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#1424565 --- 11/01/13 09:50 AM Re: Dear Parents [Re: cwjga]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
We don't agree. I believe teachers know more about their students than politicians do. She doesn't. She is thankful to be part of a movement to raise standards, something she should have been doing all along.
I will always see and teach my students as individuals (trees) and not as forests.

I see the forest, and it looks like this:

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#1424567 --- 11/01/13 10:01 AM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
cwjga Offline
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Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 9806
Loc: NY
Originally Posted By: twocats
I believe teachers know more about their students than politicians do. She doesn't. She is thankful to be part of a movement to raise standards, something she should have been doing all along.


Where do you get any of that from?
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#1424592 --- 11/01/13 07:16 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: cwjga]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
Originally Posted By: cwjga
Originally Posted By: twocats
I believe teachers know more about their students than politicians do. She doesn't. She is thankful to be part of a movement to raise standards, something she should have been doing all along.


Where do you get any of that from?


Your post.
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#1424593 --- 11/01/13 07:18 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
This is what we are competing against. Is this what you want for your children? Apparently, these students are studying with the aid of IV's to help with their exhaustion. Disgusting.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answ...Zw2GU_blog.html


Edited by twocats (11/01/13 07:18 PM)
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#1424719 --- 11/03/13 02:05 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
Catholic schools are getting it.











Edited by twocats (11/03/13 02:06 PM)
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#1425619 --- 11/11/13 02:56 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
New York State constantly changes the score needed to pass on ELA and Math tests. Only AFTER the tests are graded, a score needed to pass is established. All questions go through extensive field-testing before the tests go live. The question remains why this practice is needed? Perhaps it might have something to do with matching the NYSED Commissioner’s failure rate prediction given 4 months before the test was administered…

From 2006 to 2013 the score needed to pass went on a wild ride. One year, a 63% was needed to pass. In another year, students had to score 87% in order to pass.

In 2013, the score needed to pass the NYS ELA dropped to a record low 63%. While we are not able to see the actual test, we were informed about the make-up of the test. The 3rd grade practice set contained items that proved to be on readability levels above 8th grade: http://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/ela-grade-3-sample-questions.pdf

The 3rd grade ELA also contained some of the same exact questions/passages as the 4th and 5th grade test. NYSED called the items “calibration items”. They were affectionately known as “dummy items” by everyone else: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/new-...ticle-1.1318781

What will the scores need to be in order to pass the 2014 ELA and Math tests? That can only be answered by a few select members of the NYSED and will be done AFTER the test is graded. They have already guaranteed scores will go up next year.

No matter what they decide, we know that our children are more than predetermined test scores.



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#1425774 --- 11/12/13 08:36 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
Love the sarcasm of nyceducator.com.

It's vital that we enact Common Core Standards immediately. That's why Reformy John King has actually been compelled to go out there and listen to parents and teachers before ignoring them utterly as per usual. Because without the valuable lip service of New York's education commissioner, where would we be?

More importantly, there are books and supplies to be sold. Common Core is the only way we can teach our children to think critically, and those of us who haven't been trained in it will never know how to question anything. As Reformy John says, in front of God and everybody, anyone who doesn't like it is a "special interest." Perhaps, given they're getting in the way of the healthy commerce caused by Common Core, such opponents are communists or worse! It's too bad they haven't been trained in the essential critical thinking skills of Common Core, or they'd know that now is the time to sit down and shut up.

As John King likes to point out, this is an emergency. We haven't got time to worry about whether or not Common Core does any of the things he claims it does. We can't take time to question it, or wonder whether or not it works. And if it's damaging to our children, that's just part of the cost of business. If three of four of them fail and are traumatized by it, so be it. This is the price of opposing the status quo! Our children need this even if it's total crap, because doing nothing is not an option. And by our children, I don't mean John King's children, who go to a Montessorri school.

That's just one reason why it doesn't matter at all if the Pearson materials we pay billions for are riddled with errors. That's just another incidental cost of business. The only way we can solve the crisis that Reformy John King says we're in is to buy the materials at full price and use them anyway.

