An Evening with Seattle Opt Out: 7PM, September 27th @ Moonpaper Tent

Join Seattle Opt Out on Wednesday, September 27th @ 7 PM for a brief presentation and discussion around standardized testing and its impact on our public schools. The event will be held at Moonpaper Tent ( 8503 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115 ) and is free and welcome to all.
Seattle Opt Out Flyer 9:27:17
-Seattle Education Blog
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An Interview with Alison McDowell: KEXP’s Mind Over Matters Community Forum

headphones

On August 5th Alison McDowell was a guest on KEXP’s news program Mind Over Matters. You can listen to the interview by clicking on the link below ( be patient – it takes a little bit of time for the file to load). A transcript of the interview follows.

Alison McDowell Interview

My concern as a parent is within these adaptive learning systems, I don’t want an online system that has to learn my child to work. I don’t want a system that has to know everything my child did for the last six months, to operate properly. Because I think that becomes problematic. How do you ever have a do over? Like, is it just always building and reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and how you react…it’s, they, I think they present it as flexible and personalized, but in many ways I think it’s limiting.

Mind Over Matters – KEXP

Community Forum

Interview with Alison McDowell

Mike McCormick:  It’s time once again for Community Forum, and we’re very lucky to have with us live in the studios this morning, Alison McDowell. Alison McDowell is a parent and researcher, into the dangers of corporate education reform. She was presenter this last March this year here in Seattle. The talk entitled Future Ready schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education. Alison, thank you very much for coming in and spending time with us this morning.

Alison: Oh, I’m very glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike:  So, tell us, how did you get interested and involved with the issue of corporate education reform?

Alison: Well, I’m a I’m a parent. I have a daughter who is sixteen in the public schools of Philadelphia. And we’re sort of a crucible for many different aspects of education reform. We’ve had multiple superintendents from the Broad Academy. We’ve been defunded. Our schools have been, numerous of our schools have been closed, teachers laid off and about three years ago I became involved in the Opt Out movement for high stakes testing. Because at that point I felt that if we were able to withhold the data from that system we would try to be able to slow things down. Because they were using that testing data to close our schools. So I worked on that for a number of years until I saw that the landscape was starting to change. And a lot of it was leading up to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. That that passage. And it seemed at that time that our school district, which is challenging in many respects, was all of a sudden actually interested in Opt Out, and making that, sharing information and materials… Pennsylvania has a legal Opt Out right on religious grounds…and making materials available in various languages. And something just didn’t compute in my head. I’m like, well, even if, if we’re entitled, the fact that they were interested in engaging with us on that, made me sort of question why that was. And then so post ESSA, it became clear that the shift that was going to be taking place was away from a high stakes end of year test and more towards embedded formative assessments. So in our district we’ve seen an influx, even though there isn’t funding for many other things, lots of technology coming in, lots of Chromebooks. Every, all of the students have Google accounts. Google runs our school district. Even though they say philsd.org, their Google accounts, and each student, their email address is actually their student id number. So to access a Chromebook as soon as you login, you know all of that information is tied back into their id number. So the technology was coming in. Many schools were doing multiple benchmark assessments. So there was less and less time for actual meaningful instruction throughout the school year and there were more and more tests taking place, many computerized. So, at that point, we were looking into like, what did this mean, what is the role of technology and the interim testing, in this movement And so, I had come across my…I have a blog. It’s called Wrench in the Gears. It’s a wordpress blog. So you, I have a lot of information there, and it’s all very well documented and linked. My colleague Emily Talmage, who’s a teacher in Maine, who has seen this first-hand. She has a blog: Save Maine Schools. And so I had found her blog and at one point she said, you know…you know, only click on this link, you know, if you’re willing to go down the rabbit hole. And at that point it was, it was a website called Global Education Futures Forum, and they have this agenda for education up to 2035. And it is their projection. And it’s a global…global membership led by Pavel Luksha, who’s connected with the Skolkovo Institute, in Russia. But the local person here, actually he’s very local, is Tom Vander Ark, is one of the US representatives. And so he was former Gates Foundation. And has his own consulting firm now. And it’s based out of Seattle. And, but anyway, so they have sort of what they call a foresight document, a sort of projecting based on trends and patterns, where they see things going for education, like over the next 20 years. And so really, they have a very sophisticated map. And all you have to do is sort of look at their map. And then match it up to current events. And you can see, like, where they’re pretty much on target where things are headed. And there, they have some really interesting infographics and, one of them, it’s a very decentralized system. So education is just like the individual at the center. So everything you’re hearing, personalized learning, and and individual education plans, like it’s one big person and you’re the center of your own universe. And sort of around you, there aren’t teachers or schools. It’s it’s many sort of digital interfaces, and devices, and data-gathering platforms. And this idea that education is a life-long process. Which I think all of us generally agree with, but the idea that you’re sort of chasing skills in this new global economy, and like constantly remaking yourself. Or like the gig economy and what that means. And managing your online reputation. Not just your skillsets. But your mindset. And your social outlook. And your behaviors. And the role of gamification. So there are many many elements to this, that if you look into it, I think raise a lot of questions. And increasingly, really over the past five years there’s been a lot of discussion about remaking education. Re-imagining education. You know, education for the 21st century. Future Ready Schools. And I think for the most part, parents and community members have been left out of this conversation, of what really does Future Ready Schools mean? And the folks who are running the conversation, are running the agenda, are largely coming from a tech background. And this is something that’s built up since the mid-nineties, when the Advanced Distributed Learning Program was set up within the Defense Department, and the Department of Education.  To have like you know, Tech Learning for all Americans. Which, you know, again  I think we all need to be tech knowledgable, I, the question is, how is the tech used and how in control of of your education are you, and your educational data. So anyway, a lot of this is being driven by interests of digitizing education. And really, through austerity mechanisms, pulling out more human interaction, out of the equation. So we’re, we’re seeing things that a number of years ago, Detroit, had a kindergarten, where they would have a hundred kindergarteners, with like one teacher and a couple of aides, and a lot of technology. So there’re lots of questions increasingly about the use of technology especially in early grades, and I know in, in Washington State there’ve been a big push for tablets down to the kindergarten level. Our children are being part of this sort of larger experiment that has health considerations that have not been closely examined. In terms of eyestrain, audio components, even hygiene with earphones. The wifi aspects. And then also the data collection. So, there’s this grand experiment going on for Future Ready Schools, and parents and community members aren’t really aware of the fact that it is an unproven experiment, and what the implications are long-term.

