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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Organized Confusion: PARCC Hypocrisy, Bullying, and Fear-Mongering in CPS | ‪#‎Chuy2015‬

Organized Confusion: PARCC Hypocrisy, Bullying, and Fear-Mongering in CPS | Troy LaRaviere‘s blog:

 Emanuel and Bennett-small

Organized Confusion: PARCC Hypocrisy, Bullying, and Fear-Mongering in CPS

An Open Letter to Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools
Cc: Rahm Emanuel, Mayor
Ms. Byrd-Bennett,
In response to parent and teacher support for opting children out of the PARCC Test, you sent amessage to all CPS principals. It states:
Please be advised that ISBE does not recognize a parent’s right to opt a child out of required student assessments, as there is no law in Illinois allowing this.  While a parent cannot “opt a child out,” there may be students who refuse to participate in required state assessments.
There are numerous faults and inconsistencies in your letter. I attempt to address a few of them here.
“Choice” Hypocrisy
It is pitifully ironic that you, Mr. Emanuel, and ISBE Chairman James Meeks—self-professed proponents of what you call “parental school choice”—would fight so vigorously to deny parents the choice of opting their children out of testing.
Posturing, Bullying and Wasting Learning Time
Your letter states that even if the parent states, in writing, not to test the child, school officials still must present each child with each one of the five sections of the PARCC tests and force the child to refuse each section separately. In April—when the second half of the PARCC is administered—you have directed us to repeat this process with up to 3 sessions. In total we have been directed to force students to verbally or physically refuse the PARCC on up to eight distinct occasions.
Your letter goes on to state:
It is unfortunate that ISBE’s limited guidance on this matter has placed the burden of refusing the test on students. I believe this is unfair to our students, families, principals and staff. However, we are obligated to follow ISBE’s limited direction to avoid sanctions that would have a devastating impact on our district.
If you believe it is “unfortunate,” and “unfair” then why are CPS officials alleged to be forcing children in some schools to refuse not only to the teacher, but to the principal and the network chief? If you believe it’s “unfair,” why was a network chief sent to Mollison School—my elementary alma mater—where the chief is said to have made students refuse directly to her; in one case allegedly forcing a fourth grade autistic child to articulate his desire to opt out despite the fact that he’d already made his desire clear when he himself submitted a signed note from his mother?
Then there’s what is alleged to have happened at Taylor school on the far southeast side, where a teacher reported an administrator, “got within a few inches of the face of one young man in the [opt-out] line, and asked him loudly, “DID SHE PUT A TICKET IN YOUR HAND?!!!”, then ordered the teacher to “PUT A TESTING TICKET IN EVERY STUDENT’S HAND AND PUT THEM IN FRONT OF A COMPUTER!”
Although the facts behind both of the above incidents are in dispute, it is noteworthy that the people making the above claims are all parents of low-income minority children—the children our mayor said would “never amount to anything”; the children whose schools he shut down; and the children who he funnels to charter schools where they experience less academic growth than in the public system they came from. Why has CPS added PARCC bullying to the long list of offenses it has committed against these children and their families?
Deception and Confusion Part 1: Repressive Framing of the Law
Your letter is deceptive in how it frames parental rights. The letter does not state that parentsdon’t have a right to opt their children out. It states that ISBE does not recognize a parent’s right to opt their children out. In other words, despite the fact that parents do have that right, ISBE has chosen not to acknowledge it.
There is a sentence on which the logic of everything in your letter rests. The sentence is as follows:
Please be advised that ISBE does not recognize a parent’s right to opt a child out of required student assessments, as there is no law in Illinois allowing this.
The statement, “There is no law in Illinois allowing this” is particularly disturbing. There is no law in Illinois allowing us to teach with “smart boards,” pull our children from school for family vacations, or assign homework on Fridays. Yet people do all of these things with regularity without consequence. We are not a society that curtails its actions based on the absence of a law allowing us to do a particular thing. We curtail our behavior based on the presence of an explicit law or rule prohibiting us from engaging in a particular act.
The fact that ISBE and CPS expects this kind of ominous and unsettling totalitarian logic to hold water is insulting to the principles of liberty and a seemingly desperate and pathetic attempt to inject confusion into a matter which is utterly clear: In a situation in which students are distressingly over-tested, parents have the right to opt their students out of standardized testing.
Deception and Confusion Part 2: Funding
Third, you cite a letter from ISBE that threatens to withhold funding should CPS not test “100%” of students. These threats violate ISBE’s own precedents in terms of how it has dealt with opt-outs in past years, and would subject ISBE to a massive class-action lawsuit should it be foolish and vindictive enough to follow through on its threats to withhold money from bilingual students, students with disabilities, and students from low-income households simply because students and their parents chose not to take a test. This threat has no merit; yet you continue to spread ISBE’s false doomsday pronouncements in an effort to frighten parents, teachers, and principals into subjecting our students to the failed practice of over-testing them.
A couple months ago you stated it was not in our students’ best interested to take the PARCC. If you sincerely believed this, you could have done what the New York City Department of Education advised its principals to do when parents opt their children out of similar state tests. They instructed their principals to “respect the parents’ decision and let them know that the school will work to the best of their ability to provide the child with an alternate educational activity.”
Instead you changed your tune and began praising the PARCC, calling it the “truest measure of the Common Core” in your letter to principals. Your implausible flip-flop on the issue gives some measure of believability to those who felt CPS’s request to have only 10% of students take the PARCC was an insincere election season ruse.
Summary and Conclusion
CPS has exhibited intense hypocrisy in regard to parental choice. It has bullied children and their families, been deceptive in its repressive framing of the law in regard to opt out rights, and parroted dubious claims about losing funds in relationship to opting out.
As a result, I will be taking the following course of action and call on you to advise all CPS principals to do the same:
Our school will meet its responsibility to administer the PARCC to all students who want to take it. Nearly 80% of our students have already expressed their decision to refuse the PARCC by submitting letters from their parents opting them out of the test. When students handed that opt-out letter to their teachers, that act was an expression of their refusal to take the test. That is enough for me, and it should be enough for CPS and ISBE. No child under my watch, who has expressed his or her decision to refuse the PARCC, will be sat in front of any computer to take it, nor presented with any materials. We will not waste even more learning time by subjecting our students to ISBE’s deceptive fear-mongering and CPS’s hypocritical test-driven political theater.
Troy LaRaviere
  • CPS Graduate
  • Former CPS Teacher
  • CPS Parent
  • CPS Principal
  • Email:
  • Twitter: @TroyLaRaviere
Next Week: ISBE’s Version of Stand Your Ground – An Open Letter to James Meeks, Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)Organized Confusion: PARCC Hypocrisy, Bullying, and Fear-Mongering in CPS | Troy LaRaviere‘s blog:

Legislators Sold Out Our Kids and Teachers to Federal VAM Scam Blackmail for Ten Dollars Per Child

Legislators Sold Out Our Kids and Teachers to Federal VAM Scam Blackmail for Ten Dollars Per Child:

On March 11, 2015, by a vote of 26 to 23, the Washington State Senate passed Senate Bill 5748, which requires student test scores to be used as a part of evaluating teachers.

Numerous studies have shown that this crazy idea, known as the VAM Scam, is no more reliable than a coin toss. Teachers who are ranked as the best by the VAM scam one year are likely to be ranked as the worst teachers the next year. The VAM scam harms teachers by tying their jobs to unreliable test scores and it harms students by increasing pressure on them to pass meaningless drill and kill tests just to save the jobs of their teachers. The American Statistical Association has concluded that value-added metrics (the VAM scam) do not measure teacher effectiveness and that using test scores to fire teachers is unreliable. Using test scores in evaluations is unfair to teachers working with lower-income families. Student test scores on high stakes high failure rate tests such as SBAC are not an accurate measure of learning and can vary dramatically.

For more on the drawbacks of the VAM scam, see this article:

President of the Washington Education Association, Kim Mead said this about the vote: 
“Our kids deserve better. We deserve better. Frankly, I’m ashamed of the senators who voted for this misguided policy. They sold out our students”

Here is the vote count on SB 5748 (with the Democrats in Bold): Total: 26-23. 

Voting Yes were 19 Republicans and 7 Democrats: Senator Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Cleveland, Dammeier, Ericksen, Fain,Frockt, Habib, Hewitt, Hill, Hobbs, Honeyford, King, Kohl-Welles, Litzow, Miloscia, Mullet, O’Ban, Parlette, Pedersen, Rivers, Schoesler, Warnick

Voting No were 6 Republicans and 17 Democrats : Senator Angel, Billig, Brown, Chase, Conway, Dansel, Darneille, Fraser, Hargrove, Hasegawa, Hatfield, Jayapal, Keiser, Liias, McAuliffe, McCoy, Nelson, Padden, Pearson, Ranker, Roach, Rolfes, Sheldon

Had only 2 more Senators voted No, the bill would have been defeated. 

Follow the Money
Speaking in favor of this bill at the Public Hearing on February 10, 2015 were members of four groups who have received millions of dollars from Bill Gates, the “man behind the curtain” who is the chief promoter of the VAM scam. These groups were Stand for Children (SFC), the League of Education Voters (LEV), Teachers United (TU) and the Washington State Board of Education (WSBOD).

Stand for Children received 11 grants totaling more than $12 million. Here are just a few: 

The League of Education Voters received 15 grants totaling more than 6 million. Here are just a few: 

Teachers United received 2 grants totaling nearly one million dollars: 

The Washington State Board of Education received 2 grants totaling more than one million dollars:

In short, Bill Gates paid more than $20 million directly to the four groups who spoke in favor of his VAM scam bill on February 10 2015. In addition to direct funding from the Gates Foundation, all four of these groups have received millions of dollars in hidden indirect funding from Bill Gates and his hundreds of fake groups. 

Sadly, the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, also spoke in favor of this toxic bill. On January 26, 2015, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), announced that Randy Dorn had been elected to their Board of Directors
Legislators Sold Out Our Kids and Teachers to Federal VAM Scam Blackmail for Ten Dollars Per Child:

Parents just don’t get social media, chief NJ testing officer says | Bob Braun's Ledger

Parents just don’t get social media, chief NJ testing officer says | Bob Braun's Ledger:

Parents just don’t get social media, chief NJ testing officer says

Erlichson, third from left, with friends from the NJ School Boards Association, which supports PARCC

The chief testing officer for the New Jersey education department is blaming others–particularly parents and educators–for the uproar about a private company’s monitoring of the social media accounts of children taking state, standardized tests known as PARCC.
“The last several days have made evident that a large number of both educators and parents do not understand the nature of social media,” wrote Bari Anhalt Erlichson, in a memo sent to school superintendents and other educators throughout New Jersey. Erlichson is an assistant education commissioner.
Her memorandum, dated March 17, ends with a lecture to parents about what they should do:
“Parents should make informed decisions as to whether to permit their child to have an online presence and to work with their child in establishing the privacy settings for various applications, such as Facebook. It is my hope that by working together – parents, students and schools – that we further our students’ understanding of how to participate in social media responsibly, safely, and in ways that further their development as curious, self-directed learners.”
bloghespeThe memorandum clearly shows how she–or her boss, state Education Commissioner David Hespe–will try to explain away the monitoring of children’s social media by Pearson, the multi-billion-dollar international Parents just don’t get social media, chief NJ testing officer says | Bob Braun's Ledger:

Should Kids Be Allowed To Opt Out Of Standardized Tests? Many Americans Say 'No'

Should Kids Be Allowed To Opt Out Of Standardized Tests? Many Americans Say 'No':

