Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who's Got Big B@lls? @PegwithPen @motherafrika have BIG B@lls? #donoharm

Four years ago when I decided that my son Luke would not take NCLB mandated high stakes tests I never had any idea that a simple act of "refusal" would introduce me to the most amazing group of friends—who are also kick ass activists!

It's one thing to "opt out" your own child from high stakes testing.  However, as a public school teacher, refusing to administer the high stakes tests designed to destroy the American public education system requires  (excuse the sexism) "big b@lls."

Peggy Robertson and Ceresta Smith you are my heroes!  

Peggy Roberston

Dear Citizens of Colorado,

I am a teacher in the Aurora Public School District. I am writing to let you know that I will 

be refusing to administer the PARCC in the 2014-2015 school year. I do not stand alone in 

my refusal of this high stakes test. I join the ranks of educators across the country who are 

fighting back against policies and mandates that ultimately harm our children and destroy 

our children’s opportunities to become confident, active, problem solving citizens.

I have watched the testing increase over my 18 years of teaching in the public schools. I 

have watched what it has done to my ability to meet children’s needs and to allow children 

the opportunities to engage in learning that is authentic – learning that furthers the purpose

 of these children’s lives. This year, in particular, I am watching an onslaught of common 

core curriculum infiltrate our schools, along with additional tests and test prep to add to the 

test load which permeates every minute of every school day.

Read More!

Ceresta Smith

After careful consideration, I have decided not to issue the MDCPS district interim writing test. The test consists of several non-fiction reading passages that are followed by a prompt that requires students to a write multi-paragraph argument. It is not clear if this assessment is a result of ignorance in regards to the writing process or the result of forced culpability, as Florida did pay the state of Utah 5.4 million dollars for their state standardized tests that incorporate Common Core State Standards.[1]  Florida leaders, in their rush to have "tests" in which to hold educators, schools, and students "accountable" via a dubious and punitive evaluation system, opted not to wait until Florida assessments were created and properly vetted via a pilot and peer review process. Whatever might be the cause, the result is an assessment that leaves most students in a compromised position with little choice but to engage in pervasive plagiarism. It is faulty pedagogy at best and liable to litigation at worse.  Therefore, I will not engage in actions that will result in leading students down a wrong path that can ultimately cause them harm and penalty. 

[1] Woods, B. (2014, April 7). Florida to pay Utah $5.4M for Common Core test rental. Retrieved from

Monday, October 27, 2014

#AACTE is "anxious" about Duncan. #notgoodenough !

Once again we hear that Duncan wants to go after schools of education.  While some have pointed out how silly this idea is and just another "test and punish" reform, the leaders in the field still remain silent.  

Instead of down right disdain the profession offers this little snippet from AACTE president Sharon Robinson in Politico,

“Anxious is not too strong a word to describe the degree to which we are waiting and watching,” said Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. “These regulations could well be a seminal statement for this administration.” Robinson is concerned that the administration will tie financial aid to a rating system that relies on metrics such as how many graduates of a given teacher prep program land jobs after they graduate — and how well their students perform on standardized tests. She says education colleges want to track that data and use it to improve their programs — but they don’t want it used against them, since they can’t control crucial variables like the strength of the local job market or the conditions inside local K-12 classrooms.

We're "anxious" and "concerned?"  I don't know who "we" are but if Ms. Robison is speaking for the profession we have a huge problem.  Why are "we" not OUTRAGED?  And why do our leaders and organizations that represent us still present some possible middle ground appeasement?

If teacher educators in the trenches don't stand up and demand that our leaders (Deans, Department Heads, Program Leaders, etc) and professional organizations (AACTE, and all the state AACTE affiliates) take an aggressive stand on "test and punish" teacher education reform, then we truly have no one to blame except ourselves.  In fact here is a blog I authored for Huffington Post in October of 2011 that tried to move rank and file teacher educators.