Mike: And it’s being driven heavily by corporations that are producing these platforms, this software, the electronics, kind of behind the scenes, because no one knows this is going on except a select group of administrators and teachers?

Alison: Yeah, well so they have, there are a number of like pilot districts. So the idea is sort of, you get a beachhead, and then you, you roll it out. You convince, I mean they have very sophisticated marketing manuals. Like Education Elements, they say, this is how you do it. You know first you, you have a social media campaign, you get the young teachers who are really into tech and you train them up in the way that you wanna do things, and then they mentor all the veteran teachers and you get the principal on board and then you have the parent meetings and it’s…again…with…if you understood it as, like selling a corporate product as opposed to public education, it might not be so disturbing. Like for me, I find having this sort of corporate approach to marketing, a new approach to public education. That’s, that’s what, what I find disturbing. I’ve called this Education 2.0, because I think we’re, we’re about to see a shift from the earlier version of privatization, which was the high stakes, end of year high stakes testing, vouchers, charter schools. Those things will all still continue, but they’ve, they were never the end game.  So they have been used as a way to de-stabilize the, the landscape of neighborhood schools. And in many cases they’ve been used to, you know, acquire real estate, further sort of gentrification, insider contracts, like there are many aspects that allow that to become a profit center. But there’s going to be a point of diminishing return. Where sort of like all the easy pickings have been taken. And if you’re pursuing sort of a tailoristic model , like the ultimate efficiency, lean production, Cyber-Education is the end game. So creating a system of education that really has very little in human resources.  There’s lots of folks within Pearson and IBM and Microsoft who are looking at AI, like everyone will have your own artificial intelligent, like learning sherpa for your life. You know, and this isn’t just K12, this is forever.  You know, someone on your shoulder telling you what you should be doing next. But removing the humans out of the equation and putting more technology in place. So I think that’s what this shift to Education 2.0 is going to be about, is largely cyber but I think most parents at this point are not comfortable with that model. They wouldn’t say, you know, and I will admit, like there, there’s a small group of kids who are highly motivated for whom a cyber, exclusively cyber model may work. I mean a lot of the research shows that for most kids the outcomes are not great. So what they will be selling is project based learning. And that’s what you’ll hear a lot about, coming up, like in the next couple of years. But those projects won’t necessarily be linked to schools. So you’ll hear more and more about, anytime, anyplace, anywhere, any pace learning. So they’re looking to de- disconnect education from physical school buildings, and actual teachers in classrooms, to sort of what’s called a learning eco-system model. So something that’s more free-flowing, you’re just out in the world collecting skills. And that’s what was so interesting about, like the Common Core State Standards set-up. And I know a lot of states have sort of rolled back or renamed them. But the idea of having education tied to very specific standards, was a way of atomizing education and making it available for digitization. So if, if education is a human process of growth and development, that’s very murky to try to put in a metric, right? You need bits and bytes. And so if you create an education that’s strictly around standards and like sub standards and little sets, you can just aggregate those, and collect them or not collect them, and run that as data in a digital platform. So that push toward standards, yes it allowed for school report cards and value added modeling and things that hurt schools and teachers, but it also normalized the idea that education was less a human process and more people collecting things. Like collecting skills and standards, which is what you need for like a competency based education approach.

Mike: So, talk about some of the specific examples…one of the advantages to going into your site is you have links to so many different documents from the very corporations and people that are producing these systems. And one of the examples you’ve talked about in your talk back here in March was something called Tutormate? That was involved, kids getting pulled out of class, to go see, basically AI icons talking to them and they become attached to them…

Alison: Yeah…

Mike: …it’s disturbing.

