Monday, April 14, 2014

One Mother's Plea

Through one of my Facebook groups a mother sent me her letter to her 3rd grade son's school.  She wrote the letter last week when she realized her son was bringing home a LOT of homework that was practice for the CCSS Standardized Tests...which she had already refused in January.  When her son was asked why his homework wasn't done he explained that his mom said he didn't have to do test prep homework anymore.  She was immediately left voicemail messages from both of his school teachers.  This letter is how she responded.

Now, please take note that this mom comes from New York State where the CCSSI got an early start and the parents are a little further along into actually SEEING the damaging effects it is having on kids.  So...if you are from another state...this is very likely to be YOU in a couple of years (if you aren't already there).  

It is long, but very passionate, informative and well worth the read.  PLEASE share this post and help  spread the passion.

After reading the letter both teachers called her on speaker phone...I'm guessing she expected a bit of defensiveness, but according to her explanation the teachers were crying.  Because everything she said in her letter was true and in two years no parent had every verbalized these things so powerfully!  For that reason we will keep the identity of the letter writer anonymous, because, sadly, we do feel we need to protect the teachers and her son from retaliation.


She wishes to keep the identities anonymous, because, sadly, we do feel we need to protect the teachers and her son from retaliation.

First, here is her post to the Facebook page:


"I was compelled to write a letter to my sons school last week, 8 years old, 3rd grade, after I received a vm from both his teachers, concerned that for one night, my son missed a homework, the first since September, because I finally realized we had been doing this homework for weeks from the NYS CCLS exam test prep book. Should have realized it when hw was taking 1-2 hours longer than before. We refused the tests in January. So when they checked home works and saw that my son, for the first time, did not complete the assignment he stated to them quietly and respectfully that "his mother decided he doesn't have to take practice preps for a test I'm not taking". This the reason for the vm I received. Anywho, long story short, my son brought in a pretty thick envelope, containing my letter, addressed to both teachers, school admin, and district venting my fears, concerns and frustrations. 15 minutes after class's began, both teachers called me from a separate room, having called someone in to watch class, to speak to me on speakerphone. One of his teachers was hysterical! The other sobbing! I was afraid something had happened to my boy. NO! Their emotions were based on the fact that in let alone the past two years of this damaging curriculum, but their entire careers, has ANY parent spoken out so proficiently, emotionally, and strong fully against the many wrongs that are being shoved down our throats to the once highly regarded NY PS system. Now they, along with my many teacher friends, my family and other parents have BEGGED me to get this letter out into public forums, the media, newspapers, showing an honest parents perspective on what the heck is going on in school and in our homes every night. My dilemma.....how do I do this? I feel no need to be anonymous, I stand by every word I typed. My son, obviously needs to be anonymous, for fear of possible backlash, along with his teachers names. I will forward the letter to anyone who will read it, thinks it can make a difference, and knows the channels to take to make it public. Help?"


I am HAPPY to help!  ;) And here is that letter...let's make it go viral!!! 
Originally posted on: http://gigiacademy4mykids.blogspot.com/2014/04/one-mothers-heart-bleeds-onto-page.html



