Lunch Petition

Ok, so, not much has been happening here at Blue Hat Movement for  while. One quick thing, something about these new tests, the PBAs, is that they are tied into our grades. Which means, if we don’t take them, we very well could end up failing the class.

But. What I really wanted to write about was this thing, a lunch petition at my school. I may have written about it before, but to refresh memories, we have at my school this weird lunch policy; the grade is divided into two teams, Voyagers and Skyhawks. What they do is, when lunch starts, send one team outside while the other eats their lunch, and then switch the teams halfway through the lunch period.

In the first half of the year, the Skyhawks went outside first, and then went in and could eat; they felt the full force of having to stay hungry through the first half of their lunch and  only then being able to eat. So, they were driven to start the petition to get rid of ‘Split Lunch’, and bring it back to the way the lunches used to be, everyone getting the full time to eat.

But that’s not the only problem…since we were already divided into Skyhawks and Voyagers, we never had any of our ‘core’ classes (math, language arts, science, and social studies) together. All we had were the two elective periods, physical education, and lunch to see our friends on the other team. Which was not that much, because gym and electives are still classes, meaning we still had to work, even if we could sometimes work with our friends. Lunch was really the only time in school when we could just talk freely with people from the other team.

Now, the people who came up with this idea of splitting us up for lunch did have a fair enough reason: it is a lot easier to manage one team at a time rather than all — what, 240? That, or so — of us at once.

The petition to change the lunch structure has 207 signatures from just students in our grade.

And now that we are in the second half of the school year, the Voyagers are now going outside first, which means that we have to wait for half the lunch period to go by before we eat now. That gave us more incentive to get the petition moving again, and just today at lunch we gave it to a member of the Safe Schools Committee.

Apparently, it was perfect timing; the lady said that they were having a meeting tomorrow, that is, Wednesday, and that she would bring it in.

So…I’m not entirely sure how long it will be before we have more definite news on this, but when we know what is going on with it, there will be a report.

This may not have anything to do with the Common Core or testing, but it is still a case of students trying to fix what we feel should be fixed in our school.

If you are reading this as a student or a parent, and there is something in your or your child’s school that you think should get changed, hey — start a petition. You never know where it might go.

Zoe’s EOG Scores!…the results are in

Sorry to be so brief in this posting.  Like many of our readers I am a full time worker and a parent.  Days are long and I am typing this out at 12:15 AM.  I wanted to type out the whole story about the end result of Zoe refusing to take the EOG’s last year and how it affected things….but the following letter I just wrote should fill in most of the details.

I wrote the following letter to Tammy Howard, NCDPI’s Director of Accountability Services today….

Good morning Ms. Tammy Howard,

My daughter, Zoe Morris, opted out of the EOG’s for the 2013 school year at McDougle Middle School in Orange County.  To my knowledge she was the only student to actually do so in her district.
I had notified Nelson, the county testing coordinator months prior to this.  I did so to make sure that there would be no issues regarding what our rights were.  In the end, my daughter…who is a straight A student, was booted off of campus and we were told we were breaking the law.  I do not need to recount this all really…we both know how it played out.  The short version is that Zoe never took the test.
So I was quite surprised to discover the letter that came home regarding the NC Ready Student Report for School Year ending 2013.  According to this report Zoe took the test and scored a “1” for Reading and Mathematics.  Zoe is currently a straight A student who has been invited to take the SAT towards involvement in the Duke Talent Identification Program.
What I want to know from you is how your policy of running an untaken test as if it was taken supports what schools are about…education.   As you know, a score of “1” indicates a “limited command” in the subject areas of Math and Reading.
The ironic part of this though illustrates exactly why we are against how Common Core testing is being applied to students.  These tests cannot measure how well a student learns.  They will  never measure how well a teacher teaches her students.  Even if a student took the test and scored a 2 or a 3…it is no more indicative of their value than this falsified “1” is for my daughter.
I am not the typical hothead, nor a fanatic.  I just am a parent who is supporting his daughter in her repulsion for the Common Core, from top to bottom.  And yes, I do share her feelings.  I do not see a lot of good solutions here at the present moment, not for fans of the CCSS nor for the opponents.  It is all quite a mess at the moment and the tenure situation isn’t helping much either.
I do what I can though.  And what I can do is support my daughter in refusing to participate in agendas that she is ethically against.
I can also try to get straight answers out of adults who are meant to be held to a higher standard, especially when they are meant to be responsible as role models for students.  My daughter read this NC Ready report right along with me and realized the same thing I did.  This test result is completely false and only shows how testing is flawed when a student who did not take the test, still was graded as if they did.
My questions are as follows:
  • who made the decision to run the test as if it was taken…is this policy?
  • is there no testing provision yet made to illustrate “refused to take test”?
  • who in our state is the person who literally made the law that says every child must be tested?
  • now that my daughter was given a “1”, in error, how will this mistake be repaired on her record?
  • she is not taking the test again this year…what will happen then?  Will it be given a “1” again?
Thank you,
Charlie and Zoe
The Blue Hat Movement

