Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

TeamChildren: Making a Difference One Child at a Time

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

teamchildren1 teamchildren2When it comes to computers and all things electronic, schools have jumped in big-time, with education tech spending estimated to hit $60 billion by 2018. That commitment promises to continue the transformation of classroom instruction-and, in turn, homework, too. Already, many assignments require a home computer; problem is, not everyone has one, and that’s given rise to what’s commonly known as “the digital divide.”

Enter TeamChildren. Based in Audubon, Pennsylvania, this IRS-approved nonprofit’s mission is “to ensure that every child has the technology tools and the opportunities to learn lots and learn early.” And they accomplish that feat by refurbishing and distributing countless computers to families throughout Pennsylvania, the country and the world.

Thank goodness…

Just one glance at the 2013 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Report of Computer and Internet Use in the U.S. tells the story:

Percentages of households with computers led by:

  • White alone, non-Hispanic: 85.4%
  • Black alone, non-Hispanic: 75.8%
  • Asian alone, non-Hispanic: 92.5%
  • Hispanic (of any race): 79.7%

In those with incomes:

  • Less than $25,000: 62.4%
  • $25,000 to $49,999: 81.1%
  • $50,000 to $99,999: 92.6%

Educational attainment of householder:

  • Less than high school graduate: 47.2%
  • High school graduate (includes equivalency): 66.9%
  • Some college or associate’s degree: 83.9%
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher: 93.5%

As noted, race is part of the equation in that “digital divide,” but the gap widens even more when education and income are factored in. And it’s the have-nots that is the heart of TeamChildren.Thanks to help from some thousands of donors, including IBM, QVC, and Acme, as well as a number of local school districts, the organization has already refurbished and given more than 14,000 low-cost computers new homes, thus changing the lives of more than 50,000 kids in the Philadelphia area and well beyond.

While most of the recipients are single moms raising kids on their own, about 33% are children with severe health or developmental challenges.

But that’s just part of the story. The organization also sponsors a summer youth program, hiring and instructing a number of teens/college students how “to refurbish computers, work as a team, set goals, provide customer service, marketing, public relations and more.” That also involves mastering TeamChildren’s early learning math and literacy software, and then teaching parents how best to use them with their children and boost achievement.

Many also work on Saturdays and during school holidays, and, thanks to their hard work and commitment, an additional 1,000 computers are distributed to local families, schools, and various other organizations every year.

Such largesse harkens all the way back to October 22, 1966 in Vietnam’s Phu Cong Province.

On that day, a hand grenade lobbed at a squad of American soldiers was grabbed by one Private 1st Class Milton Olive. By throwing himself on it, he saved all the men in his platoon, including Robert Toporek. Carrying Private Olive’s body out of the jungle, he promised to dedicate his life honoring his friend’s heroism and memory.

That promise took shape in 1975 when he founded TeamChildren, and, ever since, Toporek has been paying if forward, “making a difference worldwide, one child at a time.” To learn more and donate to this noble effort, just click here.

 

Universal Pre-K: Benefits and Downsides

Friday, September 9th, 2016

fotosearch-kindergarteners-paa186000022The push for universal pre-K echoes from the White House on down and nowadays is the talk all about town. As Education Secretary John B. King put it, “Because of historic investments from the Obama administration, states and cities, more children-particularly those who have been historically under-served–now have access to high-quality early learning. We must continue our collective work so that all children have the foundation they need to thrive in school and beyond.”

Those efforts have, of course, come with a price tag, which includes:

  • $1 billion in federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants to 20 states and jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services;
  • 18 grants totaling $226 million to states;
  • $75 billion over 10 years in Obama’s proposed 2017 budget for the “Preschool for All” initiative providing preschool for all 4-year-olds from moderate and low-income families via a $0.94 cigarette/tobacco taxes. Overall, about $90 billion is spent on the program, along with an expansion of home visits for children.

As for the results, along with information being more accessible to parents and an enhanced rating system, promoted benefits include improved:

  • Quality of learning
  • Chances for future education achievement
  • Childhood experiences
  • Odds of social and economic success
  • Higher test scores

But it’s that last item that seems to get most of the headlines.

