Monday, May 27, 2013

One Step Closer....

Every time a child takes a high stakes test we are one step closer to the end of public education. Keep that in mind next year - especially if you are a student and/or have a child that doesn't mind the test - know that the action of taking the test in fact is assisting in the dismantling of public education and the end of the teaching profession. I don't spend my time helping people opt out because of some silly ole non-consequential test; I help people opt out because I know that submitting to the test - whether you do well on it or not -  will result in the destruction of the cornerstone of our democracy.

For some reason the concept of "the destruction of the cornerstone of our democracy" doesn't seem to really hit home with folks - not sure why - perhaps it sounds like sci fi...ha....if only.

Let's look at it another way. While public education is being destroyed - whether your community feels it or not - our neediest children feel it in ways you and I could never imagine - that's the ugly part that no one wants you to know about. Their communities are destroyed and their dreams often go with it.  So, the act of taking the test, while it may not seem to harm your child (although I would disagree), indeed harms many others.

If you refuse the test, you are helping save the lives of our neediest children. For those of us who know these children, just know that your gift of opt out/refusal will have an impact on their futures.

If you do not yet believe your school district is suffering from corporate ed. reform, please consider looking outside of your community and refuse the test for the children who currently feel the greatest impact from the punitive consequences of high stakes testing.  Please don't walk on by. There is not much time left. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

For the Show Me State of Missouri: What They Didn't Show You

This is in response to an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

This article is missing some key information. First and foremost, we must look at the money trail. The common core standards are a cash cow for the corporations who plan to implement new testing, new curriculum, new professional development, and more, in order to adhere to the requirements under Race to the Top, Obama’s education policy. Now, Missouri was not awarded RTTT funding, however, Missouri took a NCLB waiver, which in essence, required Missouri to adhere to all of the requirements of Race to the Top – without the cash to do so.

As a teacher, an education activist, a graduate of Jefferson City High School, I have some stake in what is going on in Missouri. I no longer live there, but I was raised in Missouri and the mantra “show me” is anchored deep in my heart. So, as a former Missourian, it is important that we show everyone what is really going on here, and this article is greatly lacking. What needs to be understood is that this is not a democrat or republican issue. This is a corporate issue, and both sides have bought into it – there is big money to be made via public education.  Race to the Top policies include mandates which allow for corporations to cash in – using our public tax dollars and our children.

One of these mandates includes adopting common standards. Missouri adopted these standards, and because Missouri asked for a NCLB waiver (, MO now has to adhere to the rules of RTTT.

One of the mandates requires linking common core standards to tests. A second mandate includes linking teacher evaluation to these tests..which are linked to the common core. A third requirement includes having a longitudinal data system which allows all of the student data accessible to “stakeholders.” A fourth mandate includes using the turnaround model for schools, which means using several strategies – a few being - including firing teachers, handing a school over to a charter operator – when school test scores are low. Missouri did receive a grant to implement the turnaround model which is a sure fire way to quickly privatize your public schools.

Now, back to the common core standards, which when examined as simply “standards” might not be such a terrible thing. However, they are simply not standards. They are standards that come with a lot of baggage attached to them – if they aren’t taught and tested with resulting high scores, a teacher could be fired, a child might not be promoted (this is here in CO already where I live..not sure if MO has this yet), a school could get shut down – all very HIGH stakes.

So, I, as a teacher, would be hard pressed not to teach to the test knowing the stakes are so high – for myself and for my students. That’s problem number one.

Second problem – because the stakes are so high, we have created an opportunity for the publishing industry – such as Pearson – to come in and SAVE the day so that we can figure out how to teach to these standards and create curriculum and professional development, along with Bill Gates funding wherever you turn - .  Our public schools will now purchase these materials – with YOUR tax dollars – in order to be certain they are adhering to the common core state standards in order to succeed on the high stakes tests. It’s a vicious cycle where the winners are not our students, our teachers, our schools, or our community – the winners are the corporations profiting off of our public schools.