Because how can we teach kids to be critical thinkers if we don't use low quality crappy materials that they can criticize?
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#1426483 --- 11/20/13 10:29 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
That Doesn't Seem Like Lobbying for Children
By Peter DeWitt on November 20, 2013 5:55 PM

In January, 2012 Governor Andrew Cuomo said that he was going to be a "Lobbyist for children." Waldman (Times Union) wrote, Arguing that New York is "driven by the business of education more than achievement in education," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said education would be a "priority mission" for his administration in 2012."

What a difference a year makes.

Closing in on the end of 2013, Governor Cuomo seems to be delivering a very different message. In a recent press conference, Cuomo spoke about the New York State Education Department's implementation of the Common Core State Standards saying, "It's something we're watching very closely, and it's something that might be the subject of legislative changes next year," Cuomo told reporters on Staten Island. "But it's not anything that I control, so we are watching."

Cuomo continued by saying, "some of the rollout of Common Core, which started last school year, has been "problematic." Oddly, the Governor who labeled himself the "Lobbyist for Children" didn't take ownership over any of the implementation...nor did he discuss standardized testing...nor did he say he was going to fix everything. He actually said, "It's actually a decision that the state Education Department is going to make."

That doesn't sound like lobbying for children. That sounds like lobbying for time to get a better answer during an election.

Losing Public Education Support

In a post last year after he referred to himself as the lobbyist for children, I offered some suggestions for his children-centered focus, which would help the public school system. Click here to read those suggestions.

In a recent Democrat & Chronicle, it was reported that the Governor may have a reason behind his silent stance on N.Y. public education, and it has to do with his own HEDI score. "Gov. Andrew Cuomo's job performance rating hit its lowest point this month, a Siena College poll released Monday found, dipping to 44 percent positive." The D & C went on to report, "The Democratic governor's job performance sank to 44 percent positive and 56 negative, down eight percentage points from last month, Siena said."

The D&C continued, "While Cuomo maintains his nearly two-to-one favorability rating, voters are less enthralled with the job he is doing as governor." The D&C quoted Siena pollster Steven Greenberg as saying, "More than twice as many voters think he's doing a poor job compared to an excellent job, and more voters now think Cuomo is doing a fair (39 percent) or poor job (17 percent) than at any time in his three years as governor."

"The lobbyist for children" needs to mend some fences with the public school system and work with them rather than against them.

Connect with Peter on Twitter.
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Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

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#1426608 --- 11/21/13 04:48 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
State legislators gathered in Rochester Wednesday to hear opinions on the state's Common Core standardized test curriculum.

More than 100 people, many of them educators, gathered at the Memorial Art Gallery auditorium, and more than two dozen speakers vehemently opposed the standardized tests, which began statewide last spring.

Assemblyman Al Graf (R- Holbrook), who is sponsoring a bill in opposition to the tests, attended the session along with Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R- Canandaigua), Assemblymen Mark Johns (R-Webster), Steve Hawley (R- Albion), Bill Nojay (R-Lakeville), Robert Oaks (R-Macedon), and Edward Ra (R- Garden City).

"What you have here is state-sanctioned abuse of our children," Graf said. "Other states are pulling out of this. It's time for New York State to wake up and smell the coffee, and stop hurting our children."

Parents, current and retired teachers, school administrators, and college professors were among those who expressed opposition to the standardized tests – saying the timed, 90-minute tests, which are given three consecutive school days are poorly written, not age- or grade-appropriate, and are basically stressing kids out because kids are being tested on an supposed standard on things they haven't yet been taught.

Thirty-one percent of New York State students passed the exams.

GMCLENDN@DemocratandChronicle.com

Twitter.com/NightCopsReport
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#1427600 --- 12/01/13 10:58 AM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
From Valley View:

Common Core appears based on a social, ideological premise that “It’s not fair that your child gets to be a doctor if mine can’t. Everyone grab a mop. We’re all janitors now.” Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for janitors. In fact, I married one. He’s now a licensed engineer, the “top mop.”

