Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

My response to Kerrie Dallman, CEA President, re: the union & the approval of Relay by CCHE

Yesterday morning I wrote a quick note on Facebook about Relay receiving approval as a "graduate" school which can now certify teachers in Colorado. I wrote on Facebook about the silence that has accompanied Relay's journey into Colorado and Relay's final approval one week ago, at the Colorado Commission of Higher Education - where Relay received  a unanimous vote of approval. Tim Slekar, also on the UOO board of directors, as am I, picked up my note and posted it on BustEDPencils for which I am grateful. Ms. Dallman responded in the comments and I'd like to respond to her here, after giving a quick thanks to some folks and a quick summary for those who are unfamiliar with the CCHE event.

First, I want to send out a big thanks to the people who did speak out against Relay at the CCHE meeting - members of the Cherry Creek Education Association and my dear friend and colleague, Amy Achtermann, board member of the Aurora Education Association. Amy and I have been to hell and back this year under the militant guidance of Relay (read Amy's speech here). Our principal attended the Relay Principal Academy all year long, and quite honestly, I no longer recognize our school or our principal. I wrote about it numerous times on my blog over the year.  The staff and students of Jewell Elementary have endured a difficult and honestly, mentally abusive year. Also -  a big thank you to the RAVE caucus for spreading the word about Relay at all of our community opt out meetings this year.

But let's back track a bit......

I planned to attend the CCHE meeting myself so I could share my concerns about Relay, and my local union president had already given me union business leave to go. The district attempted to thwart that visit to the CCHE by stating that my leave, and Amy Achtermann's leave, needed to be unpaid or personal leave. Clearly, my district, Aurora Public Schools, supports Relay. However, life happens, and I suddenly found myself in Missouri at my parents' house dealing with a family emergency. I am still in Missouri.  I wish I could have been at the CCHE meeting. I needed to be there. But again, life happens.

Please read my short note here on BustEDPencils re: the final unanimous approval of Relay.

Here is the first response by Kerrie Dallman (see photo of Ms. Dallman with Hillary Clinton) that can be found in the comments:

Peggy- your characterization that the Union remained silent is inaccurate. Both the CEA and local associations testified against the Relay Graduate School approval.

First, the only reason the local associations were there (as I shared above) is a result of the Cherry Creek Union president, Sheryl  Cunningham, submitting an NBI at the delegate assembly this spring in which she requested that members be educated about Relay Graduate School.  Sheryl and I have been in touch all year regarding Relay and I am so grateful to her for submitting the NBI.  Randall Peterson, CEA spokesperson, attended the CCHE meeting and spoke on behalf of CEA members.  I am grateful to Randall for representing us and I heard he did an excellent job. Thank you Randall!  I am grateful to the delegates for voting in support of this NBI. And yes, CEA followed through with the NBI. That is all wonderful. But I'm not inaccurate.

This is the deal.

It's not enough. And it's too late. It was simply a dog and pony show. An attempt to appear proactive.

The handling of Relay, by our state union, is a symptom of business model or "service" model unionism. There was no rank and file involved, minus the six  teachers who spoke (five from CCEA and one from AEA).  Those teachers were there because Sheryl Cunningham mobilized CCEA  and then asked my AEA president if Amy Achtermann and I could attend and speak.  If Sheryl had not mobilized her local and contacted my local, Randall would have been the only person present from our union. CEA sent out a memo April 27th to alert locals regarding the meeting at CCHE, but let's face facts - again, a little too late - a Wednesday, April 27th memo gives locals 6 working days to mobilize for a Friday, May 6th meeting.  

Mobilization should have occurred in the summer of 2015 when principals and educational leaders in Colorado were already attending the Relay National Principal Academy Fellowship and when Relay filed with the state. Sheryl planned to mobilize with or without the memo to be completely frank. CCEA and AEA were the only locals presence - and understandably so. We were two of the few locals who even knew about Relay previous to Sheryl's NBI. Every local should have know about Relay in August of 2015.

What's truly fascinating about all of this is that the state union has been monitoring this Relay "situation" all along. And ultimately, the union should have been educating the teachers and the parents about the perils of Relay - ALL ALONG.  The union should have informed the deans of the colleges of education in Colorado. The union should have visited the public schools inflicted by Relay to hear from the teachers. The union should have mobilized rank and file to attend every state board of education meeting and CCHE meeting during which Relay continued to get passed on through - we should have packed the house. The union should have mobilized and canvassed the neighborhoods of Relay Leadership Schools, such as Jewell Elementary where Amy and I teach.

To show up, at the end, the final vote, where it was crystal clear that CCHE already planned to support Relay, was quite honestly, a little too late. I did my research prior to the CCHE meeting, and I knew that CCHE was going to support Relay, just as the CO State Board of Education had done. I knew it was a lost cause, because this fight to take down Relay should have started a long time ago. Instead, there was silence.

CEA did nothing really. They whipped out a quick memo with a few national links to Relay info. and then sent out a representative to attend the meeting. I know what it looks like to mobilize rank and file. It requires planning and educating. There was no mobilization. Honestly, to explain Relay in a memo is laughable to those of us who have lived it. An April 27th memo to locals before a May 6th vote is really, well, pathetic. However, as I look at the entire situation I just see it as another symptom of business unionism.

Business, or service, unionism is ultimately destroying our state union. And Relay, now able to certify teachers in Colorado, will assist in dismantling CEA as the Relay teachers will have no need for a union  - they will work for a  couple of years , burn out, and head out. The colleges of education will find their enrollment declining even more - eventually they will be obsolete. The parents will wonder why their children are unhappy and why their child's education is no longer filled with engaging and joyful, authentic learning. Experienced teachers and principals will no longer be needed because they cost too much money and they actually have the memory of pedagogy and child development that must be erased if Relay and other teacher "academies" are to take hold and demolish the profession of teaching. Read my blog. See what happened to my school.  Relay won.

Ms. Dallman commented again on the Busted Pencils blog stating:
The Union sent information to all members. The union led testimony at the CHE. The union researched, informed, and helped members organize and testify.

