Congress Re-writing NCLB

From the Ohio Education Association:

Right now, Congress is rewriting the cornerstone of federal education policy — the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Tell members of Congress to put the emphasis on student learning, and not on testing, labeling, and punishing schools. Please act now so Congress will see that we are paying attention:

 

Take action: http://educationvotes.nea.org/eseapetition/

Letter from Centerville Superintendent

February 16, 2015

Dear Parents / Guardians:

In approximately one week school districts across Ohio will begin administering the ODE Next Generation Assessments. Recently there have been a lot of questions regarding these new tests and I would like to provide a brief summary of the most accurate information at this time:

  • We are required to assess all students per the Ohio Revised Code,
  • The Ohio Department of Education does not recognize any “opt-out” of testing form,
  • The Ohio Department of Educations will consider any “opt-out” student as a non-score and a non-participant (which will penalize buildings and districts on their respective state report cards in two areas), and
  • Any “opt-out” student will not be included in a teacher’s value added data, but this does not mean that a teacher’s value added data is unaffected.

This means that:

  • There are negative consequences to our school buildings and district ratings,
  • There are direct negative consequences to third grade students and students in high school courses (3rd Grade Reading Guarantee & New Graduation Requirements), and
  • There is the potential negative consequence for teacher evaluation ratings.

To view ODE’s “Information on Student Participation in State Tests” click on the link below.

http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/53dc1f3e-11f1-4093-875c-090e160b187f/Guidance-on-Student-Participation-in-State-Tests.pdf.aspx

While we may not like the mandated assessments, we have an obligation to our students, our staff, and our community to perform to the best of our abilities to administer the assessments and provide the best possible testing environment for our students.  We continue to believe that quality instruction is the best way to prepare students and I am proud of how our staff has tried to protect instructional time with our students by spending as little time as possible on test preparation.

With that said… I have to be honest in saying that the assessment mandates have proven to be challenging. We, like most other districts have devoted countless resources in technology infrastructure, technology devices such as Chromebooks, personnel, planning and preparation. The amount of instructional time dedicated to these assessments is also a worry. While we understand the need to be accountable, we may be at the “tipping point” of reason with the number of testing hours vs. loss of instructional time.

As Superintendent, I would like to share that Centerville City Schools has been a member of the Alliance for High Quality Schools for many years. As a member of the Executive Committee, I can share with you that our mission is to proactively engage the legislators and members of the Department of Education in dialogue and discussion. While I cannot promise what the future will hold… I can tell you that we are working hard to engage those who can affect change. As a public entity, Centerville Schools is bound to follow the law, and that is what the District will do but, we have a voice and we want all of our voices to be heard as well.

As always – thank you for your support. We are fortunate to live in a great community with great kids, great parents and an outstanding staff.

Sincerely,

Tom Henderson, Ph.D.

Superintendent

Open Letter from Springboro Superintendent

An open letter about the new statewide tests
to Governor Kasich, State Superintendent Ross,
State Senator Jones, and State Representative Maag
from Springboro Superintendent Todd Petrey
February 10, 2015

Ohio is days away from the first testing window for the new statewide tests. With each step toward these new assessments, I am more and more concerned that Ohio has lost sight of the students. The current drive for “accountability” is diverting resources away from instruction, threatening Ohio schools’ compliance with federal special education law, alarming families, discouraging teachers as well as students, and undermining efforts to build critical thinking skills that are central to our state’s new learning standards.

As a teacher, principal and superintendent over the last 19 years, I am disappointed to knowingly have to divert resources away from our students in order to meet the demands of these assessments. Building principals, assistant principals, technology staff, curriculum staff, special education leaders, counselors, and classroom teachers are dedicating hours to the administration of the tests. The rest of their job responsibilities have to wait as the testing date deadlines loom because school districts across Ohio have to deliver the assessments within the testing window without exception. However, the state’s guidance to help us prepare has been murky and delayed. Now we have learned that we may not have any results delivered back to us for nearly one year. The simple truth is that the state appears unprepared to respond to the many contingencies that occur when you are addressing the unique and important needs of children. And the state seems almost entirely unaware of the hours eliminated from student learning.