Alison: Well there were a couple of, there’s a couple of interesting things. I had sort of a slide saying who’s teaching your children? Because increasingly it’s not necessarily their classroom teacher. The chatbot was actually Reasoning Mind, which is a math program. It was developed in Texas. And so it’s been like long-running and gotten a lot of funding, both from public and private sources. About refining sort of a personalized learning towards math. But kids were interacting with these online chat bots and developing connections and relationships to these online presences in their math program. I’m in Pennsylvania. So a lot of, a lot of things are developing in Pittsburgh. They have a whole initiative called Remake Learning in Pittsburgh which I believe is sort of early-stage learning ecosystem model and a lot of that is coming out of Carnegie Mellon because Carnegie Mellon is doing a lot of work on AI and education. And they have something called Alex. So they like the idea of peer-based learning. That sounds attractive like, yeah, kids like to learn from their peers. This, their version of peer-based learning is that you have a giant avatar cartoon peer on a screen and the children interact with this peer on a screen. So that’s something that’s being piloted in southwestern Pennsylvania right now. And then Tutormate is actually a different variation but they were pulling kids out of class, away…these were young children, from their classroom setting to put them in a computer lab to do tutoring with a corporate volunteer via skype, and an online platform. So in this case it actually was a human being, but this was during school hours. This was not a supplement to classroom instruction, this was in lieu of having direct instruction with a certified teacher. They were being put into an online platform with a corporate volunteer and you know, it turns out a number of the sponsors of that program had ties to defense contracting industries. You know, Halliburton, and Booz Allen Hamilton. You know, things that you might wanna question, is that who you want your second grader spending their time chatting with? You know, in lieu of having their second grade teacher teach them reading. So again, there is this shift away from, from teachers. There’s, there’s a model that’s going on right now, within many one-to-one device districts, so districts where every child has their own device. Young kids often have tablets, older kids have Chromebooks, in high-end districts you might have an actual laptop, with some hard-drive on it. The Clayton Christensen Institute, or Innosight Institute, they’ve been pushing blended learning. So blended learning is this new model. Where, there are a number of different ways you can…flipped classrooms, which many people have heard of…but there’s one called a rotational model. So children only have direct access to a teacher a third of the time. Like the class would be split into three groups. And you would be with a teacher for a third of the time, doing peer work a third of the time, and doing online work a third of the time. So again, it’s a way of increasing class size supposedly, like supposedly the quality time you have when you’re with the teacher with the ten kids instead of thirty is supposed to be so great even though maybe you only get fifteen minutes. What’s happening in other districts is they’re saying the time where kids are not with their teachers, and they’re just doing online work, they don’t really need a teacher present, they could just have an aide. So that’s again, in terms of pushing out professional teachers, is that, well if kids are doing online learning, maybe you just need an Americorp volunteer, in the room, to make sure that no one’s  hurting them…each other. You know, and that they’re on, supposedly on task. You know I think that’s a worrisome trend. And even though they’ll sell blended learning as very tech forward and future ready, the kids don’t love spending time on these devices, like hour after hour after hour. And my concern as a parent is…we’re all starting to realize what the implications are for big data. And how we interact with online platforms, either in social media, or other adaptive situations. And how, that these devices are actually gathering data, on ourselves.. .so, they they gather information through keystroke patterns, they all have cameras, they all, you know, the tablets have TouchSense, so theoretically there’s body temperature and pulse sensors. Like there’s many many elements, are they all being used now? No, but there is that capacity for using them to develop that level of engagement. To understand how you’re interacting with these programs. And that’s being developed through, with the Army Research Lab and USC, their Institute for Creative Technologies. And they are developing, a lot of this is being developed in conjunction with the Defense Department, for their interactive intelligent tutoring systems and with the Navy actually, which is relevant to Seattle. A lot of these early prototyped intelligent tutoring systems have been developed specifically with the Navy in mind. Training very specifically on computer programs, and optimizing that. But once they develop the infrastructure, then they’re able to apply that in non-military settings. And so it’s, it’s making its way out. So there’s a lot of data that can be collected and the other, the other push that you’ll start to see is gamification. So games, like gaming in schools. And kids love games, like parents love games. It sounds so fun. But I think what we have to realize is there’s a lot of behavioral data that’s coming out of the gaming too. That we’re not necessarily aware of.  And so this push for gamification, or sometime…like gamified classroom management systems. So Google has something called Classcraft. And all the kids have avatars. And like if they’re behaving in class, they can, you know they earn points, or have points deducted, and you’re on teams, and you can save your team member or not. And with ESSA, having passed, you know, they’ll tell the story that like we care about more than just test scores, we really wanna care about the whole child, we wanna, you know we we care about children as individuals. Really they wanna collect all of this data, not just on your academic skills, but on your behaviors, and your mindset. And are you gritty, and are you a leader, or are you, you know, flexible, are you resilient. And these, these gamified platforms, whether they’re run by the teacher, or gaming that’s done with the students in these simulations, and also AR/VR, augmented reality/virtual reality games that you’re starting to see. There’s just a lot of information going through, and you have to wonder, how is it being used, what are the privacy implications, and also what are the feedback loops being created? In terms of how you interact with a platform. Is it reinforcing aspects of your personality that you may or may not want reinforced. My concern as a parent is within these adaptive learning systems, I don’t want an online system that has to learn my child to work. I don’t want a system that has to know everything my child did for the last six months, to operate properly. Because I think that becomes problematic. How do you ever have a do over? Like, is it just always building and reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and how you react…it’s, they, I think they present it as flexible and personalized, but in many ways I think it’s limiting.

Mike: In some of the documentation you present, they have systems that wanna pay attention to whether a person that is working with the program is getting bored, or falling asleep, or whatever, so they were like watching like you know, the eye, literally to see if it’s like where it’s wandering off to…you said they potentially could be checking your, your temperature, your heart rate…

Alison: I mean, you know, are they doing it right now? I don’t know that they, but the capacity is there. And…

Mike: And all that data is being saved somewhere. And shared. In some capacity. We don’t know.

Alison: W…and I think it’s very unclear. And I think they’re, they’re many parents who are very concerned about privacy and working that angle of controlling what data goes in…I mean I think all of us are aware that once something is up in the cloud, even if there are promises made about privacy and protections, that nothing is really safe up there. In terms of from hacking, or even just legal. Like FERPA is very, the education records, sort of, privacy has a lot of loopholes. You know anyone who, many of these organizations, companies are third parties are designated agents of school districts. So they have access to this information. And I will also mention Naviance, because the other shift that we’re seeing happening is the shift towards creating an education system that is geared towards workforce development. That, that, that children at younger and younger ages should, should be identifying their passions, and finding their personal pathways to the workforce and the economy. And so Naviance is one of a number of companies that does strengths assessments and surveys. And many states you can’t get your diploma unless your child does a complete battery of assessments, personality assessment through Naviance, which is this third-party program. Also linking towards like their future college plans, and other things linked in, and very detailed information about people’s family situations. So again, the, the amount of data that’s being collected on many many different levels to supposedly like guide students moving forward into the economy, I think it merits a larger conversation. And I’m not saying that everyone needs to agree with my position, but I think that the, the agenda that’s being moved forward is being done in a way that for the most part, parents and community members, there’s not been a consensus reached, with us. That this is okay. That this new version of school is, is what we desire.

Mike: And being a parent in the Philadelphia School District, when these new systems are, have been implemented, you know, and the potential use of all, gathering of all your child’s data, I mean, have you been consulted on that prior? Did, every time they bring in a new system did they let you know, oh, we have another piece of software here that potentially could be, you know, data-mining your kid, are you okay with that?

Alison: So I think on the, on the plus side, because we have been so severely defunded, we haven’t seen quite as much of an influx of tech yet. Although I, I anticipate it’s coming. We’ve just had a big roll-out of Minecraft I think in schools. That’s their new thing that they’re, they’re all…there are a number of schools, like within turnaround sort of, that, that are being piloted for these one-to-one devices. I will say that there was an opt-out form for Google Apps for Education. Which is, and I so I opted, I opted my child out of Google Apps for Education. I may have been the only parent in the Philadelphia School District who did that, and it, it makes it complicated because again, there, it’s convenient, you know, it’s a nice, you know, way for teachers not to have to carry around lots of papers, and they have kids put it all on their Google drive. But I, I think we’re all starting to be a little wary about the amount of information and power that Google has, you know, in the world and what the implications are for that. So I think if, if people have concerns around some of these privacy aspects, you know, that’s, that’s a potential starting, starting place, is to opt out of Google Apps for Education, and see where that goes. Or even have targeted like device and data strikes, during the school year. So we don’t get a notice every time there’s a new program. I guess long story short.

Mike: Just a few minutes left. And again, some of the companies, in addition to Defense Department having early hooks into education reform, and online learning, some of the companies involved, and heavily investing in this, as an example, like Halliburton and Booz Allen, which to me, let’s say Booz Allen which is also heavily tied into doing, they have access to data bases that the NSA does and, Edward Snowden worked for Booz Allen.

