Saturday, September 22, 2012

Don't Cry for Me JC Penney

Today I visited the local JC Penney store and happily purchased a pair of shoes on sale. What a deal! The salesperson was great, but prior to the end of the transaction asked if I wanted to donate 45 cents to Teach for America. I let her know that the question itself was upsetting to me. She gave me my receipt, told me about the online survey, and said I could voice my concern there. I did just that. Here's what I sent using the character limitations available.

"Upon checkout, I was asked if I would like to donate to Teach For America, which is not a charity. It is a controversial national organization that provides zero benefit to any schools or children in my community and questionable contributions to communities across the nation. The name gives the false impression it benefits teachers. The request upset me and hearing it offered to another customer caused me to leave the store. I am a long time shopper at JC Penney, but I will avoid it until I am made aware that the company has severed this inappropriate program that destroys an otherwise satisfactory shopping experience."

How did JC Penney get mixed up with TFA in the first place? I recall that Target and even Walmart targeted some donations to local schools. In any case, for my shopping needs as the holiday season approaches, I have TJ Max and Ross For Less on the top of my shopping destination list. I will not be buying much this season, but where I purchase will be as important as what I purchase.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Washington State Ballot Initiative: Redefining School Choice

Parents, community members, and taxpayers across the nation have been loud and clear regarding what they expect from public schools.
1) They want accountability; but do not want schools turned into centers of testing and test preparation instead of centers of learning.
2) They want safe, student-centered, and instructionally-rich environments that include art, music, and P.E.
3) They want reasonable class sizes and believe that class-size matters.
4) They want stronger local control and less federal and state control.
5) They want less standardization, less intrusive rules, less tests, and less data collection.
6) They want to retain parent rights, and not have them weakened by new FERPA regulations.

Education policy-wonks, education reformers, foundations, and legislators in both establishments persist in ignoring these concerns and persist in forcing their definition of education reform.

Washington State is one of  nine states that do not allow charter schools. "Washington voters have rejected charter schools three times before -- in 1996, 2000 and a third time in 2004." This November, voters will revisit this situation again via a ballot initiative 1240, based on a petition drive. The three week petition drive was funded this way:
According to Public Disclosure Commission filings posted Tuesday, Yes On 1240 has raised a total of $2.3 million and spent about $2.1 million to gather about 350,000 signatures. Most of the money has come from Washington technology leaders, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who donated $1 million.
Other reported funds and funders of the petition drive included $100,000 from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and $200,000 from Katherine Binder, chairwoman of EMFCO Holdings, $150,000 has been donated to the campaign from out-of-state, and $50,000 from Democrats for Education Reform, which is based in New York but has a presence in Washington state.

The successful petition drive was organized by Winner & Mandabach of Santa Monica, California, a company that specializes in "big-buck initiatives." 

The final and approved wording on the ballot measure read as follows:

             Initiative Measure No. 1240 concerns creation of a public charter school system.

Concise description:
This measure would authorize up to forty publicly-funded charter schools open to all students, operated through approved, nonreligious, nonprofit organizations, with government oversight; and modify certain laws applicable to them as public schools.

Ballot measure summary limited to 75 words:
This measure would allow a newly-created state commission or approved local school boards to authorize qualifying nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to operate public charter schools, limited to forty schools over five years. Public charter schools would receive standard per-student public school funding and be open to all students without tuition. Public charter schools would be subject to teacher certification requirements, government oversight, and performance reporting requirements, but exempt from certain state laws and school district policies.

Read more here: voters are unlikely to read is the 39-page implementation plan, which includes
What voters are unlikely to read is the 39-page detailed implementation plan or the "conversion charters" plan tucked within it.  These new public charters would be free of regulations required of the public schools except for testing requirements. Conversion charters permit parents or teachers to vote to turn a standard public school into a charter school via a petition process. While controversial so-called parent trigger laws are restricted to low performing schools and rely on a petition process, this ballot initiative allows any school including high performing schools to "convert."

 I1240 proponents attempt to distinguish "conversion" from "parent trigger" this way:
"...there is no parent or teacher “trigger” in I-1240. Under I-1240, it’s possible for a traditional public school to convert to a charter school only if the school meets rigorous application requirements, and demonstrates community need and parent and community support. One additional requirement before that conversion could happen is that either a majority of the parents or a majority of the teachers would have to sign a petition supporting the conversion. However, this is an additional requirement to demonstrate support for the school — a petition alone would mean nothing."
Parents, community members, and taxpayers are not so easily fooled by changes in a word or two and creating new definitions. Pass it now, fix it later is a bad idea. The devil is in the details, or lack of, and Washington state voters would do well to reject this ballot initiative. What is clear for the rest of the nation is that charter expansion for all is the goal.

While public schools strain under regulations, public charters would not. How does this make any sense? Wouldn't the public be better served by wider discussion of what type of customized conversion schools would be developed even in those areas where students demonstrate high achievement? How do customized schools navigate in a standardized-driven top down environment? Without that conversation first, how much more experimentation on children should the taxpayers be willing to pay for?

Below is a section of the final text of the ballot measure that references a conversion.

Part II
Sec. 201: (8) "Conversion charter school" means a charter school created by converting an existing noncharter public school in its entirety to a charter
school under this chapter.
(9) "New charter school" means any charter school established under this chapter that is not a conversion charter school.
Sec. 205: (3) A conversion charter school must provide sufficient capacity to enroll all students who wish to remain enrolled in the school after its conversion to a charter school, and may not displace students enrolled before the chartering process.
Sec. 213: (3) In the case of an application to establish a conversion charter school, the applicant must also demonstrate support for the proposed conversion by a petition signed by a majority of teachers assigned to the school or a petition signed by a majority of parents of students in the school.
Sec. 222: (6) Conversion charter schools are eligible for local levy moneys approved by the voters before the conversion start-up date of the school as determined by the authorizer, and the school district must allocate levy moneys to a conversion charter school.
Sec. 223: (5) A conversion charter school as part of the consideration for providing educational services under the charter contract may continue to use its existing facility without paying rent to the school district that owns the facility. The district remains responsible for major repairs and safety upgrades that may be required for the continued use of the facility as a public school. The charter school is responsible for routine maintenance of the facility including, but not limited to, cleaning, painting, gardening, and landscaping. The charter contract of a conversion charter school using existing facilities that are owned by its school district must include reasonable and customary terms regarding the use of the existing facility that are binding upon the school district. References:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Governor Scott left at the station and misses the testing and accountability train.

UPDATE ON DR. ROBINSON: Truth in American Education reported that Teresa Sweet of the Florida DOE responded to the concerns of Dr. Robinson of the Trinity Christian School in Deltona repeating the regulations and adding some detail.  Blogger Vander Hart concludes the following (bold added):
The only guidance that this provides is that principals can determine what to do with incoming transfers so this perhaps gives Dr. Robinson some latitude with which to deal with incoming students who have taken Algebra I, but failed the EOC assessment.  Since private schools don’t participate he could probably grant the credit.  Currently there is no way any of his or other private school’s students transferring out can receive credit for Algebra I and Biology unless they take the state’s EOC assessment.  Theoretically, the only way for a student to be prepared to take that assessment is for that private school to adopt the same standards as the public schools (read Common Core State Standards) at the moment.  As Sweet mentioned, there is a provision in the Florida Statutes for the Commissioner of Education to approve an alternative exam, but the current Education Commissioner, Gerard Robinson, has resigned effective August 31st.  So who knows when or if that’ll happen.
Yesterday, Florida Governor Scott promised changes to the testing system, but had no specifics other than no more teaching to the test. Today, the Florida Department of Education and the State School Board sent Superintendents a 12-page memo on testing and accountability rules starting this school year, rules that cement just the opposite on Florida's testing system.

