Testing Comes Back Around

So…no news on the lunch petition. If something happens, I will let you know. But for now…end of year testing has come back. The big differences: 1. We’ve done this before now, and we have more research at our backs. And 2. MSLs are now being called ‘Final Exams’. It looks like they’re not part of your grade, but I can’t be certain; I’ve definitely heard it both ways. A lot. And as for the EOGs, they’re EOGs, but for seventh to eighth grade, my math EOG scores (opt-out-ers at my school have really low ‘1’s, if you would recall my school’s wonderful policy) will also dictate which math class you are in the next year.

I’ve heard that if you miss some of the testing days, including the make-up EOG day, then they can’t test you after that. And if they can in fact, then I’ll fall back on refusal to test (like last year). Can’t be sure how it’ll go, but it should be easier than last year.

Oh, and here’s the testing schedule for next week (at least, for my grade in my school): Monday-Math EOG. Tuesday-Language Arts EOG. Wednesday-EOG makeups. Thursday-Science Final Exam. And Friday-Social Studies Final Exam. Yeah, that’s right, testing all week.

Alright then…unless something happens between then and now, the earliest I’ll be able to write about how it went down is after school on Monday.

Everything according to plan, write to you then! Have a wonderful (and hopefully not stressful) weekend.

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Update and Video: NC Mother of Autistic Child Fights EOG’s

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.

Autistic youth’s mom fights NC EOG’s

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

Ashville Citizen-Times

Being Jeb…a pretend interview.

Hi, my name is Charlie and I want to present to you a scenario.  For the sake of explaining a portion of what is happening to our public schools, I am going to perform a little magic and transport you to a world where I am Jeb Bush.  But first, a rather lengthy preface…

All of the facts and quotations in this article can be found in the articles referenced at the bottom of this page, written by real journalists who have done the hard work researching and chasing the leads so that we can be well informed. I paraphrase a lot. I plagiarize portions of their work.  So I am saying here that ALL of the things you are about to read are accurate, just presented in a dramatized fashion-and not possible without the efforts of the writer’s cited.  All quotations are actual quotes from the speaker named.  My hope in this presentation style is to offer the information in a distinct and relateable way that may perhaps really put us all into the mindset of the people who are attempting to take over public education.  But I want to stress that all the credit for the research that makes this possible goes to Diane Ravitch, Colin Woodard, William March, and Chris Cousins.

Ready…sitting down?  Okay here we go.

Hi, my name is Jeb Bush…I run a foundation called the Foundation for Educational Excellence.  My non profit organization, is dedicated “To build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential.”

My organization’s vision is for “An education system that maximizes every student’s potential for learning and prepares all students for success in the 21st century.” Our guiding principles are that:

  • All children can learn.

  • All children should learn at least a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time.

  • All children will achieve when education is organized around the singular goal of student success. (0)

So here is how we achieve this vision and forward these principles.  What we do is host what we call Education Summits.  In the words of my employee and spokesperson, Jaryn Emhof, we use these summits as “an opportunity for lawmakers, policymakers, researchers, experts, innovators, and more to gather in one location to learn from each other.”  What are we learning about?  Good question.  At these summits community leaders such as Stephen Bowen, Educational Commissioner of Maine, listens as my organization “advocates for proven policies and innovative reforms that will improve the quality of education … (to) ensure every student has access to the high-quality education experience that best fits them.” (1)

And if you think we are talking about reinventing the wheel and closing schools, you are right.  Because what we basically do is encourage and support and push legislation that makes it harder for public schools to operate.  We coach education leaders in America at these summits about the benefits of doing business with the other stakeholders in on these educational meetings.  We even hold their hands through the painful process of slowing down the funds to public schools, so that my corporate friends can move in and fill the gap when those schools can’t make the grade anymore.  We even help with wording and walking through of legislation that supports the installation of charter schools and enforces the curriculum and test requirements that favor the profitability of stakeholders.(1)

Who are my stakeholders? Corporate donors that support the Summits include:

* Pearson, a $9 billion-a-year media conglomerate which has a $250 million, four-year contract to administer the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test.

* Amplify, the education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which sells classroom and curriculum software.

* Charter Schools USA, a Fort Lauderdale-based for-profit company that manages charter schools under contract.

* IQity, which sells online learning materials.

The two-day summits include speeches by national figures including myself, along with other notables such as Condoleeza Rice and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  Last year’s summit, for example (2012), at the JW Marriott hotel near the White House, included “strategy sessions” on such topics as “Reaching more students with vouchers and tax-credit scholarships”.  The 2011 conference at the historic Palace Hotel in San Francisco — one of the city’s most luxurious, with rooms starting at $350 per night — featured a speech by Rupert Murdoch.

You might think it is strange that no actual educator’s are at these “Educational Summits” where all these plans are made.  Like I said…we are trying to save education, not return to a past where there was no need for saving education.

As Justin Hamilton of Murdoch’s firm, Amplify says… “We’re lagging behind the rest of the world, we have to catch up fast.” And Justin would know, because Amplify sponsors and attends the summits with a sense of  “fostering a robust conversation about improving education in America.”(1)

Essentially, what we do, is determine the future of public school policy, on the dime of the very companies that stand to benefit from the future that they determine.  It’s fairly simple.

