Testing is Not Education: Huntsville Opt-Out Teach-In

OptOutTeachIn

We’re half a week away from the beginning of another school year that is already marred by technical issues.

The iNOW system has been down for most of the week keeping parents from using the amazing new online registration system.

The system that allows the printing of school schedules has been down for about a week delaying the orientation schedule at most schools.

Pearson, once again, is having issues with training teachers this year because, again, our infrastructure isn’t up to the task. So our teachers are being “trained” on how to continue teaching with a digital curriculum when the computers and network aren’t working.

The SETS system that allows Special Education teachers to review and print all of the IEPs produced at the end of last year has been down for nearly a week keeping SPED teachers from being able to print, review and prepare to meet the IEP requirements. When it was restored to operation just recently, everything that was entered locally from last Thursday to this morning was lost.

Quick question: exactly how is the district, which claimed on August 1st that they were basically finished hiring for the year, able to ensure that they have adequate staffing to meet the requirements of the IEPs, when they can’t view or print the IEPs? Once again, we’re probably going to be starting the year unprepared to meet the requirements of school for at least 10% of the school population.

This is the third year in a row (exactly the same number that Wardynski has been here) that we’re beginning the year unprepared to meet the requirements of the IEPs.

More Testing Than Last Year

But this post is about testing, not the ongoing technical issues that our district continues to have with the “digital transition.” (When exactly can we expect the “transition” to stop transitioning?)

And guess what, at that board meeting on August 2nd, Dr. Wardynski informed the board that we would be adding additional testing to the already crowded testing schedule from last year.

While discussing his evaluation, he announced that the district would be adding additional formative standardized testing to the schedule of tests required next year. Instead of just the STAR test which covers reading and math, the district would also add other subjects to the testing regime. This other test would come from, you guessed it: Pearson. The new test, called SchoolNet, would, evidently act as a backup to the STAR Enterprise formative standardized test that was forced on kids last year, for it would test both reading and math, but also Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and US History.

Wardynski’s buddy-buddy relationship with Pearson is growing, it would seem.

The HCS Testing Schedule

And when I looked online at the Research and Development page of the HCS site (isn’t R&D a telling name? Who exactly are they “researching?” What is being developed?), I found the following information.

First is the Assessment Calendar in two Excel spreadsheets. You can download it and review it, but it doesn’t contain all of the testing that will actually occur in the 2013-2014 school year. And no, I don’t know why it doesn’t include everything since it’s labeled 2013-14 HCS Assessment Calendar FINAL.xlsx. Here’s what it does contain:

HCS2013-14Assessment

and on the second worksheet, this:

HCS2013-14Assessment Calendar Pg2

Also available online, however, is a calendar. Here’s a listing of the all of the tests that will be administered this school year according to the district’s calendar for 2013-2014:

