Monday, July 25, 2011

Test Confidence: Sabotage!

I was wrong. I can read more about people who defend testing in the wake of "cheating" scandals

“Even the hint of testing irregularities and misconduct in the test administration process could call into question school reform efforts and undermine the state accountability systems...." Arnie Duncan

"Test score data will be the life blood of new systems for rating teachers and schools. A lack of public confidence in the integrity of testing could deal a serious blow to this agenda." Bill Turque

However, as Mr. Duncan and Mr. Turque acknowledge, once the public loses trust in testing systems the game is over. Can anyone say, "Sabotage?"

I said Sabotage not Cheating: Another Reason to March

Just like my last post on why I'm marching, I found inspiration in a short reading session. I can't read one more defense of testing in the wake of all the cheating scandals. These people just don't get it. Read the quote below.

"Of course, the worst idea of all is to cheat in the first place. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation for all involved. Students and their parents get inaccurate information about their learning. The same bad information feeds into decisions about student placement, instructional priorities, and curriculum decisions. Policymakers are misled about the efficacy of reforms and funding strategies. Even the public—which pays for high-quality tests to measure student achievement—gets ripped off. It’s time that parents, educators, policymakers, and all concerned demand that the high-quality tests they pay for yield the high-quality information that all concerned need. That’s a good idea." Gregory J. Cizek

This paragraph could have started out, "High stakes testing is a lose-lose-lose situation for all involved." And maybe the end with, "It's time that parents, educators, policymakers, and all concerned demand that the high stakes testing they paid for be obliterated. That’s a good idea. "

I wonder if Professor Cizek will be at the Save Our Schools (SOS) march? I wonder how he would react to actively sabotaging tests—not cheating!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SOS Invitation to Senator Casey

Below is my note to Ms. Kim Bierly (PA Senator Robert Casey's contact). Maybe we should all send personal invitations to our elected representatives.

Dear Ms. Bierly,

It has now been almost 5 months since we (Michele Gray and I) met with you to talk about Senator Casey's position on standardized testing, NCLB and Race to the Top. We have heard nothing. I hope this is just a communication error.

Maybe the Senator can come to the The Save Our Schools March ( which will be held in Washington, D.C. July 28-31. You can check the website for more details. I also wanted to invite Senator Casey to my presentation at American University on Friday, July 29th in the Anderson Computing Complex, Room B12 at 1:45 pm. I will be delivering a workshop for parents on how to "prefer not to," opt out, or boycott No Child Left Behind testing (PSSAs) in the 2011-2012 school year. The workshop is based on my HuffPost ( from February that started the boycott movement. The blog has been reposted and shared thousands of times, featured in the Washington Post (, and prompted CNN and FOX to cover my boycott of NCLB testing.

Hundreds of parents across the country have contacted me for advice on how to organize boycott efforts in their states. I have worked with these parents and was recruited to present a workshop at the SOS march. Hopefully you and Senator Casey can see the importance of the March as the only real grassroots effort to truly advocate for public schools, children, parents and communities. Hopefully the Senator can stop by.



Monday, July 18, 2011

It's Not Cheating. It's Sabotage.

After thinking about my last post where I imagined educators consciously "cheating" on state tests as a form of protest, I now believe that teachers and administrators must actively engage in a form of civil disobedience. "Irregular erasure patterns" -- it's that simple.

In a warped sense, educators in Atlanta, Philadelphia, D.C. and all the other places where testing "improprieties" took place should be thanked. Although these educators engaged in unethical behavior, they revealed the one thing education reformers fear most -- the system being used to dismantle public schools has an Achilles' heel.

What's the one thing the market-based reformers hold sacred? What's the one thing the entire high-stakes testing regime can't live without? Data! The destructive system (high stakes testing) must collect reliable and "objective" data. Data is the gasoline that powers the engine of reform. Without it the entire system shuts down. Why do you think there is so much "disbelief" at cheating on state exams? Why are so many education officials like Secretary Duncan "shocked?"

It has nothing to do with being surprised that it was happening. Cheating and gaming the system were guaranteed outcomes of this pernicious system -- Campbell's Law.

They're upset because their plan for dismantling the entire system of public education is totally reliant on the appearance of "objective" measures. The system that supposedly informs taxpayers about the quality of their local schools needs "objective data" -- test scores. Without these "objective " test scores the list of draconian sanctions mandated by reformers cannot be applied to community-based public school systems. Once the data is tainted, it can't be used. It's that simple.

Teachers and administrators have the ability destroy the entire high stakes testing, market-based, standards-driven system.

How can they do this?

First, all teachers and administrators must go to and sign Goodman's (1990) Declaration of Professional Conscience for Teachers!

Last, teachers and administrators must uphold all the sentiments of the Declaration. That's it. Too simple? Need a little more detail? Specifically teachers and administrators must

"accept the responsibility of evaluating our pupils' growth. We will make no long- or short-range decisions that affect the future education of our pupils on the basis of a single examination no matter what the legal status of the examination."

In other words, teachers and administrators can no longer be part of a system that uses high stakes tests. If they work in systems that employ the use of high stakes tests then they must engage in acts that thwart the use of single measures. Teachers and administrators must take part in a systematic and planned operation of sabotage.

It is time to end the nightmare. How much more harm has to be done? How many more lives have to be ruined? Our public schools can no longer be sites for unethical testing and experimentation on young minds. Teachers and administrators can no longer take inhumane orders. Teachers and administrators must thwart the market driven, high stakes testing regime.

