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.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Gaslighting & Turnaround Schools

I am currently working in a turnaround school.   A turnaround school is a public school that has been deemed "failing" by policy makers. The policy makers inflict draconian, fascist measures on such schools in an effort to turn them around - aka - increase test scores.  If they don't increase test scores they bring the hammer down harder by firing teachers, handing the school over to a charter, or closing the school, and so on. 

Turnaround schools are not failing. Rather, the truth is that the policies are the failures. The racist, classist, sexist policies are based on lies and false realities meant to create compliant worker bees who do as they are told to increase test scores, while ultimately allowing the corporate reformers to push forward other measures which increase profit, increase the privatization of our public schools, and finally, increase the power of the privileged. That's it in a nutshell. 

However, the factual process of turnaround in no way reveals to the public how this brutal takeover goes down.  How to articulate the process has been at the forefront of my mind for the last five months as I found myself thrown head first into this madness.  And indeed, it  is a madness like no other - a combination of insane asylum and prison. As I tried to articulate it to a dear friend of mine, she said, "Peggy, you are being gaslighted."  I had never heard the term gaslighting. I immediately began to read about it. I owe much gratitude to this friend who has given me a framework I can use to explain this process.

My point in writing this blog is to expose the turnaround process for what it can be (not all turnarounds are necessarily as I describe), and allow those in the midst of this to figure out how to move forward. This is not a feel good blog with a happy ending. Ultimately, I don't know how it will end for me, but I believe that the only way we will end the bigger picture of corporate education reform is through educating the public and educating ourselves so that together, we can form a plan of action to fight back. Gaslighting is designed to keep you in fight/flight mode - so it's important to step back, understand it, and think it through, in order to determine your next step.

Gaslighting is such an insane reality to live in that it becomes incredibly difficult to focus on anything else except the ability to get through the day- it is designed intentionally so.

So let's try to take a look at what's really happening.

The first stage of Gaslighting is described as disbelief.  Strange events, behaviors, and actions by others begin to occur. Perhaps you are told something that doesn't seem true to you or simply just sounds bizarre. Perhaps someone you trusted speaks to you in a manner that seems fake, or staged. 

In my case, the "disbelief" began with the supposed root cause of our turnaround status. 

We were told:  Students experienced lower-quality and less rigorous instruction that did not accelerate them to proficiency and beyond, because the CCSS was not used to guide instruction in all content areas.  

Now, for someone like myself,  who has spent hours upon hours researching and advocating for the end of corporate education reform this "root cause" at first, is quite laughable. We know that standards - good, bad, and ugly, in no way increase student achievement. Quite honestly, there's no correlation whatsoever between standards and student test scores. This has been clearly confirmed by looking at NAEP scores and the standards used in the various states. So, simply put, it's a lie.

And therein follows the disbelief. You are told a lie about this so-called turnaround status. And I can assure you that nationwide there is no root cause - in a school improvement plan housed on a department of education website - that will state the truth - the truth is clearly poverty and that has been confirmed as well.  But in this gut wrenching fast move to privatize our public schools it is necessary to lie and necessary to beat people into compliance in order to cash in quickly - using policies which gaslight educators who ultimately must carry out these actions of educational malpractice.

So, you sit in disbelief at these lies.  At first you think, okay, whatever, we can play this game. We'll continue to do right by children behind closed doors and the policy makers can go screw themselves. That's the first reaction.  At this point you still believe you have some autonomy and you think you might be able to reason with the powers that be in order to figure out a way to "tweak" this to make it doable.

But then, the gaslighting process continues. The policy makers have a strangle hold on our public schools, and they will find various ways to continue to push forward their measures in a turnaround school. Perhaps they will bring in an auditor who interviews (interrogates) each staff member in an attempt to expose weaknesses that might confirm the so-called root cause. Perhaps they will bring in district personnel to dig through your data and observe your classrooms nonstop in order to, once again, find confirmation that your root cause is true, valid and that ultimately - you, the educators, are to blame for your low test scores. Perhaps they will bring in consultants, books, videos, or additional training to lead you to see how embracing their root cause will fix your failure. There are many ways they might move forward as they gaslight you. In my school, we were enrolled in the Colorado Department of Education turnaround program.  We were labeled a Relay Leadership School and Relay indoctrination became the vehicle for our gaslighting.

