Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why I Continue to Boycott NY State ELA and Math Tests by Amy Gropp Forbes

OPT OUT 2018
My reasons to keep boycotting NYS ELA and Math tests:
1. These tests are used to label children, teachers and schools as failures. This happens most in high poverty communities and in communities of color. This promotes racism, contributes to segregation, and sets up a tiered system where children from different backgrounds are given different and very unequal educational opportunities.
2. The law requiring teachers to be evaluated by test scores is still on the books in NY state, even though it is no longer required by the federal ESSA law (the current moratorium in NYS will expire in 2019). As long as this is the case test prep will dominate in lower performing schools robbing children of a well rounded and enriching curriculum.
3. Our schools are not being fully funded. The money being spent on testing would be better spent reducing class sizes and providing schools with culturally responsive curriculum, school libraries, arts, etc.
4. The tests (as well as the year-round education that the high stakes promote) are developmentally inappropriate,  disproportionately affecting English Language Learners and children with disabilities. Only 5% of ELLs and 9% of students with disabilities were deemed proficient on the 2017 ELA.
5. The stakes attached to these tests have had dire consequences on early childhood education as well -- the push to do reading and math in kindergarten (to "prepare" kids) is not supported by research and has virtually eliminated developmentally appropriate play-based learning in many schools.
6. The tests themselves are incredibly poor quality -- much has been written about this but nothing has changed.
7. Computer testing will soon replace paper tests. This means even more data mining. It will also shift classrooms away from project-based hands-on learning and towards digital learning platforms.
8. Even though the vast majority of high school students are passing high school Regents exams and graduation rates are on the rise, only about 40 percent of grade 3-8 students are proficient on the tests. You can also see massive fluctuations in NYS test scores when you compare them to the steady performance levels on the NAEP test. These tests are clearly not measuring student performance and proficiency levels accurately.
9. High-stakes testing is the mechanism for privatizing education. Corporate interests are driving test-based accountability. Millions of dollars have been spent lobbying for these tests. We need education policy to put the interests of children first.
10. Opt Out is responsible for the minor changes made to date -- most importantly reducing the time spent on the ELA and Math tests from 3 days each to 2.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

It is OUR Country, Not His

One of the things saving the nation from complete disaster is Donald Trump's short attention span. In any given day, he will be attacking China, Mexico, NFL players, Amazon, CNN, the Mayor of London, Muslim immigrants, Robert Mueller, the Governor of California, sanctuary cities, even his own Attorney General. He flits from one bout of Twitter Rage to another, rarely introducing legislation to back up his tantrums. It is exhausting and infuriating, but I have concluded that this President is best described by a quote from Shakespeare.
"Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
He is a gangster, a bully and a serial philanderer who rose to power by using racism and xenophobia to unite one group of Americans against the rest, but we are learning that the damage he is inflicting can be contained if we organized and stand up for the things we believe.
I am angry that he is President, but am determined to keep his provocations and policies from corrupting and polluting the many communities I am part of.
It is a lot of hard work, but it has been successful thus far. It is OUR country, not his.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

High Stakes Testing: This Generation's "Vietnam"

The Era of High Stakes Testing initiated by No Child Left Behind came in with great fanfare, ignoring the infamous connection between testing and Eugenics, and promising a dramatic reduction in disparities in educational achievement based on race and class and an equally dramatic improvement in the US educational status relative to other nations
Now, nearly 20 years later, we are in a position to declare the Testing Movement a dismal failure.. Educational disparities based on race and class are, if anything, even greater than they were in 2001, schools are more segregated and the US educational posture, globally, has remained stagnant.
Worse yet, the percentage of Black teachers in US schools has gone down dramatically, test based school closings have destabilized neighborhoods, teacher morale has plummeted, teacher shortages plague many states, and stress levels among the nation's students have risen to dangerous levels
High Stakes Testing has been the Vietnam of this generation of policy makers, the wrong battle fought against the wrong enemy in the wrong terrain.
It is time to admit defeat, cut our losses, and create child centered, community centered education policies that value teachers and encourage relationship building, mentoring, and the
nurturing of children's talents inside and outside the classroom.
That means no national standards, no test secrecy, no use of tests to rate teachers and schools, an end to school closings and teacher firings, and a sharp reduction in testing budgets at the national, state, local and school level.
These are objectives all people who love children can unite around.
It's time to end the carnage. It's time to heal the pain. It's time to makes schools places which give our children confidence rather than add to their stress.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Conversation Taking Place Over Breakfast About Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump

“Mom, why did Stormy Daniels spank Donald Trump. I thought spanking was something only done to children”
“Honey, I don’t want to talk about this. Maybe when you’re older.”
“Mom, I watched to whole interview at Cora’s house”
“Oh no! I sent you there to do homework!”
“ Come on Mom! We took a break to watch the interview. Kids aren’t stupid. We know what’s up. Plus we will probably discuss the interview in current events in class this week”
“That’s terrible! I am going to write a note to Mrs. Parker to tell her to excuse you from current events. There are some things fifth graders shouldn’t talk about in school”
“Mom. Give me a break. I know more than you think. We have sex education twice a month”
“This is awful. What kind of world are we living in. Kids are growing up too fast.”
“Relax mom, I’ll be fine. Just tell me one thing. What magazine did you spank daddy with before you had me and Billy?”