In the meantime, Dr. Robinson of the Trinity Christian School in Deltona, Fl still has received no reply from the Governor regarding the impact of the end-of-course exams on students leaving private school for public school and reported here. In fact, in an interview today reported on the Truth in American Education website, Robinson elaborated that the unnecessary disruption and uncertainty affecting students and their families both leaving and coming to private school under the current testing system. Robinson cites an "influx of students transferring into his school from area public schools who took Algebra I, but failed the end of course assessment."  This situation "places his school in a conundrum because their transcript says they took a math class, but they don’t have credit for Algebra I so they’re not sure what to do with those students.  “Do we just put them back into Algebra I again?”

How are other states managing this? At least Oklahoma was forward thinking and established alternative ways for students with "special circumstances" to demonstrate their proficiency in 2011 including 11 alternatives for Algebra 1 alone.
From OK State Dept. website:
Students with Other Special Circumstances
Some students may have other special circumstances related to meeting the ACE Testing Requirements. Some examples of students with special circumstances include, but are not limited to, students who used proficiency based promotion to earn credit in one of the required courses, students who transferred to a public school from a private school or home school, or students with medical conditions that make testing difficult.  Students with special circumstances may be able to meet the ACE Testing Requirements through alternate tests or End-of-Course Projects instead of taking the EOI exams.  More information about students with special circumstances is available in the ACE Implementation Guide.
On the other hand, Texas school districts struggle with figuring out how to calculate the results of test results as they affect GPA. They consider whether greater points should go to a student who passes the first time and less to a student who has to take the exam more than once.

After the FCAT writing fiasco and a 40% failure rate in the new Algebra 1 end-of-course exam, Florida parents might have thought private school was a way to escape an out of control accountability system that does not serve the best interest of students and families.  Unfortunately, parent choice has no meaning under these conditions.  Governor Scott may have a new message, but the train has left him behind at the station/

And what of the students?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Florida Testing and Accountability System Creates Havoc in Private Schools

The smooth system of transferring credits from private schools to public schools has apparently been eliminated. According to an email sent to Governor Scott, the Volusia County Director of Assessment informed the Trinity Christian Academy in Deltona that credit will not be given to private school students who transfer to public school for courses, such as Algebra and Biology, because the standardized end-of-course tests are not available to them. If this information is correct, the Florida legislature, Commissioner of Education, and State School Board, by an act of incompetence or by design, have removed all alternative testing measures available to students in a private school that would serve in lieu of end-of-course-exams, leaving students unable to graduate from a public high school.

One Florida private school has raised this issue with Governor Scott in an August 10, 2012 email requesting a remedy to this surprising turn of events. Thanks to Sunburst, the open government email system, the public caught a ray of an additional lapse of serious magnitude in the state's accountability system that redefines parental choice.

“… these families bear the cost of education that our government would have had to carry. Private school students should not be penalized for choosing to go to Florida's private schools.”

Is this lapse a way to insert Florida's controversial testing and accountability system into private schools and exert control over religious schools? Will the standardized end-of-course requirement ultimately be required of all schools, public and private? Does the requirement apply to homeschoolers who transfer back to public school?

State education authorities have some explaining to do and an unambiguous remedy to develop. The public deserves a clear plan on how they intend to clean up yet another mess they have made with the state accountability system. In the meanwhile, parent choice has just been thrown under the bus.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Florida Accountability Concerns Increase

In spite of Florida Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson whirl-wind talking tour of Florida on the heels of the FCAT fiasco, parents, community members, and taxpayers remain unconvinced of the validity of Florida's assessment initiative. editorial page editor Brad Rogers commented on the FCAT Writing fiasco saying: "Too many people on the front lines — principals, teachers and parents — have far too many criticisms of FCAT for Robinson, Gov. Rick Scott and our lawmakers to continue playing the hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil game."

Rogers points out the public wants accountability, but not expensive, experimentation. After all, who exactly is footing the bill?

Call me a skeptic, but nothing is likely to change. First of all, most of Robinson’s comments about FCAT concerns have largely been in defense of the high-stakes test. Second, while Robinson and his masters in the governor’s mansion and the Legislature keep raising the bar — which, I believe, most Floridians agree is prudent — they are doing nothing to help local school districts meet the challenge. For example, when the Tallahassee crowd mandated all testing be done on computers, schools received no help to buy enough computers to get the job done, despite millions in new costs.

The more state level officials try to explain, the less confidence the public has that the testing has any value. Reusing a worn out largely indefensible narrative, Robinson repeats that high stakes testing has been good for Florida and without it we would be turning back the clock on the meteoric progress made. He warns that test scores will continue to be low as the state transitions to the national assessments based on the Common Core standards; but ignores basic questions on current implementation.

Currently, four Florida School Boards (Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach, and Broward) have voted a resolution that rejects the FCAT as the sole means for grading Florida schools saying it is an "and inadequate and unreliable measure of student learning," and rejects the over emphasis on standardized testing. Reports indicate that the Orange County School Board is going to review the resolution.

The Florida School Board Association will convene a meeting with representation by all 67-school boards and an emergency item has been placed on the agenda to discuss encouraging the State Board of Education "to revamp its testing and accountability methods, and add more variety to the way student progress is measured."

More reporting found here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

APP Press Release: ALEC Board Delays Vote on Common Core

Washington, DC – Today, the board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), after considering anti-Common Core legislation introduced by the American Principles Project (APP), Goldwater Institute and the Washington Policy Center last summer, delayed a decision on whether to endorse the legislation until their next meeting.

“ALEC’s delay in endorsing the resolution is troubling and plays into the strategy of the multi-billion dollar private entities that are pushing the Common Core,” said APP’s Emmett McGroarty. ”This issue has been before ALEC for almost a year. The resolution was approved by the ALEC Education Task Force overwhelmingly last December, and ALEC has discussed it at three of its national meetings. The well-financed private entities and the federal government are moving forward with their implementation of the Common Core, and Americans have been cut out of the process.”

Dr. Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented the pro-Common Core case to the board of ALEC. Dr. Bennett is also on the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the two trade associations managing the Common Core Standards (along with the National Governors Association). Additionally, he is the Chairman of Chiefs for Change, an initiative of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. The Foundation for Excellence in Education and CCSSO have received $1,000,000 and $70,000,000, respectively, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary force financing and pushing the Common Core.

Robert Scott, Texas Commissioner of Education, presented the case for the resolution to the board, which then deliberated behind closed doors. State Rep. Dave Frizzell of Indiana, ALEC’s National Chairman, reported that the board found that there was much to like about the legislation but decided to send it back to the Education Task Force due to concerns about some of the language. He stated that the board would forward the details of those concerns to the task force.

This week, APP and Pioneer Institute released a white paper that makes the case against state adoption of the national Common Core State Standards. Co-sponsored by Pacific Research Institute and the Washington Policy Center, Controlling Education From the Top: Why Common Core Is Bad for America argues in favor of a Common Core withdrawal resolution.

