A Report to

Washington State’s

Academic Achievement and

Accountability Commission

 

respectfully submitted by

Juanita Doyon

public school parent

July 25, 2000

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

 

            Presentation of July 25, 2000, North Thurston High School

 

            The Importance of Easy Communication

            Parental Rights and Responsibility

            School Board Member Concerns-- Views from Around the State

            A Letter from My Mom

            Increasing the Significance of Site Councils

            Top Concerns for Education

            A Few Random Questions

            ... and Thoughts

            Position Articles on High Stakes Testing

 

 


Mr. Patrick, Commissioners, Dr. Bergeson,

 

Certainly, each generation has its own unique set of problems and its own set of advantages, but, in a time of revolutionary change in communication and accessibility of information of all kinds, our children face a far more intense and fast moving environment than any other generation.  Add to this a general depreciation in family support, societal values and common sense, and our children are presented with a constant barrage of high stakes situations and choices.

 

Despite the differences in the world around them, children today need from adults the same things children have always needed:  loving and caring relationships, consistency and fairness in discipline, high expectations for learning, actions and attitude, adequate resources to serve their physical, emotional and educational needs, and unconditional respect and acknowledgment for achievement.

 

The professional educators who work with our children on a daily basis have a unique position to fill.  Aside from parents, teachers are those in the best position to fully understand the circumstances that affect the lives of the children they teach.  In many cases teachers and other school staff become the best chance children have for stability.

 

Teachers deserve every support we can extend and all the respect we can muster.  They do not deserve the doubt that is reflected on their profession by a speculative testing process that portrays their efforts failure and their methods obsolete!

 

Washington’s Essential Learning Goals are important.  But we must remember that they are goals which in some cases will remain unattainable.  Schools can measure basic learned knowledge.  They cannot require specific thinking strategies.  They can measure basic skills.  They cannot require understanding and creativity.  All children can indeed “progress toward state learning goals.”  We should not place on their shoulders the burden of proof in the form of a WASL test.

 

We trust teachers to care for and teach our children, and we should trust them to evaluate progress.  Teachers are trained in all forms of student assessment and should be given the freedom to use these assessments to monitor student achievement.  Parents should be given the freedom and responsibility to share in this process.

 

As you consider your final recommendations, I hope you will remember that a statewide system must contain ample variety of options and assistance.  My hope is that your plan would most forcefully address the assessment and accountability of educational leaders at the local and state level.  They are the people ultimately responsible for the placement and support of teachers and students and the allocation of resources.

 

I would like to share a letter that a Bethel Jr. High teacher wrote upon the very tragic loss of a student this past week.  I believe this letter demonstrates completely and simply the bond that can develop between the people in a school.  It is most important that the living dynamics and achievements of a school never be reduced to a pencil and paper test.


Bethel student's loss deeply felt

MICHELLE SCOTT-BEACH; and the advanced drama class; Bethel Junior High School; Spanaway

Last Sunday, a young man named Adrian Dentis lost his life swimming in Alder Lake (TNT, 7-17). His other "family," Bethel Junior High's advanced drama class, greatly feels the loss.

"Lo! She is one of this confederacy!" How well we all remember that line as it flowed from Adrian. He had no reservations about donning a dress and wig to play the character of Helena from "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Whether he was effortlessly earning perfect scores in his honors classes, setting records in the track and field, or amusing all with his ingenious wit, there is another group, a family if you will, who wishes to salute him for the final time.

For three years Adrian shone on our private sanctuary, our stage at Bethel Junior High School. Whatever role he approached, he attacked and performed it meticulously and professionally. The world has been cheated out of stellar talent. Adrian will keep them entertained in heaven.

We know he is gazing down on us, smiling. We love him and miss him very so very much.

MICHELLE SCOTT-BEACH; and the advanced drama class; Bethel Junior High School; Spanaway

07/22/2000

 


The Importance of Easy Communication

 

The communications parents receive from school should be easy to understand, to the point, and as time conserving as possible.  Consider for a moment that parents have a wide variety of involvement levels, reading skills and attitudes toward the education of their children.  I believe it would be to the benefit of schools to simplify the reform system to parent friendly terms.  It is not in the best interest of education to proliferate its own foreign language or to be exclusive in its tools or methodologies.

 

Some terms to avoid: essential learnings, analysis and interpretation,  figurative language and imagery, effective transitions, coordinate grids, pictographs, conjectures, ordering numbers (would this be like “ordering” a happy meal or perhaps a “super-value meal #5”--Chicken Mcnuggets).  On and on goes the educational jargon, turning parents off to helping their children succeed.  If education “experts” feel they must use a different language from conversational English, they should please save it for state mandated learning improvement days-- when the students are at home!