But with Common Core dictating exactly what every child will learn at every grade level, there is no longer opportunity for children to achieve their individual potential. There is no opportunity for the doctors and engineers to break out of the pack where they need to be if we are to remain “competitive in the global economy.” There is no place for art, design, trades. And there is no place for anyone who cannot meet the bar as it is set, such as our special-education students.

Common Core is not “rigorous.” It is simply rigid. It dictates where our children will be at every stage of their education, everyone at the same place at the same time.

This is not how a free society educates its students. This is how a free society abdicates its freedom by delivering their children into the hands of financial and political stakeholders for placement in their ideological workforce. Not this mom.
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#1427602 --- 12/01/13 12:25 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
Teonan Offline
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Registered: 05/30/12
Posts: 4683
Loc: West End

Conscious Mom's unite!


Superintendent Cohen vocally joins the ranks of parents and educators in opposition to Common Core/College and Career Readiness.


LI Superintendent Blasts Board of Regents for “Educational Apartheid”

By dianeravitch
30 Nov. 2013

Steve Cohen, superintendent of the Shoreham-Wading River School District, published an editorial in the local newspaper blasting the New York Board of Regents.


Many educators are afraid to speak out against what they know is wrong because they fear for their jobs. Teachers may be fired. Principals may be fired. Superintendents may be fired. When anyone expresses their professional judgment without fear and says what’s right for children, it takes courage. For teachers, it is best to do it en masse. The same for principals. Superintendents are leaders of their community and are in a position to make a new path. They can lead opinion. More should do so.

I am happy to add Steve Cohen to our honor roll.

High schools have always prepared students for college and careers, he writes. But the Regents have a new idea.


He writes:

First, consider exactly how the Board of Regents defines “College and Career Ready.”

If a student passes an algebra test in 8th or 9th grade at a level that correlates to a C in freshman mathematics in college, and if that same student passes an English test in 11th grade at a level correlated with a C in freshman English in college, along with earning 22 credits in high school and passing three other Regents exams, then she or he is set and ready to go to college and into the world of work.

No music, art, advanced study in much of anything; no community service, no sports, no occupational training; no independent work in any academic or other creative field is required. In addition, to do well on these tests, it is not necessary to read entire novels or histories or write papers of any length or complexity. It is not necessary to develop a love of anything or demonstrate an ability to think on one’s own feet.

Second, note that 16 of the 17 Board of Regents members, in addition to the commissioner of education himself, send their children to private schools — ones that have not embraced the reforms the Board of Regents and the commissioner claim are needed to make students “College and Career Ready.” I mention this fact because its relevance becomes obvious once one understands what “College and Career Ready” means for the children of our educational leaders. You see, the colleges that the children of Regents and commissioners of education are expected to attend, places like Harvard University, define “College and Career Ready” differently.

But this is not what is expected by elite universities, who want so much more for their students.

And he adds:

So it turns out that “College and Career Ready” means two different things depending on whether you are a public school student in New York or a student at an expensive private school. “College and Career Ready” for public school kids means achieving at a decidedly mediocre level when compared to the expectations the Regents have for their own children. Perhaps that’s one reason they would never send them to schools that are benefiting from their wonderful reforms.

For “College and Career Ready,” once one digs a bit below the surface, suggests readying public school students for work that does not demand advanced learning in anything and is not oriented toward preparing students to “take advantage of future learning opportunities of all kinds.” No, these loftier expectations, and the courses and other resources needed to achieve them, are to be reserved for students not subject to the glories of the Regents Reform Agenda, students whose parents have the money and connections to keep them out of the public school system.

Most new jobs created in our economy are low-paying service jobs. We should be concerned that “College and Career Ready” actually refers to a curriculum that guides public school students to these jobs, leaving the few good jobs to students who receive a private high school education that prepares them to “take advantage of future learning opportunities of all kinds.”


