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,
- 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?
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.
Blue Hat Day-September 17th-is coming up very, very fast. 9 more days. Here is what we have as an outline as to what might happen:
People who are in the area around here in NC: we are having a gathering at Wilson park in Carrboro from about 5-7 p.m. It is simply a gathering of anyone concerned about the effects of the Common Core (standardized testing and such) in the public schools. We won’t have a keynote speaker nor a podium. It will be an open format for people to simply meet and find out what common concerns we may share and hopefully what kinds of actions we can take together. No one will be leading it, but Zoe and I will be open to answer any questions you may have. This is a great time for teachers, parents, students, and other concerned citizens to share their experiences and ideas.
People who are not in the area, such as the rest of the people who want to take part but who are quite far away: no problem! Just as we are organizing a gathering here, so can all of you in your areas. Or, maybe you could have a group of people walking down a street for a while, or if someone has a test that day, encourage peers to opt out. Just some ideas; do what works for you and your community!
As you may know from reading our website and Zoe’s opting out of last year’s EOGs and MSLs…we are committed to overturning the use of Common Core and all that is linked to it in our public schools. Our goal is to have it removed completely and replaced with systems that actually foster learning and teaching.
Please share this and help us get the word out in the Chapel Hill Area. If you know of anyone locally, please forward this message. If you are out of our area, feel free to copy the format here and organize locally by sharing your own version of this. We are hoping to hear about Blue Hat meetings all over the place.
Here are two videos from L.A.
My favorite part of the fists one is the end of number 45, at about 7:30:00.
Favorite part of this next one: about 5:34:20, Steven Zimmer talks passionately about class sizes and such.
However, those are only very small parts of both videos; all of both are still absolutely worth watching!
Bah…it’s late and I am sleepy. Zoe, Quinn and I worked hard on this video outlining what our sense of things is after researching the Parent Trigger as applied in the state of CA. We read through reams of online pages. And honestly, there are many sides to this issue…ahem…to this “law”. It can be applied in ways that make sense. But what the heck are corporations doing enacting laws regarding education. If there isn’t a profit to be gleaned, by the very definition of Return On Investment (ROI), no corporation is going to support this kind of law without an expected return. The ROI here is to turn your children, my children, our children into one of these:
Children who legally must attend school are not a revenue stream for a public school. The money that goes with each child to their school in the form of taxes barely covers costs because of what politician’s and elected officials do with it. But for a corporation, for a corporate charter school system…children become a source of revenue. A guaranteed source of revenue for 12 years per child. Corporate America, it isn’t just for selling stuff anymore…now education is business. How do you encourage parents to ‘see the light’ and put their children into a charter school run by a corporation? One way is to put corporate money into a front that appears to be all about parental rights, while all along you are just getting them to help your company open up the schoolhouse doors for guaranteed revenue. When we looked at the website for Parent Revolution and Parent Trigger we were all scratching our heads. We were sitting there reading it and just flabbergasted. It is so transparent that it makes no sense that anyone would believe it, let alone be duped into actually trusting it. It’s a crazy world out there folks.
Plainly and simply I just want to encourage people to read this…
It is from Utah. Put together by these FOLKS. Why read it if you are not from Utah? It is chock full of incredible information about what is happening with the Common Core…how it originated. All of the answers to many of your questions can be found here. It is Utah specific in some spots. But really the overall agenda is a national one and it is made clear in this pamphlet written for Utah legislators.
Our Blue Hats are off to these men and women who are working so diligently. They are super organized!
There is one thing I want to point out though. It is a problem I have with many anti-common core movements. It is here, in this quote from the booklet…
“Representing thousands of Utahans, we implore you as legislators to try
freedom. Release school districts from education mandates and let them adopt
whatever high standards they want to set for the children in their care. It’s not
too late to protect Utah and preserve local control of education.”
