Friday, March 23, 2012

When it comes to children, I don’t mind being a pain in the ass

I’m a pain in the ass.  

  • I admit it.
  • I acknowledge it.
  • I own it.  
  • Heck, I'm even proud of it.


You see, I’m not satisfied with the work I’m doing in the school system these days. 


Not at all. 


I believe the work we do everyday should exemplify the idea that our children matter and are capable of doing work that is worthy of the world.


BUT


Work that matters...
Work that is worthy of the world...


IS NOT


Drill! Kill! Bubblefill!
(Wise advice from Nikhil Goyal. A young man that knows he matters.)


Yet, this is what educators today are charged to do.


And, if they don’t???


THEY SUFFER

Students... are suffering because they’re told they’ll be left behind because they are not progressing at the same rate as the system says they should! What the hell is going on? We give lip service to differentiating instruction but then we give a one-size-fits all test. The same test to students with special needs. The same test to students who don’t even speak the language. The same test to gifted students. It doesn’t matter. If they don’t do well that one day, everything they’ve done across the year can be wiped out in the blink of an eye.

Teachers... are suffering because they’re told if their students don’t succeed, they may end up fired and on the front page of a newspaper for being a bad teacher. As a result, they are FORCED to impose test prep upon children when they know it is harming them if they want to keep their jobs. It is these teachers who have to deal with children who are becomming emotionally sick and in tears due to the force of the system. They know they are forcing their students to do things that are making children physically ill and literally vomiting in class.

Principals... are suffering and threatened with loss of their school due to closings if students don’t achieve on tests. I met one such principal this summer. She is a passionate and devoted child advocate who was fired from her post because test scores didn’t go up fast enough. The message is clear. NOTHING else matters. Test your kids till it hurts or everyone loses.  

Parents... are suffering as they watch what a system is doing to their precious children. They know something is wrong yet they’ve been convinced that the government, not their parental instincts, rule the roost when it comes to learning. Do you know how many parents write me about their children who not only are having severe emotional breakdowns, but have also attempted suicide???  Many!  This is why I support them with escapes and empower them with the information so they are aware NONE OF THIS IS NECESSARY. They can remove their child from school and move on to academic and career success as I explain in my working home educators guide for success as well as my teenager’s opt out guide.



It's time to move past the fear and wake up, get up and stand up for the rights of our children. We can no longer let the mega-billion dollar testing  and publishing industries dictate the futures of our children, our teachers, our schools.  



It’s time to take back the learning and put it where it rightfully belongs. In the hands of...

  • Teachers who are trained to do assessment as part of their jobs and want to be empowered to customize the learning and assessments to their student’s unique needs.
  • School leaders who are experienced in how to create an environment that promotes success for young people.
  • Parents who know and should have a say in what happens to their children when they are at school.
  • Students who deserve to...
    • Know that they matter
    • Know they are more than a test score
    • Be honored as having personal interests and passions and have their teachers shine a light in the direction of what that might be.


Think about it. There are no bubbles to fill when it comes to work that is worthy of the world. Work that is worthy of the world is not stuck in school buildings or behind walled garden websites. Children can and should be doing this type of work, but we are holding them back and keeping them behind. What work are you currently charged to help your children do that really matters and is worthy of and relevant in the world? If it's not a lot, then what?

Here's what I can do about it.



Our children's lives are at stake.  



What will you do?

19 comments:

  1. Yes, throw the temper tantrum you have been throwing every single day for however long you have been doing this. Don't advocate any real change or solutions that are short-term or practical, because that won't get your readers or that won't help you sell books, and that might not get you sycophantic comments.

    Have you considered that testing might not ever go away and that opting out is probably not a viable solution for enacting change? Oh, it might be viable for an individual, but that's ultimately selfish and doesn't help the other however many millions of people there are. How about we change the tests to make them better assessments? If there is going to be an insistence on tests, then the tests themselves might as well be worth taking.

    And I hate to tell you, but the workplace is FULL of situations that are standardized test-esque. There will always be meetings you don't want to go to, there will always be reports to file, there will always be work that you will have to do that someone else makes you do that you don't necessarily like but you do it because you're a professional. Not every single day on a job is a meaningful, authentic experience and as much as we as teachers try to make learning meaningful and engaging so our students are eager to continue learning, we also reinforce a work ethic.

    There is a difference for advocating oneself and a sense of entitlement. You claim to encourage the former but promote the latter.

