSPA—but only a very few now become true readers, capable of understanding complex texts on their own terms, and precious fewer ever express the desire to become writers.
As an educator with over 20 years’ experience in the New Jersey public schools and as a parent of two school-aged children, I urge you all to stop marching blindly toward increased levels of standardization and testing. Our children depend upon us to provide them with opportunities for learning and growth in a welcoming, nurturing atmosphere, one not weighed down by the stressors of preparing for the next test. Our children need to develop their intelligence, creativity and talents so that they can become life-long learners and people who can fully function in our diverse society, who can participate actively and effectively in our democracy. Our children are far more than numbers, and we owe them far more than high-stakes tests.
Lynn Fedele



Dear Senators Alexander and Murray,
I am a retired special education teacher in NY, now working as a parent advocate. The Race to the Top program and its required annual testing with linkage to teacher ratings is causing irreparable harm to our children with disabilities, and their teachers. We should all understand as parents and grand parents that typical children develop at different rates, and that students with developmental challenges cannot be rushed or pressured into learning skills that they are not yet ready to achieve. In fact, this expectation is injurious to the self esteem of so many children. Teaching and testing them at levels far above their current abilities has created behavioral problems, feelings of depression and anxiety, hatred of school, indeed failure to thrive in our kids with special needs. The are not being given the time to develop foundational skills, and needed teaching of daily living and social skills has been shut out of their educational day due to the requirements of the Common Core.
Tying the "effectiveness" of our special educators to the scores of their students on inappropriate and invalid standardized tests often years beyond their functional levels will cause the removal of our wonderful veteran special educators- and puts our profession at risk for extinction. Who will want to teach children whose disabilities may slow their rate of learning if that leads to loss of employment due to poor test scores?
PLEASE remove the annual testing requirement, and stop allowing Race to the Top to demand grade level pace from children who are not widgets. Diverse learners need the flexibility to learn at their own pace.
Thank you on behalf of our children with special needs!
Mrs. Terry Kalb, MS Ed.



Dear Senators Alexander and Murray,
I have been teaching for 27 years in an urban, low income public school district. I have witnessed numerous changes to public education for my students throughout my career. I can think of no change more damaging the insidious increase in the amount of time spent on standardized tests over the past ten years or so. Standardized test scores have been used as an excuse to eliminate Social Studies, Science, Music, Visual and Performing Arts as well as second languages.
While those who advocate for one high stakes test per year for all students in the US think that it is not unreasonable, I am afraid that they are woefully unaware of the consequences of the stakes that have been placed on these tests. When children, teachers, administrators and school districts live in fear, based on one number they receive each year, education suffers, mostly, students suffer. I have looked into the eyes of my students and seen the dread. They dread coming to school because someone decided that they are a failure and their school is a failure and consequently, they cannot have recess, they have lost an elective and now they must spend the majority of their school day in language arts and math classes.
Every year I volunteer to teach a class for students who are up to five years below grade level in math. I take on those classes because I love those kids and strive to find ways to put the joy back into learning math for them. You may wonder how they became so far below grade level. I would say that it can be directly attributed to standardized tests and the stubborn insistence of those who make educational policies that if we keep doing the same thing over and over again, somehow these kids will magically catch up. You see, their teachers were told that no matter what level they currently work at in math, they must be exposed to grade level standards because this will prepare for them for the standardized test at the end of the year. Consequently, these children froze academically early in elementary school and have basically learned little to nothing since that time. I attempt to meet these students where they are and bring them from where they are to a place where they enjoy math and begin to build the confidence that has been destroyed by a testing regime that truly cares nothing for real children. I consider myself lucky to be able to teach these classes. I do need to say that if I were in one of the many states that insists on making these test scores a part of a teacher’s evaluation, I would have to reconsider out of fear for my own livelihood. That would be very sad for these kids who are finally enjoying school again. These students make 1 ½-2 years progress in my class on average, however, this never translates to a test that truly only tests grade level standards.
Last year my district took the pilot test for the Smarter Balanced Test (Common Core testing). The students in this class stared at the screen, some cried, some just clicked and one particular child completely melted down into a ball of tears on the floor, refusing to continue. These kids are not dumb, they are very smart in protecting themselves from something that tears down their confidence, something I work all year to build. They look at me in a way that asks why I am doing this to them. We work so hard to give them confidence and it can be destroyed in one day.
You may think that a test that takes less than a week should be manageable. The problem is that it is not just one test. What happens when one test comes with such high stakes is astounding. Testing breeds more testing. You see, because this test is so important, my district has now purchased at great expense more tests that are supposed to prepare the students for this test. They have pulled teachers out of the classroom to write even more tests that will prepare for this test. We are spending weeks of instruction taking tests to prepare for this test.
Our students have lost so much while adults play around with the false notion that one test score indicates the quality of education in a school. These adults have robbed these students of instructional time and a rich learning environment involving the arts and languages. It is time to put an end to this. I am a math teacher, I clearly understand that a statistical sample would be adequate to get a picture of the progress of our students on a test, testing every student every year is wasteful, unnecessary and counterproductive. The billions of dollars being spent on these tests, the technology to take them and the tests that prepare kids for more tests could easily be used providing a better education for all students. I am sure that I wouldn’t need to have 40 students in my math classes if we could use these billions on the students instead of handing our public school dollars to large corporations. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Tina Andres
CA middle school math teacher