Alison: I would say like right now, like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, is huge and they’re pushing Summit Basecamp. I know we just have a few min…minutes in closing so I also wanna mention, in addition to tech, we also have global finance interests involved, because in ESSA there are provisions for Pay for Success. Which is where they’re looking to use private venture capital to affect educational outcomes. Either right now it’s in universal pre-k, also early literacy. So we need to be aware of the role that Pay for Success is going to play in this, and that’s essentially like “moneyball” for government. Where they’re looking to save money. I mean there’s a conference that they, they’ve put this together. Evidence based policy. That’s what they call it. That’s sort of the code word. Is that if you can come up with a computerized program that will give you specific success metrics, venture capital can make money on that. So a lot of global finance interests, and impact investing interests are looking, I believe at education as a market, a futures market in student education data. So I have more information on that on my blog. But social impact bonds and Pay for Success are a critical piece to understanding why education is being digitized. Also Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, IBM, the tech interests, Summit Basecamp, AltSchool, Micro Schools are another big component of this. These value-model private schools, if vouchers go through, that, we’re gonna be seeing a lot more of that. The tech is also focusing on Montessori school models, and, and very high-end. So you have Rocketship Academy, which are sort of stripped down versions for low-income districts and, but they’re also marketing tech to affluent families and aspirational families as being sort of future-ready. So it’s really a, there’s many different branded versions of education technology.

Mike: So long story short, you have a kid in, going through school, or, you know, anyone you care about then, this would be something to look into.

Alison: Yes. Understand how much time they’re spending on devices. Advocate that school budgets prioritize human teachers, and reasonable class sizes, and not data-mining, not adaptive management systems. And and have this conversation in your community. Is education about creating opportunities for students to learn and grow together as a community, or is it these isolating personalized pathways, where people are competing against one another. And and I think that’s a larger conversation we all need to have in our school districts.

Mike: Alright. We’re speaking with Alison McDowell. She is a parent and researcher in the Philadelphia school system. Produced a series,  Future Ready Schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education. And again, your website is…

Alison: Wrenchinthegears.com

Mike: Wrenchinthegears.com. And with that we’re unfortunately out of time. I want to thank you for coming and spending time with us this morning.

Alison: Thank you.

On the Road with the ‪#‎OptOutBus2016:‬ Coast to Coast Free Books for Kids Tour

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Editor’s note: Susan and Shawn Dufresne are social justice and education activists. A brief introduction:

Susan DuFresne – Integrated Kindergarten Teacher with General Education and Special Education endorsements – 7 years in the Renton School District, Teacher of Professional Conscience, Co-Owner of the Opt Out Bus, Social Equality Educator, Artist, progressive and social justice education activist, unionist, mother and grandmother – The views I express are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer. #FreeSpeech

Shawn DuFresne – HVAC Technician, Co-Owner of the Opt Out Bus, progressive social justice and education activist, father, grandfather “I love giving free books to children who need them and allowing them to choose which book they’d like to read!”

My favorite part of the Opt Out Bus travel log are the personal stories Susan documents. They’re raw, honest, and sometimes heartbreaking. I hope you enjoy them as well and consider supporting the Opt Out Bus. -coeditor, Carolyn Leith

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Shawn and I are on the ‪#‎OptOutBus2016‬ Coast to Coast Free Books for Kids Tour.

We’re looking forward to meeting new families, giving books to kids along the way, sharing the #OptOut message, and getting together with fellow activists in cities hit hardest by corporate education reform.

Like the #OptOut movement- good things take time – and though we all want high stakes testing to be gone already, we accomplish more through standing strong together and living with each other through the process.

*You can follow their itinerary on the All aboard the Opt Out Bus Facebook page.

Day One

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We stopped in Spokane, Washington to visit a dear friend, who is a fellow teacher, and her two beautiful, brilliant, kind, and loving daughters.

They all added to the bus with their ideas, including Lacy – Mary’s 3 year old who was able to phonetically spell and write “Lion” after she drew one and had asked, “Can someone write on the bus?”

Briyana – a 5th grader – wrote two messages. “Don’t make school boring.” and “Multi-age rocks!”

Mary wrote, “I teach children, not test-takers.”

Mary has embraced Project Based Learning for several years now, and although she teaches 5th grade and I teach kindergarten – we are able to collaborate across the state. I’m looking forward to dipping into PBL more this year with my kinders!

Shawn visited with several people about high stakes testing and why it is important to have the freedom to ‪#‎OptOut‬. A retired teacher told him about her experiences teaching in both public and parochial schools. In parochial school she reported they only tested kids one time in 4th grade to see what they were missing. Imagine – one short test – no high stakes.

Day Two

We met a young man who had graduated from high school in Utah. He didn’t want his picture taken, but he agreed with our ‪#‎OptOut‬ protest because even though he was great at passing the tests, he had many friends who were not. These friends had been successful in their school work – but were denied graduation for missing a few questions on a stinking test. He felt all students should take art to learn about culture. He also thought kids needed more freedom in their schooling.

A 5th grade teacher stopped by to take photos of the ‪#‎OptOutBus2016‬ with some students. Even though she teaches full-time, she still needs to teach driver’s education in the summer to make ends meet.

“What do you think of the tests?”I asked…

She laughed and said, “That’s a tricky question. They’re mandatory. I taught 6th grade too… Always a testing grade.” 😞

“Check out www.UnitedOptOut.com .”, I said.

She took several more photos of the bus as her student drivers kept reading the bus and smiling as they read each note.

Later, we drove all day and into the night through Montana to reach Medora, North Dakota located in the Badlands of Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Teddy liked freedom too. The west drew people who liked freedom to it, but as they came, we took away the freedom of many tribes of indigenous peoples – more than that – their lives, their language, their identity, their cultures.

Day Three

Shawn and I pulled into Medora late last night after driving through Montana state. The campground was beautiful. Just a mile away we had enjoyed a stunning sunset – so I was surprised to see there was still enough light to take a short walk down to a stream running by some cliffs that served as the backdrop of the campground.

As I watched a child playing along the stream bank, I thought of how corporate reformers are sucking the lifeblood out of our public schools. Just like the mosquitos and ticks.

Campgrounds across America are so quiet at night, as a rule. Crowded, often filled to capacity in the summer -full of children and teenagers – no police or patrols threatening anyone to submit – yet everyone settles in to quiet in the early evening. How does this happen, I wonder? People clean up after themselves and leave the campground spots as they found them. People get along, are respectful, and friendly to folks from all over the world in these campgrounds. Some come in RV’s – some fancy – some decrepit, some sleep in tents, some sleep in cabins – thus campgrounds provide spaces for different socioeconomic classes. And still – we get along.