In addition to the weeks of staff preparation time to deliver these state-mandated assessments, more than 85 hours of PARCC/AIR testing will occur in the classrooms of our school district from February through May this year. It appeared that shocking statistic might be making a dent in policy when State Superintendent Ross recommended a reduction in assessments. However, I am concerned that his recommendation to reduce testing requires local school districts to limit the assessments we use for progress monitoring, formative instruction and important summative student data instead of reducing the state-mandated assessments.

Assessments should be used to redirect instruction. That is impossible when we will not receive results of the state-mandated assessments for nearly one year. At that point, it appears these assessments are punitive. When the primary purpose of the assessment is to measure the adults, we have lost sight of our students.

Our job is to reach every student, and we strategically use other assessments to guide the differentiation of instruction. Although the new state report card reaches across the full spectrum of student abilities, the current state-mandated assessments ignore the individual needs of students.

For example, with limited guidance on the state-mandated assessments for students with special needs, the state has implied that districts should limit the use of accommodations. For districts with a higher percentage of students with accommodations on their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) than the state recommends, this is a violation of federal special education law. Our district is choosing to abide by federal IDEA requirements by providing all accommodations listed in our current students’ IEPs for the state-mandated assessments.

As a superintendent, I will see that our district fulfills its responsibilities under state and federal law. However, I also have the responsibility to speak up for students and teachers. There are many differing opinions on education today, but there are also common values. Our community values the individual student’s ability to think critically, work cooperatively and problem-solve. We are now limited to teach these skills within the parameters of the state mandated tests. We simply do not have time to do much more than prepare for the tests. Students, teachers and parents alike are discouraged. I cannot blame them.

As an educator and a parent, I ask the leaders of Ohio to reduce the time spent on state-mandated assessments, commit resources to consider and support all learners through formative and summative assessments that truly benefit instruction, and work with local districts to understand the impact of these state-mandated assessments on student achievement.

Ohio has an opportunity to lead by example, and I encourage you to act quickly on behalf of students across Ohio.

Sincerely,
Todd Petrey, Superintendent
Springboro Community City Schools

Ohio Superintendents Speak Out Against Testing

Did you know that Centerville City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Tom Henderson, is part of a group called the Alliance for High Quality Schools. It is made up of 65 Districts from Cincinnati,Columbus, Toledo, and Cleveland and they make recommendations to the state regarding assessments and test reduction.

Please remember that the local district and educators are not the enemy in this fight, rather it’s the state and federal legislators and corporate education reformers implementing ridiculous mandates that leave local districts looking like the bad guys. Most local educators agree the testing is flawed and are already working to affect change. Please contact them to find out how you can assist them in affecting change on the state level.

 

The following is one of several open letters popping up on social media from Ohio Superintendents.

School districts across the State of Ohio are working hard to assure that all of our students are prepared to do their very best on the upcoming assessments. Here in West Clermont, our staff has been hard at work refining the new standards, planning appropriate instruction, delivering high quality and engaging activities and yes, taking snapshots of how your sons and daughters are progressing.

The State of Ohio has made a significant commitment to these new state tests that are intended to serve as an accountability mechanism for schools. As a result, districts across the state have invested significant time and resources to this process including retooling our entire curriculum. West Clermont is no different. That being said, in W.C. classrooms we already use diagnostic tools to regularly monitor student progress. We believe diagnostic assessments show what skills and knowledge a student has acquired and what a student has yet to learn in more of a real-time way. This information is incredibly valuable to our teachers as they plan their instruction and work with their students both in large and small group settings. Our assessments help INFORM instruction and, in the end, IMPROVE student achievement long term. The big difference is having tools that help us diagnose learning instead of seeing how our students did well after the student has moved on to the next grade level. While I appreciate the recent attention and move to reduce the amount of time spent testing, this reduction needs to focus on the high-stakes State tests and not the diagnostic assessments that will actually improve daily instruction in classrooms.