If you are unfamiliar with Relay please read my blog here. Relay is a fake graduate school that was created to meet the needs of particular charter school chains who focus on no excuse models of discipline and teach to the test curriculum. Simply put, it's hell on earth for experienced teachers with actual teaching degrees, master's degrees, and years of teaching experience.  As a school that prided itself on our model of inquiry and democracy this was an insanely sharp turn to take.  

The false root cause was just setting the stage for the steps that followed.   We watched in awe as new vocabulary was introduced, new protocols for meetings were brought forward, new expectations around student behavior, new expectations around lesson plans, teaching, teacher evaluation and more surfaced. Ultimately, the reality we knew was gone.  We watched in disbelief.  We tried to shake it off like a wet dog and clarify who we were - what we stood for - but when you are not in a position of power it becomes extremely difficult to demand that your identity is acknowledged.  At this stage of gaslighting one becomes defensive  - it is here where you try to hold your ground - a bit of a last stand. 

During stage two - defense - you think that perhaps there is a way to reason through this situation. Perhaps honesty will help. Perhaps stating clearly how we know that our root cause is poverty and that there is no research to demonstrate that adhering to standards improves student achievement, perhaps, just perhaps - there will be a way to shift this back to what you know to be the true reality - a come-to-jesus meeting so to speak.  Let's just put it all out think.  

Or, perhaps, as a defense, you refuse to follow through with demands made on you - demands which are an attempt to make this reality become the norm. You might refuse to do test prep, post standards, or perhaps you simply refuse to participate in meetings where this bullshit is discussed. Perhaps you vocally state that you will not participate in book studies or processes which demand that you ignore what you know about pedagogy, child development, and ultimately, your students

You think that you might be able to reason with the gaslighters who push forward these measures, but policy makers do not care about children. They care about their policy, and this is when you realize that you stand alone - policy prevails - and it trickles down in the most toxic way - it pushes and prods and ultimately pounds - when necessary - to enforce this reality which does not exist.  You might at this point try to be a team player while still closing your door and attempting to do right by kids - you think you can work within the system in order to make the best of a horrid situation and protect the children by doing so - a careful and quiet defense. You participate in meetings, you try to make sense of the standards in a way that you can see how they might benefit your students. You smile in the hallways and you think this is doable - you can get through this - you can secretly do right by kids.

But the incredibly harsh and punitive measures keep coming.  They want more from you - absolute utter compliance to a system of standards, targets, success criteria, tight transitions, evaluation of worthless interim test data, pre-assessments, post-assessments, and more. It's never ending. They want to observe. At first the observations are scheduled. But soon they become pop-ins and then you are told that they/the policy makers  - could show up at anytime.  Your defensive mode is still on - but you are also feeling fearful - fearful of the unknown and confused by the pounding that comes faster and more frequently by the day. You never hear the word child uttered in any conversations related to the work you do.   You know that all of this is meaningless - this false reality is based on nothing - you know you're NOT crazy - standards, targets - all of this is based on a business model of education - a corporate fascist model designed to treat children and teachers as widgets - to be moved and manipulated as needed in order to get them to cough up numbers - data - data that can be used to create winners and losers.  There's no humanity here.  Just numbers. Just hard cold numbers that you must churn out with a militant nazi like step that makes you want to vomit in the bathroom on your lunch break.