Take for example the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) given in math, reading, and science. As the Huffington Post‘s Rebecca Klein has reported, on the whole, [OECD] students who attended preschool performed, on average, more than 20 points better on the PISA than those who did not, even after accounting for socioeconomic differences.

And that, for many, makes the case for universal pre-K, but not everyone’s on board, including Nancy Carlsson-Paige.

This early childhood development expert and author of Taking Back Childhood is a professor emerita of education at Lesley University where she’s taught teachers for more than 30 years. She’s also the founder of the university’s Center for Peaceable Schools and helped start the Defending the Early Years nonprofit which commissions early childhood research and advocates for kid-appropriate policies.

Moreover, this mother of two has earned the Legacy Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps and most recently the Deborah Meier (a renowned educator) award from the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, aka FairTest.

In other words, she knows what she’s talking about and is distressed by the current push to get all of our youngest kids well-schooled.

Indeed, she started off her FairTest acceptance speech by saying, “Never in my wildest dreams could I have foreseen the situation we find ourselves in today. Where education policies that do not reflect what we know about how young children learn could be mandated and followed. We have decades of research in child development and neuroscience that tell us that young children learn actively-they have to move, use their senses, get their hands on things, interact with other kids and teachers, create, invent. But in this twisted time, young children starting public pre-K at the age of four are expected to learn through ‘rigorous instruction.'”

Moreover, she “never thought she’d see a time when we would…

  • Have to defend children’s right to play… ;
  • Fight for classrooms for youngsters that are developmentally appropriate… ;
  • Be up against pressure to test and assess young kids throughout the year, often in great excess and often administering multiple tests in kindergarten and even pre-K… “

Her bottom line about these test- and data-driven times: “Some people call this abuse, and I can’t disagree.”

What say you?

Reasons for the Current Teacher Shortage

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Reasons for the Current Teacher Shortage By Carol Josel  |   Submitted On August 19, 2016

America has a teacher shortage problem, and there’s plenty of blame to go around, especially since the Obama administration took over and the federal government doubled-down on its education policies. Just think how things stand right now with such glaring issues as tight budgets, relentless standardized testing, performance-based teacher evaluations, hastily designed and implemented Common Core Standards, exploding poverty numbers, turn-around school mandates, charter school growth, and tenure in the short hairs, right there along with teachers’ pay.

Even current Secretary of Education John B. King waxed somewhat apologetically by suggesting that, “Despite the best of intentions, teachers and principals have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for challenges our nation faces as we strive to improve outcomes for all students.”

Indeed…

Stockton University’s dean of education put it more bluntly by contending that it’s the result of “terribly horrible, negative rhetoric we’re hearing from public officials.”

Similarly, Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, recently declared that, along with everything else that’s going against them, “Teachers have also been subjected to demonization.”

The result: A MetLife survey finds that teacher satisfaction is at its lowest level in 25 years, which comes as no surprise to Dulce-Marie Flecha who is quitting after five years in the classroom.

When asked why, she said, “I’m trying to think of a good summarizing reason, but, honestly, there are more reasons to leave than there are to stay in education right now. At a certain (more…)

School-Wise Update: Making It Harder to Fail in School

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

School districts across the country, such as those in Fairfax County, Virginia, and Prince George County, Maryland, are taking a second look at grades and opting for “no zero policies” for middle and high school students. The result: It’s impossible for kids to garner any grades below 50%, not even for a flat-out fail, or, for that matter, cheating–as long, that is, “a reasonable attempt” was made.

Moreover, now, before high school teachers can fail students, they must first reevaluate them using “quality points,” thereby making an F less damaging to a final grade.

Remember that quality points refer to the cumulative points used to calculate a student’s end-of-year grade point average, or GPA. When calculating, an A = 4 points; a B = 3 points; a C = 2 points; a D = one point; with none for an F. So, for example, if a student gets an A (4 points) in a 3-credit course, he ends up with a total of 12. By the same token, a B (3 points) in a 4-credit course also comes out to 12, while a C (2 points) in a 2-credit course comes out to 4, and so on.

Needless to say, controversy swirls around “no zero” policies, with educators on both sides of the argument. Those in favor, say they…

  1.  Give more chances to make up tests and hand in missing work;
  2. Improve the drop-out rate;
  3. Help struggling students stay motivated;
  4. Allow schools to focus on learning instead of behavior;
  5. Increase classroom focus;
  6. Are fairer than typical grading systems;
  7. Promote learning;
  8. Encourage students to catch up when they fall behind instead of giving up;
  9. Increase a students’ chances of bringing their grades up, an impossible feat with a zero.