 

Current practice of sending home lengthy explanations of new teaching strategies and suggestions on parenting are ineffective.  Parents are busy people, as we all know.  We want personal suggestions when we ask for help, not piles of pamphlets that assume we don’t know what our own child needs.  Until we prove ourselves incompetent and apathetic, please give us the benefit of the doubt.

 

Report cards have changed in many school districts to reflect benchmarks and other reform concepts.  As one parent, who used to teach in public schools and now has a 5th grade son, told me recently, “I get nothing from the "new" report card....it's horrible! The last year's conferences were a bust because of the stupid pressure from EALRS and WASL!!  Makes me mad.  I'm so glad I'm not teaching now! Teachers aren't allowed to teach!”

 

Report cards and conferences, that used to be parent friendly communications and updates, have become technical briefings.  Most teachers are able to maintain some human warmth in delivery, but only so many charts and graphs can be presented in a warm and friendly manner.  And can we blame teachers for loosing some of the will to reach out to parents, when their state and districts require a massive tracking system for each student?  Writing traits, reading achievement profiles, math accomplishment benchmarks-- and none of it shows a true picture of student success. 

 

 

 

 

 


Parental Rights and Responsibility

 

Individual parent and student rights often become a controversy, when behavioral problems arise on the part of students.  There is no law that I know of to govern parental responsibility as it translates to involvement with public schools.  If our country is to survive and thrive in a time of technological advance and societal change, our schools must offer the highest quality education to all students.  Students who demonstrate good behavior cannot be allowed to perform below their potential at school because teachers are distracted by students with more basic human needs.  It is the responsibility of professional educators to meet the educational needs of all students while those students are in their care.  It is the responsibility of parents and all of society to demand excellence in education for all children and help assure that the basic human needs of all children are met inside and outside the classroom.

 

Our public schools, working with our legislature, need to develop a set of standards by which parents are responsible for their children inside and outside of school.  If parents are to maintain their rights over educational choices, there need to be laws in effect that require parents to be responsible for their child’s behavior and involved in assisting the school in their child’s educational needs.  As our school system now operates, a great burden is placed on teachers and other school officials to see that students are provided an appropriate education-- no matter what level of support or lack of support is available from parents or guardians and no matter what form of behavior the child demonstrates.  Students who are cared for appropriately at home and come to school ready to learn often experience an impediment of learning because of deficiencies on the part of others.

           

How simple (and dull) life would be if our children were pink or blue pegs who rode silently along in our little plastic cars as we drove past signs that said things like, “Roll for school choice,” and “Instill parental value system now.”

Being a parent is a difficult job, but somebody has to do it.  Sometimes parents, schools and government mix roles and forget who should have ultimate power and responsibility  to care for children.

 

The following are emails sent and received concerning the ReLife program for middle school students with behavioral disorders.
School Board Member Concerns-- Views from Around the State

One week ago, I acquired the email addresses of school board members in every school district in our state, from the WSSDA site, accessed through OSPI.  Since then, I have been labeled an “organization”... “harvesting emails,” and the email addresses have been removed from the public site.  My objective, as a parent and a taxpayer, was to contact those most knowledgeable about individual school districts, share some of my ideas and concerns about high stakes testing and other areas of Washington’s public education system, and collect their input to share with the A+ Commission and other education leaders.  The responses I received were as varied as the districts themselves.  Some were very helpful.  Some were very rude.  Approximately 60 out of 400 simply asked to be removed from my list.  Here are some of the comments I received.  I think they paint an interesting picture of our elected public education officials around the state.  I will share their district names, but will, as promised, keep individual names anonymous.

 

Tonasket: “Say, I enjoyed your message about the WASL.. so, Tell me what you think about the current move to change school levy's and bonds to a simple majority.. from the current status.. The Evergreen School Board is currently spearheading a move to change it. 

Perhaps, we need to change all tax laws to require the supermajority vote.. and then we in the eastern part of the state would not be funding a stadium for Paul Allen...”

 

Riverview: “Fascinating address list!  Could you please explain

why the last political bodies with local control should

care about OSPI and the WASL?”

 

Ocean Beach: “This mail address is for my motel business, please remove me from your e-mail list. You have some feelings that are yours but I don't want you

to send them to me!  You must not be too busy, if you have the time to

waste as you've been to day unless you are wasting the time of your

employer.”

 

Ocosta: “I appreciate you sharing your concerns, but in the future when you continue to do this, please put a small description of the content of the letter in

the subject line instead of just "a letter....."   That would be much

helpful.   Keep pounding away.”

 

Fife: “Please "KEEP" my name on your mailing list. As a board member, parent

and open minded individual-- I am open to all information including

diverse points of view.

