Monday, April 30, 2012

Newest Ed Reform Leader is a 12-Year-Old Opt Out Hero

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

We’ve heard from a lot of heroes lately in the ed reform movement; from teachers and  parents like Chris Cerrone and Renny Fong who are stepping forward and sharing their struggles, to principals who are standing up and speaking out against the standardized testing debacle.

These are ed reform heroes. These are the people who will help empower our children with the freedom to learn; the ones who push for an education that is customized to the child rather than standardized to the system.

While these parents, teachers, and school leaders push for students’ rights to receive the education they deserve (rather than the ones politicians and corporations want), there is yet another important voice bubbling up.  

The newest heroes of the ed reform movement are the students who opt out and speak out. Their voices are both loud and proud. They are against tests that they know do not benefit them, and in many cases actually do them harm.

While there are adults who believe the education system pulls the wool over the eyes of children, many young people are also becoming wise to the standardized testing farce. Last year 5th grader Joel from Harlem wrote an essay exposing the truth about standardized testing  Then 12-year-old Anthony Hererra made a video and wrote an article explaining why he doesn’t want to take the test and thanking everyone for their support of his decision.  

Our latest hero is 12-year-old Joseph Dougherty who did his best to opt out of the standardized tests. He knows they are useless for children in general, but he has also discovered they are harmful to him in particular. They cause stress and anxiety, which leads to emotional and physical distress.  As a result Joseph’s mom informed his school principal that he would be opting out of the test and asked that he be provided with alternative activities during all the days of testing. Against the wishes of this young man and his mother, his principal, Thomas Capone, forced Joseph to take the test.

When Joseph explained he did not want to take the test, his teachers called him “a fresh little boy who needs to do what he is told.” He also knew his principal wrote an email to his mother explaining that if he didn't follow orders, he could be taken away from his mother because he'd call child protective services.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Get Going with the New Wifitti for Educators!!!

By Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb

Wiffiti seems to have gone wild (see email below) this month!  We (Lisa Nielsen/Willyn Webb) were panicked that we would no longer be able to use a great cell phone tool.  Having students (and staff) text into Wiffiti boards has made many classes and meetings more fun, more productive, and enhanced learning.  However, after emailing LocaModa and calming down a little, there are ways that educators can still utilize Wiffiti by having students text in their responses to questions, their ideas during a brainstorm, reflective thoughts, questions, and comments IF they have an email ending in .edu .k12.*.us and in response to my (Lisa Nielsen) request, has been added for the 80,000+ educators in New York City. Here's the email outlining the new features.
Thanks for requesting access to wiffiti beta.
We're ready for you to check it out! Please visit 

to sign up for a new account*!

So what's new?
  • Simplified user interface - Create a board in fewer steps
  • Twitter photos - Instagram,, yFrog, TwitPic, Lockerz and more
  • Footer & Header - Add a simple single line call to action like "My Class" or "tweet #locamoda"
  • Private boards - All boards are private by default -- the owner controls sharing
  • EdTech Version- Verified .edu and k12.*.us accounts gain access to exclusive features
New features will be added on a regular basis and your feedback improves the product road map!
*new account required.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Hottest Posts That Everyone is Talking About This Week on The Innovative Educator!

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.
Apr 22, 2012, 10 comments                      5,232 Pageviews
Apr 23, 2012, 4 comments                           3853 Pageviews
Apr 25, 2012, 2 comments                           2653 Pageviews
Apr 26, 2012, 5 comments                           2096 Pageviews
Apr 24, 2012, 2 comments                           1947 Pageviews
Apr 19, 2012, 130 comments                     1,798 Pageviews
Apr 3, 2011, 11 comments                       1,599 Pageviews
Jul 15, 2010, 21 comments                          1297 Pageviews

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is there such thing as a good test?