As you give them the numbers, the data - you know that this is not what is best for children. You know that your attempts to play the game have failed miserably.  You don't believe in this game  and you are not a widget - you are a human being with a conscience and you care for the children in your classroom.  You simply can't be brainwashed - and  while you think you might be going crazy, your conversations with others makes it clear that none of you are going crazy, you are simply being gaslighted. You know you don't believe in creating compliant learners who parrot back targets and sit in rows and transition tightly with no student choice, no inquiry, no creativity and ultimately no democracy. You can't play the game - you simply can't do it. And you wonder, how can anyone do it?

Are we losing our humanity?

And that brings on the third stage, depression. As I have talked to teachers across the country over the last four years about the turnaround process, depression has been one of the most prominent feelings that teachers have discussed.  Teachers are in tears daily, antidepressants and other prescribed medications become necessary to cope and survive day by day in this punitive process. Teachers have anxiety attacks in the middle of the school day.  Teachers search for a quiet space somewhere in the building to make a quick call to a friend in order to get the fortitude to work through the next three hours rather than have an emotional collapse. Having the time and energy to take care of one's self becomes nonexistent.  I just can't do it you say to yourself - but you know you must. Every day you must get up and do it again.  Every day you imagine how you might escape - what other job could you do? But then, you love the kids, you don't want to leave, but  you can't figure out how you will survive much longer.  You sit in your car in the parking lot and try to pull it together for one. more. day. And you begin to wonder about the policy makers ultimate evil goals......are they attempting to push you out? They need compliant teachers who will believe it - and you know THEY know you are not compliant. Your mind is racing. And you wonder, who are these people who can believe these things? What has happened to humanity? 

A dear friend of mine and teacher, Tanis Humes, who recently left my school due to our turnaround nightmare, described it like this:

Teacher burn out is real. It happens. All you need to do it google the term and you can read about how real it is. Teacher burnout happens to the best of us working in the best of conditions. It happens because teaching takes a lot out of us. It takes physical strength, circling a room, holding off using the restroom, standing, bending, and don’t get me started on the germ warfare your body goes through each and every work day year after year. It takes from us emotionally. You care about each one of those precious lives. You cry in your car on the way home because of the stories they shared, or the fear that they are not going to catch up to their peers socially or academically. You have bouts of anger and frustration when the students decide they would like to control the table group, the classroom, and sometimes you. And finally, spiritually - you invest in their hopes and dreams. You worry it’s not enough. You are always reading and researching the next best thing. We as teachers do this every day, 180ish days a year, for years. You are your toughest critic. But the good moments and the breaks for holidays give you just enough recharge to keep going.

Then another outside factor finds its way into your career, building, and classroom. Your department of education, a hired consulting firm, or district “coaching” team arrive to add a new stressor, their hard line and sense of “urgency” that they fail to recognize you already had. Now the times during which you doubt yourself, there is a person or group who says you should doubt yourself. Piece by piece, instead of building you up, they are tearing you down. They think if they pressure you enough you’ll  "grow" and so will your students. They pressure you so that you’ll pressure the students. They bully you into compliance so that you in turn will bully the students into compliance, and eventually,  there are not enough good moments to recharge. They use double speak so that you begin to fear for your job. They create impossible deadlines so you’ll kill yourself trying to make it and in return you might have a little less time for the students. Something they will see and cite as to why your school or practices need their input and assistance. In essence they kill the teacher in you and the spirit that kept you together through all the other stressors until you leave, and then they can replace you with someone who they think will be the magician that you were not. You leave, not willingly, but out of self preservation for your physical and emotional well-being. We call it burnout. But the source of the burn is not the students, the work or the calendar. It is the people who think they know how to “fix” you and your school. When all they need to do is look at what is best for the students, school, and teachers. It is not pressure and threats or compliance. It is meeting our physical and emotional needs and respecting us.

In a turnaround situation where one is being gaslighted, as Tanis described above, eventually you get to a point where a decision must be made - you stay - or you go.  And if you stay, in some way your spirit, your identity, your being shifts - it is difficult to walk with a light step in this environment . Maybe your step becomes more determined, maybe slower, maybe you step out - for good. 