Sure.  Ms. Dallman sent out an email on April 27th and the CCHE meeting was May 6th.  Got it. The union sent info, as they should have, after the delegate assembly this spring, all as a result of Sheryl Cunningham's NBI and as a result of delegate support. Got that too. Truly, the fact that it took this NBI to get this ball rolling is, again, A LITTLE TOO LATE. CEA is not stupid. They know Relay has been in the works for months. And what's even more fascinating about the April 27th memo is that it has no links to local information about Relay in Colorado's public schools - no mention of CO districts it has infiltrated - members won't have a clue where Relay has taken hold. Lynn Kalinauskas wrote about it in Denver here and here.  Mobilizing in one week to take down a fake graduate school that has been making slick and silent headway ALL YEAR LONG at public meetings via CCHE and the Colorado SBOE? Mobilizing in one week? Dog and pony show. Nothing more.  And believe me, I know all about dog and pony shows. Relay requires these, as will #teachstrong which our national unions support; Relay is a member of #teachstrong of course. Relay is the role model for charter chains who operate using militant, racist models of discipline and teaching designed to condition teachers and children to comply. It's ugly. Very very ugly. 

So, a CEA shout out against Relay at the final vote? Really?  After teachers and children have endured the wrath of Relay all year? Sorry, a little too late.

Business unionism is slimy politics. Let's hope this is a wakeup call for Colorado teachers to mobilize their locals and demand a new president and a social movement union model.  With ESSA in tow to create more teacher academies similar to Relay, as well as funneling millions to charters (who support these fake teachers), I can assure you, we have our work cut out for us. While the unions applaud ESSA,  ESSA will take down our profession and destroy our public schools. I read the whole damn thing. All 1061 pages. ESSA is slick and slimy politics - much like business unionism.

As it stands in Colorado, teachers, children, and parents will lose under this model of unionism. The passage of Relay is an unfortunate example of what lies ahead of us, unless, local unionism rises up.

Solidarity to the rank and file.

May the wind be at your back.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Amy Achtermann, Jewell Elementary School Teacher, Speaks in Opposition of Relay Graduate School

On May 6th, the Colorado Commission of Higher Education gathered to take a vote on the proposed certification of Relay Graduate School. Here is Amy's testimony in opposition to Relay:

My name is Amy Achtermann.  I am a 4th grade teacher at Jewell Elementary in Aurora, Colorado and I am speaking in opposition to Relay Graduate School of Education and my opposition to its damaging practices, programs, and philosophies regarding teacher training.

Disappointing, stressful, unhealthy, demeaning, unsuccessful, frustrating, and not appropriate for educating children.  These are all comments that were made by my coworkers when describing this past year.  I ask myself why a dedicated staff who gives their heart and soul to our Jewell Community would say the same things that I personally have been feeling throughout the year.  My answer is that our Principal was implementing the things that she learned in Relay Graduate School Principal Training that she has been attending since last summer. 

No more do we hear things like let’s do what is best for children or how can we make our teaching more engaging or how can we provide the services needed to help these students be successful.  Gone were the years we dedicated to inquiry and deeper thinking.  These were all replaced by thinking about test scores and drill and practice.  We lost weeks of instruction time this year to giving online tests so we could have lots of data.  Most of that data was never used to guide instruction because we needed to move on to another set of assessments.  You know there is a problem when you have to suspend reading groups and authentic teaching to teach to and give tests.  My students routinely are asking me when we can get back to learning about history or completing science projects.  I feel like I am committing educational malpractice.

I am also disheartened that my amazing coworkers are told continually that we can’t be successful educators, if we do not have the test scores to back up our teaching practices.  When you are constantly told that you are a failure it breaks you down and erodes your self-confidence.  Teachers can only maintain this level of unwarranted criticism for a short time before they either give up and choose a new profession or break down.  How can this help students?  How do we improve test scores when our teaching time is severely reduced and replaced by testing?

These are my concerns and why I feel so strongly that Relay is not a solution for struggling students.  My students are not just a test score or a set of data to collect.  They are human beings who have differing needs and abilities.  The educators I work with are also outstanding people who dedicate every day to building up children and creating responsible and productive members of society despite the harsh treatment they receive.  I know that I am just one person but I speak for many. 

Relay passed with a unanimous vote of support by the CCHE. The only people in attendance to speak out in opposition of Relay were Cherry Creek School District Association members, Amy Achtermann from Aurora Public Schools and Aurora Education Association Board Member; and Randall Peterson, spokeperson for CEA.

While the masses slept the Colorado Commission of Higher Education voted in a fake graduate program that will certify teachers. This so-called graduate program has a dean who appears to be all of 31 years old, based on the research I have done. She is a former TFA. She has two years teaching experience. She has a bachelor's in sociology and a M.S.T. from PACE where it appears you become a teacher by interacting with videos of robotic students who respond to you. 

I have no words for the devastation that just befell the children of Colorado and our teaching profession. As Relay teachers take hold, via a 2 yr. program tied to raising student test scores, hired at a cheaper salary than experienced teachers such as myself, anticipate the further destruction of any democratic thinking. There is no pedagogy here - there is simply a no-excuse model of discipline paired with non-educators whose harm to our community will be nothing short of educational malpractice. Many thanks to those who attended the CCHE meeting. My attendance and participation came to a complete halt due to a family emergency. 

Shame on the Colorado Commission of Higher Education, shame on the Aurora Public Schools, shame on the Colorado State Board of Education, shame on any other entity that would even entertain the idea of placing non-educators trained by non-educators in our public schools as so-called "certified" teachers. Shame on those who did not come forward to support teachers, such as myself and Amy, who have been speaking about the abuse and malpractice Relay has inflicted on our profession and our children ALL YEAR. Shame on all of you - and this vote - it is on your shoulders. 

Amy Achtermann, you have my greatest respect and gratitude for representing Jewell's teachers and children. Solidarity. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Opt Out Irony

Currently it's Spring of 2016 and we are in the thick of Opt Out.  