Day Four

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Today the ‪#‎OptOutBus2016‬ met up with a wrestling team. It started out with stares. Then they’re reading the bus. Next come the smiles, the nods of agreement, and the comments about testing. They break out their cameras. They take pictures of the bus and spread them on social media.

“Are you a teacher?”, they ask. “Yes, I teach kindergarten.” “Right on!”

“Do you want to write that on the bus?”, I ask. A wall of boys moves towards the bus. Their hands go up in the air. I break out the Sharpies.

My questions:

“What do you like about school?”

“I hear you agree, but what don’t you like about testing?”

“What would you like to see more of in school?”

“What would you like to change about school?”

Their answers:

“The testing takes too long. I’d rather be learning. I like math.”

“I want outdoor school.”

“More sports, less testing!”

“[Testing] makes me cry and hurt.”

“[Testing] makes my grades bad.”

Just prior to the time we needed to get packing for the #OptOutBus2016 Coast to Coast Free Books for Kids Tour, our nation was brought to its knees [again] by the back-to-back shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Then another tragedy in Dallas. Once again, the country’s focus turned to racism.

I was torn. Do we go forward with the tour? I seriously considered painting the‪#‎OptOutBus‬ and creating a ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ Bus. As I was packing, I looked at all the messages on the bus – the most recent being written predominantly by black and brown students and parents at Garfield High School.

I paused to reflect on 12 year old Asean Johnson’s speech at the Save Our Schools and ‪#‎PeoplesMarch16‬ in DC…on Jesse Hagopian’s speech there, Reverend Barber’s speech, Jitu Brown’s, Yohuru Williams’, and Julian Vasquez-Helig’s, to name a few.

Jesse said, ‘For black lives to matter, black ‪#‎education‬ has to matter.’ [link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/for-black-lives-to-matter…/ ]

Reverend Barber said, “Let the children see us trying.”

Like I’ve said before, we aren’t expecting the #OptOutBus to suddenly end high stakes testing. But as you can see – #BlackLivesMatter and corporate education reform are connected deeply. There was no need to start over on the bus, we simply needed to add on.

As a result of Philando Castile’s life mattering to so many children – to so many public school colleagues of his, to so many in his community – it felt important to visit St. Paul, MN. Today was the day.

I worried about stepping into a sacred circle, as an outsider to be honest. We weren’t coming as white saviors, but to demonstrate our compassion through a small act of kindness. How do I navigate this attempt – to what I know is to make a small gesture – towards demonstrating that black lives do matter to some of us whites? We wanted to “let the children see us trying”…

A stop at Subway enroute to Philando’s school brought us to Jen.

Jen was very receptive to our thoughts of giving books to the children from this neighborhood. She knew someone closely connected to Philando and immediately made a phone call. She said we had 3 options: 1) Philando’s family was having a picnic at the neighborhood park and we could give books to children there 2) We could go to his school where he worked and see if kids were at the playground, and 3) There was an ongoing protest at the Governor’s mansion and maybe some kids would be there.

Jen wrote out directions, we thanked her, and headed to the park. Turning into a parking lot we saw a small family picnic in action. I tend to be shy and wanted to be respectful. I approached, but not too closely – and chose to speak to what appeared to be the parent of the group of kids. I smiled and asked if I could ask her a question. She smiled and approached. I let her come closer to me. I told her we were on a cross country trip from Seattle and that we were looking for Philando’s family picnic to give children books as is small token of our caring.

She said she was a teacher too – Special Ed for St. Paul Public Schools – and that she had seen a large group of people wearing R.I.P. tee shirts across Horton. She told me her name is Mary.

I listened intently as she told me how she was a block and 1/2 away from the incident, watching Diamond’s narrative of Philando’s murder unfold live on Facebook, as a friend of hers had been tagged by Diamond in the original post.

Mary said her husband too, is often pulled over for no reason and how he and her 7 year old very politically aware son said – “No, we are all Philando. This killed a little bit in all of us today.”

We began talking about the bus and the connections of corporate reform to racism. As a teacher and a parent, she wholeheartedly agrees with the refusal of the state tests. She said, “My kids don’t take the tests and neither do my principals’, and you know, she’s a black principal.”

She talked about how she looks forward to looking up www.UnitedOptOut.com and how she hates having to comply with giving her students with special needs the computerized standardized tests, but she does it and follows the rules required of her.

Her three beautiful children each chose a book and began writing messages on the bus. Without a word – Black Lives Matter became part of the messages written by Mary’s children.

“Black Lives Matter”

“Love everyone.”

‪#‎BLM‬

“Be nice no matter WHAT.”

“I Love YOU.”

“Stop Bullying!”

“I love you, peeps!”

“Have a great education!”

“Love from St. Paul, MN.”, they wrote.

She asked more about our trip and she talked about how upset her 7 year old son gets when he hears anything about Trump. We told her that during this trip we’d be at the DNC protesting.

Mary and her children thanked us for the books and our work for both black lives and the ‪#‎optout‬ work.

What’s next:

 

This is just the beginning or our journey.

 

You can join our protest and continue on with the Opt Out Bus by liking All Aboard the Opt Out Bus (#OptOutBus2016) on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @OptOutBus (#OptOut).

If you really want to help share a little ‪#‎OptOutLOVE‬, there’s two more ways to assist:

Number one, you can donate money to our books fund. This money will be used to purchase books at local, independent book stores and will be given to children in need. Each book will include a handwritten personal ‪#‎optout‬ note and the www.unitedoptout.com message.

The second, donate money for gas to keep the Opt Out Bus rolling.

Books: https://www.gofundme.com/272unp54

Gas: https://www.gofundme.com/273mu2s

Thank you in advance for donating and sharing!

 

-Susan DuFresne

 

 

OSPI Candidate Ron Higgins’  Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC

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In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Ron Higgins:

I fully support Seattle Public School’s request, as stated in the Seattle School Board Directors’ resolution passed during the May 18th board meeting, to establish a system to utilize alternative, locally selected assessments and use such assessments as an alternative to standard statewide assessments to measure achievement and student growth.  I am a big believer in local control, and as State Superintendent, I would take any and all action necessary to allow the Seattle Public Schools, or any school district, to use an alternative assessment in place of the standard statewide assessment. 