    And the "your [sic] wrong" comments will come in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As a parent, I only care about the individual. That said, maybe if the millions opted out we could get to actual teaching and learning instead of what education is quickly becoming.

      Standardized tests narrow the curriculum and tell us very, very little about students and nothing about teachers.

      Standardized tests have been abandoned by the very best educational systems in the world. There is not a single instance of test based learning and merit pay systems based on testing improving education.

      Going to a meeting is nothing like a standardized test. what a ridiculous analogy. Neither is filing papers or even work you don't want to do.

      Those are not harmful to what you are trying to accomplish, just annoying task that although annoying, play a vital role in the success of the organization you are part of - tests don't play that role in schools.

      Teacher will be happy to make the tests better - as soon as they are allowed to do so, and the first thing they will do is ditch the standardized tests and replace them with formative assessment that informs instruction.

      Work ethic comes from finding value in the work you are doing, not by forced labor - I have NEVER done a job just so I would have a job to do. That is why homework for homework's sake is pointless. I also can't speak for you, but everyday at my job is meaningful and if it weren't I'd be looking for a new job. Maybe you need to set your sights higher?

      Opting out of standardized tests has nothing to do with not wanting to take the test and everything to do with the harm it does to real learning.

      Delete
    2. I don't know if you're right or wrong (although what I know as a teacher leads me to believe that it's the latter). What I DO know is that your argument is fallacious on multiple levels.

      Also, if you're going to be one of those people who insists on pointing such things as poor grammar or misspellings, I suggest you thoroughly proofread your own posts first. You're not exactly in a position to criticize others.

      Delete
    3. I assume you're referring to the previous Anonymous. (By the way, your post isn't perfect either.)

      Delete
    4. True enough, but my intention on that point is to demonstrate the other Anonymous' hypocrisy.

      Delete
    5. Hypocrisy? Perhaps. I think it's just another logical fallacy (a type of ad hominem attack). It's certainly not the biggest flaw in his/her argument, from a logical point of view.

      Delete
  2. "Have you considered that testing might not ever go away and that opting out is probably not a viable solution for enacting change?"

    Opting out is probably the only viable solution for enacting change in the school system. I opted out ten years ago. It was the best thing I ever did for my son. Maybe it's time for all of the school system's dissatisfied customers to vote with their feet. That would wake a few people out of their complacency, would it not? There are unprecedented opportunities for us to obtain a "good education" for our children these days. Schools have serious competition in that regard. No need for anyone to tolerate mediocrity and excuses for mediocrity when excellence is readily available to anybody who wants it. In 2012, we can get an education wherever there's wifi, we can choose how we learn best, we can study at the times it suits us, we can decide what will be important for us to know in our adult lives and we can choose our mentors and guides from amongst the best teachers on the planet. Schools will no doubt be the last to notice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. School choice is important, everyday life is as much of a classroom as a classroom ... these are obvious. But a walk-out protest is only effective if there is something more than sentiment and platitude behind it. Symbolic gestures have worked when someone is behind the scene working on the actual solution, and that means knowing the politics and buckling down and working toward solutions both short-term and long-term.

      If you walk out on Monday, what happens Tuesday? Do you continue to get people to walk out? Can you get millions to do it? Because you need millions or at least hundreds of thousands. Anything less than that is an aberration, a novelty act, something that's quickly forgotten. Of course, people might remember that you did it but not why.

      What about walking into Pearson and saying "I'm holding YOU accountable" and auditing them for the amount of money they've fleeced over the years? What about pressuring boards of education and departments of education to have honest conversations with teachers, students, and parents about these tests and the effects of these tests, and then, if they STILL insist on the tests, having the tests rewritten or having the laws themselves rewritten?

      You want a movement, know how to actually start one.

      Delete
    2. Anon -

      I'd rephrase your first line as...

      Everyday life is the original classroom. A classroom in a school is, at best, a mediocre abstraction of everyday life.

      A movement is started through creating awareness. Lisa is doing just that.

      You have some good ideas for continuing to effect the elimination of standardized testing. Maybe the only difference between Lisa and yourself is that Lisa is not willing to accept anything less than the achievement of that goal. Just a guess.

      Delete
    3. "You want a movement, know how to actually start one."

      I don't need to. Tim Berners-Lee started the movement in 1993. No walk out protest required. Just inexorable growth in the numbers of people who, like me, have recognised the opportunity to walk away and get on with our lives (and our children's education).