Opt out is still surrounded by intense bullying and harassment by school district employees (I anticipate that this will grow unfortunately). But, the good news is that the Opt Out Movement continues to increase in numbers. Opt Out, the People's Movement, grows by the day - and thank god for that because the work ahead of us is daunting.  

Here’s why.  Opt out has been completely co-opted. However, also understand that co-optation is typical when people are attempting to create a revolution. The .01% will co-opt in any way they can in order to gain leverage.  They will use pawns to help create co-optation and compromise.  These pawns who receive corporate funding will continue to push corporate ideology - which right now means singing the praises of ESSA. 

And the passage of ESSA means that the end of year test eventually could become passé.  ESSA is pushing for online, daily testing - testing that is embedded inside online curriculum.  Children will now be subjected to online modules in which they must master something before moving on to the next online module.  It might be called personalized learning, mastery learning, proficiency-based testing, competency-based education, innovative assessments, and more. ESSA is pushing for these online assessment systems, as is ALEC, and the many foundations and organizations that are hoping to cash in.

As Stephen Krashen states: Competency-based education is not just a testing program.  It is a radical and expensive innovation that replaces regular instruction with computer "modules" that students work through on their own. It is limited to what can be easily taught and tested by computer, and is being pushed by computer and publishing companies that will make substantial profits from it.  

Not only are they pushing for daily online testing and curriculum, they are pushing for people to DROP the end of the year test. Who knew! They support Opt Out!

Imagine the headline for this amazing shift in testing.

Opt Out Movement Wins!!! End of Year Test. Poof. Gone.


Everyone , and their mother, will quietly guide the states and districts to assist them in implementing ESSA state policies - which of course will include daily online testing - via lots of federal cash. 

The ESSA policy guides (and every corporate foundation/nonprofit/group, etc. has one) are all incredibly similar - full of ALEC messaging.  One group that is leading the way, iNACOL (International Association for K12 Online Learning), has the former chair of the ALEC Education Task Force on their board.  When I read iNACOL's guide for states it aligns with much of what my district (Aurora Public Schools) is doing;  the language is identical, as are many of the directives coming from the district office.

Knowledge Works (another monster) states in their guide:

Break summative annual assessments into smaller, more frequent assessments administered throughout the year. This will enable students to demonstrate mastery when ready and provide stakeholders with more timely feedback to make necessary improvements to maximize performance.

Request their guide (Recommendations for Advancing Personalized Learning Under the Every Student Succeeds Act) to find out more.

Also, be sure to read how the Rockefeller Foundation plans to solve the "youth employment crisis" via competency-based hiring.  Never forget that the goal is to gather data from cradle to adulthood. As daily online testing infiltrates the schools there will be more data than ever before - the data will be used to control, manage and direct our children into employment - or prison -  in order to benefit the .01%.  Competency based hiring will be made possible due to the data that will morph into micro-credentials or digital badges online.  This is already happening - it was planned patiently, methodically, and over years.  For more information on this read Morna McDermott and Emily Talmage.

ESSA is literally the sell-off of our public schools (online daily curriculum and testing being just ONE issue).  And the states - with their new found power via ESSA -  will move forward to make it all a reality using model ALEC legislation.  Everything is in place to make this happen: the statewide longitudinal databases, the technology and necessary infrastructure, the common data tags via common core standards (sorry CC is not going away no matter how they rename them or tweak them), the strategically placed reform leaders, the starving public schools, and then of course the federal bill, ESSA. Meanwhile, all the players are in place - the teachers, the children - we are all here for the taking - if we allow it to happen.

So, while it’s incredibly important to continue to push and build the Opt Out Movement - it’s also absolutely paramount that Opt Out is not singular. 

Here’s the sick irony. By pushing Opt Out – as a singular event – we are in essence doing exactly what the corporate regime wants us to do. We are playing right into their PR campaign. Ultimately, those who love to cash in on our public schools and our children have absolutely NO problem with getting rid of the end of the year test - they are more than happy to bring us a new form of testing. Truly. It's co-optation at its finest. They will solve all our problems with the nasty end of year test by giving us better tests - tests that go unnoticed in a child's daily - now required - online learning.

No-Excuse-Charter-Chain King (aka Sec. of Ed. John King) told the states to move rapidly on ESSA "opportunity" in his speech just this week. Think about this - they passed this bill in TEN DAYS this December 2015. And now, they are rushing rushing rushing to get it implemented quickly.  They must cash in before people know what's happening. I read the entire ESSA - and I am positively sick over the support it has been offered by our unions and many educational leaders and activists.

And let's make one thing crystal clear. One CANNOT support Opt Out and support the ESSA - that, my friend, is a clear indicator of co-optation in the works. 

So.....those who have rigged this game are - right now - applauding the singular focus on Opt Out – because it does TWO things.

#1 It distracts the masses from paying attention to the quiet, quick, and strategic implementation of ESSA. As long as ESSA messaging continues to be positive - as evidenced in mainstream media, social media, via our unions and other leaders and educational organizations who hold PR power - the masses will simply NOT KNOW what's happening. Remember when Common Core passed through the state legislatures while everyone was sleeping?  Imagine that nightmare expanded ten-fold with ESSA.  

#2 Opt Out messaging which focuses ONLY on the end of year test ultimately serves their end goal. They can say - WE AGREE - dump that ridiculous archaic end of year test and let's find something better!!!! This will increase profit and  increase privilege for the  .01%  as they bring in shiny new daily online assessments, online curriculum and technology.

We, of course, MUST continue to Opt Out of the end of year test - BUT -  let them know that's JUST THE BEGINNING of the civil disobedience headed their way. Districts are already in line to embrace daily online competency based education - your district could be next. Let them know you will be refusing THAT too. 

