Tuesday, June 29, 2010

'Nuff Said

In the two spare minutes I've had to check out my Google Reader to catch up on my fave blogs (And can I just say that getting even THAT accomplished took amazing amounts of multi-tasking, the likes of which I never imagined myself capable of...serioulsy, this is UNREAL.  Fabulous, but unreal.)  (Picture me balancing a child in one arm, eating a turkey sandwich with the other while scrolling through the bajillion blog posts that have built up in my reader...all while balancing dishes on my head and editing my dissertation with my toes.) (Okay, I made up that last part, but it's not that far from the truth.)

Well, the whole charade almost came to a screeching halt when I read this bit (which I'm also copying and pasting in it's entirety below because it is so fabulous).  You see, I suddenly was moved to scream out, "AMEN SISTER!" and may have also cried out "Hell yeah" and possibly fist pumped a bit.  Alone.  Well, Mini Mimi was there, but I think she was just caught off guard and less moved by the whole genius of this letter. 

You see, this teacher, this genius and articulate teacher, this woman who is unafraid to SPEAK HER MIND wrote the following about the release of the Common Core Standards and I think we all need to high-five, drink a cocktail in honor of, jump up and down for this individual.  I wish I could track her down and send her her very own Super Colleague cape, because girlfriend deserves one.
By Cindy Lutenbacher
Amid great fanfare in our state earlier this month, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced the release of the “Common Core Standards.”
So, I have a few questions for those who back the standards — including our own governor, Sonny Perdue, who co-chaired the Governors Association effort. In the general celebration over the release of these new standards, it seems very few people are asking what Common  Core Standards will actually mean for our children. And that is a mistake because the Common Core Standards are simply the forerunner to even more (and likely worse) standardized testing.
Why are so few investigating the origin of Common Core, which is largely a creation of Achieve Inc., an outfit that is driven by a dozen or so governors and CEOs of major U.S. corporations?
What do these people know about educating our children? Why would we trust them? Why do we simply accept the claims of “research- and evidence-based” support for the creation of Common Core Standards? Why are we not doing as we were admonished to do during Watergate … that is, to follow the money? Where is this independent research, unattached to corporate monies?
In creating these standards, Achieve, the governors and the school officials ignored the vast body of truly independent research that shows such “standards” and their inextricably linked standardized testing are worse than folly and are sending our children in the exact opposite direction of what they need.
This group of very rich people ignored this body of research that shows that the single most powerful factor in education gaps is poverty and not standardized testing.
Did they forget that the United States has the second highest rate of children in poverty of any industrialized country in the world? In fact, these purveyors of Common Core disregarded everything that at least every great teacher I have ever known believes, says and lives in his/her classroom. What we should be doing in Georgia and the rest of the country is focusing on filling our classrooms with great teachers, rather than with thousands of new standards.
We should be supporting our great teachers, rather than driving them from our schools, as will certainly be the outcome of an even greater emphasis on testing. Why does anyone cite the “A Nation at Risk” report in pushing for national standards even though it’s been so thoroughly discredited? Where is the hue and cry over the million dollars that the Gates Foundation gave to the National PTA in order to promote Common Core?
Who appointed Bill Gates Emperor of Education?
Is money being spent, to borrow a Bushism, to “catapult the propaganda”? Or is that last question simply rhetorical?
The architects of these Common Core Standards did not seem to consider all the research that amply demonstrates that having access to a variety of reading materials and having the time and safe space with which to read are the factors that help children become readers.
Instead, the standards rely on the absurd drilling tactics advocated by the politicians and corporations happily taking our tax dollars for their testing and related materials.
Who is really getting the money from turning our schools into Common Core drill-and-kill testing factories? Will Perdue be willing to read the list of literary texts listed in the 183-page Appendix for English Language Arts and allow me to test him on them? Will Perdue even take the 12th-grade exit exams and allow his scores to be made public? Can Perdue explain to me how “Tartuffe,” Euclid’s “Elements,” Paine’s concept of “ground-rent,” and a bivariate polynomial have helped him in governing our state?
And in related news, we learn that Perdue has vetoed the excellent bill that would have saved millions of dollars for our state and, more importantly, released our first- and second-graders from the hideous spectacle of useless standardized testing. Will he be willing to sit in a desk with 30 other governors, who, like hapless 6-year-olds, will be forbidden to speak to one another and must suffer silently as they are endlessly drilled in preparation for the CRCT?
Furthermore, when will Georgia get a state schools superintendent who actually understands children and how they learn, rather than, for example, one who understands politicians and chambers of commerce?
Will the new superintendent be willing to sit obediently through first-grade test prep for Common Core Standards? Is there anyone, anyone, who actually believes that Common Core Standards and its murderous standardized testing will not lead to even more fanatical requirements that cause teachers to have to teach to the test? There’s no evidence that these “standards” will help my children be lifelong learners.
When will we as a state and we as a nation wake up to the destruction of our children that is being carried out under the sanctimonious and specious names of accountability and reform?
And most important of all, for the sake of our kids, when will we revolt?"

