Sunday, April 13, 2014

NBI #10 at CEA: Withdraw from PARCC

I spoke at the CEA Delegate Assembly twice this weekend. My second time was for NBI #10 Withdraw from PARCC. I was very nervous. The entire delegate assembly protocol is new to me and I jumped in - trying to do my part and become a union member who advocates for children and helps to create change which will allow us to reclaim our public schools and our profession. Here is what I said. Someone came up to me and asked me to write it up and share it so I am doing so. Feel free to use it however it might help you. The best news is this - NBI #10 passed. Here is the final version: CEA shall join in coalition with other organizations demanding the withdrawal of Colorado from the PARCC assessment and placing a moratorium on high stakes standardized tests. 

 Solidarity to all of you.

My comments in favor of NBI #10 Withdraw from PARCC

My name is Peggy Robertson. Aurora/Littleton Uniserve. Speaking as an individual. I am in favor of this NBI. There was a lot of talk here yesterday about teachers being harmed - about students and school communities being harmed. The pain we feel now is nothing compared to the pain headed our way via PARCC. This is why I do what I do at United Opt Out - because I recognize that when the common core tests arrive - public education is a sinking ship.  I give it ten years.

PARCC will put us on the fast track to privatization.  This is not just one more test.  There is no evidence that shows that PARCC, or any standardized test for that matter, increases student achievement. The PARCC is designed to assess standards that were never field tested, are developmentally inappropriate and are funded by the corporations for the corporations.  PARCC will cost our country billions of dollars all funneled to the corporations.

The state budget in Colorado shows 16.8 million for the PARCC - that doesn't include the technology for the online testing. Cherry Creek has already spent 10 million on technology just to be PARCC compliant.  The Lewis Palmer District has already hired 22 people - strictly for tech support related to this testing.

The billions to be made are found in the test, the technology to take the test, the infrastructure for the technology, the updating of the technology, the administration of the tests, the grading of the tests, the cost of lost instructional time and the cost of lost authentic learning. This test is designed to fail students, teachers and school communities. It is designed to confirm the narrative that our schools are failing. It is predicted that Massachusetts is the only state that will do well on the test.

This test will increase test prep, narrowed curriculum and student-technology-time spent solely on preparing to take the test.  It is guaranteed that our neediest children will suffer the most as their schools fail first and are handed over to privatizers. As students fail the PARCC, the floodgates open to a new wave of privatization which will occur at a wicked fast pace.

The harm inflicted on children now will feel like  a walk in the park after PARCC - no pun intended. Charters, vouchers, Teach for America, schools like Carpe Diem (4 teachers, 300 students), brand spankin' new common core curriculum to improve test scores, new common core online learning programs, new test prep - all of these - will rush in to save the day in the name of the almighty dollar.

The PARCC is designed as an anchor to further privatize public education using our children and our school communities to create profit.  Once PARCC is set in place it will be very difficult - if not impossible - to stop the movement to privatize public education, the movement to destroy the teaching profession, destroy school communities, and most devastating - destroy children's lives. Thank you.

UOO to CEA: How Can We Help?

The CEA Delegate Assembly just ended here in Denver. I was a delegate this year. My first time. I met a lot of amazing folks and learned a lot. We attempted to get an NBI passed that stated:

OPT OUT: CEA will work with various parent groups and CDE in clarifying the rights of parents to opt out their children from taking standardized tests. CEA will work with CDE to define the procedures for opting out and will communicate this to parents. Students, teachers, schools, and districts will be held harmless. 

There was a lot of misinformation shared on the floor during debate. I spoke once and signed up to speak again, yet debate was closed before I had a chance to clarify. 