Should Kids Be Allowed To Opt Out Of Standardized Tests? Many Americans Say 'No'

 Even though most Americans think that kids are given too many standardized tests in school these days, that doesn't necessarily mean they think kids should have the ability to opt out of these assessments, according to new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

This month, as schools around the country are giving statewide Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests, or PARCC assessments, a contingency of families who refuse to participate in standardized testing have been thrust into the spotlight. Earlier this month in New Mexico, thousands of students opted not to participate in PARCC tests, which are associated with the Common Core State Standards -- a set of education benchmarks that have been adopted in most states. Similarly, in New Jersey, school districts have reported high numbers of opt-outs.
Many states' policies on whether students are actually allowed to refuse standardized tests are murky. In many states that technically forbid students from opting out, some kids still refuse to take the tests, and the unclear policies lack enforcement. There are only a few states that explicitly allow students to abstain from taking statewide tests.
In collaboration with YouGov, The Huffington Post conducted a nationally representative poll on the subject of standardized testing this month. While most of the 1,000 respondents seemed to feel that standardized tests only do a "fair" or "poor" job of measuring student learning, many seemed to be less clear on whether they thought these tests should be optional.
Many respondents reported feeling that standardized testing has done more harm than good over the past 10 years, as shown in the graph below. The increased focus on standardized testing began in 2001 with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, which outlined consequences for schools if students performed poorly on the exams.Should Kids Be Allowed To Opt Out Of Standardized Tests? Many Americans Say 'No':

Parents Can Opt Out - United Opt Out National

Click Here to go to United Opt Out National: 

Click Here to go to the WebsiteUnited Opt Out Team
Click Here to go to the Website FairTest

Board: Dick Snyder's school reform plan violates constitution

Board asks Snyder to reconsider tranfer of state school reform office:

Board: Dick Snyder's school reform plan violates constitution

 The State Board of Education today unanimously asked Gov. Rick Snyder to reconsider the transfer of the state school reform office from the Michigan Department of Education to a state office directly under his control, saying the move violates the state constitution.

The board cited a provision in the Michigan Constitution that says "leadership and general supervision over all public education" is vested in a state education board. It said the framers of the constitution were clear in their intent.
"The reasons... are as relevant today as they were in 1963," Casandra Ulbrich, D-Rochester Hills, said as she read from a statement the board issued today.
"Decisions affecting the educational environment, from school safety to effective learning environments and health and well-being, should be directed by those with expertise in effective education policy, not by individuals or government departments with no expertise in educating children," the statement said.
The board appoints the state superintendent, who oversees the MDE.
Snyder signed an executive order Thursday moving the office to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The school reform office oversees 138 priority schools — those that perform in the bottom 5% of all schools statewide. The office works with those schools to develop plans for improvement and hold them accountable for carrying out those plans. Snyder has said he wants the office to take a more proactive approach in addressing the worst-performing schools in the state.
The executive order takes effect 60 days from when it was signed.
Whether the transfer truly violates the constitution is unclear. It would not be the first time a major function of the department was moved. Gov. John Engler moved all assessment functions from MDE when he was in office, a move that was reversed when Gov. Jennifer Granholm took office.
David Murray, a spokesman for Snyder, said the executive order "is within the governor's constitutional authority."
"Gov. Snyder took this step because he believes in looking at the best possible outcome in the fastest way possible," Murray said. "Our urgent goal is to make a meaningful difference for the children and families in these most struggling schools, some of which have been struggling for years."
Board member John Austin, D-Ann Arbor, said earlier in the meeting that the move is counterproductive. The board, he said, must make the case that moving education functions across state government isn't "the most effective way to hit the intended target of turning around" the worst-performing schools.
The governor, he said, is missing an opportunity to bring together the state board, the governor's office and the next state schools superintendent. The board could decide as soon as Wednesday on a new superintendent, who would replace the retiring Mike Flanagan.
Eileen Weiser, R-Ann Arbor, pointed out one irony in the statement: some of the functions of the State Board that are noted in the constitution — and reiterated in the Board asks Snyder to reconsider tranfer of state school reform office:

BESE Pres Chas Roemer: Opt-out Zeroes Won’t Affect School Scores (??) | deutsch29

BESE Pres Chas Roemer: Opt-out Zeroes Won’t Affect School Scores (??) | deutsch29:

BESE Pres Chas Roemer: Opt-out Zeroes Won’t Affect School Scores (??)

chas roemer 3

 Let’s talk “opting out” of Louisiana’s “PARCC” test on the first day (Monday, March 16, 2015) as reported on the Louisiana Radio Network blog:

Calcasieu, Jackson, and Central School systems lead the state in the percentage of opt-outs during Monday’s first day of statewide PARCC testing.  Jackson had an opt-out rate of 13-percent, followed by 12-percent for Calcasieu and eight-percent for Central.  
Central School Superintendent Michael Faulk says 153 students in the district did not participate.
 “It’s really higher at Central Middle.  It’s 10-percent at Central Middle and a little bit lower at Central Intermediate.”
Statewide about one-percent of students opted-out of the Common Core testing.  Opt-outs will be given a zero on the exams and that will transfer to the school and school district scores.  Faulk says he’s concerned that his school system will be judged with no consideration to the percentage of opt-outs.
I do not have the Louisiana “PARCC” opt-out numbers for Tuesday, March 17, 2015; however, such was apparently concern enough for Central school district to seek a word from Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) president, Chas Roemer.
The following message appeared around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, on the Central City News Facebook page:
BESE CHAIRMAN CHAS ROEMER Says Central Schools Will Not Be Penalized Because of Opt/Out.
By Woody Jenkins, editor.
In an exclusive interview with the Central City News this afternoon, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education chairman Chas Roemer said the board will not allow the Central Community School System to be penalized because 
BESE Pres Chas Roemer: Opt-out Zeroes Won’t Affect School Scores (??) | deutsch29:

Pearson Under Fire for Monitoring Students' Twitter Posts -

Pearson Under Fire for Monitoring Students' Twitter Posts -

Pearson Under Fire for Monitoring Students’ Twitter Posts

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which demanded that Pearson halt its student social media monitoring.Credit Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters
Is it corporate due diligence or spying on children?
That is the question parents across the country have been asking on Twitter and on blog posts since they learned that the publishing giant Pearson Education has been monitoring social media to identify students who might be leaking information about certain tests administered by the company.
The math and English tests — called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC — are being developed by a consortium of states in conjunction with Pearson to measure students’ preparedness for life after graduation.
In a statement posted on the company’s site, Pearson said the states contractually required it to monitor public social media posts to make sure students did not disclose test questions.
Although education officials in some states already screen social media on their own for possible test leaks, Pearson’s efforts have ignited a firestorm among some teacher and parent groups who contend the monitoring is invasive and unfair.
On Tuesday, the American Federation of Teachers demanded that Pearson halt its student social media monitoring and make public any contract language related to its security measures for tests.
“It’s one thing to protect intellectual property, but this raises far too many questions,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers’ union, wrote in an email on Tuesday. “How is Pearson monitoring students? What information about students does Pearson have, where did it get it, and what will it keep? Is Pearson reviewing everything students post? What protections are there for student privacy?”
Pearson’s monitoring of social media for possible leaks on test questions first came to public attention a few days ago after Bob Braun, a blogger in New Jersey and a former columnist for The Star-Ledger, of Newark, published a private email from a concerned school official to her fellow superintendents.
In the email, Elizabeth C. Jewett, the superintendent of the Watchung Hills Regional High School District in Warren, N.J., told her colleagues that Pearson had notified state education officials of a security breach in the belief that a student at the school had taken a photograph of a question during the test and posted it on Twitter. The state officials, she wrote, asked that her school discipline the Pearson Under Fire for Monitoring Students' Twitter Posts -

Implementing California’s School Funding Formula

California’s new funding formula provides extra funding for low-income, English Learner, and foster care students, and it gives local districts flexibility in how they spend the money. Laura Hill, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), provides an overview of new PPIC research on implementation challenges. Then a panel of experts takes up the issue. Panelists are Carolyn Chu of the Legislative Analyst's Office; Jonathan Raymond, president of the Stuart Foundation and former superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District; PPIC research associate Paul Warren; and Riverside County school superintendent Kenneth Young. Patrick Murphy, PPIC research director, moderates.