The problem that I have? Too many movements are still asking for freedom instead of just reclaiming it. I hate to sound like an agitator. But when someone seeks to remove your freedom without asking you…they aren’t likely to ever give it back because you asked nicely. I asked my local school to let my daughter opt out of standardized testing that was Common Core aligned and they said we were breaking the law. I asked nicely more than once…they said no. Finally…we just behaved within our freedoms, our moral freedoms, and they had to concede. Gandhi didn’t ask for Britain to leave India alone. Martin Luther King Jr, didn’t say “please”. These men led people towards retaking their rightful freedoms and without untold numbers of people being willing to stand up for what was right and not what was “legal”….nothing would have ever changed. We have a moral imperative to behave in a way that is ethical, peaceful…and that protects the education of our children. Asking permission to do so, asking for legislators to look out for us AFTER they have sold us down the river, isn’t likely to work. Parents and teachers and schools must have a coordinated, peaceful, respectful but firm complete shunning of what is NOT working and damn the protests and lamentations of those passing down CCSI on our schools.
Taking back our schools isn’t defiant of us. It is just returning things to how they were before they began trying to control everything. What we need, is a new way to stage protests and actions where teachers will not lose their jobs for teaching in ways that are appropriate, creative, and educationally rich. To be clear, I do find merit in asking and going through appropriate channels. But at this late stage in the game, a whole new field is required before all is lost. That is my ten cents worth this evening…
(please forgive any typos…tis late and I am weary!)
Recently, we received this comment from Tami Pyfer on our blog:
“This video was eye-opening – most states have mechanisms for alternative testing for students with disabilities and I’m wondering why NC does not.
I’m confused about how/why you are connecting assessment issues, like the one in this video, to the Common Core Standards. Standards do not equal assessments. Standards do not equal curriculum. Standards are simply minimum expectations for what a student will learn at each grade level. Some students may achieve more, and some students – especially those with disabilities – may learn less. Effective educational programs will accommodate for both ends of the spectrum. A state may have one adopted set of standards/expectations for all of the schools in the state, but in many (most?) states, the curriculum is left up to the individual schools. In our state, we’ve had minimum standards for decades. Setting the standards and developing the state assessments are the responsibility of the State Board of Education, while the curriculum is developed/designed/adopted by local school districts and charter schools. We also have a completely separate assessment system for students with disabilities like the child in this video.
Lumping the Common Core State Standards in with the inappropriate assessment practices tied with No Child Left Behind and highlighted in this video, doesn’t make sense, although it’s a common tactic being used by people who don’t understand how different states are/are not implementing the Common Core standards. Unfortunately, waiving the anti-Common Core flag is simply a distraction to the (worthy) battle you are waging for the appropriate use, and not misuse of assessment in our schools.”
We did not approve the comment on the blog, and the next day, we received an email from her asking why the comment was not showing up. I did not approve her message to appear on our blog because something felt funny to me.
When Tami wrote to us again, Zoe and I did a bit of research on Tami Pyfer, and we found a BLOG with an email correspondence between her and someone concerned about the Common Core being applied in the state of Utah. Here is the link where you can read more about Tami.
Below is the email correspondence, with Tami’s writing in bold italics and Anissa’s just in italics:
Dear Governor & Board,
It is my understanding that there is a way for Utah to get out of Common Core so that we are free of any strings attached. The ESEA flexibility request window shuts down Sept. 6, 2012. Does this mean we have to resubmit our waiver request before then, or lose the option of doing loophole option 2 forever?
Is the Board considering this? Now would be the time to decide. Please discuss this at this Friday’s meeting. Please respond to me with more information.
Personally, I have no intention of unadopting the new math and ELA common core standards. We are already “string free” and it’s unfortunate that some groups feel otherwise.
If we really are string free, would you kindly show proof of that? I have done a great deal of research on my own, outside of those you refer to and from what I can see, we are not string free. The math standards are horrible! I am going to have to pay hundreds of dollars this year alone for my 6th grader so that she will be ready for Algebra. Utah’s math standards were already better and were more understandable than what we have just adopted.
While I have this audience, I also want the Board (and everyone else on the list) to know that as a parent I want cursive writing to stay in our state curriculum.
Please provide all of us evidence to back up your understanding.