Article I, Section 8, of the US Constitution, enumerates the activities over which the federal government has jurisdiction, and education is not one of those activities.  The Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  I’m glad that Congress  “authorizes states to establish a system that allows districts to utilize alternative, locally selected assessments,” but Congress and the federal government have no jurisdiction over education, so their authorization is meaningless.  I believe that Washington State should allow local school districts significant autonomy to determine the testing requirements to ensure that students have mastered the essential knowledge prior to high school graduation, whether Congress approves or not.  I do not trust the competence, integrity, or agenda of the bureaucrats in the US Department of Education, and I would not depend upon them to select an appropriate test.

I have read numerous articles questioning the validity of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, that it does not accurately measure the student’s knowledge of the subject, whether English or Math; that the Assessment is not objective.  I am therefore strongly opposed to the use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a graduation requirement.   

Ron Higgins, Candidate for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Certificated Math Teacher in Washington; Credentialed Math Teacher in California; Former School Bus Driver

Ron Higgins for Superintendent of Public Instruction

OSPI Candidate Chris Reykdal’s Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC

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In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Chris Reykdal.

The Seattle School Board appropriately interprets intent language in the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) regarding alternative summative assessment options.  Sadly, the U.S. Dept. of Education is still tinkering with punitive rules.  I support the Seattle School District Resolution and their interest in local-option summative assessments.

Local districts should have greater flexibility in adopting summative assessments.  However, even with local options we are still left with a powerful policy question; what is the real purpose of a summative assessment?  Is it to measure state, district, or school progress?  If this is the purpose, then sampling, as is used in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test is an appropriate technique that would provide us with statistically significant results about system performance without the massive sacrifice of resources and instructional time currently dedicated to standardized testing.

However, if you believe the purpose of summative assessments is to make a determination of grade promotion, graduation, or other student-specific purposes, then the Smarter Balanced Assessment and most locally determined alternatives summative assessments will come up very short.  That’s not what they were designed to do!  So we can save time and money with better summative assessments, but nothing replaces the critical diagnostic role of teachers and formative assessments along the teaching and learning process.

If Seattle School District believes the purpose of a new locally determined alternative summative assessment is to decide whether students graduate, then they run the risk of simply replacing one instrument for another but missing a larger opportunity.  I believe standardized assessments should only be used to measure system progress – not individual student determination.  If Seattle School District or others want to use a summative assessment for individual student determination, I believe two critical options should be embedded in their policy:

1) That any parent has a legal opt out right without sanction to the student; and

2) Whether a student takes the summative assessment and scores below proficient or chooses not to take the assessment, that the alternative is not another standardized test, but rather a course or set of courses aligned to standards.  Pass the course(s), meet the standard, graduate on-time!  This empowers educators, allows for multiple measures throughout the course, and undoubtedly allows for work ethic and determination to influence the result.  The latter is not to be discounted in what employers really want.  Few employers ask applicants about their test scores, but they all want to know about persistence, work ethic, and determination.

I hope the Seattle School District will adopt a second resolution making it clear that every student has a pathway to on-time graduation via a series of standards-aligned courses (not simply state tests or locally determined tests).  This policy expression will honor the alignment work of K-12 and higher education to mutually agree on standards-based courses, that when passed, will ensure that students do not take expensive remedial courses once in college.  It’s time to trust teachers and quality courses over standardized tests!

-Chris Reykdal, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Chris Reykdal for Superintendent of Public Instruction

David Spring’s Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC

david-spring

In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by David Spring.

The Seattle School Board Resolution asks to replace the unfair SBAC test with a fairer locally determined alternative and calls on the State Superintendent to “take all actions necessary to allow Seattle Public Schools to move forward with the use of an alternative assessment.”  This is the 500 word version of my Statement supporting the Seattle resolution. A more detailed Statement is on our website SpringForBetterSchools.

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I fully support the Seattle School Board Resolution. In fact, I worked with members of the Seattle School Board for the past several months drafting this resolution. I provided the school board with numerous reports detailing the legal framework for the resolution and educational research on the benefits of alternatives to the SBAC test. A summary of the legal framework and educational benefits is provided in my more detailed statement.

I oppose the SBAC test because it is not fair or age appropriate.

02

In February 2015, I started Opt Out Washington to provide parents with information on why they should opt their kids out of the SBAC test.

03

In December 2015, I read the entire 391-page ESSA which permits use of local alternative assessments. I then met with members of the Seattle School Board to address their questions about how to replace the SBAC test.

04

As Superintendent, I will end the draconian SBAC test as a graduation requirement my first day in office. While other candidates claim they support the Seattle School Board Resolution and oppose to the SBAC test, there are reasons to conclude they will not assist the Seattle School Board in actually getting an alternative assessment. Nor will they end the SBAC test as a graduation requirement.

05

First, let’s look at Chris Reykdal’s record. While Chris claims to be opposed to the SBAC test as a Graduation Requirement, he voted to bring the SBAC test to our state and make it a graduation requirement in 2013. He has repeatedly voted to keep it a graduation requirement every year since 2013. In fact, Chris is the prime sponsor of House Bill 2214 which not only continues the SBAC test as a graduation requirement but punishes any student who opts out by forcing them to take an additional math course during their senior year that is harder than any previous math course they have ever taken. So if they passed Precalculus during their Junior Year, they would have to pass Calculus during their Senior Year in order to graduation. Chris’s bill would force on students in our state the most draconian graduation requirements in the nation!

06

Sadly, none of the other candidates would help Seattle Schools get an alternative assessment either – because none of them support my assertion that Article 3, Section  22 and Article 2, Section 28 of our State Constitution prohibit the legislature from imposing  unfunded mandates like the SBAC test on our schools. If I am not elected State Superintendent, students will be forced to endure four more years of the SBAC test as a graduation requirement. For the detailed version of this article, visit Why I Support the Seattle School Board Resolution to Replace the SBAC Test. 

Regards,

David Spring M. ED.

Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Spring for Better Schools.org

Erin Jones’ Statement on the Seattle School Board’s Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC

Erin_Jones_headshot

In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Erin Jones:

I am in complete agreement with this resolution. In my first meeting with one of the new board members we discussed this very issue. I have been very skeptical of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA); however, I am encouraged that a board member from the largest district in our state is interested in having serious conversations about an alternative to our current assessment system. I am eager to walk with Seattle as they pilot a new model, and believe the conversations had in this district can provide a model for larger systemic change.

