Monday, November 2, 2015

BATs Send Letter to Pres. Obama Regarding Testing Action Plan! 

The Badass Teachers Association and the members of the BATs Quality of Work Life Team would like to thank both the President and the USDOE for acknowledging that our public education system has a test fixation.  Prior to NCLB and RTTT, the public education system was focused on improvement, reflective practice and classroom innovation. We do NOT deny a need to address inequities in education most significantly those that impact poverty stricken communities across our nation, but the current test fixation policy does not do that. There is enormous funding inequity which cannot be fixed by imposing high stakes testing. Your New Testing Plan, though obviously in the planning for many months, does not tackle the single most significant issue affecting student performance, poverty and funding inequities. Test scores generated by non practitioners, like corporations such as Pearson, do not provide a measure of student educational progress, but do give us a clear indicator of schools struggling with funding inequity and poverty.  It is important to note that you do not have to label every poverty stricken child in this country a FAILURE to identify funding inequities in school accountability.   

Test fixation has created a systemic dichotomy that provides profit for corporations and nothing substantial for teachers and students. The BAT/AFT survey revealed the catastrophic impact on the work environment of teachers, which is a student's learning environment. These are a direct result of the RTTT policies instituted by the Obama administration as over 89% of educators reported their feelings about their job have changed in the past 5 years. The toxic testing reported in the USDOE Report does not call for a reduction in testing it calls for a cease and desist of the current policies. The results of that study in concert with the BAT/AFT study reveal a national crisis imposed on this nation's children and teaching profession by those  have never taught in public schools and many who never attended public schools. The fixation of annual testing that is coupled with teacher accountability continues in the NEW TESTING PLAN.

According to our Quality of Work Life Survey
  • 52% of teachers report that they are not provided autonomy in decision making
  • 62% report lack of mentoring programs
  • not allowed to take part in making decisions that affect our work. 43% report rarely or never another 43% report sometimes
  • do not trust my school administrator and/or supervisor.49% disagree
  • My administrator or supervisor provides sufficient opportunities for me to be involved in decision-making, problem solving, and goal setting at school. 57% Disagree
  • There are not enough staff members at my school to get all the necessary work done. 77% agree
  • In a typical week, how much time do you spend on school work before or after normal school hours? More than 5 hours 47%
  • After a typical work day, I have enough time to relax or pursue activities that I enjoy. 72% disagree
  • Over the course of your career, has your time outside normal school hours devoted to school work...? 65% increased
  • 51% say the physical condition of their schools are  Fair to poor  only 5% responded excellent. We are the wealthiest nation on the planet and only 5% of our respondents call their schools excellent

What is the source of workplace stress for you?
  • Uncertain job expectations 47%
  • Fear of job loss 32%
  • Lack of participation in decision-making 40%
  • Adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development  71%
Academic literature has identified several factors that may cause stress in the workplace.
  • Time pressure 77% most days/everyday
  • Lack of opportunity to use rest facilities 45%most days/everyday
  • Large class size 52%most days/everyday
  • Mandated curriculum 61%most days/everyday
  • Standardized testing *59%most days/everyday
  • Data gathering 55%
  • During the past 30 days, my mental health (including stress, depression, and problems with emotions) was not good for about: 62% 3 or more days (26% 9 or more days)
  • 72% of respondents had a Master's degree or higher

Almost ¾ of public educators have earned advanced degrees in education. This generally lower paid workforce, wants to do all they can for children. Why wouldn't these highly qualified, highly educated, classroom practitioners be the perfect source to create a national education plan? Why can't they create tests? Why aren't they included in your plan? The answer is simple, they don't make enough money to get a seat at the political table and they do not have the “political” clout you need to push through policy.  Yet, they are one of this nation's biggest untapped resources. The plan calls for a reliance ONCE AGAIN ON NON PRACTITIONERS! Educators across the country have been devalued by this administration's policies. This is an opportunity to correct course. 

When public school educators sit down to problem solve they focus on what is best for the children. Unlike testing companies, we put children before dollars. We do not focus on what drives profits for corporation. These corporations that the current administration is relying upon have a conflict of interest! The American people, especially parents, are well aware of this conflict of interest and nationwide Opt Out numbers will continue to rise until this administration recognizes this important fact.

The “assessment experts” your administration has identified are those connected to privatization and profiteering. The dismal truth of testing is the tests themselves are not measuring anything reliable.

