Washington BADASS Teachers (WA BATS) Opt-Out Cheer Squad

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As Washington BADASS Teachers (WA-BATS), we believe that everyone should do anything and everything they can to fight the so-called “reforms” that are destroying our public schools. 

Unfortunately, the reality is that currently employed educational employees have to be very careful about how vocal they are.  Many school administrators threaten teachers with discipline, including probation and suspension without pay if they dare to inform parents of their right to opt children out of tests. 

Most teachers need to keep their jobs, but ah!,  there is such liberation in being able to retire! Three retired Highline teachers, Donna Shaman, Keitha Bryson, Karen Adlum (that’s me) have decided to promote the OPT OUT movement,  because, dammit,  we finally can! No school administrator can cow us.  No superintendent can fire us. The freedom this gives us is exhilarating!

Newly retired, and committed to the struggle, I was sitting at home when I saw a Facebook message come in to Keitha and myself from Donna Shaman . Donna wanted to know if we were interested in meeting to discuss, “engaging in very visible” ways to share about Opting Out/Refusing the Tests. She mentioned going to festivals, schools, and businesses with signs to draw attention our cause. “We can sing!”, she wrote.  “We can talk to people and hand out literature!”

This is my first year as a retiree.  I have been an education activist for several years. The Opt Out movement has been my passion ever since I became an anti-school DE-form activist.   I even talked about it to any parents who I trusted enough not “squeal” on me.  It was frustrating because I couldn’t talk to enough of them, but it was such a rush when I learned that four parents had opted their children out of tests after listening to my advice. So of course, I immediately responded to Donna, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

At our first meeting, Donna described an interesting vision to us.   She thought we should dress up as “Opt Out Cheerleaders” with pom poms and other regalia. 

Frankly, this made me squeamish at first. It’s not easy for me to be noticeable.  I had tried to be a support person; to stay in the background during my teaching career.  This was way outside my comfort zone, but Donna was excited about the prospect. 

We continued to meet regularly to plan and schedule our first Opt Out Pep Rallies. I was very nervous, but it was far off in the future, so I just ignored my anxiety. We checked into ordinances and school dismissal times, parking availability, etcetera.

Finally, the day arrived for our first action.  I had butterflies in my stomach, but thought, “Oh, what the hell!” We met at the school and stood on the sidewalk because we knew we were within our rights if we stayed off school property. It went off without a problem, and while parents looked bemused, they did read our shirts and our signs, and they listened to our chants. Perhaps a seed was planted?

Our little group has since done actions at several more schools, and it has gotten easier for me. I am having a great time calling out the deception of the testing regime!

I have even gotten brave enough to yell things such as, “Don’t take the false tests! Your child is more than a score! Don’t take the SBAC!”

We are beginning to upgrade our outfits. We now have matching skirts and hats, and we have designed a new shirt which we are having printed. We are finding our way in this impassioned new venture. It feels terrific to be doing something to slow down the testocracy’s machine, while being creative.

We have printed flyers which we recently had translated into Spanish, and we plan to add more translations in the future.

We pass out information to any parent who will take it while doing our cheers : “Hey, Hey, why are we here? To tell the parents, ‘OPT OUT THIS YEAR!”  Sometimes the parents ask questions, and sometimes they just smile, but they always notice us.  And that’s something. The Opt Out movement isn’t as big in Washington State as it is in New York YET,  but we hope we are doing our bit to move it forward.

If you have any interest in joining us or starting your own group, please feel free to contact us at: Gyzmotoo@aol.com We would love to share what we did to begin our work, and to design our flyers. We’d be glad to share our successes and our thoughts for improvement with you. Opt Out!  Fight back! Let’s get this party started!

Karen Adlum, WA-BATS

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48,000+ students refused the testocracy in Washington State by opting out. This isn’t an “anomaly”, it’s an uprising

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How many students opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in Washington State?  Short answer: More than you probably imagined.

Now that the final numbers are out, let’s dig in and see what happened.

11th Grade

We knew the opt out numbers were going to be huge. Last week’s OSPI report confirmed that. Across the state, the opt out rate for 11th grade was 49.3% for ELA and 52.9% for Math. This translates into:

37,112 students opted out of the English Language Arts (ELA)

39,444 students opted out of Math

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(Opt outs are reported as “No Score”. Click image to enlarge.)

Now let’s do a quick run down on the other grades. Although the numbers lack the dramatic impact of the 11th grade, these figures are higher than what was reported by OSPI in July.