Should I not choose to read any future emails-- my "delete" button

consumes little of my time or energy to use.”

 

Mukilteo: “I would be willing to discuss issues with you from time to time, however my

school e-mail address automatically forwards to my office e-mail.  While you

certainly have a passion for issues related to public education, I'd

appreciate you changing out my address for your thoughts to my personal

e-mail.

Since I don't agree with all of your premises, I'm sure we can have a lively

exchange of philosophy. . .”
Lake Stevens: “I really appreciate your input into our education system and I

believe that you have a lot of insightful things to say. Please DON'T

take me off of your mailing list. I would really like to hear from you

in the future.

There is one thing that you could do for me though. When you

send out a mass email, please create a master list in a blind

carbon copy so that you aren't forwarding all of these email

addresses to everyone on the list. I realize anyone could obtain the

addresses the same way as you did, but I think it makes people

touchy when they see they've been forwarded to everyone in the

State. Also this will eliminate forwarding of every direct reply you

receive to the original email.

Hope this helps. Thank you again for your interest and dedication.”

 

Spokane: “I have some of the same concerns you have expressed. I also am not an expert, but have that "gut feeling" that where we are headed is not good for kids.

   Our reform movement came from parents and business people that said we are not expecting enough from our kids and graduating many without skills that they need to be successful. We, as a system were not being held accountable for those deficiencies. The result of course is the state testing.

   I believe we have to offer system alternatives to testing that will demonstrate student success and accountability. That's where the problem lies. I don't know the answer......and would welcome any suggestions!”

 

Steilacoom Historical: “I enjoy your feedback.”

 

Lake Washington: “I believe you are correct when you say that high stakes testing should not be used as a tool that determines promotion. It is a snapshot in time and like other standardized tests, has it's flaws. The fourth grade test is stunningly difficult. I helped set the standard on that test and I do not believe anyone in the room got it all right. (We were 25 teachers, parents and school board members)The legislature needs to stay out of management decisions that are correctly the domain of school boards,parents and community members.Article II, Section 28 of the state constitution states that "The Legislature is prohibited from enacting any private or special laws in the following cases:#15. Providing for the management of public schools. I am no lawyer but as a school board member I am thinking more legislators need to read their constitutions.

I would like to share how often I have been told to say something a different way so no one gets angry. Or, that is a trigger word don't use it or if you see that name as an endorsement that means they are o.k. I wish people would stop looking for conspiracies and start realizing there are good people out there trying to make a difference.

...the problem of placing a workplace model in a school is that firing students(holding them back a grade) because they don't work out is unacceptable. If I as a school board member were told to keep a child back because of a test, my inclination would be to immediately eliminate grade levels. If the object is to learn, then let us teach them.”
Granite Falls: “I agree with you, if the rational people of this country do not

exercise their brains, make a decision about what kind of society they want

and vote accordingly, America will get the society it earned and deserved.

The Charlie Brown quote applies here. "We have found the enemy and he is

us".

The sixties quote was "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of

the problem."

It is my personal belief that it is the people we share our thoughts and

ideas with on a daily basis that influence the future course of events. The

more people we touch with these ideas and thoughts, the greater our

influence.”

 

Wenatchee: “Would you please remove our E-mail address from your group mailing list.

We have received over 50 pages from you and responses to your e-mails in the

last couple days.  They come into my office and I have to print them out to

pass on to my wife, who is the School Board Member.

    Each of your letters carries two and a half pages of header, and

averages four pages, to print out.

    One of the replies, (with headers) required eight full pages to print

out.  This gets expensive & time consuming for me. (Us).

    If you have something concerning "Wenatchee School District", please

feel free to send a personal e-mail, but no more group messages please.”

 

Loon Lake: “I respect what you are trying to accomplish in writing to board members - however, this is a business e-mail for a youth camp I help operate for The Salvation Army and we get more e-mails than I can sometimes handle.  Therefore I would respectfully request that you leave me off your future mailings.”

 

Unknown: “Dear Spammer  You sound like sour grapes to me.  Just because you can't get your way, you want the majority to step aside and let spoiled brats like you prevail.

Sorry Charlie, no banana.  Jail sounds like a good option for you.”

 

Same Unknown, next day: “Get used to the idea!  Public Schools are the most inefficient form of education that we have.  To have an efficient process, education must be

removed from the public sector and run as a business by a private

corporation.  Some one must be in charge that does not have to yield to

individual political whims.  When you have candidates for school board

spending thousands of dollars on their campaigns, something is wrong.

Our only hope is for the charter school movement, or promote private

schools, as has happened in other schools.

You are barking up the wrong tree and that is why you have so many levels of

educational government.  Someone tried to consolidate the levels back in the

70's and look at what you have!