"It is certainly foolhardy and idealistic. But what if the power to test and measure was stripped away?" Shaun Johnson

Teachers and administrators engaging in a conscious act of sabotage -- "irregular erasure patterns" -- does this push the boundaries of ethical behavior beyond our comfort level?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stop labeling teachers, label the lawmakers

Dear Editor,

The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

Teachers are surrounded by armchair quarterbacks who won’t lift a finger to help, only to point. Congressmen, come down out of those bleachers and strive with us against the pernicious ravages of poverty. We need more from you than blame. America’s education problem is actually a poverty problem.

If labels fix schools, let us use labels to fix our congresses! Let lawmakers show the courage of a teacher! Hold hands with us and let us march together into the teeth of this blame machine you have built. Let us hold this congressman up against that congressman and compare them just as we compare our schools. Congressmen, do not fear this accountability you have given us. Like us, you will learn to love it.

Or maybe lawmakers do such a wonderful job that we don’t need to hold them accountable?

Did you know that over the next five years, Texas lawmakers will send half a billion dollars to London, to line the pockets of Pearson’s stakeholders. That’s 15,000 teacher salaries, sacrificed at the altar of standardized testing. $500,000,000 for a test! I’m sure it’s a nice test, but it’s just a test. I’ve never seen a test change a kid’s life or dry a kid’s tear. Tests don’t show up at family funerals or junior high basketball games. They don’t chip in to buy a poor girl a prom dress. Only teachers do those things.

If times are desperate enough to slash local schools’ operating funds, then surely they are desperate enough to slash Pearson’s profits. Lawmakers, get your priorities straight. Put a moratorium on testing until we can afford it. Teachers are our treasure – let’s not lose the house just so we can keep our subscription to Pearson’s Test-of-the-Month Club. We have heard Texas senators often talk about the teacher-to-non-teacher ratio in our schools. Lawmakers, they are ALL non-teachers at Pearson. Don’t spend half a billion dollars that we don’t have on some test that is made in England.

Parents are so fed up with standardized testing that hundreds are now refusing to let their children test. They do not want their children run through this terrible punch press. They do not want standardized children. They want exceptional children!

Let me tell you Texas’s other dirty secret – some schools get three times the funding of other schools. Some schools get $12,000 per student, while others get $4,000. Did you know that every single child in Austin is worth $1,000 more than every single child in Fort Worth? Do you agree with that valuation? Congress does. They spend billions to fund this imbalance.

Now the architects of this inequity point at the salaries and staff sizes at the schools they have enriched to justify cuts at schools that have never been given enough. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, of Plano, says, essentially, yes, but we’re cutting the poor schools by less. Senator, you don’t take bread away from people in a soup line! Not even one crumb. And you should not take funds away from schools that you have already underfunded for years. It may be politically right to bring home the bacon, but ain’t right right.

Legislators, take the energy you spend shifting blame and apply it toward fixing the funding mechanisms. We elected you to solve the state’s problems, not merely to blame them on local government. After all, you have mandated local decision-making for years. Your FIRST rating system tells school boards that their district’s administrative cost ratio can be no higher than 0.2 percent. And over 95 percent of school districts in Texas are in compliance with the standard you have set. At my school, our administrative cost ratio is 0.06 percent – so could you please stop blaming me?

If 95 percent of schools are compliant with the administrative cost ratio indicator in the state’s financial rating system for schools, then why are state officials saying we have too much administration? We have the amount of administration they told us to have! Either they gave us bad guidance and we all followed it, or they gave us good guidance and just need someone other than themselves to blame for these cuts.

Is this the best we can do in Texas? I wish they would worry about students half as much as they worry about getting re-elected.

These same senators have a catchy new slogan: “Protect the Classroom.” I ask you, senators: who are we protecting the classroom from? You, that’s who. You are swinging the ax; don’t blame us for bleeding wrong.

They know that their cuts are so drastic that school boards will have no choice but to let teachers go, and I can prove it: while they give press conferences telling superintendents not to fire teachers, at the same time they pass laws making it easier for ... you guessed it ...administrators to fire teachers. Which is it, senators?

If we don’t truly need to cut teachers, then don’t pass the laws that reduce their employment protections. And if we truly do need to cut teachers, then go ahead and pass those laws but quit saying teacher cuts are the superintendents’ fault. Here’s the deal: I can accept cuts, but I cannot do anything but forcefully reject deceit.

Politicians, save your buck-passing for another day. We need leadership. Get to work, congressmen. Do your jobs, and find the revenue to fund my child’s education.


John Kuhn, father of three, Perrin

Friday, July 1, 2011

Why I am Marching in the Save Our Schools March on July 30.

I was thinking about why I am marching on July 30th, and after reading all the reasons offered by so many I almost remained silent. I didn’t want to rehash all the great rationales offered by the many activists and bloggers. So I decided to do a little reading first. Maybe find something interesting. Something to inspire. Within seconds I came across, “To win a grant in the U.S. Department of Education's new Race to the Top competition for early-childhood education aid, states will have to … craft appropriate standards and tests for young children….” Michele McNeil
Did I miss something? Because the last time I checked, testing children under the age of nine was considered a waste of time because of issues dealing with reliability (according to testing experts). Did something change? Did I miss an announcement? Have statistical gurus at the Department of Education found a way to control for unreliability? Yes? No? Because according to the new guidelines, applicants for this round of RttT funds will, “Develop and administer kindergarten-readiness tests. . . .” Just when you thought it could not possibly get any worse, leave it to Duncan, Obama, and the U.S. Department of Education to announce more reforms that will absolutely destroy the souls of our youngest children. Sorry. But WTF?
So yes, I am marching for all the great reasons that others have already said.
I am marching for Luke (my 11-year old son) and Lacey (my 8-year old daughter).
And now I am marching for our most vulnerable and precious gifts—our youngest children!