Opt Out was never about one big bad ugly test. At UOO we made that clear, once again, at our conference this year.  Funny, how our conference (full of information to take down components of ESSA) didn't make it into much education news this year, huh? Wouldn't want to let THAT cat out of the bag in the midst of an ESSA propaganda extravaganza, now would they? Everything is intentional. And our sold out conference made it clear that the Opt Out Movement - the people - can indeed win this, if we choose to do so. 

ESSA includes a menu of opportunities to take everything from our children, while still demanding they be ranked, sorted, and ordered.

Our greatest hope at this point is that the Opt Out Movement – the People’s Movement – becomes more  educated and more strategic than ever before.  For starters, we must demand curriculum reviews and we must refuse online curriculum and other online programs that are being used to cash in on our starving public schools and our children. We must educate our school boards, our parents, our local unions and our communities.  We must not be distracted by compromises - make no mistake, every single compromise used as a way to appease the masses has led us Right. Here.  

Let Opt Out take on a bigger message than opposing the end of the year test; currently that is how mainstream media wants to frame it. We have to shift that - if we don't - they will dismantle our schools, our colleges of education, our teaching profession -  and they will use our children to do it.  The number of attacks occurring right now are immense - and the ESSA is rolling out the red carpet for it to happen.

At UOO we state:  United Opt Out National serves as a focused point of unyielding resistance to corporate ed. reform. We demand an equitably funded, democratically based, anti-racist, desegregated public school system for all Americans that prepares students to exercise compassionate and critical decision making with civic virtue. 

Watch the 2016 UOO conference in Philly to learn more.  Pay attention to the continued co-optation of Opt Out and educate your community.  See UOO's next steps here (more information to follow soon).

We demand an end to all corporate education reform.  No negotiations. 

All for all children. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Do Aurora Public School Parents Know they can REFUSE the PARCC and/or CMAS test?

Next week my school begins PARCC testing (it may be called CMAS in some schools). And for the most part, very few parents know that they can refuse the test because the district has not shared the Aurora Opt Out Policy.

Our children have spent the majority of the year testing or practicing for tests - and now they must take. Another. Test. 

The teachers have posted standards, targets, success criteria, given pre/post assessments, given on demand writing assessments (via Lucy Calkins writing program now tied ever so efficiently to the common core - cha ching), issued exit tickets, and now this past week children have completed PARCC practice tests online - all in an effort to get our school out of turnaround status. Teachers have unpacked standards, repacked standards, created long term planning with the standards. We have administered BAS (Benchmark Assessment System - reading test) to children again and again and dissected the BAS in an attempt to teach to the BAS - there by destroying the value (at this point I question that there is any) in giving the BAS. We have given PALS (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening) numerous times (an isolated reading skill assessment) which is worthless but must be reported to the state . We have given Acuity (by McGraw-Hill) - THREE times - and will give it a fourth time after PARCC. The Acuity supposedly aligns with PARCC - it is racist, classist and of course developmentally inappropriate. The English language learners have taken ACCESS (by WIDA) - an online language test that is beyond worthless and incredibly difficult to pass - I believe intentionally so - continued testing means continued profit. The kindergarten teachers must give TS Gold (Teaching Strategies Gold) - read here and here about this intrusive assessment. These tests all have multiple parts - they take hours upon hours - they disrupt and destroy any chance of instruction. As teachers have been required to dissect the results of BAS, PALS, Acuity they have lost time to plan for authentic instruction based on their teacher observations and teacher created assessments (such as formative running records) After PARCC, and after the 4th round of Acuity, we will give BAS and PALS - AGAIN. 

And then the year will be over - it will be the end of May. 

The corporations and federal mandates have successfully turned our school into a test prep factory. And the district has not only fulfilled the federal requirements for testing, they have ADDED to the testing. 

There is a sad joke in our school that after winter break school is over. But it is over. And when there was an opportunity to teach even before winter break - our hands have been tied  - the teaching has been constricted and void of student input, democratic thinking and teacher autonomy. When learning is compiled into a busy looking agenda of standards, success criteria and data driven instruction, the result is really minimal learning - if any. The learning that does occur is the most dumb-downed learning one can imagine - full of formulaic writing, skill/drill, and regurgitation of facts - because that is what the tests demand. The end goal is not educating the whole child, the end goal is raising mind-numbing test scores.

I am always fascinated by the dog and pony show of posted standards and children who can regurgitate the learning target - in order to appease the district administration and the Colorado Department of Education who sadly have bought into a test/punish system  - a system that is being used to dumb-down the district and the learning that occurs in our classroom. A system that continues to create more jobs at the top, rather than on the ground, in the schools, with the children. A system that continues to demand that educators adhere to a false reality - while keeping parents in the dark about these truths.

When a district decides it's a good idea to allow non-educators, such as Relay Fake Graduate School, to TRAIN (and I can assure it's training, like dog training) REAL educators with teaching degrees - we know that we have a serious, devastating problem. A heartbreaking problem, considering that this district, by far, has been known in the past, for having some of the best professional development in the state. Relay is all about test scores. Therefore, my school is now all about test scores.

All that being said, I write this knowing that I have ten weeks left in this district (more on this later). And I am looking around at a learning environment that has been devastated, destroyed, and demolished - using fear tactics, top-down management and blatant teaching to the test. The word "child" is rarely used in any discussion of our work. Our work is about data - gathering the data, handling the data, entering the data online in various data banks. We are data technicians. 

Next week our children will be subjected to a racist, classist test (PARCC/CMAS) that will be used to rank, sort, and order our children - ONCE AGAIN - to prove that our school is "failing" (not so - we are UNDER-RESOURCED).  Once again we will subject ourselves to a vicious game that is meant to fail everyone - the children, the teachers, the district and the community. Our brilliant, creative children, many who speak two languages, many who come from homes lacking books, adequate nutrition, and health care, will be asked to "persevere" on a test that is developmentally inappropriate and demands that they sit for hours each day staring at a screen (7 days for 3rd/4th and 10 days for 5th). The children are not allowed to read when the test is done; this is educational malpractice upon education malpractice.  How this decision was made I am unsure, as I am not a part of the testing team. I do hope that this decision will be abandoned before testing begins on Tuesday. These children deserve to read a book when this horrific test is done - and to require them to sit/stare rather than read, is denying them their right to learning time during the school day. I wonder if the parents know this is happening?