Senator Alexander,
While I understand and appreciate that education is the current hot topic among voters, it is also an obviously manufactured crisis designed to generate the outrage that sells papers and garners votes. Perhaps it is time to retire this avenue of exploitation.
After 10 years of doom and gloom reporting about the state of American education, nothing has improved. Despite billions of dollars in spending on testing and accountability measures, nothing has improved. Despite constant blame shifting and the destruction of the public’s trust in our schools, nothing has improved. We allow schools a limited time frame to improve or be sold out to private interests. The accountability systems have had a much more generous time frame to demonstrate their effectiveness, and yet they have not done so.
Regardless of the lack of progress, the media fueled, and politically driven, barrage of disparagement on American schools, and educators in particular continues. The secondary, and ever so easily foreseen consequences, include an increase in public disdain for schools and teachers. Kids attend less often, after all, if the schools are so bad it isn’t such a problem if a student stays home to care for younger siblings, to spend time with visiting relatives, or to stack hay (all of which I have heard in the last 3 months). What difference does it make if the students come to class to belittle the teachers, call them names and disrupt classes? And if the teacher calls home, the media informed parents already “know” that teachers are just “bad apples” protected by unions, who have “jobs for life” despite our inadequacy. The fact that most of us have graduate educations, spend an average of 53-80 hours per week at work (depending on which source you choose to accept) and put in additional weeks of uncompensated work during school breaks. It seems intuitive that we have earned the right to be included in discussions of our profession if not freedom from bashing by politicos, particularly those who are elected to represent us.
Like many of my colleagues, I have spent nearly 20 years working extra hours and taking extra courses to improve my skills. There is never an end to the search for improvement, never a point when we have “arrived.” We have attained a base of knowledge that would be highly respected in another profession. Still, we are told that we are incapable of managing our profession. There is no Bar Association for educators, even if we do have similar education levels and licensing requirements.
In addition to public scorn, those in the hallowed halls of policy have failed to follow through on their due diligence with regard to the tests themselves. The tests are well designed for their original intent, but they are not at all designed to be used in measuring state compliance or teacher skill or even student achievement as a comparison to other students in other communities. It is as if the entire system is trying to measure the area of a football field with a thermometer. It isn’t that the thermometer is faulty, it just isn’t the tool for the job.
Add to the difficulty of the instrument the destruction of data by manipulation of the statistics and the entire system is engineered for utter and incredibly expensive failure. The “cut scores” are determined by each state, and are calculated to fail a certain percentage of students each year. Changing the scores annually and pre-determining what percentage will fail is, obviously, going to show a complete lack of progress. It is in the design of the system.
Sir, I would ask that you stop the madness, return control of education to the classrooms where we, the highly qualified educators, can respond to local culture, immediate need, and individual progress. Continuing to tie our hands with faulty systems benefits no one, least of all the students who have been taught nothing more than how to pass a test.
Thank you,
Laura Hays
New Mexico



Dear Members of the Education Committee,

I appreciate the opportunity to give input into the rewriting of No Child Left Behind, a law written with the best of intentions but in desperate need of reworking. As a teacher and a parent, I have seen firsthand the unintended consequences of this law. Its initial purpose was to raise standards for all children, especially those in lower socioeconomic backgrounds and with special needs. Unfortunately, yearly standardized testing has served to narrow our curriculum, reduced teaching time, directed resources away from the classroom, and caused undue stress on children. Standardized testing is being used as a punitive measure rather than a guide to help teachers to help students. Using standardized test scores as a measure of a teacher’s effectiveness has been shown to be poor science by multiple studies. Cutoff scores are an arbitrary bar that are raised and lowered with no statistical research. All research with the current testing model points to the fact that there is a direct correlation between socioeconomic level and scores of both individual students and schools. With all of this information, how can we think that the time spent testing is well spent?

