Creepish

Story time:

Friday, I received my first warning of sorts that I, as a faculty member, might be getting too close to the CC high-stakes testing controversy. An anonymous someone put this document from the Ohio Department of Education in my mailbox, as if to say, You’re fighting a losing battle, because there is no law that supports test refusal, so put that in your pipe and smoke it. Well, I sent an all-faculty email, asking for the person to please contact me. You know, because I have information for him/her. Truth is, ODE is having to regroup, which is resulting in scare tactics threatening retention and denial of graduation. The plot is not without precedent: give the people just enough incomplete propaganda, and they’ll acquiesce out of fear. I’ll let your imagination run wild on how many times, and in how many different scenarios, that trick has played out in world history.

Edit: The person contacted me, and all is OK.

ODE is banking on the assumption that parents will not question this edict, and they’ll just “go along to get along.” Whether or not that will happen in my district has yet to be seen, but quiet obedience is not cutting the muster in other areas, and you know, stuff like that tends to develop a life of its own. It wouldn’t be the first time a band of citizens rose up to fight the Billionaire Boys’ Club.

The fact remains that while some tests are validated and distributed for good cause, the endless days of mindless drilling for PARCC and AIR and dozens of other ill-begotten, inappropriate, unnecessary acronym tests are hurting children (especially those in the elementary grades), while blind eye after blind eye turns away. For over a year now, I’ve been borderline silent — at least overtly, publicly — about it. In fact, this is the first time that I’ve really released the Kraken on the subject. So, when I press “Publish” on this post, I guess it’s on. Let ’em come after me, because I won’t back down. Common Core and HST are bad for kids. You may not notice it now, or even a year from now. But let these kindergarteners process through the system, and check on them when they’re juniors. You do it, because I’ll be unable to bring myself to look.

I read an op-ed yesterday that described the inappropriateness of CC as “outrageously wordy micromanagement.” That about says it all for me, and I’m not even a victim of CC — yet. I predict my swan song will be written when I patently refuse to insult and degrade my students and my art in the name of profit any further, and somebody high up decides that choral music is too much of a non-event in the big scheme of getting kids “college and career ready,” and needs to be put in the dustbin with the rest of the creative processes that used to happen at school. Because what can’t be counted doesn’t count. Anyone who supports Common Core/HST and disagrees with that statement is lying, either to you or to himself.

I also predict that many unlovely comments will be made about me — both in secret and to my face — on this issue. It’s all right; I’m ready. Because, to quote Bill Shakespeare, truth will out. I just hope I’m around to see it.

Hopefully, many will join to take up this sword and fight to save our neighborhood schools, because frankly, continued silence only indicates compliance. The fight against CC/HST is not a conspiracy; it’s a national emergency.

11 thoughts on “Creepish

  1. Patti Seidel

    Wow. This sounds like bullying to me! An anonymous warning? What are we into here? If CCSS and PARCC and AIR are so stupendous, then why the threat to keep quiet? I am so confused by it all. I have parents asking me questions that I don’t have answers to because, to be frank, we haven’t been educated in this whole area as teachers. I had a parent call me at home to question me on the PARCC. She told me that a friend of hers is a superintendent at an Ohio district. He got the parents and the board together and presented PARCC and AIR to them. He discussed the dangers and advantages and allowed them to make an informed decision as to whether or not taking these HST were in the best interest of the students. They voted it down. They will not participate in these tests this year.

    I worry about our lack of communication with parents. Are we selling their child’s data to the highest bidder by giving PARCC and AIR and they don’t even know it? What kind of backlash will that cause if they find out? This doesn’t even touch on the fact that the kids are going into testing that they cannot be successful on no matter how smart they are or how hard they try. I fear that by the end of March, we will have frustrated students with shattered souls. Parents have the right to know what is going on. They have a right to make an informed decision for THEIR children.

    If these high stakes tests are so wonderful and prepare kids for college and career (I haven’t taken a standardized test since I was in high school, so I’m unaware of how this skill set of taking 30 standardized tests in a year is preparing them for life,) why aren’t we proudly announcing them to parents? Many states have backed out of PARCC. That screams that something is wrong with these tests. I’m worried about our district and our state. I’m worried about the amount of time that we aren’t going to have for instruction, which let’s face it, is truly what makes them college and career ready. Most of all, I’m worried about our kids. Yes, they are their parents’ children, but they are ours as well. I worry about the short and long term effects this will have on our kids. I want the best for them and I don’t believe this is the best we can give them.

    Reply
  2. Stoney

    Last week i grudgingly printed off the 7th grade PARCC practice test and did my best to be a “standardized test “cheerleader”. We got through the first section. The second section had three different passages about electricity. The students have not yet studied electricity. I know the argument against that statement. When we got to the essay which was very long and involved-I just wandered around while they tried to write about something they just are not ready for-and my heart broke. The glazed, uninterested and frustrated faces literally made me sick to my stomach. I love teaching and I love my students, but if I cannot teach them to love literature, tap into their own creativity and make self-directed discoveries about learning-I fear I will lose my job. I am an actress, but not when it comes to MY students…they know I am not sold on high stakes testing.

