Kindergarten teacher fights state test

Discussion in 'General Education' started by bandnerdtx, Sep 12, 2014.

  1. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Sep 15, 2014

    EdEd, who is making this decision? It is politicians at the state level who may have never taken any class on psychology, education, or child development. I am sure this K teacher could run circles around the law makers who made the decision to make this test. While teachers are against all this testing, it is nothing compared to the anger from those in counseling, and child psychologists how wrong these type of tests are for 5 year olds.
     
  2. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Sep 15, 2014

    Please look at post #31 and you can get an example of how qualified the beauracrats who run education in our state are to be dealing with the psychometrics (or anything) involving testing.
     
  3. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sep 16, 2014

    A few thoughts. First, I'm with you that I don't think politicians should unilaterally make a decision to give a standardized test: I agree with you, they also don't have the skill set needed to determine how to measure outcomes. So, I'm not standing up for testing, but that also doesn't mean that anyone can do anything they want.

    Second, I don't think there is a strong case to be made by counselors or child psychologists that this particular assessment is somehow harmful in a lasting way. It apparently takes 35-60 minutes per child and "is difficult." Even if it's simply not helpful at all (no evidence provided that it's not helpful), it's certainly not going to cause psychological or emotional damage. I DO think a case could be made that over-assessment as a whole package costs instruction time, increases pressure on kids, causes a more stressful educational experience, etc., but I think that's best addressed on more a systemic and strategic basis by a group of qualified folks - NOT just politicians, but politicians, teachers, psychometricians, psychologists, administrators, parents, etc.

    Finally, this teacher's specific decision is not likely going to make her students' particular lives that much better. She saved 35-60 minutes per child, and around 17 hours of instructional time. More time is typically lost in snow days up north. This decision, rather, was a statement of protest. To me, it was an inappropriate way to protest.
     
  4. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sep 16, 2014

    Sounds like a nightmare, no doubt. Again, I don't have personal experience with the FAIR or the way it's administered. I support this teacher's attempt to get the test changed. I disagree with the methods and find them unprofessional.

    To broaden the conversation a bit, one of my long-standing critiques of the "anti-reformists" such as Diane Ravitch is the lack of professionalism, including personal insults, overuse of hyperbole, etc. This behavior is causing many folks to dismiss otherwise sound arguments because of how they're delivered. It sounds like the argument against the FAIR revisions is a good one. I'd hate for it to be lost or dismissed because of this teacher's methods.

    Returning to my previous point: This teacher has done a disservice in that she's now focused this discussion on the FAIR. While that's her most immediate concern, the real problem is the assessment protocol, and our use of these protocols, across the country. The FAIR would be a nuisance at best, but not worthy of this level of discussion, in the absence of all the other issues. If she had been more strategic, more coordinated with other teachers and more collective efforts, perhaps this message would have been delivered more comprehensively and led to more impactful change.
     
  5. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Sep 16, 2014

    I don't think there is any way to know that yet. I've taught K for 15 years, in maybe the past 3 the number of assessments we give that are developmentally inappropriate have tripled. If you read the protesting teacher's post and agree with the sheer number of assessments given to 5-year olds repeatedly throughout the year, then I can tell you've never taught in early childhood.

    It's not just the loss of class hours taken up by testing. It's also the loss of things that others have mentioned as well-recess, art, etc. that are replaced by preparing these kids for all the tests. Plus, these tests don't tell us what we as teachers need to know-they are not for teachers or students.
     
  6. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Sep 16, 2014

  7. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sep 16, 2014

    I'm not sure you read my comments KinderCowgirl - I didn't say I support the testing regimen - I actually said I don't. My comments were more related to how to go about changing things, not what needs to be changed.

    I'd also say that the argument you're making is different from what the teacher in question took action on. Questioning & changing the assessment protocol as a whole is different from question one individual test. That's exactly my point - the scope is more broad than the FAIR, which is another reason why this action may be less effective than it could have been had it been more strategic.
     
  8. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Sep 16, 2014

    Thanks for posting this. Sounds like this protest by this teacher wasn't just a waste of time. Something was accomplished. :)
     
  9. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Sep 17, 2014

    This is the letter the K teacher sent to the local paper regarding her stand on testing kindergarten.
    link: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20140916/OPINION03/140919830/-1/opinion?p=1&tc=pg

    By Susan Bowles
    Special to The Sun
    Published: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
    Last Modified: Friday, September 12, 2014 at 4:59 p.m.
    By Susan Bowles

    Special to The Sun

    I am the kindergarten teacher who refused to administer the FAIR test to my students due to the great amount of instructional time that would be lost.