Editor’s Note: By now most people understand that standardized tests are not only harmful, but often they are also poorly constructed. But is there such thing as a good test? I was having a conversation with Cathy Earle about the subject and wondered if there is such thing as a good test. During that conversation she explained the reality is that in many cases the problem is how tests are used i.e. to assess students rather than help them learn. I asked her to say more and provide and example. Here it is and I have to admit...I rather like this kind of test.

Guest post by Cathy Earle

My daughter took a class at a local museum, the Youth Science Center. The class was a few hours each day for five days, and it was all about snakes.

The teacher introduced the first class with the words, “We're going to take a pre-test, to see how much you guys know about snakes already.” Then he passed out a multiple-choice test.

The thing is, my child never took multiple-choice tests, except a few fun quizzes in magazines. She unschools, and we didn't do lessons and assignments and tests.

Still, she gamely filled out the test and did her best.

Her best turned out to be the worst in the class.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Suffering in Silence… Standardized testing from the view of an educator & parent

Guest post by Renny Fong (TimeOutDad)

As our children are undergoing the gruel of the high stakes standardized tests in New York, I can’t help but notice the silence.  So many voices silenced.  So many stories left unheard.  Will all the time, money, and effort that has been spent on making the tests, preparing for the tests, and grading the tests make our children any better off than before these tests?  

Did these tests ask our children how they’re doing, how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, and what they care about?  Did these tests ask our children to innovate or create anything? Will these tests tell our children what their gifts and talents are?  Will these tests tell us what our children’s hopes and goals and dreams are or what their ideas are for a better today and tomorrow? Do these tests really care about our children at all?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New York Principals are Speaking Out Against Standardized Tests

This week I'm proud to be a New York educator as I watch parents, teachers, and administrators stand up and speak out about the harms and horrors of standardized tests in the media as well as the active Opt Out of Standardized Tests - New York group.  Below is an open letter from New York principals who want their voices heard about the testing atrocities going on in our schools.  If you are in New York, show this letter to your principal and encourage her/him to advocate for children.

An Open Letter to the Board of Regents Regarding High-Stakes Testing and the School Reform Agenda of New York State


The past week has been a nightmare for New York students in Grades 3 through 8, their teachers and their principals. Not only were the New York State ELA exams too long and exhausting for young students, (three exams of 90 minutes each), they contained ambiguous questions that cannot be answered with assurance, problems with test booklet instructions, inadequate space for students to write essays, and reading comprehension passages that defy commonsense. In addition, the press reported a passage that relied on knowledge of sounds and music which hearing-impaired students could not answer and Newsday reported that students were mechanically ‘filling in bubbles’ due to exhaustion. Certainly the most egregious example of problems with the tests is the now infamous passage about the Hare and the Pineapple.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Inform Others of the Harm of Standardized Tests with This Flyer

We are finally reaching a time when parents are standing up for the rights of their children and opting out of tests. Social media has played a great role in this where parents are able to find others from their state who are doing the same thing they are and also discover and share information and resources at sites like the Opt Out of Standardized Tests wiki. They are uniting and getting smarter about their parental right to decide what is best for their children.

Many even are stepping up and spreading the word. To that end, I have created the following double-sided, informational flyer that can be customized and simply printed out from any printer.  Hand it out in front of your school. To your school's principal, teachers etc. Sadly, many teachers and administrators know what they are being forced to do is hurting children, but if they speak up they risk losing their jobs.  They need parents and community members to do this work!

You can see the flyer below and visit and download it here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The bad pineapple questions are not the problem with standardized tests

I am disappointed that the mainstream story about testing happens to be a poor test section about pineapples. While I agree the test question was ridiculous, I think focusing on that diverts us from the real problem which is that even if the test had greatest questions on earth, standardized testing at its core is a problem for numerous reasons.