Make no mistake about it, “College and Career Ready” is code for education apartheid. Do not let your children breathe the stale air of low expectations, reduced exposure to the arts and music, limited engagement with sophisticated science and little, if any, prolonged, deep and thoughtful contact with great literature.

“College and Career Ready” is a trap. Don’t fall for it. Your kids deserve better. Just like theirs.

http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/30/li-su...onal-apartheid/
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"Everything that has ever happened to us is there to make us stronger."
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#1429196 --- 12/14/13 06:10 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
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Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
Design Lessons for Students, not Standards

By Adam Heenan
I consider most conflicts to be problems of design. As a teacher, my first task is always to design lessons that are engaging. Some teachers do this very easily with humor, or great storytelling. I do this by prioritizing relevant and valuable ideas shared by the students in the room, and I excel at that… or so my students and their parents tell me. If my designs are off, my lessons will not be engaging and my students will not learn. And, believe me, students are quite effective at letting me know when my lessons are not engaging.
In general, learning standards are implemented as a design solution for a problem that never was. In my nine years of teaching social studies and Spanish, I have had to learn and prioritize the Illinois Learning Standards – of which there are six different sets for the social studies ‑ along with socio-emotional standards, the ACT-aligned College Readiness Standards, and now the Common Core State Standards for literacy. (There are no social studies standards for this newest set, so by default, I am directed to use the non-fiction reading and writing standards.) As part of my evaluation, all of these standards are to be accounted for in my lesson plans, as if they add value that wasn’t already there in the lessons I’ve been teaching. Please consider the value and relevance of the following lesson currently happening in my classroom.
I teach Financial Literacy as a semester-long social studies course for high school juniors in a Chicago public school. The first quarter, which just finished on October 31st, focused on professional skills; the second quarter revolves around money management. This week my students – who have just completed their mock interview for a future career – must go through the steps of determining a place to live on a fixed salary, and then present their decision to their peers in the form of a brief PowerPoint presentation.
To complete this project, the students must first determine their biweekly net pay and cost of living expenses (determined by scale based upon their grade from last semester, e.g. students who received an “A” earn $42,000, and performance in the mock interview), and then they must find a place to live. To do this, students scour the Internet for classified ads on webservers like Craigslist. They quickly realize that the students who did really well in the mock interview have an easier time finding a desirable living arrangement, while the ones who didn’t do so well might have to find a classmate willing to be a roommate. Some even have to explain in their presentations why they are living at home in their parents’ attic!
Year after year, this is one of the most popular lessons I do with my students because they consider it both relevant and valuable to their real lives. Students will (hopefully) be moving out of their parents’ homes in a few years, and this lesson is usually the first opportunity they have had to navigate their possibilities for determining their living options. This is an assignment that requires some adult support, but relies on students’ autonomy and ingenuity. They love being able to compare who got the “better deal” on the “coolest” apartment.
They apply mathematical skill-sets of adding, subtracting, multiplying and proportioning for the paychecks; techno-literacy, geo-spatial mapping, and economic decision-making to determine a place to live; and communication skills both in the presentation of their PowerPoint and in the negotiations of “what’s fair” between roommates for who get different sized rooms. Some of the students argue that since their partners/roommates are contributing unequal amounts money, than perhaps that person’s bedroom will be the size of a walk-in closet. We all get a good laugh, and then move on to budgeting in the real world the following week.
If I have explained the purpose of this activity clearly, the reader probably wasn’t judging this lesson based upon their determining what standard I was trying to teach. That’s because I’m not trying to teach a standard, I am teaching a valuable lesson to young people: how to find a place to live when you are on your own, something that most people have to do sometime in their young adult lives.
This lesson has changed very little over the years I have taught it. Neither the Common Core nor the College Readiness Standards, and not even the Illinois Learning Standards have any bearing on the value of this lesson. The standards are inconsequential. The activities are not derived from or determined by standards; the lesson comes from the students’ needs to master content that is relevant and valuable to their lives.
Most of the lessons I design prioritize what is relevant to the content and valuable to students and our community. But this is changing in my classroom, as it is across the profession, with the pressure either to align our current curricula to the standards, or to design different activities that justify the assessments (read: standardized tests). What then happens to valuable lessons like the one I’ve describes? They get relegated to “extra credit” instead of being the subject matter of everyday learning, and teachers have to tailor classroom learning to the assessments that teachers most likely did not design.
This is not an appeal for more help in learning how to implement the standards better in my teaching. If I wanted support for applying the Common Core in my classroom, I could get it. I could ask my administration or my union, and both would be responsive. I could attend any number of professional development sessions, or sign on for some webinars in my pajamas any night of the week. Google turns up unlimited implementation ideas I could put in place immediately, and Education Week is forever advertising a new solution system for my administration to buy. Yes, the Common Core has designed an entire market of solutions for a problem that didn’t exist five years ago. What if all that money went directly into classrooms instead?
No, I don’t want support for Common Core. I simply believe we should not do it, because it does not prioritize the needs of the people in the teaching and learning process: students and educators. In fact, I believe we should actively resist its implementation, and provide educators with the autonomy, support and time to design engaging lessons in the ways they know best: by prioritizing the people in the room.
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#1429344 --- 12/15/13 08:26 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
In Kentucky and New York, the Common Core tests caused test scores to tumble by 30 points or more.