I am sure that there are many folks out there who would add a new dimension, a new twist, or example, to my description of gaslighting - google gaslighting to see the varied experiences and stages that are shared.  Feel free to leave a comment sharing your experience.

Bottom line is that in a turnaround school the end goal is to destroy what you know to be true  - the end goal is to shift and transform the reality in order to meet the goals of the policy makers who know nothing about children.  The goals of the policy makers are hollow and weak - they want to increase test scores.  Yet, these policies embody something much bigger, much more egregious than anyone wishes to acknowledge in mainstream media. Standardized test scores are rooted in the eugenics movement, where they ranked, sorted and ordered individuals using standardized tests to confirm that certain races were smarter and better - standardized tests today remain as a strong hold to keep the privilege privileged. It's important to understand this history and keep it in the forefront of your mind when every last god forsaken mandate attempts to tell you otherwise.   Karen Lewis explains it very well here .  As policies continue to enforce a reality that is untrue (standardized test scores have value) it becomes essential for everyone under those policies to continue to pay homage to the policies if indeed this reality is to be believed by the public and continue to generate profit and power for the privileged.  The reality is that providing children with nutrition, healthcare, and books, while also providing adults with a living wage, would allow our public schools and our democracy  to thrive.  

Under ESSA, these punitive measures will continue.  There will be no relief from testing, in actuality, there will be more testing  - but that's for another blog post.  Turnaround schools will still exist, and the only way to shut down gaslighting is to educate and to refuse the tests.  Until then, this false reality will continue to be pushed forward by policy makers.  And policy makers will continue to push out true, experienced educators with teaching degrees in order to bring in fake (TFA, Relay) teachers who are willing to comply, believe the propaganda, and support the process of ranking, sorting and ordering America's children.

If you are being gaslighted, the best way to shut it down is to educate.  It isn't easy to watch the transformation of a school filled with teachers and children shift  to a model of education that lacks democracy, humanity, and truth.  If it were easy, we wouldn't be human. Keep being human. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Solidarity on a Sunday Night

Not enough time to blog lately but I get in a few short FB messages from time to time. From my FB tonight:

Many thanks to everyone that continues to help with the Twitter storm (search hashtag #NPAF #rejectrelay for more info) against Relay fake Graduate School during the National Principal Academy Fellowship in NY this weekend. There are lots of folks out there watching quietly who appreciate your help. For those of you headed back to work tomorrow in a Relay environment please remember that you are not crazy - stay in touch with your humanity and your pedagogy. There is no research stating that standards, targets, and/or success criteria correlate with student achievement. None. So, you are not crazy to think that plastering this BS on your wall every day is a waste of time. It is a waste of time.

However, there is a clear correlation between compliant learners and test-taking for schools that use this technique combined with a no-excuse discipline model (Teach Like a Champion - which demands bad ideas like cold call, snapping, and barking orders at children in a militant way). All of this is done in order to demand "perseverance" and "fidelity" to the tests and therefore increase test scores. Test scores do not equal learning. And ultimately, all of this is done to drive out experienced teachers who know what children need because THAT does not bring in the cold hard cash to the corporations. Truly, the big picture is so twisted and corrupt that the children are nothing but laborers for the corporations - and the harshest measures are inflicted on our children of color in urban diverse schools. The passing of ESSA last week will unfortunately increase the number of fake graduate schools - we have our work cut out for us - more on this topic later I promise. 

The reformers who know nothing about teaching (aka Relay and more) will not look at the research that tells them what needs to be done to support and improve our schools - that research demonstrates a very high correlation between student achievement and feeding children, providing children with healthcare, and stocking their libraries at home and at school with books. That correlation is crystal clear. 

It's important for us to remember what is true and good for children when we are placed in an environment which feels like an alternate reality where the majority of what we are asked to do is NOT best for children. Remember what is true because the end goal is to make you forget. 

Solidarity on a Sunday night.