Teachers are not allowed to review the questions or the results, which is how they judge what needs to be taught to meet individual student’s needs. The questions I have seen have been poorly written and ambiguous; the pieces that students are required to read in order to take the test are not at grade level and most require a level of background knowledge to understand that most children do not have. Lastly, the results arrive well into the next school year, so what little feedback there is is not useful. More and more in my school as well as my own child’s, the curriculum is being narrowed and test driven; if a subject is not tested, it’s not as important as a tested subject.

I teach and am a parent in Pennsylvania. This year, PSSA testing will take up the entire month of April. Admittedly testing is only a half a day, but students are so exhausted and stressed when they are over that it is difficult to get them to focus on what little I have time to teach. Since I teach in a middle school, 7th and 8th graders will be taking Keystones as well if they take Algebra 1, so that takes up another week in May. This is on top of the testing they already took in April. These children are tested twice in the area of math, once in general math and once in Algebra. Total time lost: 5 weeks not including the time taken out of class for test prep as well as the time lost to review and have students sign test taking code of conduct pledges as the state requires. I only wish I was making this up. So, just so you understand: we take 5 weeks out of the school year to give tests that cost $2,000,000 and up that don’t really tell us much. This needs to change.
You have an opportunity to change American education for the better. Our schools are the best in the world. Most countries only test select groups of students, and this makes their scores look better. We test everyone, and adjusted for poverty levels outshine every country in the world except Finland (who only tests students once in all their time in school). Please remove the onerous testing requirements of NCLB that are currently in place.
Thank you,
Holly Cooper



Dear Senators:

I am writing to urge an end to high-stakes testing in the name of accountability. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have clearly FAILED at closing achievement gaps, while denying a rich and comprehensive education to those we intended to help. As the stakes have risen, our schools have become test-prep factories. This does produce higher scores, but it undermines and displaces actual education.

What is actually measured by these tests? Texas education professor Walter Stroup documented that 72% of the state's Pearson-designed tests measured just test-taking ability, not anything that happened in the classroom. The Texas Education Agency countered that, no, it's only 53%. And we fire teachers based on this data?! Test-taking ability is not the focus or goal of education, nor does it have much to do with career readiness or success.

It is not "giving up on accountability" to stop using standardized tests to evaluate school and teacher performance — something they were neither designed nor normed to do. The experts at the American Statistical Association found value-added measurement neither reliable nor valid. "Multiple measures" are only given lip service when invalid VAM scores are used to fire teachers. It defies logic, probability, and common sense to assert, as Secy. Duncan does, that poor scores in poor schools mean that the teachers there must all or mostly be poor, as well. The genuine teacher problem in poverty-stricken schools is attracting and retaining great teachers. And credible research shows that the way to motivate better performance in complex tasks like teaching is to offer autonomy, support to improve skills, and professional respect — all of which are conspicuously absent from our failed test-and-punish regime.

I could have supported the testing if it had been used to diagnose problems and then solve them by applying resources and high-quality training where most needed. The opposite has been done: schools with poor test results have been punished or closed. And their students have NOT been better off for it.

We actually know, from high-quality research, what does work: enabling professional collaboration by teachers to focus on what individual children are and are not learning, with collective responsibility to change instructional methods to get better results. Nearly all the "reforms" enacted thus far actually undermine such collaboration — while driving school districts (in Michigan, anyway) into bankruptcy.

"Choice" is worshipped as a panacea, but all it has accomplished is to introduce competition, to produce MORE inequity, and to result in no overall improvement. Meanwhile, the charter school movement is resegregating our public schools by race, economic class, and disability. How is that solving the problems rooted in increasing child poverty?

Why should per-pupil revenue not be awarded based upon the needs of those pupils? In Minnesota, a teacher explains a better way: "We get extra funding for concentrations of poverty, and that’s the right choice. If I have twice as many students in poverty, I’ll have four times as many challenges teaching. It’s not linear, it’s exponential." And extra funding for poor kids works! Minnesota students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch rank fourth in the nation in fourth-grade math scores.

We have done great things locally to improve teaching and learning, but our efforts have been hindered rather than helped by federal and RttT-influenced state policies. Government's role in education should be to help, not hurt, local education agencies. We cherish our community's children and consider our traditional public schools our strength and our pride. If you cannot help us, at least get out of our way.