My campaign is built on four pillars that I believe must be addressed to transform education in our state: 1. Full-funding of Basic Education (McCleary), 2. Assessment reform to eliminate intrusive testing practices and place the locus of control for assessments back in the hands of classroom teachers, 3. Closing of opportunity gaps, and 4. Promotion of innovative school models (alternative learning environments funded and overseen by local dollars and local school boards) that will meet the diverse needs of our diverse student populations.

In my opinion, the Seattle school board resolution speaks directly to 3 of my 4 platform items in the following ways:

1.      FUNDING: The SBA has been incredibly expensive to create, to administer, to grade, and to share results. I would add that the SBA has also requires FTE, both at district and building levels to manage the complicated process and security issues. Let’s add to that the significant instructional time that is spent by classroom teachers to prepare students for the process – time that could be spent on teaching and learning.

2.      ASSESSMENT: This resolution supports my desire to create a less intrusive, more informative testing mechanism. Seattle has the opportunity to be a front-runner in the state and learn from other states that have already shifted to other models.

3.      CLOSE OPPORTUNITY GAPS: No Child Left Behind asserted that through testing, we would be able to hold schools and systems accountable to serve ALL children at high levels. However, the results and responses of the state/Feds served to further disenfranchise schools and communities that already felt “left behind.” One test, given purely in written/computerized format will always disadvantage those with less access to academic English and up-to-date technology. If Seattle is able to find a tool that can more successfully assess and provide strategies to better support students, this could be a huge win for the state of Washington! In the end, whatever we do must provide us with the information necessary to better address and meet the needs of students of color, ELL students, students with special needs, and students from low income communities.

As state superintendent, I welcome this opportunity to work with a district towards finding a more effective solution to our “assessment problem.” It is my hope that the current ESSA work groups will arrive at the conclusion that the Seattle school board resolution represents a legitimate option for the state of Washington.

Erin Jones

Candidate for Washington State Superintendent, 2016

We’re asking the OSPI State Superintendent candidates their position on Seattle Public Schools pursing alternative assessment frameworks under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

SBAC_logo_sm-2

The following letter was sent to each candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Their responses will be published on June 5th. -editor.

Hello Candidates,

My name is Carolyn Leith and am co-editor of the blog Seattle Education. I’m asking each candidate for their thoughts regarding Seattle Public School’s request to pursue alternative assessments under the ESSA.

During the May 18th board meeting, Seattle School Board Directors voted 5-1 to seek, under the newly authorized ESSA, a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.  From the resolution:

School Board Resolution

I’m asking each candidate if they will honor this resolution. In addition, please include your thoughts on using the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a graduation requirement.

Statement will be:

  • no more than 500 words in length
  • published, unedited, in a separate blog post – so all candidates will receive equal attention
  • (please include campaign photo )

The deadline for submission is 10 PM on June 4th. Statements will be published on June 5th.

Thanks for your time. I look forward to your response.

-Carolyn Leith

Background information below:

SPS Resolution 2015/16-15

YouTube: School Board Meeting Date: May 18, 2016 Part 2 Minutes 0-49:50

Chris Reykdal’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

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OSPI Superintendent candidate Chris Reykdal

Opting your child out of a standardized test is a parent’s right.  Parents have always had the right to opt their child out of particular courses or content areas.  It is not the role of the federal or state government to question the motivations of parents; they are parents and a standardized test mandate does not supersede a parental rights.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is better than No Child Left Behind (NCLB), but a few glaring faults remain.  The contradiction of a 95% test requirement while simultaneously acknowledging a parent’s right to opt out their child is still the cause of great confusion.  States are now assigned the task of compliance to 95%, and the sanctions, if any, for districts that don’t comply.  And yet the U.S. Department of Education still claims the power to withhold certain funds from states. This is where our State has to take a stand!

To address this contradiction of policy we must do five things:

1) Delink standardized tests as a high school graduation requirement;

2) Defend the right of parents to opt out their child;

3) Clearly define alternatives for students to show proficiency if they chose not to participate in federally-mandated testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

4) Do not require a student to test and fail first before utlizing alternative demonstrations of proficiency; and

5) Use assessment results to create intentional strategies to improve districts, schools, and where applicable, targeted interventions for students.

I believe very few parents would opt their child out of assessments if they believed the tests would be used to help their child improve AND they were confident the test would be used for  system accountability only and not to penalize or stigmatize.

Professional educators should determine a student’s grade promotion and ultimate graduation – not a test.  Incredibly, the research continues to tell us that high school GPA in combination with transcript evaluation is the better predictor of college success – not standardized tests.  Colleges and universities across the country, and the world, are reducing the weight of SAT and ACT in college admissions; for some they don’t require any tests as part of admissions.  Instead, they are seeking multiple measures – GPA, course evaluations, writing samples, community engagement, and so many other factors that are far more predictive of student persistence and success.  Clearly,  48 diverse teacher grades (4 years X 2 semesters X 6 classes per semester) are more  valid and reliable than one single measure in time.

Standardized assessments do have a role to play– to measure state, district, and when statistically significant, school building progress toward closing the achievement gaps.  But, no single test should ever be used as a high stakes factor in grade promotion or graduation and they should never be used as a hammer. 

Ultimately, educators should decide the best diagnostic tools to propel students to greater cognitive and social/emotional growth. It’s time to put the teaching and learning process back in the hands of educators!

-Chris Reykdal, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Chris Reykdal for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Erin Jones’ Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

Erin_Jones_headshot
OSPI Candidate Erin Jones

The bullying tactic being used by OSPI regarding SBA is unacceptable. Parents are the primary educators of their children and should be allowed to opt their children from testing. The fact that so many families have decided to opt children out should be a clear message to the state about the impact of testing. Until this year, opting out did not have consequences, beyond the occasional angry interaction with an administrator claiming that avoiding the test could put the school or district in danger of losing Title I funds (not yet happened). This year, however, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is a graduation requirement. Parents of elementary and middle school students may have to endure the ire of an administrator or classroom teacher, but do not believe the lie that your student will not move to the next grade level if s/he does not take the test.

Far too much pressure is involved in the current testing process. Creating better and broader tests does not improve learning. My husband, who is a teacher, uses this analogy about testing -” we are just weighing the same pig with a different scale, without consideration for how and what we are feeding the pig.” We must focus our attentions for students, particularly those who have been most negatively impacted by high-stakes testing, on meeting social-emotional and physical needs, on student learning and support – feeding the pig – not on testing.