State officials assume–with no evidence–that the scores will go up every year. What if they don’t? What if they go up only by a small increment? What if 50-60% of students don’t pass?

In New York, the “passing” rate on the Common Core tests was 30% statewide. Only 3% of English learners passed, and only 5% of students with disabilities. The pass rate for African American and Hispanic students was 15-18%.

If the state continues to insist upon a wildly unrealistic passing mark, the percentage of students who do not graduate will soar.

If Pearson aligns the GED with the Common Core, a startling number of students will never have high school diplomas of any kind. They won’t even qualify for the military. Will they be doomed to a life of poverty, of working in fast-food shops at minimum wage?

It is time to think of multiple ways to earn a diploma. It is time to think about career and technical education for students who want and deserve a chance to have a fruitful life. It is time to re-think what schools should do in addition to preparing students for college.

School should be a place for opportunity, not a single program–not one-size-fits-all, where the losers end up on the streets with no diploma and no hope.

What exactly is the point of making tests so “hard” that only 30% or 40% or maybe 50% can pass them? What will happen to those who never get a diploma? Do we really want to manufacture failure, knowing that those who fail will be those who already have the fewest advantages in life? As we follow this path, what kind of a society will we be 10 years from now?

Diane Ravitch
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Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

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#1430321 --- 12/23/13 10:23 AM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
This month, for the third time in a row, the Asians kicked American butt — academically, that is. On reading, science and math, students in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore earned the top scores on the international PISA test. U.S. students scored below or near the worldwide average, prompting suggestions that American education as a whole is failing. As a Hong Kong educator, I’m confident that the last thing the United States needs to copy is Chinese education.

Gallery

Tom Toles goes global:&#8201;A collection of cartoons about international news.


Here in this city of 2&#8201;million parents , there are 2 million school principals, all ordering after-school academic courses like appetizers in a restaurant. Parents are the headmasters because our schools no longer control the education process. A 2011 survey estimated that 72 percent of Hong Kong high school students receive tutoring outside of school, often until late in the evening. So when our schools get out, the school day is just beginning for most kids.

Long before the term “tiger mom” was coined, Chinese parents had a history of obsessing over academics. The other day, I overheard two parents talking about their sons. One mom turned to the other and shrieked, “I found him in his room, just sitting there. Not doing anything!” The other gasped and shook her head in disbelief.

Their sons are 6 years old.

It is not uncommon at parent get-togethers to hear references to an “inadequate foundation,” “unsystematic approach” and “syllabus gap.” Such phrases point to a fundamental distrust in our schools and, specifically, in the role of the schoolteacher as the official executor and judge of a child’s educational needs. This, coupled with the irrational fear that somewhere out there, some child is learning more and working harder, sets into motion the tremendous after-school education Chinese children are subjected to.