All noble sounding, but not everyone is buying into it. As a 9th grade English teacher put it, (more…)

Pew Research Center Poll on News Consumption Trends

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Recently released results of a two-part Pew Research Center survey conducted early this year queried 4,654 adults about their favorite national and international news sources and viewing habits. The findings reflect a number of age-related trends. For instance:

  • 20% said they often rely on print newspapers, adding up to just 5% of 18- to 29-year-olds vs. 48% of those 65 and older.
  • 38% said they get their news online: 28% on news websites/apps and 18% from social media or both.
  • 57% reported often getting TV-based news: 46% from local TV; 31% from cable; and 30% from networks or some combination of the three.
  • Of those turning to TV, 85% were 65+; 72% were 50 to 54; 45% were 30 to 49; and just 27% were between 18 to 29.
  • Among those going digital, 56% preferred their mobile devices vs. 42% their desktops.
  • 70% of the 18- to 29-year-olds indicated they favor or only use a mobile device; 53% of those 30 to 49 do, along with 29% of those 50 to 64 and just 16% of those 65+.
  • 63% of those surveyed said family and friends are important sources of news for them.

P.S. 75% said they believe news organizations are politically biased, yet, at the same time, asserted that they “keep political leaders in check.”

Click here for more information on this survey and its results.

NOTE: Avatar-Driven Teacher Licensing Program

Monday, August 1st, 2016

The powers that be keep taking their education reform agenda to new lows, even as they speak at the same time about raising standards, a la the ever-controversial Common Core State Standards. In reality, most teachers held their students to high account well before the government and business folks like Bill Gates decided they needed fixing and nationalizing.

Other Obama administration reforms include: Growing numbers of charter schools–both brick and mortar as well as virtual–online Common Core-based standardized assessments, education data collection, teacher evaluations based on value added measures, handwriting replaced with keyboarding instruction, and on and on.

And now comes their latest “innovation,” the ETS® The National Observational Teaching Exam, aka NOTE. Its mission: Student teacher evaluation and certification.

It’s the brainchild of TeachingWorks, which received a $6.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a Teacher Preparation Transformation Center, and ETS, the Education Testing Service.

The former describes NOTE as “a comprehensive suite of innovative measures designed for use in making the initial licensure decision for teacher candidates… and provide important insights into the knowledge, skills, and competencies required to enhance student learning.”

ETS sees it as “truly ground breaking” and “an innovative assessment program designed to evaluate a prospective teacher’s ability to translate their knowledge of content and of teaching into effective practice in the classroom”

What exactly does all that high-minded rhetoric translate into? That’s the question Michigan State University’s Dr. Mitchell Robinson posed when attending a presentation/informational session on the assessment. Among her discoveries:

1.      The system can generate no more than 5 “student” avatars at a time (more…)

Chronic Student Absenteeism: Stats, Underlying Factors, and the Federal Response

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

MyCloudSome time before schools had shut their doors on the 2015-16 school year, the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection’s 2016 update reported that over 6.5 million kids had been “chronically absent.” In other words, they missed 15 or more days of school, translating to some 13% of all students nationwide.

And of those more than 6.5 million kids …

  • More 3.5 million were in elementary school—or 11% of the total.
  • 10% were kindergartners and first graders, and, in some cases, their numbers hit 25%.
  • More than 3 million were high schoolers, representing 18% of the total.

Even our very youngest are missing out. In Chicago, for instance, almost 50% of 3-year-olds and more than 33% of 4-year-olds missed school 15 or more days last year.

As to the why, the underlying factors include: (more…)

The Federal Government’s Push for Restorative Justice Puts Teachers at Risk

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Obama and KingThere’s been a lot of talk over the years about unfairness and inequity in our schools from Obama, his former education secretary Arne Duncan, and the current one, John B. King, Jr. In fact, the latter’s photo just happened to top the recent USA Today article, “Black pupils 4 times more likely to be suspended,” with the added, “Education chief cites ‘systemic failure.’