    I would be more than happy to sit with either Gov. Rick Scott or former Gov. Charlie Crist to answer any questions they may have regarding this issue. I have emailed this invitation to Gov. Scott and sent a similar one to Mr. Crist. I have yet to hear from either of them.

    In my email to Gov. Scott on Wednesday, I also invited him to come visit one of my fellow kindergarten teachers as she administers a complete FAIR test to one of our kindergartners. I think he might be surprised at the difficulty of the content of the test, along with the issues of time, use of technology and the problem of what to do with the other children while the testing is going on. It seems quite doubtful that this kindergarten FAIR assessment was field-tested in a school setting.

    I would also invite him to read the manual before he comes, to see what is in print with regard to how we administer the test. Will the new Florida Standards Assessments (replacing the FCAT), which I understand are still under development, be field-tested? I understand children in fourth grade will be required to write numerous essays in a short time frame using the computer. So now you are assuming all fourth-graders have typing skills. I beg you to reduce big government. Allow the counties to decide on which assessments they need to give. Trust teachers and administrators.

    I have not heard from Crist either. I, of course, understand that both of then get a high volume of emails and messages. Hence, I am writing this column to the two of them where hopefully it will be seen.

    To be completely honest, I am not a fan of either of them. What has become of education is dishonorable. The last good governor we had who cared about children and education was Lawton Chiles. I am proud to say I teach at Lawton Chiles Elementary School.

    How much money has been poured into testing, only to have the tests changed and made more difficult? How many new tests have been designed and implemented just since you have been in office, Gov. Scott? Do you know that the talk in the teachers' lounges is that “Surely someone in the testing business must be in financial cahoots with government officials.” I don't know if that is true. It's just talk. But I don't think you can deny that those making the tests and those making new curriculum to support what will be on the tests have had a great deal of job security in recent years.

    Fortunately for the voters of Florida, this is an election year. It is my hope that at least one of you will change your previous ways and look for opportunities to allow children to learn to love learning. It is my hope that instead of beating down teachers by tests at every turn, forcing instruction driven by the tests, that you would place your faith in teachers to provide creative lessons that encourage children to love to learn.
    Do you know that the talk in the teachers' lounges is that “Surely someone in the testing business must be in financial cahoots with government officials.” I don't know if that is true. It's just talk. But I don't think you can deny that those making the tests and those making new curriculum to support what will be on the tests have had a great deal of job security in recent years.

    Fortunately for the voters of Florida, this is an election year. It is my hope that at least one of you will change your previous ways and look for opportunities to allow children to learn to love learning. It is my hope that instead of beating down teachers by tests at every turn, forcing instruction driven by the tests, that you would place your faith in teachers to provide creative lessons that encourage children to love to learn.
    Teachers work long hours, pouring themselves into their children. These days they are discouraged that they aren't allowed to really teach. Dismantle the Department of Education and form County Offices of Education. Give the power back to the people.

    It may surprise you to know that I am not a political person, nor have I been rebellious in any way in the past. I am an introvert and did not take this stance to get attention. In fact, I am very uncomfortable with the amount of attention it has drawn to me. But this is not about one teacher, one school or one county.

    I represent the voice of many educators all over the state. Read my Facebook page and the pages of others who have shared my posts. Tabulate the number of responses that are positive to the number of responses that are negative. I think you will see that my act of civil disobedience strikes a chord with teachers and parents alike.

    To fellow educators, parents and even to the young people who have had the high-stakes testing as part of your educational experience: I urge you to write to Gov. Scott, Mr. Crist and your elected officials at the state and national level. Let them know your stance. It just needs to be a single sentence, not an eloquent essay. However, if you have a little time, just give one anecdote of how testing has affected you, your students or your children.

    We are a voice of many. It is not only our right, but also our responsibility to let our voices be heard.

    Susan Bowles lives in Gainesville. This column was written before Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced Monday that the FAIR test will be suspended for the rest of the school year.
     
  10. MsMongoose

    MsMongoose Companion

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    Sep 17, 2014

    Don’t forget that the real losers here are the kids—the tests take away time needed for real learning, in addition to the stress. The parents who are supposed to make decisions for the child often have little power to change or even question things for their one kid. If the parents were rich and knew how to work the system, they would be sending their kids to private school anyway. So who besides the teacher can stand up for the students and their education? As a professional, a teacher is supposed to make decisions based on his/her knowledge and understanding. A factory line worker does as they are told.
    Good for her!
     
