Monthly Archives: February, 2015

New Seattle Test Boycott Erupts: Nathan Hale High School votes to refuse to administer a Common Core test

Today, I found out from my good friend Doug Edelstein that his school community decided to collectively refuse to administer the new Common Core test, the SBAC, to 11th graders. Doug teaches at, and graduated from, Nathan Hale (in fact, my step-dad was a classmate of his).  The Nathan Hale Senate–a body made up of the teachers, administrators, parents and students–voted nearly unanimously that this test was inappropriate. The vote was taken after careful consideration and much discussion and inquiry, including two school community forums — one of which included University of Washington professor of education and renowned scholar on high-stakes testing, Wayne Au.  This is the first year that the SBAC is required in the Seattle Public Schools, and this action represents an escalation of the high-stakes testing resistance that erupted against the MAP test in 2013.  In taking this action, Nathan Hale has became the latest focal point of what has now become the largest ongoing revolt against high-stakes testing in U.S. history and an important new escalation in the national resistance to common core testing.
Doug wrote the following announcement of Nathan Hale’s courageous decision to take a stand against the testocracy:
This afternoon the Nathan Hale Senate (functions as Building Leadership Team) voted nearly unanimously not to administer the SBAC tests to 11th graders this year.
The Senate also recently voted not to administer the PSAT test to 10th graders at all in the future.
Reasons for refusing the SBAC for 11th graders included (summary):
1. Not required for graduation
2. Colleges will not use them this year
3. Since NCLB requires all students pass the tests by 2014, and since few if any schools will be able to do that,  all schools will therefore be considered failing by that standard. There is thus no reason to participate in erroneous and misapplied self-labeling.
4. It is neither valid nor reliable nor equitable assessment. We will use classroom based assessments to guide next instructional steps.
5. Cut scores of the SBAC reflect poor assessment strategy and will produce invalid and unreliable outcomes.
6. Student made this point: “Why waste time taking a test that is meaningless and that most of us will fail?”
7. The SBAC will tie up computer lab time for weeks.
8. The SBAC will take up time students need to work on classroom curriculum.
This is an important step. Nathan Hale is asserting its commitment to valid, reliable, equitable assessment. This decision is the result of community and parent meetings, careful study of research literature, knowledge of our students’ needs, commitment to excellence in their education, and adherence to the values and ideas of best-practice instruction.
This resolution does not mean NHHS will refuse the 10th grade SBAC assessments, sorry to say. But the way the school went about the decision is a powerful model for other schools, and means that anything is still possible in that regard.
Yay.
Doug Edelstein

10 Reasons to Refuse the PARCC Test for Your Child: Maryland parent on opting out of high-stakes testing

TakePart.com ran an article by Joseph Williams this week titled, “Boycotters Might Be Winning the Battle Over Standardized Testing.” In that article he writes:

“In districts across the nation, from Florida to Alaska, the grassroots push for a rollback in high-stakes testing has gained momentum, and a broad coalition of parents, teachers, and advocates are poised to take advantage, even if it means an end to federal grants in tight fiscal times.”

He can now add Maryland to his list.

My good friend Michele Bollinger just sent me a copy of a statement to publish (see below) of her intention to respect her daughter’s wishes not to take the new Common Core high-stakes test—and why other parents should join this opt-out movement. Michele is a teacher in Washington, D.C. and was my mentor to becoming a social justice educator when I first began my teaching career in that city. Michele is also the editor of the young adult textbook, 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History.

Here now is Michele’s statement and ten reasons parents should join this growing opt-out movement:

As a parent and educator, I cannot stay silent as PARCC testing begins around the country. After much discussion within our family, our 5th grader has decided to decline the PARCC exam. We agree with her and have expressed our refusal to consent to testing to her school. Here are some of the reasons why.

It is easy to feel alone in this, but people are standing up to high stakes testing all around the country right now. If any Maryland residents, especially those in Montgomery County, Maryland are interested in declining the PARCC exam, please contact me at michele.bollinger@gmail.com.

10 Reasons to Refuse the PARCC Test

for Your Child in Maryland

1.   High-stakes standardized testing takes an emotional toll on students.

  • The PARCC is unlike any test you took as a child. It is unprecedented in its level of standardization and in the punitive measures attached to testing performance
  • The PARCC is a timed exam and unfamiliar to students in form and content
  • The stress of high-stakes test taking produces anxiety and is even more challenging for students who already experience anxiety
  • The testing environment can be oppressive, as students movements and behavior are heavily monitored

2.  The PARCC test drives the standardization of learning.

  • The Common Core State Standards, which support the PARCC, have narrowed state curriculum to fit the demands of the test
  • Untested subjects are deprioritized or dropped altogether
  • This unprecedented level of standardization cannot accommodate student differences in need, ability and interests

3. Test prep means less quality instructional time in schools.

  • PARCC is longer than previously administered tests
  • PARCC means more testing beginning at younger ages
  • Schools now commonly refer to a “testing season” that lasts from March until June

4. The PARCC test is a fundamentally flawed assessment.

  • There is no evidence that PARCC prepares students for college or careers
  • PARCC is developmentally inappropriate for students at all grade levels
  • Not enough sample tests, practice tests, or exemplars have been released
  • The expectation that many or most students will perform poorly on the test is public knowledge
  • Because Maryland students are already tested and assessed throughout the school year, the PARCC is unnecessary

5. Schools around the state of Maryland are unprepared to take a high stakes exam.

  • Never before have so many students taken an online exam simultaneously
  • Districts have continually reported schools’ IT infrastructure cannot support PARCC administration
  • The rush to implement the PARCC does not make sense for our schools

6. PARCC is a cash cow for testing companies such as Pearson, Inc.

  • Technology and testing companies – not educators – have funded and organized the rush to develop and implement the Common Core and PARCC
  • States have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Common Core and PARCC
  • In Maryland, combined costs for Math & English/Language Arts tests are as high as $61.24 per student
  • Pearson is a private company which will have access to student data with very little oversight. Pearson may sell personal data related to individual children who have taken the PARCC

7. School districts have been bullied into accepting PARCC and the Common Core – and residents have been failed by their elected leaders who signed on to it.