The NBI did not pass. This didn't surprise me. It also doesn't deter me from moving forward. I posted the following on FB that night to clarify some of the misunderstandings shared on the floor:

Opt out DOES NOT count as a zero. Opt out DOES NOT diminish funding in Title 1 schools - funding is typically re-allocated to test prep. Opt out makes it impossible to evaluate teachers because there is NO DATA that can be used to evaluate - if 6% per subgroup refuses the test the data is not valid - CDE must take that into consideration. Opt out does drop us on the performance framework but we are going to DROP ANYWAY due to PARCC. I learned patience in 2013 and I still have it thank god It's all good. The greatest concern from folks was harming teachers and schools - what I wanted to say was that we are already harmed - opt out won't harm us - opt out is our one and only chance to be saved if PARCC indeed stays put next year. PARCC is designed to harm everyone - and it will. It will destroy us. It's always fascinating to me that opt out is still viewed as harmful when the harm surrounds us on every front - slowly strangling us to death. PARCC will devour us next year - not just harm us. Opt out would allow us to wake folks up to the harm. But it's all good. Opt out will proceed full speed ahead with or without NBI #6

However, the deal is this. NEA passed NBI 24 last year that states the following:


Adopted as amended
NEA shall support the rights of parents/guardians to collaborate with teachers in determining appropriate options for assessment of student proficiency if opting out of standardized assessments, and advocate for their right to do so without retaliation.
Furthermore, NEA shall encourage its state and local affiliates to work alongside student and parent leadership groups in promoting opt out options wherever possible.
Lastly, NEA shall inform its members of current student and parent organization effort through existing communication vehicles.

Cost Implications

This NBI can be accomplished at an additional cost of $2,750.

United Opt Out National reached out to NEA on July 31st, 2013.  We sent an email to all the national staff. We did not receive a response. Read here:

The good news is this. CEA did pass NBI #10 which states: CEA shall join in coalition with other organizations demanding the withdrawal of Colorado from the PARCC assessment and placing a moratorium on high stakes standardized tests.

However, we have to move forward on multiple fronts. If PARCC stays, we need to be prepared to refuse. If PARCC goes, we still need to be prepared to refuse any other high stakes tests, should a moratorium not be set in place.  

I am a CEA member. I am also one of the founders of UOO. The best part of this is that I am right here in Denver. I teach here. I help parents opt out here. So, how can I help? Email me at Call me at 720-810-5593. I am happy to help in Colorado. Here is the Colorado Opt Out Guide.  Here is the Colorado Push Back Guide I had to create due to the immense bullying tactics used to keep parents from refusing the corporate high stakes tests this year. I recommend that all UOO leaders, students, and parent activists across the country extend a helping hand to your local affiliate. Just because national ignores us doesn't mean this NBI is dead in the water. Bring it back to life. Solidarity.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Colorado and PARCC. What will be left? Just the Students and the Chromebooks

Colorado superintendents have recently become more vocal. They want more local control. They want to be in charge of making financial decisions for their districts. And they need support. They state,  “It can’t be just us. We need parents and teachers and people who care about their communities to let legislators know they’re not willing for their local schools to be run this way,” Glass said.

I am guessing that these superintendents would be even more vocal, and share more information, if we could indeed get the parents and teachers to rally behind them. Dare I say, that some of them might - just might - support opt out? I have always believed that there are a lot of good folks at the top who also would speak out, if only they had the backing to do so. 

The article (see link above) continues by talking about online standardized testing - an unfunded mandate: 

While state lawmakers are keeping the purse strings tight at one end, superintendents claim they’re forcing local school districts to come up with money to pay for unfunded mandates. One of the latest is the state and federal departments of education demanding that standardized testing move online, but providing no money for schools to buy the gear. 

It will cost Eagle County Schools $2 million to buy the Google Chromebooks it will need. If each of Colorado’s 832,368 students get a $312 Google Chromebook, that unfunded mandate will cost schools statewide $259,698,816. 

260 million. Yes, you heard that right. 

My own district is purchasing Chromebooks.  I do wonder about the details of this purchase - what will it cost? How long will they last?   

I decided to dig a bit more into Chromebooks and their costs. I came across another article where it states: The price of the Chromebook is very attractive, but the potential cost of extra bandwidth, including routers, switches, and servers might prove to be excessively expensive, thus cancelling out the low per device cost. 

So, 260 million for the Chromebooks, which doesn't include all the infrastructure needed to allow the Chromebooks to work.  Hmmm...

I then found another article. This article discussed Chromebook subscriptions ($720), warranties, support services  - how do these additional items weigh into the costs? 

What about the cost of the tests at 30 bucks a pop?  