  11. dr.gator

    dr.gator Comrade

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    Sep 18, 2014

    EdEd, wondering what your thoughts on this article would be.

    http://www.floridatoday.com/story/n...ounty-school-board-opts-common-core/14756971/

    To me both situations are similar.

    Also, the following came directly from a post Susan Bowles made on her Facebook page. Your thoughts on the Governor's reply to a concerned parent? By the way, what he asserts in his response (which of course I know was probably a canned response from a staff member) is totally not true. I do find the fact that the state sees hiring a sub to instruct while the teacher teaches is an okay strategy as kind of surprising. In most counties in the state of Florida you only have to have a high school diploma to sub. Luckily in Alachua County, you must have a 4 year college degree. By the way, money for subs comes directly out of the school's general fund. No money is allocated from the state for these subs.

    This was the reply a former parent of mine received from Governor Scott. I still have had no response.

    Wow... I am at a loss for words at the letter I received from Gov Scott's office regarding the FAIR test. I think everyone knows I am a conservative, but the fact that these people have NO CLUE what goes on in a classroom is just... WOW!
    "The FAIR-FS is an adaptive program providing the teacher with information on an individual student’s ability whether it is at grade level, above grade level or below grade level. FAIR-FS is administered in a one on one setting and at any point during the administration, should the student show signs of frustration or is tiring, the teacher may stop the assessment and resume at another time. Teachers/administrators may choose to administer the assessments in just a few days with the assistance of a substitute teacher or over several weeks, pulling students during independent work time. It shouldn’t take more than 3 or 4 full days to assess every student in the classroom (18 students per classroom- 5 students a day.) The use of the mouse is monitored by the teacher and should a student show signs of struggling or frustration when using of the mouse, the teacher may ask the student to verbally and manually respond (i.e. point to the picture) and the teacher would then maneuver the mouse and assist the student. I understand that younger students have mainly experienced the touch-tablet technology while at home, but in my 10 years of visiting schools around the state, every computer lab has included desk top computers with a mouse attached. Hopefully, as technology progress and funding allows, tablets will be implemented more frequently."


    EdEd, I totally respect your opinion. You have the right to yours as the other side has to theirs. I am in no way trying to start a thread of discourse here. Just wanting to see what the varying opinions have to offer. This is a relevant topic in education today. I think it needs to be discussed in a thoughtful manner. Any and all feel free to chime in. I think hearing all viewpoints will help to better inform us.
     
  12. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sep 18, 2014

    Dr. Gator, if I'm understanding the situation correctly, the school board voted to suspend any state-mandated testing the rest of the year, but did not have the authority to do so? If this is correct, I have 2 sets of thoughts. First, and this is somewhat unrelated (though still related, I think). I tend to not like school boards because I think they are granted authority to make decisions about things that they don't necessarily have the training or expertise to deal with. One board member, for example, was a plumber. While I think - as a community member - he should certainly be a stakeholder in public education, I don't see him any more qualified to make decisions about assessment protocol than I would be qualified to make decisions about how to fix a water main break. But, that's a separate issue to some degree because school boards ARE given authority to make content-related decisions about educational matters, so I can't really stand on that argument.

    That aside, I do see it as similar - both are individuals/groups that acted out of turn and out of experience/expertise. I see the Board as having more authority, I suppose, since they are routinely empowered to make decisions of that level, though not in this particular situation.

    I don't have any strong reactions to the governor's response. I don't know the details of the test, so obviously I wouldn't support giving a parent false information, but the tone and level of details seems appropriate, content-specifics aside. Your thoughts?

    Thanks as well for your comments/respect - hopefully I have conveyed a similar level of respect for others here, and have clarified that I don't support ineffective or over-testing, but I do think that a thoughtful, organized, and professional response is important for various reasons. I think it's dangerous and unfortunate that the vocal opposition to testing, CCSS, charters, etc. reinforces unprofessional behavior, either via blog posts or actions such as refusing to follow protocol. It undermines the credibility of our profession and, I believe, sacrifices a more strategic long-term response in favor of unorganized, emotional decisions made by individuals.

    My general response to school board members or teachers who disagree with public policy would be to ask what you are doing to change the situation outside your immediate day-to-day responsibilities? There is certainly no obligation to be otherwise involved in educational policy and systems level change, but if you are going to be so involved, I'd want to see a planned response rather than a reaction.