Let's address the States that were made an example of in your release.
Public Education practitioners have responded from the states that have been referenced in the Action Plan. Here is their feedback:

In response to your statements on Florida; Florida BATs had this to say:

“Getting rid of local final exams merely eliminates individuality in the classroom. Tying graduation to a statewide or nationwide test, especially one that is not developed by educational professionals with classroom experience and a deep understanding of childhood development, denies the validity of some very specific facts – that instruction should be geared to meet the needs of the students, that different communities have different needs, that students are individuals, that there is more to a successful educational career than just passing a test. the tests that are necessary to drive instruction, tests with immediate feedback.”

“Don't fall for these lies. Duval County has reduced MANDATED testing. So far this year I have already been pressured to give an un-mandated district assessment- Biology Q1 assessment. There was another one given earlier in the quarter that the district coaches also tried to pressure me into giving but it was too close to the deadline to make it happen.

This is how these conversations go:
(This is usually in either a PLC meeting or the district-wide monthly science meeting.)
"We have created an assessment that covers this unit/topic/quarter. It was created for our turnaround schools to provide essential data. We think it would be a very valuable assessment for you as well. We think it will be especially helpful in regards to developing FCIM lessons."
My usual response (or the group's response):
"We have a few concerns. First of all, we would have to be ensured access to a testing room since this is online. We also do not find data from district assessments to be particularly useful due to the errors/flaws that have existed almost every year and the fact that we are not allowed to view the questions EVER. So we have no clue which questions the students had trouble with, only if they did poorly on a standard. Additionally, most students do not take district assessments seriously unless it is an end of course exam."
Reply from district or school admin:
"We can assure you the questions are valid as they were written by the district science coaches. (Then why were there flaws in the past?) I will request that the testing coordinator schedule you all in to administer this assessment. You can do what some other teachers are doing and count the assessment as a grade if you think that will motivate students to actually try on the test."
Rebuttal: "What will happen if we don't administer this exam?"
Response from school admin: "The principal will likely have to explain why the school did not administer the exam. I will be asked to defend the decision for the Biology PLC. Remember the Biology PLC is already viewed as uncooperative."
The outcome of course if that we end up giving the district assessment. So we aren't required to give the assessments anymore but we are bullied. Oh and we are uncooperative because we question everything-like true scientists.”
“In Manatee County I counted 40 days of testing. District mid-term and quarterly benchmarks, twice yearly writing and the invalid FSA. Must stop the madness.
My seventh grade students take the following: either the ReadiStep or a substitute for it, 2 practice essays before the FSA writing test, 2 FAIR tests before the FSA reading test, 3 "highly suggested" formatives in Civics before the EOC in Civics, 3 formatives in math before the math FSA, and 3 formatives in Science. This doesn't include any tests from their electives. If a student has reading as an elective, add four more reading formatives. I'm sorry, did you say "reduce testing?" Haven't seen it.”

The statements on New Mexico garnered these responses from New Mexico BATs:

“two years ago I tested third graders in Mountainaire, NM BOY, MOY, EOY tests. Each round took about two hours for reading / Lang. arts so that is 12 hours. Then DIBELS twice monthly. Only moments per kid, but times 22 kids...Discovery test end of year and that was a full week. “This year in another rural district in NM I am crazy testing 4 th graders. Same B,M, and End of year tests, Bi monthly test (CSA) in both reading/ language and math ( which we create and the creation takes us two hours) and these CSA take about two hours for the slowest to finish. Then we will have SBA science in April and PARCC in March/April. I figured 11% of my instruction time is spent in testing strategies, prep, and or the actual test and wait (you know, the everyone sit in the crappy energy computer lab, absorb all that electronic yuck for two more hours while the slowest kid finishes the test). I think that is my my knowledge 11% of the Time in testing”

“This is a marketing ploy... when someone does a 500% markup, and then takes 5% off, they claim they're offering a discount. Consumer beware.”

“ a test takes 45 minutes, but it requires 3 hours to pull that off. During the PARCC testing last March and April our high school students and teachers suffered through a crazy schedule with 180-minute periods for weeks at a time. Field trips were prohibited. We were all held hostage, even students who weren't tested. Seems to me like we are using more of these tests than ever!”

“I teach a non testing grade, my students were on basic lock down during the first round of PARCC testing with lasted 2 weeks. Lunch in our rooms loss of use of the computer lab, art, PE and recess. The next round was a bit better able to use the cafeteria and have art but no computer lab and it still lasted 2 weeks. That was just for PARCC! We test 4 times a year for "short cycle" which takes nearly 2 weeks each time, then there is the DIBELS testing, which is every 2 weeks for some, once a month for others and every one 2x between bench mark windows. Benchmark windows are 4 times a year. Oh and don't forget the DRA assessments. Does it sound like testing is being reduced?”

“This is a crock. Learners need consistency and having a month or two of disruptions to our schedule is harmful to student learning.”