Reports the Website "Schools Matter":In recalibrating what information the Feds will require of ed schools, a graying and sallow Arne announced that his Gates and Broad handlers have come up with a scheme to reward and punish teacher preparation programs based on the scores from tests taken by students who will one day be taught by the ed school graduates. 
HELP! Where are all the credible teacher educators? Where all of my colleagues? Do you really think that hiding behind your "research" agenda shields you from the reality of this new push to destroy the American public school system along with quality teaching and learning? WAKE UP! PAY ATTENTION! The corporate reform movement is coming for you and me now. 
AACTE and CAEP, now support "accountability" as defined by the Obama/Duncan Department of Education. As reported by Stephen Sawchuck, "Momentum appears to be gathering behind a U.S. Department of Education plan to hold teacher education programs accountable for the achievement of students taught by their graduates." If you need to, go back and read that statement again and again until it sinks into your thick skulls. 
We are now going to be responsible for the test scores of children that end up being taught by our graduates. In other words, if my son fails and his teacher was your student, it's now your fault! And if you don't make the changes needed to help your students "teach" my son how to do well on his standardized tests you, your department, your school, and/or your college will be slapped and eventually shut down. When that happens please tell me about how important your "research" was. 
I'm sorry was I too harsh? Did I offend you (my colleagues)? Did I dare pick on your research? Yes I did. Now get over it and start speaking, writing and screaming about how "No Child Left Behind" for teacher education is at best a bone-headed idea and at worst an absolute assault on our academic freedom and an unethical attempt to make us do what we know is absolutely wrong. 
Remember NCLB? Yeah, some of you complained and some of you even managed to turn it into a productive line of research. And what was it that you complained about and what did all that research reveal? You complained that testing would not do anything to the achievement gap, that the curriculum will narrow, that the "least among us" would be hit hardest, and that linking student test scores to teachers and schools was problematic. Then after years of conducting research you found out that all of your complaints were substantiated. The achievement gap still exists, public school children now receive little to no instruction in the arts or the humanities, the children of poverty are bearing the brunt of this misguided ideological attack on public schools and value-added measures of teachers are extremely unreliable and the public reporting of these statistics causes harm to all involved with public education. 
It is our turn to join with the children, parents, teachers and public schools. All across the country there is an "Opt Out" movement occurring. Parents are refusing to allow their children to take standardized tests (hereherehere), teachers are refusing to administer the tests, administrators are speaking out against the negative consequences associated with the tests, and some schools have actually stopped administering the tests. 
What should we do? How should we respond? Who's willing to be the first teacher educator to say: "No. I opt out too. I will not abandon everything I know about children, teaching learning and schools. I refuse to take part in a rigged political system designed to dismantle public education and thwart democracy."
Isn't it our turn to tune in and "opt out"?
I'll ask again three years later:

  • Teacher education colleagues are you ready to organize and speak truth to power?  
  • Can we move beyond simply complaining about Duncan and the reformers?  
  • Can we look within the profession and demand that our leaders not offer "anxious" compliance?  
"I don't want to be here anymore!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#edTPA: Another high stakes disaster planned for Wisconsin's future teachers

Dear Elected Officials,

I know you are extremely busy courting campaign donors—especially with the election just weeks away.  However, I wanted to alert you to an issue that will greatly affect the future of teaching in Wisconsin and thought some of you might want to have a heads up and start thinking about how you might address this issue—really!

My sense, along with quite a few of my teacher education colleagues across the state, is that most of you assume implementing the edTPA—another accountability gate imposed on the teacher education process—will provide the state with better teachers.  Even DPI leadership seems incapable of understanding the disaster that will accompany this gate (edTPA) upon full implementation.

What seems like simple accountability is actually going to result in creating a population of teacher education students unable to get a teaching license at the end of their education—after having passed through multiple gates and accountability measures.  

In other words the current implementation model for edTPA will falsely deny teacher education students a teaching license.  This will occur after years of success in teacher education programs and passing through multiple accountability gates set in place by the state and institutions of higher education.  

We are literally going to have teacher education students that will have 4.0s and superior recommendations that testify to their abilities NOT able to get a teaching license.  Why Because the edTPA is set up as a high stakes test in Wisconsin.  This is a guarantee that a sample (15 - 35 %) of teacher education students will fail the edTPA simply based on setting an arbitrary cut score.

There is no reason (both empirically from a research perspective and from an accountability application) to set a cut score for the edTPA.  The edTPA is an experimental “performance” assessment that was never designed to be used as a high stakes exam.  The edTPA should NEVER be used to deny teacher education students access to the profession. The best use of the edTPA would be to provide data for teacher education program assessment.  Also, the data might (and that is a huge might) be helpful when analyzing teaching behavior and how purposive reflection MIGHT help teacher candidates become more powerful in the classroom.

I am also writing to you to help you get the word out that when this policy is implemented (as currently planned), hundred’s of teacher education students that will have paid full tuition for a college degree will be denied access to the profession of teaching.  

Who will these students be?  A large body of research exists that demonstrates how high stakes tests are racially and culturally biased.   Therefore the probability that these same students will experience the most difficulty is high.  This is seriously problematic considering these are the exact students that we want in today’s classrooms.  

The edTPA (used as a high stakes test) will be a disaster and do nothing but cause harm and set in motion an outcry from teacher education students (and their parents) who have proven over 4 or more years to be potentially powerful teachers.

Say Hi to your campaign donors for me.  I’ll be here after the election and more than willing to have a conversation about the issue presented in the above paragraphs. In the meantime I will continue to help potential teacher education candidates understand how politics and special interests—not research—drive education policy in the state of Wisconsin.

Kind Regards,


Monday, October 13, 2014

Colorado Board of Education memo to Teachers: Embrace Indigenous Peoples’ Day #nothistory

Colorado Teachers,

Today marks the official recognition of Christopher Columbus and his lasting gift to American culture.  In the past we have presented school children the story of the courageous Italian explorer who discovered America in 1492 when he sailed the ocean blue for the king and queen of Spain.

Typically the American public school curriculum presented Columbus as the hero who proved the world was round and discovered a land full of “people” in need of Western culture.  After the land full of “people” finally accepted the superiority of Western culture, Columbus was glorified in America and this led to OUR national Holiday. A day when every American child in the country celebrated the courageous white man from Europe (Columbus) who proved the world was round, discovered America, and gifted Western culture to the “people.”