This after-school education is my world. I am one of the thousands of tutors helping Hong Kong students achieve high test scores. To me, the recent test results were no surprise: Of course East Asian kids test well. They are tested every day, even when they are sick. Our children sit for lengthy, rigorous and confusing examinations, starting at age 6. Weekends, summers and holiday breaks are golden opportunities to catch up on some R&R — review and revision, that is.

But the thing about testing is that it creates excellent followers, not leaders. Doing well on tests requires constant test prep. Granted, when it comes to buckling down and cramming for hours on end, Asians kids will beat their U.S. counterparts to a pulp. But give them a task that is not testable or not directly related to school, ask them to do something not for their college application but for themselves, and they’ll draw a blank.

That’s because one usually has to be bored to innovate. And Asian kids don’t have time to be bored; they are too busy acing tests. The fact that our kids are never idle will, I fear, ultimately cause our students to lag behind in ways that would be disastrous to our society. Even if the end goal is admission to an Ivy League university — which I don’t believe it should be — the statistics are alarming. An October study found that one in four Chinese students attending Ivy League universities in the United States drop out.

As a Hong Kong educator, I don’t view Hong Kong’s stellar PISA results as an indication of success. To me, it’s a sign that our education system is out of control. Likewise, I urge American parents and schools not to take the U.S. PISA results as an indication of defeat. I’d like to see Asian kids stop acing tests and start changing the world.
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Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

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#1434089 --- 01/26/14 02:25 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
"A teacher is the best person to evaluate a student, period. They know them, they know the character of each incoming class-- and they ARE different, just as each individual is different. Some classes go very smooth[ly] others struggle. Even as the year progresses you find that certain topics engage them more, or are better or not so better understood.

My analogy is the teacher as a gardener. You start out with a solid plan to grow tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. Each with an allotted space and anticipated production. So many variables out of your control are already in place: the weather (which changes every year), the soil makeup with yearly variances, pests of all sorts, new diseases, hail, and freezing, but you have the motivation and determination to do the best with what you have.

However as the season progresses, you notice that the tomatoes are coming along very nicely, but the carrots are a little sub-par. So after intimate examination along with your experience, you tweak the soil so you can at least get some reasonable carrot harvest. At the end of the season, you have some good crops, and some so-so. But what you have done is maximized the potential for each crop in a very dynamic system through your OWN daily interaction, one in which you don't just "set it and forget it". (The next season you start all over again, but you can't just repeat what you did this year, because the variables will again change.)

So now you have all of your produce in a neat pile, and proud of yourself for all of the hard work, but already you reflect on what worked and what didn't, and you start getting prepared for next year.

Now comes along some tool in a suit and clipboard and she says "I'm the NCLB!, your carrots are 12.3 pounds short! and those tomatoes aren't perfectly spherical and 3 inches in diameter. What? There's no pineapples? Wrong Wrong Wrong! You are supposed to produce exactly 40 pounds of each product we specify, no more, no less, and you can't grow anything from seeds not sold by us. So we are going to pay you less than the market rate. Also we are going to reduce the size of your plot because you can't produce; obviously it's your fault." Then she sends you a bill for assessing you."

Opt out.


Edited by twocats (01/26/14 02:27 PM)
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Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

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#1444369 --- 04/12/14 06:29 AM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
twocats Offline
Silver Member

Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 11904
Loc: NYS
When many of my students entered my third-grade classroom this year, they told me they didn’t like to read, and they definitely didn’t like to write. I made them a promise that by the end of third grade, I would change their minds.

Before the winter’s end, many of my children confirmed that—would you believe it?—they couldn’t stop reading. Parents were reporting flashlights under the covers because they just had to know what Ramona was going to do next. Kids were choosing to read during indoor recess instead of zoning out in front of the computer screen. They lit up when it was time for Writing Workshop because they had become teachers through their writing, and they had LOTS to teach about being a big sister, the right way to swing a tennis racket, and how to bake the perfect cupcake. Better still, I had tangible quantitative data that this love for their work was translating into elevated reading levels, stronger spelling and grammar, and better elaboration of ideas in writing. There was proof. I have numbers, letters, grades, written reports—all kinds of things that show that yes, love pays off, and that yes, kids will excel when they are engaged and committed because they are, well, engaged and committed. We get better at doing things we like doing, because we’ll do them again, and again, and again. Practice makes progress, proficiency, and beyond.

These tests are turning reading and writing into chores, sucking the life and love out of the students’ young literary lives.
When the winter started to come to an end, it was time to start preparing for the ELA, the New York state standardized test in English Language Arts, which, for the second time now, is supposed to be aligned with the new Common Core expectations of what students at each grade level should know and be able to do. I have been a teacher for seven years, this is my third year teaching on a testing grade, and I felt that I’d learned a thing or two about how to make the test-prep process less arduous and monotonous for my young students: test-prep games instead of workbook pages every so often; basing some essays and short response questions on high-level but fun read-alouds such as Time for Kids articles, the fictional tales of Chris Van Allsburg, and short, kid-friendly biographies about famous historical figures, instead of irrelevant and obscure texts; partnership and small group work when possible; etc. I used every trick in my test-preppy pocket, because while it’s part of my job to make sure my students feel ready and confident for this test, it’s all of my job to take care of them and their learning. I won’t lie to you and say they loved it, because they didn’t. But we managed. I did my job. They felt ready. They were ready. They had practiced, and practiced hard. Their love for reading was weakening, because they were reading with the intention of answering complex questions, rather than to authentically respond or have a conversation with a reading partner. But still, they were reading. We reminded ourselves weekly of the books we were reading and enjoying outside of test prep, such as My Father’s Dragon, Superfudge, and Encyclopedia Brown. We did what we could to hold on to the most important factor in our progress: the actual desire to do the work, the love of reading and writing.

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Nothing could have adequately prepared these 8-year-olds for the testing they were subjected to last week. As many other teachers have reported, the multiple-choice questions (and answer choices) were so complex and nonsensical that many adults struggled to determine the right answers. One of the reasons I actually support certain parts the Common Core is due to the emphasis on getting kids to go beyond the surface level of a text, but none of these questions tested their ability to do that. Instead of a question like: “What caused the character to (insert action here) in the middle of the story?” (which, mind you, is hard enough for an 8-year-old to identify as it is), there were questions like: “In Line 8 of Paragraph 4, the character says … and in Line 17 of Paragraph 5, the character does … Which of the following lines from Paragraph 7 best supports the character’s actions?” This, followed by four choices of lines from Paragraph 7 that could all, arguably, show motivation for the character’s actions in the preceding paragraphs. Additionally, MANY of the questions on the third-grade tests were aligned with fifth-grade standards (especially related to the structure of the text itself, rather than its meaning), and did not address the third-grade expectations. I wish I could give you more than hypotheticals, but teachers aren’t allowed to publicize test material.

If you got these questions right, it meant that you had an advanced enough memory to retain what had happened in Paragraphs 6 and 8 as you read the question that referred to Line 9 in order to determine what the test writer thought was the relationship among all three parts of the text. Question after question required undue scrutiny of individual words and phrases as they connected to other words and phrases. That isn’t close reading. That isn’t what we did all year, as we read and reread to talk about authorial intent, point of view, character motivations—things that I didn’t talk about as a student until middle school, that now I was watching my third-graders slowly but surely be able to do. But no: This was text dissection and process of elimination. Nobody really reads like that. It’s not how I taught, and it’s not what the Common Core expects. One of the huge goals of the Common Core is to prepare students for real-life reading, to be able to engage with text in the real world no matter the genre. Hear, hear! I would love for someone at Pearson, the company that produced the ELA, to find me one 8-year-old who would, on any given day in the “real world,” somehow come into contact with a level X (sixth-grade) novel that is set during the Great Depression, with characters who speak in local vernacular and are facing the problems of poverty and bankruptcy. But this is what’s used to measure how well my students can understand “authentic texts.” Give me a break.