The white paper can be seen here:

The Resolution can be seen here:

The American Principles Project is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to preserving and propagating the fundamental principles on which our country was founded - universal principles, embracing the notion that we are all, "created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
For more information, please contact Jameson Cunningham with Shirley & Banister Public Affairs or (703) 739-5920.
NOTE: On May 2, reports of families of 400 students opted their children out of standardized tests.
In Texas, over 400 school boards have signed a Resolution opposing high stakes assessment.
In Florida, two school boards have signed a National Resolution opposing high stakes assessment.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NUT Report: National Call to End High Stakes Assessment

Press Release

A Letter to President Obama

Two grandparents on opposite ends of the continent each had a concern about the direction of education reform and its effect on their grandchildren. Through a chain of improbable circumstances they found each other on Facebook and conjured up a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns.

Mark Naison, from Brooklyn, NY and a Fordham professor prepared a draft of the letter. Bob Valiant, retired school administrator from Kennewick, WA, edited the letter and Bob Valiant Jr. developed a survey form and website, The letter calls for the removal of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the inclusion of parents, teachers, and school administrators in all administration policy discussions. It insists on the immediate end to penalties and incentives to compel using student test scores to evaluate teachers, require school closures, or install charter schools. Finally, the letter asks for a National Commission, to include parents and teachers, to explore ways to improve the public schools.

Naison and Valiant Sr. began to circulate the letter to friends on Facebook. The signatures started rolling in and now more than 6700 total signatures have been recorded. A map on the website shows they came from all across the country, from big cities, suburbs, and hamlets. All of this happened with a purely volunteer cadre made up of parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens with no financial expenditure. Now the goal is to continue collecting signatures until June 1 when the letter and package of signatures will be delivered to the President.

For further information, consult the website, or phone Bob Valiant at 509.783.8883.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Indiana: Parent Opts Out and Indiana DOE Overreacts

Recently, Grumpy Educators reported on a New York parent who opted her student out of student testing. The response from the school was disheartening. Now, a parent in Indiana reports a similar experience in asserting her parental rights to opt out her son from standardized testing. In both cases, the parents were mistreated, harassed, and in New York, threatened, their students had an IEP, and the state-level officials demanded compliance to non-existing regulations. Are these appropriate responses by State-level education department staffers? Schools are ordered to comply and school officials then order the parents and students to comply without any enforceable legal requirement. The schools must give the tests, but the students are not compelled to take them and parental rights have not been overridden. When the state is asked for relevant regulations, the compliance begins to fall apart.

Read the Indiana parent's story from beginning to end.

Part 1: The Parent Requests No Testing

"I went to school with [child's name] today, Thursday, May 5th, to make sure the school did not make [child's name] take the ISTEP (he was at home on Tuesday and Wednesday this week). I was pulled out by an administrator about thirty minutes into the day with [child's name] and asked to speak with him. He brought me to his office and explained how they have to follow what the DOE requires. If a child comes to school during ISTEP they must take the exams, and today they are doing makeup exams for ISTEP. Therefore if I don’t allow him to take the ISTEP he will have to stay home until the testing window is closed (meaning the next 4 days of school he would have to stay home until May 9th). The administrator then directed me to talk with Dr. Walker at the DOE about my desire to opt [child's name] out of ISTEP and to hear what they mandate. She indicated I had no legal right to opt him out and that the state has the right to make a child take the test even if the parent/s object. She indicated if I decided to stay at school with my son that the school would have to call the legal authorizes to have us removed from school. I summarized for her the three options I thought I had:
1. Stay at school with my son and refuse the test,
2. Stay at home with my son,
3. Allow my son to take the test.

Obviously there are consequences with all three situations. The first option threatens me with physical removal from the school and undue stress on my son. The second option denies my son a right to an education. The third option denies my right as a mom to say no to the excessive testing that is going on in our schools, especially in third grade.

 I told my son’s administrator that I feel like my son and I are being run out of this school because of ISTEP. He nodded his head and agreed that is what the DOE is requiring. He didn’t agree with the mandate from the DOE but he also didn’t want to put his school at jeopardy of sanctions. He indicated that he believes there are other laws such as compulsory education laws that contradict what the DOE is saying but at this point he has to follow the DOE directions. He knew that there are 28 kids opting out at the Indianapolis Project School and the school principal has allowed this. However, he believes that situation will put that school at risk. 

We were asked to take the test at 10:30 or leave the school. I decided to leave but tried to get [child's name] back in school later in the day as he really wanted to go to his Passions class at 2:30. I was told by phone not to come back as the DOE has been notified of [child's name] departure from school and the staff has been notified that [child's name] should not be allowed back at school today. When I asked about [child's name] going to school tomorrow he said something to the affect, “Tensions are high. If you come to school it will probably be a very ugly situation”. 

I feel so upset about many of the elements of this situation. I honestly thought the school would leave an opt out child/parent alone if they came to school to ensure their son’s right to an education and denied the test for their child. I am shocked that the school is responding in this manner and that the Indiana DOE can assert their power over a school in this way."

Part 2: Indiana DOE finds another option.

"I wish to update you all on my situation.
I received an email this morning from the school principal indicating that I can bring [child's name] to school and they wanted to talk to me in person about a way for [child's name] to stay at school and not take ISTEP.
When I showed up both principals were present and they said that they regretted how the DOE spoke to me yesterday on the phone regarding my demand to opt out [child's name] from school. They said they asked the DOE to put in writing where the law states that [child's name] cannot be at school if he doesn’t take the ISTEP. In addition, they explained to the DOE that [child's name] is supposed to get special accommodations to take the test due to his IEP. The school believes this new knowledge caused the DOE to provide another option to the school.
They told me [child's name] could go to school again and not take the ISTEP but he would have to be given the opportunity to take the test under normal accommodations (in a separate room). All he has to do is say no to the test and they would let him go back to class and they would have to go through this procedure through the middle of next week. I agreed to talk to [child's name] about this option and make sure he understands the plan. After yesterday my son really understands what is going on and he is ready to say no to the test. In addition, it was a big deal to my son to be at school today and he was more than happy to say no to the test. I was given assurances that it would be done in a gentle matter.
As I walked out of the school building today, I felt emotion and some degree of victory. I feel that the school and the DOE had to show me as a parent where it says in the state law that [child's name] could not be at school. They obviously could not provide that information and realized they needed to back up from what they said to me yesterday.
I believe the school was trying to find a solution and felt that what they provided me was the best solution for now. I am grateful that they did follow up with the DOE from the unfortunate situation yesterday and asked the DOE to back up their statements regarding [child's name] right to attend school.
I would like to continue to provide pressure on the DOE to turn back their policies around threatening parents and threatening to force kids to take a test. However, I need time to think about how to use this situation to benefit the larger cause. The issues that need to be in the spotlight are:
1. The parents right to guide the well being of their child and how that supersedes the states right to force testing

2. Putting the child in a position to have to be the one to say no to the test.
Although I agreed to this and felt confident my son could handle this option, I also realize that young kids should not be put in this position. I don’t want this to be the fall back policy of the opt out movement.

3. The DOE has been caught overstepping their power in a number of ways recently. IREAD is one example. I believe we need to apply pressure on our legislators to make sure we put them back in their place.

4. More organizing at the local level around these issues is critical – I was alone in this situation. I hope to make more progress once I have time to recover from the intensity and stress of this situation

I hope that this story is helpful to other parents who run into this situation in the future. Let’s keep the pressure on the DOE."