The state legislature needs to put the educational process into private

hands and eliminate the "goldfish bowl" problem.  Every student needs a good

education, but it is a privilege and not a "right".”
Darrington:  “I  find  too many lacks, and way too many wants or  Me

Me Me 's  in public education.  Never enough what can I DO to help. My goal

(some say Passion) is that every child that enters the Darrington school

district  graduate with  ability and passion..  the ability to  work and

thrive in our community whether that be Darrington or the world and the

passion to want to never stop learning or trying to teach others .. I also

would like our students to have pride in our education system,  also skills

to use their abilities to go anywhere and do what ever they choose.  I used

to ask the youth of Darrington ARE  you ready for college,? Have you taken

the p.s.a.t.  and are you ready for the  S.A.T.   Now, however,  I ask them

do you have enough credits to be what ever the next level is for the

individual I am talking to .  Why the change of question, because  we had

a girl at graduation time a 1/2  credit short of graduating,  this is just

unacceptable to me . [She is emaciated , her mom an dad were drug and alcohol

addicted and totally irresponsible ...  by their own admission, they told

us that she was rising her younger brother while they were at the local bar

or high .The girl was going to school , getting her little brother off to

school, and working a job . I say if she could do that only be short a ½

then we should give it to her, after isn't' our goal as a board and

community to get kids ready for the real world ? they were asking to just

let her walk with her class, she has commit to finishing the credit.

However, bound by our board policy we could not let her walk not having

completed the required credits]  so those are my concerns.  I am with you on the  top

heavy admin the unequal spread of money's  in our state.  I am interested

in  know everything is to know about  financial aid and  Career development

for all  students .  Keep me informed please” 

“...to speak about the harm of the wasal so far haven't found anyone really thinking its sliced

bread....”

 

Highland: “Here are a few basic ideas that I believe would make the largest difference in education in our state: 1.  More days for students in the class room (closer to the numbers in other countries that are doing well in testing).  2.  Grandfather out the system of tenure so teachers continue to be evaluated with the ability to remove ineffective employees.  This could nicely dovetail with raise increases for other teachers that do a great job.  Monitor the types of classes teachers take to get credits, many have nothing to do with their field yet they work toward pay increases.”

 

West Valley: “I am not the least bit interested in receiving your daily diatribes about

the status of education in the state of Washington.  I have my own

network for communicating with others on educational issues of importance

to me and my school district.  Take me off your e-mail list !  !”

 

Kalama: “Take me off this list immediately!!!!!!!!!”

 

Northport: ”My main concern are the Home Schooled.  Our district faces a declining

enrollment with approximately 200 students being home schooled in the

district.  Because of many reasons these students/parents will not register.

Many times when these students are returned to pubic education they are

seriously lacking.  What to do??

 

My concern about testing is this.  We are all different in many ways and all

have different abilities, so how can a test become a measure for everyone?

If school time must be spent getting students ready for a test instead of

performing to his or her potential best, what or how much is being lost?”
Yelm: “Please remove me from your mailing list.  Too work has gone into WASL and I support it 100%.  Thanks anyway.  I will be deleting all your e-mails in the future, without reading them.  Get a life.”

 

Port Angeles: “I am a former teacher and husband of school board member here in Port

Angeles.  I read with interest with some of your concerns about education,

particularly the WASL.

    I am in favor of the WASL in principle, that is teaching kids to think

and reason. The testing procedure is unreasonable under the usual school

testing procedures. One does not perform well under test stress(that is abut

50 % of the kids) Lets find a way to accomplish the standards without the

intense pressure.

    My concern for education ( I taught for 37 years) is of a different

nature. I am concerned  much more about learning than I am teaching.

Students have been "taught" a great many things but they don't seem to keep

it. I would like to see ways to have information go to long term memory

storage. Why do they (we) forget. I enjoy little kids and watching them

learn. (It is intense , focused and random)

     I have another concern that we (educators) don't have a clear idea of

what literacy is. How many hundreds of students that I know who are doing

just fine (some much more than fine) who did not perform at a high level in

school. What is it we want students to know ? What does a society want and

need from each of the graduating classes? I believe we need to know how each

student is smart not how "smart " they are with some unwieldly instrument.

     Wouldn’t it be interesting to have each student come to a place in

school and say " Im ready for the test "  and have it administered then. The

teachers could teach .

     Wouldn't it be interesting to have a group of parents and teachers and

others in the community really get serious about a survey of what

constitutes literacy for them.

 

Just some random thoughts . I do believe the WASL is here to stay , lets

work with it's skeleton and work with the belief that all kids are capable

learners.”