-Martha Toth, Belleville, Michigan
24-year trustee on my local school board
Several-thousand-hour classroom volunteer before that
DoD Schools teacher before that


Dear Senator Alexander,
First and Foremost, I would like to thank you for taking on the Herculean effort of transforming our public schools. I myself have been a teacher in New Jersey’s public schools for fifteen years and I, my instruction and students have been at the mercy of public policy for that time. I am also a proud parent of two children, one in second and the other in third grade. As you prepare to discuss ESEA, I would like to share my experiences under this policy.
To begin, I must share with you that I completely oppose High Stakes Standardized Testing. The presumption that a single method of testing, testing all students every year, will be able to hold schools, individual students, and teachers accountable is unrealistic and in many cases unfair. Since we have gone down this path, teachers have been fired, schools have been closed and classroom instruction has suffered.
By allowing this policy to flourish, I have watched our curriculum shrink. The amount of time spent preparing for these tests has become overbearing. From the top to the bottom of the school, it feels as if we have only one purpose and that is to improve test scores. We need to improve writing so our students can score higher on the test. We need to read more informational text so that our students can score higher on the test. We must cut down recess so the students can prepare for the test. We can no longer have music, art, social studies and science because we must prepare for the test. Faculty meetings, teacher meetings, and professional development have one goal, get higher test scores. The center of our schools has become one thing, a test. There should be one thing at the center of school discussions and that is the student.
As a father of two children who are public school students, I struggle with the thought of having them spend their entire schooling careers being centered around their performance on a test. I know good teaching and what impact an education can have on a child’s life. I want the teachers in my children’s school to be centered around them and their interests and not their ability to perform on a standardized test. What kind of school do you want your children or grandchildren to attend?
Thank you for taking the time to listen. I hope you consider the impact of High Stakes Standardized Testing not only on our classrooms but on our country. In my fifteen years of teaching, I have found one thing to be true. Children are not standard. They are all different and they all have something to offer no matter what their test score says. I wish you only success.
Sincerely,
Keith DeWitt
Teacher, New Jersey



Dear Senator Alexander
I am writing to urge you and the Senate Education Committee to draft legislation: (1) declaring a moratorium on all high-stakes standardized testing; and (2) specifically rescinding the accountability testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act until a national education policy can be worked out with input from teachers and child development specialists in addition to the corporate school reform advocates and standardized test vendors who now dominate the field. However benign their intent may have been, NCLB and the testing component of the Common Core initiative are seriously flawed, and their implementation has done serious damage to children and educators, especially in low-income school districts.
As a college freshman English teacher (now retired), I am familiar with the kind of “college-readiness” standards Common Core purports to address. But the sample essay questions I have seen from the PARCC tests in media accounts are so poorly designed that they do not validly measure anything – except perhaps the haste in which they were cranked out by people who obviously were not familiar with in-class essay writing processes. They ask students to write about so many unrelated issues that I couldn’t have argued a coherent thesis in the time given, and I spent my entire career as a writer, editor and writing teacher. I understand the situation is worse in the math components of PARCC, and the whole concept of testing younger children for college-readiness has been called into question by child development specialists. It’s time to put NCLB, Common Core and PARCC in the time-out corner and replace them with a humane, educationally valid system.
You won’t remember me, but I covered your gubernatorial administration and met you as a cub reporter in Oak Ridge, Tenn. I remember how you helped us move past a dark period in Tennessee government and strengthened our system of education. As chairman of the Senate Education Committee, you in a unique position to do the same with regard to national education policy, and I trust you will do the right thing again.
Peter Ellertsen
Springfield, IL (13th CD)



