Thursday, April 4, 2013

N.Y. Administrators Need a Plunger -- It Goes Round and Round But It Just Won't Go Down.

Who'd Have Guessed this  High Stakes Testing Thing Would Back Up on Us like This?

I have spent a bit of time looking around for proponents of standardized testing or high stakes testing as we call it now especially here in New York where it's been weaponized to facilitate a shoddy and inaccurate form of assessment and ultimately the firing of unionized teachers. Pretty thin stuff locally. Nowhere could I find a Super or even a Principal who'd throw down in favor of New York's April Foolishness where we annually annihilate creativity, curiosity, critical thinking and socialization.

No there really isn't anyone to stand up for the merits of our annual April Foolishness as much as they regurgitate the Orwellian Newspeak of school reformers and NYSED drones who re-issue the same tired threats and platitudes. They only focus on the imperative nature of the testing and the potential financial harm that can come to any district or school whose testing attendance dips below 95%. They don't ever seem able to expand on the educational benefits of this testing to students though, nor can they articulate the value of this testing to teachers in planning lessons and designing strategic materials that will incorporate the invaluable "data" yielded by these "tests." 

Channel 2 News WGRZ was able to draw out two local Superintendents on the subject and here is their version of why it's good for kids to take these tests and why parents should not opt out of exposing their children to them :

Mark Mondanaro, Superintendent of suburban Ken-Ton schools offered this as his best pro testing argument: 

"The parents who are choosing to opt their children out of state tests or any district test now, I don't agree with that, but it's not my right to disagree with them." 

Excuse me sir but WTF did you just say?

Further in the same story WGRZ reports : 

Ken-Ton Schools are informing parents with online letters, not to opt out of assessment tests. District officials have instructed school principals to inform families that skipping the mandatory tests can affect the student's education, because teachers will not be sure how students are progressing. Mondanaro says that the district has also created a committee of teachers and administrators just to deal with test assessment issues within its schools.

Again I ask the good Superintendent where he gets the idea that his teachers are all walking around in a daze consulting Tarot Cards, tea leaves and bumps on their students' heads to figure out if anyone is getting what's being taught? Does he honestly have so little respect for his teachers and their professional abilities to think that last year they wouldn't have had ANY idea how their students were progressing had the kids not been exposed to the infamous Pineapple Hare ELA disaster? Really now Mr. Mondanaro, is that how little you think of your faculty? Or are you just saying the expedient cowardly "right thing" to keep the NYSED hyenas at bay? 

He digs himself in even further as he sums up what your average suburban school administrator considers a real world lesson :

"It's real life, welcome to it, (he says condescendingly, as if anyone who stands up to this nonsense is Peter Pan incarnate) you gotta do some things in life that you don't want to do and you got to take some tests and the school needs to know how their students are progressing." 

Again, the outrageous lie that these tests will inform teachers of what their students are absorbing better than any daily, weekly. monthly assessments they are doing all ready. And more to the point Sir, maybe this is one of those times YOU should have done something YOU are afraid to do, namely, stand up for your students and their teachers and say NO to pointless testing that wastes time, narrows curriculum, blunts curiosity and critical thinking and ultimately is aimed at assigning negative evaluations to teachers whose kids refuse to take this nonsense seriously. Remember friends TWO "Ineffective" ratings which these tests can lead to and you're  out of the classroom getting by on subbing and selling cars on weekends and after school. 

Up the road a piece in Buffalo we may observe a similar dearth of administrative backbone though the situation one might say is vastly unlike the one in Ken Ton. Buffalo Public Schools are led by an African American female Superintendent where Ken Ton follows a white male. Buffalo is a decidedly urban situation fraught with poverty, broken homes, gang violence, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol addiction and single parent (or single grandma in many cases) homes. Not that Ken Ton is all Wally, Beaver, June and Ward mind you, but their schools don't quite absorb the volume of societal and familial dysfunction on as many levels as BPS does. Disregarding all of that however, as the "reformers" insist there are No Excuses for kids to fail we hear Dr. Pamela Brown coming out in full support of High Stakes Standardized Testing: 

Aww shucks...

"The position that we take is the same as that is taken by the state that there is not an opt out provision -- that every child is expected to take standardized tests," said Dr. Pamela Brown, the superintendent for Buffalo Schools.

I think we've arrived...

And that's it. No explanation or rationalization, no impassioned plea on behalf of the testing culture or its value to the kids and teachers. Dr. Brown likes to pose for pictures with John King the commissioner of NYSED so she's not about to muck up her post Buffalo opportunities with anything as silly as a show of courage on behalf of her students and teachers. Dr. Brown's main concern is to assure the gatekeepers in Albany and NYSED that they have a company girl on board in Buffalo, a Team Player as it were whose career is far more valuable to her than dying on any barricade for some silly principle like standing up to excessive, abusive and weaponized testing. Seriously, look at how following Steiner around, holding the door for him, charging his blackberry, laughing at his unfunny jokes and generally being a yes man bobblehead paid off for John King -- he of the whopping three years teaching experience -- who now sits precariously atop the edu heap we call NYSED where nobody can even see the myriad of marionette strings or Uncle Bob Bennet's lips move when King speaks.  

