Why I am opting out – a guide for parents

I am a public school teacher in California and I am opting my 5th grader out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Tests this year.

Here is a link to the Opt Out form for San Francisco Unified.

Here is why:

The tests will not help my child’s teacher know my child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. Test scores will not be out until the summer. My child’s current teacher will not be able to use the information to improve instruction in any way for my child this year.

My child will lose many hours of instruction in order to prepare for and take the SBAC tests. This time could be used for more meaningful instruction, such as doing an interesting reading project, a social studies, math, art, music or science research project or doing an end of the school year play.
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A letter to my aunt who believes that “the educational system is broken”

Several years ago, I sent an email to my aunt to defend public schools and my role as a public school teacher in the service of our children and our society. This is my story. This is that letter. Please share, and let’s fulfill the hope of public education and honor the wisdom of our teachers.

Tía,

I know that you value me and have honored me before as an educator and teacher in a public school in California.  I don’t want to have to respond to this email because I have a fieldtrip to finish planning for, grading to do, a counselor to send an email to, and some parents to call (not to mention lesson planning to finish).  My school workday, which started at 7:00 a.m., just ended and most students have left, however, in many ways my day is only half-way over as I will be working on and off for the rest of the afternoon, evening and into the night.

I write to you because I cannot agree with the statement that “the educational system is broken.”  I work within the confines of this system everyday, and I know its weaknesses and strengths, its disasters and its triumphs.
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Happy New Year and Smarter Balanced Assessments in California coming to your child in 2014 or 2015!

Happy New Year to all –

I am finally over this wretched cold, and sort of ready to go back to work tomorrow.

I had a brilliant time over the past few days grading final essays written by my advanced Spanish students, and, as usual, I have been dismayed by the incredible academic gaps that exist between students. Students with educated parents can write a cohesive and logical argument; students without such parents usually produce confusing and disorganized sentences that spin around disconnected ideas.

It took me years to learn how to write; and I am still trying.

Even with tons of my own work to prepare my students for such a writing assignment, the results show clearly the haves and have-nots.
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Tracking?

I have no idea what the answer is on Honors classes and heterogeneous classrooms.  I debated this one in my Education program 10 years ago (no one got to choose the side they argued for, and I got to argue for tracking), but I feel like I have a new epiphany every day I teach about which way it should go.

I teach at a highly tracked school with the richest members of the community and the poorest immigrant kids from Tonga and Latin America in my district.  My school is nothing but tracked.  There are virtually no Latino, black or Tongan kids names on the GATE lists (unless someone like me nominates one which means that not a single teacher in their 7-10 years of schooling noticed that that this kid was bright); and the honors and AP classes are packed with Asian and white kids at a 40% Latino school.
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What do the State tests show?

The new test scores from the California State Testing Program (STAR) are now available for teachers, parents, administrators and educational researchers to look at.

I think it is worth putting out there some interesting educational perspectives on the STAR tests:

While students’ test scores continue to increase overall on state achievement tests in the US, our students are not making any gains on international standards of educational achievement.
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