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

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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.

Opting Out of State Tests

At CURE, we are against high-stakes testing attached to Common Core. When starting to unravel all of the information regarding what is happening in public education, it’s important to understand there are many different political sides rallying for common interests but for different reasons. Some groups want the CCSS gone entirely, removing the federal government from the equation. Some want CCSS gone for specific curriculum reasons. Others may be against the standards, but for privatization.  So when we share information from varying groups, like Ohioans Against the Common Core, we want to make sure to state that we don’t necessarily support all of a group’s ideas. Our goal is to help parents make aware enough to make their own decision.

That being said, the Ohio Assessments start next week, including the first round of Third Grade Guarantee testing. At some point, Centerville parents, Ohio parents, local parents, are going to have to take a stand regarding what’s happening on the federal level. Is opting out of the test the most effective way to make a stand?

We at CURE we are very hesitant to do anything that undermines our local school district and teachers. What are the repercussions of opting out ? How will it affect my child, our teachers, and our district? It’s something to start thinking about. What will you decide?

 

http://ohioansagainstcommoncore.com/what-you-can-do-today-to-stop-common-core/

2013-2014 Ohio State Report Cards

See how your district did.

 

http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/data/news/2013-14-state-report-card-area-districts/?ecmp=daytondaily_social_facebook_2014_sfp

More Ohio Common Core News

The debate over Common Core is heated in part because there are several drastically different political groups opposed to the CCSS for a variety of different reasons. At CURE we are not attempting to promote any particular party’s opposition to Common Core. Our goal is to disperse information, create discussion, and use our voices to support public education, teachers, and our children, who we believe, should not be defined by test scores.

 

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/08/bill_to_kill_common_core_limits_foreign_and_modern_authors_religion_and_science_rules_are_unclear.html