I will continue to voice my deep concern with high stakes testing and to the stress that it places on our students and staff. In the meantime, you may be asking what, as a parent, can I do? Like it or not, the system is set up so that students who opt out of taking the state tests are recorded as a “zero” for that child’s teacher, school and our district. Opting out will impact a teacher’s final performance rating for the year and can cause buildings and/or the district being forced to implement bureaucratic improvement strategies over multiple years. If you have a third grader who does not take the test, he/she may be retained in third grade. Further, if you have a high school student, he/she may not be able to graduate on time without having taken, and passed, the appropriate tests. Specific details about this can be found on the Ohio Department of Education’s website: http://education.ohio.gov/…/Guidance-on-Student-Participati…

It would, however, be appropriate for parents and staff to work within the system to affect change. As a resident of this area, you have the right to contact your *representatives to express your frustration with the amount of high-stakes testing your child is experiencing in school. Whether your child is experiencing this stress or not, I would encourage you to write, email or call your representatives to express your thoughts about what is going on. I have included their contact information below for your use.

Since the start of this school year, I have been actively engaged with superintendents across the region and state to advocate for your kids. I intend to continue that work as we attempt to bring common sense back to education in Ohio. Here is what I believe:

• When used for appropriate purposes, diagnostic assessments help improve student performance.

• Our students and teachers are beyond the breaking point as a result of the over emphasis on high stakes tests and accountability measures.

• There is too much testing and it takes far too much time away from teaching and learning.

• State tests, as they currently stand, are being used for different purposes than they were designed.

• Local assessments, when used appropriate, help inform and shape instruction so that all students achieve.

• We need to return local control of our schools to our communities.

Through advocating for our kids, I will continue to push for the following:

• No more than one state test per grade, per year.

• Eliminate the state requirement for excessive hours of readiness testing for incoming Kindergartners – we can do this work ourselves AND be ready for instruction on the first day of school.

• Eliminate the Third Grade Reading Guarantee that is used to label students as off track for promotion to the fourth grade – 98% of West Clermont third graders passed last year.

• Recommend assessing reading at grades 3 and 6, math at grades 4 and 7, science at grade 5, social studies at grade 8. High School students can be assessed taking a normed ACT for assessment of English, mathematics, reading, science, and writing.

In West Clermont, we will continue to focus on growing ALL our students to their full potential. That includes using assessments appropriately to enhance what our teachers do in the classroom each day. That should be the focus as we work to improve achievement for all.

As always, if you have questions about what is taking place in your schools, do not hesitate to talk with your building principal or call the District Office. We are here to work with you in order to provide your children the best experience possible.

Sincerely,

Dr. Keith Kline, Superintendent
West Clermont Local School District
4350 Aicholtz Road, Suite 220
Cincinnati, OH 45245
(513) 943-5000
www.westcler.org

*State representatives and contact information:

Representative John Becker, District 65, 77 S. High St, 12th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215, Phone (614) 466-8134 , Fax (614) 719-3966,
Email John@BeckerGOP.com

Representative Doug Green, District 66, 77 S. High St, 13th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215, Phone (614) 644-6034 , Fax (614) 719-6988,
Email Rep66@ohiohouse.gov

Senator Joe Uecker, District 14, Senate Building, 1 Capitol Square, 1st Floor, Columbus, OH 43215, Phone (614) 466-8082 , Email Uecker@ohiosenate.gov

Dr. Richard Ross – Superintendent, Ohio Department of Education, 25 South Front Street, Columbus, OH 43215, Phone (877) 644-6338 ,
Email Superintendent@education.ohio.gov

Ohio to Vote on HB7 Safe Harbor tomorrow

If you are choosing to opt out of tests this year, please be aware that House Bill 7, Safe Harbor, will be voted on tomorrow. If passed, HB7 will protect students from any negative repurcussions from poor scores or refusal to take state administered tests.

https://thestand.liberty.me/ohio-will-vote-to-allow-students-to-opt-out-of-common-core-testing/

http://ohioansagainstcommoncore.com/house-vote-expected-this-wednesday/

Please Opt Out: A letter from a Centerville City Schools Teacher

An Open Letter to Ohio’s Board of Education, Department of Education, Legislators, and Parents

Dear Ohio’s Board of Education members, Department of Education officials, legislators, and most importantly, Ohio’s parents:

I am a 20-year teaching professional in Ohio and after reading the recent release from the Ohio Department of Education’s “Information on Student Participation on Testing”; I was flabbergasted by the intent of the release. Why? Because the release was written in attempt to bully parents, teachers, and school districts into compliance with standardized testing that has the highest of stakes attached to it. I have taught my middle-schoolers that bullies must be confronted. Therefore, this letter is intended to outline why I, even with my job clearly being threatened in this release, still am encouraging parents to refuse state-mandated standardized tests for their children.