“I am a first-grade teacher here in Albuquerque. My whole life is basically one big testing window on a bullshit assessment called the DIBELS. Each and every week I am "progress-monitoring" students of varying levels, one-on-one, on a stupid iPad while the rest of my class is left to their own devices. For the beginning of year assessment, many teachers in the city had to get subs to cover their classes for two days just so we could test and not ignore kids who had only been in first grade for a few days! During the PARRC test, children in grades K-2 are basically told to shut up in the hallways so the older kids can test. We lose things like PE, music, art, library, technology lab, etc., so that this test can take center stage! It is DISGUSTING. I have opted my 12-year old son out of it all. Our secretary of education in this state is LIAR and she, like the governor, is a corporate plant who wants to privatize education. I am one of MANY veteran teachers who has been labeled as "ineffective" based on corporate tests on which impoverished children do not perform well.”

“Please show this to the USDOE! It is an image of 2,500+ postcards signed by Albuquerque teachers in protest of OVERTESTING, underfunding, denigration by an unfair evaluation system, etc. And of course it didn't make to local news even though it took place at our state capitol!”

In New York

The testing fixation resulted in over 240K parents opting their children out of testing, a teacher shortage, 140 schools identified to be put in receivership, massive protests which has caused the NY Governor to convene yet another commission.  The massive uprising in New York State by parents has also forced the Chancellor of Regents to not seek another term and the former Commissioner (who will be Acting USDOE Secretary) to resign.  

Here are Comments from North Carolina BATS on the USDOE announcement:

“This let me know deals are / were made to somehow rebrand the former education state's plummet to the worst state in education status.”

“Have we actually seen this report? Do we know who the researchers are? Did they tell us how to alleviate the burdens?”

“And who is on the Task Force? I certainly haven't seen a reduction of testing time or the burden of it in third grade. It's the opposite!”

“That whole thing is BS and if the USDOE is using NC as a model then they have no intention of making any real changes.”

“I have no idea about k-3, but I do know in CMS high school students take the PLAN, PSAT, ACT. They take a state final exam in every course that is used to evaluate teachers. There is a focus on testing Testing testing in CMS. There is a push in some schools that all teachers teach the same thing in the same way on the same day so that the kids get the same instruction in the same format and score the same scores. We know this doesn't work, but there is a push from administrators in this direction and that push comes from outside the school building. I watched a testing admin chasing kids down to get them to take the PLAN so the school would hit 95%. I do not get that! Why would you want a kid who is recovering from a concussion to take a standardized test just to meet a number...but she was following the directions of the state and that is that 95% of the student body must be tested or you fall below expectations and receive a or rating by the state. They are going to have to make huge changes to alleviate the focus of testing here!”

“I have a medically fragile, nonverbal child with SMA I, very severe and resembles ALS once all movement is lost. He is in public school homebound services. he cannot talk, cannot sit up, cannot move his hands. He is learning to talk through eye gaze on a tobii machine, but has not mastered this yet. We applied to get him exempted from 3rd grade EOC last year with two letters from doctors. It got denied. We appealed twice and finally got it approved. Testing my son would seriously take 3 weeks due to the efforts it takes. Then you have to think about how are you going to answer easing questions? He can tell you when to turn the page with a cry and can use eye gaze to point to an answer, but the amount of time all this takes and then looking back in the text, how was that going to work. When we got the first denial I asked them if I could just opt out. Their response, if you do he will fail 3rd grade. Considering we all feel the grace of God with every day, I almost said okay, but he is a twin and needs to stay with his sister so that when he does get to go to school he goes to a class that knows him and he has an friend. So the choice was wait and see if we get the approval or if not he has to take this test. Very frustrating for mother and the school staff!”

It is apparent that there is a disconnect between the information the administration is spinning and the reality of what is occurring in classrooms across this nation. Our organization has a strong pulse on the daily reality of what is occurring in public schools across the nation.  We hope you will provide us a voice in the coming months and bring members of Badass teachers Association and the Quality of Work Life Team, to discuss how to affect positive changes in our public schools. We want to be part of the discussion on the New Testing plan. We are aware that we may not tell you what you want to hear, but we promise to always be honest and open as we speak from the very “heart” of teachers, parents and children. These are the voices missing in your administrations public education policy.

1 comment:

  1. I don't see my family. I am under so much stress that I am getting short of breath and I am starting to have pains in my chest at age 38.

    I have been placed on the insidiously named, "growth plan," because the NMPED used the same test score from 3 years ago in my VAS multiple times. I have so many obligations through the evaluation system, that I don't know how I will meet them all. I also never seem to have time to teach.

    I know that these circumstances are affecting my health, but I don't want to stop teaching and I am not sure what to do. I am concerned about my wife and daughters if something happens to me.


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