I appreciate your passion, but the “evidence” has been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times. Your disagreement with the facts does not change them. I will continue to respond to my constituents who are truly looking for answers to their questions regarding our core standards.
Well thank you Tami. You have not answered my question, and if there is proof I honestly would like to see it. You incorrectly assume that I do not want true answers. If there is this information and it has been provided many times, please tell me where I can find it.
It is answers like yours that are frustrating for constituents. I will continue to ask for answers. I never said we have to agree, I am searching for answers and because you are a board member and you have been entrusted with the mantle to ensure high quality curriculum standards and instruction, and because you are supposed to represent your constituents, I expect you to live up to that.
So, reader, there are many things we could say. The main and only thing we want to say is that when Tami first wrote to us she did not say who she actually was, and we had a feeling that the comment’s author was someone involved with enforcing Common Core. Her omission of this fact is why we did not want to approve her comment. But with the proper context for her comment now clear, we are fine sharing it here. Zoe and I debated a lot about how to present this or if we should at all. This is the result. Definitely food for thought…
It’s late. About 2 AM now. The email from Michelle I did not see until after my kids were asleep. My kids are night owls. They may make great grades in school, but you would never know it from the late hours they keep. So at about 12:30 when the house was finally quiet I was checking email before turning in and there was one from Michelle. We have been in touch before, via phone. She was seeking support to get the word out about her situation. Her situation was something I wrote about previously HERE. I shook the trees and was really sure that she would be “allowed” to Opt Out, after all, she is only about 10 miles away…surely the school system could not be that different over there. My reasoning was that since Zoe and I called the state’s bluff here in Orange County, that once Michelle told the school she was not having her son tested that the same thing would happen..they would back down.
What is particularly onerous about her situation is that the school, School Board and Superintendent are going so far out of their way to force her Autistic son to take this test. No offense meant, but Michelle has guaranteed me that her son cannot pass any version of a state EOG. They are essentially forcing her son to take a test that he will fail. This is in light of the fact that his school year has been filled with success. Michelle went to some lengths to describe to me how many victories there have been for her son this year. She describes many of them in the video. I am sharing this video for two reasons. Michelle personally asked me to do what I could to expose what is happening. Secondly, this situation truly calls into the light and exaggerates just how misguided testing has become under NCLB and CCS. Standardized Testing hurts teachers. It reduces the hard work and efforts of your child’s teacher into an assessment designed by people who will NEVER meet either your child or their teacher. All the amazing things that happened in that classroom…like they have for Michelle’s son, deserve credit. But with a standardized test, there is none. The way the Common Core is set up, all that good stuff gets thrown under the school bus. Testing is all that seems to count. This is a slap in the face of how hard teachers work.
In fact, under CCS, standardized tests that are scored low, actually count against teachers. Under Standard 6, teachers are being tested and given a grade based upon how their student’s performed. Hasn’t this gone far enough already folks? When you have a school Superintendent arguing with a parent that their autistic child is federally required to take a test that is going to make the teacher look bad and will make the student look like a failure…this is not educational. All that anyone learns by being silent on this issue is how easily we tend to just go on with our lives, without saying a word about things that we know are not right. Now is a great time to do something different. It doesn’t matter what state you live in. Watch the video. Do something. If you really want to support public education and the profession of teaching, overturn federally mandated testing and encourage the end of the Common Core Standards.
Please share this article with any parent’s of Autistic children who may have helpful information, especially within the state of NC.
Did you know that severely autistic children in public schools are required to be tested with EOG’s under federal law? Yep, it appears to have started with NCLB and it is still here with us.
This was brought to my attention when I received an email from a neighboring school district parent. This is a bit unusual and I am putting this out here in hopes that someone here in NC with more knowledge than I can figure this thing out. You see, her son is severely autistic, is in a public school under an IEP and within a self contained classroom. This is all new to me, and maybe to parent’s of other autistic children this is nothing new…but her son is expected to take EOG’s. I presume that they are modified…such as the NCExtend type exams. But they are still tests that these kids are forced to take. They are also test that the students, or at least many of them, cannot hope to pass. I realize this is a very sensitive issue. I probably have no idea how people may react. My kid’s do not have autism so I cannot imagine what it is like and I won’t pretend.