  • April 8, 2014
    To: All District 31, NYS CCC
    Re: My son, 8 years old, 3rd grade
    Hello, I am so sorry I missed your call yesterday. I understand that you both have some serious concerns regarding the message, retold to you by my son, about his homework requirements, and how they relate to the decision made by me, to refuse him taking the CCLS state tests, and whether or not he was accurate in relaying my message. You also notified me that you "knew what kind of parent I am", and that "surely I think he needs to continue his work, to continue to progress nicely so he can meet Common Core standards, and how important it must be to me that my son does well."
    Let me begin by saying, I am quite impressed with my sons capability to relay my message to you pretty accurately. When he asked if that's what he can tell his teachers, I advised him to yes, stand up for yourself, as long as it is done quietly and respectfully. However, I did not tell him he didn't have to do any more homework because he is not taking NYS CCLS exams. I did advise him however, that we will no longer be tortured every single night, to complete pages in books that state their purpose is to be a review program for the Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics or ELA tests. But other than that, he nailed his answer to your question right on the head.
    These books are filled with practice tests, each practice test had 69 Math questions, (61 multiple choice, 5 short response and 3 extended response questions), stating that going forward the teacher will explain how you will do the practice tests, and they will record your answers. Making sure to fill in bubbles completely in the process. Also, throughout the book, their are little testing tips for answering questions. My reasoning is...
    Let's return to the homework matter in a bit. On January 13, 2014, I sent in letters to the school administration, and his teachers, alerting the school of my intention to exercise my parental rights regarding this matter. Just to be clear, District 31, does not have my permission to administer any state or district mandated standardized benchmark assessments to my child, Grade 3. It is my understanding that in place of these, my sons progress will be assessed using a portfolio, a gathering of all of his teacher directed tests, writings, reading levels, etc. for him to be evaluated on.
    And, no, my child cannot be held back, based solely on the fact he refuses state tests, unless he is taking regents exams.
    Also, District 31 does not have my permission to administer to my son:
    •Any surveys, or “field tests” given by corporate or government entities or testing companies. •Any progress- monitoring or RTI assessments such as Aimsweb •Any exam used to formulate an evaluation or score for our children’s teachers or their school. •Any state assessment •Any so-called “benchmark” exams, whether they are teacher-designed or not, since these exams are imposed by entities other than the individual teacher. I trust the teacher, not the entities. •Pre-assessments connected to “Student Learning Objectives”.
    Citing the law of this country, remember when we used to learn about laws?..."Federal law states that parents possess 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.” In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.”
    Now, the changes brought upon public education by the Common Core Standards, that's a whole different story. The people who made these decisions claim that the goal of the Common Core is to ensure that all children are college/career ready. It's a nice sentiment. On some level, I get it. Even the playing field and teach the same core standards to kids across the board to narrow the gap. It makes sense on paper. But in practice? Not so much.
    So far, the Common Core appears to be putting fear into dedicated teachers -- they, the very people who care about, teach, and protect our children. I happen to know a lot of teachers. These are people who used to stay up entirely too late each night planning fun and engaging lessons for the following day. These are people who hide first grade students in cabinets and sing them songs to keep them calm while a shooter wreaks havoc on their school. Sadly, sometimes sacrificing their lives for the lives of their students, whom they feel a love and a deep responsibility for.
    Forget about all of that. Dedication and sacrifice mean nothing anymore in today's world. Today's teachers are being forced to follow a script. They "teach to tests" and fear job loss if they don't see the expected results. The result of this test giving, job loss fearing style of teaching is written all over the faces of the little kids caught in the transition. The people behind the Common Core might think that they are ensuring college/career readiness, but what they are really ensuring is a generation of anxious robotic children who can memorize answers but don't know how to think.
    Many teachers say pressure to prepare students for more rigorous Common Core tests means the youngest children are now required to do work that is wildly age-inappropriate. Examples include reading passages and questions that until now would be assigned to much older students, as well as confusing, overly difficult math problems. The tests and test prep, say parents and teachers, are crushing morale and self-confidence, while generating hatred of school. As far as my son goes, it is turning him off of school and if this trend continues, he will be far from college- and career-ready because he will want nothing to do with college.
    Is it wrong to say Common Core is ruining childhood? Hmmmmm...
    Increased stress: Yes, tests and quizzes are part of school, but the pressure to perform is very high right now. Stress trickles down. When teachers are under stress, kids internalize it. They really are smarter than we think.
    With this hyper-focus on the core areas of learning and the constant testing to ensure that the material is being memorized (I mean understood, of course), kids are constantly under pressure to perform. Add a trickle down stress factor to that and kids begin to fall apart. Anxiety disorders among children are already on the rise. But who cares if those statistics skyrocket, right? In a few years, Valium and Xanax will be the normal coping mechanism for a school day.