That statement is backed by such 2014 data from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights as:

  • Black preschoolers represent 18% of enrollment but 48% of preschoolers receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.
  • 5% of white students are suspended vs. 16% of black students—a rate three not four times more likely as headlined.
  • 12% of black girls are suspended vs. 2% of white girls.
  • While black students represent 16% of the total, 27% of them were referred to law enforcement and 31% of them were subjected to school-related arrests. Whites represent 51% of enrollment with 41% of them referred to law enforcement and 39% arrested.

In light of such reported discrimination, the Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights have partnered up and given schools notice that they must increase data collection on the “inequitable treatment in schools” and see to their ongoing responsibilities.

The result reports Education Week: Civil rights complaints have exploded during Obama’s reign. Indeed, back in 1990 under President H.W. Bush’s watch, 3,384 such complaints were received and 3,130 were processed. Under the current administration, those figures stand at 9,950 received and 10,128 processed.

However, says Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “I think this has been a very aggressive OCR [Office of Civil Rights], and I don’t say that in an admiring way… Especially on the issue of school discipline, they have gotten into the daily routines of schools in a way (more…)

Peter Greene on a Tech Fix for Teacher Prep Programs

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

As a student teacher supervisor working out of two colleges, I just had to include this excerpt from a piece by Peter Greene, a veteran high school teacher in Pennsylvania who also happens to author the Curmudgucation blog. In it he tackles tech-based teacher prep programs that rely on videos and sets of standard behaviors viewed from afar to “educate” our student teachers.

“Teachers have to be educated by other teachers. That is why student teaching works–daily constant supervision and feedback by a master teacher who knows what she’s doing. That experience is best when it rests on a foundation of subject matter, child development, and pedagogical knowledge. It also works best when the student teacher is helped to find her own teacher voice; co-operating teachers who try to mold mini-me’s is not helpful.

The computer era has led to the resurrection of CBE because computing capacities promise the capability of an enormously complicated Choose Your Own Adventure individualized approach to learning–but that capacity is still not enough for any sort of learning that goes beyond fairly simple, tightly focused tasks. Sure–creating a CBE teacher prep program would be super easy–all you have to do is write out a response for every possible combination of teacher, students, and content in the world. And then link it all together in a tagged and sequenced program. And then come up wit a clear, objective way to measure every conceivable competency, from ‘Teacher makes six-year-old who’s sad about his sick dog comfortable with solving a two-digit addition problem when he didn’t actually raise his hand’ to ‘Teacher is able to engage two burly sixteen-year-old males who are close to having a fist fight over the one guy’s sister to discuss tonal implications of Shakespeare’s use of prose interludes in Romeo and Juliet.'”

Hard to Swallow College & Career Readiness Facts & Figures

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Countless billions, countless corporate & politically-motivated reforms, countless standardized tests and the result: According to a recent Education Trust study, just 8% of our high school students actually complete a curriculum that prepares them well for college and/or the workplace–and even fewer end up with grades that suggest mastery of those courses. On top of all that…

  • Just 31% of students completed a college-ready curriculum of 4 years of English, 3 years each of math, science, and social studies, and two years of a foreign language.
  • 13% completed a career-ready sequence of three one-year courses that focus on one particular field, such as health science.
  • 8%, as said, completed both requirements.
  • 47% completed none or “no cohesive curriculum.”

(more…)

The Data Monster that Devours Privacy

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Laura Chapman, a retired teacher and curriculum advisor in the arts, recently posted a piece for education historian Diane Ravitch on this brave new data-obsessed world of ours. What it suggests/reveals should give us all pause, even those without school-aged kids.

Apparently, the National PTA has partnered up with the Data Quality Campaign. Chapman’s advice to that organization and others: “Stay away from these data monsters. They drown everyone in data points.” Meanwhile, she also cites the fact that the Gates Foundation has invested $75 million in a data gathering campaign called the Teacher Student Data Link (TSDL), which, in turn, is backed by such groups as the National Governors Association.

It also awarded $390,493,545 in grants for the purpose of more data gathering, along with the reporting of the effectiveness of teachers, teacher preparatory programs, non-traditional teacher prep programs like Teach for America, teacher professional development, and the like.