Monday, March 19, 2018

My Letter to the Owners of Grand Prospect Hall Asking them to Cancel Their NRA Event on April 12

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Halkias
As a forty years resident of Park Slope and as someone who has attended over 20 events at Grand Prospect Hall, from political fundraisers, to weddings to school celebrations, I am outraged and appalled that you would defy the overwhelming sentiment of this community and rent the hall to the National Rifle Association on April 12
At a time when almost every school in Park Slope had walk outs and vigils to mourn gun deaths at schools in the United States, especially the Parkland Massacre, it is a grievous insult to the people in our community to rent that hall to an organization that not only rejects all restrictions on assault weapons, but has insulted the students in Parkland who have spoken out against gun violence
If you do not cancel the NRA event immediately, i assure you that I will not only never attend another event at Grand Prospect Hall, I will encourage everyone I know, including local politicians, to boycott your organization
This is the worst decision I have seen a local business owner make in more than 30 years I hope you come to your senses and cancel the event

Mark D Naison
Park Slope Resident
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Restore Child Centered Pedagogy

The movement from child centered pedagogy to data centered pedagogy was forced down the throats of educators and parents with a Civil Rights rationale- it was needed, advocates claimed, to reduce educational disparities based on race and class. The logic was simple; you have to collect data on all children to assure that vulnerable children don't fall behind.
Never has a more destructive policy been promoted with more egalitarian rhetoric. A policy promoted in the name of Civil Rights as been the perpetrator of Civil Wrongs The regime of universal testing and data collection has CRUSHED our most vulnerable children while resulting in the ethnic cleansing of teaching staffs within high needs schools.
It is time to say STOP, NO MORE. Return to child centered teaching which highlights the individual talents of each child and promotes face to face interaction between students and teachers and creates communities of learning within our classrooms
And build on the cultural traditions students bring to the classroom to help restore excitement to school communities.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thoughts from A Bronx Friend on Puerto Rican Identity, Cultural Appropriation and Bruno Mars

My husband was born and raised a few blocks from Fordham University. His parents are both Puerto Ricans who came to New York City from the island in the 1960s. His father, a retired vet who fought in the Korean War, is an Afro-Puertorican. His mother and her family have more European features. Nonetheless, both sides of his family identify simply as "Puerto Ricans" and they all listen to the same music, eat the same food, etc.
Having been raised in the Bronx, my husband, a true "Nuyorican", went to public school with other children of Puerto Rican and Dominican immigrants as well as African Americans. It was in school that he was exposed to music from Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Juelz Santana, Puff Daddy, Mase, etc. All of the children in his school, no matter their ethnic background, grew up listening to Hip Hop and R&B. His parents discouraged him from listening to Hip Hop at home because they considered this to be "gang music". On the weekends his mother would play songs from Hector Lavoe, La Fabia, La Lupe, La India, Marc Anthony, etc. so he also grew up singing along to all of the songs that are considered Puerto Rican anthems such as "la murga" by Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon. During his teenage years he was exposed to "reggaeton" with the rise of Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Tego Calderon. This genre quickly became a favorite among the Spanish-speaking young people and my husbandwas not an exception. His favorite among them all became Tego Calderon who openly spoke about his African roots and his pride as an Afro-Puertorican. Up until that point, my husband had never identified himself as an "Afro-Puertorican", but Tego made it okay to do so.
It is this complex intersectionality that has created an identity crisis for many Puerto Ricans living in the states. With the many racial incidents in the recent years, such as the Trayvon Martin case, many Latinos living in the U.S. have been forced to reevaluate their identities as people of color. There are many Puerto Rican young people that could've easily been mistaken for a Trayvon Martin or a Philando Castile. They are not immune to being stopped by the police, harassed, or being discriminated against.
As far as Bruno Mars, he is obviously a person of color. It could become very murky when we start making distinctions on who is "black enough" because this is pretty much open to interpretation. If we say Bruno Mars is not "black enough" then we need to address Drake's identity, as well as Mariah Carey's identity, and maybe even Alicia Keys and Cardi B.
If the intention is to call out the "culture vultures" then perhaps the focus should be placed on Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Justin Timberlake.