Sunday, April 26, 2015

More PARCC drivel from the NJ Star Ledger

Oh my! The NJ DOE shill Star Ledger editorial board is at it again. Today's propaganda piece is about Education Commissioner Hespe's proposed punishments for school districts that don't hit the 95% participation rate on PARCC, the magical test that can determine if your third grader will get into the college of their choice (it just won't help you pay for it). 
The exam is like an MRI for education. It can tell us where kids are failing and help diagnose the problem, even when it's hidden in an otherwise well-performing district. But because parents in more affluent communities have become increasingly suspicious of the state test itself — not unlike the overwrought side-eye given to childhood vaccines — what's now at risk is funding for kids who are most vulnerable.
WHAT?! "An MRI for education"? Vaccine refusers? Government more concerned about students not taking a deeply flawed and harmful test than they are about children not getting life-saving vaccinations? Did somebody put Crazy in the water?! I'm sorry, please excuse me while I clean up the coffee I just spit out, and adjust the antenna on the tin foil hat Tom Moran accuses me of wearing. I've simply got to find the comedy channel source of his claim. 

And we're back.

Yea, I couldn't find any legitimate, researched and vetted sources to back up his claim. But there's plenty out there from organizations who are profiting from this CCRAP.

According to Hespe, a school that fails to hit the 95% cut off could be put on a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) that would include holding parent PARCC information meetings and face-to-face meetings with refusing parents. Like that's going to change things. Schools hold informational meetings all the time and some parents don't show up. Schools hold face-to-face meetings with parents all the time (they're called parent-teacher conferences) and some parents don't show up. What are they going to do? Send armed guards to drag the parents out? Subpoena them? You laugh, but in this altered reality of education 'reform', I wouldn't rule it out.

But, if any of those parents do show up at these meetings, I hope they will print out a copy of this list of must-ask questions and demand answers, and remind school officials of what NJ State BOE President, Mark Biedron, said at the January meeting:

"We know we can't force any kid to put their hands on a keyboard." 

Moran continues...
Hespe says he is "not going to default to a 'you didn't do it, you lose money'" attitude, because it rarely helps kids in the end. He's right. Let's hope he follows through on that pledge. We shouldn't punish the neediest kids for the misguided actions of parents who feel they have nothing to lose.
But it's perfectly okay "to punish the neediest kids for the misguided actions of" adults who want to starve their schools of resources so they can 'fail' and be flipped to charters. If Moran is so concerned about "funding for kids who are most vulnerable", why isn't he shouting from the rooftops about the $6 billion in education funding cuts under the Christie administration? (For more on the egregious cuts to NJ school funding, go to Jersey Jazzman or Dr. Bruce Baker's blogs.) 

More from Jersey Jazzman
Unless and until these fine, reformy folk are willing to stand up and demand that schools serving poor children get the funds they need, I don't want to hear any more of their tut-tutting at middle-class white people for opting their children out of standardized testing. 
And their mouthpieces in the press and the bloggosphere and the think tanks — those who consistently ignore the problem of inadequate and unfair school funding — don't even deserve acknowledgment. Their indifference to the plight of impoverished children in underfunded schools, all while looking down their noses at those who opt their children out, speaks volumes. (emphasis mine)
And no SL education op-ed would be complete without attacking and blaming teachers: 
The teachers' union that has been whipping up hysteria about this test is now accusing the state of "threats and intimidation." 
Well, Tom, what else would you call a policy that threatens and intimidates schools, educators and students? Oh right: "an MRI for education".

I've said it before and I'll say it again:
It doesn't matter that the test is flawed. It doesn't matter that the test is developmentally inappropriate, especially for special needs students. It doesn't matter that the test is not diagnostic. It doesn't matter that teachers, parents and students won't be able to see the answers. It doesn't matter that the prep and administration of this test has taken countless instructional hours out of the school day. It doesn't matter that school districts are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on tech upgrades for this unfunded mandate. It doesn't matter that many students have purposely thrown their test answers because they know it doesn't count for them this year. It doesn't matter that many teachers' jobs will be on the line because of those thrown tests. It doesn't matter that this test was never properly vetted nor piloted... None of that matters because according to Moran, this test is the 'Great White Hope', that will finally defeat poverty in our mostly minority, urban areas. (Adding: while lining the pockets of the edupreneurs)

And as long as Tom Moran and the Star Ledger editorial board keep writing this CCRAP, I will keep saying it. As the parent-led opt-out movement grows, more and more parents are realizing just how much mainstream media is responsible for propagating this drivel.  

ADDING: It seems Jersey Jazzman and I were on the same tin foil channel today. At the same time I posted this, he posted this.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thoughts on the Atlanta sentencings

This week 8 Atlanta educators who declined to take plea deals were handed stiff sentences for their roles in a massive standardized testing cheating scandal that spanned almost a decade. Three received 20 years with 7 to be served behind bars, the rest received 5 year sentences with 1 to 2 years of jail time. Others cut plea deals that either avoided jail altogether or required them to serve sentences on weekends.