The fights and the battles to do what is best and right and just for children are never ending. Exhausting. And crushing.

Our school has already been told that we will be given less money next year. As the district allocates school funding it appears we've been cut two teachers, we've been cut specials time (art/music/pe/library - down to 3.5 days) and we've been cut READ Act money (READ Act money funded most of my position as literacy interventionist).  There is no money for my full-time position next year. By contract the district is required to offer me another position within the district (or place me in the sub pool) but I will not be staying. Perhaps I'll share more about that later - but let's get back to what I said about the funding at my school. 

A school in turnaround has been CUT funding - let that sink in. I have no words for these cruelties that are placed upon our children. But pay attention - this is how it works - this is how they shut down public schools and eventually increase the number of charters. This is how they bring in TFA (Teach for Awhile) or Fake Relay teachers who cost less and will work like crazy for two years in order to add this stepping stone to their resume. This is the privatization of public schools. Under-resourced schools ultimately cannot survive - the system is designed to devour them and allow the corporations to cash in on them - as it is, the corporations practically own us now. 

I will not be at school next year when the PARCC results come back and the teachers are required to sit - once again - and look at the scores and ask....What do you see? What does this mean? What action will we take? That meeting was useless, as you can imagine, as we continue to be denied resources, small class size, a certified/licensed librarian, a registered/licensed nurse, and so on. The list is never ending in regard to what we need. Our parents need a living wage. Our children need food, health care and books. 

It is clear to me that the powers that be will continue to enforce mandates that are now past my ability to fight on the inside. It has become soul crushing. The complexities of this situation are so many that I cannot attempt to express it in this one blog. Perhaps if you scroll back through the rest of my posts this year you might get the bigger picture. And within the bigger picture, the ESSA will bring more testing, more charters, and less teachers with true four year teaching degrees to my district. The writing is on the wall. Will I continue to fight it? Of course. 

As I have talked to people over this past year who have come into our school, it has been interesting to hear them say that they "sensed" something was different. You can feel the layers of democracy as they are ripped - ever so harshly -  from the classrooms, leaving behind a void or a silence. 

"This is not good for children" is the phrase I have heard quietly through out the building all year long. It's a phrase that has caused many a teacher to suffer from physical and emotional stress this year. The tears I have seen this year, and still see, as we attempt to express what our loss feels like, and how that loss impacts our children, is truly, never ending. And at this point, there is not a mass outcry to stop this, and so it continues. Those lone soldiers who do speak out are shunned, silenced, and alienated. Attempting to hold on to your humanity is a daily battle as you are bombarded with language, procedures, and mandates that ask you to forget that you are human. 

So, as our children are forced to test beginning next week, I shake my head, at the district's absolute silence on Opt Out. There is no humanity here. Why not tell the parents about their right to opt out without negative consequences? 

While administrators and teachers and parents speak up all across the country to educate, the Aurora Public School District stays silent.  The parents have been denied information they could use to make a decision regarding their child's participation in this racist, classist and developmentally inappropriate test. And this is not a white movement that only exists in suburbia. The Opt Out movement impacts all communities and communities of color are increasingly joining the Opt Out movement. See here and here

It would be amazing if Aurora Public Schools joined, wouldn't it? 

House Bill 15-1323 requires that Colorado districts must implement and adopt an opt out plan for parents who wish to opt their children out of PARCC.  I looked up some of the districts in Colorado to see how they handled sharing this opt out procedure. Aurora did not share their procedure. They simply placed it in the board policies - and it is no easy feat to find this policy. How does one adopt and implement a policy for parents, if the parents don't know about it?

Here is how Denver Public Schools handled their Opt Out Policy (be sure to zoom in on each of these screen shots):

Here is how Jefferson County Public Schools handled their Opt Out Policy:

Here is how Cherry Creek Public Schools handled their Opt Out Policy:

And here is how Littleton Public Schools handled their Opt Out Policy:

Aurora simply created a policy and placed it here: .

Good luck finding it.

And how does one search for an Opt Out Policy if one doesn't know such a thing exists? 

How does a district implement a policy if no one knows such a policy is out there?

Implement by definition means: to fullfill, peform, carry out. 

This Opt Out Plan has not been implemented. 

Shame on Aurora Public Schools. 

Please share. Let the parents know. And please encourage Aurora Public Schools to do right by their children. 

As we say at United Opt Out National:
We demand an equitably funded, democratically based, anti-racist, desegregated public school system for all Americans that prepares students to exercise compassionate and critical decision making with civic virtue.

Tell the parents. Let them help the district fight for what is best for our children and our communities.

Here is a basic opt out letter to send in with your child next week. Your child is allowed to stay at school and the school cannot inflict any negative consequences on your child for refusing the PARCC/CMAS. Let me know if I can help. My email is 

Date  ______________________
My child,  __________________________________, will not be taking state assessments (PARCC/CMAS) during the 2016 school year. My child should not be asked about my refusal to allow participation, should not be pressured to participate, and should not be asked to make up the test—even though he/she attends school within the testing window.  

Fecha ______________________

Mi hijo, ______________, no tomará las evaluaciones estatales (PARCC/CMAS) el año escolar 2016. A mi hijo no le pregunten acerca de mi negativa a permitir la participación, y tampoco no debe ser presionado para participar, y no le hagan tomar ninguna prueba, a pesar de que él o ella asiste a la escuela dentro el periodo de pruebas. 


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Billions for Online Testing, Online Curriculum & Technology. This was never about the kids.

As Obama rolls out coding for everyone, updates his technology plan, his testing action plan, the relaunch of peer review of state assessment plans, and pushes forward all sorts of lovely competency based digital badging via workforce/skills training, daily testing, online curriculum, etc. etc. via ESSA, folks are debating the merits of these particular initiatives. I recall going through this with common core and I seriously wanted to throw my entire set of dishes across the room every time I had to have this conversation and this is why....