There is value in assessing students throughout the year to determine where they are growing and where they need additional supports. Although there are still requirements at the federal level for statewide testing, most assessment decisions must be made locally, with a focus on moderation and allowing educators to do most assessment in their own classrooms. We must provide teachers with smaller classes, so they can make effective daily decisions about student growth. With regard to state testing, we should be partnering with educators (including ELL and SPED teachers) and community-based organizations (including those who serve families), as well as testing experts, untied to a particular test company, to determine a better process that will help us garner the kinds of results and experiences that will lead to increased learning for students.

As we enter the “test season,” there will be thousands of families considering whether or not to opt out a child, carefully weighing the impact of the consequences and whether they are willing to advocate at the state level for a child whose graduation is called into question. Other families, often those whose students are most negatively impacted by high-stakes testing, will not even know opting out is possible or will not have the same ability to advocate for their child’s needs. As state superintendent, I will not be strong-armed by the federal government but will advocate for a better, more effective assessment process that considers the needs of ALL students and educators, that puts instruction and student support at the center of public education once again.

Erin Jones, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Friends of Erin Jones

David Spring’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

david-spring
OSPI Candidate David Spring

The SBAC test is an unfair bubble test designed to label as failures more than half of the students who take the test.

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The makers of the SBAC test falsely claim that it can predict if students are “college ready.” In fact, no bubble test has ever been able to predict if a student is college ready. The only predictor of college readiness is a students high school GPA.

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In short, the SBAC test not only harms students, it is worthless as an assessment tool.

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In 2015, 62,000 parents in Washington opted their children out of the SBAC test – resulting in Washington having a “participation rate” of only 91%.

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Since federal law requires a rate of at least 95%, Washington received a letter from the Department of Education threatening to reduce federal funding unless school districts completed an enforcement plan. In fact, no school district has every lost federal funds due to a failure to force students to take high stakes tests.  In December 2015, Congress passed a revision of the ESSA prohibits the Department of Education from threatening states with loss of funds.

Sadly, on April 12, 2016, the Superintendent of Public Instruction violated the new ESSA by sending letters to about 100 school districts threatening them with a loss of federal funds unless they submit an enforcement plan.

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On April 24, 2016,Carolyn Leith sent an email to candidates for Superintendent asking us to comment on this threat by OSPI in 500 words. However, this issue cannot be properly answered in only 500 words. I have therefore published a more detailed statement on our campaign website: https://springforbetterschools.org/

For years, I have been a leader in Washington opposing the harmful SBAC test. I have written dozens of reports explaining why the SBAC test harms children. I have also published a book, Weapons of Mass Deception summarizing how the SBAC test harm children. You can read this book here: https://weaponsofmassdeception.org/

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In 2015, I started the website Opt Out Washington to give parents information on how to opt their children out of the unfair SBAC test. More than 50,000 Washington parents have downloaded our opt out form. http://optoutwashington.org/

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By contrast, in 2013, two other candidates, Larry Seaquist and Chris Reykdal, voted for House Bill 1450 – the bill that forced the unfair SBAC test on students here in Washington state. 

In 2015, Reykdal sponsored House Bill 2214 – a draconian bill that would make Washington one of the only states in the nation that would punish opt out students by placing them at risk of not graduating from high school.

The new ESSA states on page 24 that its purpose is to determine “whether the student is performing at grade level.” Because the SBAC test does not provide accurate information about whether a student is achieving at grade level, the SBAC test does not comply with the ESSA. As superintendent, I will therefore suspend the SBAC test and replace it with assessment options such as Teacher Grades and/or the Iowa Assessment that do accurately measure whether a student is achieving at grade level.

Regards,

David Spring M. ED.

Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Spring for Better Schools.org

Post Script:

You can listen to my interview with David Spring  at “An interview with OSPI candidate David Spring”.

Larry Seaquist’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

01w Larry Seaquist
Larry Seaquist

LIBERATE LEARNING. It is time for us to opt out of Federally mandated, high stakes testing.  The whole state. Right now. It is time to return the management of teaching and assessment to our educators, time to stop wasting a river of money on test vendors who deliver meaningless “data,” time to restore trust in our system of public education.  Above all, it is time to let our students love learning, to enjoy school. Our schools should be as free of toxic testing as they are of cigarette smoke.

DECLARE INDEPENDENCE.  How to do it? State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn – Chief Schools Officer in Federal-speak – can sign a letter to our schools and send a copy to the Feds. He’s an independently elected state-wide official.  If he’d like political cover, a quick series of public hearings around the state would doubtless generate a groundswell of support. 

PUSH BACK HARD. We’d need to preempt a Federal response. Acting on Mr. Dorn’s behalf, our Attorney General might lodge two actions in Federal District Court.   The first would seek an injunction against Federal retaliation. We’re already familiar with the retaliatory redirection of Title One funds intended to support the education of our low income students – students who are still here and still poor.  The second would sue the Feds to do what they promised to do in the new ESSA.  With deep thanks to Senator Patty Murray for the miracles she worked to get this far, we challenge the new Federal education law – the Every Student Succeeds act – as internally inconsistent.   The new law restores the principle of state and local control of public schools.  But ignoring its own precept, the ESSA renews the Federal requirement for pervasive high stakes testing and continues to insist that 95% of all students participate.  Our case to the court: the new ESSA is self-contradictory and interferes with the state’s historic right of local control.

FULLY FUND FULLY FUNCTIONAL SCHOOLS.   Removing high stakes testing will immediately improve teaching and learning in our schools and save many $millions. It will eliminate one of the several factors that bias our schools against success by low income and minority students.  But we’ll still need to fully fund our schools to the “McCleary” standards. Perhaps our Seattle Ed hosts could next ask us SPI candidates how we propose to fully fund McCleary.

CORRECT OSPI’S ROLE AND TONE.  One more step:  This writing assignment is triggered by an imperious letter from an unelected Ass’t. SPI who reaches inside a local school district to command remedial action at the level of individual schools. Those actions will certainly disrupt already insufficient budgets, damage student learning, and accelerate our teacher crisis. That’s just as wrong as meddling by the Feds. Constitutional Job One of the SPI and their staff must be to support and protect our school districts, our educators and above all, our students.  I ask SPI to rescind the letter and to revisit our state’s Constitution and values.

-Larry Seaquist, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Larry Seaquist for Superintendent of Public Instruction