      Got an internet connection? So have millions. Prefer pleasure to pain? So do millions.

      Like I said. Schools will be the last to notice.

      Delete
    4. Millions of people are not needed, 6% opt out per school is enough to invalidate the scores. Change begins with one person taking a stand. Little by little parents become aware until someone starts to pay attention.


      Does anyone know of an advocacy group in Pennsylvania?

      Delete
  3. Anonymous -

    This seems like a topic that you care deeply about from you passionate response! For what it's worth, I've put some comments and questions below...


    -----
    "Yes, throw the temper tantrum you have been throwing every single day for however long you have been doing this."

    Why are you interpreting this as a temper tantrum? I see it as a call to action. (I'm really not trying to be an a-hole here. I honestly would like to know.)



    -----
    "Don't advocate any real change or solutions that are short-term or practical"

    What about the last part of Lisa's post above where she gives a list of things that virtually anyone can do if they have a few minutes. Or maybe you disagree that those are short-term, practical, or advocate real change. How do you define real change?



    -----
    "because that won't get your readers or that won't help you sell books, and that might not get you sycophantic comments."

    Not fair. Attack Lisa's arguments please. Don't go making stuff up to try to make her look bad.



    -----
    "Have you considered that testing might not ever go away"

    I agree it will never go away, if nobody ever does anything about it.



    -----
    "and that opting out is probably not a viable solution for enacting change?"

    Why?



    -----
    "Oh, it might be viable for an individual, but that's ultimately selfish and doesn't help the other however many millions of people there are."

    If you view an individual act as NOT being unable to influence others, then I understand why you would come to this conclusion. I don't happen to agree with that though.



    -----
    "How about we change the tests to make them better assessments? If there is going to be an insistence on tests, then the tests themselves might as well be worth taking."

    Why do the standardized tests exist? What value do they provide? If something doesn't provide value (and actually causes harm), why keep it around?



    -----
    "And I hate to tell you, but the workplace is FULL of situations that are standardized test-esque. There will always be meetings you don't want to go to, there will always be reports to file, there will always be work that you will have to do that someone else makes you do that you don't necessarily like but you do it because you're a professional."

    We disagree in our philosophy here. (If I'm understanding your comments correctly.) Generally speaking, doing something because someone tells you to does not make you a professional. It makes you a replaceable cog in a system. A professional (a leader) is able to identify parts of a system that are not working to achieve the intended goal(s), and then go about changing them regardless of what position they hold.



    -----
    "Not every single day on a job is a meaningful, authentic experience"

    I agree with this. Though I would say if you're not hitting a 90% - 95% rate of days at your job that are meaningful and authentic, then something is wrong.



    -----
    "and as much as we as teachers try to make learning meaningful and engaging so our students are eager to continue learning, we also reinforce a work ethic."

    Your statement implies that work ethic is something independent of meaningful and engaging work. Why?

    My personal belief is that work ethic should be intrinsic... as a result of doing something that I'm interested in/passionate about.



    -----
    "There is a difference for advocating oneself and a sense of entitlement. You claim to encourage the former but promote the latter."

    How do you define the difference between the two? I'm not seeing how Lisa is advocating a sense of entitlement.



    -----
    And the "your [sic] wrong" comments will come in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...

    Not helpful to having a respectful conversation.



    -----

    ReplyDelete
  4. “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

    -- Margaret Mead

    Homeschoolers, unschoolers, people who start or attend free schools, autodidacts, and people who opt out of tests are making the most important effort for change that can be made -- voting with their feet. They influence others as they serve as models, as they talk about their choices, and as they urge students, parents, or teachers to opt out of testing themselves.

    Anonymous has suggested that that opting out of public schools or opting out of testing won't make a change, and has suggested instead making efforts to rewrite tests. Talk about rearranging chairs on the Titanic!

    My kids grew up free of standardized testing, and I urge other parents to opt their kids out, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. How much more energy is going to be invested in rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic while children wait patiently for a good education (and of course when I say "wait patiently" I mean also that they continue to be at risk from the kind of institutionalised abuses that are now well documented) while education as it lives and breathes today in the world at large beyond the school system's self-contrived bubble of irrational obsessions sails off over the horizon? Hmm...

