Monday, September 2, 2013

Do Not Go for the GOLD (Teaching Strategies GOLD) for Early Childhood Classrooms


I want to begin by giving everyone a quick background on GOLD. I am simply scraping the tip of the iceberg – it has many additional components to it – but the component that is most used and most touted is the assessment component.  Please bear with me, this blog is much longer than it should be, but if you are a parent with young children you simply must sit down, take a moment, and read.

GOLD claims to assess the whole child for preschool and kindergarten on a developmental continuum starting at birth and ending at age five. It assesses Social-Emotional, Physical, Language, Cognitive, Literacy, Mathematics, Science & Technology, Social Studies, The Arts, and English Language Acquisition. Teaching Strategies GOLD offers lessons, opportunities for families to participate and much more. It will soon expand to include first through third grade. It is aligned with common core. It has been around since 1988. I want to state that it most likely was created with good intentions, however, it has morphed into something that screams corporate education reform.

GOLD is mandated to be used by all publicly funded preschools and kindergartens in Colorado. It is used in many other states as well, but my knowledge is based on Colorado, as my home state. Most Colorado districts are piloting it this year, and it will reach full implementation in the 2014-2015 school year.  Currently, it is paid for in part by a RTTT federal grant, but this money will run out shortly.

GOLD states:
The primary purposes of the Teaching Strategies GOLD ™ assessment system are to help teachers
  • observe and document children’s development and learning over time
  • support, guide, and inform planning and instruction
  • identify children who might benefit from special help, screening, or further evaluation
  • report and communicate with family members and others

The secondary purposes are to help teachers
  • collect and gather child outcome information as one part of a larger accountability system.
  • provide reports to administrators to guide program planning and professional development opportunities

There are 38 objectives organized into 9 areas of development and learning. Social-Emotional is one area of development and learning. These are the objectives found under Social-Emotional:

Objective 1: Regulates own emotions and behaviors
  • Manages feelings
  • Follows limits and expectations
  • Takes care of own needs appropriately
  • Eating and drinking
  • Toileting and personal hygiene
  • Dressing
  • Personal safety

Objective 2:  Establishes and sustains positive relationships
  • Forms relationships with adults
  • Responds to emotional cues
  • Interacts with peers
  • Makes friends

Objective 3:  Participates cooperatively and constructively in group situations
  • Balances needs and rights of self and others
  • Solves social problems

None of these objectives are necessarily problematic; teachers focus on these objectives every single day with young children. What is problematic are the requirements for gathering and reporting the data. I will attempt to explain, although I have to say, actually DOING it is the only way to truly understand the ramifications for students, teachers and schools. So here’s my attempt for what it’s worth…..

Let’s say you observed a child who “manages feelings” which is found under Objective 1 of Social Emotional. You could then log on to the online database, click on the student’s online portfolio, click on objective one, then click on “manages feelings," then type a monitoring note about what you observed the child doing regarding managing feelings.

You might type, “Shaun cried for ten seconds when his mother left and then resumed his work writing in his journal where he attempted to write, “I miss my mom but I like my friends at school.”  Perhaps you might take a picture of Shaun’s journal to demonstrate his development as a writer  – this information could be used to assess additional objectives. Perhaps you might video tape Shaun quietly resuming his work after telling his mother good bye to prove Shaun’s ability to independently calm down and resume his work. You eventually will upload the journal writing and/or video to the database.

When you have completed all of the above, you can then rate Shaun’s ability to “manage feelings. You will have to “click” again, of course.  Perhaps you would give Shaun a six because Shaun was able to “look at a situation differently or delay gratification.” You can choose from “not yet” all the way up to a nine. Many of the numbers along the continuum come with an example for you to determine where Shaun might be developmentally. 

Here is a screen shot of an objective on the continuum: 


You have completed the assessment for one objective under one domain.

If a teacher has a class of 25 children in kindergarten, the teacher will be clicking and entering data not just a few times, but thousands and thousands of times.  S/he will do this for all domains and all objectives for each child and multiple times during the year based on what the district requires.

A classroom teacher’s time will be consumed, devoured, and drained by the amount of work needed to record all of this information. If a teacher chooses to take many pictures and/or videos, it could take the teacher out of the teaching/learning moment. As parents, many of us can recall an event where we obsessively recorded a video of our child or took tons of pictures and when we leave, we realize we didn’t experience the moment in full, because we were so busy recording it.