Moreover, it enabled the tracking of teachers and students every day, period by period, on everything from quizzes, homework, and projects to classroom participation. In other words, surveillance! And, as if all this weren’t enough, the United States Department of Education has thrown in nearly $900 million for the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant Program (SLDS).

Its purpose, Chapman reports, is “to enhance the ability of States to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data, including student records… to help States, districts, schools, and teachers make data-driven decisions to improve student learning, as well as to facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps.”

And that’s not all.

The U.S. Department of Education has also put out a bunch of online School Climate Surveys (EDSCLS) offering up 73 questions for students, 82 questions for instructional staff, 103 questions for non-instructional staff, and 43 questions for parents covering engagement, safety, and environment issues. Apparently, it was all very hastily thrown together (anyone surprised?), with flaws left in place due to “budgetary constraints,” right there along with some questions so poorly designed that they provide no context whatsoever, such as these presented to students:

  1. “Students respect one another.”
  2. “Students like one another.”

And here are two examples come from the parents’ survey:

  1. “This school communicates how important it is to respect students of all sexual orientations.”
  2. “School rules are applied equally to all students.”

Like Ms. Chapman, I thought you should know how we’re not only under the eye of Big Brother–and no one more than our children–but also how intrusive the federal government has become in our lives, with much of it all online. She has my thanks and hopefully yours.

The Blog Post PARCC Doesn’t Want You to Read

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Fotosearch Test Taking 26734Just had to pass along  this eye-opening piece about the Common Core State Standards-related standardized test called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, aka PARCC and taken by millions of our kids every year. Once you have, hope you’ll do as the originator of this post suggests and share it. Many thanks.

Here is the critique of the 4th grade PARCC exam  by an anonymous teacher, as it originally appeared on Celia Oyler’s blog before she was threatened by PARCC and deleted key sections.  See also my post about my tweet that was deleted  after PARCC absurdly complained to Twitter that it infringed on their copyright!

As an act of collective disobedience to the reigning testocracy, I urge all other fellow bloggers to paste the below critique and copy it into their blogs as well.

As the teacher points out below, “we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States. ”

No high-stakes test that is used to judge students, teachers and schools should be allowed to be kept secret to escape accountability for the test-makers — especially ones as flawed as these!

If you do repost this, please let me know by emailing me at leoniehaimson@gmail.com thanks!

The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items below. (more…)

Teen Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Consequences, and Steps to Take

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Sleep deprivation's toll.

Long ago when Mahatma Ghandi said, “Each night when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn,” he was definitely on to something. As Time’s Alice Park explains, “It [sleep] is nature’s panacea, more powerful than any drug in its ability to restore and rejuvenate the human brain and body.” Oh, yes!

For instance, as she reports, when asleep…

The wear and tear on our bones is repaired;
Muscle tears and injuries are mended;
Growth factors restore skin and maintain its elasticity;
Brain cells push out the day’s accumulated “debris;”
The pancreas better breaks down consumed sugar.
Problem is, most of us aren’t getting enough shut eye, leaving us not just cranky and out of sorts but with a whole host of other potential problems, too. Indeed, says Brown University’s Mary Carskadon, “Sleep deprivation comes with consequences that are scary, really scary.” And the list, which applies even more so to the young, includes:

Drowsiness and lack of attention
Daydreaming and/or falling asleep during class
Impaired cognitive function
Inability to (more…)

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act: A Money-Maker with Health Benefits

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

123rf_Marijuana_16429121Following the lead of twenty-three other states, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolfe made history here on April 17 by signing The Medical Marijuana Act (SB3) into law. Two days later, he turned up in King of Prussia to tout the bi-partisan legislation before “jubilant” crowds, saying, “This is about helping peoples’ lives, about helping people that are going to be better, faster. They’re going to feel better and that is just such a rewarding thing.”

And he could just be right, as our law covers such conditions as:

Crohn’s Disease
Cancer
Epilepsy
Glaucoma
HIV
Multiple Sclerosis
Parkinson’s Disease
Post-traumatic stress disorder
The law is set to go into effect next month, but it could take 18 to 24 months to establish all the regulations and get retailers up and running to sell us medical marijuana. The standards, though, are already set for tracking the plants, certifying physicians, and licensing growers, dispensaries, and physicians. Also decided: It will only be available in pill, oil, vapor, ointment, or liquid form. No smoking allowed, growing, either.