First - make no mistake - this is being rolled out not because the corporations and the Dept. of Ed. suddenly sense this absolute urgency to fulfill a child's desperate life long need to learn coding and/or punch away at a computer all day in absolute zombie like glaze-eyed fashion. They would love - absolutely love - for us to spin our wheels debating what we like and don't like while we interact within their test/punish system that continues to drive profit to the .01% while destroying the public school system and the teaching profession and ranking/sorting/ordering our children to keep privilege with the privileged.

Oh and be sure to check out the time for the rollout of all the initiatives along with the passage of ESSA - all in one full swoop - carefully planned and orchestrated within months. Understand one thing clearly - the test/punish system must be destroyed in its entirety if there is any hope whatsoever of shutting down the madness of privatization headed our way via ESSA.

And why all of this so fast?????  Because it MAKES MONEY. If this were about children we would see Obama throwing billions into funding for librarians, nurses, counselors, fine arts, small class size, building repairs, books, more teachers with teaching degrees, after school activities, health care, nutrition and more. But NO. This is about data. This is about demands and shifts in the market to meet the NEEDS OF THE MARKET - NOT CHILDREN.

I mean think about it- we've got buildings with no teachers, buildings with black mold and schools with no resources. But suddenly.......suddenly everyone needs to learn coding? Yeah. Right. I took coding in high school and college. Yawn.

What they need is data. You can't get data from a brand new dry wall. Every time a child punches a keyboard they enter one more piece of data. Every piece of data creates more data and public education is the data gold mine right now. Data allows them to manage, control, persuade and steer the people where they want them. This is not about who a child is, what she loves to do, or what he hopes to become in this world. This is about hard cold cash via data.

If you missed this datapalooza via Knewton you should watch it now.

If they want to flood the market to lower the salary within the many fields of workforce training they can do it. Remember, there never was a STEM crisis. So, we can waste our time debating the pros and cons of standards, coding, technology, new forms of so-called innovative testing and more. Ho hum. They'd like to keep us busy debating. Meanwhile, understand that in ten years public schools as we know them will no longer exist. Poof. Gone.

The ESSA comes up for reauthorization in four years. They are running - full speed ahead - to take it all (the public school system) before the public understands that online testing and curriculum is no more than a glorified skills-based worksheet on a screen.

They will swallow every piece of student data they can get and they will spit out the children one by one until they've devoured every last data tag possible that a child can muster up. They will gather data on a child's hard skills and soft skills - emotion, character traits - they will get as much as they can - facial expressions, heart rate, pupil dilation and more. As Ed Week says - the race is on to provide schools with personalized learning - check out THAT link and your hair will stand on end.

They will feed hungry children tests upon tests upon tests - daily - in strip mall charter schools, from home via online learning, in an under-resourced school and dilapidated trailers - they care nothing for the child and/or the conditions of the child's home, school, or the child's well-being.

There will be no teaching profession. Just facilitators and online learning with daily testing for all.

It really makes you wonder what all those applause for the ESSA were - huh? We at UOO warned of this for months before the passage of ESSA, and we'll continue to push forward to stop it at our conference this month in Philly.

As long as we continue to give any credibility to any of their plans we are simply a pawn in the game that the corporations and the .01% have been planning for years upon years. If we want to end it we must revolt. Don't try to reason with them and/or make the best of an absolutely shitty situation.

Demand all for all children and refuse their tests, their online curriculum (do this in large groups - watch what happens when an entire CLASS refuses to allow their children to take an online curriculum) and refuse their stupid coding classes.

As we say at UOO: We demand an equitably funded, democratically based, anti-racist, desegregated public school system for all Americans that prepares students to exercise compassionate and critical decision making with civic virtue.

Revolt and let's get this done.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Parent Speaks Up at a “Turnaround” School in Aurora, Colorado; Un Padre Da su Opinión en una Escuela de “Voltear” en Aurora, Colorado

The following is an interview I conducted with a parent from my school. The parent chose to remain anonymous.

Thanks for doing this interview. As a teacher at Jewell I think it's important that all parents understand changes that are occurring in public education, so I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and your children's experiences this year at our school.  As a teacher, I also believe it's my responsibility to keep children's well-being and learning at the forefront of all my decisions, which is why I reached out to you for this blog post. The parent perspective has been missing from my recent blogs about my experience in a school labeled as "turnaround."  Hopefully we can help the Colorado Dept. of Ed., the Colorado State Board of Education, and the Aurora Public Schools to think carefully about the decisions they are making and how these decisions impact our children, teachers, schools and communities.

So let's get started!

Gracias por hacer esta entrevista.  Como una maestra en Jewell yo creo que es importante que todos los padres entienden los cambios que están ocurriendo en la educación pública.  De verdad aprecio que está compartiendo sus experiencias y las experiencias de sus hijos, este año en nuestra escuela. Como una maestra, también creo que es mi responsabilidad a considerar en mis decisiones el bienestar y el aprendizaje de los niños. Este es porque extiendo el brazo a usted en este blog.  Falta la perspectiva de los padres en mis blogs recientes sobre mi experiencia en una escuela etiquetada de “turnaround” o “voltear” en español (son escuelas cuyos bajos rendimientos requieren la ayuda de fondos federales).   Con suerte, podemos ayudar a el Departamento de Educación en Colorado, el Directorio Estatal de Educación y las Escuelas Públicas de Aurora pensar cuidadosamente en las decisiones que están haciendo, y como estas decisiones impactan nuestros hijos, maestros, escuelas y comunidades. 

¡Vamos a comenzar!

Can you talk a little bit about your children's experience at Jewell last year?
¿Pudiera platicar un poco acerca de las experiencias de sus hijos en la escuela Jewell el año pasado?