Much of GOLD is based on observation – or kid-watching. We, as teachers, do this daily, and we seize these moments to jot notes, highlight a name for future planning, have a 1:1 conference with a student, grab the phone to make a quick call to a parent, or perhaps dash down the hall during planning period to ask another teacher what they notice about a child’s writing piece. We collaborate, we communicate, and we gather information that we use short term and long term to plan to meet the needs of every child in our classroom. We share this information directly, one on one, with the adults involved in a child’s life. These human interactions which are immediate and create change will be limited and often erased, by the necessity to continually enter the data, in order to share the data.  Teachers are often encouraged to make GOLD the primary data collection tool – as a result, teacher systems for gathering formative data will go by the wayside. We must remember that one of the ultimate goals of corporate education reform includes erasing the teacher as professional decision-maker.

GOLD is not “bad” in the sense that it is assessing things it shouldn’t assess. Its danger, and the reason for parents to refuse it, lies in how it intrudes, erases, robs, and reshapes student learning, teacher instruction and the culture of public schools.

We must take into account the extreme detail of this system.  GOLD does not just share a number. It shares very detailed, very personal information about children. Now, some might say that the data is NOT being shared. That’s fine. But my response is this – when data is uploaded to a system it is guaranteed that it is uploaded in order to share it more easily with others. Much of the GOLD data is information that previously was shared privately with the parents and key adults within the individual school community.

Parents do not need me to upload all this data in order to communicate with them about their child’s strengths, attempts and next steps. I can easily share student work, speak one on one with parents and even share snapshots I may have gathered (with parent permission); it's called parent/teacher conferencing!!

For example, I don’t know why I would need to upload information about a child’s ability or lack of ability to use a toilet? I share this information privately with parents. Period.  Another example, a child’s cognitive ability to attend, engage, show curiosity, persist – all of these are shared with parents, and other educators/adults involved in a child’s life via notes and via conversation.It is no one's business - except the parents and other key adults within the school community - if Mark is bouncing off the walls during reading time because he is only able to sit still for ten minutes.

I recall that my report card always said, “Peggy needs to quit talking so much during class.” That little tidbit of information was between me, my parents and my teacher. No one else needed to know that. Nor did anyone else need to know about the child who brought a teddy bear to school to comfort herself when her mother said goodbye. That information should not be uploaded to a database. It may seem like harmless information to some of you reading this, but we have to consider the bigger picture – and that bigger picture includes all data following a child all the way through school and potentially into their careers. I cringe to consider what sort of information is entered into GOLD in schools where compliance and "no excuses" is the name of the game.

I believe GOLD is marketed in a way that leads educators and parents to believe that it is assessing something we didn’t assess before. Suddenly we are assessing the “whole” child. Educators know how to assess the whole child. We do it every day. We are working with human beings and in order to support students in learning, we must consider absolutely everything about each child.

GOLD can limit what we assess because it is so time consuming we may have little time to assess other things we want to find out about our students. 

As I mentioned before, when data is uploaded we immediately must question WHY.  Here in Colorado, the Department of Education will have some access to GOLD data; what this looks like remains to be seen. We must be very wary of these databases.  FERPA laws have changed and we need to aware that data sharing is THE. NAME. OF. THE. GAME. Data mining is what is allowing our schools to be used for profit.  Parents are allowed to see GOLD data, and they also can be involved in adding to the student portfolio, but based on what I hear happening across the country, I am not sure this is even occurring.

Also, we need to ask……who else can enter GOLD data about your child?
The classroom teacher of course, but it is guaranteed that others will be helping to enter this data as well because it is so incredibly time consuming. Money will be spent to support schools in getting this data entered via extra time and/or extra adults assigned to enter the data. And if extra money is not spent to support data entry, you can assume that your child’s teacher is spending his/her outside the classroom time entering this data (instead of planning) or perhaps worse, entering it during classroom time when the teacher should be focused on interacting with children.  Either way, schools lose money via extra dollars spent on data entry and/or time wasted by teachers entering the data in lieu of planning. Imagine how this money could have been spent to increase art, music, PE, librarians and more?