      Here's an interesting article that turned up in my Facebook feed today:

      About Those Tests I Gave You • An Open Letter to My Students
      http://rethinkingschools.org/archive/26_03/26_03_dandrea.shtml

      The woman's right. It's criminal. Should intelligent people be making excuses for criminal behaviour? I have to say from the standpoint of having shared a nine year educational adventure with my son that was unremittingly joyful and awesomely productive that I really don't think so.

      The author writes, "I wondered whether giving more than 10 minutes of every class period to reading books of our own choosing was a good idea or not. But you loved it so. You asked for more time."

      The good news is, you get all the time you want for that every day when you don't go to school. And that's just one example of the difference between the two experiences in 2012, is it not?

      Delete
  5. 141 Texas school districts have voted and signed resolutions opposing the testing "perversion" - term used by their Education Commissioner.

    There's an emerging national law suit started by parents to address students at public charters who were expelled because their parents opted out including cases where school personnel second-guessed medical diagnosis to meet the test "requirement."

    Parents in North Carolina protested to the surprise announcement of 52 new standardized tests last school year. At the end of the year, Superintendent Gorman quit and went to work for Murdoch's new company. The new Superintendent did not repeat 52 tests.

    An Illinois parent has opted out for the third year. She intends to get legislation started that clarifies parent rights under the law.

    A Colorado bill will voted on this year that would have given parent right to opt out of standardized tests. It did not pass.....this time.

    And then there are parents opposing punitive high stakes standardized testing that have converted schools into centers of test preparation instead of centers of learning in Florida, South Carolina, Indiana, New York, Kansas, Kentucky, California, Washington State, Maine, Colorado, Texas, and more. The most underreported organic grassroots story about standardized testing at this time. The expense at national, state, and local for runaway testing should not be diminished. Taxpayers and community members are raising concerns.

    Who paye? Who benefits?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Here is something you can do right now: Go to http://dumpduncan.org and sign the Letter to Obama asking for an end to the penalties associated with NCLB and RttT, changes in the way policy is developed at the USDOE, and especially for the resignation of Arne Duncan. Join more than 5000 parents and educators who have already signed.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The whole testing movement was started just to do this. To have people like you tell us to give up on our public schools. NO, we should not opt out. We should take our schools back. The whole OPT out movement was started by John Taylor Gatto, who has written books for years about privatization of schools. This was an orchestrated attempt to break our schools, so people wanting to make money could swoop down to save it!!! You are a wolf in sheep's clothing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't read John Taylor Gatto. I don't agree with his attitude to the historical foundations of the school system. My mother, who grew up in rural England in the 1920s, walked three miles to school and three miles home again whatever the weather to get an education she would otherwise not have had, which enabled her to get a decent job and escape life on the farm. In my view, that would have made going to school a valuable opportunity. It was still a valuable opportunity when my daughter went to school through the 1990s.

      But. The school system has a fundamental structure suited to a society that in 2012 no longer exists. The kind of society the school system was designed for started to die out as long ago as the 1970s. That's when so called "school reform" began to emerge as a response to the beginnings of a "post-industrial" world. Which now of course has been well and truly established by the evolution of digital communications technology and other cultural innovations. So, let's be clear on that point to start with - school reform isn't a new idea. It's been ongoing for about forty years without producing any real change. In fact, schools have got worse in that time, have they not? That's why school reform has become such a big deal, isn't it? I went to school in the 1950s and 60s (in England) when schools were genuine places of learning. I can tell you with complete confidence that schools have become considerably less capable of producing real education in my lifetime. Despite forty years of alleged "school reform". Thus, while schools continue to defend their dubious track record of reform and they continue to defy everything neuroscience now tells us about how human beings learn best and they continue to deliberate over an 'appropriate' place in the school system for new learning opportunities that the rest of the world has long taken for granted (and which, incidentally, operate without the need of a classroom), sensible people might, might they not, decide that there are better things their children can be doing with their valuable lives than going to school.

      The situation isn't one of schools realising one day in recent times, "OMG, it's the 21st century. How are we going to adapt what we do to what's needed now?" It's a situation of four decades of failure to adapt being followed by schools saying, essentially, "Give us more time while we figure out what the heck we can do with our now obsolete educational methodology and maybe we'll patch together something useful one day."

      If you want to buy that, that's up to you, isn't it?

      Or you could, like me, have a think about everything you could be doing instead to get your children the education you want them to have.

      Delete

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