Problem number three – teacher autonomy GONE. If the common core state standards were simply a set of standards, I, as a teacher, could work around this – whether I liked them or not – I could pick, choose and tailor the standards to the needs of my school, students, and the culture of my community. However, they are not simply a set of standards – they are a set of standards that will be implemented with lockstep curriculum in order to be certain we succeed on the new tests rolling out across the country via PARCC and SBAC (testing consortias that our federal government gave $$ to – in the millions – to create these common core assessments).

The common core standards will take away teacher autonomy. In Finland they have national standards –and it works – one reason it works is because they are not extensive (common core standards are hundreds of pages long) and there are no high stakes tests attached to these standards.

Please understand, I am not opposed to a standardized test – I may not personally like standardized tests and I may not find them very valuable – but I can live with it – but NOT when high stakes are attached to it.  Finland gives one standardized test when students graduate from high school, the rest of the testing is creating by teachers. Here in the U.S., mainstream media is bound and determined to make the general public believe that teachers are not capable of assessing our students – there is truly mass amnesia around the concept of teachers being capable of assessing their students - this is because there is a lot of money to be made via corporate testing. The money is key to everything that is currently going on in public education in the United States today. Testing will increase under RTTT – some teachers now share that they test or test prep every day. Some schools state that 5 ½ months of the year is spent testing – some say more.

Fourth problem: There are indeed problems with the common core standards. They aren’t developmentally appropriate . There are more problems related to the standards which I won’t go in to here, but suffice to day, I receive examples of common core homework given to students daily – I am shocked by what I see. Not only is it developmentally inappropriate, it is mind-numbing and lacking in creative and critical thinking. But enough on that – that is a subject that I could discuss all day long – but do know that children are not suddenly going to be overwhelmed with opportunities for creative, critical and conceptual thinking – it will be the exact opposite.

Fifth problem: History shows us quite clearly that countries who attempt to force standards upon schools by attaching high stakes to them, create learners who are good at one thing – test taking. They do not think independently, they cannot problem solve and they cannot think out of the box – no creative thinking. Simply read more about China to learn more. China, by the way, is attempting to move away from the teach to the test mentality and they are in shock that we are so foolishly headed in this direction.  Check out Yong Zhao’s blog here:

Sixth problem: Implementing the common core standards will cost a ton of money, which thrills the publishing companies as they drool over your public tax dollars. While your districts begin to prepare for the new assessments which are attached to high stakes, they will be determining how to afford the new curriculum, the new tests, the computers and the technology needed to make this happen. It will be necessary to spend money on all of this because of the high stakes attached to it – as a result, you are sure to see cuts in the arts, physical education, teachers, libraries and more. Also, consider this – where is the money necessary to support the children in your communities who are living in poverty – currently 23% of our children live in poverty – I wonder how these students will do on these tests? And I wonder how these poorer districts will manage to compete with equal footing when they don’t have the money found in Ladue or Clayton?  My guess is that these schools will end up in turn around status and will find themselves subjected to the vultures circling overhead as they (profiteers) discuss with glee how they might cash in on these districts that cannot fend for themselves. One need only look to Detroit, Philadelphia or Chicago to see how this will play out.

Seventh problem: Yes, you will lose local control. These standards are high stakes – they are COMMON. Do you want common children? I thought this was the Show Me state? Are all the children now going to being showing us the same thing as they learn? Regarding the standards, each state is allowed a little wiggle room to tweak the standards to meet their needs, but that won’t cut it. And teachers will be asked to write common core curriculum to save money in your districts, they will be asked to do multiple things necessary to succeed in this high stakes world while having less time to attend to the individual needs of students and their school communities. The ability to focus on what is needed locally – for your children, your schools and your communities will be hampered greatly by the necessities surrounding succeeding on high stakes tests. And these standards were not created by hundreds of teachers – that’s a lie – .

Eighth problem: Is this a federal takeover? Well, in my opinion the politicians and the corporations are one and the same. I call it a corporate takeover because everything children will learn in school will be created by the corporations in order to profit the corporations.  The teachers will have no decision-making power and the children will simply regurgitate what the corporations want them to know in order to fulfill the low level entry jobs the corporations will provide for them. The politicians are merely puppets who gain status and money along the way using our public tax dollars and our children to advance their individual needs. Romney and Obama’s education policies differed on one count – Romney supported vouchers and Obama did not – just food for thought.