Well, in general, our kids have always been happy at Jewell. They looked forward to school days and often told me excitedly about what they were learning. Fun seemed to be a part of the classroom life and homework mostly involved reading and review of things they learned during school time. They seemed to connect more with their teachers in other years, coming home and telling me about something funny the teacher said or did.

Pues, en general, nuestros hijos siempre estuvieron contentos en Jewell. Les gustaba ir a la escuela y me decían con emoción lo que aprendían. La diversión era parte del salón de clases y la tarea involucraba leer y repasar cosas que aprendieron en la escuela. Había más conexión con sus maestros en otros años, y llegaban a casa contando algo graciosos que hizo o dijo el maestro. 

Can you talk a little bit about your children's experience at Jewell this year?
¿Pudiera platicar un poco acerca de las experiencias de sus hijos en la escuela Jewell este año?

This year has definitely been different for them. My partner battles with them every morning because they don’t want to go to school. When I ask them why, they simply can’t give me an answer. It’s like they just lost interest. I rarely hear them mention anything that they are looking forward to. I don’t hear the fun stories or feel that they have a genuine connection with their teachers. Their homework is intense sometimes and causes them stress. At first I thought it must be something about my kids, but I slowly realized that the environment in the whole school had changed. I spoke to other parents and some told me the same thing about their kids and interest in school. Our kids were suddenly aware of assessments and how well or poorly they did. That was something new for us! The kids had never come home talking or worrying about assessments before this year.

Este año ha sido diferente para ellos. Mi pareja batalla con ellos a diario en la mañana porque no quieren ir a la escuela. Cuando les pregunto porque, simplemente no saben que decir. Es como si perdieron el interés. Ya no los escucho mencionar algo al cual esperan con gusto. No escucho las historias graciosas o siento que tienen una conexión sincera con sus maestros. Su tarea es intensa a veces y les causa estrés. Primero pensé que tal vez sería algo con mis hijos, pero luego entendí que el ambiente en toda la escuela cambio. Hable con otros padres y algunos me contaron la misma cosa sobre sus hijos y su interés en la escuela. Nuestros hijos ahora estaban conscientes de las evaluaciones y que bien o mal calificaban. ¡Esto fue algo nuevo para nosotros! Los niños jamás habían llegado a casa hablando o preocupándose sobre las evaluaciones antes de este año. 

Were you given notice that our school is now designated as a Relay Leadership School and that the principal is attending Relay Graduate School training in NY four times this year, as well as two weeks this past summer here in Denver?  If you were given notice, can you share how and what you were told?
¿Le avisaron de que nuestra escuela ya se designa una escuela Liderazgo Relay y de que la directora va a asistir a la Relay Graduate School en Nueva York cuatro veces, y que también asistía dos semanas en Denver el verano pasado?

No. We were not given notice. Admittedly, we are not great at checking the kids’ backpacks for notices, and they aren’t great at remembering to give them to us on time, but we usually get them eventually. Also, we get weekly phone calls and I have never heard anything about this training.

No. No nos avisaron. Admito que no somos los mejores en buscar noticias en las mochilas de los niños, y ellos a veces se les olvida darnos los papeles, pero normalmente nos llegan tarde o temprano. También recibimos llamadas cada semana y nunca he sabido de este entrenamiento. 

Have you noticed any changes in school culture this year?
¿Se ha dado cuenta de cualquier cambio en la cultura escolar durante este año?

Like I said, the kids are not excited about school and we are hearing the same things from our friends that have kids at Jewell. We also notice the teachers seem tired and overall just not excited either. I swear they seem happier about the breaks than the kids! It’s painfully obvious to us as parents that the morale is down.

Como mencioné, los niños no están emocionados de ir a la escuela y escuchamos lo mismo de nuestros amigos. También notamos que los maestros parecen estar cansados y sin emoción. ¡Parece que ellos se emocionan más sobre los descansos que los niños!  Es obvio para nosotros los padres que el moral está bajo.

Talk a little bit about the testing - as you know this is a big concern of mine and it's helpful for readers to hear it from the perspective of a parent whose children attend Jewell.  How do your children feel about the testing? How do you feel about it?  
Hable un poco acerca de las evaluaciones.  Es una preocupación que tengo, y es útil que lectores oyen la perspectiva de padres cuyos hijos asisten Jewell.  ¿Cómo se sienten sus hijos sobre las evaluaciones?  ¿Cómo se siente usted?  

I am honestly feeling conflicted about the testing. While I do think children should be assessed, I am not sure that the tests they take are the best way to do that. And there seems to be so much! Our kids are anxious about it every year! And we have never seen them anxious about it so early in the year! Why are they even being told about the testing except much closer to the dates? I don’t get it. There is just no way that our students will measure up to those students in affluent neighborhoods in the state. And that is not to say that they are not as smart, it’s just that there is so much more to consider with the diversity at Jewell. Some kids speak English as a second language, some have parents with no educational background to help them, some have families with money or abuse issues. Not to mention the lack of money and other resources.

I think eventually the teachers are told to teach to pass the test and not based on what interests these kids. That is where I think there is a huge problem. I don’t care whether or not my kids get some high score on some test. I just care that they learn to think critically and have fun while doing it, because they are just kids!

Me siento en conflicto sobre las evaluaciones. Mientras sí pienso que los niños deben ser evaluados, no estoy seguro que las evaluaciones que usan son la mejor manera de hacerlo. ¡Y hay tantos! ¡Nuestros hijos están ansiosos cada año! Y jamás habíamos visto la ansiedad tan temprano en el año. ¿Porque se les están hablando de estas evaluaciones tan temprano? No entiendo. No hay manera que nuestros estudiantes se comparan a esos en barrios ricos del estado. No es por falta de inteligencia, pero porque hay mucho más que considerar con la diversidad en Jewell.  Algunos niños hablan inglés como segundo idioma, algunos tienen padres sin educación formal, algunos tienen familias con problemas de dinero o abuso. También hay la falta de dinero y recursos. 