 

Oak Harbor: “Some of your information is right on the mark.  We here in Oak Harbor have had 30 years of failed levy's and we keep trying to get one passed.  Our

voters here are very reluctant to vote anything for the

schools....especially a hot lunch program.  There are 6600 students in WA

state that do not have access to a hot lunch program, and 6000 of those

reside in Oak Harbor.  SAD!!!”

 

Sumner: “Thanks for the note and the perspective.  I look forward to

your thoughts and comments.”

 

South Kitsap: “Please remove me from your mailing list. I do not like receiving unsolicited mail. Thank you.”

 

Central Kitsap: “Why am I on all of these email lists?  What is your personal e-mail address?  I have a lot of mail that I would like to send you.”
Response to Central Kitsap:

 

Dear --------,

I apologize if I have offended you in any way with my communications.  I have removed you from my email list of school board members from around the state, as you requested.  However, I will respond to your questions.

 

"Why am I on all of these e-mail lists?"

 

You were on my email list because:  1. You are a school board member.  2. I am very concerned about the policies that are currently being formulated for Washington State Public Schools.  3. I believe that an increase of communication between stake holders and decision makers at all levels of public education can only increase its quality.

 

"What is your personal e-mail address? I have a lot of mail that I would

like to send you."

 

This is my personal email address, and if I was a school board member, I would expect that parents of public school children would be able to reach me on my email address either at work or at home to offer comment on issues that are of statewide importance to public schools and school children.  As a parent, I would be happy to read any opinion you as a school board member have about the education of our children. 

 

Since you as a school board member in Central Kitsap are obviously not interested in reading my parental commentary I will bother you with it no further.

 

Have a good summer.

Juanita Doyon

Bethel District and Washington State Public School Parent

Advocate for the Improvement of Parent/School Communications

May the Good Lord Bless and Keep Us All!

 

                                                                        Betty Bullock

                                                                        419-208th St E

                                                                        Spanaway, WA 98387

 

 

To The Academic Achievement and Accountability Commission;

 

            I grew up in an age when school was the main focus of a child’s life.  No TV, no video games, no computers.  We did have radios that we glued ourselves to once or twice a week to listen to our favorite serials.

            My family moved around a lot and I was rather shy but adjusted to a lot of school changes.  Our last move brought me to a small town where in eighth grade we had to pass state exams to go on to high school, because our school was not accredited.

            I passed the tests and moved on to high school where I enjoyed debate, drama, orchestra, sports and academics.  I managed to stay on the honor roll even with all of my diverse interests.

            This may all seem like there is no point, as it is so personal, but let me get to the point now.

            I have one sibling, a sister, who is fourteen months older and was one grade ahead of me and had a passion for reading (I hated it).  At eighth grade graduation she was valedictorian.  At her high school graduation she was valedictorian.  In 1940, my senior year, one day my mother said to me, “You could be valedictorian too, if you would just try.”

            Only I can know what my feelings were.  I have never forgotten it and never will.  I had failed my mother’s WASL test even though I was a good, diverse student.

            If our schools and teachers are accredited, let’s trust them.

 

                                                                        Betty Bullock

 

 
Increasing the Significance of Site Councils

 

In the Washington State OSPI “Comprehensive Learning Improvement Plan,” it is stated that “Educational improvement is a bottom-up process encompassing the whole community, recognizing that ‘It takes a whole community to raise a child.’” 

 

For several years, I have held to the belief that Site Councils could offer the best hope of effective, representative, community-based decision making and, thus, community buy-in to the improvement of education for all children.

 

As they now exist, site councils are not a significant entity toward the goal of parent and community engagement in school, district or state education policy. 

 

The very idea that individual site councils would be completely free to develop their own by-laws, operating principles and membership quotas, set them on a course of sure impotence on anything but an individual building level.  Schools do not operate without networking with and dependence on districts and school boards.  School boards and districts in turn operate by networking with and dependence on state education agencies.  By relegating site councils to

building-only, decision making abilities, there has been no offering of a

meaningful say in our own destiny. 

 

Several things must happen on the state and at the district level before site councils fulfill their most beneficial role in the education world of Washington State.

 

Site Councils are in place in most if not all districts.  They are officially recognized education entities.  Washington State OSPI, the State Board of Education and our State Legislature could choose to increase the value of site councils, by finding ways to ensure equitable membership and by-laws across the state, and by  working with districts to facilitate site council input to the decision making process.