Hello and thank you for taking the time to hear from the public on the important matter of NCLB, specifically testing and assessment of public schools. My understanding is that NCLB and Race to the Top were implemented with the commendable intention of improving the education of children in underperforming schools. 
    Unfortunately the increased focus on high stakes tests has had the unintended result of diminishing the education of many children in schools that had previously been performing well. There is now enormous pressure on teachers to prepare students to succeed on the standardized tests, with drastically reduced time available or concern for material that is not on "the test". It is not that the teachers don't care about other material, material that until recently was considered vital to a well rounded education.  The teachers' livelihoods depend on them following the directives of their administrators who are charged with producing high test scores for the districts.
    I am sure others will direct you toward academically sound studies finding that standardized tests are poor indicators of quality of teaching, at least in the manner in which they are currently being used. I want to share my observations as the parent of children with disabilities, as a former foster parent, as a former volunteer in a low income/high risk school, as a former Kaplan test prep tutor, as an occupational therapist trained and experienced in administering standardized tests, and as a former "low income" child educated in a wealthy community: Children's scores on standardized tests reflect much more than the children's knowledgeable a teacher's skills. Children who are hungry, nervous, and tired do not perform as well on stressful tests as children who are socially and economically secure. Children have good days and bad days.  Children who cannot efficiently read and comprehend the language of the test cannot show what they know when the standardization of the test eliminates the possibility of a teacher providing assistance with understanding the question. Some of our most committed and skilled teachers work in poor communities or with students who need extra help. It is inappropriate and unproductive to judge them by the test scores of children who struggle with issues that are out of the teachers' control. It is unfair for students to spend 10 testing hours each year plus many times that in test prep time on a test that provides no meaningful information that their teachers may use to improve their education. A difficult hour or two of testing in the morning, repeated for several days, can cause a terrible chain reaction of anxiety, loss of self esteem, and behavior problems for children like mine. Everyone knows that they will perform poorly on the test but they cannot be excused. They must be forced to sit through yet another experience delivering the message that they are not smart.
    It has been explained to me that New Jersey agreed to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in order to receive a waiver from meeting NCLB criteria.  Apparently the promise of financial support was so tempting that the actual quality of the CCSS was insufficiently explored.  I acknowledge that I do not know all of the details, but what I see is that the curriculum in my children's schools has changed drastically. Not only are the teachers "teaching to the test" but now they are trying to guide children to perform cognitive tasks that are not developmentally appropriate for their ages. This is, apparently, because the CCSS was written with little consultation of experts on early childhood or special education. While I support federal efforts to improve education in states that were neglecting education, I think this linking of federal financial support to the implementation of CCSS has hurt education in general more than it has helped.
    Rather than focus so much time and money on misguided attempts to identify and punish ineffective teachers and schools, I propose that an improved NCLB consider the other factors involved in children being "left behind". Identifying and supporting children at risk due to poverty and social issues would enable them to more effectively focus on education. Instead of inservices for test prep, teachers should receive coaching and support from successful peers. If class size is kept manageable and support is provided for children with special needs, teachers can effectively assess students' progress throughout the year and provide reinforcement as it is needed, so that children do not fall behind. If significant instructional time is being spent on assessments, those assessments must have immediate instructional value.  Experienced teachers and early childhood experts must be included in policy planning and in selection of tests.
    In closing, I recognize the necessity of a system of assessing the success of schools, particularly if federal financial support is being provided. However, the current system of reliance on standardized tests is doing more harm than good in many communities throughout the United States. I appreciate your effort to write a better plan for our children, our country's future.
Thank you
Rachel DiLuciano
Egg Harbor Township, NJ


​Dear Senators:
I am a Parent, a Taxpayer, and a Badass Teacher.  ​
Childhood and Learning is a fundamental Right for All Americans. 
​You have the opportunity to re-craft legislation that has been punctured by profiteering and greed. Effective teaching, like learning, has been turned into a multi-million dollar commodity.

The intrusion of Edu-Biz is absurd and should no longer be countenanced let alone codified.  American children cannot learn while being measured by a one-size-fits-all set of expectations that render the work life of American Teachers ineffective. 
American children cannot learn when being measured by corporate standards that are no more than developmentally inappropriate tools set up to predestine their failure.

American Teachers do not perfect their craft by treating their students like data, nor should tools used to "measure" their performance be anchored by it.  I do not teach my students to spit out answers to scripted questions.  A teacher's job is to transform and inspire, and teacher professionalism is achieved by standards which do not appear on a quantifiable business plan.   
Thank you for your on-going work and take care to listen to the voices of your teachers, not tainted, profiteering experts who have had little or no classroom experience.   
Sincerely yours,

Mrs. Susan M. Goncarovs



Dear Senators Alexander and Murray,

Thank you for asking for public comments. It is important for Americans to participate in our democratic process.

I am a retired NYC special education teacher and professional development specialist, an adjunct at Hunter College-CUNY, a special education parent advocate, and the parent of a high school student with disabilities.

Our son was born 3 months premature and as a result, has severe ADHD, a tic disorder, and receives special education services as described in his Individualized Education Plan, or IEP. His disabilities are not the result of poverty, poor prenatal care or poor educational opportunities. He has always thrived in the public school environment.  He has had wonderful teachers, wonderful inclusive public schools, and wonderful supports.

Last year when he was in the 8th grade he started to fail classroom quizzes. He failed the state math test last year with a score of 1. What happened? The roll out of the Common Core asked 8th graders to magically perform as 10th graders, without any attention to the skills and knowledge they might have been required to learn and practice in those 2 missing years.

