Saturday, October 31, 2015

Digital Badging & Hickenlooper: The Emperor Has No Clothes

I am spending my Halloween morning reading through all the docs related to a digital badge grant application here in Colorado (however this is moving nationwide so I recommend everyone take a look).

Beware the "Commission" - as they will be referred to in the near future. Our corporate governor Hickenlooper has signed an executive order for creating the Business-Experiential Learning Commission. The Commission will launch the Digital Badges initiative statewide, more or less creating a complete overhaul of our public education system and community colleges by tying data to the needs and future profits of the corporate community using our statewide longitudinal database to funnel your child's data.

The data will be used to document your child's skills (including "soft" skills) and the data will guide the curriculum of the public schools based on the market's demands. Note that the term "competencies" is used as you review the executive order - this goes back to the competency-based learning - therefore competency-based badges. Also note that there is not a SINGLE EDUCATOR appointed to the Commission.

I'd be lying if I didn't say this has completely overwhelmed me. I knew digital badging was coming. But to see it all in writing and to know what we must fight and where we are headed is just brutal at times.

But then Michael Peña, one of my fellow admins at United Opt Out​ said to me: The more we push, the more they push back.  The more they push back, the more extreme they have to get. They'll fail under the weight of that, Peggy. Have faith. Keep fanning the fire. Just when you think you can't possibly fight anymore, they give you something more extreme so you get up, breathe, get angry, and fight again.

I needed that reminder. Remember our role as activists. As they attempt to consume our schools and our children the absurdities at first unseen - will become publicly known. It is our job to expose them, mock them, find their weaknesses and tear them wide open. Have faith.

I will blog more on this Commission at a later date. I figured this one doc was enough of a fright to launch your Halloween. Don't let it scare you. Laugh in its face. Speak the truth about what is really happening here - a complete corporate takeover at all levels using data to direct and control the future lives of our children - keeping the profit with the privileged and creating a workforce  that is standardized, easy to manage, and paid little. We will expose this. And Hickenlooper will be the emperor who has no clothes. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

U.S. Dept. of Ed. and Educational Warfare

Obama has done a stellar job of launching a mainstream campaign to alert the public to his deep concerns around too much testing, the need for better testing, and testing that we embrace and love. Please remember, those who have destroyed your public schools won't suddenly do an about face to save them.

All of us however, have done a stellar job of creating the People's Movement - the Opt Out Movement. Hold how that makes you feel - and remember it. Remember the power you have, the relationships you have built, and keep that feeling strong and those relationships strong - as you will need it. 

But back to the new mainstream "testing" campaign.......

In HuffPost's Open Letter to America's parents and teachers Obama states: First, our kids should only take tests that are worth taking -- tests that are high quality, aimed at good instruction, and make sure everyone is on track. Second, tests shouldn't occupy too much classroom time, or crowd out teaching and learning. And third, tests should be just one source of information. We should use classroom work, surveys, and other factors to give us an all-around look at how our students and schools are doing.

It's interesting to see the choice of language being used in the Testing Action Plan as well as in his Open Letter. Much of the language alludes clearly to a shift to quick and snappy online daily testing as I mentioned in my post here earlier this week. The language is really about redirecting the conversation to usher in a new and better form of cash crop testing - testing that will be renamed I am sure - but for now it's best known as competency based testing, mastery testing, or proficiency testing. The idea being that children test daily and/or do homework online daily, moving seamlessly from one lesson to another - all orchestrated online by a computer program that gathers massive data (and surveys - data goldmine - which Obama was sure not to leave out) and requires minimal teacher support, minimal teacher training and allows for very large class size. And ultimately, it doesn't require the child to even be at a school. In the Testing Action Plan and the peer review letter (more on this below) I was unable to find the words "career ready" - we wouldn't want folks to know that the Common Core standards still exist under a variety of names across the country, allowing for frenzied data tagging to manage and control your child, our schools and ultimately our country. The language is shifting to a nicer, kinder, happier world of testing. Beware.

As Obama discusses the report by The Council of the Great City Schools he states: The report shows how much opportunity there is to eliminate redundant and uncoordinated tests -- and free up more classroom time for teaching and learning. 

As the U.S. Dept. of Ed. ushers in their Testing Action Plan and plugs mainstream media to make sure the masses and Opt Out , the People's Movement - believe we have been heard  - they almost simultaneously launch the previously suspended federal peer review process for state testing. 

State education officials received a letter from the U.S. Dept. of Ed. on Sept. 25, 2015 which shares a quick overview of the peer review process. They state that the "peers" reviewing each state's assessment system will NOT be U.S. Ed. Dept. folks - but rather, experts in the field. It will be fascinating to see the teams of "experts" in each state that join in to decide if a state's assessment system passes the federal ESEA requirements. There are three windows for states to submit their information for peer review - January, March and May. There is a new focus on participation data (see EdWeek) and it appears that they have a six month timeline to get all their info. in - however, if your state has the same test as another state  - you can work together to compile all your info. in order to get it done asap - sweet deal, right (incentive to save PARCC and/or SBAC consortium)? 