Aaaaannnnnnd scene.

I mean, fabulous, right?

Soooooo....how are we going to revolt?  How are we going to be heard?  And how can Mrs. Mimi rally the troops?  I'm thinking something more professional than throwing eggs and/or TPing houses may be in order.  

Oh, sidenote, I have since formed an opinion about these standards and (in a nutshell...or really, before Mini Mimi starts crying and I have to go) I think that they are a slippery slope into even more hideous amounts of testing, more control over how teachers do their jobs and more business folks feeling as if they can swing their power ties around a smack us teachers where the sun don't shine.

P.S. Pardon the type-os if there are any...typing with one's toes is not easy.  

7 comments:

Kellylou said...

Mad props.

And can we just hear this bit again?

"Is there anyone, anyone, who actually believes that Common Core Standards and its murderous standardized testing will not lead to even more fanatical requirements that cause teachers to have to teach to the test? There’s no evidence that these “standards” will help my children be lifelong learners."

Amazing. Thanks for sharing!

jwg said...

Yes!!! I am convinced that nothing will get better until parents man the barricades with signs that say "Back off from my kid!" or "Keep All the Kids Home on Test Day". Nobody is listening to the teachers, that's for sure. There needs to be a concentrated effort to educate parents about just what this nonsense is doing to their kids. Certainly the current teachers' organizations are afraid and unwilling to speak up. I am no longer a memberof the National Assoc. for the Education of Young Children because of their willingness to roll over and play dead concerning these issues.

gwen said...

AMEN! It is so frustrating to be trying to give children hands-on, positive, meaningful learning experiences when the state, politicians, government, etc...is trying to do everything in its power to make it nearly impossible to do so. Standardized tests are so frustrating and as a teacher licensed to teach birth-3rd grade and currently teaching preschool, I get so frustrated when I have to give a 3 year old a test that isn't age appropriate but that I must use to determine if this child is "at risk" enough to be accepted into the program (especially when poverty can only be used to qualify 4 out of the 40 children in the program).

Anyway, thanks for sharing! I just hope that someday they will put someone in charge that knows education and children instead of business and numbers.

Patti said...

As a former business consultant, there is one thing I can tell you about people with resources and/or power: they will continue along whatever their current path is until they get what they want. What we have to do is not stop them, but redirect them to do good rather than evil. Let's remember that these people, no matter how misguided we believe them to be, want something we all want. They want our kids to get a great education. So, here's what I think we need to do.

1) Make waves in whatever organizations we belong to and push for these "standards" to be the what and not the how of education. If they want teachers to spend the money on a college education, then let teachers decide how the kids will get educated to meet whatever goals are set.

2) I've said it before, but we need to reframe "standards" as "minimums" and act like our job is to shoot high, not shoot for the test. It's a language thing, but if your school isn't meeting the minimums then it's a lot clearer where your school stands than if it doesn't meet standards. Think about it.

3) We need hard data on the waste of time that is ridiculous testing. And then we need to be loud about it. If you are spending a measurable percentage of your week on testing-related activities that you didn't design, these powerful people need to know that. They get what the bottom line means and they get that you can't make an educational profit if you aren't doing your educational business. Some form of testing is inevitable, people. We need to demand that tests not only don't take up huge amounts of teaching time but also actually prove what they are supposed to prove.

4) How do we do #3? By putting our money where our mouths are. If we agree to participate in determining what a good test is, then we need to let the results of those good tests have some impact on our performance evaluations. Do I love this? Not really, because there are so many things out of my control. But if we think the tests don't suck too badly we need to put out the olive branch. I'm not talking about doing away with seniority, so don't have a heart attack and don't throw rotten veggies at me.

5) The last thing I think, and I've said this before as well, is that our society needs to determine what we want our public schools to accomplish. Is it for an informed democracy that we educate our children? Is it so they can work service jobs right out of high school and go to college to learn something more high-filutin'? Or do we want everyone to be a gentleman farmer, with more education than he or she needs for daily life? When we can agree on the purpose of public schooling then we'll be better able to figure out the rest. No, I'm not holding my breath for this one.