June 30, 2014: The Day NC Lost The Fight for Education

I want you to imagine that you are a teacher in an NC public school.  Let’s fill this fantasy with ideals.  Ideally you have a satisfying job, teaching the future leaders of America and citizens of the world.  The pay isn’t exactly stellar…but you get to teach children who are counting on you.  You are seen as leaders in our community.  You are respected and admired.  You watch the children grow and learn while the parents are working to support them.  You teach every skill that they will presumably need to provide for future families, for themselves and for the future of society at large.  No one said it would be easy.  But hopefully your school is a place that has not forgotten the value of education, of childhood and of the joy of learning.  

Now for reality…

You manage your long hours and Common Core assessments and the curriculum being railroaded into valuable actual learning time.  IFL trainers pull you out of teaching time to show you how to administer the new Performance Based Assessments related to the Common Core.  Parents are angry and confused at how much testing YOU are doing to THEIR children…even though you are just doing your job to the best of your ability.  You have not had a pay raise in 5 years.  Testing, testing, testing is raining down on your head as you are increasingly encouraged, through new teacher evaluation standards, to make sure you do not stray from the subject matter that someone else located very far away requires you to teach.  

And now…tenure and pay for advanced degrees is stripped out.  

Imagine that you are an NC teacher under these conditions.  And then the legislators of NC bring this to your doors-    

For Teachers who are currently employed but with a rating deemed non proficient…

You will be offered a one year contract.

For Teachers with LESS than 3 years experience teaching in NC who are deemed proficient…

If you are brand new to teaching here in NC, are an experienced teacher from another state, or are rated as a highly proficient teacher but with less than 3 years teaching experience…we can offer you a one year contract.  

For Teachers with MORE than 3 years consecutive teaching experience in the state of NC and are rated as proficient…

  • Keep and maintain tenure until 2018…and then you will be offered a one year contract.
  • Tenure eliminated…and you will be offered a one year contract.

Special Offer: For only 25% of the state of NC’s proficiently rated teachers, who have tenure…

You must give up tenure but will receive a 4 year contract AND an annual “merit pay” of $500 per year for each of those 4 years.

Now pretend that you are NOT a teacher in the state of NC.  With the policy named above, why would you want to be one?  What is your incentive when you are going to be treated so poorly?

If you are a parent in the state of NC, does a policy like this seem to you to be about education?  Do you feel like this kind of thing engenders a love of learning?  Without dedicated and supported teachers, conversations and arguments about the new Common Core are immaterial.  There won’t be anyone who feels good about teaching left to teach.

Now tell me, how much do you believe that your legislators care about education again?  A question I wonder about is if the people that dreamed this stuff up have children or grandchildren in any public schools?

Something that all of us public school parents forget is that all these policy issues we struggle with: testing, tenure, Common Core-private schools do not have these issues.  As we debate the merits of more testing and more assessments, privately educated kids are doing just fine, going to college, learning what they need to know.  They do not have Common Core.  So we are here struggling with this giant monster and people are telling us it is going to save education.  Ahem..excuse me…but if it is so critical to education, why isn’t everyone reaching for a piece?  I am bringing up Common Core here only lightly, but there is an undeniable connection with the hidden agenda of Common Core and the undermining of public education.  What we are seeing here, this is what Common Core drivers at the highest levels are encouraging.  A demoralization of public trust in public schools for a tricky move into non-public and corporate-run “education” facilities that will be for profit.  Our children are being educated less and less by teachers…and more and more by a mandated teaching tour de force that includes a policy that undermines the art of teaching and introduces a curriculum that replaces actual learning.  This policy, and many others like it, pave the way for legislators to be able to claim that teachers are not as valuable as we would like them to be and also that teaching as a profession is not actually as specialized or important as it actually is.  Eventually what we will see is the idea that a Common Core approach can be taught by anyone who wishes to teach, and it will be easy to teach from a script after all…so who needs to pay high wages to a teacher with tenure after all?

In other words, this policy shift, is not them laying down their cards on the table.  This is just the shuffle.  It is only the beginning of a long and arduous game where the deck is stacked.  My point in writing this down is in hopes of reminding parents and students that this is our future that they are playing cards with.  It isn’t what any of you chose.  I invite anyone who was given a choice about what would happen to your school’s teachers or curriculum to write to me.  The lack of transparency in such wide sweeping changes is, quite simply, wholly unethical and unprofessional…and those are the only two friendly adjectives I can conjure up at the moment.

Do you really believe that Common Core and deeper learning is a priority for the people making these decisions?  What kind of incentive is there for teachers to share, collaborate and encourage other teachers to be better if they are, by policy, in competition with their fellow teachers for one of the 25% sweet spots?  This is the point in NC when Free Market thinking meets respecting great teachers who work exceedingly hard at what they do.

I could go on and on but the point is that these policies are real.  They were decided upon last summer, in 2013.  The deadline for who will be in the 25% and who will not is June 30 of 2014.  That means that every teacher you know is currently struggling with these questions.  Which group will they fall into?  Will parents object to having their child taught by a “non proficient” teacher?  How can trust and collaboration continue when there are so many teachers barely clearing poverty level wages as they support their families?

Right now there is not even a system in place, at least where I live, to specifically decide how to choose whom.  Those guidelines were not in the ruling.  This whole thing just showed up.  I don’t tend to judge people.  But I am betting that Gov. McCrory and his decision making team do not have any relatives that are teachers in this state.  And if they do, I’d love to interview them.

As I read on a blog recently….when was the last time our elected politicians (like McCrory) volunteered for a 5 year pay freeze and deduction in pay?  When was the last time they taught in a classroom that couldn’t afford paper, or books or laptops?  And on top of those kinds of things…now this?

So, I sit here and watch schools decline.  And I wonder what it will take for people to realize and grasp that education is literally under siege in our state.  Teachers are being fractured and marginalized and underpaid.  If you care about your child’s future, you must say enough is enough and organize your local school district to refuse to go along with this mandate.  Protecting teachers IS equivalent to protecting education.  

Teachers care about teaching.  Do you care about teachers? Our legislators either don’t care or don’t know how to care properly.  So it is up to the citizens and parents and students to step up and do something before our best teachers leave to teach somewhere else.

Organize parents, students and legislators and let them know at your district level that this is unacceptable.  It is YOUR school.  These are YOUR children’s teachers.  Keep great teachers here!  This is only one aspect of improving education in NC, but it is the most important.  Without teachers to teach, the rest is meaningless.

Talk to your teachers about this.  Talk to your friends.  Share this posting.  Start a group.  Tell your PTA.  Talk to the Superintendent.  Tell everyone to refuse to allow this to happen.  And just in case you don’t know…teachers in this state cannot unionize.  They are not allowed to actively speak up about this in groups or large numbers without fear of being fired.  It is up to us.

Beware of Data Sharing Cheerleaders Offering Webinars

Fantastic research and commentary. Over and over again what I run into in the state of NC is that there are simply not enough who grasp that this kind of thing IS what Common Core is all about. It isn’t about a better teaching standard. From top to bottom Common Core is about the intersection point of the free market economy and public education…turning students into a guaranteed source of revenue through data, test taking, and strategic marketing placements in every community.

deutsch29

Perhaps the most sobering component of the privatization push is its unprecedented demand for data collection (data “mining”) on American students. Data mining is not just an American issue. However, on the American front, two education activists have been at the forefront of the fight against this mammoth student data collection: Louisiana’s Jason France (here’s a great example of his writing on the subject) and New York’s Leonie Haimson (her is her testimony on student data/privacy issues in a September 2013 New York city council meeting).

(For those unfamiliar with the data mining issue, see this concise yet thorough summary on the WhatIsCommonCore blog.)

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes that there is “power” in data for “school reform”.

Indeed there is. The issue isn’t whether there is “power” in data collection and storage, and its potential sharing. There certainly is power. That is precisely why the public…

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Two Things

There are two major things that have been going around in my school lately.

One, we seem to have been experiencing a paper shortage. I’m not sure where the process got blocked, whether it was that there isn’t as much paper available or if it is just that we can’t afford as much, but teachers have been having us do things like write our warm-ups on our own papers, because they didn’t want to waste the paper with hand-outs.

Two, the school’s budget. It has become something of a joke to many of us. When we received our science textbooks this year, there were not enough to give one book to every student, so only the kids that specifically wanted one could get one. The school also has several fundraisers, typically one or more a month, from dances to bake sales to book fairs to school merchandise sales to days when everyone at the school is invited to Chic-fil-A.

So, basically, schools need funding so that they can get simple things like paper and textbooks. It really shouldn’t be as hard as it is. But, well, at least we still have a well-furnished library.

What Is Education?

What is education? Education is many things. It is some things because those things are education, but it is also some things because of what caused them to be. For example. If you ask me, the most basic of definitions for education is learning, because learning is being educated. But it could also be said that knowledge is education, because when you are educated, you receive knowledge. And then there’s freedom. Freedom could be said to be education, but I’d say that it would be more accurate to say that education is freedom, because education often does bring a sort of freedom. It could be a freedom to think about things your own way, it could be a freedom to learn, it could be a freedom to know things that you didn’t or couldn’t have before. Now, let’s see what the internet has to say.ImageIf this is to be believed, then to educate is only worth 12 points. That would be 12 points carved beautifully out of wood and then put through a black-and-white filter, mind you, but 12 points nonetheless. Assuming this is on a — say, 20 point scale. That would mean that to make it simpler, to educate would be 6 points out of 10. How many points would you give your education? Hopefully more than 6. If you are a teacher or administrator or just someone who works with education other than students, how would you change the number of points from when you were in school to now? Let’s look at another couple.Image

Interesting. Education and future are in the same direction, easy to see by the sign. But it doesn’t say which comes first. I like that, because that seems to say that one could come before the other, or that the other could come before the one. Sometimes, you go through your education, it brings you to your future, you’re done with it. But other times, you go through something else which brings you to your future, and your future IS education. Or, they could go hand-in-hand the entire time.

 

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain

That, Mr. Twain, is a good thing. If schooling is not entirely adequate, learn on your own as well. Especially now with the Common Core and everything setting in, I’d say it’s a pretty good skill to have to be able to study things and learn on your own as well, to make for lost time, etc. in class.

Image‘LEARN!’ indeed. When you’ve a test coming up in a week, and you still are just barely beginning to understand the concepts on it, it really can feel like you’ve got someone shouting at you about it. Or, someone could literally be shouting about it, and that person would be you. It’s like cram school, but they don’t give you the time to cram.

So then…all different types and definitions of education. I’d say that all of them are correct in their own way, and that there probably isn’t one simple way to encompass all of the aspects of education. Well, that’s all I wanted to say…so, if you’re still reading, see ya next time, I guess!

-Zoe