Here are a dozen that come to mind.
1) Teachers are assessment experts. We don't need to spend 32 million on outsourcing assessments in NY alone. Billions nationwide.
2) If we believe we should differentiate instruction, then we can not standardize assessment. We must measure students where they are at.
3) Standardized tests are one of the least effective forms of diagnostic assessment.
4) Standardized tests don't provide any value to students.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

9 Ways to Assess without Standardized Tests

Caine's Arcade
You don't assess innovation with bubbletests


You got the message. 

Standardized tests are not what's best for learning. Not only are they not best for learning, but they have become an insurmountable obstacle for innovative educators like me to do my work in schools because helping kids become good and filling in bubbles on a piece of paper is anything but innovative!

Unfortunately, many politicians, parents, and even students don’t know a world without testing and wonder...

“If we don't use standardized tests how will we measure learning, teacher effectiveness, or school effectiveness?”
When people ask me that question, I usually respond with this question:
“How do we assess learning in real life?”
Think about it, learning is rarely measured via a test in real life. For instance, as a educator I had to take a few meaningless tests that no one bothers studying for more than a decade ago but that's it. A few tests 15 years ago and not another test is required the rest of my career. Our elected officials who often impose these tests upon children so they can claim they care about learning don't take tests. My Dad who was a cinematographer never took a test. My boyfriend who is in sales doesn't take tests. My girlfriend who is a professional photographer doesn’t take tests. My best friend who owns a successful fundraising business doesn’t take tests. The reality is that for most of us, success in life has little to do with how well we can fill in bubbles.

School life, needs to take a look at real life measurement tools and consider making the school world, look more like the real world with meaningful and authentic assessment. In short, we should measure individuals by how well they do stuff rather than how well they do the meaningless work of memorize, regurgitate, and fill in bubbles on demand.

9 Ways to Assess Students without Standardized Tests

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Hottest Posts That Everyone's Talking About!

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.
Apr 16, 2012,  4 comments           2251 Pageviews
Apr 19, 2012, 39 comments 2178 Pageviews
6 Actions You Can Take to Fight Harmful Testing
Apr 19, 2012,  0 comments           2151 Pageviews
Apr 17, 2012, 5 comments            1956 Pageviews
Apr 10, 2012, 32 comments          1746 Pageviews
Apr 12, 2012, 4 comments            1570 Pageviews
Apr 18, 2012, 1 comment             1368 Pageviews
Apr 13, 2012, 5 comments            1060 Pageviews
Jul 15, 2010, 20 comments           909 Pageviews
Aug 24, 2010, 37 comments         865 Pageviews

Friday, April 20, 2012

Inspiring and Recognizing Young Volunteers

Did you know it’s National Volunteer Week? It falls this year on April 15-21 and recognizes the good in people and promotes the spirit of youth volunteerism. Volunteering is good stuff! Recent statistics and programs show that kids who get involved in volunteer projects do better in school and are more able to resist substance abuse than those who don’t. Statistically, 90% of today’s teens who volunteer are happy and feel good about themselves.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tell Bully Principal How You Feel

This week in the Opt Out of Testing - New York group (there's a group for each state) one parent shared the response of her school's principal in regards to opting out of tests.  As you'll note in the email below the principal not only disregards this parent's decision to do what is best for her child, but he threatens to contact child protective services.  

Why on earth have administrators let it come to valuing test scores over the requests of parents and their children??? 


The principal disregarded this parent's request and forced her child to take the test.  

6 Actions You Can Take to Fight Harmful Testing

Wow! Parents are gaining momentum as they stand up and take back the right of their children's freedom to learn by opting out of standardized testing. If your child is being subjected to unnecessary, harmful testing I hope the stories of other parents around the country will inspire you to do what is best for your child and, "Just say no!" to standardized testing.

Check out what's been happening.

What can you do? Here are six ideas.