 

For your consideration, I have included the Site Council Rubric Survey I developed several years ago and an illustration of what site councils could offer our schools and communities.
Top Concerns for Education:

 

1. Diversity and complexity of funding, leading to an inequity of educational quality in the State of Washington.

 

Bethel School District has failed 8 bond measure in 10 years, while we grow at a rate of 300 students per year.  I've discovered that some districts never even bother with Bonds.  They have enough of a tax base to run "Construction Levies" and pay as they go.  State monies come with strings.  The placement of education initiatives on the general election ballot should be a sign to our state leaders that funding laws need to be simplified and modified for a more equitable and realistic distribution of funds.  Average per FTE spending in our state has increased by nearly $2,000 dollars over the past 8 years.  I have not fully researched the areas of spending this covers, but I believe this is money spent at the local district level.  This should indicate that there is no lack of monetary resources for the educational needs of our students.     

 

2. Waste of resources, through too many layers of educational government.

 

We have a State School Board and a Superintendent of Public Instruction, Educational Service Districts and House and Senate committees on Education.  Why do we need an Accountability Commission?  OSPI SBE WSSDA ESD AAAC SESB...  --Somebody isn't earning their pay!

 

3. Lack of leadership assessment, both at the state and local level.

 

There are varying levels of scandal and corruption in our school districts.  Some have little, some have much.  The "human" factor is present in every area of our society, including our schools.  Is there a section of OSPI that tracks principals and other administrators who are removed from their positions or resign under distressed circumstances, to ensure that they are not hired by other school districts?  Are school districts held accountable on an intense enough level for the monies they oversee?  Who assesses the State Superintendent?  And who holds the whole bureaucracy of the OSPI accountable?  Testing students and pressuring teachers is not a viable solution to ineffective leadership. 

 

4. Total centralization of education decision making.

 

I joined a site council in the Bethel District 8 years ago.  At that time it was our duty to draw up a strategic plan for school improvement.  We chose 5 areas of needed improvement for our school to focus on for the year.  Through the years, this charge has been whittled away, until, for the last 4 or 5 years we have had no choice in areas.  They are directed from the state, through the district to be reading and math.  WASL score improvement is the ultimate goal!  New curriculum has been slipped in under our noses by the purchase of text books that are totally aimed for the Goals 2000 agenda of the federal government.  Parents have been begging for text books for years, but these are not necessarily the textbooks we had in mind.

 

5. Apathy or lack of engagement on the part of parents and community members.

 

With a loss of power and input to decision making, parent and community members have less desire to be involved in schools.  Parents don't understand the math homework their kids bring home, much less WASL sample questions.  When we question those who should have the power, we are treated with condescension and told we are the only ones who have voiced concern.  We are told that the "experts" know best and they have the good of our children in mind.  Someone is forgetting that they are still our children and we should be considered the "experts" who care for them, unless we demonstrate otherwise.

 

 

A Few Random Questions

 

Have current state educational leaders placed too much emphasis on one testing format? (WASL)

 

Was there an appropriate trial period of the new standards-based test and curriculum, before it's implementation and administration was required statewide and scores were published?

 

Are the following considered when assessing the quality of a school district?

 

*Graduation Rate

*Post Secondary Attendance/Acceptance rate

*SAT Participation Level and Scores

*Parent Involvement Level

*Parent Satisfaction Level

*Variety of Course Offerings 

*Attendance Rate

*Miscellaneous Awards and Service Project Information

*Teacher Satisfaction and Transfer Rate

*Community Morality Level (as opposed to income or ethnic diversity)

*Special Needs Percentage

*Extracurricular Offerings and Participation Rate

*Availability of Community Support Agencies (boys and girls clubs, church organizations,

  governmental services, etc...)

*Levy and Bond Statistics and Tax Base

*Private and Home School Attendance Rate

*Frequency of Legal Action Taken on Behalf of Parents, Students, District Employees or

  the District Itself

 

Could these factors and others be utilized for a more common sense approach to individual district improvement?

 

Is there sufficient data available without administering a statewide test to determine district dysfunction?

 

Are district problems and/or challenges of a diverse nature, so as to rule standardized results inconclusive evidence of underlying factors?
...and Thoughts

 

"Data Collection" has been an education reform term of choice throughout the state for about 10 years now.  This is one area where individual schools may hold there own meaningful statistics for a beginning point for meaningful improvement.  Some reform efforts have proven worthwhile in some schools.  The increased emphasis on reading, for example, has been a boon to student achievement.  This is a very basic concept.  Teach a child to read and you open the door to personal success!  Maybe the state should just choose a subject a year for a suggested emphasis for improvement. 

 

Established teachers do not need "training."  They need tools and support!  Whether that would be in the form of current information and ideas, or just the time to get together with their building coworkers to vent-- this could be a matter of building choice.

 

Mentorship of new teachers is essential!  Real life education is not a controlled atmosphere.  A statewide mentorship program in every subject would bring about instant improvement.

 

It's just not like it was when we were kids, or even when our kids were kids!