The school system’s solution was to tell my son that he just needed to try harder. The teachers were instructed to increase the rigor, and accept no excuses. He did 4 hours of homework every night and still failed his classroom tests! The message he internalized was, “If you don't pass, you are a failure, and your teacher is a failure too.” On the evening news, the messages he heard were: “Fire that bad teacher! Close that failing school! Failure is not an option. Raise the bar.” Unfortunately, when you throw some kids into the “deep end of the pool,” as suggested by our former state commissioner of education John King, with a brick tied to their ankle - label the brick whatever difference or disability you prefer - it is foolish to believe that they are all going to be able to come back up for air. A lot of them are going down! I am tired of the jargon and the rhetoric. This system is willing to write my son off as collateral damage. I care about my child! I care about all children! And so do his teachers! Education is not a race and not a competition – it is a human right and our responsibility!

My son entered a downward behavioral and emotional spiral. He started saying that he is stupid, he can’t take it anymore, my teacher will get fired if I fail, why can’t I be normal. He said he wanted to kill himself. He had meltdowns regularly over homework – AND he pulled the kitchen knife out of the drawer. He had always received outstanding medical care and mental health care! I had to give him, in addition to his daily medications, a sedative when he lost control – over homework and schoolwork????? I sedated my kid with strong drugs so he wouldn’t hurt himself over failing an ELA quiz??? Something is very wrong with this picture. School should not be a life or death experience. School is not worth dying for! School should be a safe, welcoming place, where children are accepted and respected for who they are. I was watching my wonderful son change before my eyes, and it was very scary! (And yes, my son has given me permission to share this with you, if it will help other kids!)

Are we overprotective parents, protecting him from rejection and failure? Absolutely not – our son is an actor. He knows that when he experiences rejection after a Broadway audition, he picks himself up, works hard and tries again. But it's demeaning to try again in school when you know you don't have the skills. Experiencing failure is an important lesson in life. But being punished for something out of your control is abuse, and it is discriminatory. It would be like asking me to perform spinal surgery, and I am not a spinal surgeon. My patient would not live to see another day! Why are we asking our special education students to complete tasks that we know they are not able to do? Wishing that it would happen if we expose them to more tests is just “magical thinking,” and is irresponsible and abusive to our children with special needs.

Having high expectations is the hallmark of an excellent special education teacher, and I have had many students experience great success. I taught a former student with dyslexia, with an IQ in the gifted range, to read when he was 16 years old. He moved from a 2nd grade reading level to 6th grade in one school year, and was able to attend college with the help of assistive technology, and the support of his teachers and parents. That was 25 years ago. I’m afraid that if he were in public school today, he would have had a very different, and negative outcome. We have moved back to a very discriminatory position towards students with disabilities. I was a teenager during the Willowbrook scandal, and I remember those images of children who were just thrown away. How can we return to those days? How can we throw away our children? I will not allow my child to be thrown away because his type of brain is not the brain that corporate America is looking for.

The testing and sorting of children, and treating them as human capital will not bring our children down, because we won’t let you. We love and support our children, and embrace all of their special talents! We are active, concerned, informed and intelligent parents and we won’t let you hurt our children. All children, not just the children of Ivy-league educated and wealthy parents, are entitled to a good education in our democracy. Not just the kids in private schools and charter schools. ALL children!!

Last year, my son refused to take the NYS 8th grade statewide Common Core standardized tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics. When we told our son that we refused to allow him to take the tests, his mood and emotional state greatly improved. There was no more talk of killing himself, and there was no more need for sedative medication. He passed all of his 8th grade classes, and he is now passing all of his classes in high school. He also was accepted into a very competitive and highly-regarded high school theater program, in which 600 students audition and 26 are accepted. The school also has amazing academic supports for students with disabilities, and he is thriving again in a supportive environment. However, the NYS Regents exams are in the process of being aligned with the Common Core State Standards. And I am honestly concerned that my son will not be able to earn a high school diploma and go to college because he will not be able to pass the new, exceptionally challenging tests that he is not being prepared for. There are many parents of children with mild disabilities who are distraught. Our children have worked so hard to learn and be successful in school, only to have their inclusive dreams taken away from them. It's not about being fair if you use this definition: Fair does not mean everyone is equal; Fair means everyone gets what they need. We have been sharing this definition of “fair” in inclusion workshops and teacher training for years. However, this definition seems to no longer be valid. Everyone is treated identically in this system! If you don’t fit the mold, it must be your teacher’s fault!