And, the Chromebook is realistically given a shelf life of 3 to 5 years - so, at that point, in a few years, in order to feed the needs of the test, we buy more Chromebooks? 


Susan Ohanian and Stephen Krashen discuss the testing technology expenses for New York: If the New York figure is extrapolated to the entire country, the cost to connect all children to the internet will be at least 50 times the cost of connecting New York City alone, or $25 billion (New York City enrolls one million students, the USA as a whole, over 60 million). This is only to connect students to the internet. The whistles and bells needed to do "computer adaptive testing" with audio and video will cost more. 

Of course, in 3 to 5 years, if this corporate plan continues on full speed, it is doubtful that there will be much left of public schools.  Um, but that's the plan, right?  Cash in while you can, right? What will be left?

Just the students and the Chromebooks (obsolete by then of course). 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tom Poetter 4 Congress Ohio District 8: Letter to Educators

Dear Educators,  

Many of you know that I have been an educator for 25 years.  I have taught high school in public and private settings, worked as a teacher educator in higher education settings, authored many articles and books on education, teaching, learning, and curriculum, and served as a public school partner.  I attended public schools, and sent my own children to public schools.  My sons will both attend one of the best public universities in the country next year. You can and should call me a public school advocate with broad experience in the American educational system.

I am writing today to share my candidacy for Congress in Ohio District 8. Speaker of the House Boehner will not run unopposed in 2014.

John Boehner speaks the language of corporate education reform. His position on private charter schools discussed  in a Fox News Editorial on 1/22/14 reflects what I know and what millions of Americans -- and especially millions of American educators -- know about the privatization of public education: it doesn't work, and it threatens democracy.  In fact, the discrediting of public schools, the bashing of teachers and putting even greater constrictions on their work, the threatening of their professional and labor rights, and the siphoning of public money into private hands have led us to a brink in education, the kind that makes the Speaker's vision of a private education landscape even possible.

John Boehner believes that "school choice" works. You and I both know that school choice simply means choice for a few, neglect for the majority, and immense profit for the corporations.

As I and many others have been predicting, we see the signs of a private, corporate takeover coming to pass that will destroy the democratizing function of public education, that is the political connection that citizens have to making decisions about their public schools, and the end of any resemblance of local control over the school program and the expenditures of funds for students.  And, of course, an end result will be that our students will be no better off, learn far less, be less ready for college and work, and not be ready to act as citizens.

We need students who can problem solve and think in order to reclaim our democracy.

Another end result of all of this movement will be to line the pockets of corporate education executives and to weaken an education system that still, despite the odds, produces strong citizens and students.  All of the most important hallmarks of public education are eroding, or being taken away by corporate raiders who want to control what our students learn, how they learn it, and how they pay themselves to takeover schools and the education system.

When the citizens of Ohio's District 8 send me to Washington in November, I will work as hard as I can to turn back further attempts to privatize schools, work to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, its last iteration known as No Child Left Behind, and we know how that worked out!) so that we can move past the damages done to schools, teachers, and students who have seen their public schools become test factories and their teachers reduced to robots reading from a script, and lead a watch dog group that demands equal accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars wrapped up in inferior, substandard educational settings that are funded by taxpayer money but are not nearly as good as our public schools.  Our families and communities, children and teachers, deserve great schools.  They don't get the great schools everyone deserves, in every neighborhood across our cities, suburbs, and rural areas, because politics and the promise of private economic gain from education have trumped what we know about schools and citizens: our first priority should be to support and build strong public schools, not tear them down.

Teachers, parents, students and citizens, I am asking for your help. I need to spread the word of my candidacy via social media. It's essential that we get the word out to folks who understand the education issues at stake in this election.  The majority of the population has received minimal information regarding the truth about the Race to the Top policies that are swiftly privatizing our public education system. We need more educators in Washington fighting the good fight in order to reclaim our public schools and improve them to ensure that all children receive a whole and equitable education.  I am ready to take on that fight with the children in mind - that is my focus - that is my end goal.

Please tweet, Facebook, email and share the news of my candidacy for Congress Ohio District 8. Repost this letter on your blogs. Please "like" my Facebook page at Tom Poetter for Congress Ohio District 8  and share articles as we post them. Nationally, we must work together to take down the corporate machine. I am ready to get to work.

