Saturday, April 25, 2015

HB 306 - Will It Survive Rules Committee?

HB306 – You Might Want to Opt Your Child Out of PARCC Testing, But The Bill to Do So Might Not Opt Out of Rules Committee

HB 306, the bill allowing students and parents to opt out of testing has been moved to the Rules Committee, where Barbara Flynn Currie (D – Chicago – 36 years incumbency) will take orders from Party Leadership to float or torpedo the proposal. 

Governor Rauner, fearing fiscal retaliation from the Feds opposes the bill. 

The IEA, fearing fiscal retaliation from the Feds, opposes the bill. 

Political charmers do indeed make strange bedfellows.

We’ll find out what Madigan wants Currie to do later.  Thy will be done. 

Meanwhile, most parents, teachers and many school boards support the bill.


For IEA delegates like Conrad. Floeter, the answer is clear.  PARCC and other high stakes tests are just another weapon in their (corporations) arsenal to label teachers and schools as failing, paving the way for privatization through charter schools and dismantling our union. The opt out parents are the best allies we have right now and we need to build on that.”

During the recent Illinois Education Association Representative Assembly, delegates Conrad Floeter and Region Chair Marsha Griffin offered a New Business Item calling for the IEA to organize anti-testing partner ships with parents; it was shot down.  Nobody from Leadership spoke in support.

According to Mr. Floeter, “We got our answer Saturday morning when our President, Cinda Klickna, told us that she had heard those questions and that our legislative platform amendment did not support any specific legislation (like HB306). That opting out students could put us at risk of losing funding and that members were vulnerable if they spoke to parents about their opt out rights. So what exactly does our support of opt out mean?”
In response, Fred Klonsky noted, “The answer is that their claim of support for parents and teachers means nothing.”

 See Klonsky’s full post: 

Meanwhile, in classrooms from Maine to California, educators are witnessing the brutality exacted on children taking these tests and the injury for even those who opted out. 

I remember a time when my students built learning calendars on the walls of our classroom through out the year, leaving mementos and descriptions of events, projects and learning encountered and accomplished through the year.  We used to walk along the walls at the end of the year ,looking back at our growth and achievements. Now, I imagine a swath of black construction paper during the weeks we might have suffered through such mandated testing.

From New York: see R.Ratto’s observations of what has happened this spring in his classroom.

“Over the past two weeks, I was ordered to administer New York States Common Core assessments to 44% of my 5th grade class, while 56% of my students refused to take the test. They were all in the same room during the assessments, so I designed a quiet independent Language Arts activity for those not taking the test. I didn’t want to waste any potential ‘learning time’ for any of my students. They worked silently, without disturbing those struggling with the test, and afterwords they reported to me that they enjoyed the assignment and they were excited to share what they learned.
A parent complained and I was advised, after the first portion of the test,  to not have the other students working on anything else because it may be a violation of testing rules and that the Superintendent stated we couldn't. So, for the last 4.5 hours 56% of my class was told that they can only read silently from their own novel while the others in the room struggled with the assessment. Under these conditions, I observed many of the students had a difficult time remaining silent and often disturbed those struggling with the tests.
Those children, who I had to order to sit quietly for 9 hours the past week while their peers struggled with their purposely confusing questions, were basically under arrest. Metaphorically handcuffing them to their desks, they were forced to sit quietly for an extremely long time (even those with attention deficit issues or hyperactivity issues). How many adults would subject themselves to that nonsense?
Those taking the test struggled with questions, day after day, that were unfair assessments of their capabilities. The Language Arts section of the tests consisted of way too many boring reading selections and were above a typical 5th grader’s reading level. The questions focused on minutia, lacked clarity, and played with the nuances of plausibility.
Over the past several years the Language Arts portion of the assessments always had poetry included in them. Often poems that were difficult and could be interpreted in many different ways were part of every assessment. Poetry has always been an integral part of my Language Arts curriculum.  I thought I met the challenge and that my students were well prepared to analyze just about any poem place in front of them. After all, that is part of our curriculum.  I was shocked to see that this year’s 5th grade assessments had no poetry in it. Why?
My students were prepared, but the evidence is mounting that these assessments are not about seeing if my students were prepared or are learning. There is a more sinister reason coming into focus.
The Math portion of the tests included multi- step problems that were beyond the capability of most 5th grade students. My students are capable of doing a typical 5th grade multi-step problem, but these questions were purposely misleading, often included a misdirecting clause and were often nonsensical and unrealistic.
We know that a student needs to use some background knowledge to understand a word problem.  I wonder how many students were confused when the star of a softball team hit the softball  a towering 2 yards and the others measured their distances against his.  Realistic? Hardly!  I wondered if my students really thought that knowing the fraction of the volume of a cubby used to store a teachers’ papers was a really something adults calculate.
A typical 5th grade math word problem in Pearson’s own Common Core aligned textbook has 3 or 4 steps that must be completed to solve. This year’s Pearson’s tests blew the lid off that. Students had to complete many more steps to solve these test questions. About as far from fair as you can get.
More evidence that these assessments are not about seeing if my students were prepared or are learning, that a sinister reason is coming unto focus.
I have been shouting that these tests are institutional child abuse and this week Cuomo confirmed my declaration that yes, the New York is using our children in a sinister way.
Read these excerpts from a Times Union Article:
“The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said in a brief press gaggle following an Association for a Better New York breakfast event in New York City.
“Cuomo said he believes they haven’t done a good job of publicizing the fact that the tests, for at least the next five years, won’t count at all for the students.”
“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count.”
Meaningless? Children subjected to headaches, anxiety, upset stomachs, a feeling of failure for meaningless tests!
Cuomo also says these tests are supposed to be used to evaluate teachers. That is using 9 hours of a child’s labor to do an adult’s job. Let’s not forget the imbedded field test items that Pearson sneaks in there to help them boost their corporate profits.
The evidence is overwhelming. The New York State Education Department and Governor Andrew Cuomo are guilty of abusing their authority and the children of our state.”
For the entire illuminating post, please go to:

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