3rd Grade

1,590 opted out of the ELA

1,680 for Math

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4th Grade

1,579 opted out of ELA

1.702 for Math

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5th Grade:

1,588 opted out of the ELA

1,683 for Math

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6th Grade

1,733 opted out of the ELA

1,898 for Math

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7th Grade

2,298 opted out of the ELA

2,341 for Math

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8th Grade

2,676 for the ELA

2,953 for Math

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Some thoughts.

First, if you opted out your elementary or middle school student, you’re far from being the only one. There are potential allies at your school, parents who have also taken the leap. You just need to find them. Organizing is more fun when you do it with friends.

Also, bring more parents into your newly formed opt-out circle. Talk to parents you don’t know. Reach out. Be open about opting your child out, share the why and how of what you did. Be respectful if they’re unsure. Challenging the status quo is frightening and takes practice. You’ll be surprised how many people will approach you later with questions and asking for advice.

Second, when you combine the opt-out numbers for grades 3 through 8, the figure is not insignificant.

For ELA, the total of students 3rd through 8th grade who opted out is 11,464.

For math, that number is 12,257.

Adding another 10,000+ opt outs to the state total isn’t something to be ignored. That’s a strong initial opt out base. These are the kids who will face the SBAC as a graduation requirement. Now is the time to rise up and squash it, before more harm is done.

All of this brings us back to the question: How many students opted out of the SBAC? Here is the answer.

For ELA: 37,112 11th graders + 11,464 grade 3-8  = 48,576 students

For Math 39,444 11th graders = 12,257 grade 3-8  = 51,701 students.

Randy Dorn thinks this year’s opt-outs are an “anomaly”. I see 48,000+ opt outs as an education uprising.

-Carolyn Leith

Testimony by a mother who knows: The SBAC, graduation, “College and Career Ready”

JON KRAUSE/NEWS ART

I am a high school math teacher and Richland School District parent. I’ve worked on the SBAC as a contractor for McGraw-Hill and on assessment committees for Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). I am a parent who understands the history of Washington state standards and assessments, and how we came to SBAC and the Common Core State Standards. There was a time that I supported the Common Core. I believe in accountability and rigor. But making a question harder is not rigor and closing the door to a child’s future is not accountability.

Our community’s future grows dark when our children can’t graduate. Without a diploma, they can’t enter the military, apply for trade jobs, and entry into community college or finding work becomes less likely. It’s easy to say “Not our kids” when we’re used to living in a community with an 80% graduation rate. But the probability of our children not graduating will increase with the SBAC. The SBAC designers have predicted an average failure rate of at least 60%. 60% of our children are going to be labeled as failing in school, at learning, and failing at their future before they even step out of high school. They will be labeled failing by a test that doesn’t actually assess what OSPI says it does.

While Pearson, Gates, and McGraw-Hill are draining billions of dollars from our public schools, they are giving us false promises that the SBAC will make our children “college and career ready”. The SBAC can’t do that. Recent studies have shown that even the SAT isn’t an accurate predictor of college readiness. High school students who have scored well on the SAT, but did poorly in high school, were more like to drop out of college than students who did well high school but struggled with testing. If the SAT can’t make these predictions, then neither can the SBAC.

The people who teach our children and live in our community do a far better job of predicting success. High school GPA, proven to be a better predictor of college success, depends on tests that teachers design and curriculum that is selected by the local school district. Not a faceless group of people and corporations whose end goal is to make money. Teacher tests aren’t secretive, they don’t cost billions of dollars, and they really do guide instruction. A local curriculum and standards reflect local community values.

The failure of the SBAC and my trust in my children’s teachers is why I chose to opt my them out-of-state testing. We didn’t vote for the Common Core. We didn’t need the SBAC to tell us that we were ready for careers or college. That’s what report cards were for. Teaching can and has occurred without national standards. It’s time to stop paying for corporate lies. It’s time to take back education for our community and our children. We reached out to state representatives, and they have chosen to ignore us in favor of the corporations. Since the state won’t hear us, we ask that you, our locally elected school board, listen. We need you to support parents who want to protect our children from the abuse of the corporations.

-Elizabeth Vann-Clark

95% of the Juniors at Ballard High School opted out of the Common Core SBAC

BallardHSSealThe numbers keep rolling in and tell the story.

A related story: Ingraham High School staff objects to the SBAC.