But one thing that this mother told me about was how much she loves the teachers in her son’s classroom and how much amazing progress her son has made. Here is where the Common Core Standards come into play perhaps though…when her son is forced to take a test that he and his classmate will fail, does it make the teacher look like they are a failing teacher in the way that CCS evaluates these things? I mean, beyond the sheer ridiculousness that any child should be forced to take a test that they will fail and besides the insult to the teacher that all their hard work will be watered down to a test they must administer that has nothing to do with all the progress made…under the new CCS-does taking and failing these tests, hurt the teachers and subsequent school funding? My guess, is YES. But if you know, please write in to me or follow this story on FB.
I do not know. But I do know that this mom would love some help with this. Are there any legal experts that you may know of who can lend support? Has anyone out there been through this same thing? The tests are next week and her family has some kind of function that will make it so their son will not have to be tested until the following week. They have a bit of time to put together a solid case. But they need some help. I know from when my ex-wife worked at NCTeach that the lives and struggles of parent’s of children with autism (when it comes to dealing with public schools) is hard enough already. So perhaps we can help this family out and also generate a repeatable strategy for any other parent’s of autistic children who wish to exercise their right to Opt Out.
I already have calls in to NCTeach and NC Autism Society. I also found this amazing video with story attached. Check it out. It is from a Special Education teacher who, wayyyy back in 2008, refused to administer the federally required tests to his autistic students, under NCLB. He was fired. Folks, I sure hope we have grown wise enough to where in 2013 this would not be the case today…
Story below quoted from a 2008 article in the Asheville Citizen Times by Ashley Wilson
A Cullowhee Valley School teacher has been suspended after refusing to administer the N.C. End-of-Grade Tests to his students with severe intellectual disabilities.
Doug Ward was suspended with pay Tuesday afternoon for insubordination and being disruptive, he said.
On Monday, Ward, 36, sent a letter to his school and Jackson County School District administrators saying, “I have decided that I will not participate in the NCEXTEND1 testing of any students here at Cullowhee Valley School.” The NCEXTEND1 Alternative Assessment is designed for students who have severe intellectual disabilities.
“Basically, the way it was set up, my kids have no chance of passing,” said Ward, who has been teaching for three years. “If you have a kid that is 11 years old and only developed to the level of a 1-year-old — I think I am a decent teacher, but I am not good enough to develop him to pass the test.”
Ward was supposed to begin administering the test Monday. Another teacher at Cullowhee Valley School has taken over for him in testing his students, Ward said. Students with disabilities must be tested under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Phone calls to administrators at Cullowhee Valley School and Jackson County Public Schools were not returned by deadline Tuesday night.
While Ward is opposed to all standardized testing, he said recent changes to the NCEXTEND1 have made it impossible for his students to be successful.
The test went through a standard review process that resulted in changes to this school year’s test, according to Vanessa Jeter, director of communications for N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
“We are not aware of any situation where a teacher has taken a similar stance, at least in North Carolina,” Jeter said. Recently, a science teacher in Seattle was suspended without pay for nine days after refusing to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.
Ward’s inspiration for his stance came from some of his fifth-grade students, he said. In a class he co-teaches, Ward tied issues of racial discrimination the students were reading about to discrimination against people with disabilities.
The students did a lesson on what they have done and what they could do to enhance inclusion for all students.
“If I am going to teach this to my fifth-graders all year, I need to stand up and practice what I teach,” Ward said.
In a meeting Tuesday with school and district administrators, he was told an investigation would be conducted and he would be notified in a couple of days, Ward said.
“Administrators have so much pressure,” Ward said. “They must have the test scores, so if you are a young teacher and all your children fail, there are going to be negative repercussions. I really want it to be out there so that these other teachers have a resource — so they can show their administrators there’s a reason these kids don’t pass the test, and it’s not because I don’t do a good job teaching.”
— Ashley Wilson