Teachers already have personal systems in place to assess their students. I use post-its, monitoring notes that I carry on a clipboard, and indeed I use technology to support my ability to monitor – but I tailor my system to meet my needs and my students’ needs so that assessment is on-going, manageable, useful and private.

GOLD robs teachers of precious planning time, authentic formative assessment time, and it potentially robs students of classroom time interacting as a learner with their teacher.

GOLD reshapes the teacher’s role into one of data manager. If you google GOLD you will find that some love it - those that love it often tend to be teachers who previously had no data system in place to monitor their students. I consider this to be a typical response for new teachers who hug their reading teacher’s guide tightly for dear life, but after a year, they begin to recognize their own knowledge and expertise within theory and practice and they let the guide become simply another resource. If you google GOLD you will also find many that despise it – they discuss how time consuming it is and how they have no time to actually focus on true planning based on their own personal authentic assessment and evaluation.  As mentioned earlier, they discuss how GOLD has determined WHAT is to be assessed and that other things they would like to assess are simply not included.

So, let’s take this even a step further. The end goal within corporate reform has been teacher as data manager and teacher as technician. We (teachers) will follow a script, we will enter the data, and the corporations will take it from there. We have many experienced teachers who will play the game, use the GOLD system because they are required to, but they will find ways to continuing using their own authentic assessment to move their children forward. Many will attempt to make GOLD useful if at all possible. However, we will have many teachers, such as Teach for America teachers, or brand new teachers, who will use GOLD because it is mandated and it will become THE way to assess. Teacher as data manager and teacher as technician will grow and could eventually erase teacher as professional decision-maker. Our knowledge of formative assessment will vanish.

How has our reality been reshaped by data mining? We must ask - what did we lose when we accepted these assessment systems?

Let’s dig even deeper. We will have early childhood teachers as data managers who are spending hours upon hours entering data. Who will this profit? Believe me, there is profit involved in this GOLD endeavor. Data mining is becoming more and more detailed for a reason – detailed data allows corporations to further understand HOW to profit off of public education and further understand HOW to control and manage teachers and children in order to continue to cash in and control the masses to meet the needs of the 1%.

GOLD currently is being financed in part through early childhood Race to the Top federal grants. When this funding ends, how will districts pay for it?  What will disappear from our schools as each district scrambles to find the funding to continue using GOLD?

Now I’ll get personal.

I have entered data into GOLD. I felt, truly felt, what it meant to be a data manager. I felt robbed, used and controlled. I wanted to take my computer and throw it against the wall. As a teacher who knows how to assess learners in a kindergarten classroom, I felt my autonomy being stripped from me.  It was humiliating. It was mentally exhausting.  And as a result of this experience, I will not teach kindergarten in Colorado unless this assessment is drop-kicked out of this state.

My final words are for parents.

REFUSE the GOLD.  It will rob your child's teacher and your child of precious time. Even if your child’s teacher enters GOLD data when your child is not at school, it has stilled robbed your child of what his/her teacher would have done with that planning time previous to serving as a data manager for the corporations.  Finally, protect your child's privacy. Your child is now a data generator and your child's teacher is a data manager - refuse GOLD and they can relinquish those roles.

I am not a data manager. I am a teacher. I am an excellent kindergarten teacher. And I will not be subjected to such insanity involving thousands of data points coupled with detailed information about students - all housed online to benefit the corporate regime we now have in place.

I don’t trust the GOLD. At first glance, it appears innocent. I am sure that many involved in GOLD have very good intentions - I have no doubt about that. In reality, GOLD is the future of public education in which teacher as data manager will gather detailed information about children and dutifully upload all of it to serve the corporations. I fear for our children and how this information will follow them through out their lives while narrowing and controlling their learning opportunities and eventually their careers as adults. GOLD is one more piece which lends itself to the destruction of our democracy while appearing to support learners and teachers.

For more information on what to look for in early childhood classrooms see our guide here.  I am always fascinated by names. GOLD. Ties in nicely with Race to the Top doesn't it? It's no winner. Believe me. We will all lose under assessments like GOLD.