Our American public schools send a very specific, harsh message to our children, and to their parents - the only thing that is valued is academic achievement as measured by standardized tests. If you can't pass the test, you are a failure, and you should go work at the local big box store. Forget about your unrealistic dreams of a career that you are not qualified to have, by virtue of poor test scores. The tests tell parents and teachers nothing about the children who take them, other than a "passing" or "failing" score. We are reducing our wonderful, talented children to a number: 1, 2, 3, or 4. We deny them the opportunity to participate in the arts if their scores are too low, so that they can participate in additional test preparation.

Race to the Top? Who is racing? A race has winners and losers. In this race, children with disabilities and their teachers are automatic losers. Children whose first language is not English are losers. Children of poverty are losers. We know who the losers are before the race has begun. Who are the winners? Those children who have the advantages coming out of the starting gate are the winners. This is not a public education system Americans can be proud of. This is a business model. Our children are not for sale. Our children deserve the opportunity to discover their special talents, and to be given the opportunity to contribute those gifts into the world! Spend the taxpayers’ money on programs that support children, not on the tests that are designed to bring them down!

Senators, please listen to parents and teachers, and not to corporate interests who have no idea how to teach our children. Their interests are in their profits, and their bottom lines. My son deserves an opportunity to realize his American dream too, just like your children! He’s worked so hard, and he needs our support. It’s my job to help him reach his full potential. And I will fight with everything I have to make sure that happens for my son!

Sincerely,
Lorri Gumanow, Ed.M. in Special Education


Senator Lamar Alexander and the H.E.L.P. Committee, 
I will try to make this as brief as possible. I've been teaching first and second grade for twenty six years in a low income school where 90% of the students are ELL (Eng
lish Language Learners) and 89% Free Lunch. In addition, the majority of homes in our area are rental units where, for the sake of their finances, three families will share an apartment, one family in each bedroom. I have had students who lived in garages also (I found this out when I had them draw a picture of their home and there was one room and no windows). 
When I heard about NCLB (No Child Left Behind) approximately 13 years ago and learned about the requirement that 100% of students would be proficient by 2014, I was horrified to say the least. How could anyone who has ever worked with groups of children think that's an attainable goal? Do all children walk at one year old? Do all children read at five years old? Can all adults run an eight minute mile? 
My own children were younger then, and I immediately started comparing their experiences with those of my students. My sons were raised in a two parent home with parents who have no addictions, no violent ex boyfriends/spouses, and two incomes. My husband and I both have college degrees, multiple teaching credentials, and one master's degree between us. My sons have had a dream childhood, and they have done very well (in spite of a little Asperger's Syndrome). They were taken to the zoo, the beach, trips to New York City, Washington D.C., New York State, Canada and Mexico (we live in California so these were not day trips). My husband and I provided Baby Play 'n Gro classes, swimming lessons, martial arts lessons, chess lessons, AYSO, etc. We also provided books, many books, along with trips to museums, and historical sites. We even took them to Coloma, California so they could actually see where gold was discovered. 
My students, however, have few or none of these experiences. I will share just a few of their experiences here as I'm trying to show you some reasons why some students don't do well no matter how great their teachers are or how many tests they take. Christy, early in my career. One morning I asked for homework and she started sobbing hysterically and telling me that her mother's boyfriend had pushed her mom down the stairs while holding their baby, and then came back with a knife outside their window and threatened to kill them all. Second grade, homework excused. I have had parents tell me they can't do two digit addition with regrouping to help their kids. Homework excused. Last year we had a student removed by Child Protective Services (far from my first) because her mother and the boyfriend were sexually abusing her together. Homework excused. I could go on and on, but I hope I've made a point here. 
Very sadly, not all children are being raised in loving, supportive homes. Teachers, no matter how hard we try and how much we care, cannot make up for what our students do not get at home. When standardized testing is used, it is comparing apples and oranges, and it is not fair to the students or the teachers. I tell the teachers at my school that we are miracle workers because of what we DO accomplish, although no one will ever tell us that. Thankfully, I don't teach because I look for glory, I teach because I care. And you know what? No test can measure that. 
Sincerely, 
Susan Hoenig Hansen 
BTW, our school computer lab (dismantled five years ago, brought back to life last year) has 16, yes, really, 16 computers (we have 600 students). How do you think our students will do on the Smarter Balanced tests this spring? My neighborhood school (8 miles away) has 3 full computer labs. Again, comparing apples and orange is fair to no one.