These educators clearly broke the law and they need to suffer the consequences. What they did was flat out wrong. It not only damaged their schools and their professional careers, but most importantly, their students. Teachers are supposed to be role models. Every day we teach students about fairness, cooperation, honesty, loyalty, tolerance, respect and compassion. We teach them to play fair and make good choices. And we don't tolerate cheating. I can't imagine how the leaders of those schools explained what happened to the thousands of students who suddenly found out that the test scores they 'earned' were bogus. This is a tragedy that will take years to correct. 

People who cheat are either desperate, insecure, selfish or some combination of all three. Perhaps the cheating started as an act of desperation. After all, when state and federal governments stack the deck against public education, when they hold educators and students to impossible standards with devastating consequences while slashing funding to make it almost impossible to meet those standards, when they cut funding to programs that provide a safety net or a leg up to impoverished children, those are desperate times indeed. And you know what they say about desperate times.

2012 Census data puts Georgia in the top 10 worst states for child poverty. According to this report from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute:

Since the recession, Georgia lawmakers cut funding for education, safety net supports and other key services. Those services help build a strong economy with good jobs that can help struggling families climb into the middle class. Continued failure to invest in these important services will hurt Georgia’s sluggish economic recovery and make life harder for these families.

Harder in so many ways including learning. And all across this country more and more children fall further and further behind as social safety net programs and education budgets are cut to preserve the lifestyles of the rich and famous. 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter had this to say at sentencing:

This thing was pervasive. It's like the sickest thing that's ever happened to this town. There were thousands of children that were harmed in this thing. This is not a victimless crime. All I want from any of these people is to just take some responsibility, but they refuse.

Indeed. Who took responsibility for this? Who went to jail for this?

Michelle Rhee: not desperate, just insecure and selfish

Diane Ravitch spells it out clearly:

G.F. Brandenburg asks what the differences were between the cheating scandal in Atlanta under Beverly Hall and the cheating scandal in D.C. under Michelle Rhee.
He can’t find any other than the powerful protection extended to Rhee by the Obama administration. She was the poster child for Race to the Top. They couldn’t let her fail. Arne Duncan even campaigned with her on behalf of Mayor Fenty, a most unusual act for a member of the Cabinet. Fenty lost, and Rhee left D.C. to form Students First and raise campaign funds for mostly rightwing Republicans who were pro-voucher, pro-charter, and anti-union. 
He writes: 
“But why is it that only in Atlanta were teachers and administrators indicted and convicted, but nowhere else? 
“What difference was there in their actual behavior? 
“To me, the answer is simple: in DC, officials at every level, from the Mayor’s office up to the President of the US and the Secretary of Education, were determined to make sure that Michelle Rhee’s lying and suborning of perjury and lies would never be revealed, no matter what.”

How many millions of dollars did these people raise for elected officials hell-bent on destroying public education? Yea, I didn't think so. 

The 'crimes' these three have committed against America's public schools, students and education professionals are also a tragedy that will take years—if not generations—to correct. 

But they will never be arrested. They will never see jail time. They will never have to make restitution for the damage they've inflicted on the future of this country even though Judge Baxter's words are just as applicable to what they're doing:  
This thing was pervasive. It's like the sickest thing that's ever happened to this town. There were thousands of children that were harmed in this thing. This is not a victimless crime. All I want from any of these people is to just take some responsibility, but they refuse.
These three take responsibility? Ha! No, why should they be held accountable when there are plenty of educators around the country who must be.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

@superchargedmom : the hardest working teacher in NJ

Note: This blog's been quiet lately. Lots going on in my world that is keeping me away from my laptop. But as with everything, "this too shall pass". Meantime, something short and sweet...

If you're plugged into NJ education politics, then you no doubt know about the hardest working teacher on Twitter: @superchargedmom.

Not only is she a full time mom to two little children, a middle school teacher and an adjunct professor, she is also waging a one woman PR campaign aimed at Gov. Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney to fully fund NJ's pensions. And now it seems she's taken on Hillary Clinton, too.

I'm an early riser, but 'SCM' starts posting long before my eyes open. As I write this it's 7:30am. In the past two hours alone, she's posted 30 memes about hard working public employees like this...

and this...

and this...

And this day's just getting started! I can't imagine how many more she'll post by the time I get home this evening. I wish she'd bottle and sell that energy.

Her fight to save public education and stop the abuse of public employees does not end with 140 characters. She is a regular speaker at the NJ State Board of Ed open forum meetings, and is a one woman news feed on Facebook. 

This kind of passion does not come from someone who is "lazy", "greedy" or "selfish". This kind of dedication does not come from someone who doesn't care about her students. Quite the opposite: this kind of passion comes from someone who cares deeply about her students, her profession and all the children of NJ, and who will go to any lengths to fight for them.

If she puts this much of herself into advocating for her students, imagine what she does with them in the classroom? They are so lucky to have her as their teacher.

Thank you for all you do, superchargedmom!