First and foremost, refusing to allow your child to participant in state testing is a parental right guaranteed by the 14th amendment and broadly protected by the Supreme Court (see Meyer and Pierce cases). The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35). The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.). In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (262 U.S. 399).

Furthermore, in today’s educational environment, Ohio’s children are being used as fodder in a system that takes their time and talents for the advancement of corporatization of schools and the profit that they will produce for testing companies. When we stop to think about the amount of monies we as a state put into standardized testing (not just the cost of the test, but also the grading, the professional development, the materials needed, the time spent prepping, the technology needed, the people employed to maintain only the test taking technology – the list is never ending), we as a state are being asked to invest more and more into tests that are devaluing your students and your public schools. Testing costs us all, but costs the students so much more. It devalues them by putting an entire emphasis on one aspect of them and risks their self-esteem – for what gains? I could spend the entirety of this letter showing Supreme Court case precedents, research that proves the harms of standardized tests to children, and the invalidity of Value-Added measures by most research institutes including the American Statistical Association, but instead will try to focus on what I have witnessed in the field.

The reality is this: As a teaching professional, I have had the ability to direct the education of your child taken away from me by the detrimental educational reform policies that are enacted through the use of high stakes testing. I ask that parents exercise their parental rights, because I, as your child’s teacher can no longer guide their education in the way that I see best. Although I know your child and am with your child each and every day (not to mention that I have been awarded a National Board Certification for Professional Teaching and earned my PhD); I cannot fend off the curriculum of high stakes testing that has taken over my ability to give your child the curriculum that they deserve and that I know is the best. I say this knowing that I am one of the most fortunate teachers in the state, because I work in an amazing district that works hard not to acquiesce to the tests. My district does not believe in having extra practice workbooks or online diagnostics and actually supports the work of their teachers. Even in this environment, the curriculum of high stakes testing has taken over our classrooms.

Here’s another unfortunate reality: Even in the best districts, the tests have shaped what a teacher teaches. Why is that? Because it would be criminal for me to not prepare your child for what they are about to encounter. We would never place an infant on their feet and let go without first giving them experiences with crawling, pulling themselves up or down on sturdy furniture, and allowing them to wrap their fingers around ours as they take tentative steps on their own. The same is true with testing. Why as a teacher would I not try to give my students the best shot possible on the tests? If it were just the tests, that would be one thing, but it is also the New Ohio Learning Standards that have been imposed on teachers. These standards were not written by Ohio teachers as they have been in the past, but instead first by a committee made up of mostly testing company representatives and then given to a group of teachers at a national level to “advise” this initial committee. We keep being told that standards are not curriculum, but standards do drive our curriculum – they in essence decide what is important for your child to know, understand, and do. Anyone who purports that the standards are not curriculum, has not been teaching for the last 5 years. What your child needed to know, understand and do was once the responsibility of the teacher with guidance from the state and with the input of the child and parent. The type of standardization we have today misses some very important aspects of the child including developmental abilities, nuances of who they are as a learner, and the curiosities of your child to name just a few. To plan, prepare and execute these standards lessons and preparing for possible questions on the standardized tests, the activities that I once did with children are no longer possible. If you’ve had children in the same school with the same teachers over the last 5-10 years, you have seen this firsthand yourself. First came the loss of field trips that once were part of the school’s culture and rites of passage. Then came the end to problem-based and community-based learning projects, along with class celebrations of learning. Soon school became less a community of learners and instead a place that was more and more worried about how your child has scored on standardized tests. Part of this was due to the lack of funds available for these activities that instead went to test related spending and the other part was due to the loss of time due to new standardized activities we had to do so your child is prepared and not ambushed by the test. I don’t blame teachers or schools, it has become the business of schooling and as outlined in the release from the Department of Education, our jobs and school funding are being threatened into spending our two most valuable resources (time and money) to prepare for it.