6 Actions Parents Can Take Against Standardized Testing
  1. Opt out
    -Parents, not the government, have the right to determine what is best for their children. Opt out and stand up to the bullying and threats of anyone who forces you to do what is not right for your children.
  2. Pass out
    -Pick your favorite article, stand in front of your school and pass it out to parents, families, and teachers. Or pass out this flyer which outlines the actions in this article as well as important reasons to opt out of tests.
  3. Write to principals -Write any principal you know of that is forcing children to take tests against the will of parents or children, send them your favorite article and let them know that this is not what educational leaders should be doing.
  4. Join an opt out group -You can join the discussion to opt out in your state in two ways.
    1) Go to Facebook and type in the search: Opt out of State Standardized Tests - Your State i.e. Opt Out of State Standardized Tests - New York
    2) Go to the page url: i.e.
  5. Contact the press
  6. -Contact your local television station and newspaper. Tell them you are opting your child out and invite them to cover the story.  
  7. Contact the American Civil Liberties Union Join the Multi Family Complaint
    -The ACLU is accumulating letters regarding state testing under No Child Left Behind where schools/state have violated the rights of parents to guide their child's education. The US Supreme Court supports a parent's right to guide their child's education as an 'unwritten liberty' protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    If you want to participate mail the following:
    • An overview of your story
    • Threatening letters / email or denials to school activities, graduation, and grade advancement
    • Permission to join in on the ACLU complaint
    • your return address
    • a signature on a hard copy.

    Submit to: Nina Bishop, 3065 Windward Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80917
    Questions: 719-233-1508

ACLU's Nina Bishop advises,

"As parents it is imperative that we join together to regain our voice and our innate right to guide our children's education. Join us and stop the insanity of high stakes testing."

Kudos to all the pioneering parents who are mad as hell and telling schools their children are not going to take it (the test) ANYMORE!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Teachers Texting Students: Should Schools Ban Or Encourage?

Teachers Texting With Students
Picture from Huffington Post article

If you're here because you saw the story in Education News or Huffington Post about my views on teachers and students texting, welcome!

You can read the article at either of the links below.

I hope after you read the articles you'll realize that we should encourage teachers to interact with students in their worlds and that educators need to update outdated practices. If you haven't seen it, the article is called, "Teachers Texting Students: Should Schools Ban Or Encourage?"

I've written dozens of articles on how to harness the power of cell phones for learning.  If this is of interest to you, please read them here

For more ideas about how teachers and students can effectively use cell phones for learning check out Teaching Generation Text.

Want to share your thoughts on this topic? Please, go ahead and comment.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New York Educator & Parent Just Says No to Standardized Tests

By Chris Cerrone | Cross posted at Buffalo News

Chris Cerrone is a parent and social studies teacher who opposes high-stakes testing.

My family has recently taken an important step regarding the education of our children: our third-grader will not be participating in the New York State Assessments in ELA or math this spring. This decision was reached with much thought and research, along with our own experience as educators playing a major role.
Last school year, my son brought home a benchmark test from his kindergarten class. This packet was clearly a mass-produced exam tailored to prepare for standardized tests. This school year, I have seen a parade of these same practice tests in both of my children’s take-home folders.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Not Letting Teachers “Friend” & “Follow” Kids Online? Think Twice!

Guest post from Michelle Luhtala | Cross posted at Bibliotech.Me
Editor's Note: This was written in response this post on The Innovative Educator blog.
Almost 70% of 18-34 year-olds expect 2012 presidential candidates to have a social media presence (Digitas, 2011). A 2008 study by Cone’s, Business in Social Media Study,revealed that 93% of social media users expect companies to have a social media presence, and 85% expect the businesses to interact with their clients via social media – it is safe to say that that percentage has increased in the past four years. Almost 60% of Fortune 500 companies maintain active corporate Facebook and/or Twitter accounts ( As a school librarian, when I want to check out a publisher or book distributor, I look them up on Facebook and Twitter. I skip the website, because I know that the content will probably be six months old, at best, whereas the social media profile will be current. For customer support, I will choose Twitter over a phone tree, any day.