Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NYS Refusal....

Well, I did it.

I'm pretty sure there are lots of people that get really nervous when they read that phrase coming from me.... :)

I finally worked up the courage to send my letter and emails in to the middle school to refuse my middle school children from taking the NYS tests.  I have to admit, considering the tests are next week for ELA and at the end of April for Math- I was a NERVOUS wreck!  And I had doubts.
Doubts I was screwing up big time.

Doubts I was going to have my children targeted by the school admin or worse, the district admin.  (I admit, I have been just a hair outspoken about common core-I may have given my name a bad taste in some mouths because of things I've said....but in my defense, it's my hair's fault....)

But Monday morning I emailed every teacher and principal I felt needed to hear my refusal of the tests on behalf of my children and yesterday I sent in with my oldest daughter, a letter to just make sure they got my electronic one. 

Well.  Nothing like the devil to stand there and cast doubt.  Serious doubt.  Not five minutes after sending the letter, our NYS DOE commissioner sent out a letter to superintendents and when I first read it, I thought, oh crap, I messed up big time.

Because when you read his letter, it sounds just like the tests that I would love for our schools.  I have to be honest, I'm not against testing.  I give my daughter at home tests over every subject we cover- it's important. I actually make most of them and use the curriculum I am teaching and the materials we've gone over to test her.  It's important to have that as a method of making sure she is retaining what I'm teaching.

But I also grade her work, watch her complete assignments, and teach her lessons.  All of which give me a full, well rounded view of how she is learning.  Is she a test taker?  Absolutely not.  She's terrible at tests.  But am I going to stop testing her?  No.  I adapt her tests, started out easier, and have gradually made them more difficult each time.  To the naked eye, it would seem they are too easy, but at this point in her almost 11 years on earth and the first half of her 5th grade year being made miserable by over testing, over assigning inappropriate materials, and over close reading, she needed easy.  She needed to feel successful.  She needed to feel as though she could do it and she can.

She has learned that she is a smart little girl and if she puts her mind to it, she can accomplish anything. 

I haven't stopped testing her.

On the contrary.

But Commissioner King almost made me feel like I was totally mistaken in refusing these NYS tests.

But then common SENSE set in and I snapped back.

Because you see, this week, (and last week, and probably weeks before) several of my children have been "preparing" for these stupid tests.  I can safely call them stupid because my kids don't read this blog.  I tell them that word is reserved for use during serious matter, and quite frankly, NYS tests are a serious matter.

I read his letter and I sat there.  First in absolute disbelief.  He made it sound as though the best teaching for the tests is to just teach.  Not cram test taking practice, skills, etc, but just to teach.  As though, shame on all those teachers that EVERYONE OF MY KIDS HAS HAD who has felt it necessary to take old NYS tests, practice tests, and this week alone, take grades on practice tests.  Didn't they read the same letter I read?

Unless, his words are just that, words.  Meaningless, worthless, worth a melted snowball (yea, I've officially become tired of the snow) words.  Worthless. 

Here is the link to the article I found with his letter attached.  Please read it and come to your own conclusions.

But then he said something that caught my eye.  Now, I'm no expert.  I only taught in the school systems for 6 years, and one of those years was a long term subbing position.  But I LOVE teaching and if I could go back (without having to pay a pretty penny for my renewal) I would do it in a heartbeat.  I'll copy and paste the phrase.

"He said every question on the tests was written for New York, reviewed by New York educators and field-tested with New York students. "Do not let anyone say otherwise," he said."

Wait, what?

So you're saying, these tests were written by educators here in NY, reviewed by educators here in NY, and field tested by NY students?

Then why did 70% fail?

Are there 70% of our teachers/schools/districts that are teaching the wrong thing?
Aren't there NYS guidelines for each grade level?  Why yes.  Yes there are.  So are the tests not designed in regards to the curriculum guidelines for each grade?

Here is a link where the NYS guidelines are in fact, listed.

Don't take my word for it, check it out.

When I was teaching, I followed the Arkansas State teaching curriculum guidelines.  I taught the subjects required of me, the lessons required of me and at various times during the year, we tested to see if what we were doing to teach these methods were working.  I saw first hand what I needed to work on as a teacher.  Now, things may have changed that was in the dark ages of 2005, so I know things may be different.  But the point of tests, I thought, was to test knowledge taught, create lesson plans that include the required learning, and learn where areas need refining, less work, etc.

If 70% failed last year, and good ole Arne Duncan has already predicted a failing year again this year, than this begs the question....

What are we doing wrong?

Are teachers not following the same curriculum guides?

Is Arne right?  Are we "suburban moms" just raising a bunch of idiots? (that almost made me shudder to type because that article nearly sent this psycho red head on a ranging trip to DC....but I digress, as usual...)

 Is our state creating tests that purposefully confuse and fail students?

I'm inclined to lean with the latter.

Let's take a stand, shall we?  Let's send a message.  Let's tell administrators and commissioners that we want our teachers back.  We want our crafts back.  We want our hands on learning back.  I want to buy glitter glue for my 3rd grader's teacher!

Heck, we want recess back.  At least for Kindergarten????

Or we can be like the frog left in the water, cool at first, but unnoticed by him the heat turned up on high and before the poor little amphibian realizes it, he's a boiled delicacy.

It's time to take back our classrooms and stop this crime against our children. 

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