Friday, December 4, 2015

TS Gold - A Child's Report Card

I have written two previous blogs on Teaching Strategies Gold, an assessment that is used to assess children from birth through third grade. My previous blogs explained the teacher's perspective in regard to entering the data (literally thousands of data points per class of children - robbing children of instructional time) and the second blog was a refusal letter for parents wishing to opt their children out of TS Gold.

Today I want to share a child's TS Gold report card.  This particular district sends out a TS Gold report card to the parents or guardians every trimester. This child's report card is 11 pages long. The child's name was listed 121 times on the document. There are 60 indicators assessed with accompanying bar graphs. Each bar graph includes a statement about "where" the child is currently, in terms of mastering that indicator, and also lists a next step. You will notice that many of the indicators assess soft skills - skills that are not academic, but rather, deal with a child's emotion, interaction with others, and more.

See the report card below.  Please check my previous two blogs for more information, and I will be doing a follow up blog to share more on the data mining component of TS Gold.

Who wants a report card like this? Not parents. Not teachers. Corporations who like data?  The new gold? Yes. And, finally, why does a five year old need an 11 page report card? I can't fathom anyone needing an 11 page report card, can you?

Here it is. It's crazy long and crazy in general. Click on each picture for best visibility. I'm not going to comment anymore on it because I think the best way to view it is like a parent might, a parent who was expecting a one page report card with a few notes from the teacher. Join this FB page to meet other teachers and parents who are fighting back against TS Gold.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Harassment Lawsuit Anyone?

When your school is being destroyed by the dictatorial advice of fake teacher programs (Relay) aided and abetted by the Colorado Department of Education all under absolutely fear mongering mandates that force you into silence what is one to do? Do you stay quiet and simply let it all go down as they have planned? Or, do you speak up, refuse to do as asked, and risk getting fired? And when you speak up, you do so knowing that there is absolutely no one there to stop this train as it has left the station. It's guaranteed you'll get knocked down and run over on the tracks. You will be a casualty. That's the hard cold truth facing many teachers today. And then, you'll be replaced. And will these replacements care for the children like you did? Or will they be products of fake teacher programs and will they force your children to walk in lines without moving their arms and spend days on end doing online test prep? Perhaps Dawn Neely Randall is on the right track here? Neely-Randall vs. State of Ohio? Peer Discriminatory Harassment?

Sounds damn good to me. Email me at after reading this if it sounds good to you too. 

She writes:

Neely-Randall vs. State of Ohio

Peer Discriminatory Harassment:

This past week, as I was completing an online training module assigned by the Ohio Department of Education via a required harassment/bullying video (so we could know the state laws within the classroom context), the definition of harassment given included to 1) have an intent to harm; 2) be directed at a specific target; and 3) involve repeated incidents. I learned that legally, harassment focuses on how the behavior affects the victim.

As a teacher in the State of Ohio, I suddenly realized that I am being harassed by the Ohio Department of Education's own legal definition as well as from legislators who are passing harmful laws to hurt me as well as many harmful laws that hurt my students, which totally, unequivocally knock the wind right out of me.

The state is asking teachers to educate and test students in ways that many of us do not feel is morally correct or developmentally appropriate. For instance, very shortly, some districts will test 3rd graders (a test they must pass in order to pass third grade; another form of harassment) for three hours straight. So, eight year olds, will sit at a computer for THREE HOURS STRAIGHT taking a high-stakes (high-pressure situation) English Language Arts test so they can pass third-grade, even though, they are only beginning their second quarter of third-grade. Harassment, much?

In addition, "preliminary" raw data was finally released by the state from PARCC. A woman could have conceived, grown, and birthed a baby in less time than it took for students to have received their scores from the state based on their LAST year's testing. Oh, wait. Students STILL have not received their scores and the school's "grade card" is not due out until at least the end of January. Yet, the media is already reporting these raw, preliminary numbers, which, in effect, label teachers and schools. Districts in poverty zip codes are looking like failures whereas schools in more affluent zip codes look like they have better teachers. The scores also do not account for if a student made tremendous growth from the time he/she walked into the classroom and instead, labeled the child as "Basic" or "Limited" aka, failures. Labels hurt. Labels don't go away. Labels on children is a form of harassment.