Thank you for your support,

For more information:

Tom Poetter on Twitter: 
Tom Poetter's Response to John Boehner's editorial on school choice links below:

Find Tom's earlier Facebook response and comments at this link:

Tom Poetter of Oxford, Ohio, is a professor of education at Miami University, and the author of over 50 articles/book chapters and 14 books on education.  He has participated in the first two United Opt Out National events in Washington, DC.  He is a Democratic candidate for the Ohio District 8 seat currently held by John Boehner.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hit the Bull's Eye

Parents - if you want legislators to listen - refuse the tests. I'm gonna say this again and again - compromises are being made right now in order to keep common core and high stakes testing in place - we cannot let this happen - do not be appeased by moratoriums - it's simply a ploy to keep you quiet and make you think that the forces that be are working with us. BS. Refuse the tests, hit the bull's eye and take them down. Believe me, they'll listen when you refuse the tests in mass. Right now, they're getting nervous, but not nervous enough. Push them over the edge.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Refuse the Tests in 2014 - The Tipping Point

In my district, our students come from over 130 countries and speak more than 120 languages. I am proud to be a part of this district. I am so proud of these students - these students who can tell me more about the world than I could possibly ever know.

70% of the students in our district receive free or reduced lunch. 

51% are considered second language learners. 

10% receive exceptional student services (SPED).

18% percent of our population is Black. 55% is Latino. 17% White. 5% Asian. 

In New York last year, only 3% of the second language learners passed the common core test. In New York only 5% with IEPs passed. In New York 80% of Black and Latino failed. 

I can already tell you what will happen to my district in 2014-2015 when the national common core tests arrive. But I can't tell you what will happen to each individual child, who will suffer under mandates that have been intentionally designed to fail them. I fear for all of them.

I am ashamed of my country. We - all of us - are allowing these children to be harmed, abused and denied their right to a creative, innovative, humane and democratic education.  We are denying children the opportunity to BE children. We are denying these children their futures. We have helped create this, due to trust, due to not knowing, due to lack of support, due to many things - but we must take responsibility for it, and together, stand up and make it right.

As we head into the abuse and fear that swallows our schools during testing season, we must reflect on our part in this madness. 

Teachers must reflect,

As we watch children test daily and lose precious learning time, 

As we watch children say, while shuddering, "I am scared that my score will harm my teacher - I am afraid I will get her fired," 

As we watch children pull their hair out, bite their nails to the quick, throw up, and cry,

As we hear parents say, "My child cannot sleep at night, my child is scared of the test," 

As we watch children look up at us during the test and smile, or ask questions, while we silently remember the agreement we signed, which stated we would remain "non-emotional" during testing time,

As we proctor the test for IEP students and second language learners and watch them sit for longer periods of time to test, while some cry, while some simply randomly fill in the bubbles and put their head down with frustration, and failure,

As we watch children finish the test and sit for the remainder of the time, denied the opportunity to draw or read - for fear that they might rush through the test to enjoy their books and free time,

As we watch all this, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves, what did we do to stop this?

We are all responsible for this. Myself included. I am not brave enough. I need more people standing with me. Many more. I would do so much more if I had a hundred teachers standing beside me.

We need educators, parents, and citizens, standing together - now - to stop this. We cannot do it alone. And the silence is deafening.  There is nothing left to fear as we have lost it all. 

We have pockets of resistance. We have swellings of resistance. We must have mass resistance. And we must not compromise. Common core and high stakes testing, both must go, if we truly plan to stand up for children and demand that they receive all of the resources, all of the authentic teaching and learning received by Obama's children at Sidwell.

Please remember, this year, 2013-2014, is the tipping point. Next year, it's over. Please reread the demographics from my district.  If the swelling does not become a full on revolt, it is over for my students.  

For all of us. 

And we must ask, what will happen to the children? 

Try to imagine that now, as we each look in the mirror.

We have nothing left to lose. Please reach out and grab the hands of your community. Parents - grab the hands of your teachers and have their back - give them the strength to march forward.  March into the fear, take hold of it and render it powerless. Then demand what is rightfully owed these children. Our society. Our country. Demand it and take it.