4th Grade Bellevue, WA Teacher Objects to Administering Smarter Balanced Test

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 Linda Myrick, a 4th grade teacher in Bellevue, WA  – and a member of the Washington Badass Teachers Association  – objected to the administration of Smarter Balanced Assessments before the Bellevue School Board.

As teachers, we stood with Linda in solidarity.  Several parents and teachers who were at the meeting approached Linda afterwards and told her they agree with every word she said.

You may see her speech here.

 

Good afternoon, members of the board, Dr. Mills.

Yesterday was the birthday of the truly inimitable Dr. Seuss. So, today, in his honor, I’ll try a feeble imitation:

I am the Lorax.
I speak for the kids.
They love coming to school.
But we’ve hit the skids.
I love my job, but not the test.

That makes it hard to do what I think best.

I’m Linda Myrick, fourth grade teacher at Somerset Elementary, here to express my profound concern with the increasing amount and nature of testing and my objection to administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

I have a long history in Bellevue, hired by Principal Eva Collins to teach kindergarten in 1997. 18 years and 10 principals later, I can still say that I truly love my job and so many people who have made it interesting, challenging, and great.

But, I have watched the number, quality, and use of tests change dramatically over the years.

When I taught Kindergarten and first grade, we used the DRA, Developmental Reading Assessment. Time consuming, but I sat with my students one on one, listened to them read and answer questions, and I got excellent data to guide instruction.

Now, the DRA is revised to align with Common Core State Standards and children, who previously met standard at the end of Kindergarten, perfectly normal children, are now considered below standard. We don’t seem to care that the standards themselves do not align with normal child development.
Apparently the DIBELS alignment has changed as well.
And now WA Kids in kindergarten.  Teachers walk around with clipboards, rather than “in the moment” with kids.

At our last PD day, Dr. Mills said he feels we don’t have enough IMMEDIATE access to data, but we’ll continue to use the STAR test for consistency. I want all of you to know that I DO have immediate access to THE MOST IMPORTANT DATA that I need every day. I look in the eyes of my students, I listen to their words, I watch them interact with each other, I conference with them, I read their journals.

We are losing the notion of the importance of THIS DATA while we are constantly looking at our reports and clipboards.

STAR Reading data is unreliable. And yet, every week, we sit in MTSS meetings and look at a long list of students with substandard STAR scores. An hour every week discussing every student on this list. We have about one minute per student. These are not quality conversations.

Now we’re getting ready for Smarter Balanced. I am fundamentally opposed to these inappropriate assessments. They will serve little purpose for our students other than to frustrate them with questions written by people who confuse rigor with obfuscation.

I hope all of you have had a chance to take the practice tests—especially the ELA Performance Tasks. There is no way these questions are appropriate to assess the knowledge and skills of the diverse group of learners we have in Bellevue.

We need to get back to authentic, teacher-driven assessment that is appropriate to the needs of our students.

Remember the end of The Lorax? UNLESS. “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Linda later reported:

I am very appreciative of our Bellevue School Board. During a lively public comment period last night, parents and teachers spoke about the negative impact of large class sizes in our elementary schools. Teachers (including yours truly) spoke about our objection to the over-emphasis on state and district testing in our classrooms.

A courageous young man spoke about the “invisible epidemic” of bullying of marginalized students, and even included the bullying of teachers by administration. Even while appreciating all of the strengths of a fantastic school district like Bellevue, we are seeing that the environment that is resulting from current conditions that affect all public schools exists here.

We are not immune. Dr. Mills responded briefly to the concerns in general, while noting that the assessment requirements that we implement in Bellevue are the result of federal and state mandates. He encouraged us to continue to advocate for legislative change. He expressed his support for the removal of annual testing requirements currently in place due to NCLB.

The connection among ALL OF THE CONCERNS discussed last night are clear to anyone who is paying attention. Connect the dots. We need to return our attention to the humanity of the whole child, and this attention must be the foundation of all legislation and policies.

What do you think?  Should we wait until the legislature changes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act before we act?  Should we rely on Congress, corporate reformers, school boards, and administrations to “do the right thing for children” or should we act on our conscience now?  Should local school boards exercise their power and say no to the state and federal accountability system?  

Are you ready to join the growing number of  conscientious objectors to the Common Core tests?  Join us by adding your letter to the comment section here.  Thank you.

Kathleen Jeskey Tells Canby, OR School Board: “I am a conscientious objector to this test.”

Kathleen Hagans Jeskey

“I am a conscientious objector to this test.”