Friday, April 27, 2012

New York: Bringing Parent Opposition and Resistance Out of the Shadows

From zero reporting on parent opposition to excessive testing, news stories published in mainstream press are popping up here and there - a good sign.
AP Buffalo covered parents opting out in that area:
"A small but growing number of local parents are deciding to have their children opt out of the state standardized tests in English and math."

The news report describes the reasons parents give for opting out:

  • Too much stress on the children

  • Exaggerated test-centric learning environments

  • Narrowed curriculum and exclusion of development of critical thinking skills, hands-on learning, and other significant learning opportunities such as social studies and art

  • Concerns over testing quality and outsourcing testing to Pearsons

Notably, in contrast to the recent school-based threat made to a Long Island parent to report opting out to Child Protective Services and proceeding with testing in spite of parent request otherwise, no such threats or punishments for making this decision were reported in this article. In fact, parents sent their students to school and the students simply left the sheet blank. The test is not scored.

In an ABC News article, Opting Out of Standardized Tests, also covering New York, a spokesman for the state indicated that opting out has ramifications for the schools and the districts. Poor scores mean the schools could close or staff changes made.
Oddly, no comment made on the benefits of testing for children, except confirming parent rights:
"There are no ramifications for parents or students who keep their children home from grades 3 through 8 tests."

Parents remain generally unaware of the rights; but as the awareness grows that opting out is possible for parents, expect this movement to grow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Testing Perversion: Parent Threatened and Parental Rights Violated in NY

This story does not require much introduction. The correspondence between the parent and the school officials speaks volumes and confirms the depth of the high stakes testing perversion.

4/21 UPDATE: The threat to call CPS stems from unexcused absence applied to refusing to take the test. Keeping the child home would then be considered truancy and on that basis a report to CPS. Neither State nor Federal law require parents to submit their children to testing. There is considerable U.S. Supreme Court decisions on parental rights to support a parent request to opt out. The parent listed them in her correspondence. There is no "compelling" reason for the State to impose this requirement. There is a developing legal complaint on behalf of U.S. parents who have been threatened, intimidated, or punished in anyway over opting out.

Schools and districts handle these situations in a variety of ways - some in the extreme as this one, and others simple respect it. There is no code, they cannot report, the school takes the hit on accountability, and everyone moves along. Reporting has nothing to do with the child or parent rights.

UPDATE: Did the school officials understand the regulations? See my added comment on NY Administrative Rules.

The letter from the parent on her reasons for choosing to opt out her student from standardized testing: (highlighting in red is added for emphasis by Grumpy Educators)

From: [parent name removed]
Sent: Sunday, April 15, 2012 10:38 AM
To: Thomas M. Capone; Donna Gales
Subject: opt out.
Please be advised that my son [name removed] will not be taking the New York State assessments on April 17-19 and April 25-27. After watching [name removed] struggle and listening to his concerns, we have decided to opt out of this unnecessary testing.I am requesting that [name removed] be given an alternative real learning opportunity option.
[parent name removed]

The response from school officials:

Dear Ms. [name removed],
This letter is in response to your April 15, 2012 email and follows up today’s telephone conversation. In your email, you requested that the Oceanside Union Free School District (“District”) not administer the New York State English Language Arts (“ELA”) and Math Assessments to your son, [name removed]. During today’s telephone conversation, you reiterated this request. Upon my informing you that the State Assessments are not optional, you indicated that you planned to either: (1) keep [name removed] at home for the period during which the State Assessments were administered, (2) keep [name removed] at home for the portion of each day during which the State Assessments were administered, or (3) send [name removed] to school with instructions not to take the State Assessments.I remind you that, pursuant to the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, all public school students in grades three through six who have not been deemed eligible by the CSE to take the Alternate Assessment, and are not parentally placed on home instruction, must take the ELA and mathematics elementary assessments. See 8 N.Y.C.R.R. §100.3(b)(2). As you know, [name removed]does not qualify for the Alternate Assessment. The Regulations contain no
“opt-out” provision, which would authorize a parent to have his or her child not
participate in the State Assessment. It is the District’s obligation to
determine all eligible students’ proficiency levels through the administration
of the State Assessments. As such, taking the State Assessments is mandatory
for [name removed].
If without medical justification, [name removed] is absent from school on any dayduring the Assessment period, the District will deem this absence as unexcused.Further, if you keep [name removed] home from school during the Assessment period,without medical verification, it is within the District’s discretion to deem these absences as indicia of educational neglect, which would leave the District little choice but to contact Child Protective Services (“CPS”). Pursuant to the New York State Education Department’s 2012 School Administrator’s Manual, a student will receive a final score of “999″ and will be counted as “not tested”if: (1) he is absent from the entire test; (2) he refuses the entire test; (3)he is absent for any session; or (4) he is present for all sessions, but does not respond to even one question on the test. Accordingly, if Joseph engages in any one of these activities, he will receive a final score of 999, he will be counted as not tested, he may receive an unexcused absence, and CPS may have to be called. If [name removed] does not participate in the State Assessments, the District will use other formal or informal assessments to determine his proficiency level. If [name removed] participates in the State Assessments, he will of course be provided with his IEP-mandated accommodations.I hope the above has clarified any outstanding questions you have about [name removed] obligation to participate in the State-mandated Assessments and your obligation to make him available for testing. We look forward to having [name removed] participate in the State Assessments.

The parent responds:

Dear Mr. C:
I have referred your letter to my attorney. However, I have been advised and would like to take this opportunity to share with you the fact that parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents posses the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399). In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158)
Since state law is superceded by Federal Law, parents are given the final say in matters of education and I shall have the final say in my son’s education.

And then she must write again when she learns her child was forced to test, ignoring the parent request and out of compliance with existing Individual Educational Plan documentation:

[name removed] advises me that he was forced to take the assessment today against his wishes and mine in a separate location, thereby resulting in emotional and physical stress. He is now complaining of a headache and “knots in his back”.
Not only have you violated my parental rights, but now you are failing to implement my son’s IEP, which as you know is a legal document.
I specifically direct you to pages 11 and 12 of [name removed] IEP (the testing accomodations section) wherein it states he is to begin exam in mainstream setting with significant proctor attention to reduce test anxiety.
While I do not feel the need to threaten you, I must advise you that should this situation occur again, I will be forced to contact the authorities.
Parent Signature (removed by Grumpy Educators)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Florida Charter School "Boom": Warning Signs

There is a charter boom going on with too many oddities:

1) 15 of 30 "F" schools in Florida are charters. "Then last year in Florida, charter schools received 15 out of 31 of all the failing FCAT grades that went to public schools. Charter elementary and middle schools were seven times more likely to get an F than traditional public schools."
Read full article here.

2) VP Joe Biden's brother is associated with charter Mavericks HS, which has accounting and performance issues - plus a desire to open 100. Third whistle blower on alleged fraud emerges. Frank Biden has real estate experience.
Read full article here.

3) Parents signed up for an arts-oriented charter, but were not told of its association with Scientology.
Read more here.

4) Duval School Board, in North Florida, followed the rules on charter applications and denied an application. The charter took it to an Charter School Appeal Board established by the State School Board. The appeal board sided with the school board and against the charter. The charter took it to the State Board (all members are appointed), which overturned the appeal board and the district. The district is taking this one to court. What are the rules? Who decides? Murky. More loss of local control?
Read more here.

5) Then there was the recent Parent Trigger mess. Florida residents were denied opportunity to speak at committee meetings and at hearings to give opposing views, while proponents from outside the State were given that access. This is hardly an example of democracy. The good news is that the bill failed. It deserved to fail...the "devil is in the details."
Read more here and here.

6) Florida took RT3 funding and school districts are under strain trying to meet the requirements.

7) In Florida, former Governor Jeb Bush and his Foundation exert too much power.  The Director of his foundation, Patricia Levesque, is adviser to Governor Scott. Her husband is also General Counsel to the Florida House. When voting on charter bills, he advised no conflict of interest nor ethics violation for legislators with personal ties or ties via family to vote on those bills IF the bill did not affect only that family business. Read more here.

8) Last week the Florida DOE issued a report on public charter progress. While some point to the report as clear evidence that charters are "better" than traditional schools, the report itself does not identify variances. One critical factor is that of the total number of public charters in Florida, the performance of only 40% are included in the report. The remaining 60% are not required to be "graded" because the size of the student population is too small to be statistically relevant and under Florida law are excluded. So while we applaud student achievement, growth, and progress wherever it exists, taxpayers still have no information that affirms the disruption leads to any return on investment. There are too many unknowns to recommend Florida's charter boom as a scalable model to replicate.
Read more here.

What happens in Florida is worth watching. These initiatives are heralded in other states as models to follow; however, they do not hold up under scrutiny. Legislators should analyze carefully what is in the best interests of their states students, parents, community members, and taxpayers. Careful deliberation and legislative accountability is not a sign of being anti-charter nor anti-accountability; but rather a sign of doing the job they were elected to do.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012: States Where Parents Oppose Excessive Standardized Testing

April 13, 2012 - 282 Texas school districts have now signed the resolution opposing high stakes assessment.

UPDATE March 29, 2012 - 219 Texas school districts have now signed the resolution opposing high stakes assessment.

UPDATE March 24, 2012 - School districts sign resolution opposing excessive high stakes assessment. So far 151 have signed, numbers increasing.

Texas in the news. Parent opposition to excessive testing and teaching to the test continues to grow, and they are not the only ones it seems.

The New York Times quotes Robert Scott, the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency on describing testing in Texas schools this way:

“perversion of its original intent”

The NY Times article is one of the few that brings national parent opposition out of the shadows. Texas parents are saying enough is enough finding opting out the only way to stop this "perversion."

Click on the map to see it larger.

Washington State: Parent Opposition Out of the Shadows

April 13, 2012 UDATE: CBS News Seattle coversthe Snoho,ish School District parents who opted out of expensive, excessive standardized testing. Ninety students opted out.

April 10, 2012 UPDATE: More Washington State parents opt out of standardized testing. A Washington State Senator has taken notice. The Snohomish School District islocated in Olympia, Washington. A school district spokesperson says this about the opt out movement:
"Parents always have the decision to opt their students out of these tests. We respect the decision these parents are making and we’ll see where that takes us.”


The Seattle Times notes a "rebellion over standardized testing in the Seattle Hill neighborhood of southeast Everett echoes a larger uprising around the country."

Parents may opt out in Washington and have acted on this option over time, but not in the larger numbers seen now. This newspaper report may be one o f the first, if not the first, to acknowledge the mounting parent disgust over excessive testing. While bloggers have reported these events and a handful of education-oriented columns, mainstream reporting has ignored the uprisings.

The Texas Association of School Administrators reports Over 200 school districts in Texas have voted opposition to the testing "perversion."

How much longer will parent, community member, and taxpayer opposition to expensive, experimental, and excessive testing be kept in the shadows? Hopefully, this article is an indication of change.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pearson fattens in the global elearning sector

REPUBLISHED: Originally published October 15, 2011

Pearson has recently added a few new initiatives taking the lead in all things virtual.

First, Pearson acquired Connections Education, "an accredited provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual education for students in grades K-12, and online learning solutions to educational institutions globally. Through tuition-free public schools, full-time and part-time private school programs, and turnkey online courses for bricks and mortar schools, Connections Academy delivers superior, personalized education for students, accessible anywhere." According to the Pearson press release published in The Street, Connections Academy runs in "21 states in the US—serving more than 40,000 students in the current school year. These virtual charter schools are accredited and funded by the relevant state and are free to parents and students who choose a virtual school in place of a traditional public institution or other schooling options." Connections Academy already uses Pearson digital and curriculum materials.

According to reports, the private sector chair of ALEC's Education Task Force is Connections Academy, a private corporation based in Baltimore that offers free online classes through contracts with charter schools, school districts, or governmental entities. Sylvan Ventures (the venture capital arm of the for-profit Sylvan Learning Systems) started Connections Academy in 2001.

Secondly, Pearson has partnered with Google Apps for Education to offer all universities a free learning management system (LMS) called OpenClass. While the code is free, universities will still require developers to customize the LMS and will be required to purchase Pearson digital content and textbooks. This is precisely where Pearson will make money:
By offering a system that sucks colleges and universities in, then offering content that costs money but that integrates oh so conveniently into that system, they hope that the money they spend to offer the learning management system is more than made up by the additional content they'll sell.

For over a decade, Blackboard has dominated the university market by selling a license to use its LMS. According to Inside Higher Ed, it looks like Pearson is set to dominate the market in K-university e-learning.
"the media conglomerate Pearson controlled a shade over 1 percent of the market for learning management systems (LMS) among traditional colleges, according to the Campus Computing Project.This year, Pearson is taking aim at the other 99 percent."

The momentum to capture has not come without criticism. The NY Times reported that Pearson paid for trips taken by State Education Commissioners to Brazil, China, Singapore, and Finland and also won lucrative state testing contracts. Kentucky recently was awarded a $58 million contract and Kentucky State Education Commissioner went to China and Brazil on a Pearson paid trip. A Kentucky blogger, Education Voodoo asks:
One of these days, The New York Times will have a story about education in Kentucky that doesn’t make us look like a bunch of dummies. Maybe it will happen when pigs fly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

South Carolina: Parent Opposition and Resistance on Ed Reform Initiatives

For Immediate Release
March 27, 2012

Contact Person: Sarah Johnson
Phone: (803) 920-4058, (843) 819-8933

Local Parent/Teacher Advocacy Group Welcomes US Secretary of Education to Town

Charleston, SC – Charleston Area Community Voice for Education, an affiliate of Parents Across America, extends a welcome to US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who will be participating in a local round-table discussion on educational reform and touring James Simons Elementary School on Friday. The advocacy group is excited that local leaders and educators will be participating in the event.

Sarah Shad Johnson, a parent of children in Charleston County Schools and co-founder of Community Voice, says, “The timing of Secretary Duncan’s visit comes at a critical time when our state legislators are discussing whether or not to support the adversarial Common Core State Standards, as well as bills regarding school choice, charter school expansion, and tax credits for private schools; our State Superintendent of Education seems to be embracing a controversial stand on the teaching profession; and the focus here in Charleston County appears to be only on experimental, questionable, and expensive initiatives, as opposed to goals of increased learning opportunities.”

Peter Smyth, a retired educator and administrator, and also a co-founder of Community Voice, says, “After a career in education and research into educational reform, I have come to these conclusions: while South Carolina Superintendent Zais has applied for a waiver to No Child Left Behind, his proposals reflect those of Secretary Duncan and the current and previous administrations, policies which have not achieved their goals and have made raising test scores and graduation rates, rather than meaningful learning, the default goals of American education. These are policies that are not found in any other high performing countries. To paraphrase another leader, the Duncan/Zais reforms are not the solution to the problems; they are the problem. I believe that teachers’ and parents’ seats at the table have been replaced by philanthropists, corporations, highly paid consultants, and politically-driven think tanks. Most importantly, I do not believe the current reforms bode well for my granddaughter, about to enter public school in Charleston.”

