Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Charade of Prompt Writing

A quick thought I posted on FB:

Most writing in today's schools is prompt writing. This is typically worthless writing because the student had no input in the topic, etc. Prompt after prompt after prompt wears on a child's soul.

And when students aren't engaged, the student work you are looking at is WORTHLESS. Without engagement, the student work is not authentic - these writing prompts, etc. do not demonstrate what the child is truly capable of doing. When someone asks me to look at a child's piece of writing, the first thing I ask is - did this child choose the topic? If the child has no ownership in the topic, I already know that the sample is most likely not the child's best work and therefore it is a waste of time to evaluate it.

Yet, we have teachers determining teaching points based on poor writing samples. Therefore, any teaching points created as a result of these evaluations are low level and worthless. What's left? Mediocre teaching that produces mediocre learning that is not engaging and not even close to what the children are capable of. This is what top-down high stakes standards bring us. Mediocrity. Dis-engaged learners. And a bunch of teachers out there running on that hamster wheel keeping busy and quiet just like they want us to be - while the walls crumble down around us. Such a flipping charade. All of it.

So - parents - rule #1 - when your child brings home a piece of writing - ask them - did they choose that topic? And if not, is there any purpose whatsoever to the writing? Expose the charade.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

NBI #10 at CEA: Withdraw from PARCC

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

 Solidarity to all of you.

My comments in favor of NBI #10 Withdraw from PARCC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UOO to CEA: How Can We Help?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Cost Implications

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

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

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

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

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