45 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I am in Rochester, NY and teach in an integrated PreK. I have 3 and 4 year old students in my class of 18 students in the AM and 18 students in the PM for a total of 32 students. We do not use the GOLD, but something similar and have been doing so for years. We use the COR and the TCR 2x a year. We also now do the Brigance as an entrance screen and could opt to do it at the end of the year to see growth. This past year in order to have something aligned to the CC someone invented a check list of 66 items that also needed to be assessed with a 1,2,or 3 signifying the degree of mastery. The COR has 35 items on it and each item can be scored from 0-5. But the kicker is, that each number signifies something different for each item being scored. All this data has to be entered into the computer through a system called COMET. Hours and hours are spent on this. I never really thought about the "data mining" aspect of these assessments. I wonder how to get the word out to my inner city parents about this data collection and tell them to refuse to have their child evaluated this way and refuse to have the data input into the system. I need a parent advocate to tell other parents.

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  2. Peggy,
    My son is in a local Head Start program here in Seattle, and yes, they were just required to use TS Gold starting last year. There seemed to be little training and little commitment/usefulness for the teachers. They seemed to only do enough to meet guidelines, and I'm not sure that it was useful for anyone - it did eat up lots of their time though.

    One problem they experience here at my son's center (that you don't mention in your post) is language. My son's preschool is predominated by Chinese immigrants, but also has African immigrants and Latinos. TS Gold is Spanish/English only! So it is useless for the vast majority of the parents at my son's preschool since the Chinese and African immigrant parents have a vary wide range of English print and spoken fluency (some are fluent, some are not at all). Just to add to your mix.

    Wayne

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  3. Wayne - Thank you so much for sharing this - especially the information about the language - that definitely adds to the mix! What a waste of time and money for your son's preschool.
    Peg

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  4. Thank you so much! I cried after my GOLD training today. I am a 30 year Montessori teacher and this is just painful to me.

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    1. I am a Montessori teacher. I am trying to make GOLD useful to the parents and use it as a conference tool but it does waste my time and it does not fit with the Montessori Curriculum at all. Now in Colorado each licensed child care center including those in public schools will have to take part in a "Quality rating" and I see it as another avenue for government control. The Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) will only give a school "slots" for students if there is a max of 15 children to a room. It does not take into account rooms that can adequately manage 24 children with a teacher ratio of 1-8. With that class size how do they expect teachers to be paid anything over $8.00 per hour? And for a Montessori class the number is just too small. Thanks for this blog. I came upon it by accident while searching for an answer about GOLD and I sure got one!

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  5. Peggy,
    I found your blog post last week and I cannot stop thinking about it. You are a very skilled writer and as my colleague and I shared with each other after reading it, "It was like she was inside my brain and my heart." We are completely disheartened with TS Gold. We don't really know where to start with trying to change the mandates that have been placed upon preschool (and other early grades) to use this system. Is there any kind of organized movement against it. I sure hear a LOT of preschool teachers saying how much they DON'T care for it, but as far as I know that is where it stops. As you said in your post, it is not that anything of the skills on the GOLD are bad, but when it means having less contact time with kids just so you are able to enter, level and analyze the data, there is something not right.
    Heather

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    1. Heather,
      Thank you for your kind words. I am in the process of creating an "opt out" letter for parents who wish to refuse the GOLD. It is their parental right to do so. I am going to begin to a campaign to push this through my group at United Opt Out National (www.unitedoptout.com - I am one of the founders). I will keep you posted and thank you for your comments. I believe part of the key in ending this madness is helping people understand this in their brain and in their heart - the corporate reformers would love the "heart" of teaching, learning, and human relationships to disappear wouldn't they? There is no profit to be made with "heart."
      Best,
      Peg

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    2. Thank you so much Peggy. I am sending emails to our state legislators, colleagues and parents. I am not sure what else to do right now. I have never worked at taking something on like this. However, I have never felt so strongly about something that we are supposed to do, not being the RIGHT thing to do! I will keep trying to spread the word. I actually met with three early childhood teachers tonight that have been using it and actually bristled at the mere mention of "GOLD"! They too are completely overwhelmed, and as a result either "make up the information" or simply don't do it, because they feel spending time engaged with the children is more valuable. I would agree. Thank you so much for your efforts and I will help in any way that I can from Iowa! I have taken the time to read other blog entries on your site and I am equally as impressed with your efforts in other areas to bring about change that directly benefits kids and keeps teachers in the classroom.

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  6. Dear Peggy,
    I feel that TSGOLD is nothing more than a golden albatross around my neck as I try to find time to teach the children to whom I am devoted.

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  8. I have a significant concern that TS Gold is a research program camouflaged as an instructional plan. Many of the activities detailed as part of the "coach" (FKA teacher) responsibilities are medical assessments (skipping videos, mental and physical dexterity, etc.) that most parents maintain a relationship with a DR. to manage and monitor as part of of a yearly well child exam. If a school is incorporating those assessments into their program it should be because it is clear the economic or social situation warrants it and appropriate medically credentialed teams conduct it, or... and this is the alarming part... they don't trust the insight and expertise of those interventions so they recreate them and develop burden to the "coach" to administer them. That is just silly, and cannot offer any real return on investment for the learning outcomes. But it will provide a robust repository of research ready metrics for those interested in data mining them. Also, how long until a system generates our diagnosis in this model for ADHD, ADD, Dyslexia, etc. that will be great and I am sure free from error or major unintended consequences.

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  9. I am new to Colorado and new to kindergarten - but not new to teaching. (11 year veteran). I am absolutely FLOORED at the complacency of my colleagues regarding TS Gold. When I express my concern, all I see are blank looks...as in "Yeah it sucks but what are we going to do about it?"

    Here's what we do: FIGHT. This is going to have disastrous consequences on early childhood education. If Gold sticks around, next year will be my last in the kindergarten classroom. One of the instructional coaches in my district has expressed concerns that Colorado is going to lose a ton of high-quality kindergarten teachers. Anybody who doesn't see this is as a huge problem doesn't understand GOLD.

    I won't explain why I think it is horrible. You hit the nail on the head. This is going to DEVOUR our time in the classroom. I will be spending my entire day with my head buried in an ipad...OR I'll be spending my evenings and weekends consumed with Gold.

    This is going to destroy kindergarten. Thank you for sharing your concerns.

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    1. Hi There -
      Awesome post! I agree with your comments and it really hit home for me. My youngest had the most wonderful kindergarten teacher who talked at length with me about how she feels the need to create a "bubble" around her self, her classroom, and her students in order to push back against these kinds of requirements and confidently provide a kindergarten experience that she knows in her "teacher heart" to be the best - one full of play, socialization, time spent with her students, and wonderful experiences that spark curiosity and help kids push the boundaries of their learning in fun ways.
      She retired the next year because she couldn't take it any more :(
      I run a preschool in Denver and I am really concerned about how much this is all trickling down to preschool. We tried TSG for two years and ended up voting to get rid of it and I am SO glad. I wonder if there is a local group of teachers here in Denver that would be helpful in discussing any/all of this?

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  10. Hello everyone! I would like to recommend (if you have not already discovered them) looking into the BadAss Teachers (BATs) who are 36,000+ educators across the country dealing with just these issues from the corporate reform movement...educator as data entry technician and data mining....also two other bloggers that look into these exact issues...Diane Ravitch (education historian and former member of Bush and Clinton Ed Depts) and Merecedes Schneider (an english teacher in LA with a PhD in statistics...who looks at the actual documents coming out of the reform world...very interesting stuff).

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  11. I just discovered this site by Googling TSG. Peg is on the mark about TSG. One thing that strikes me about TSG is that Colorado spends so much less per student than all the surrounding states, but somehow our district is still willing and able to spend money on a TSG site license and ipads for each teacher to document student activity. How can they afford all that? What are they choosing to forgo so we can have TSG?
    I am writing a paper on TSG for a class. Has anyone kept track of the number of hours spent on TSG assessing, acquiring documentation, or data entry? I plan to show the costs of TSG, such as less time teaching, less time planning, less time for interacting with students, and low teacher morale. If you have any other ideas I would love to hear them. Thanks for any help you can give!

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    1. I have been using GOLD for a number of years, as an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher in Colorado. It takes approximately 3 to 4 hours per student to document and rate them, 3 times per school year. We are not given anywhere near enough time to do this at school, so the vast majority of this is done at home on weekends.

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    2. I have 40 students, requiring 51 pieces of data each, 3 times per year (and that's a minimum. it is 'preferred' that multiple discrete observations are entered in for each checkpoint, making that 51 figure jump to 102 or 153). That adds up to thousands of checkpoints and bits of information. To give you a glimpse into TSG - I put in 9 hours last Sunday JUST entering data; that did not include lesson planning or pre-reading books and other materials i want to use. i also put in 6 hours on saturday taking more tests (that cost more money) and doing more required professional development training. i went to work on monday not having had a weekend. i was tired and cranky and did not accomplish much in the classroom on monday. i put in another 2 hours on monday night, 2 hours last night, and 3 hours today, so far. i am looking at spending another 2-3 hours tonight and 5-6 hours on it tomorrow night so that i can finalize all of the data (we have to re-review all of the information to create a final score for each student on each checkpoint 3 times per year). this weekend will be spent planning lessons, small group activities, and storybook preparations. after next week, the whole TSG trimester cycle will start again and i won't have time to plan lessons; only enter data. i am truly questioning my ability to maintain this kind of work schedule long term. Our extended school year is now a little over 200 days (end of August through end of June) and I'm burning out FAST.

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    3. I have 40 students, requiring 51 pieces of data each, 3 times per year (and that's a minimum. it is 'preferred' that multiple discrete observations are entered in for each checkpoint, making that 51 figure jump to 102 or 153). That adds up to thousands of checkpoints and bits of information. To give you a glimpse into TSG - I put in 9 hours last Sunday JUST entering data; that did not include lesson planning or pre-reading books and other materials i want to use. i also put in 6 hours on saturday taking more tests (that cost more money) and doing more required professional development training. i went to work on monday not having had a weekend. i was tired and cranky and did not accomplish much in the classroom on monday. i put in another 2 hours on monday night, 2 hours last night, and 3 hours today, so far. i am looking at spending another 2-3 hours tonight and 5-6 hours on it tomorrow night so that i can finalize all of the data (we have to re-review all of the information to create a final score for each student on each checkpoint 3 times per year). this weekend will be spent planning lessons, small group activities, and storybook preparations. after next week, the whole TSG trimester cycle will start again and i won't have time to plan lessons; only enter data. i am truly questioning my ability to maintain this kind of work schedule long term. Our extended school year is now a little over 200 days (end of August through end of June) and I'm burning out FAST.

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  12. The Head Start Agency I have worked 15 years at adopted TS Gold last year. I hate it. It is just way to time consuming. Observing, then logging in the observations for each of my 20 students is a daunting and overwhelming task. I find myself struggling with time to get it all in. If I don't do it on the weekends and/or in the evenings at home there is no way to get it done as well as my other duties as site director/lead teacher. The whole process is, in itself, a full time job. That is the only way it can be done properly. I feel inadequate at my job and like I am short changing my students. At least once a week my aide ran the class so I could sit at my desk all day and catch up. It has not helped me to become a better teacher. Instead it is causing me much stress and self doubt. Assessments should help not hinder the learning process. Yet more and more teachers are complaining and more and more Head Start's are adopting this assessment tool. I find it refreshing to know that I am not alone out there. Everything in education changes every few years. I hope and pray this one changes quickly.

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  13. I did COR for two years then it changed to GOLD (Head Start). I found it useful to a point, but way to time consuming The preschool I am student teaching in now is finishing up their third round this week. These kids in this class need full attention, yet they can't have it because they are focusing on getting the last few notes taken and entered.

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  14. Hi Peggy - I would love to be able to connect with you and chat about this if you ever had the time. Our school used TSG for two years and last year, we made the unanimous decision to get rid of it. In addition to being a bad fit for our program, it made everyone feel like all of the joy of teaching was being sucked out of their classroom days. Since I am in Colorado too, I was just wondering if you ever visit schools to talk about this sort of thing as a type of professional development/discussion group?

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    1. I have not visited schools to share this info - but definitely could arrange something if needed!!! So glad your school got rid of it!

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  15. I would like to have permission to copy parts or all of this post. I am in Florida where they are requiring TSG now for VPK. I hate it for all reasons listed above. Just today, my staff and I spent at least 5 hours on TSG. I personally spent 3 hours entering information for just 2 children. We have 65 children to enter this info for. Do the math. I am starting a letter writing campaign to all of our government officials and would like permission to use parts or possible all of your post. Please let me know. Thank you

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    1. Paige most definitely you may use this post. Also - feel free to use the TS Gold Refusal letter here: http://www.pegwithpen.com/2013/10/teaching-strategies-gold-parent-refusal.html

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    2. Thank you for this eye-opening view into the terrible consequences TSG will have on our young people! My son is in Kindergarten, now, at a Florida public elementary, and I've been fighting to have recess restored for him and SO many other children throughout our state.

      The reason his recess has been eliminated is due to these "Data Manager, Data Generator" roles our government has forced on our teachers and students. With teacher pay and funding attached to these high-stakes tests, school administrators want to cut-out everything not test-related! Leaving our children to sit through LONG, 7-hour school days, with only a 25min break for lunch...which, more often than not, are silent lunches!

      When do they socialize? When do they make their own decisions? When can they be a KID with their peers?!!!

      One of my supporters is the owner of a local preschool. 60% of her budget is from Federal VPK funding. She's REFUSING to accept these Gold Strategies, because she can see the terrible repercussions for her teachers and students. She's asked for my help to get the word out, because she's afraid of losing her business!

      I'll share this article, along with the refusal letter for parents, but the sad thing is that she'll still lose all that funding. This is SO WRONG!!!!

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    3. Thank you for this eye-opening view into the terrible consequences TSG will have on our young people! My son is in Kindergarten, now, at a Florida public elementary, and I've been fighting to have recess restored for him and SO many other children throughout our state.

      The reason his recess has been eliminated is due to these "Data Manager, Data Generator" roles our government has forced on our teachers and students. With teacher pay and funding attached to these high-stakes tests, school administrators want to cut-out everything not test-related! Leaving our children to sit through LONG, 7-hour school days, with only a 25min break for lunch...which, more often than not, are silent lunches!

      When do they socialize? When do they make their own decisions? When can they be a KID with their peers?!!!

      One of my supporters is the owner of a local preschool. 60% of her budget is from Federal VPK funding. She's REFUSING to accept these Gold Strategies, because she can see the terrible repercussions for her teachers and students. She's asked for my help to get the word out, because she's afraid of losing her business!

      I'll share this article, along with the refusal letter for parents, but the sad thing is that she'll still lose all that funding. This is SO WRONG!!!!

      As for recess, we've convinced our district to form a Recess Committee to present recommendations to the board on December 8, 2015. Wish us luck, and sign and share our petition, please!

      THANK YOU!!

      https://www.change.org/p/kelli-stargel-give-all-polk-county-school-children-the-right-to-daily-recess

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    5. I'm interested in hearing more from those of you in FL. Me and my 2 VPK teachers have completed the training and plan to implement for the spring as required by VPK. How have you done? Have parents sent this letter with success? Is there a permission slip for photos and videos? I have not see that nor did I see it during training?

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    6. I am also in FL and will be starting TSG now. We have waited as long as possible and I have tried to be very supportive and positive for my teachers who feel overwhelmed by it but feel all of the things I am reading are on target. Where in FL are you? Have you had any luck with writing to get it retracted as the option we must use in VPK?

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    7. I run a preschool in south Florida. 90% of my parents have submitted letters "declining participation" . I was told by the state that, for now, they can do so without repercussion to the program. I was also told we should write to our state rep NOW because they are currently debating its continuation .

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    8. I run a preschool in south Florida. 90% of my parents have submitted letters "declining participation" . I was told by the state that, for now, they can do so without repercussion to the program. I was also told we should write to our state rep NOW because they are currently debating its continuation .

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    9. Also in Florida- Jacksonville Beach. Anyone willing to share what a "declining participation" letter template that we can use our school?
      Thanks!

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    10. Anastasia- would you be willing to share a "declining participation" letter template? Located in Jacksonville Beach FL and part of a parent group interested in opting out of TS Gold. Hooray for the news on next year!!

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  16. I'm getting ready to retire from Florida. I've been teaching VPK pre-k for 10 years. This is the first year we had to do Gold. I really don't like it. My parents don't even know I'm sending pictures and documenting their child's progress to DOE. I'm so glad I am done after this year. Now our school board wants us to send parent Emails to site called Ready Rosie that will track data on them. I told them I'll send a letter to my parents and they can decide. I'm not going to give out my parent's email addresses without their permission. But I am doing TSG and my parent's don't know it. I was told we had to or we would loose our funding. Sick Sick Sick.

