Monday, February 27, 2012

@ The Chalk Face

Education Talk Radio.

Show #1 Diane Ravitch

Show #2 Bill Ayers

Show #3 Merit pay for teachers

Show # 4 Testing Toddlers and Leadership "John Kuhn" style.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Talking to Your School Board

Presented to Bellwood Antis School Board, 2/14/12

I am concerned about the future of education in our schools.

Pennsylvania schools are about to adopt a teacher and principal evaluation system that will use the high stakes test scores of children in determining the so called “effectiveness” of our teachers and principals.  As you can read in the hand-outs that I have provided (digitally), this will do nothing positive for our children, teachers and principals.  There is not a shred of research that supports such a drastic policy decision.

This board needs to understand that teaching to pass ANY high-stakes tests does not provide children with a quality teaching and learning experience.

I am speaking to the board tonight because I fear for the amazing teachers my children have had over the years.  For example, last year and this year my daughter has had truly gifted teachers.   She comes home and talks about what they did in school without any prompting. She eagerly shares papers and projects completed during the day. She asks questions about the things she learned during the day. She is using technology (on her own) to investigate other questions. She writes her own books. In other words, she in fully engaged.

Here is my Question for the board.  What has happened over the last two years that has produced a hunger for learning in my child?

The simple answer is that her teachers care deeply about learning and have helped her develop a love for learning.

This is the heart of quality teaching and it will never be measured on a test. There is no statistical operation capable of measuring a teacher's ability to instill a love for learning.

If Bellwood and other Pennsylvania schools adopt this evaluation system, my daughters’ teachers (IN FACT ALL THE GOOD TEACHERS) will have to change their approach to teaching and learning.

If the pressure for high test scores and the insane notion that "we" should hold teachers accountable for test scores continue to drive policy discussions concerning teacher effectiveness, the most valuable experiences associated with learning will be dismissed. The drive for test scores will suck the life out of teaching and learning.

The politicians and others that are pushing this new evaluation system have decided that they know what's best for our children. This top-down, condescending view of teachers, parents and local schools is disheartening.

If we (citizens, parents, business owners, community members and you the members of this board) care about the quality of our schools, then we need to be talking about the love for learning -- not test scores.

I am asking that The Bellwood-Antis School Board to (and this is directly from the Board’s webpage), “Provide for the education of all children and Set district policies and regulations” that oppose the use of test scores as an evaluation tool for our teachers and principals.  Doing anything else would be disregarding all the evidence and research on teaching and learning and the valid use of test scores.


This past October, on Long Island New York.  1330 principals (over 73%) signed a position paper in which they refused to allow themselves and their teachers to be evaluated by high stakes test scores and refused millions of dollars in Race to the Top funds.  WHY?  Because this is what leaders do! What will all of you do?

Thank you for your time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pennsylvania Parents Helping Public Schools

Dear Pennsylvania Parents,

We need to take back our public schools. After ten years of No Child Left Behind and PSSAs are you ready for a change?  Have you had enough with high stakes testing?  Are you tired of watching the great teachers in your districts reduced to test prep managers?  Does, “because it’s on the PSSAs” make you cringe? Do you even know what AYP means?  Did you know that comprehensive research has demonstrated that PSSA testing can actually hurt kids physically, psychologically, and academically? Did you intend for your child’s scores to be used as experimental data? Did you consent to the research methods being used on your child? Have you had enough?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you might want to know that Pennsylvania law allows parents and children the right to “opt out” of PSSAs. Directly from the PA Code, “If upon inspection of State assessments parents or guardians find the assessment in conflict with their religious belief and wish their students to be excused from the assessment, the right of the parents or guardians will not be denied upon written request to the applicable school district superintendent, charter school chief executive officer or AVTS director.”

Specifically, you must make an appointment with the school to review the PSSA test, sign a confidentiality agreement, review the tests, and write a letter that simply states that participation in PSSAs violates your religious principles.  If you’re not sure how PSSAs violate religious principals please be aware that after 10 years of PSSAs childhood anxiety disorders have dramatically risen.  Children have been denied a fully comprehensive education.  Our children are being used to provide data that will label the child, teacher, school, administrators, and community a failure.  This data is being sold to Washington think tanks and other data management organizations. Tax money (our money) has been diverted to testing and data management companies instead of schools and children. What religion supports such a system?