And finally, some more boiler plate party line gibberish from Mr. Steven Katz Head Tester in Albany who's received more than his share of inquiries on the subject of Opting Out and like the rest of them was only able to seize on the language of the inquiries and point out that there is no such available option to parents as "Opting Out." He does try to bluster along with some shuck and jive about parents familiarizing themselves with Common Core as if that will unlock their minds and show them once and for all the true genius of the  NYSED sponsored April Foolishness. 

Here is a brief, thank me for that, snippet from one of Steven Katz, Director of State Assessment Office's missives, reprinted on this blog : 

"With the exception of certain areas in which parental consent is required, such as Committee on Special Education (CSE) evaluations for students with disabilities and certain federally-funded surveys and analyses specified under the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (see 20 U.S.C. 1232h), there is no provision in statute or regulation allowing parents to opt their children out of State tests.
Each child’s school will decide how best to provide a sound educational environment for each child while the State tests are being administered. Schools do not have any obligation to provide an alternative location or activities for individual students while the tests are being administered."

And here is where I believe I really enjoy the parental backlash against all of the double talking invertebrates we've had to hear from as they lamely attempt to defend the indefensible. This is from a  group in Texas  ( Texas CSCOPE Review) who are not having it : 

Parental rights are broadly protected by United States Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents posses the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399). The immorality of high stakes testing in the public schools, as stated earlier, constitute an unreasonable state interference in the operation of public schools.

The right to opt out of standardized test ought to be an option for every child’s parent or guardian — the right to say, without being pressured or penalized by state or local authority, “Do not subject my child to any test that doesn’t provide useful, same-day or next-day information about performance.”



  1. The Opt-Out movement is a REAL grassroots movement comprised of REAL parents ('stakeholders', we call them in the City), with REAL concerns over the amount of time their REAL public school children are spending on testing and not learning. This is a REAL grassroots movement. Perhaps that is why administrators do not sympathize with the plight of these parents, even though they know it is WRONG to teach this way. The issue is too REAL for administrators who have spent too much time looking at data and answering to their wealthy masters. Administrators no longer know what it means to teach and learn. They spend the majority of their time pondering 'data' and figuring out when it will be most financially advantageous to 'bail out' and be 'bought out' before moving on and being useless to some other school district.
    Pamela Brown has purchased Mary Guinn to provide an extra layer of 'remove' for herself so she can spend more quality, quiet time looking at the data. I direct readers to an article is the Black Agenda Report regarding Beverly Hall in Atlanta.

    Bruce Dixon states: "Dr. Hall had plenty of chances to stand up for Atlanta's school children in her decade in the top office. She put her career and perks first. Hall has been indicted to create lurid headlines for a “crisis” that will get the privatizers even more than she could have given them. The same goes for the teachers and administrators under her."

    I would like to predict a sea change in attitude toward adminstrators like Brown, Commissioner King, the Ken-Ton Sup't, etc. Your lack of vision, lack of concern, and lack of courage and support for public education may come back to bite you. I hope that day comes soon.

    1. Speaking of misdirected priorities, the current "clean up" expert Superintendent in Chicago is taking some heavy fire from members of the communities whose schools Rahm Emanuel told her to close. There they hold meaningless meeting after meaningless meeting to create the illusion of Emanuel's appointed school board listening to the community then they follow through with their plans and close the schools anyway no matter what anyone says. Yesterday the Chicago Teacher's Union took politicians and media on a 3 hour bus tour of the affected areas and capped it off with a 10 block walk that some of the kids would face getting to their newly assigned "welcoming schools." The kids would walk past street corner thugs in packs, drug dealers and any kind of hood misfit you can imagine all so they can attend school which they were all ready doing without the 10 block stroll through a domestic Gaza Strop. Kids would be thrown into schools where competing street gangs turf will overlap and animosities will abound. But like the high minded European Imperialists who sliced up Africa without any regard to its natural and tribal boundaries Rahm, Dr. Bird and their corporate privatizers are going to dig into Chicago schools and their neighborhoods as if it was their own personal deep dish pizza, dividing it as they see fit, citizens be damned. The empty suit currently occupying an office in City Hall has hired her own personal Fosadele Oladelelele to strike terror into the hearts of our chickenshit admins. That shouldn't take much,...

  2. Old RepresentativeApril 6, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Hare, you are right about the grassroots movement taking place through opt out. Since the first public meeting a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of people have joined the Facebook groups and every day dozens comment in the groups. I've never seen a more organized bunch of people than the people who have gotten the ball rolling with this movement. I wish more city parents would become involved, though. If enough people protested the tests, there is no way monies would be withheld. And who cares if the money is withheld anyhow? It all seems to funnel into the many-headed hydra of Standardized Testing/Data/Accountability. The money does not go to "the children." If only there were a couple of city principals with balls to encourage and support the REAL parents of Buffalo...

    This test season is going to be interesting, I believe...

  3. Hey what about the guy from City Honors? Oh wait he's the one who robo-called parents the night before Governor Charter School himself appeared at CH and tried to put a dress code in place then went on to tell the kids Make me proud as he cowered before the bully who's been with holding millions from his school system because the Union won't lie down and die as we were ordered to. Well how about Mauricio at Bennett ? Oh that's right, he's kind of pro-teacher and creates loyalty among his faculty so they had to neutralize him as quick as possible with a figurehead Community Superintendent position that will prevent him from ever standing up to the bullies. So let's have another of these bullshit "Stop the Bullying" asssmblies while NYSED and the Governor bully the holy hell out of everyone in the schools.