It’s all been a long time coming… (more…)

The Standardized Testing Opt-Out Movement: Right- or Wrong-Minded?

Monday, April 11th, 2016

OPT-OUT (1)Words like hard, nervous, hate, long, and boring  come pouring out of kids’ mouths whenever asked about standardized testing. Sometimes gum gets heard, too, but only because teachers are catching on to the research that chewing it during testing is associated with a 3% increase in math scores on standardized assessments. Small, yes, but considered “statistically significant,” so why not? Ditto when it comes to homework.

As for all those negatives, it’s really no wonder. Fact is, as the Council of Great City Schools reports, our kids take about 112 standardized tests between kindergarten and high school graduation, equating to about eight annually. That, in turn, translates to between 20 to 25 hours of class time every year!

The result: A collective parent and teacher uproar and the strengthening of what has become known as the Opt-Out Movement. And, rest assured, despite former Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s conclusion that opt-outers are just “white suburban moms” unhappy with falling scores, this movement has multi-colored legs here in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Indeed, last spring in Lower Merion, several teachers and parents took a stand against the high stakes Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). Saying, “Our kids and schools are more than a score,” they offered yard signs for one dollar apiece to residents, and every one of them was quickly scooped up. In the end, about 200 of the district’s children didn’t participate in the testing. In Philly, that number hit 595, with another 186 sitting out the Keystone Exams. Indeed, anti-testing pressure ultimately forced Governor Wolfe to postpone those Keystones as a graduation requirement until 2019. Meanwhile, across the commonwealth, some 4,500 students opted out last time around.

But, according to FairTest’s findings, those numbers pale in comparison to the more than 620,000 students in the 14 states that reported–some 240,000 of them in New York State alone. In New Jersey, the figure hit 110,000, and these numbers are sure to grow this spring.

Not everyone is pleased with that outlook, however, and that includes the National Parent Teacher Association, which takes the position that:

“Tests and assessments are used most frequently to help students, teachers, schools, and parents know what students have learned and what they still need to study.”
“Teachers can use information from assessments to design lessons that meet the needs of their students.”
“School districts and states use assessment results to evaluate whether they are meeting their goals.”
“Assessments also are used by policy-makers for accountability—to help gauge the effectiveness of programs and schools…”
Then there’s this from Pam Stewart, Florida’s education commissioner to every district: “… My belief is that students that do not want to test should not be sitting in public schools, as it is mandatory and required for students seeking a standard high school diploma. Statewide, standardized assessments are part of the requirement to attend school, like immunization records. That is our message and what we send to you to be shared with your staff.”

So there!

Nevertheless, the movement grows. Just this past February, the 2016 United Opt-Out Conference was held in Philadelphia, and one of its major goals was doing a better job of reaching out to minority families to join. Moreover, as the organization reminds us: The movement is about “much more than simply refusing high-stakes tests.”

For starters, the government sponsored and funded Common Core-aligned assessments—PARCC and SBAC—are more rigorous than those they replaced, so scores have slipped and anxiety levels have risen. Add that to the fact that 42 states and D.C.—up from 15 in 2009—now require that “student growth and achievement be considered in evaluations of public school teachers.” Stoking the flames, New York Governor Cuomo went and proposed that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on those test scores. Oh, yes, in 28 states, an “ineffective rating” is cause for dismissal.

Then there’s the fact that the K-12 education market pulls in more than $700 billion a year!

And one last tidbit: New Jersey is, for now anyway, the only state in the union to use the PARCC Common Core-aligned assessment as a graduation requirement—a purpose for which it was never designed. Stan Karp, director of the Secondary Reform Project of the Newark-based Education Law Center is, therefore, hoping to pressure the Department of Education to give this year’s graduating class a pass.

At the same time, the California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education has joined a call for an end to high-stakes testing, saying that “there is no ‘compelling’ evidence to support the idea that the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education for children or close the achievement gap, and that Common Core assessments lack “validity, reliability and fairness.”

Then there’s this from Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College: “The evidence is overwhelming that our national mania for testing—and for so much time in school and at schoolwork—is damaging the physical and psychological health of our children.”

Agree? Disagree? Stay tuned; the testing season is gearing up again–and so are the opt-outers.

.