Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Opt Out- Stop the Abuse" Message from an Educator in Upstate New York

The New York State Education Department released the student test data to the school districts on Friday, August 21, 2015.  I have spent two entire days entering student test data into the computer.  That is, I entered a 1, 2, 3,or 4 for specific students.  In many cases, only one student took the test.  What this means is that one student will determine a teacher’s growth score.  One student will be the deciding factor if a teacher is rated: developing, effective, highly effective, or ineffective.  One student.  Is this statistically sound?    Most would call this inhumane or even insane.  Is this ethical?

A teacher who may be a single working mom supporting her family stands to lose her income if deemed ineffective two years in a row.  We are fortunate to have some local assessments in place that may save her job----maybe.  It’s hard to plan for a family’s future when your job and entire livelihood lies in the balance.  This is an unnecessary amount of pressure.  Most would call this inhumane or even insane. Is this ethical?

So, what most people do not know is that these state tests DO NOT truly measure a student’s reading skills or math skills.  These tests Do Not measure a teacher’s effectiveness.  The tests have been purposely designed to reduce the public school teaching staff exponentially.  Most would call this inhumane or even insane.  Is this ethical?

I pride myself in knowing the students in my school.  I know their families.  I know their day-to-day performance in the classroom.  In many cases, I have known these children since Kindergarten.  I know their joys and their sorrows.  I know the teachers in my building.  I know their joys, their struggles, and their hardships.   I cannot help but think about all of this as I proceed with the mind-numbing task of entering a 1, 2, 3, or 4 into the computer system.  A numbers game with human beings, that I am being manipulated to participate in, coerced if you will.   This I know is wrong with ever fiber of my being, my heart and my soul.  I saw 2’s for students who should have gotten a 4.  They would have gotten a 4 if the test was written on their grade level, and if there were no trick questions with extremely close choices for answers.  I saw 2’s for students who read above their grade level.  That tells me that they are not test takers and/or the answers were so close that they may have picked the wrong one, or they may simply have run out of time due to the length of the reading passages.  I cannot analyze this, because, I do not have the test questions  nor do I have the answer sheets.  I cannot have a conference with parents and show them where their child needs assistance.  Most would call this inhumane or even insane.  Is this ethical?

How can I trust the validity of any of this?  How can I trust what the new Commissioner of Education dictates?   She is new to her position.  She has not yet earned the trust of New Yorkers.  I understand she has concerns about ethics. 

I think about the student who vomited on her test.  We followed protocol, and put her test in a zip lock bag.  She was escorted to the Nurse’s office, and needless to say, she did not finish her test.  I don’t have a test score to enter for her. These tests put several stakeholders under undue pressure.  Is this ethical?

I wake at 2:00 am and see the computer screen right before my eyes.  I can see all of the data, but what I really see before my eyes is unethical practices of the New York State Education Department. 

I consider the Commissioner’s comments that I am an extension, or an arm , if you will of the New York State Education Department.  I view all of these manipulations, and lies as abuses of power.  There, I said it.  Abuse.   Abuse of children.     Abuse of teachers.   Abuse of parents’ rights.  Malfeasance.   If I continue to blindly obey, and remain silent, am I an accessory to the abuse? 

I think about Maya Angelou’s quote:  “ I did then what I knew how to do.  Now I know better, I do better. “

In my humble opinion I feel, that we the people/ parents have the right to do better.

Opt Out.
Stop the abuse. 
It’s the principle of the thing. 
My moral compass tells me that the State Education Department and the new Commissioner are attempting to rule with an iron fist.  Personally, I feel that I have a responsibility to the taxpayers who pay my salary and to the children that are entrusted to my care.  Each and every child deserves to be treated with kindness, and handled with velvet gloves.

Truth to Power.