  1. August 26-30 (yes, one week after the start of school): DIBELS–K-1st
  2. September 2-5: DIBELS–K-1st
  3. September 9-13: STAR Enterprise Reading:Math:and Early Literacy–PreK-12th (Yep, we’re even testing Pre-K students now.)
  4. September 16-20: Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE)–11th
  5. October 11, 14, 15: SchoolNet Benchmark Assessment (The new exam from Pearson that Wardynski was talking about)–K-12th (Math and Reading), 5th and 7th (Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and US History)
  6. October 22: Explore Test–8th
  7. October 22: PLAN Test–10th
  8. October 23: Explore Test Make Up–8th
  9. October 23: PLAN Test Make Up–10th
  10. December 2-6: Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE)–11th
  11. December 2-12: DIBELS Next–K-1st
  12. December 17-20: SchoolNet Benchmark Assessment–K-12th (Math and Reading), 5th and 7th (Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and US History)
  13. January 6-10: STAR Enterprise Reading:Math:and Early Literacy–PreK-12th
  14. March 4-7: SchoolNet Benchmark Assessment–K-12th (Math and Reading), 5th and 7th (Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and US History)
  15. March 17-21: Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE)–11th
  16. March 24-28: ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  17. March 24-28: Alternate ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  18. April 7-11: ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  19. April 7-11: Alternate ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  20. April 14-18: ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  21. April 14-18: Alternate ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  22. April 14-18: Alabama Alternate Assessment (AAA)–3rd-8th, and 10th and 11th
  23. April 21-25: ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  24. April 21-25: Alternate ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  25. April 21-25: Alabama Alternate Assessment (AAA)–3rd-8th, and 10th and 11th
  26. April 23-25: ACT Quality Core End of Course–English 9, English 10, English 12, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and U. S. History for 2013-2014 only
  27. April 23-25: STAR Enterprise Reading:Math:and Early Literacy–Pre-K-12th
  28. April 23: ACT Plus Writing–11th
  29. April 28-May 2: Access for ELLs–K-12th
  30. April 28-May 2: Alternate ACCESS for ELLs–K-12th
  31. April 28-May 2: Alabama Alternate Assessment (AAA)–3rd-8th, and 10th and 11th
  32. April 28-May 2: ACT Quality Core End of Course–English 9, English 10, English 12, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and U. S. History for 2013-2014 only
  33. April 28-May 2: STAR Enterprise Reading:Math:and Early Literacy–Pre-K-12th
  34. April 28-May 2: ARMT+ Science–5th, 7th
  35. April 28-May 2: ACT Aspire (Math, Reading, Science, & Social Studies) On Line–3rd-8th
  36. April 28-May 2: DIBLES Assessment–K-1st
  37. May 5-9: ACT Quality Core End of Course Assessments: English 9, English 10, English 12, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and U. S. History for 2013-2014 only
  38. May 5-9: STAR Enterprise Reading:Math:and Early Literacy–Pre-K-12th
  39. May 5-9: ARMT+ Science–5th, 7th
  40. May 5-9: ACT Aspire (Math, Reading, Science, & Social Studies) On Line–3rd-8th
  41. May 5-9: DIBLES Assessment–K-1st
  42. May 7: ACT Plus Writing–11th (Make Up Day)
  43. May 12-16: ACT Quality Core End of Course Assessments: English 9, English 10, English 12, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and U. S. History for 2013-2014 only
  44. May 12-16: STAR Enterprise Reading:Math:and Early Literacy–Pre-K-12th
  45. May 12-16: ARMT+ Science–5th, 7th
  46. May 12-16: ACT Aspire (Math, Reading, Science, & Social Studies) On Line–3rd-8th
  47. May 19-22: ACT Quality Core End of Course Assessments: English 9, English 10, English 12, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and U. S. History for 2013-2014 only
  48. May 19-22: STAR Enterprise Reading:Math:and Early Literacy–Pre-K-12th
  49. May 19-22: ARMT+ Science–5th, 7th
  50. May 19-22: ACT Aspire (Math, Reading, Science, & Social Studies) On Line–3rd-8th

In case you think this is an exaggeration, here are screen captures from the district’s calendar. I’ve left off the months of November and February. Those are the only two months out of the nine that do not have any standardized testing scheduled at the present time. (Dr. Wardynski likes to change the testing schedule for STAR and I would bet now also for SchoolNet to fit his needs.)

201308

201309

201310

201312

201401

Then beginning in the middle of March, you’ll see a dramatic rise in testing toward the end of the year.

201403

201404

201405

Yep, a nine month school year is reduced to a seven month school year in order to get in all of the end of the year testing that Dr. Wardynski is forcing onto students.

And even this does not cover all of the testing that will happen to many of our students this year.

If your child does not test at or above grade level in reading and math on the STAR Enterprise test, guess what they’ll spend every single Friday of the school year doing? 

You called it, they will be taking the STAR Enterprise test, to help them prepare for the STAR Enterprise test. And if that’s not enough, they will also spend 30-40 minutes everyday, not practicing their math or reading a book, but rather on a computer in the hallway working through a STAR test prep program unintentionally ironically named SuccessMaker to help them do better on the STAR test.