A classroom experience requirement for administrators at the building, district and state level-- not past experience, but ongoing experience, so that nobody would be allowed to become out of touch with the needs, attitudes and abilities of today's children. 

 

A statewide parent contact law:  Parents and schools required to interact for the good of the child.  This could be done with a vast variety of communication tools.  This does not mean that schools send home more papers with "how to help your child succeed" suggestions.  These are often as demeaning to parents as WASL is to children and teachers.


Resolution on High-Stakes Testing NCTE

News: 1999 NCTE Resolutions 

Background: Over the past 30 years, the National Council of Teachers of

English has promulgated many resolutions opposing high-stakes testing,

culminating in the 1998 resolution detailing "the limitations of standardized

testing with regard to authentic assessment of the English language arts

classroom" (On Testing and Equitable Treatment of Students). This resolution

condemned retention based on test scores alone, the "usurpation of the

English language arts curriculum" by test preparation, and testing students

in English who are "not sufficiently proficient in English." Nevertheless,

the intervening year has seen all of these practices escalate and in some

places even be enacted into law.

 

NCTE joins with its sister organizations, the American Educational Research

Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council on

Measurement in Education in support of their Standard for Educational and

Psychological Measurement 8.12 which states, "In elementary or secondary

education, a decision or characterization that will have a major impact on a

test taker should not automatically be made on the basis of a single test

score" (1975, p. 54). Neither states, nor districts, nor schools, nor test

publishers are currently abiding by this clear standard.

 

Further, NCTE opposes single measure assessment for the initial credentialing

or licensing of teachers and the continuing appointment of teachers. The

Executive Committee of the Conference on English Education has declared that

"to endorse such a single measure assessment violates the fundamental

principles of effective teacher preparation, is in direct opposition to

NCTE’s Guidelines for the Preparation of Teachers of English Language Arts,

and undermines both teacher preparation programs and performance-based field

experiences. Such single measure assessments are historically antithetical to

NCTE’s commitment to diversity in the teaching profession. The National

Council of Teachers of English will not support, endorse, or participate in

any assessment for the initial credentialing of teachers that consists of a

single test. Any assessment program must include multiple measures in

multiple norms."

 

Although NCTE has widely distributed its very strong positions on high-stakes

testing and norm-referenced testing in general, it has, so far, not been able

to derail the political engine of high-stakes testing. It is time to plan

specific action. Be it therefore

 

Resolution

RESOLVED, that the National Council of Teachers of English appoint, staff,

and fund a committee charged with the development of an action plan to

accomplish the following goals:

1. To gather and synthesize current findings and to encourage continued

research regarding the political, educational, and social impact of high-stakes testing; 

2. To publicize and disseminate such research findings to those professional and public stakeholders impacted by high-stakes testing;

3. To support and mobilize growing opposition and resistance to high-stakes

testing conducted by private testing agencies, states, and other agencies;

4. To work constructively on the above resolutions with other organizations concerned with high-stakes testing; and 

5. To report back to the Executive Committee with its action plan.
International Reading Association on High-Stakes Testing

 

“The International Reading Association strongly opposes high-stakes testing.

Alarmingly, U.S. policy makers and educators are increasingly relying on

single test scores to make important decisions about students. For example,

if a student receives a high score on one high-stakes test, it could place

him in a honors class or a gifted program. On the other hand, if a student

receives a low score on one test, she could be rejected by a particular

college. These tests can also be used to influence teachers' salaries, or

rate a school district in comparison with others.

The Association believes that important conceptual, practical, and ethical

issues must be considered by those who are responsible for designing and

implementing testing programs. Assessment should be used to improve

instruction and benefit students rather than compare and pigeonhole them.

Among the Association's recommendations:

 

Teachers should…

construct rigorous classroom assessments to help outside observers gain

confidence in teacher techniques;

educate parents, community members, and policy makers about classroom-based

assessment;

teach students how tests are structured, but not teach to the test.

 

Parents and child-advocacy groups should…

ask questions about what tests are doing to their children and their schools;

lobby for the development of classroom-based forms of assessment that improve

instruction and help children become better readers and learners.

 

Policy makers should…

design assessment plans that reflect the complexity of reading, learning to

read, and teaching reading;

rely on multiple measures of assessment for decision making;

avoid using incentives, resources, money, or recognition of test scores to

reward or punish schools or teachers.”

 

The full text of the International Reading Association position statement,

High-Stakes Assessments in Reading is available online. To view it you will

need a copy of Adobe's Acrobat Reader. This can be downloaded free of charge

from Adobe's Web site at

http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html#reader
http://www.rethinkingschools.org/Archives/13_03/13_03.htm

From Rethinking Schools Online

Spring 1999

“Whether you're a parent, teacher, or policymaker, it's impossible to ignore how the long arm of standardized testing is reaching into every nook and cranny of education. U.S. students are already tested more than any other children in the industrialized world. And it's getting worse.