    I guess part of my positions stems from my experience of having been part of systems change in which not everyone, and in some cases many, have not understood nor agreed with the kinds of changes I was a part of. In those cases, the folks disagreeing more often than not didn't have the the background to develop an informed opinion about the changes, which most of the time were very beneficial to students. It would have been frustrating for me for those folks to be able to simply choose to do what they didn't understand. While I don't agree with all the testing that's going on, I sympathize with needing to move forward with change even if it isn't popular, and we can't establish a precedent in which anyone can do anything they want simply because they don't like it. That's just not how a system works. In short, if we don't do things the right way even when the wrong thing is happening, we risk ruining the possibility for any change at all.
     
  13. dr.gator

    dr.gator Comrade

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    Sep 18, 2014

    So, how and where and with whom does an organized beneficial system of change start and maintain itself. From my viewpoint it hasn't happened yet and may be the reason for such desperadoes as the ones mentioned here. By the way, not all school boards in the state of Florida are elected non educators like Lee County's board is. From my experience, this occurs more in the smaller districts. Alachua County is fortunate enough to have five board members that are all former teachers. All five take the stance that we test too much and are requesting that the curriculum department review what is being asked of teachers to test to see if there are areas to cut. This could be an example of a system of positive sustained change. But when and will it happen? Maybe that's why we have our desperadoes. They are wanting more action and less talk. It is good to talk positive discourse. I told myself when I first posted "don't get wrapped up on a discussion board on a post that you are so passionate for." It isn't worth your time. Nice to share a viewpoint, be heard, and listen to another viewpoint.
     
  14. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sep 19, 2014

    Well, to address your last point first, yes! I agree that it can be helpful to get "wrapped up" from time to time if it's in the right place with the right people, which this generally is from my experience. It's pretty representative of the various viewpoints I encounter in the non-digital world as well.

    To return to the discussion:

    First, I'll say that I'm no expert with organizing or systems change, but my thoughts would be collectives/organizations that allow educators to have a collective voice that shares that voice in an organized fashion. Teachers unions (or similar when not in unionized states) would be one place. I've seen "educational associations" or similar, for example.

    If there isn't such an option, I'd suggest starting something. Even on a small scale, getting a group of teachers together and writing a collective statement and disseminating that to the press, school board, and other relevant organizations may be a way to still be vocal and heard, yet still maintaining contractual obligations and not breaking rules and losing credibility.

    Blog-posts as well - as much as I disagree with the tone of folks like Diane Ravitch, there's no doubt she's been effective in her blog and speaking approach, as with others.

    I think the tide is turning, at least from my view. I'm seeing more and more discussion about over-testing, and not just from teachers. I'd also say that strategic disobedience is different from isolated disobedience. If this teacher were working with a larger collective organization, and her behavior was part of a much larger strategy that was accompanied by initial and follow-up behaviors other than just writing a letter, it may appear to be more professional.

    As an example, during the civil rights movement there were individual acts of civil disobedience, but many of the more effective ones were very thought out and part of a larger strategy and organized by folks well in advance.

    This is interesting, and I have to admit I wasn't aware of appointed school boards. Everywhere I've lived has had elected ones. Sounds like you live in a more progressive, and perhaps better organized, district. Yes, I'd say that the actions of your school board seem to be an example of more positive change.

    Systems change takes time, without a doubt. I'm one of those impatient people that has chosen to not work on macro level issues because I can't stand the delay for reasons I don't often understand. But, I think the issue is complicated. There are reasons why testing exists - accountability to the public, evaluation of effectiveness, measurement of skills, etc. - these are things that somehow need to happen, and if we're going to overhaul the system in a way that makes sense - not just throw something together and back door it (like was the argument against CCSS), we need to expect things to take a while. The technology needs to be developed, tested, piloted, etc.

    From my perspective, 2 things would be very helpful to happen on that strategic level: There needs to be put forth a comprehensive, researched, and well-supported document outlining the ineffectiveness of state testing. Second there needs to be put forth an equally or more effective and efficient way of achieving the goals that testing purports to achieve (accountability, etc.). If both of these two things happened in an organized fashion, I would be surprised if state testing and other intrusive testing - as it exists today - were to continue to happen.

    This last point circles back to the beginning question you asked: "how and where and with whom does an organized beneficial system of change start and maintain itself." When working with kids with behavioral issues, one of the most common theoretical frameworks is the identification of replacement behaviors - behaviors that help the child meet similar needs in a more appropriate manner. Teachers are spending a lot of time talking about what they don't want to do, but not a lot talking about alternatives. The simple truth is that we won't likely ever go back to a time when "teachers can just teach," in part because that didn't work, but in part because we live in a society now in which we expect documented results. If it were me, I'd start with gathering a group of interested educators and talking about how to go about putting forth an alternative proposal that satisfied as many needs as possible.
     

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