Last year, the district spent between 25 and 30% of the school days testing students. It’s going up this year.

This is the definition of insanity.

Opt-Out, Teach-In

High-Stakes Standardized Testing doesn’t inspire students to create, to think in a new way, to dream about what the world could be, to make the world a better place, or to use their insight in anyway. In other words, it has the exact opposite effect on students that education should have.

The good news is that you, as a parent, have a voice in this matter.

No matter what you’re told, the district does not have the right to force your student to do anything that you don’t want them to do. So, if you believe that testing has replaced education in this district, I would encourage you to consider opting out as I did from the STAR test last year. It won’t be an easy thing to do, and the district will do their best to deny, discourage, and threaten you if you try, but ultimately if parents do not stand up and say, enough, this will never end.

You see, companies like Pearson, Renaissance Learning, and ACT make a ton of money off of selling these tests to the district. And so there is a strong financial incentive to these companies to continue to push the Department of Education to spend millions to billions of dollars pushing states to adopt, use and expand their use.

And the only thing standing in their way are parents who are willing to say no.

On Tuesday, August 27th from 6:00pm to 7:00pm at the Richard Showers Recreational Center, Jane DeNeefe and I will be leading an Opt-Out, Teach-In session in which we will explain how to go about Opting Out of the district’s testing if you so desire. The meeting will be brief, provide step-by-step instructions on opting out, and will have ample time for questions and answers at the end.

There will be a second meeting on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm at the Old Times Building downtown.

If you have any interest in bringing this insanity to an end, I hope to see you there on one of those two nights.

 

 
Russell
"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.

12 Comments

  1. In direct contrast to this information is:

    “Those without education degrees might be struggling to decipher that verbiage, but Bice’s words Monday bristled with clarity.

    “For the past decade, we have prepared them to take a test and not prepared them for the future,” he said.

    That’s why we’re glad to see the move away from No Child Left Behind’s cookie-cutter reliance on standardized tests toward considering students, and their strengths and weaknesses, individually.”

    http://www.gadsdentimes.com/article/20130813/NEWS/130819925

  2. Another one bites the dust… Just got back from Mountain Gap where our 6th-grader went to meet her teachers. Only the science teacher — who was absolutely wonderful — has jumped ship to go work at a school in the county, just as she privately warned us last spring that she would do if she could.

    Heckuva job, Casey. At this rate, every kid in the city will be able to enjoy the benefits of inexperienced teachers and Teach for America hires.

  3. If I knew I wouldn’t get fired I would copy this and had it out to the parents I am going to meet today. My first tests will be next week- benchmark test for reading and math.

  4. I fear some sort of “Stepford” society awaits us. It starts out with mesmerizing our children through laptops and standardized education. Once ingrained from pre-school through 12th grade, they next look at physical appearance. Uniforms will slowly make their way into our schools, followed by mandatory hairstyles. causlly walking into andout of school will be targeted next. Students will be made to line up and march into their schools in the morning as well as at the end of the day at dismissal. Behavioural issues will be erradicated through medications administered in the drinking water and air handling systems throughout the school. Wardynski and the board members at his heels will tour the schools and marvel at the serenity with which our schools operate. Everyone is smiling. Everyone yearns to take that next test. The world has become perfect. All except for a particular blog that invites rebellious banter and dissent. It argues incessantly against the system. “Let them chirp,” Wardynski (the engineer) thinks, “for they will never take down the empire I have built. Hmm, it’s almost 9:00 a.m., time to administer another test.”

    1. “Let them chirp,” Wardynski (the engineer) thinks, “for they will never take down the empire I have built. Hmm, it’s almost 9:00 a.m., time to administer another test.”

      This about sums it up. Lots of chirping going on, and not just on a “particular blog”, parents/teachers are frustrated. There used to be a time when elected officials were held accountable to the taxpayers, when did that change?

Comments are closed.