  • When Chicago Public Schools announced they could not and would not administer PARCC this year, they were threatened with losing up to $1 billion in funding
  • Schools and school districts across the country have been forced to comply with federal and state mandates around PARCC or risk lose millions of dollars in funding
  • Maryland policy makers have endorsed Common Core and PARCC without diligently investigating what is at stake and without asking the right questions
  • We will call their bluff – we will not allow our children’s schools to be held hostage to bad educational policy

8. PARCC test scores will be used to justify punitive measures.

  • Per “No Child Left Behind” and other school reform measures, test scores are used to fire teachers, hold students back and close down schools
  • These actions are disruptive and are unsettling to the communities that have to endure them
  • These measures disproportionately impact under-resourced communities and students of color

9. There is no legal way for school administrators to force your child to take a test she or he does not want to take.

  • The official position of the state Department of Education is that there is no “opt out” provision for testing in Maryland
  • There is no legal precedent for forcing a student to take a standardized test
  • Maryland students and parents can opt-out, refuse, or decline to take the test just as families can in other states
  • National “messaging” around the Common Core and PARCC has been carefully crafted to conceal problems and to appeal to parents and teachers
  • Schools present a favorable view of the PARCC and their ability to carry out testing because of a lack of political leadership from the state
  • All parents should be informed of the detriments of standardized testing
  • Your child cannot be punished, failed, or held back for refusing this test

10. Now is the time!

  • More people are questioning PARCC than ever before – teachers, students and parents around the country have begun to speak out against high stakes testing
  • Boycotts and other actions against high stakes testing have galvanized communities to fight for justice in education
  • Given the large number of problems with the test, many schools will not be held accountable based on test results this year. This is a lower-stakes opportunity to boycott the test and to build momentum for bigger boycotts to stop the damaging “accountability” provisions in the years to come
  • If your child is “fine” taking tests and you can supplement your child’s test-driven curriculum with enriching experiences outside of school, the same cannot be said for everyone
  • Even if your school tends to meet AYP or other defined goals, the same cannot be said for all schools – especially those in under-resourced areas and disproportionately those populated by students of color

We need to stand up for all children who are experiencing an unprecedented transformation of the learning experience via the expansion of high stakes testing.

PLEASE check out:

Video: I was pepper sprayed in the face on MLK Day

Seattle Police pepper-spray Jesse Hagopian on Martin Luther King Day as he talks on the phone with his mother to make arrangements to go to his son’s birthday party. 

Some of my early memories are of riding on my parents’ shoulders at the annual Martin Luther King Day march. Seattle’s annual rally on King’s birthday is often one of the largest marches of the year in our city, bringing thousands of people into the streets around the most pressing social-justice issues of the day. Organized by dozens of grassroots community and labor organizations, the event traditionally begins with a rally in the gym at legendary Garfield High School, my alma mater and where I now teach history.

That’s why when I was invited to speak at the thirty-third annual Martin Luther King Day celebration I was deeply honored. At the beginning of the ceremony, I was asked to award recognition plaques to students who had taken action in pursuit of justice for Michael Brown. After the indoor ceremony, some 10,000 people began marching towards downtown. My wife and two boys marched a few miles with me before they peeled off to return to my mom’s house, where our 2-year-old son’s birthday party was scheduled later in the day. The march streamed through downtown Seattle and ended at the federal courthouse, where I delivered the final speech of the program.

I took the opportunity to defend Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy from the false praise of those who tolerate injustice. I reminded people of the King who demanded fundamental change. The King who invited people not only to dream on that twenty-eighth day in August of 1963, but also cautioned, “There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” I told the crowd we would not let anyone imprison the true message of Dr. King—a man who, were he alive today, would have delivered that message from the streets of Ferguson, and with Black Lives Matter protesters demanding justice for Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and so many others. I ended by crediting the new young activists who, fed up with the school-to-prison-pipeline, are creating a school-to-freedom pipeline.

As I stepped away from the microphone, the roar of the crowd affirmed the day I had so eagerly anticipated. There was only one thing left to make the day complete: my son’s second birthday party. He was born on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and we decided to hold the big family celebration on MLK Day at the conclusion of the march.

What happened next turned what should have been one of the most joyous days of my life into one of the most painful. While I was on the sidewalk a few blocks away from where I had delivered my speech, a Seattle police officer pepper-sprayed me in the face.

Shortly after being pepper sprayed in the face, Jesse Hagopian spent his son’s birthday party pouring milk on his eyes, ears, nostrils, and face.

I was on the phone with my mom to arrange my pick-up when a searing pain shot through my ears, nostril and eyes, and spread across my face.

My mom soon arrived and took me back to the house. I tried to be calm when I entered so as not to scare my children, but the sight of me with a rag over my swollen eyes upset the party. I spent much of the occasion at the bathtub, with my sister pouring milk on my eyes, ears, nose and face to quell the burning. My heart began to pound, and I could feel a rising panic when my older son asked me what happened and why I was pouring milk on myself. I didn’t want him to have to learn, at the age of 6, to be afraid of the police on our own city’s streets. I still don’t know how to talk to my kids about what happened.

What do I have to do, so that when my sons have grown up and recall the sixty-third annual MLK Day celebration, it is about remembering past trials of injustice rather than endlessly reliving them?

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