Yo creo que eventualmente los maestros están ordenados a enseñar basado en como pasar las evaluaciones y no basado en los intereses de los niños.  Este es donde yo creo que hay un gran problema.  No estoy preocupado con marcas altas en ninguna evaluación.  Solamente estoy preocupado que aprendan a pensar críticamente y que se diviertan durante el aprendizaje, porque son niños.  

By law Colorado schools are required to inform parents of the testing calendar as well as share information about their right to opt out of certain tests without any punitive consequences for the child. Did you receive any of this information? If so, how, when, and exactly what were you told?
La ley de Colorado requiere que las escuelas informan a los padres del calendario de las evaluaciones, y también compartir información sobre sus derechos de rechazar las evaluaciones, sin ninguna consecuencia negativa para los niños.  ¿Recibió usted esta información? ¿Cómo y cuándo y exactamente, que información recibió?  

Again, I’m not the best at getting info from the kids right away in the shape of letters, etc. I have not heard this from Jewell. Not in the calls, not anywhere else. I only know about this because I know others who have done it.

Una vez más, no soy el mejor a pedir la información de los niños cuando se trata de cartas, etc. No he escuchado esto de Jewell. Ni en las llamadas o en otro lugar. Solo se porque conozco otros que lo han hecho. 

Do you plan to opt your children out of CMAS/PARCC this year?  If so, why?
¿Usted tiene planes de eximir sus hijos de CMAS/PARCC este año?  ¿Por qué? 

Yes. I am opting them out. I hate how anxious my kids get over those tests. I hate how they think their worth is determined by those scores. Someone must be making a lot of money from those things and most likely those folks don’t give a darn about my kids. It’s getting out of control, in my opinion. I don’t remember testing even being on my radar when I was in elementary school. I wish everyone would opt out so we could go back to trusting teachers to know what our kids needed to/wanted to learn.

Sí. No les voy a permitir hacer los exámenes. Odio como se ponen ansiosos los niños por los exámenes. Odio que piensen que su valor se determina por sus calificaciones. Alguien tiene que estar haciendo mucho dinero de esos exámenes y es más probable que esas personas no les importen mis hijos. Está fuera de control, en mi opinión. No recuerdo el saber sobre los exámenes cuando yo asistí primaria. Quisiera que todos pidieran que sus hijos no tomaran los exámenes, para así volver a confiar en que los maestros saben lo que nuestros hijos necesitan/quieren aprender. 

Is there anything you'd like to tell parents at Jewell - anything not covered in the previous questions? ¿Hay algo más que quiere decirles a los padres de Jewell, algo no incluido en las preguntas anteriores?

Just to do your homework. If your children are not happy about going to school every morning, look beyond them, beyond the teachers even. I know it seems like your one voice does not matter in the big pic, but you’d be surprised how much it can matter. In the end our kids and their education are our responsibility.

Solo que hagan su propia tarea. Si sus hijos no son felices al ir a la escuela a diario, miren más allá de ellos, y hasta más allá de los maestros. Sé que parece que una voz no importa en la gran pantalla, pero se sorprendería cuanto en realidad sí importa. Al fin, nuestros hijos y su educación es nuestra responsabilidad. 

I want to make it clear to readers that the purpose of this blog is to communicate what is happening at Jewell from the perspective of a parent. The press is doing a stellar job of bashing Aurora's teachers and our district. If we hope to reclaim our schools it's up to us to educate, give our input, speak with truth, and consider what is best for our children. Many thanks to this parent for sharing.  And many thanks to the amazing teachers at Jewell, who I am so lucky to work with every day.  I do not believe that Relay Graduate School, run by non-educators, is a good fit for any school in need of support. Read more here about Relay "fake" Graduate School. I do not believe that teaching to the test and continual testing will improve our school either.  Our school needs resources (books, teachers, a librarian, full-time nurse and more) and our society needs to protect our children from poverty by making sure they have food, shelter, healthcare and more. Aurora Public Schools cannot be blamed for society's ills. Aurora's teachers cannot "fix" society's ills via high test scores.  It is time to stop feeding our children tests and it is time to stop punishing our neediest schools for society's failures.

Jewell Elementary Demographics:

We have approximately 40 languages spoken at our school.  We have approximately 500 students and around 70% receive free/reduced lunch.  32% of our students are English language learners.  The district of Aurora has students from 131 countries with 133 languages represented.  See more here.

Quiero clarificar a los lectores que el propósito de este blog es comunicar que está pasando en Jewell de la perspectiva de un padre.  La prensa está golpeando los maestros y el distrito de Aurora.  Si queremos reclamar nuestras escuelas, necesitamos educar, dar nuestro aporte, hablar la verdad, y considerar que es mejor para nuestros hijos.  Muchas gracias a este padre por compartir.  Y muchas gracias a los maestros increíbles en Jewell.  Estoy muy afortunada de trabajar con ellos cada día.  No creo que “Relay Graduate School,” organizada sin educadores, es buena para ninguna escuela que necesita apoyo.  Lee más aquí sobre el falso “Relay Graduate School.”  Tampoco creo que enseñando solo para pasar las evaluaciones y examinando constante mejorará nuestra escuela.  La escuela necesita recursos (libros, maestros, un bibliotecario, una enfermera a tiempo completo y más) y nuestra sociedad necesita proteger nuestros hijos de la pobreza por asegurandar que tienen comida, abrigo, cuidado de la salud y más.  Las Escuelas Públicas de Aurora no tiene la culpa de los problemas de la sociedad.  Los maestros de Aurora no pueden fijar problemas de la sociedad con marcas altas en las evaluaciones.  Es tiempo de dejar de castigar las escuelas más necesitadas por los fracasos de la sociedad.  

Estadísticas demográficas de Jewell: 

Tenemos aproximadamente 40 idiomas que se hablan en nuestra escuela.  Tenemos aproximadamente 500 estudiantes y 70% almuerzo gratis/reducido.  Treinta y dos por ciento de los estudiantes están aprendiendo inglés.  El distrito de Aurora tiene estudiantes de 131 países con 133 idiomas representadas.  Para más información, lee aquí.