Dear Senator Alexander
One might think that a school librarian might not have anything relevant to add regarding NCLB and high stakes testing, but since the creati
on of NCLB I’ve noticed a disturbing trend happening in the schools where I work. Before NCLB the teachers at my school regularly brought their students in to do research. This was not limited to English classes and their research papers. Health teachers brought students in to compare the effectiveness of water verses Gatorade in hydrating athletes. Biology students created pamphlets on genetic diseases. History classes came in to discover the details about famous historic people, places, and events. Even the math teachers had their students looking up information on famous mathematicians. 
Then NCLB put an end to all that. As teachers realized they had to be sure to cover all the information that might show up on the increasing number of tests their students would be subjected to, they were forced to stop allowing students to discover this information on their own. They had to find faster ways to ensure students memorized the facts they would need to pass the tests. For if students don’t recite the correct answers in the prescribed format, the school and later even the teacher would be held accountable.
As a result, students no longer have the opportunity to develop the type of independent learning skills and creativity that were once so highly valued in our country. Our schools have turned into factories that produce students who know the facts, but not the background; they know how to construct a five paragraph essay but are clueless on the content. At a time when information literacy has become critical, our young people have no opportunities to practice and perfect these skills beyond the occasional English research paper. Worse still, as a result of the recent economic down turn, there’s often no trained school librarian available to help students who no longer have a clue how to sift through all the information available to them.
Please consider repealing NCLB and returning the control of our children’s education back to the local communities. Pay teachers to design the curriculum and end of course assessments that are developmentally correct for the students in their communities. Teacher evaluations should be conducted by school administrators, fellow teachers and parents and not some expensive standardized test created by some big text book company across the country. Yes, there are failing schools across the nation, but trying to make these schools accountable through testing solves nothing. We need to address the deeper issues affecting the students in these failing school – most notably, poverty. Let’s end the war on teachers and get back to the war on poverty.


Cathy Sutton





Dear Senator Alexander,


I am an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Coordinator at a public high school in West Covina, California. Please allow me to share my thoughts regarding the reauthorization of the ESEA.

All children deserve to attend a student-centered school where each and every child’s needs are met. In a student-centered school, wrap-around services are in place to ensure that all students have access to proper nutrition and health care. Student-centered schools offer emotional support to all students through caring, credentialed counselors. A student-centered school has fully stocked libraries, staffed by professional librarians. In order to support working parents, student-centered schools provide quality before and after school daycare staffed by trained, caring adults. Both enrichment and remediation programming are offered at student-centered schools to help our students develop as creative learners and stronger thinkers. In student-centered schools, the arts are celebrated and honored. Imaginative play and recess are included as part of the curriculum in student-centered schools. In student-centered schools, teachers and students collaboratively design units of study that are rich and engaging. In short, student-centered schools are laboratories for discovery and inquiry.

Schools must be reimagined as places that teach the whole child.

Let us not forget that in teacher education programs, teachers are taught to design lessons that engage students in topics of personal and global importance. Teachers are taught pedagogies that inform and inspire us to teach with deliberate intention and purpose. Teachers must be trusted to use our talents and skills to design curriculum and assess our students in a meaningful fashion. Teachers take great pride in the accomplishments of our students and are fiercely proud of our profession.

For over a decade, however, our nation’s obsession with high-stakes testing has done great damage to students, schools and the teaching profession. Ours is the only nation in the world where every student is tested every year, in every grade. Our public school system is in crisis. Not because of test scores or international rankings. Our school system is in crisis because the Department of Education is operating as a National School Board.

And what has been the result? The punitive use of high-stakes testing under NCLB caused schools to narrow the curriculum and engage in an unprecedented use of “drill and kill” test prep in an effort to raise test scores and avoid punishment. Now with the advent of Race to the Top and its signature education policy, the Common Core State Standards, schools will be encumbered with an exponential increase in testing. Schools are buckling under the weight of federally mandated tests and one-size-fits-all, developmentally inappropriate standards.

Students, parents and teachers have little voice in deciding what types of curriculum and assessments are appropriate for learners. Instead, the Department of Education has allowed corporate, non-educators to dictate public policy and practice.

Schools must be reimagined as places that teach the whole child.

Approximately 25% of American children are living in poverty. Imagine the great good that could be done if the billions of dollars that are currently being channeled into the testing industry were diverted to create safety nets of wraparound services and programming for every school. Think of the great gains our children would experience if all of their needs were met.

Because I believe that schools must be reimagined as places that teach the whole child, I am in support of Option 1 that would allow states to adopt and design their own academic assessment systems. Let’s put an end to the federal mandate for annual testing and move to a teacher-designed and assessed grade span-testing program. Enough is enough.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Berrong
International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Coordinator
Edgewood High School
West Covina, California

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