Dora Taylor

testorAs a former teacher, I know that ‘No Child Left Behind’ isn’t working for Montana’s students or teachers. Today I am introducing a bill that will end federal annual testing requirements under ‘No Child Left Behind’ and replace it with a locally developed testing schedule. This will return flexibility to teachers, students and parents.

95% of Garfield High School’s 11th graders have opted out of the Common Core SBAC

Garfield_HS_2This just in.

95% of the Garfield High School 11th graders in Seattle have opted out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

This is the same class that made history when they opted out of the MAP test en masse. Remember that? See The MAP has been scrapped in Seattle high schools. Those students were in 9th grade at the time and learned to critically consider what was asked of them. They decided taking the MAP test was not a good use of resources or their time.

Now they are back and saying “No!” to the SBAC.

What is of note about Garfield High School is that the school has a minority enrollment of about 60% and approximately 40% would be considered economically “disadvantaged”. Many of these students have resettled recently in this country. This shows that there are schools across the socio-economic stratum opting out of the SBAC test in Seattle.

It has been reported that across town at Ingraham High School there is a large percentage of students opting out but no numbers have been confirmed.

When I found out, you will too readers.

I am sure there is more to come.

A related post: The letter from the teachers at Garfield High School regarding the MAP test

Submitted by Dora Taylor

What if they gave the SBAC and no one took it? Ask the folks at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle

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It has been confirmed that 100% of the 11th grade students at Nathan Hale High School opted out of the SBAC test this week.

Here is the history in a nutshell. There were informational meetings about the Common Core Standards and the SBAC early in the school year and Wayne Au, PhD was invited to speak on high stakes testing.

There was much discussion and then a resolution was passed by the teachers at Nathan Hale High School:

As I wrote in a previous post:

Nathan Hale High School in Seattle says “No!” to the Common Core Standards SBAC test

The Common Core Standards associated Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exam, the SBAC, will be implemented in March in the Seattle school district but this afternoon the Nathan Hale High School Senate, which functions as the Building Leadership Team typically made up of teachers, parents, staff and students, voted nearly unanimously not to administer the SBAC tests to 11th graders this year.

The Senate also recently voted not to administer the PSAT test to 10th graders at all in the future.

The reasons for refusing the SBAC for 11th graders included:

1. The SBAC is not required for graduation

2. Colleges will not use the SBAC this year

3. Since NCLB requires all students to pass the tests by 2014, and since few if any schools will be able to do that, all schools will therefore be considered failing by that standard. There is thus no reason to participate in erroneous and misapplied self-labeling.

4. It is neither a valid nor reliable nor equitable assessment. We will use classroom based assessments to guide our next instructional steps.

5. Cut scores of the SBAC reflect poor assessment strategy and will produce invalid and unreliable outcomes.

6. Students made the point: “Why waste time taking a test that is meaningless and that most of us will fail?”

7. The SBAC will tie up computer lab time for weeks.

8. The SBAC will take up time students need to work on classroom curriculum.

As a representative of Nathan Hale stated:

This is an important step. Nathan Hale High School is asserting its commitment to valid, reliable, equitable assessment. This decision is the result of community and parent meetings, careful study of research literature, knowledge of our students’ needs, commitment to excellence in their education, and adherence to the values and ideas of best-practice instruction.

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Then a nastygram was sent out by Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Nyland threatening teachers with a loss of their teaching licenses if they refused to give the test. See Superintendent Nyland, threatening teachers isn’t a growth mindset.

Well, that backfired. The students and parents then decided to opt out of the SBAC completely.

Kudos to the Nathan Hale community.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Teachers at Schmitz Park Elementary School join with Nathan Hale in concerns on the reliability and validity of the SBAC

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The following letter was sent on March 5, 2015:

March 5, 2015

Dear Principal Hudson and the Nathan Hale Senate:

We, the undersigned teachers of Schmitz Park, join with the Nathan Hale Senate in its concerns over the validity, reliability, and equity of SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) including the questionable cut score strategy.  Like the Nathan Hale Senate, we are also concerned with the loss of instructional time devoted to this questionable test.  We stand with you in asserting a commitment to a judicious use of valid, reliable, and equitable assessments.  We urge parents to inform themselves about the tests their children are taking and the validity of those tests.

Thank you for putting students first.

Sincerely,
(signed by the majority of teachers at Schmitz Park)

Post Script:

For more on Nathan Hale High School, see Nathan Hale High School says “No!” to the Common Core Standards SBAC.

Dora Taylor