Secretary Duncan’s visit also coincides with an organized national demonstration at the US Department of Education in Washington, D.C., opposing Duncan’s educational reforms. Currently, there is significant national concern over the direction of Secretary Duncan’s leadership. With thousands of parents, educators, state legislators, school districts, and superintendents across the country protesting U.S. Department of Education policies, Community Voice is concerned about the pressure Duncan has placed on South Carolina, including a verbal lashing of state leaders who have considered dumping the Common Core State Standards.

Community Voice supports:

  • effective reforms, such as reduced class size

  • experienced teachers

  • increased time for teacher professional development and planning

  • relevant content supporting critical thinking

  • sufficient and equitable funding

  • diversity in schools

  • appropriate use of technology

  • meaningful parent involvement

Community Voice opposes:

  • privatization of public schools

  • punitive high-stakes standardized testing

  • school closings

  • ignoring the influence of poverty

Community Voice is committed to moving education forward rather than maintaining the status quo policies of the last ten years. For more information about Community Voice, contact (843) 819-8933 or For more information on Parents Across America, please visit .

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Illinois Parents: "No good reasons for this excessive testing."

"Since I found out two years ago how much experimental testing was happening, I’ve opted him out of dozens of tests. He has skipped the CPS Learning First Benchmark Assessments, the Scantron Performance Series tests, and the pilot Common Core. CPS administered each of these standardized tests in several subjects, several times a year. But there are no good reasons for this excessive testing."

No good reasons indeed and no good reason for parents to get the runaround, be threatened, intimidated, punished, or misinformed, a disturbing and familiar trend nationwide as parents attempt to exercise their parental rights.

Chicago parent, Sharon Schmidt, chronicles how much effort it took to once again this year to exercise those rights and opt out her son of standardized testing. The Schmidt family has been exercising their rights in accordance to the law and provides the requisite information so that other parents have access to the facts. The lack of clear policy guidelines leads to unnecessary confusion. No parent should have to work so hard and write so many emails to clarify. This year, their son will not take the tests, but the school requires that he be kept at home on the testing days and be marked absent versus previous years when he stayed in school and did independent reading.

In a U.S. Supreme Court determination, Troxel v. Granville, the justices relied on the 14th Amendment:

(a) The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has a substantive component that “provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720, including parents’ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, see, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651. Pp. 5—8.

Related articles:
In order to skip the ISAT, parents need to keep children at home during testing

Some family reasons for skipping the ISAT

Monday, March 12, 2012

National Parent Opposition and Resistance Continues to Grow

Let the testing begin! States have heightened attention on standardized testing as many states approach their scheduled testing dates.

Parents, community members, and taxpayers increase resistance and opposition:

Colorado parents are threatened with truancy if they decide to keep their students home on testing days. As of March 8, 2012, the news outlet was waiting for a school district response. Standing by on this development.

Illinois parent opts out yet again this year in a long drawn out process. Related article here. This is a very interesting story.

parent resistance mounts.

North Carolina parents, community members, and taxpayers find that "people stood up for the kind of education they believe in" and averted a repeat of 52 new standardized tests given last spring. The interim superintendent declared the 52-testing idea scrapped. (The previous superintendent who ordered the tests resigned at the end of the 2011 school year to work for Rupert Murdoch's new education company.) Related article here.

New York city parents call for boycotting standardized tests.

A national law suit affirming parent rights to opt out of standardized tests emerges.

How long will education reformers pretend legitimate concerns do not exist?

Bring parent opposition and resistance out of the shadows.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Florida Parent Trigger: Too many holes

Parents, community members, and taxpayers pushed back on the Florida "Parent Empowerment" bill and those efforts were successful. The bill died on the last day of the legislative session in a tie vote, 20 to 20. The Miami Herald reported last minute arm twisting by former Governor Jeb Bush to influence a change of position by one Senator to ensure its passage in case the bill came up for a re-vote in the final hours of the legislative session. That did not happen and the bill can be declared officially dead and buried for this year.

Much has been reported regarding the way the process of the bill unfolded including the testimony provided by non-Florida parents and residents and lobbying by non-Florida non-profits to the exclusion of Florida parent groups such as, the Florida PTA and Florida League of Women Voters. The pressure injected all the way to the end is an indicator of how much money was riding on its passage.

Analysis of the bill itself received less attention. The Thursday night Senate debate included discussion of over 20 amendments, which exposed the bill as something far other than a thoughtfully crafted piece of legislation. The amendments were intended to close serious gaps, but instead made clear the bill was more akin to a piece of Swiss cheese than a movement toward parent empowerment, local control, and fiscal responsibility.

On its merits, this bill is little more than changing the deck chairs. As long as classrooms are test-centric and standardized environments for test preparation instead of student-centered environments of learning, there is no real reform.

The Florida legislature has a penchant for "pass it now, fix it later" legislating.
Proponents of this bill used the familiar and worn-out education reformer narrative that answers valid questions with disdain and insults. Why not answer the question with facts? Opponents were characterized as "conspiracy theorists" and concerns dismissed and ignored.

Undoubtedly, the bill will return next year. However, Florida parents, community members, and taxpayers learned much this year; and as others with legitimate concerns about education reform initiatives nationally, becoming more visible and active in federal and state-level shaping of education. The push back is real and growing.

Related article: Parent Trigger: "Scholastic Snake Oil with Deliciously Deceptive Spin on Parent Involvement."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No Unnecessary Tests (NUT) Report: Parent Right to Opt Out Lawsuit Emerges

Big News!!! (March 2012)
The ACLU is interested in supporting any parents whose children received a penalty/threats for opting out of testing.
If you want to participate in the complaint please share the following:
  • your story
  • permission to join in on the ACLU complaint
  • your return address
  • a signature on a hard copy

Submit to: Nina Bishop, 3065 Windward Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80917
Questions: 719-233-1508

If you want your story published on The Innovative Educator blog, email

In a U.S. Supreme Court determination, Troxel v. Granville, the justices relied on the 14th Amendment:

(a) The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has a substantive component that “provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720, including parents’ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, see, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651. Pp. 5—8.

Opt Out resources and information can be accessed here:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Parent Trigger: "Scholastic snake oil with a deliciously deceptive spin on parental engagement"

This Saturday morning, Florida State Senators attended a special budget meeting that included consideration of SB1718, the so-called Parent Trigger. The committee meeting was hastily called and hit several procedural speed bumps and political posturing by bill proponents. However, efforts to short-circuit the process and fast track it were denied by committee members.

Passing this bill is a priority for former Governor Jeb Bush, who issued a statement urging its passage, as well as funding speakers at today's hearing. Hailed by bill proponents as "giving parents that voice they need to make sure their children are receiving the best education possible," journalist Darryl Owens asked where the parents had been all along. In his piece published in the Orlando Sentinel, Owens precisely and perfectly describes the bill this way:
Scholastic snake oil with a deliciously deceptive spin on parental engagement.

Shirley Ford, a Democrat from the California-based pro-trigger Parent Revolution organization used the "the children cannot wait" as the importance of this bill. Florida Senator Evelyn Lynn informed her of all ways, including vouchers, in place today and that Florida is not California. Ford asked if Florida had ways that parents had impact on school decisions, not just a place at the table. Senator Lynn explained how community schools exist that offer just that.