EdWeek states, "Importantly, states that are participating in one of the two consortia—or are using another test that's common to a significant number of states, can work on their peer-review submissions together.  That could give states that are using tests from either the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium an easier road, especially given the relatively tight timeline for peer review, said Scott Marion, the associate director of the Center for Assessment."

Six months. Six months to rush through your peer review of your state system. Under that kind of pressure, what might states do and what assistance might they take, to just get it done within the pressure cooker time frame? 

Well no worries. Assistance standing by. 

The Testing Action Plan as well as the letter regarding peer review to state school officials both share how the CCSSO will be available to help with resources. The peer review letter states: In addition, I know that the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has developed a plan to provide technical assistance to support you in preparing for peer review and will be providing that information to you shortly. The Testing Action Plan states: The Department will also share tools already available to do this work, including The Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Comprehensive Statewide Assessment Systems: A Framework for the Role of the State Education Agency in Improving Quality and Reducing Burden and Achieve’s Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts.

Damn these folks are nice. 

Morna McDermott sums it clearly here on her UOO postRemember CCSSO? They are the ones who crafted the Common Core State Standards. The standards were developed to create a “standardized” system that allows third-party companies to develop systems for outsourcing education. Now with a set of “national” standards as benchmarks, instruction can be metered out by online edu-tech companies who provide new “competency” based instruction and assessment. No teacher required.

To find out more about the Peer Review process check it out here and here and here. On page 32 they discuss policy and procedure for sharing student level data with assessment consortias and vendors - well, because the bottom line is this - our children's data is making folks buckets and buckets of money and creating a societal structure that allows them to control and manage our children in order to make MORE MONEY. This was never about the kids. 

Between the elections, the Testing Action Plan, the Peer Review process for state assessment systems and the potential ESEA reauthorization, all working simultaneously to support the dismantling of our public schools, everyone should expect an absolute flood of new more "creative, less redundant" testing and bonanza data sharing - coming to your district soon - all laced with language that is kinder, softer, and literally reaches out and tries to hold your hand. 

And this process is quietly being guided by the federal government/corporations, CCSSO, and supposedly expert peer review teams which we can be certain will include our reformy friends from various foundations and god knows where else. Of course, there will be federal funds to assist the states in getting rid of those pesky, awkward, repetitive tests that plague our schools. These new daily tests will not take much time because they will actually be embedded within the instruction and often - children won't even know it's happening. When online curriculum is testing and testing is online curriculum all tied to student grades and eventually digital badging there will be no way to gauge the amount of testing that even exists. It's all one and the same.

Regarding Obama and the whole conversation around limiting testing - there won't be less testing. The federal testing remains and now the feds will help the states implement the final blow - the testing that cannot be clearly seen or truly understood - like a stealth bomber - moving slowing and without sound through our public schools - and yes, engaging us - their enemy - as they blend in and take us out data point by data point until our public schools have vanished.  The states will finally seal the deal in taking full ownership and full leadership in destroying their own public schools.  A few years from now folks will look around at the destruction, the charter schools with 150 kids in a classroom being facilitated by a person with no teaching experience and/or REAL teaching degree - folks will wonder - how did this disaster occur? How did we not see it happening? 

It's happening now.

Folks will say....but I thought they were with us ?? 

No. They were never with us. Never. The privileged and the powerful will not stand with The People. It would defeat their entire purpose in being - to maintain and preserve and INCREASE their power and privilege.  

Revolution continues to be the only answer. If the test and punish system remains in any shape or form - then the structure remains for them to move silently forward with a new paradigm shift that will appear - at first - almost invisible to the public. Any sort of weak stance on our part that accepts any part of their plan allows them to move more quickly. The current federal dept. of ed. mainstream media testing campaign - which is occurring just in the nick of time - to support the peer reviewed state testing system process, is their latest attempt to cause us to hope and be appeased. 


Educate. Revolt. And remember. Remember what you know about public schools and the true possibility of a paradigm shift that includes fully-resourced public schools with democratic classrooms for ALL children and social policies which support our families and our communities. Remember that it is possible. Remember. Because right now, they are doing everything they can to make us forget. Solidarity. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Opt Out Revolution: The Next Wave

I keep getting texts, phone messages and emails telling me how happy folks are that Obama is now listening to us - and that Opt Out has been heard. This is heartbreaking for me - because this tells me that mainstream media has done a stellar job of co-opting Opt Out. We saw it happening. We warned that it was happening - and it indeed did.

Now, the country embraces Opt Out and folks are listening to Obama's words and thinking that we have a clear victory here. We do not. We are on a very slippery slope - one in which Opt Out can continue to drain them of their precious data but also one in which Opt Out must be ready for the next wave of this revolution. It will be a hard fought win - and it will require stamina like never before.

The next wave involves the U.S. Dept. of Ed's recommendations for testing reduction which also comes with funds to support states in getting there. And the scariest part is this - the GROUNDWORK IS COMPLETE. The feds/corporations did exactly what they came to do - they dangled carrots. They got high stakes testing systems in place with longitudinal data bases to carry the seamless productivity of the data. They loosened privacy regulations.  They got common standards out there which are essential for easy data tagging. They pushed and pushed and pushed to support charters and alternative teacher certification. They set the groundwork for the STATES to now lead the way - and they (feds/corporations) have their people in place on school boards, schools of education, depts. of ed., district admin., local gov't., "foundations", unions, and more.

And now, they simply have commiserated with the masses and said we need to reduce testing and make sure the testing that occurs is meaningful and does not take away from classroom instruction. This is accomplished so easily. It's called online daily computer based testing. Followed by online daily computer based instruction. Call it mastery testing. Competency based testing. Proficiency testing. Whatever you like. It will begin to fall in place very quickly as states move away from the hated interim testing and massive amounts of end of year testing. There will be less need for these large tests with quick, tidy, END OF DAY testing TIED TO STUDENT GRADES and STUDENT PROMOTION to the next grade/digital badge - whatever it may be - and of course testing which tells the teacher what the next day's online instruction must be. It's already happening. And now the federal gov't. is simply nudging it into the states' hands with a resounding message of support, an apology for overstepping their boundaries and a few bucks along the way to make it happen.

Opt Out was heard. Loud and clear. We are powerful. And so they have strategically planned their next step by co-opting/embracing Opt Out to get there. They've upped the ante. We knew they would. And I doubt I will see this revolution won during my teaching career - but I sure as hell won't let them trample me or our children now.

We have the power to take down this next wave as well - we, the people. There is a reason that UOO has always played hardball with absolutely no negotiations and with absolute understanding that this revolution requires tearing down the entire test/punish system - no matter what it morphs into - we do this because it is the ONLY WAY to be certain that children and public school communities receive everything they deserve - and let me tell you right now - it's the only damn way to win. 

The question is - are we ready? #optout #uoo16philly

Saturday, October 24, 2015

No Victory

There is no victory here. Obama's administration suddenly does not care about our children. King doesn't suddenly care either. These folks and their corporate cronies have been pummeling our public schools for how many years now and suddenly - now suddenly - they are listening and here to save the day? NO. As Morna McDermott (UOO admin) says - the folks who have been destroying you suddenly do not come up with a solution to save you. NO. Do not fall for the latest "testing action plan" from the US Dept of Ed. Arne is gone and now King (CHARTER SCHOOL KING???) is going to make things right? HELL NO. Not happenin'. They plan to roll out testing that is competency based - tied to our curriculum - impossible to opt out of - online - seamless - with no end of year test necessary. No victory. None.

I Wonder

Working in a district that is under “accreditation watch” while also working in one of the district’s “turnaround” schools brings intense stress and high stakes mandates everywhere you turn.

I wonder if folks understand what it’s like to feel guilty about asking your school to purchase you a trashcan? Or – being told there are certain resources you need – but knowing there is no money to buy them.

I wonder if folks understand what it’s like to teach reading (as a reading interventionist) to vulnerable children who have attended under-resourced schools FOR YEARS and having to pick and choose which of those vulnerable children gets support? Can you imagine the guilt?

I wonder if folks understand what it’s like to know EXACTLY WHAT STUDENTS NEED and to be told again and again that your root cause is not following the standards – or some other lame excuse that ignores poverty, high class size, and under-resourced buildings. Having taught in wealthy schools and under-resourced and high poverty schools and knowing what this looks like/sounds like, I wonder if folks truly understand what it means to teach reading to children with books galore in their homes versus children who have no books, no computers, and also speak a second language – I wonder if folks really understand what teaching reading looks like in those two situations – I wonder if they understand what is ultimately required of teachers in urban diverse schools in terms of pedagogy, scaffolding for second language learners and more?

I wonder if they understand that these teachers in urban diverse schools are not only amazing – but also passionate and hard working because they MUST BE to survive conditions under which they are publicly told they are failing again and again.

I wonder if folks understand what it’s like to be told to listen to non-educators who know NOTHING about teaching in an attempt to get out of turnaround (think slap in the face)?

I wonder if folks understand what it’s like to read the local paper which slams your district again and again, while watching privileged folks protect their wealthier districts by not making waves and continuing to tout those privileged, classist and racist test scores… they walk on by?

I wonder if folks really understand how such a situation creates great anger and frustration – when folks simply just won’t stand together and support the common good – but rather, they quietly protect their own. I wonder what they think?

And I wonder if they understand the ramifications not only for my school – but for their school and their children? Without public schools our democracy is doomed.

I wonder – what will they say ten years from now? What then? What now? ‪#‎optout‬ ‪#‎revolution‬