    Creativity is dead: Learning has always included textbooks and spelling tests at the elementary school level. That's part of the deal. But it used to be that kids were given the opportunity to tap into their creative brains. I wrote my first "hardcover" book in second grade. I still remember how confident I felt when my little story about a magical teddy bear who could fly, evolved into an actual book. Ahhh, those were the days.
    Busywork is the name of the game with the Common Core. Kids need to write and rewrite spelling words and sentences until their hands practically fall off, but if they do fall off, don't be absent. You are missing 4th grade level algebra. They need to correct sentences that they didn't write because they don't really have the time to come up with their own sentences. Homework includes work packets with more of the same. And don't forget to study for those practice tests!
    Forget about problem solving, group work, and thinking outside the box, these kids need to memorize the core curriculum first. It's as if creativity holds no merit. Are you familiar with Steve Jobs? There are people who do exactly what they have to do to get by, and there are people who work harder and end up changing the world. Don't we want to inspire kids to be thought leaders and world changers?
    Inadequate time to socialize: You know what's really taken a hit in recent years? Recess. Some schools don't have it at all. Recess is when kids truly practice social skills. They take turns. They negotiate. They initiate friendships. They learn to cope with disappointment. Sometimes they work together. Sometimes they don't. But either way, they learn to work it out. But not if they don't have recess. Not if they don't spend any free time with their peers. There's just not enough time in an instructional day, duh! Makes me wonder how in the world there is so much bullying, physical altercations, and school shootings occurring on a daily basis. I wonder???
    Poor eating habits and insufficient exercise: You can't turn on the TV or open a magazine without hearing about obesity in America these days. It's a problem. And yet, a school lunch is often 15-20 minutes long, forcing kids to wolf down food before the bell rings. So much for listening to hunger cues and chatting with friends -- there is no time for that. TEST PREP COMES FIRST, PEOPLE! TEACH TO TEST!!
    And then there's PE. Some school districts have completely cut physical education due to budget issues. Where is all that money going? With little recess and no PE, kids are not getting enough exercise. Don't worry, you will get "adequate exercise" in high school, right?
    No time to decompress: Kids need downtime, experts stress. There is a lot of talk about over-scheduling and the stress that results from too much going and not enough resting. But kids today are faced with a lot of homework. There are third graders with 2-3 hours of homework each night, my child is an example. And that doesn't account for long-term projects.
    Even if you do manage to under-schedule your kids, many of them have to come right home (Other than Monday and Tuesday, mandated extended day ends at 3:40 P.M., and Wednesday, religious instruction ends at 5:00 P.M., and Thursday, my son needs tutoring because he cannot seem to grasp that knowing that 4x6=24 isn't enough anymore, without showing his work for it with graphs, charts, arrays, drawings, etc., paying for a great tutor with our savings but she's worth every penny, that ends at 5:00 P.M.), then he finally gets home, does his homework, study for a CC practice test, eat dinner, shower, and basically pass out at 9:30 p.m. What are we missing???? Ohhhh, family interaction! Where is the downtime in that scenario?
    Here are some facts:
    1. When students, teachers and schools are rewarded for high test scores and punished for low ones, the tests themselves become the focus of education. Class time is devoted to test prep, which robs children of their natural desire to learn.
    2. The state exams test only two subjects: English and math. That encourages schools to give less and less time to social studies, music, art, world languages, physical education, and even science.
    3. High-stakes testing undermines important learning. In 2011, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed America’s test-based accountability systems and concluded, “There are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress.”
    4. State exams are loaded with poorly written, ambiguous questions. A recent statement signed by 545 New York State Principals, noted that many teachers and principals could NOT agree on the correct answers.?.....?....?....
    5. While New York State is paying Pearson millions of dollars, it is massively underfunding NY public schools (lack of physical education is a prime example). This is part of a national trend: states cut funding to public schools while pouring millions into new computer systems designed for Common Core tests.
    6. High-stakes tests don’t help students learn or teachers teach. The results come too late for that. The tests are largely punitive: they punish teachers, students, and schools that don’t perform. Low test scores can be used to hold good students back and rate strong teachers as “ineffective” despite high ratings by their principals. Really???
    7. High-stakes testing undermines teacher collaboration. Teachers are judged on a curve, which discourages them from helping students in another teacher’s class.
    8. High-stakes testing encourages “teaching to the middle.” Educators are pressured to focus on the “2” and “3” students, where the most progress can be made on scores, and ignore the 4s (where gains aren’t measured) and 1s (whose needs are too great to raise scores easily).
    9. Many middle school admissions offices are ignoring state tests. Many NYC principals signed a letter last year stating that they would no longer be considering test scores. Most schools already have practices in place for admitting students who don’t have scores. But this isn't what we are lead to believe. We are lied to, and informed that standardized tests score are mandatory to attend middle school!
