Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Testing should be for students, not district discipline ... By Chris Cotter

I am writing in response to David Gilbertson’s letter “PARCC is one of the best things we can do for students.” I will agree with the statement that “New Bedford’s students, teachers, and parents are being insulted.” For those who’ve responded, stood up, and have taken a stand, have been targeted, been ignored, and/or shown the door to leave the district. If you don’t believe me, just look at the number of teachers, more than 400, who have left the district prematurely as well as parents who have removed their children from the district. However, you refer to these dedicated individuals as a sacrifice for the children.

The testing issue isn’t about it being a standardized test. The “few” parents that you refer to are not misguided in any way, shape, or form. They are educated parents who see what’s going on in our schools and have decided to take the stand as mentioned in your editorial. The issues that the parent, which you refer to as not accepting the importance of testing, is not their reason behind this. It also has nothing to do with their children’s inability to be tested, which I find as very insulting as a non-parent of a child in the district any longer. Their issue is that they don’t want ANY child in the district to be referred to as “data.”

The testing you refer to as, in the old days was the Iowa Standardized test which allowed parents and teachers to see where a student was progressing and lagging. Testing now isn’t used as information on individual students, these results indicate that a student may fall in “needs improvement” or “warning”. However, these tests can and are used against teachers and the district. This is where things differ from the good old days, and you actually reference this as exposing problems.  

You referred to those against testing as ignorant, which I hope you meant uninformed and unaware and not illiterate or uneducated. This is so far from the truth. These individuals are parents, teachers, and community leaders, who are very well informed of their stance against High Stakes Testing.
Where in the PARCC testing is there an allowance for a child to learn on a different level than their peers? Aren’t we all individuals who learn at different paces throughout life?  There has been no person in all of this who has stated that they don’t want any testing. They just want the testing to be individualized to each and every student as it was in the old days.

The PARCC test is a test that has been developed by the Pearson Company which follows the Common Core curriculum which is funded by the Bill Gates Foundation.  If you follow the money, you may understand why the push is there. So, when you mention life not being about facts, isn’t a math equation of two plus two still four? Why does a student need to think about and provide a reason behind the answer? They are not being asked to think for themselves. Their reasoning has to match that of their peers. For me, this is removing any part of individuality that we, including myself, instill in our children. Children learn, live, love, and accept things on their own terms and that’s not something we can push on them.  

When you mention that New Bedford would lose 85 percent of its state and federal funding, is this fact or just what rhetoric that you have been reading? There has been no loss of funding to any district for opting out or refusing the test. You make reference to parents who have brought legitimate issues and fears of their own children. These parents are accepting importance of testing, and have confidence in their own children. PARCC is not an educational tool. It is a way of collecting data on teachers and districts, and this is why PARCC is wrong. If you can, think back to your “old days” in school and tell me what your first week of school was like. Did you have a test put in front of you on the first day? I can answer that for you and the answer is “no.” It was about getting to know your teacher, and visa-versa, the rules, get the expectations of the class, and acclimate to your new surroundings. A student who enters the first grade now, just sit at their desk and has a test placed in front of them. This is something, I believe, is just a little too stressful for a 6 year old.

It’s quite obvious by your statement, New Bedford Public School System were facing a takeover by the state, is a point you don’t have facts on and are just repeating what you’ve heard. It was true that a couple of schools were placed at risk as Level 5’s. This was caused by the states test data. The test results and dropout rates that you refer to didn’t prove there was anything terribly wrong. If this were the case, please explain how several graduates of NBHS have gone on to Ivy League schools and many others have been accepted into other fine universities and colleges throughout the country? This is what you refer to as terribly wrong? I beg to differ on that point. We have pulled most incentive programs that kept students in school to avoid dropping out. Remember when there were shop classes students could take to keep their interest? Well in case you didn’t know, those classes no longer exist at NBHS. What you have to remember is that there are students who do not wish to go to college. By removing those courses from the curriculum, discourages students and sends the wrong message that everyone needs to go to college. And then, place passing an MCAS test as a graduation requirement, is where I see as a contributing factor to the dropout rates.

In what I will refer to as “my own opinion”, you are writing this as a strong supporter of the superintendent of schools, Dr. Pia Durkin. Those persons as you reference to not embracing the necessary changes or not having the skills or will, despite the support and professional development offered, were let go or departed on their own, is a laughable statement. These individuals, some of whom were brought into administrative positions under Dr. Durkin, were not failing as educators. They were failing to following along with the data mining that is going on in this district.

Just because a representative from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) states that we are clearly on the path to excellence, means that this is in fact the truth? When a representative “steps out of her role” and addresses the New Bedford School Committee, on an agenda item allowing to “make parents aware of opting out” as an option, isn’t suspect to you? Well for me, this was very suspect just as it was for Dr. Durkin to have the floor, prior to the motion being read. This tells me that DESE was contacted and then directed that she be given the floor. Then Mitchell Chester’s representative, be allowed to “step out of her role” as representative and address the committee. Her addressing the committee out of her role should have been during the Public Comment period. This is what other people have to do to address their issues and concerns to the School Committee.

I am also a taxpayer and a member of the Class of 1984 when NBHS was given the federal recognition of “Excellence in Education.” I’m not afraid to say that I have always had test anxiety, and still do. If I were to be placed under the stresses that we have placed on our students in today’s modern era of education, I wouldn’t be enjoying school and would be part of this dropout percentage. I am here for the students and not part of any one persons individual agenda.

Oh, by the way, if these tests, PARCC and MCAS, are the end all to be all, then why don’t private school and Catholic schools students have to take them?  Guess what, those students get accepted into college without all that fanfare.


Anonymous said...

I think it is important to write a few lines about testing in general in NBPS. According to administration each student must answer a little activator at the beginning of their class. God forbid it not being on the board. Can you say reprimand. It's a little quiz of material covered recently or covered during the year. Its purpose is to get data on who needs remedial work on certain standards and who does not. Differential instruction. Now there's a joke. Can't be a joke, it's in the evaluation process.

Then there Galileo, curriculum standards covering the frameworks for material within a school year. These exams come in the form of pre tests and post tests. So for example, if there are 13 standards within a school year, there are 26 tests to give. Now some will say you need not give them all, and then counter will how will you know what the students already know, and what they need to know. Catch 22.

Then there are the benchmarks, up to 3 in multiple classes. Downtown really needs these.

Then there are your own personal quizzes or tests that are more rigorous and open than any of the ones mandated by administration. Did I mention that Galileo is a multiple choice exam. Now there's rigor!

Then there are the open response question testing that are suppose to prepare students for answering multi-tiered PARCC and MCAS questions by way of a written response.

Then there is PARCC or MCAS for the various subjects and all the preparation leading up to it. If any one thinks that students go into PARCC or MCAS without multiple weeks of preparation, your way too gullible, and lack human intuition.

Are you now getting the magnitude of testing? Don't forget to multiply these numbers by the amount of classes a student attends

Almost forgot, then for some there is NEAP, the nations report card testing program.

There is a syndrome known as test fatigue. Do you think it may apply here?

Anonymous said...

Here is where education is getting in the way of learning.

Anonymous said...

Is this the only person on the school committee who actually knows what's going on and isn't turning a blind eye to the injustices being inflicted on our students...do they pay that well to be bought ....