However, due to America hating revisionist historians, OUR founder and cultural provider has been denigrated to the point that some educators are calling for providing “balance,” “sensitivity,” and “perspective” when teaching about our purveyor of Western culture.  Some of these America hating types have even suggested that the young children in elementary grades be presented with this revisionist nonsense.  They want OUR hero presented as an “invader,” “exploiter,” and even a “genocider.” 

Some of the America hating revisionists have even called for an end to OUR national holiday.  Instead of Columbus Day, they (America hating revisionists) want to forcibly install something called Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

At first WE (America loving preservationists) were dismayed and planned to protest this America hating attempt to dismantle OUR holiday and order that all children in Colorado be taught the truth.  However, after careful thought, we have decided to demand that all teachers in Colorado fully embrace Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  After all, this is simply just a day to celebrate real Americans—those of us that were born in America that embrace the gift of Western Culture. 

Remind students that on that October day in 1492 (after sailing the ocean blue) Christopher Columbus established the permanent residency of all courageous Europeans. Extol the children about today’s descendants—America loving preservationists.  Celebrate US —the true Indigenous People of America.


Colorado Board of Education

(America loving preservationists)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Colorado Education Department memo: Curricular Revisions for the Teaching of Slavery #nothistory

A long time ago when white guys started exploring the entire world, a group of courageous white guys discovered Africa.  When the courageous white guys started to explore Africa they found “people” with dark skin and funny clothes.  But what was really disturbing was the dark skinned “people’s” broken economic system—it didn’t create massive wealth for the few and it left many without the skills to participate in wealth creation.

This bothered the courageous white people who discovered Africa and they decided to ask the “people” with dark skin if they would like to participate in a study abroad—forever—jobs training program.  The dark skinned “people” thought about this humanitarian offer but at first were non-committal.  However—after playing a few games of UNCLE—the courageous white people “convinced” the dark skinned “people” to participate in the study abroad jobs training program.

Once the courageous white guys—who discovered Africa—decided they had enough dark skinned “people” to participate in the job training program, they loaded them onto ships and gave them free boat rides to America (which they had discovered too).  On the trip to America the courageous white guys helped the dark skinned “people” get comfortable by removing other dark skinned “people” that had gastrointestinal problems.

Upon arriving in America, the courageous white guys (who discovered America and Africa) helped the dark skinned “people” find work and housing through a proven system of job training. The dark skinned “people” were taught how pose correctly and flaunt muscle tone.

Other really hard working white people came and chose the best posers and flaunters for extended job training.  These new—courageous— white people took the best dark skinned posers and flaunters to their new homes where they were given real names, real clothes, and free housing.

After a good night’s sleep with real names and real clothes, the dark skinned “people” woke up to their first real breakfast and were then taken to job training.  During the day the dark skinned “people” learned how to pick cotton.  Other dark skinned “people” learned how to truly care for children so the courageous white people could provide the needed job training to the posers and flaunters who were well on their way to becoming pickers.

On the rare occasion that some dark skinned “people” needed extra job training, expert job trainers provided “professional development” to help “motivate” the dark skinned “people” to learn how to be a more efficient worker.

Now this arrangement went on for a long time.  In fact it went on so long that at one point the were more dark skinned “people” living with the courageous white people who continued to provide countless jobs (and real names and real clothes). And the other thing that happened over time was that the best job training in America ended up being provided in the South, while job training in the North withered and died and dark skinned “people” were simply assimilated into the North’s compassionate culture of tolerance and acceptance.

So the South continued to provide jobs for dark skinned “people” until one day when ALL the compassionate and tolerant white people of the North asked the President of the United States to halt the job training program in South.  White people in the South were confused.  For the longest time they had been providing jobs for dark skinned “people” and the program was a huge success.   Lots and lots of dark skinned “people” learned how to work and a very small number of courageous white people made a lot of money, built really big houses and developed an efficient labor model.  Why end such a successful program?

Needless to say this made things tense in America and President Abraham Lincoln was not exactly sure how to proceed.  He could not let one half of the country—the South—be job training and the other half not—the North.  He decided to write an Equal Prosperity Act affirming that free job training was no longer necessary because all were equal, educated, and empowered to seize opportunities to prosper.

The courageous white people in the South gave up free job training voluntarily and with great sacrifice considering that other countries still practiced free job training.  It was also a wonderful example of good old American compromise. And without this voluntary act of great sacrifice things could have ended really badly.  Who knows? It’s quite possible that the compassionate and tolerant white people from the North and the courageous white people from the South might have engaged in a bloody four-year struggle.  A struggle that might have destroyed cities. A struggle that might have left over 600,000 dead people.

A struggle that might have ushered in an endless era of lingering animosity for dark skinned “people” in the compassionate North and the courageous South.

Foot Notes.
1) Ms. C. Smith helped provide the interpretive frame that proved invaluable to this curricular revision.

    Foot note to foot note
    b) A special thanks to the eminent historian Mr. Vernon Jones Jr.  His diligence over the years finally produced the Lincoln Equal Prosperity Act.