Why I Refuse

#whyirefuse

“High-quality assessments are an integral part of teaching and learning,”[1]

wrote New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr.

“They provide useful feedback to teachers, parents and students. In New York, we haven’t increased the number of tests the state administers, and virtually all of the tests we give are required by federal law. Unfortunately, due to various pressures at the federal, state and local level, local testing has increased in many districts in New York, and this additional local testing does not always support good instruction and sometimes even crowds out time for student learning. Testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making in classrooms, schools and districts. Earlier this year, New York asked for and received a waiver to eliminate double-testing for our accelerated 8th grade math students. We’ve introduced a grant program to help reduce non-essential local testing in hundreds of school districts across the state. More important, these grants will help teachers teach more and test less, which is exactly what our students need.”

Notice the shift in the propaganda language. The controversial label for “standardized tests” changed to “high-quality assessments”. The school districts are portrayed as culprits of excessive testing.

The No Child Left Behind era emphasized the accountability aspect of education. The Race to The Top initiative perfected it by introducing the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) to public schools. It’s a method of evaluating teachers by exploiting students. The APPR is:

  • an algorithm converting one score to another that can be tweaked in the computer to any desired outcome,
  • excessively exploiting students’ time by test preps and tests themselves,
  • facilitating data mining,[2]
  • wasting funds. It costs MUFSD (1500 students) $300K/annually and will require additional $60-80K after the PARCC assessments start in 2015-2016.

The accountability process is applied selectively, though. The APPR is not used in private, nor public-private (charter) schools. In some instances, only occasional evaluation is sufficient and “highly effective” grade is given just for daily attendance.

“Dr. Hunderfund works closely with the Board every single day and receives evaluative feedback on a consistent basis.”[3]

Peg O’Connor, then president of the BOE, evaluated Dr. Hunderfund, the MUFSD superintendent in July 2012. Five months later, the BOE signed an agreement with the Malverne Teachers Association adopting the APPR.

mug why I refuseAll NYS local BOEs adopted the APPR agreement. They use resources and follow opinions of the New York School Boards Association (NYSSBA) which is fully aligned with the NYSED. The association sent out “ NYSSBA Final Resolutions 2014” (pdf). The boards were asked to submit their opinion before the NYSSBA annual conference that starts this weekend, 10/26-28/2014. The document contains resolutions that are clearly against the interests of residents, students, teachers, and parents. Steve Greenfield, a New Paltz school district BOE member expressed publicly his objections to several resolutions.[4] But it’s expected the school boards will, in general, rubber stamp the proposed resolutions.

Currently, residents, parents, students, and teachers find support only among themselves. Myriad advocacy groups can be found on the internet and social media sites. Their voice is somewhat lost due to election campaigning, but, in my opinion, after the elections they’ll focus again their effort on getting rid of high-stakes tests.

When schools opened last month, residents were asking questions on the local FB page about the quality of schools. The parents expressed their overwhelming trust in professionalism of teachers. Perhaps, the teachers would welcome a message #whyirefuse imprinted on a mug this holiday season instead of the traditional Teacher #1.

Last Spring, 40K NY students refused the standardized tests. What is your estimate for this year?

Update October 29:
The delegates narrowly (142–127) didn’t pass the recommended Resolution 10—to support the APPR attached to assessments—sending a message to Albany.

1 State Education Department Awards ‘Teaching Is The Core’ Grants. NYSED.
2 Knewton – Education Datapalooza, 2012. Office of Technology of the US Department of Education.
3 Malverne Schools Chief Gets Pay Raise, Contract Extension. Malverne-West Hempstead-Lynbrook, New York Patch.
4 NYS BOE Members Push Back. Scribd, October 16, 2014.

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