A brave teacher, turned conscientious objector, has stood up to tell her Canby, Oregon School Board she objects to the Common Core state test called the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). Kathleen Jeskey gives us a first hand report of the event, which was fully supported by their local union.

Christopher Bangs, Canby Education Association (CEA) President and 25 teachers stood WITH Kathleen taking a strong stand against the SBA on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at their local school board meeting.  They asked the school board to pass a resolution against the SBA as Portland has and to hold a work session about the test.

Kathleen has put her job on the line for children, but feels parents have a role to play as well.

“At least the parents know how we feel.  It is up to them, I think…(the district) can’t fire the parents.”

Like the #Renton4, the teachers in Canby invited their school board members to take the practice tests which can be found here.  They too asked the district to tell parents they could opt out and CEA president stated he is opting his own kids out, as did Kathleen’s partner who also spoke out at the meeting.

CEA President, Christopher Bangs stood up before Kathleen spoke, speaking for the entire association to say that the SBA is flawed, going further to say he was opting his own children out of the SBA test.

A Canby high school AP teacher spoke to say how horrible this was for his kids too, as it is using up the time they need to study for tests that actually matter.  A number of teachers who were unable to attend the meeting turned in letters to the school board as well.

Twenty five teachers attended the event standing in solidarity against the SBA, five more turned in letters to the board, and a total of four teaches spoke to the school board.  Kathleen reported:

We got zero push back when we said we were doing it.  We got nothing but support from our union.  I am so glad we did this as a union!

Here is Kathleen’s Letter of Professional Conscience, which can also be found on the Badass Teachers Association blog site here.  (Thank you to  Kathleen Hagan Jeskey and Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of BATs for permission to print this here.)

I’ve been a teacher since 1987. Since coming to Canby in 1999, I’ve helped implement Backpack Buddies, a dental screening program, and canvassed for at least two levies. I have never shied away from hard work to make a difference in students’ lives, and have always had high standards for them and myself. I have never been resistant to change that I believe will help them.

I am disturbed by what is going on in education right now. Local control is being taken away. Top down mandates have subverted the democratic process. Among those I find most troubling is over reliance on test scores and the new Smarter Balanced Assessment in particular.

Not all teachers give state tests. That falls heavily on elementary teachers. We know our students well. They spend seven years with us. We understand their strengths and weaknesses. We know a lot about their lives. We know that this test will be incredibly difficult for many of them. “Frustration level” is a term used to describe text so difficult for a child that he may give up. This test is at frustration level for many. It will especially harm the most at risk and fragile who already struggle. Belief in one’s self is necessary for success. We spend so much time trying to build them up to believe in themselves as learners and for many, all these tests do is crush them.

The test is not developmentally appropriate. The length of the test alone is problematic. Eight and nine year olds will be testing an average of eight hours and are expected to use new on line tools and type in extensive answers. Again, I’m speaking of third graders, many of whom do not have computers in their homes. In addition to inappropriate tasks, time is taken away from learning and schedules are disrupted for weeks.

Test results are not available in a timely or useful manner. We will not get results until at best near the end of the school year and are not allowed to see student answers to analyze errors. Nor will their next year’s teacher be allowed to see that information.

In the past we could tell the state if a question was flawed (no correct answer, was confusing, or incorrectly translated). There is no longer a mechanism to do that, and we are not allowed to discuss any test items that may be incorrect or poorly constructed; at all; with anyone; not even our supervisors. And I am concerned with the quality of this assessment. It seems that development has been rushed and established ethical practices have been ignored.

And it costs a lot. Our kids have lost so much: elementary PE and band, middle school sports and foreign language, high school art courses, the list is long. How many things could they get back if we stopped spending so much money on testing?

And then there’s the whole data thing: What’s collected? Who sees it? How is it used? How is it protected?

Giving this test when the state says that up to 70% will fail weighs heavily on my conscience. I would never give a test in my class that I knew most students would fail. That is not good practice. The failure rate for Special Education students and English Language Learners will be even higher. States that have already given Common Core tests, have had failure rates up to 97% for those groups. This is a civil rights issue. I am reminded of the literacy tests in the old South.

And someone is making a lot of money off the new tests and curriculum. Testing and curriculum giant Pearson gets more profit if we all buy the same thing as opposed having choice from a variety of curricula and assessments. T-shirt companies could make more money, too, if they could make us all buy plain, white t-shirts but then we’d all be wearing the same plain, white t-shirt.