Ms. Ford raises an important issue that is left unanswered. Does a Parent Trigger give the voice parents need? Grumpy Educators says categorically no. The Parent Trigger that allows a charter to move in is simply moving around the deck chairs. For real change to occur at chronically failing schools, the last ten years of test-centric instruction must end. Common core standards, increased testing, and a narrowing of curriculum does not address the specific barriers and impacts at the school level. Until parents have the right to opt-out of standardized testing regimes, they have no voice to impact the education their children receive. Schools must cease to be centers of test preparation and be true centers of learning. Rational accountability measures must replace excessive standardized testing.

Scathing Purple Musings reports additional significant insights from today's hearing. Here are a few that should not be missed:

Parent Revolution representative Michael Trujillo, mentioned “reams and reams” of positive results but didn’t bring any with him. When pressed by Sen, Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who’s also a school superintendent, evaded testifying as he was “just there to provide technical background on the legislation.”

Sen. Steve Wise, D-Jacksonville, who remarkably voted for an amendment to clarify who was eligible to join a petition, had another meltdown moment. Wise irrationally bemoaned opposition by parent groups to parent trigger in a way which failed to even consider the technical points they emphasize. It was predictably visceral and vintage Steve Wise demagoguery. Wise asked “whether or not the parent groups were psychotic” and that “he needs prozac and xanax” to deal with them.

A young intern of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future attempted to present himself as a former teacher and was outed by Sen.Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood. Now a law student, he was naturally for the bill.

Notably, bill proponents filled the time, ran the clock, leaving opponents, real Florida parents, waiting and excluded from participation. The committee voted on a firm vote time and with five minutes left, Senator Alexander invited any parent in the room to speak. The Miami Herald reports "a mom from Gainesville came forward against the proposal. But she was cut off at 9:59 a.m. so the secretary could call the roll. There was no time for debate among lawmakers."

Grumpy Educators finds there is no priority for this bill. The legislative analysis for the Senate bill indicates there will be fiscal impact at state and local levels. Money trees are not in bloom anywhere in Florida. The only way this unfunded, unfundable mandate will get funds is through increased property taxes. In the end, parents, students, community members, and taxpayers are further UNempowered by Tallahassee's persistent fiscal and legislative irresponsiblity.

The bill will move quickly to the Senate floor for a vote. Take a moment to call your State Senator, tell them that a NO vote is a demonstration of who exactly they are accountable to.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Value Added Measurement: Wanted Professional Palm Reader

Want to bet on a horse? Put your trust in a bookie whose job it is to predict winners after studying potential to win based on breeding, training, and standings in recent races. Want to invest in the stockmarket? Put your trust in a stockbroker whose job it is to predict companies that show signs of being a good investment, with potential growth, and a stable financial structure.

Want to know about a child's school achievement. Put your trust in an algorithm, a formula which will predict how much progress the student should make based on a complicated equation of 10 factors, but do not ask how it works. Florida determined that socio-economics would not be included as one of the 10 predicting factors.

StateImpact Florida and the Miami Herald
went looking for some explanation on how it will work and they got this answer:
"No lay person, teacher or reporter can understand it. So just trust us."

This formula will be used in Florida as the basis for merit pay this way:
The formula is designed to predict how students will score on the state’s standardized exam—the FCAT. And then it adjusts teachers’ pay depending on how well their students measure up against that predicted score.

Until recently, for $190 Chinese parents signed their children up for "palm-reading tests that could allegedly tell a child's intelligence and professional aptitude." Palm-reading tests have been determined to be pseudoscience and Chinese educational authorities banned the practice.

"Predicting is not an equation."

Related posts:
SB736/HB7019: The trouble with value-added measurement
NUT Report: "We have to do something."

Student Data Collection: Purpose, Costs, Risks?

Monday, February 20, 2012

California: Bringing Parent Opposition and Resistance Out of the Shadows

San Diego parents oppose state mandated assessment and invoke parent rights. They publish their letter to the school and publish their letter.

February 16, 2012
Bill Kowba
Superintendent of Schools
San Diego Unified School District
4100 Normal Street, Room 2219
San Diego, CA 92103

Dear Mr. Kowba,

Please accept this letter as our request to excuse our daughter, Ruby, from participation in standardized achievement testing as is allowed in §60615 of the California Education Code. This request includes the state mandated assessments of the California Standardized Testing and Reporting assessment program (STAR/CAT 6), which will begin for our daughter in the 2012-2013 school year, as well as the San Diego Unified School District Benchmark Exam program.

We believe such testing to be unjust, counter-productive, and harmful to the education and development of our daughter; we do not see any intrinsic value in our six-year old spending time transcribing her answers from a test sheet to a Scantron. Timed, one-chance tests do not show regard to variables in context or circumstance affecting student performance on the days of testing. This is further underscored by the fact that, as a student of the Language Academy, our child is currently forced to take tests in English, a language she isn’t yet learning to read.

In addition, we do not wish to participate in mandated programs that coerce school districts into compliance with punishments that adversely affect the resources, standing, and operations of our locally controlled pubic schools. The state oversteps its bounds and does a disservice to the public when it ignores professionals in local schools, arbitrarily making educational decisions (funding, status, and otherwise) based solely upon these one-chance tests.

As parents, we resent being held hostage to tests—which cannot be cheap to administer—while simultaneously suffering absurd cuts to our school, cuts that continue to decimate our staff and much-needed resources.

We understand that it is an educator’s professional duty to assess the learning of each student in the classroom and we fully support our teachers, our principal and our staff. This request is not intended to restrict professional assessment (formative or summative) by the classroom teacher to which our child is assigned. On the contrary, we believe our talented teacher is our child’s benchmark, and that she has the skills and training to do what standardized tests cannot.

Best regards,.....

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ed Reform Storm Clouds Gathering

South Carolina made news this week in a well-attended State Senate meeting regarding a bill that would reverse the state's 2010 decision to implement the Common Core standards. Senator Mike Fair opposes the implementation stating it takes away local control. An AP report on the proposed bill got national coverage in Education Week and a mention by Neil McCluskey of the Cato Institute in a piece called "War Against the Core". McCluskey wonders if the Palmetto State has a "huge desire to withdraw."

The AP report also got state coverage in the Post and Courier stating that Governor Niki Haley supports the bill "as an extension of her frequent complaints of federal overreaching." S.C. State School Superintendent Mick Zais also does not support the decision made prior to his election; however, he is committed to implementing the decision as required.

The meeting described as full, with standing room only. Testimony favoring the standards came from South Carolina educators who have been preparing for implementation since the 2010 decision. They expressed concerns about a rollback now and based on their experience working with the standards, they find them to be "good standards."

On the other side, testimony was presented from the following prominent conservative think tanks, all opposing the implementation of the Common Core standards:

1) Jim Stergios from the Pioneer Institute
2) Bill Evers from the Hoover Institute at Stanford University
3) Jane Robbins from the American Principles Project

Time ran out before all who wished to give testimony were able to and the meeting will continue February 23.

In an Op-Ed "Rotten to the (Common) Core", Furman University Professor Paul Thomas explains that the Common Core standards require additional testing and increased costs:

"New tests also create hidden and recurring costs despite claims that computer-based testing will save printing and scoring costs of traditional testing. Those hidden costs include both additional funds (such as insuring all schools have the technology to test all students) and most importantly costs in time. Teachers must be trained directly and spend time learning the standards themselves while a tremendous amount of instructional time will be replaced by yet more teaching to the test and, with the new regime of testing, more testing days throughout the entire school year."