During the test, my readers, who months ago couldn’t get their noses out of books, complained of stomachaches as they persevered and tried to read texts that were over their heads and had no relevance to their lives, age, or backgrounds. They struggled to hold their heads up and were doing hand stretches at the 60-minute mark as they tried to do what they were taught, what they know how to do—to back up their ideas with strong text evidence. But at the end of the day, their close reading and thinking put them at a disadvantage because they barely had enough time to finish writing about topics and texts that not only were inappropriate for their age and developmental level, but that they would never, EVER encounter in their reading lives, inside of school or out.

My kids are now totally fried and frustrated, and so am I. Worst of all, these tests are turning reading and writing into chores, into something that more closely resembles punishment than it does a way to enrich thinking. This is sucking the life and love out of their young literary lives. Did I break my promise from September? Do they not love to read and write anymore because of this insane culture? The hard work that we put in earlier in the year, showing them that there was so much to love about reading and writing, and doing it in a way that really does support these higher standards of learning, will not be reflected in their test results. It’s not what they needed to show New York state that they are grade-level readers (which, ironically enough, almost all of them are).

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Again, it is my job to take care of them and their learning. Recently it has become part of my job to try and push their thinking beyond what many child psychologists would consider “developmentally appropriate” for 8-year-olds, and I was, and still am, up for that challenge, even though it’s a little crazy. It is not my job to take children who are developing, who are trying to make sense of the world and the books around them, and turn them into test-taking drones who read and write with the intention of dissection and choosing the best answer out of four complex answer choices that all say little to nothing about what the text actually meant.

The past few days have made it seem as though that’s what my job is supposed to be, and that all of the love (and skill!) they have developed for literature and writing this year is irrelevant, as is the progress my kids have made that will not be shown by this absurdity. You can assess me all you want. I will number-crunch and data-report until the cows come home, but leave my kids out of it. They’re trying to become stronger readers and writers, and this is getting in the way. We need a way to measure their growth from start to finish, not to see where they fall on a bell curve that is already skewed because of the flawed measures that it rests on.

And if you’re not sure what I mean … try going back to Paragraph 2, Lines 8–10, as well as Paragraph 5, Lines 1–4, and then choose the sentence from Paragraph 7 that best supports the main idea found in both of those paragraphs. Because if you can do that, you will have shown me that you have a deep understanding of the message I am trying to convey.
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Edited by twocats (04/12/14 06:32 AM)
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Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

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#1444709 --- 04/15/14 01:55 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
cwjga Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 9806
Loc: NY


Edited by cwjga (04/15/14 03:30 PM)
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Annoying liberals, it's just too easy. Hard to believe how easy it is.

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#1445136 --- 04/19/14 10:37 AM Re: Dear Parents [Re: cwjga]
cwjga Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 9806
Loc: NY
_________________________
Annoying liberals, it's just too easy. Hard to believe how easy it is.

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#1445778 --- 04/26/14 09:28 AM Re: Dear Parents [Re: twocats]
bluezone Offline
Diamond Member

Registered: 12/19/04
Posts: 32017
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: twocats
Again, it is my job to take care of them and their learning.


if they fail to perform then should your compensation be reduced?
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"OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING, A SOLDIER DIED TODAY."

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#1446162 --- 04/30/14 05:00 PM Re: Dear Parents [Re: cwjga]
Red22 Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 06/21/06
Posts: 751
Loc: ny


I guess there are crappy teachers. Just like there are crappy doctors, car salesmen, dentists, farmers, mechanics, police officers, electricians, cosmetologists, lawyers, nurses, governors, senators, presidents, carpenters, principals, bus drivers, plastic surgeons, bartenders, pizza delivery guys, taxi drivers, etc.

Nothing changes the fact that some people are lazy. On the other hand, some people go above and beyond and do superior work.

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