So before March Madness (PSSA testing) begins please take some time to seriously consider the future of your child’s education.  Remember, our children only get one chance at a quality education.  The PSSAs and the culture of high stakes testing have denied a generation of children a quality education.  It is time to put an end to this punitive system.  It’s time to allow our teachers to get back to what they do best—teach.  It’s time to demand that our public schools be given back to us.  It’s time to make sure our children receive the education they deserve. It’s time to OPT OUT!

Sample Letter

Dear Superintendent,

Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(5) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child excused from any State standardized testing because of religious and philosophical beliefs.

Tim Slekar is an administrator with  This grassroots organization is committed to ending punitive high stakes testing and restoring local control of public schools. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quitting Teaching?

The passage below was a response to Anthony Cody's blog.  Very Sad!

Ken Bernstein

9:58 AM on February 9, 2012
This morning I sat in a faculty meeting as our principal explained why we all had to be focusing on Common Core in what we do, even when our courses are not directly part of the Common Core.

I will be 66 in May. I am already on Social Security. For a number of years I have tried to stop the steamroller of education deform that is destroying American public education. I look at the students arriving at our high school who after constant testing for NCLB and narrowing of curricula to focus on raising test scores have trouble thinking clearly, do not know how to write (it is not tested) and lack basic background knowledge in American History and Civics. I talk with colleagues in our Science department who have similar concerns.

Right now I wonder why I am even trying to make a difference. There is less and less respect for what we teachers do, we are being given directions by those who do not seem to understand real learning, and what is being imposed serves to alienate further the natural learning instincts of students.

I wonder if any of the efforts I have expended outside the classroom have made a whit of difference.

I wonder why I knock myself out to serve my students both with my school commitments and my commitments to trying to educate those outside of school systems of what teaching and learning really are.

I see the unions making early endorsements of an administration whose education department has in my opinion been hostile to teachers and real education, and in bed with the corporatizers.

I feel as if I am trying to bail out a tanker that is sinking using a teaspoon.

We are losing public schools.

We are losing democracy.

At moments like this I think I am glad my wife and I decided not to have our own children.

I fear for the future of our nieces and nephews.

I fear for the future of the children I teach.

I am now very close - VERY CLOSE - to giving up on being a teacher, because it is becoming impossible to be the kind of teacher I must be to keep my sanity.

I had planned to teach at least until I was 70.

Now? Like many of my compatriots, I am inclined to take the buyout offered by my system and do something else for the money I still need that does not so much break my heart.

I am far from alone.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Opt Out Report Card

Attached below are my son's PSSA scores from last year.  He was promoted to 6th grade and was placed in the high sections of Math and Language Arts.  NS = No Score.  Blank =Blank

We are so proud of him.  We decided to hang his PSSA scores on the refrigerator for the past 6 months.  Yes you can OPT OUT and be promoted and placed in the "high" sections.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pennsylvania Public Schools Making Connections

According to the official statements from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, reading and math are not the only important subjects.  From the state...
Remember to make connections!
Success in school involves more than just reading and mathematics.  Children can master these other skills by engaging in activities outside the classroom.  Practicing music, for example, can build skills that will be valuable throughout school and life.  Remember that taking trips to a museum, a show or a concert is a positive way to strengthen your child's overall education
What the the Pennsylvania Department of Education is really saying!
However, as a state PA will only provide for reading and math instruction. All the other stuff that actually matters needs to occur "outside the classroom."  We just can't afford to help all children in Pennsylvania.  If you care about your kids, you the parents or guardians will need to take over from now on.  Music, art science history and all that other stuff is now your responsibility.

What about the children that don't have the resources available to them to "make connections?"

Not a problem. There is not enough room at the top for all of Pennsylvania's children. Besides, who will work at discount department stores if all children receive a rich and powerful education that "makes connections?" 
Like making the connection that children in lower SES ranks don't really have a chance in PA!