Professor Thomas continues by noting that "SC public education is not now and has never been failing due to a lack of quality standards or high-quality tests. Curriculum (standards), instruction, and testing are the elements within the teaching process, but they are not learning. And not one of these elements should be confused for learning."

Professor Thomas believes that learning is "stifled in SC by the inequitable and often deplorable teaching and learning conditions in many schools," which will not be addressed by new standards and computer-based testing.

Stay tuned......

Colorado: Parents Oppose Excessive Testing

In their own voices, parents speak out against excessive testing and test-centric instructional environments, one by one.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Indiana: Bring parent opposition to excessive standardized testing out of the shadows

Yesterday, Grumpy Educators reported on Texas concerns of the testing "perversion."

Today, the highlight is on Indiana and parents who are organizing in opposition to testing.

Parent rights are at the heart of the issue. State Impact reported the story including Indiana Department of Education official Stephanie Sample response this way:

"parents do not have a legal right to opt their children out of testing. State law requires each student be tested, department officials say."

Really? From coast to coast, parents are fed up with classrooms converted into test prep centers instead of centers of learning. Indiana legislators have no answers to their participation in perpetuating this "perversion."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The baby's got the hammer, again

UPDATE: Round 2 - Wise and Stargel bring the same bill back, filed in November 2011. The Parent Involvement and Accountability Bill requires quarterly grading of parents.

The Legislative Analysis reveals:
1) This system will have impact on costs, but those costs are "indeterminate".

2) This bill qualifies as an unfunded mandate. How the schools will pay for all is undefined. The legislative analysis lightly treads on potential costs to counties. Will this mean a tax hike?

3)The "evaluation data" collected will become part of the student's permanent record and protected as confidential using FERPA guidelines.

The blog below was written last year and remains relevant today.

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.  Will Rogers

The same can be said for Florida anytime the legislature is in in session. For the last week, Grumpy readers have been hearing about a scheme that has Tallahassee and Obama have teaming up to data mine our children, all in the name of education reform (off course). That would allow them to:

  • Analyze information and make recommendations with the goal of aiding a person's decisions and improving quality of life."

  • Provide several different reporting capabilities for use by a myriad of stakeholders

From the politicians point of view, the government knows everything it could ever want to know about a entire generation of future voters. Everything from their basic IQ to their hobbies as well as a few things we might not want to discuss here.

It just got better, why stop with the kids, why not collect a little more information about their parents. Representative Kelli Stargel and Senator Stephen Wise want the teachers to grade parents as well. Remember, the school already ha a ton of information about students parents: age, marital status, occupation, social security number, address, phone number and more. A great deal of this information is certain to make it into the child's Microsoft Profile. Why not categorize their parenting skills and add that to the kids profile.

There is another more immediate reason the idea is completely absurd. It won't have any affect at all on the parenting skills of parents who"Flunk", but it will sure as hell piss them off. The school and the school board will hear from every failing parent. You couldn't pay me enough to answer phones either at schools or at the Board of Education for a week after report cards come out.

It may not be Politically Correct to say this, but the majority of the parents you'd expect to get "Flunked" or going to be same ones where police respond the most often to assault and domestic violence calls.It doesn't take much imagination to figure out that the first thing some of those bad parents are going to do is pay a visit to the school. Some of those visits will be ugly.

Grading parents will accomplish nothing of value, it will lead to poor relationships in some cases between entire communities and the schools, and it will strain already shaky relations between the BAD parents and the schools. On a positive note, it will give a moment satisfaction to a few teachers, that satisfaction might end suddenly when they get confronted by a furious parent.

Everyone in every walk of life grades the people they have to deal with regularly. Depending on your personality, the servers at restaurant you frequent might run towards you, or away form you when you come it. The clerk at the local convenience store might mutter something to another clerk before they smile at you. When you might leave your doctors office, the doctor might say something to his nurse about your great sense of humor... or he might say, at least I don't have to them again for a while.

Does anyone think Senator Wise or Representative Stargal would have the courage to tell individual voters exactly what they think of them?On another note Senator Wise seem determined to shove things through as soon as possible. He wants to end public input tomorrow.He knows damned good and well people from from Central and Southern Florida can't just jump in their cars and take a ride to Tallahassee

But you can send emails:

Mike Haridopolos

Stephen Wise

Thad Altman

Ritch Workman

I listed the ones closest to where I live, you can find yours here

To view original reader comments on this article see

Monday, January 23, 2012

Data-obsession: Who protects the students?

Public school P.E. programs are incorporating technology to monitor students weight and physical activity habits. According to a recent piece of investigative reporting in the Revered Review, a specific technology from Polar Fitness"is used in more than 10,000 K-12 physical education programs across the United States." The report reviewed the way the technology is being used in a number of states and school districts.

Some of this technology may be beneficial to students and parents may agree with their student's participation. However, little has been published on the cost benefits for parents, community members, or taxpayers to evaluate. In the current data-gathering obsessed environment, the use of this technology has raised concerns regarding:
  • Parent consent

  • Privacy and security

Use of monitors intrusive

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York affiliate of the ACLU, sent The Revered Review the following statement: “The question here is whether these monitoring programs are voluntary or not. It’s one thing for children to participate voluntarily with their parents’ consent. But if they’re being compelled or shamed into participating, then it’s extremely problematic.”

Lieberman continued: “Monitoring children’s vital signs is very intrusive, and even a voluntary program must have clear privacy safeguards, including limits on how long the data can be stored and who has access to it.”

Security and privacy
Emmett McGroarty, the executive director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of the American Principles Project, said if schools are using the monitors, there should be full disclosure to the parents. If they are used beyond the school day, it could be “highly dangerous” as it could be an “infringement on parental rights.”

Full disclosure by parents, and the ability to “opt in” rather than “opt out” should be allowed, McGroarty said. “I really would urge the taxpayers to get a closer look at what’s going on, and who is funding this.”

The company issued a press release on January 19, in regards to its Polar Activity monitor: “The activity data is stored on the web service. All information is securely stored and the data is available only to authorized users with a password.”

A company press release does not quite cut the mustard. The school districts need to ensure that parents and students have clarity. That is not too much to ask.

Read the full article for more information.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Florida Republican Primary Debate: Will there be a question on education reform?

On Monday, January 23, Brian Williams will be in charge of the MSNBC Florida Republican Primary debate from Tampa, Florida. So far, there has been zero questions on what the candidates positions are when it comes to education reform initiatives. Will that pattern of silence change?

What is it that parents, community members, and taxpayers would like to know?

Here is a Grumpy Educators short list:

1) What is your position on the development of the student longitudinal database from birth to the first year of college, the sharing of some data without parent consent, and privacy and security concerns?

2) There is broad consensus on the need for accountability; however, there is also broad consensus that classrooms have been converted into centers of test preparation rather than centers of learning. What is your view of the federal role in education?

3) There is a widespread grassroots parent movement to opt-Out of testing. Do you support the parent right to opt out?

4) Some say the billions spent on testing and the database is required to evaluate teachers. How does the expense match the need to conduct employee evaluations?

5) What is your position on the federal role in the development of national standardized testing spending and the financial impact on states and communities?

6) What is your view of the role of locally elected school boards in decision-making?

7) Charter schools in Florida have a mixed record of success, on financial and academic success. What is your position on the expansion of charter schools?

What question do you want to hear asked?