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  17. I haven't cried about my job since I taught first grade and I had to test the little ones and saw tears in their eyes. This year the tears are coming. In FL we just started TSG. I hate it. Then the school board wants us to do Ready Rosie. It tracks data on my parents. The school board wants me to input my parents email addresses into the site. I won't do it without their permission. My parents don't even know about TSG. I'm glad this is my last year as a teacher. Retiring after 30 years. It feels wrong to keep going when I can't believe in education any more. What it's becoming turns my stomach.

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    1. Florida defunded TS gold for 2016-17 sy! :D

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  18. Hi Peggie, They are just beginning to mandate gold here in Florida for all state-funded vpk programs. After reading your article, I contacted the STate VPK policy office and found out that parents can currently "decline participation" for their child with no consequence to our program. Most of our parents have now declined, but we want to take it to the state legislature, where the continuation of this assessment is currently being debated. Did you ever send a petition to your state legislature? Outcome? Thanks, Anastasia

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  19. The State of Flirida just passed the budget for 2016-17 day. TS gold was defunded and won't be used next year thanks to a rallying cry from parents teachers, and local early learning coalitions!

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  20. Working on finishing up the TS Gold in our classrooms. I have completed the checkpoints and assigned levels on all objectives to every student. However, I have never gotten a straight answer regarding how much documentation is required for each student. There's no way a teacher should have to write a note or post a picture or video clip (which is invasive and wrong in my opinion) for each objective. Can anyone give me some clarity on this? Thankful that Florida is discontinuing this for the next school year, but very scary to think that they can prohibit VPK for 5 years at your center if this isn't completed. ��

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  21. I just posted a comment but it disappeared �� Just need some clarity about how much documentation is required for TS gold for each child. I just don't see how teachers can complete all of this in a month period while still trying to teach!!

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  22. I'm a VPK teacher in Florida and just finished TS for Spring 15-16 school year. We were told if we do not do it we would not be funded for the next 5 years. I feel as though we are being bullied by the government. This has been the most stressful 3 months and I am glad that TS was defunded.

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  23. I'm a VPK teacher in Florida and have just finished my TS for the Spring 15-16 school year. This has been the most stressful 3 months, I hate it and I'm glad TS was defunded for 16-17. We were told if we did not complete our TS for spring that we would not be funded for 5 years. I feel as though we are being bullied by the government.

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  24. Dear Peggy and other passionate teachers!

    Wow! I am reading consistent comments for a vendor throughout this forum. I am a tech entrepreneur in the field of early childhood and have a kids in elementary school in TX. I would love to hear from you all who work in the area of early childhood across the country and how TS Gold is affecting your classroom interaction. In all fairness we are building our own assessment tool and we want to avoid any and all issues mentioned in this article. We do allow a parent to opt-out. Thanks for the feedback.

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  25. Dear Peggy and Passionate Educators,

    I am a tech entrepreneur in the field of early childhood. I also have a son who goes to elementary school here in TX. I think the article and the comments are spot on and a great resource for people like me as we go and build technology tools for our teachers. In all fairness we are building our own assessment tool. We want to address all of the issues mentioned in the article and several other articles mentioned on the internet. I am eager to hear from teachers across the country and see if anyone of you are willing to join us in building a tool that is not taking you away from children in the classroom. Thanks.

    Go Peggy!

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  26. I work in a private early childhood program in MN and we have been using TS GOLD for years, but we do not use the online version. We still use the paper Child Assessment Portfolios. We find them to be MUCH less time consuming than the online format that you wrote about, and actually have been beneficial and informative to our teachers and parents. There are, of course, additional objectives and goals that we evaluate separately, such as self-help, feeding and toileting skills, etc. that are not explicitly listed within the TS GOLD system, and it has worked for us. I was much more time-consuming in the beginning when the system was new for us, but now we have gotten pretty fast with the process after becoming more familiar with the objectives over time. We can easily show parents examples of their children's work using a tangible portfolio or even digital photos during conferences. We find it to be much faster and more efficient all around. The paper format may not be an option for you based on regulations and such, but if it is, I would recommend it as an alternative to the online TS GOLD.

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