So, the bottom line is this: I ask that you stand with me and in support of me (and your child’s teacher), by exercising your right to refuse. It will allow me to go back to directing your child’s education based on their actual needs, not on the needs of the test or a testing company. I say this to you knowing that it will most likely hurt my evaluation. But know this, the testing is ALREADY hurting me and your child so much more. I am willing to take the harshest of punishments doled out by the state, so your child no longer has to be punished daily. Why am I willing to do this? Because I have been forced to be a bystander to this bullying in the past. I have watched over the years as children have cried because they don’t understand a word that is on the test and I am not allowed to help. I have watched children get physically sick because they are worried about how their parents will view them after they see their scores. I have watched as 8 year olds ask if they can bring stress balls into the testing environment (I’m pretty sure that we as adults did not have these concerns when we were 8). I have watched as students beg not to have to take a test that makes them feel so stupid. I have watched as student incidences of seeing counselors due to school anxiety issues rise during testing periods. These are but a few of the things I have witnessed as results of high-stakes testing. I can no longer be a bystander. I cannot in all good consciousness continue to watch our kids being bullied without standing up. Take shots at me, I’m an adult, and I can handle it, but stop allowing the state to take shots at our children by refusing to give them the data they need to continue to bully us all.

Sincerely,
Dr. Jocelyn Weeda
PhD Miami University – Educational Leadership, Curriculum, and Culture
Nationally Board Certified Middle Childhood Specialist
Grade 6 – 8 Science Teacher, Centerville City Schools

One parent’s dilemma: Why I’m not opting out yet

I want, more than anything, to opt out. I want to tell the State of Ohio, Obama, Arne Duncan, and PARCC to suck it, you may not use my son as a guinea pig. You may not break his spirit and love of learning. But….

I do not want to jeopardize my son’s teacher, principal, school, or district. I do not want to punish the very people who work tirelessly on a daily basis to give him a safe, well-rounded education despite the extra demands placed on them.

Who do I believe? One side urging parents to Opt Out is the Ohioans Against Common Core. They are promoting HB 7, Ohio’s “Safe Harbor for Students.” This Bill allows parents a legal option to opt out of PARCC testing, which, on the surface, sounds amazing. But…

They are telling parents that teachers and districts are protected through Safe Harbor from the negative assessments teachers would incur. They claim the ODE is using scare tactics and lying to parents about the negative impact on teachers if parents opt out. But…

They have their own agenda. “Against Common Core” screams Tea Party, anti-big government, anti-Obama, anti-Common core. Yes, they want to protect our kids from testing, but are promoting their own agenda at the same time. This group wants to “restore local control” but I wonder where they stand on charters and privatization? I wonder if they are manipulating parents for their own gain much like the Federal Government as it pertains to education reform. I specifically asked this group if Safe Harbor protected teachers and never got a response. Remember, many corporate ed reformers want to blame teachers and public education to promote the privatization of education. I can’t support an organization that wants to “take back education” but gives no thought to the negative impact their actions have on the people working in education.

The ODE, on the other hand, has its own agenda too. It has issued a fact sheet listing all of the negative consequences to opting out. Opt out groups say these are scare tactics. Maybe they are, but does that mean the ramifications are untrue? ODE has to follow the law and has their own, state-mandated agenda to promote, involving education funding from the government.

So, to make my own decision for my child, I spoke to my local district. I’ve been in contact with several teachers, including my son’s third grade teacher, our school’s principal, Centerville’s Director of Curriculum, and Superintendent Tom Henderson. The bottom line here is that opting out right now would negatively impact my son’s school, his teacher, and our district. I’m not willing to do that. I believe too much in these people in the cross-fire. And while I still ultimately believe we need to find a way to reduce testing, I don’t think opting out is the way to do it unless teachers are protected from the ramifications.

Then how do I protect my son from the stress of testing? I don’t make a huge deal about it, I tell him not to worry about it, I do the best I can as his parent to shield him from the stress of this stupid testing because I am his parent and that is my job. The less importance I give the test, the less he’ll believe it’s important. I know his teachers are doing the best they can to do the same because I’ve spoken to them. And I continue to try to impact my government (anyone else vote against Kasich?) My goal this weekend is to begin a massive letter writing campaign to our state school board and our state legislators and to pass on the information to anyone else that wants to do the same. I’m going to use my voice, just not to opt out while it harms teachers. But…..

I want to know what you’re deciding and why. Please use your voice. Join in the conversation. Make your own decisions. Do SOMEthing to let legislators know you’re paying attention.