    10. One-size-fits-all tests punish and discourage students who are already vulnerable, including students of color, English-Language Learners, children with special needs, like my son who has an active IEP, and students from families living in poverty.
    Some examples of what we are allowing to happen: Spring 2014
    Day 3 of the Common Core NYS ELA is absurd. The third grade test includes an excerpt from a book that, according to Scholastic, is written at a Grade Level Equivalent of 5.2. Its Lexile Measure is 650L, and it’s categorized as a Level X Guided Reading selection. Yet, it appears on a test that has been written for third grade students.
    Day 3 of the Common Core NYS ELA is incongruous with Common Core Learning Standards. The same third grade test asks students to identify how specific paragraphs support the organizational structure of a selected piece of literature. The Reading Standards for Literature in Grade 3, with respect to Craft and Structure, state that Grade 3 students should be able to: Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections. It is not until Grade 5, according to The Reading Standards for Literature, that students should be able to: Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.
    Why doesn't anyone ask the parents what homework time is like? Do you think it's like a 7 day trip to Disney World weekly? Yea, no. Because of the fact that his teachers were never given the time or opportunity to LEARN how to TEACH this great new curriculum within an adequate time frame, ahead of the fast paced roll out, teachers for the most part are learning WITH their students. In my home, my son comes home, ill equipped with enough knowledge from the days classwork, to completely understand that nights assignment, and is CLUELESS! Then come the hysterics, the self loathing, " I hate my life, I hate school, I'm dumb, I'm too stupid to do this" followed by the self inflicting joy of nightly banging his head down on the GLASS dining room table, followed by an understandable painful headache. This really helps move homework time along, I have to tell you.
    Is not crying while doing HW the new measure of success? Sitting for over 10 hours of testing without having stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, hysterics, and anxiety, is that our new success? Or do we want more? Do we want to see our kids classrooms filled with projects and fantasy. Finding the love of reading from fairy tales and fiction classics. Where social and emotional development is just as, or even more important as a test score. A classroom where our 8 year olds find a love of science that carries with them throughout life. Where social studies can take them right into the time period they are learning about. Where they are challenged rather than frustrated. We need to raise our expectations and need to ask ourselves "Does my child's classroom look the way I want it to look?" If not, what are we going to do about it? Because, god forbid we ask questions, or make decisions regarding homework based on a test my son IS NOT TAKING.
    Maybe, it's time to rethink the Common Core? Stress is dangerous and impacts physical and emotional health. It's no way to live, and it's NOT the way I will raise my child.
    Incidentally, can anyone tell me what kind of career requires people to spit out the answers to 20 math problems in two minutes or less? I think today’s system isn’t generating kids who are independent thinkers and ready to contribute to the world. I think we have to ask ourselves whether we want to create a generation of test-takers and resume-builders, or do we want problem-solvers and life-long learners and healthy young adults.
    There is a film called "Race to Nowhere” documenting how America’s schools have become test-obsessed, high-stakes pressure cookers. They’re churning out ill-prepared adults short on creativity and ethics, and stripping humanity from kids.
    Here's some more fun facts:
    1.Standardized Testing takes away approximately 25% of our children's academic school year.
    2.Standardized Testing gives teachers incentives and forces teachers to "teach to the test" instead of nurturing higher order thinking skills.
    3.Standardized Testing teaches children that there is only one right answer in academics and in life.
    4.Standardized Testing costs millions of dollars of taxpayer money to produce and thousands of dollars of our school district's money to implement.
    5.Standardized Testing encourages our best teachers to seek other careers where their expertise is actually valued. So who is losing out? Our kids.
    6.Standardized Testing is developmentally destructive for specific age groups.
    7.Standardized Testing is creating corruption among schools where school districts are cheating on test scoring.
    8.Standardized Testing is creating corruption among students where students are purposely scoring poorly to negatively affect teachers that they don’t like.
    9.Standardized Testing gives teachers incentive to care more about their teacher evaluation than they do about children. Do you want your child in a classroom with a teacher who has this type of attitude????
    10.Standardized Testing uses our children as tools to evaluate school districts, schools, and teachers. Students do not even get a chance to learn from their mistakes. In fact, they never see the test after they take it. Now that makes sense!?!?
    I've seen firsthand my child go from loving learning to being worried, anxious and stressed about these tests. These tests...which have no real bearing on his future...these tests...which take up months of test prep time instead of teaching time...these tests...which are making corporations VERY rich and children VERY stressed...these tests...which are being used to grade teachers who got into teaching to make a difference, not make children miserable. Our children are spending way more time testing with no benefit to them. Do we want them to spend more time learning over testing, practice tests, and all the other assessments they endure. They've lost all time associated with projects and hands on learning.
    NYS standardized testing has become excessive and extraordinarily harmful to students, teachers, and our schools in general. It has changed the culture and climate of schools for the worse. When last year's grade 3-8 tests were realigned with Common Core, less than one-third of students earned passing scores. This year, they lowered the grade to pass. ?????
    I believe in our students, teachers, administrators, and my knowledge of my own child.
    I believe in standards. I believe in teacher based assessments. I believe strongly in public education.
    I do NOT believe that private companies, like Pearson, have the best interest of our children, our future leaders, in mind. $$$$$$$$$
    I do NOT believe in high-stakes standardized testing.
    And, most importantly, I DO believe that the current implementation of high-stakes standardized testing will bankrupt and destroy public education.
    High-stakes testing already pollutes our classrooms. There are test prep, SLOs, and Common Core
    There are Contact Standards that are not developmentally appropriate, and set our children up to feel like failures from the start.
    High stakes testing is also expensive. It is a tremendous financial burden which will bankrupt the public school system.
    As our resources are directed towards these mandates, they are taken away from the arts and other non-mandated elements of our curriculum which negatively impacts our students’ ability to be truly college and career ready- or more simply said- their ability to be happy, healthy, and wise.
    I believe that we are at a crucial point in public education. I do NOT believe that we can hunker down, do our best, and wait for these “tough times” to pass.
    If we do not take a stand now, we may not have anything to stand for at all. Public education as we know it could disappear in the near future leaving us with a hierarchy of charter schools ranging from the “have-it-alls” to “never-had-a-chance”.
    I believe in and trust our highly qualified and dedicated teachers and administrators. I believe in the high quality of teaching and learning that occur in my child’s school. I hope my efforts will be understood in the context in which they are intended: to support the quality of instruction promoted by the school, and to advocate for what is best for all children. Our schools will not suffer when these tests are finally gone, they will flourish.
    I will continue to stand up against the corporate and government takeover of our schools and advocate for what is best for children, teachers and administrators. I will not stay silent and do nothing while these unjustly abusive mandates and policies are setting up our children and our schools for failure. I believe in and trust our highly qualified and dedicated teachers and administrators. I believe that my child's education should be trusted to those who are most experienced and who personally know the needs and individual requirements of each child. Teachers already know how to determine those needs and requirements without mandated standardized assessments.
    While I understand the district is legally required to administer these tests, I have determined that the present testing system is grossly excessive, poorly designed, punitive to students, teachers and our schools. I can no longer sit by and watch the corporate and government takeover of our schools. I believe in our dedicated and qualified teachers and administrators and need to advocate for what is best for my child. I want our teachers to be able to teach again. I want my child to be able to learn again, in all ways, I want the schools to be places children can grow and socialize in a calm and supportive environment. Having a child in third grade, I have knowledge of how much rigor children at such a young age are forced to endure. The CCSS are depriving my child of a meaningful education and deterring him away from developing a love for learning.
    The Common Core State Standards are designed for the common students where does that leave the student who is uncommon? By uncommon, I mean the student who it may take a while to learn and grasp the concepts of what is being taught, like my son or the student who has emotional difficulty adjusting, like my son, or the student who is disadvantaged and worried if he/she will have dinner on the table that evening. We live in a society filled with uncommon people. What defines the Common student? What traits does that common student hold? We live in a great nation where the common is not so common and teaching to standards that are geared toward the common student is setting our kids up for failure.
    As a parent, as a U.S. citizen, it is wonderful that I am able to coach my son to refuse these tests. And I will continue to do so, as long as there is a single breathe left in my body.
    Because, he is NOT common.
    Now, my reasoning is.....I will not torture my son for another twenty two more days, practicing and completing test prep assignments, trying to make him explain why and how he just knows 6x4=24, especially when correct answers aren't so important, for a test that he is not and should not be expected to be scholastically prepared for, putting him through three dates of testing, and anxiety, just so his teachers can be scored unfairly by his bogus score. In addition to his already low self esteem and nervousness suffering further. To be honest, the hypocrisy of receiving a call of such concern over homework not done, which never happens, because this homework is based on a test that I am refusing him to take, that you were all aware of, boggles my mind. Give him as much reading, writing, non CC based graded math, science, and social studies work as you see fit.
    And yes, you know what kind of parent I am, a pretty good one. And I do think he needs to continue his non-based Core Curriculum work, wanting him to progress nicely, not needing to meet Common Standards. And most importantly, as long as my son tries the best he can, and is on a normal/meeting grade level, he's a rock star in my eyes.
    Thank you so very much for your concern,
    DEDICATED AND INFORMED PARENT

Monday, March 10, 2014

OPINION PIECE: Your Children are YOURS

I hear many questions about what to do about Common Core and how it affects our children and families. One that keeps coming up is "Well, what can I do about this program or that program? How can I stop my child from being affected by it?"

At what point did YOUR child become a ward of the state? At what point when you put them on that yellow school bus and sent them on their way did you cease to be in charge?

A very smart woman said that when you give away the control you give away the power. But why are we giving away the control of our children? If the school board or district you are in says they can't do something, do it yourself! There are MANY ways in which YOU can make decisions about your child and their future.

Contrary to what many politicians say, including Governor Bobby Jindal, R-La, our children are not put on this planet to further the US workforce. They are not here to compete globally. They are not here to become worker bees for huge global companies. They are NOT government pawns. Maybe that's what you want for your children, but for mine I dream of creativity, goals, individuality, and I pray they follow in the path of developing Godly character, always striving to do what is right. 

Contrary to what Melissa Harris-Perry says, your children are YOURS. You have the power! Use it! If you do not want your children involved in certain aspects of public education, do not let them. Sex Education Standards? Find out what’s being taught! Tell the school you want your child opted out. Find out what surveys they take and tell the school you want them all sent home before your child fills them out. Find out what assessments are actually high stakes tests and OPT YOUR CHILD OUT. High stakes means the teachers jobs and school funding are tied to it and/or your child must pass test to pass grade. There are not as many high stakes tests as you think, and you need to find out which ones are so you can opt your child out. Simply contact your teacher, principal and for good measure, send a copy of your letter to the school board, state school board and state superintendent. If you need some guidance on how to do this, please see http://unitedoptout.com/get-tough-guide/ and their wonderful resources on how to reclaim what is rightfully yours--your child's education and your freedom to choose it.

Get INVOLVED in your local school boards and see what happens at meetings. Get to know the members and how they feel. Ask questions, ask for black and white proof of what is happening in schools. Call them on their actions, hold them accountable, and show up. At schools, at meetings, everywhere you can. You can’t go to everything, or you’ll stress yourself out and defeat the purpose if you’ve no time for the very babies you are trying to protect. But pick what your passionate about and run with it.

Some will say to just pull your child and home school. I did. Maybe it's right for you. Maybe it's NOT. Maybe you live in a state where home schooling is just as regulated as public school and you are still subject to Common Core and it's many tentacles. Home schooling is NOT the answer for everyone. It's not that it's impossible for everyone, but it just may not be a good fit for some families and I see NO shame in admitting that as a parent. But if you can and feel it's best for your family, do it! Pull your child and home school. This monstrosity that is Common Core, High Stakes Testing, Fed-Ed cannot continue if students are not in the chairs and tests are not being taken. 

There is a slippery slope one goes down in learning about Common Core and all it involves. It's hard to un-learn it. Sometimes I wish I could, I admit. It's nice to live on Denial Street where I can stick my head in the sand. But it's not safe. It's not a free place. When you give them all the control, you lose the power to make decisions, the power to think, the power to LIVE. Don't let them do that to you. Start standing up for yourself, your children, your tax dollars!

You don't have to be loud. Definitely don't be rude. But be firm. I like to look at the powers that be and government as toddlers....would you let a toddler eat all the candy they want just because they asked nicely or made a sweet face at you? No, because it's not good for them and you know it will have bad repercussions. So why do we let them take our children's future because they smile sweetly and spout out statistics that have absolutely no factual bearing whatsoever? We know where it will lead and it won't be a land of liberty and justice.

Take your power back, just a little bit at a time. I'd like you to read the lyrics to one of my very favorite songs, "Freedom" by Amos Lee. I'm not sure his intention of this song because as is in many of his lyrics, it can be widely interpreted. (It is good to note Lee was a former elementary teacher before trying the musician gig full time.) But I listen to this now with new ears. It's a great listen if you wish to look it up.

"Freedom" 
 Don't wanna be a martyr in this war 
Don't wanna hear the same excuses anymore 
That everything's a threat 
And it's only gonna get worse if we let it 
 Don't wanna blame the rich for what they got 
Don't point a finger at the poor for what they have not 
Though the politician and the priest 
Live in the belly of the beast because we fed it 
 Freedom is seldom found By beating someone to the ground 
Telling them how everything is gonna be now, yeah 
 Now if the tables were turned tell me how you would feel 
Somebody busted up into your house telling you to stay still 
While the leaders will deny defeat Innocents they testify by dying in the street 
 Freedom is seldom found By beating someone to the ground 
Telling them how everything is gonna be now 

Don't let your babies be the innocent dying in the street of this war. Don't let them push you around and convince you that because you're just a parent you don't know what's best. Trust yourself. Trust your instinct. Trust in God.

Amy Dutsch
Founder, Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards in Louisiana
Admin: Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Unintended Consequences

As you may know, children with special needs are one of our BIG concerns here at PEACCS. This blog post is a must read. I read it when it was first written, as the mother is an acquaintance of mine and a fantastic supporter and fighter for special needs children, not just her own. Her letter should say it all and in the end, she is a great mom doing her son a great service by fighting for him!

After the jump: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/05/academic-standards-and-a-boy-with-autism/

~~Amy

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Postcards from the Edge

I recently attended a workshop put on by a special education advocacy group. The workshop was intended to introduce us special ed parents to how to navigate the 'major shifts in implementing common core standards.'.

I went, with my full bias against Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and I took as many notes as I could. There was a slide show which is supposedly going to be available electronically. If it does not become available soon I will scan the paper handouts we were given to go along with it.

Here I will try to provide my notes and what links they provided.

The "quotes" may not be DIRECT and PERFECT quotes but as close as I could get writing them out. The workshop leaders were two women from the Louisiana State Dept. of Ed, Debra Dixon and Nanette Olivier.