Ninth problem: The common core standards have never been field tested. Our children are being used as lab rats in an experiment. Something to consider – do the private schools, such as the school Obama’s children attend and the school Bill Gates’ children attend adhere to the “common” core standards? Of course not, you see, these standards are for OUR children – not their children. Everyone who is demanding we adhere to these policies send their children to private schools where high stakes testing and lockstep curriculum does not exist. Final thought – when anyone does research in a public school parents are asked to sign a research agreement stating that they accept the conditions of the research study which will occur in their child’s classroom. Did any of you get such an agreement to sign for your child’s class, when MO signed on to the common core?

Tenth problem: Yes, your child’s data will eventually be placed in a data system that corporations have access too – thanks to the FERPA laws that were rewritten under the Obama administration.  It is already happening here in Colorado. The data from the Jefferson County public schools in CO is being funneled into inBloom which will allow for profit corporations access to the data in order to determine what new educational products via the common core they can create to meet the needs of our children…cha ching cha ching. Of course the goal is to have this in every state, which is why RTTT required everyone to have a database set up and ready to go! By the way, currently parents cannot opt out of this because the FERPA laws were changed to allow it.  The data they will collect on your child is much more than test data I can assure you. Dig a bit to find out more about inBloom. I guarantee you won’t like what you see.

I took time to write this today on Mother’s Day because I love Missouri, I love my hometown of Jefferson City and I wish no harm to come your way. If I can be of assistance to anyone please let me know. I am currently a public school teacher in Colorado in my sixteenth year of teaching. I am also an education activist and I am one of the founders of United Opt Out National.  My email is

For what it’s worth, I strongly encourage you to fight the common core – refuse it – refuse the curriculum, the tests – refuse the corporate takeover of your public schools. Your children deserve more.

Also –this article failed to mention this rather important hearing tomorrow in JC . If you can’t attend you can send in this witness form .

Peggy Robertson

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Greatest Fight of Our Lives

The admissions of error, the requests for moratoriums, the recognition that perhaps testing has gone too far, are running like wildfire in the last few weeks.

We have Randi calling for a moratorium.

Bill Gates admitting that maybe testing tied to teacher evaluation is out of control. 

Arne wants us to recognize testing mistakes as learning opportunities. 

And they attempt to appease the public by finding testing companies who can do it better.

They continue to push messages that keep the public from remembering that teachers know how to assess – teachers assessing is NOT an option in this brave new world.  Our knowledge must become obsolete in order to profit off of public education. Our knowledge of teaching and learning – our knowledge of how to support learners in becoming more than a test score – must be erased - they do not want students who are more than a test score - this defeats their goal in the global economy where we will serve them. 

We need to be clear that any concessions, any admissions of error, any offer to give us time away from those horrid high stakes tests at this moment are simply a ploy to encourage us to sleep away the next few months while they prepare to launch the PARCC and SBAC for our children and anchor the common core into the heart of public education, there by destroying it, along with our teaching profession, our children's privacy and our democracy. Be very awake.

It is May 2013. PARCC and SBAC testing will be rolled out in the upcoming school year, 2013-2014. Our window of opportunity to stop this train from starting is short and must be aggressive and fearless.

The goal right now is to appease us so that we believe we are making headway and believe that they hear our voices and care.  They do not care. 

What is most frightening at this very critical time is the mass of educators who have been swayed to believe they do care. They have been swayed to believe that the intentions with common core are well meaning. I believe we have made some headway in educating the public about the harms of high stakes testing, but we have not made it clear that the common core standards, curriculum and assessments that come with them will destroy our public school system, our profession, our children’s future and our democracy.

Those of us who work in public schools today find ourselves in  a dark cave - NCLB has stripped away all windows, all light, all sparks that ignite the fire in a child’s soul.  RTTT has come forward to take what is left – the shell of learning and teaching – and recreate it into a form or being that I do not recognize as human or alive - it is death. What we have been left with in the public schools has no heart beat, no warmth, no breath of life.

Those of us who are in the public schools and know what they are trying to force upon us are desperately blowing on the spark, rubbing together the sticks, and attempting to keep learning alive. Because there are many of us in our schools doing this, we are momentarily able to survive and protect the children as best we can under these harsh conditions. 