Three Things You Should Know About the Stuart Foundation’s Grantmaking 

If you’re working with children in the states of California or Washington, the Stuart Foundation should definitely be on your radar. This San Francisco-based foundation awards education and child welfare grants in the $50,000 to $100,000 range each year.
The purpose of all Stuart grants is to transform public education and the child welfare system so youth can achieve great things in school and life. This might seem straightforward enough, but there are a few things that you should keep in mind as you apply for a grant with this foundation. The foundation has recently made a few crucial staffing and program changes that you may not have heard about yet (Read Stuart Foundation Profile).
The Stuart Foundation Has a New President
On May 21, 2014, the Stuart Foundation announced its new president, Jonathan P. Raymond. Raymond is replacing Christy Pichel, who led grantmaking since 2003. He comes to the Stuart Foundation from the Sacramento City Unified School District, where he served as Superintendent and was a founding member of the California Office to Reform Education (CORE). We expect Raymond to bring his passions for Common Core Standards and closing the achievement gap for minority students to the Stuart Foundation when he assumes the position in mid-July 2014.
Community Schools Are No Longer Eligible for Grants
Over the past decade, the Stuart Foundation invested nearly $12 million in community schools, like the Los Angeles Education Partnership and the Community Schools Collaboration in Washington’s South King County. In a general sense, community schools are partnerships between schools and community resources that go beyond standard public school classroom offerings. But for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the Stuart Foundation is no longer accepting grant applications from community schools. Instead, Stuart is now focusing on improving district education systems and statewide policies.
Stuart Supports Both Public and Private Foster Care Agencies
Through its Vulnerable Youth in Child Welfare Program, the Stuart Foundation partners with both public and private child welfare agencies to provide resources and services to youth in foster care. Within its foster care support, the foundation funds programs related to safety, permanency, wellbeing, education, and family and community engagement. The foundation staff aims to identify gaps in services for foster youth and instill a sense of urgency in executing social work practices.
Stuart Foundation

High Stakes Testing’s Threat to Civil Liberties BY YOHURU WILLIAMS

High Stakes Testing:

High Stakes Testing’s Threat to Civil Liberties

Curiously, the same cabal that tends to spring to the defense of testing and corporate education reform remained silent with regard to the latest issue. It seems obvious that the talking points memo issued with hefty campaign contributions and other payoffs by the corporate giants making a fortune on testing schemes did not cover the violation of basic civil liberties that went along with their testing packages.
In fact, those talking points consist only of ways to brand parents, teachers, and teacher’s unions as the real problem. The tired rhetoric would be laughable if it were not fundamentally undemocratic. That is really what makes it so scary–for it is clear they are less concerned with safeguarding democracy than generating profits. Yet, they use extreme labels and metaphors that paint as extremists those most concerned with the protection of youth.
Last month, for instance, Wisconsin governor and presidential hopeful Scott Walker ignited a firestorm at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference after he compared combating teachers unions to fighting Isis. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters,” he stridently informed those in attendance, “I can do the same across the world.
This is really the same stale script of trying to use fear of terrorism and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement to advance the corporate education reform agenda. To show how unimaginative Walker was, more than a decade ago George Bush’s Education Secretary, Dr. Rod Paige, definitely branded the country’s leading teachers union, the National Education Association, as “a terrorist organization” in February of 2004. When the comments Paige shared in a closed session with the nation’s Governors became public, he apologized but more than 10 years later the label High Stakes Testing: