Sunday, February 7, 2016

What Would Frederick Douglass Do?

It’s been almost six weeks since I initially wrote SED Commissioner Elia, the Board of Regents, the Governor and members of the New York Legislature about significant questions arising from the Common Core Task Force’s Report and Recommendations.  On January 24th I wrote a second letter, which included the names of 115 supporters requesting that: the Board of Regents authorize the State Education Department to conduct a detailed, open and transparent review and analysis of the use of the ELA/Math standardized tests results as determinants to assess school qualification for receivership; to invite parent, educator, student and other stakeholder input and feedback in the process; to clarify the recommendations of the Common Core Task Force as they apply to the state assessments and use of assessment data, and to develop future recommendations for appropriate determinants for school receivership.”  True to form, as of February 7th, I haven’t heard a single word from any of these educational and political leaders (except for Senator Kennedy). 

As an individual, who researches and writes about African American history, I do not confine my recognition of the importance of Black Americans’ contributions to American History to one month.  But I would admit that the advent of African American History Month 2016 influenced my reflections on the continued lack of respect and simple courtesy of state officials’ ongoing failure to respond to the concerns of nearly 700 education stakeholders.  There are many African Americans, men and women, whose lives provide instructive, inspirational and timeless examples for current day activists, but Frederick Douglass quickly came to mind.  An ex-slave, freedman, abolitionist, author, journalist, statesman, orator, businessman, etc Douglass was a towering example of ???
sthe College Tour but wesaid:  example of self-advocacy.
 to mind.  An are instructive, inspirational and timeless   Butself-advocacy.

In a letter written in 1849, he said:  “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”   

So what would Frederick Douglass do if he was in our shoes?  Continue the struggle!  And the demand for answers to the questions we have about the use of standardized tests (high stakes tests) to label our children as failures, defame our teachers; disenfranchise our communities by vesting control in Receivership and ultimately undermine public education.e continued lack of respect and simple courtesy associat

The online petition posted on the January 24th has garnered over 525 signatures and comments.  The following are a few of the comments left on that petition.  I have omitted the names, but the petition is on-going and I am still encouraging public education advocates to sign this petition and join us.  We are not voiceless even though the Commissioner and the Regents have chosen to IGNORE our call for accountability.

“Not only is it ridiculous to use these tests - found to be unreliable and unfair to students across the board - as a measure of student or teacher success, to use them to still rank schools to the extent of determining which should be classified receivership schools while admitting it's unhelpful in several other areas is both nonsensical and inappropriate. The issue of how we handle receivership schools in general is already fraught with problems; there is no reason part of determining that classification should include scores from these tests.”

“Closing a school doesn't help anyone but those who are looking for excuses to fire people. Schools reflect their communities, so if a school is struggling, so is the community. The state should recognize this relationship and throw every resource it has at uplifting and supporting the families, the infrastructure, and the employees already working in the school and community. That the vast majority of schools in receivership serve low income populations shows that it's not necessarily a problem of bad apples, but of challenges insurmountable with the limited resources those schools have.”

The Common Core Aligned Standardized Tests have been manipulated for political use and do not meet psychometric standards. As an educational psychologist, I urge that they no longer be used to identify receivership schools or for any other high stakes decisions.”

“I ask only to point out, that rarely does the public hear of an alternative to the current testing system that we view schools in receivership. How do we go about schools that need to improve for all students? What is the direction to identify fairly the schools that need the most help? If not via test scores and data, then how? Now that the state is final admitting that we have a flawed system of evaluation within the state, where do we move from starting today?”

“As a former Buffalo Public School teacher I feel for my former colleagues. The number of challenges the inner city teachers face daily, (some minute to minute) are insane. No TEST nor standards are going to magically make these challenges disappear. Instead these Standards and Tests are just adding to student, teacher, administration, and parent frustration and setting the children even farther behind in life.”

“There have been many years shed over the prep work to get the kids prepared for these tests. My children are losing their zest for learning. It is very sad that as a parent I am unable to help my children due to the rigorous teaching of extra steps and analyzing sentences in chapters. Reading should be fun and educational. Math should be challenging and useful, and age appropriate.”
“Our high school is proud to have over 45 (over 59) languages spoken by its students. I am happy to be part of such a diverse community. Stop the testing, and stop expecting everyone to be the same. Diversity is strength.”

“In the three years that Common Core standards have been around students, teachers, and schools have only gotten worse. The standards and the tests are terrible. My children who used to love learning and school now dread it. They are over tested and stressed out. They are not learning in a way a child learns naturally. I live and teach in a community that is in the lowest poverty range with a large population of refugees and immigrants. They are left behind with these standards. Shame on the politicians, governors, and big businesses that have stripped the education in this country of all that was good. The damage is irreparable. Stop this now! Have a conscious for God’s sake!”

“As an educator, these are the types of dysfunction that are causing parents and educators lose faith in education. Making changes constantly and then not expressing what the expectations are, shows the ineptness of the Board of Regents and the NYS Department of Education.”

“I believe that the correlation between poverty and performance in school (testing results) is a simplistic and wrong direction for decision-making in education. Fix the class sizes, create community(ies) around schools with the necessary supports both before and after school is a more practical, common-sense approach to addressing the educational needs of all children.”

Finally, the message to Albany is:  you can be silent; you can ignore us, but we’re going to stay in the struggle; we’re going to demand a response and we will be heard – sooner or later.  After all March is Women’s History Month!

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