This issue of Rethinking Schools presents a number of articles on testing and assessment, particularly from the perspective of the classroom. We hope the articles will increase parental, community, and teacher input into discussions too often dominated by politicians and policymakers.

It's not just that the use of tests is growing. Most ominous is the increasing reliance on "high-stakes" standardized tests and how these tests, tied to state standards, shape curriculum. Standardized tests mandate one "correct" answer and demand that children darken the circle accordingly. So nice, so efficient. And so unlike the real world.

Proponents of standardized tests often wrap themselves in the language of high standards. But that's not the issue. No one advocates low standards. The issue is what we mean by higher standards, and how we can reach those standards. By and large, calls for more standardized tests come from politicians eager to prove they are serious about school reform and creating a "high skills," internationally competitive workforce. But they offer little if any evidence that links increased testing to improved teaching and learning. Similarly, test-pushers pay scant attention to key issues such as smaller classes, improved teacher education, more time for teacher planning and collaboration, and ensuring that all schools receive adequate and equitable resources needed to boost achievement.

Rather than grappling with these issues, too many politicians have seized on a simplistic formula for reform: more standardized tests, especially "high stakes" tests. Nationwide, states and school districts are forcing a growing number of children to take "high stakes" standardized tests and, on the basis of test scores, children may be retained, denied access to a preferred high school, or, in some cases, even refused a high school diploma. That's not public accountability, it's discrimination.

Dating back to the development of IQ tests at the turn of the century, standardized tests have been used to sort and rank children, most reprehensibly along racial and class lines, and to rationalize giving more privileges to the already privileged. Indeed the first standardized tests were developed by eugenicists anxious for "scientific" data to prove their theories of biological determinism.

To acknowledge the sinister origins of standardized tests is not, however, to dismiss parent and community concerns about school accountability. We understand and agree with these concerns. Too many schools fail too many children, especially low-income students, students of color, and students who do not speak English as a first language. The broader community has the right and the responsibility to oversee how well schools perform. Good assessments can be one valid method of insuring accountability.  

Tests Shape Curriculum

Problems with standardized tests go beyond their "high stakes" use. Standardized tests can also drive curriculum and instruction in ways that harm children. Teachers are subjected to increasing pressures to prepare students for the tests, even when we know that the tests don't assess the most essential aspects of thinking and learning. Students often internalize the judgements of the tests -- as if test scores were the final word on one's knowledge or potential.

In addition, standardized tests come packaged with demands for more standardized curriculum -- again, wrapped in the rhetoric of "standards." These calls do not take place in a political and cultural vacuum. They are part of a broader movement to promote a narrow version of patriotism and "family values," and to silence the critical voices of feminists, environmentalists, labor activists, and advocates of racial justice. It is also worth noting that when the right wing pushes voucher schools or charter schools, they often want these exempted from statewide high-stakes tests, so that the schools can be free to pursue their entrepreneurial "creativity."

Analysis into Action

We hope that this special issue can help turn analysis into action. An essential first step is to expose the fallacy that "high- stakes" tests will lead to higher standards and improved academic achievement. Some groups, for instance the Local School Councils Summit in Chicago, have worked with national groups such as FairTest to produce parent-friendly information explaining the inherent problems in standardized tests.

Another important task is to promote alternative forms of assessment and accountability. Parents and the public need to know how well their children and their schools are doing. Developing more democratic forms of assessment and accountability is essential to defeating calls for standardized curriculum and testing. Educators must not box ourselves into a corner where we are perceived as opposing any form of schoolwide, districtwide, or statewide assessment and accountability. Historically, social justice activists have used such aggregate data to show how schools fail to provide a quality education to all children -- to highlight schools' "savage inequalities."

"High-stakes" standardized tests must be resisted. Such resistance can, and is, taking many forms. In Ohio, for instance, a "Say No" campaign is underway to let parents know they can exempt their children from the 4th, 6th, or 12th grade Ohio Proficiency Tests, which are used to determine graduation and grade advancement. In Oregon, teachers have publicly challenged the state's standards and tests; they are developing alternatives to the Trivial Pursuit-like social studies multiple-choice tests. In Texas, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) is asking the courts to declare unconstitutional the requirement that students must pass the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills in order to graduate from high school. MALDEF is particularly concerned about the requirement's discriminatory effect on Latino and African-American students.

We realize that this issue of Rethinking Schools only begins to touch on the many controversies surrounding standards and assessment. We hope you find it useful, and we look forward to continued discussion in future issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life is Education-- The Rest is Details 

                                                JDoyon

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