The word "RIGOR" was mentioned 12 times. In 90 minutes.

Quotes:

"CCSS is best led by teachers."
"Those students participating in PARCC assessments have accommodations available." So does this imply if you are a special ed student who refuses to take PARCC for any reason, you won't get any classroom accommodations as well?

"Intent is not to bring students down {in scores}".

From Jim Garvey, "BESE's feeling is expectations are raised, or scores will be similar as now. Not going to be a big drop in scores. Shouldn't be an increase in students failing the LEAP. What's considered passing is going to change. Maybe in the future we will raise the bar of the equivalent to the LEAP. I don't think you're going to see a change. We're not going to punish the students for that, or the schools. This is what we think is coming."

Um what? First off the first part of what he said was confusing and not clear. Secondly, what they THINK is coming? It's clear they don't know what they're doing.

"PARCC (and any standardized test) is a snapshot of the student, a narrow set of skills we look at. It's a small % of the child's growth."

"We have so much technology that we need to use." 
Right, meanwhile parents must buy their own assistive technology for their special needs student.

"CCSS is not a curriculum, it's a set of standards."
 We all know that party line. I will say it until I"m blue int the face, STANDARDS ALWAYS BEGET CURRICULUM.

This one is one of the best....
 "If we have concerns about education, IEPs, etc, we are always "welcome to contact the help desk at LaSDE." 

I'll wait while you pick yourself up from the laughter.

"How do we implement the standards?" (There was no answer.)

"Teachers really want your child to succeed." Well duh. Teachers don't do this job for the glory of snot on their shirts, they do it because they love what they do. But now, "teachers are even more accountable than ever." RIGHT, so THEIR job is dependant on our children's test scores and interaction in the classroom.

"It's never to early to prepare for PARCC on the IEP." Yup, nothing like high stakes testing for a child who's developmentally delayed.

"We've been spending too much time reading fiction over nonfiction." Um. Shut the front door. This is the part of the workshop that got me fired up and first spoke out. Are you freaking KIDDING ME? Classic literature is the backbone of classic education. 50/50 fiction/nonfiction for K-6, 70/30 nonfiction/fiction for 9-12. (gradual shift between 6-12). 70%. Still boggles my mind.

"We're asking kids to read more analytical texts." Right because every great artist was supported by reading welding technical manuals.

For the math standards, "emphasis on digging deep." Yeah, that's clear.

"Parents should always ask, "What is the priority for my child?" in an IEP." Again, most parents do this. But the school administrations do not make this easy, never have and I suspect never will. 

One of my favorites was the horrahing of St. Tammany Parish School Boards work in getting assistive technology in the classroom. CLEARLY, they have never listened to the stories about parents having to provide their own iPads, PECS programs and so on. I will say there are some AMAZING staff, teachers, therapists, and providers in the St. Tammany Parish system, including a dedicated AT specialist. But to say the school board provides these things as truly needed is a flat out LIE. It's not the fault of the therapists, it's the fault of the higher ups who argue the money game. Forget it's a child's right due to IDEA or their IEP. 

And my very favorite, they were quite clear and proud to make SURE we knew "Debra and Nanette did NOT say you can opt out of the PARCC assessments." They wanted that made very very clear. So clear it was almost as if they had someone breathing down their neck to make SURE we parents knew we couldn't opt out....I wonder who that could be. *cough cough, NGA, Tides Foundation, John White, Jindal, cough cough*.

So when your child who's in fourth grade but is at a 1st grade level developmentally fails the PARCC and struggles daily with the curriculum, (which is not written by the CCSS, even though its found on the Louisiana Believes website, until they realize we know and they scrub the site.), but when your child fails the PARCC and must be remediated, you be SURE to remind them that Debra and Nanette said, "Promotion and retention are decided at a local level."

And don't forget the rigor.

I need a drink.

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Sorry it's been awhile since we posted. We all are very busy as parents and educators and this fight against CCSS is very all consuming. Several of us also homeschool so to say we don't sleep much is an understatement.

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