But not for long.

The PARCC and SBAC come next fall. I am frightened for the children - the onslaught of common core lock step scripted curriculum will step forward to embrace the PARCC and SBAC; the slow death of public education will speed forward quickly. The attempt to silence teachers next year will be greater, more intimidating and more punishing than we have ever seen. 

The attempt to force us to accept our fate under the guidance of the common core, the mission of the World Bank, the billionaire boys’ club, and RTTT policies will be rolled out in various ways.  They will stifle us with mandates, but then will allow us up for air as they admit mistakes on this exciting journey of learning where we find our way - together. They will send us babbling into arguments about the pros and cons of poorly written test questions, better tests, refined tests, creative online tests, better common core curriculum created by teachers and better technology for testing. They will engage us in discussions as they admit their “bumps” along the way on our new found path; they will try to take our hand and walk with us as collaborators. They will grant us the grace and time to become more as we embrace the common core standards - during which, we will be contending with teacher evaluation, new legislation and new tasks surrounding creation of common core curriculum in our individual districts. They will keep all of us very busy putting out fires.

There will be more petitions, moratoriums, proclamations, opportunities to offer feedback - and it will all be pointless. Do not engage in this. We must each look at our individual source of energy and use it wisely and in a manner that creates action to dismantle their system.

While all of this is going on, our children will be sitting in classrooms unaware that they are being treated as lab rats. They will look at their teachers with trust in their eyes. The teachers who understand what is happening - who know common core has not been field tested, is developmentally inappropriate and is the cash cow to seal the deal on the privatization of public schools and destruction of the teaching profession -  will do all that they can to treat their students in this experiment with compassion and kindness, attempting to keep them from harm; however, it will not be enough. The teachers who know not what they do, will subject children to great harm, as is already occurring.

The time is now to prepare. As those of us teaching finish up the year, please know that this summer requires serious planning. Parents please know that educating our communities must be the absolute focus of our work this summer. We must launch the 2013-2014 school year with plans to educate, act, and halt the harm done to our children – and we must focus our work with intent - do not be swayed by any form of action that does not end in concrete results that you can see – these results must disrupt or halt their work. They will attempt to exhaust us by creating false opportunities to act – do not engage in any of these – I cannot stress this enough – we have already wasted precious time doing this.

United Opt Out National is in the process of creating an opt out guide tailored to the specific needs of each state, as well as a guide for early childhood education, and special/exceptional education. However, a guide is worthless unless it is acted upon – we must act. Refusing what they offer us is the quickest way to halt their progress.  

We must refuse the assessments and the common core in all shapes and forms.

Parents – you are essential in this fight. Teachers will refuse as best they can, but the parents can lead the way.

They know we are making progress and they are planning strategies to halt our progress now. They will cash in on public education at all costs –  including our children – they do not care about our children. Their children are fine, and they (corp.ed.reformers) have no ability to see, hear or feel what we know – they are not in our schools, and quite honestly, if they do come to our schools, they will not be able to see what we see - they view the world using a business model.  Our work as educators involves heart. It involves soul. We help shape the lives of children, today and tomorrow. It is messy, it is unpredictable and it is impossible to place in a standardized box.

They protect each other and their world. Their heart is simply incapable of understanding our heart. Call it evil. Call it fact. Call it ignorance. Make sense of it however you must, but know that attempting to get those who profit off this madness to understand is futile during these urgent times. Do not waste your time. Look to those who do understand and act. There is very little time left. There is no time to hope for a change of heart.

Their goal is to educate our children so that they are ready for their low level entry jobs – they will save the higher positions for their children. They plan to privatize public education so that what is left is the basics (simply read, write, regurgitate their information), with public tax dollars funneled to profit them while making the public believe that “innovation” is occurring via online learning and assessments that claim to assess higher level thinking.

Those of us who know what is going on will find more constraints placed on us wherever we turn. They will attempt to accuse us of wrong-doings (specifically teachers involved in activism), humiliate us and force us into submission. They will try to make us go away. Be prepared to discover that there are some whom you may have trusted, who will begin to walk a careful line between their world and our world, or simply turn their backs on us.

Be wide awake. And be prepared for the greatest fight of our lives.