    Reply
  3. David

    Fear has always been the great divider of Truth; those unsure are fearful of that which they do not want to be true as opposed to those who are certain of their truth. Coming to you anonymously is a fear response! How sad for your colleague!
    I know my friend Ms Finster, for decades now, always comes at something straight and never anonymously!
    My life is littered full with teachers that I love and care about deeply and PARCC and the like are nothing more than shackles on their lives and their passion to teach. It is such a wonderfully individualistic “dance” between teacher and student…no one way can always be the best way. How is that missed by these Boards of Education is a mystery to me. Fight on…for you, for the kids, for truth!

    Reply
  4. Suzanne

    So no one else got this document from the Ohio Department of Education in their mailboxes? You are the only one?

    I guess that the person doing this is threatened, then. If that is so then that is usually reason to carry on!

    Fight the fight, just be careful sweetums. Bad things can happen to good people. :)

    Reply
  5. Mavis

    I’m not a teacher, just your sister. You have been fighting for the right thing most of your life. You’re one of the bravest people I know! The person that put that “thing” in your mailbox, is a coward. If they’re so against what you stand for, why the secrecy? Your family and friends are on your side, Birdie. We love you and will also protect you!

    Reply
  6. Jennifer

    For the last several years, I’ve sympathized with parents and grandparents who told me, “I sure didn’t learn this in kindergarten!” I understand– from my kindergarten experience, I seem to mainly remember snack time, play time, and field trips. I continually tell them, “It’s not my mandate- it’s from the state.” I find myself feeling as if I may be caught doing something wrong when, during the course of our school day, I give my 5- and 6-year old students some extra recess or indoor play time…
    It’s becoming worse with the push for testing at the younger grades. In previous years I would feel badly for the teachers of older children, as they discussed the (usually once-yearly, back then) test they had to give. This school year, our kindergarten students are taking an online test three times. This test requires a sit-down in front of a computer for 40-60 minutes. During the first testing in the fall, several students were in tears… the headphones hurt, they didn’t understand how to work the mouse to navigate the test pages, they didn’t know what was expected for each question, they wanted to click every multiple-choice answer, they wondered how much longer… The second testing session in January was better because students knew a little more what to expect, and they’d had some tech classes to navigate the computer a little more proficiently. However, we are finding that the test doesn’t always match what we see in the classroom (surprise!). In the fall, the test identified some students as at-risk, who were some of the more high-performing students. Now those students have individualized Reading Improvement Plans that they do not need, while other struggling students were not flagged at all. Lucky clicks? It’s hard to know how these kindergarten children are thinking and learning, based on their test answers.
    I often think, if only those who develop and push these tests could spend a day in a classroom- any classroom- it might change their whole view of what children “need.” Maybe it’s not educationally acceptable, but I happen to know that my young students need attention, hugs, exploration, time to ask questions, stories, conversations, hands-on materials, sensory play, outdoor play, pretend play, exercise…
    Do I think that assessment is bad? No, of course not, and I know you don’t, either. However, it needs to have a purpose that will benefit the STUDENT…isn’t he or she supposed to be the whole reason we’re there?

    Reply
    1. Suzanne

      Jennifer how frustrating!!! I used to teach First Grade and the last couple of years I taught we had to give an assesment test, I don’t remember what it was called. The hardest part for the children was filling in the circles!! And sitting still for that long. I can’t even imagine Kindergartners having to sit at a computer for almost an hour taking a test.

      It just goes to show you that the developers of these tests have NO CLUE.

      Hang in there, I hope things can get better for teachers and students alike and you can get back to doing what you love best….teaching. :)

      Reply
  7. Rat Fink Post author

    Thank you all for your incredibly insightful and heartfelt comments. While this little corner of the internet won’t change the world, it will stand for years as a record of a certain time in my life, and will remind me, every time I revisit this post, of the people I am blessed to call family and friends.

    My hope is that when I reread this post a year from now, most or all of this will be just an unpleasant memory, and school districts will have come to their senses and banned this ridiculous and inappropriate corporate child abuse.

    To the fight!

    Reply
  8. Greg

    Various forms of “standardized” testing have been around for over 50 years. However they were used for diagnostics only! That is, they were used to isolate certain issues for which a class might be deficient. For example, in math studies, a diagnostic test might find that a particular class was lacking in fraction skills. The results could then be implemented with more emphasis put on the study of fractions.
    When I was “in the trenches” the notion of using “industrialized” words such as benchmark spooked me. It was if a student was being used as a raw machine part which, if it didn’t meet specs, could either be re-tooled, hammered or re-cycled. It doesn’t work that way with kids–other factors are in the equation: background, home life, abilities etc. These factors will always be there unfortunately and the education profession as a whole refuses to accept this. We can work more closely with students at risk, try to help them over the humps with which they have trouble but the underlying factors remain. The only “winners” are those who make $$$ from these tests–not the kids and certainly not the teaching staff who now have their evaluations tied in with this rubbish! The removal of various electives at which students can and do excel are being removed to add additional classes tied in with testing. It didn’t work 40 years ago and it won’t work now. Government is blind when it comes to looking at the past and learning from those mistakes!

    Reply
    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Cut and print this — it’s a perfect summary from someone who’s been there. I especially like the last sentence; how tragically true!

      Reply

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