Our Ohio Department of Education is a mess. State superintendents do not stick around long. Even when I called the ODE to ask about the new AIR tests, the person answering the phone asked me, "Is that spelled A-I-R?" Um, yes, yes it is. It seems that everyone there should know PARCC and AIR by now; especially at the state level.

The charter scrubbing scandal is also a mess. Urban public schools are constantly being told they are FAILING and being threatened with state takeover while the Ohio Department of Education falsified charter information not only to the citizens of the state, but also to the United States Department of Education, and continued to label schools and did nothing to press charges against the person(s) falsifying the data, even though teachers in another state are IN JAIL for doing the same thing.

And on and on and on and on. (I haven't even mentioned the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System where it took me eight hours to write one lesson plan and a process in which teachers are labeled at the state level based in large part on test scores.)

Bottom line: I feel harassed by the Ohio Department of Education. I feel abused. I feel heartsick with what they are asking us to do in education and the hoops they are requiring us to put our students through. When a special ed student pulls out every eyelash during testing, that's a problem. When a fifth-grade student breaks down blubbering during a high-states test, that's a problem. When a child on an Individualized Instruction Plan calls the State of Ohio HIMSELF (with his parents' help) THREE times because he feels so convicted about how wrong he is being treated and the Ohio Department of Education does not have the decency to return his message, that's a problem.

And during the high school years, in which it should be a students' glory days and life preparation time, they are putting students, who are already being slammed by society, under tremendous stress and pressure by making teenagers the guinea pigs for their constant shifting of requirements for graduation.

Yes, I feel harassed and finally, I'm going to do something about it.
I will be looking for an attorney to represent me in a lawsuit against anyone harming the children, and thus, me, on my watch.
If you, too, feel harassed, please feel free to send me a note. (I've already heard from several people.)

If you know of an attorney, legislator, anyone who can help me to get this process off the ground, I'd really appreciate it.

I will be calling my union for help first. However, this is not on behalf of my amazing school or my supportive superintendent. This is on behalf of me, myself, and I. The state has crossed the line many times in the past few years, but their Peer Discriminatory Harassment online module taught me that I, too, am a victim of abuse. I will use their words in this lawsuit, not mine.

On behalf of teachers all across the state, I'm not going to let them blacken my reputation or bruise me any longer. Feel free to join me.

Stay tuned.

Read more about Dawn Neely Randall here. Many thanks Dawn and I'll be in touch.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Competency = Sheeple: My comment on EdSurge

Learn anything anywhere, you say

Not so much. The learning you describe is clearly confined to the "efficiency" that comes with the pared-down learning found via online modules that must gather data ever so efficiently in order to meet the demands of the market - NOT the demands of learners. In essence, what you are describing is a dumbed-down education system that is void of real, authentic messy learning that comes with democratic thinking among children and teachers - a democratic curriculum that is derived by watching and observing children and determining how to best support them using their strengths and their passions. 

This sort of learning (via modules) ultimately creates sheeple - learning is directed by the modules - and the modules are directed by the corporations - who need a workforce that is obedient and compliant. Observing a child click and stare at a screen in no way supports a child emotionally, academically, socially and physically - and the child clicking away is typically missing out on developmentally appropriate learning experiences that demand much more than sitting quietly staring at a screen. 

Online modules are unable to replicate the human interaction and relationships that are necessary to support the development of problem-solving productive citizens. Online modules cannot replicate eye contact, conversation,and the learning that is derived via play, children hovering over a picture book together, children singing, kids developing rules for a game on the playground, students working on a poster board to plan their presentation for their science inquiry, and more. However, online modules gather a ton of data which can be used to create great profit for the corporations. #optout