There’s a lot wrong and not much time here.

I request that the board hold a work session around standardized testing that teachers and parents could attend to discuss this further.

Also, tonight I am informing you that I am a conscientious objector to this test. As a professional career educator, I believe our students deserve better.

This being said, please select one of the options below. Thank you.

___–>__ Kathleen Jeskey, your concerns are noted and valued and you will be allowed to opt out of administering the SBA without any retribution.

OR

___–>_ Kathleen Jeskey, your concerns are noted but administration in this district requires you to administer the SBA despite your objections and the harm, outlined above, that you believe SBA causes.

~ Kathleen Jeskey

Subsequent to taking this courageous stand,  Kathleen reports they have heard nothing from their district.  Stay tuned for updates here as we will continue to report on the progress.

You can find out more about opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced or PARCC Common Core tests at United Opt Out.  Click on your state for more information.

What do you think?  Have you taken the Smarter Balanced Assessment practice tests yet? Have you invited your school board to take the practice tests?  Your legislators?

The #Renton4 Request a Response and Ask Renton School Board to Inform Parents of #OptOut Rights

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It is been two weeks since we delivered our Letters of Professional Conscience to the Renton School Board. We have not received a response from them to date, thus we were prompted to speak to them again this evening.

We met before the board meeting to craft our joint speech to the school board. Although we had touched on some of our talking points in the last two weeks, tonight we strategically planned the tone and content of our speech during the first quiet time we had had together since that important night.

We decided to employ a friendly, yet strong stand in hopes that the school board would take some actions for the benefit our students. Unlike some cities where may oral control has taken root, we still maintain a semblance of local control. We wanted to give our board a chance to use some of this local control for the students we mutually care about.

We decided that only one of us would speak for all four of us tonight so as not to test the board’s patience.

Julianna Krueger-Dauble went to the podium, while Becca Ritchie, Susan DuFresne and two supportive teachers stood in solidarity behind Julianna. Here is what we had to say to our school board this evening:

Members of the board and Dr. Rieger, tonight I speak on behalf of of the four of us who delivered our Letters of Professional Conscience to you two weeks ago.

There is a crisis in education. Much of the message delivered by the steady stream of teachers at these meetings is not in your control. We who have voiced concerns about over-testing, the lack of time, training, and support for our students in this high stakes environment are here to respectfully ask you to take action in some areas that are in your control.

We have heard no response to our concerns about the harm done in the new high stakes testing environment imposed on our students from preschool to high school seniors.

Two weeks ago we presented to you our letters of professional conscience in which we outlined in detail the objections we have to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. These letters included two options for our building administration or you, the board, to choose from. These were the choices we presented to you:

____ Ms. Dauble, Your concerns are noted and valued and you will be allowed to opt out of administering the SBA without any retribution.
OR
____ Ms. Dauble, Your concerns are noted and your professional conscience is being discounted. Administration requires you to administer the SBA despite your objections and the harm, outlined in the narrative, that children will experience.

We know that you don’t have the authority to assign us other duties at our schools on test days but our building administrators can make this decision. Administering this test goes against our conscience and we find it morally objectionable. We will not remain silent. We are joined by colleagues across the country in this stance we are taking for children.

Therefore,

We request that you recommend to our principals that during testing we assume other duties in our buildings to support student learning.

We request that each Board member take the SBA practice tests in ELA and Math at different grade levels.

We request you use the actual technology in our classrooms to take the practice tests as though you are a student so that you may understand their reality.

We request that you show support for parents of Renton by informing every parent of their rights in deciding which tests their child will take; Please consider that just as in a medical diagnostic situation parents would be informed of their rights in choosing which tests their child would be subjected to, so here parents have rights to decide what tests their child may take at school.

We request that you explicitly share that some parents are refusing administration of the SBA test to their children and explain, fairly, the reasons why many parents are opting their children out.

We request that you recommend to the district that our students’ SBA scores are the LOWEST priority data point in instructional decisions and policy.

We ask for your support tonight in this way as a matter of public record but we invite you all to a face to face meeting with us to discuss these issues further. Please look for that invitation soon.

Again, our first request was that you respond to our letters of conscience and we hope that we will hear that response prior to the next board meeting .

Thank you.

It is our sincere hope that our school board will consider and comply with all of our requests. But will they?

Stay tuned as we continue to report on this important movement.

What do you think? Should parents be advised of their rights to opt out of the state test? Should teachers have the right to be conscientious objectors to toxic high stakes testing?