Now, what with all the money we spend on these efforts to change laws in favor of corporate benefit you may be thinking of calling us lobbyists, but we aren’t. Want to know why? Because a lobbyist, in state law, is someone employed solely or mainly to influence the government.  My foundation’s Executive Director is actually an employee of her own consulting and lobbying company.  That’s right…Patricia Levesque is a registered lobbyist with Meridian Consulting.  You see…the Foundation for Excellence in Education — we have no lobbyist registered in our ranks whatsoever. Patricia discreetly furthers the mission of the Foundations for Educational Excellence by proxy while consulting for a totally different foundation I also control called Foundation for Florida’s Future.  Ya’ll confused yet?  Because it just gets better.   Patricia is the Executive Director of that Foundation too.(1)

Now if you look at Foundation for Florida’s Future’s tax returns, you can find that Patricia’s lobbying firm, Meridian Strategies,which she runs with Dierdre Finn-who is also deputy director of BOTH aforementioned Foundations…whew.  Hold on a sec, let me catch my breath.  Okay, and then you gotta factor in that these two foundations also share another registered lobbyist, Joanna Hassell. And both foundations have the same address on Monroe Street in Tallahassee.  So while you can’t prove that we are lobbying and no legal connection can be proven, Meridian Strategies did get paid $276,000 by us in 2010.  Or rather, Patricia and Diedre were each paid that amount separately.(1)

But I want to get back to a name I mentioned way back in the beginning. Stephen Bowen, fella from Maine.  Educational Commissioner up there. He came to one of our summits way back in 2011.  Now here he is paving the way, just like we discussed at the Summit.  Besides the fact that he’s put together the whole A-F grading system, choked down spending on public schools while pushing through LD129 so more charter schools can open, LD1524 which affects funding to high schools that offer remedial instruction and LD1510 which allow us to go after failing schools more efficiently (2)…He’s also put into action our whole notion of deregulating online education.  Working with K12 and a subsidiary of Pearson Publishing named Connections Education- Patricia personally worked with Bowen and others in his state to escort legislation that eased the entrance of said companies into the state of Maine.  I mean besides the money that K12 and Pearson put up for the farce, it’s a funny thing…the emails that even show her helping him line all of this up are right there on the internet, but people are so busy that they probably don’t have the time to look.  I really hope no one finds all this out and writes an article about it and has it go viral or something. (3)

It’s funny you know…all that talk about Banks that were too big to fail.  Why are people like me and Pearson able to take over and manipulate public education, and legislation and simultaneously able to convince so many that it is the best thing for them?…it’s simple.  We are too big to fail.  The only thing that could possibly stand in our way is the American people.  If they actually woke up tonight, there would be a revolution tomorrow.

Like right now, in Chicago, they are closing nearly 60 schools.  The largest school closure in one area in US history.  They are claiming that they lacked the funding.  But right under the public’s nose the policy makers earmarked  in 2012, $350 million for the Office of New Schools-an office devoted to developing new charter and contract schools. In 2013, the Chicago Public School system allocated an additional $23 million to fund new charter schools.  Heck, that amount alone is nearly half of what they estimate they will save if they close 80 neighborhood schools.  As a final blow, the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) successfully lobbied the Illinois General Assembly for an additional $35 million to expand their charter school network in 2012, while at the same time the state cut over $200 million from the public school budget.  You have to admit, that it is a very very good time to be getting into the education business. (4)

Well, I gotta go.  The next summit is in October and I have a lot of educational decision makers to add to the guest list.  I am a busy man..after all…the future of education is at stake.

(0) http://excelined.org/about-us/mission-and-history/

(1)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/03/jeb-bush-education-foundation_n_2802536.html
Originally by the Tampa Tribune-William March

(2)http://bangordailynews.com/2013/05/10/politics/state-house/democrats-stall-teacher-evaluation-rules-until-lepage-reveals-education-agenda/
Originally by Christopher Cousins

(3) http://www.pressherald.com/news/virtual-schools-in-maine_2012-09-02.html?pagenum=full
Originally published on Sept, 2, 2012 by Colin Woodard

(4) http://dianeravitch.net/2013/03/21/the-futility-of-closing-schools-in-chicago/
Originally by Diane Ravitch

Zoe Speaks-Refusing EOGs Next Week

I was told that I was legally required to go through with the MSLs, but successfully opted out with the help of my family and supporters. Encouraged by that success, I am also going to refuse the EOGs next week, on the 21st and 22nd of May.

-Zoe!

Our Purpose

What we hope to do with the Blue Hat Movement is to improve all that has gone wrong with the current education system. We hope to bring the wishes of the people who experience the education tactics into the decision of the tactics themselves. We will also be focusing on the Common Core Standards (CCS), at least for a time, and how we could get things done as a people.

There are already many people across America expressing their views of how the CCS is harming our youth’s love of learning and turning talented teachers into test prep robots.  Our goal here is to unite all the groups into one focused movement.  It is a people’s movement.