We have unions and organizations out the wazoo. We need to demand that they don't continue to simply stand for their ongoing existence but that they stand for what's right for our little friends. Yes, I know a teacher's union is supposed to do what's best for teachers. But what's best for teachers should be what's best for kids or there is something so messed up there I don't want to think about it.

You've heard of all those signature campaigns to write to your congressperson or whatever? We need something like that that will go to our elected representatives in government and in our professional organizations. Someone needs to write a manifesto or a list of demands and then open it up to signatures from teachers all over the country. There are advocacy groups that do this now, like Compaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and momsrising.org. It's time we mobilized along those lines, don't you think? Grassroots doesn't have to be bitchy, just heartfelt and well thought out.

Patti said...

4) How do we do #3? By putting our money where our mouths are. If we agree to participate in determining what a good test is, then we need to let the results of those good tests have some impact on our performance evaluations. Do I love this? Not really, because there are so many things out of my control. But if we think the tests don't suck too badly we need to put out the olive branch. I'm not talking about doing away with seniority, so don't have a heart attack and don't throw rotten veggies at me.

5) The last thing I think, and I've said this before as well, is that our society needs to determine what we want our public schools to accomplish. Is it for an informed democracy that we educate our children? Is it so they can work service jobs right out of high school and go to college to learn something more high-filutin'? Or do we want everyone to be a gentleman farmer, with more education than he or she needs for daily life? When we can agree on the purpose of public schooling then we'll be better able to figure out the rest. No, I'm not holding my breath for this one.

We have unions and organizations out the wazoo. We need to demand that they don't continue to simply stand for their ongoing existence but that they stand for what's right for our little friends. Yes, I know a teacher's union is supposed to do what's best for teachers. But what's best for teachers should be what's best for kids or there is something so messed up there I don't want to think about it.

You've heard of all those signature campaigns to write to your congressperson or whatever? We need something like that that will go to our elected representatives in government and in our professional organizations. Someone needs to write a manifesto or a list of demands and then open it up to signatures from teachers all over the country. There are advocacy groups that do this now, like Compaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and momsrising.org. It's time we mobilized along those lines, don't you think? Grassroots doesn't have to be bitchy, just heartfelt and well thought out.

Patti said...

As a former business consultant, there is one thing I can tell you about people with resources and/or power: they will continue along whatever their current path is until they get what they want. What we have to do is not stop them, but redirect them to do good rather than evil. Let's remember that these people, no matter how misguided we believe them to be, want something we all want. They want our kids to get a great education. So, here's what I think we need to do.

1) Make waves in whatever organizations we belong to and push for these "standards" to be the what and not the how of education. If they want teachers to spend the money on a college education, then let teachers decide how the kids will get educated to meet whatever goals are set.

2) I've said it before, but we need to reframe "standards" as "minimums" and act like our job is to shoot high, not shoot for the test. It's a language thing, but if your school isn't meeting the minimums then it's a lot clearer where your school stands than if it doesn't meet standards. Think about it.

3) We need hard data on the waste of time that is ridiculous testing. And then we need to be loud about it. If you are spending a measurable percentage of your week on testing-related activities that you didn't design, these powerful people need to know that. They get what the bottom line means and they get that you can't make an educational profit if you aren't doing your educational business. Some form of testing is inevitable, people. We need to demand that tests not only don't take up huge amounts of teaching time but also actually prove what they are supposed to prove.

(more in the next comment, I typed too much!)

Patti said...

4) How do we do #3? By putting our money where our mouths are. If we agree to participate in determining what a good test is, then we need to let the results of those good tests have some impact on our performance evaluations. Do I love this? Not really, because there are so many things out of my control. But if we think the tests don't suck too badly we need to put out the olive branch.

5) The last thing I think, and I've said this before as well, is that our society needs to determine what we want our public schools to accomplish. When we can agree on the purpose of public schooling then we'll be better able to figure out the rest. No, I'm not holding my breath for this one.

We have unions and organizations out the wazoo. We need to demand that they don't continue to simply stand for their ongoing existence but that they stand for what's right for our little friends. Yes, I know a teacher's union is supposed to do what's best for teachers. But what's best for teachers should be what's best for kids or there is something so messed up there I don't want to think about it.

You've heard of all those signature campaigns to write to your congressperson or whatever? We need something like that that will go to our elected representatives in government and in our professional organizations. Someone needs to write a manifesto or a list of demands and then open it up to signatures from teachers all over the country. There are advocacy groups that do this now, like Compaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and momsrising.org. It's time we mobilized along those lines, don't you think? Grassroots doesn't have to be bitchy, just heartfelt and well thought out.

Who's Peeking?