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.

The computerized test interface is clumsy and frustrating for students, and not based on cognitive development. It’s not likely that younger students can type as fast as they can handwrite; the multiple tabs and windows are difficult to navigate, and students at different schools will be taking the tests on a multitude of interfaces, thus rendering invalid the test results. Taking the test on a desktop with a large screen, on a small laptop and on an iPad are different experiences. Here is my blog post about taking the SBAC practice test. Here is one from a fourth grader’s dad. And here is one from a parent in Seattle. While computer skills are important, the skills needed for taking this test do not match how professionals use computers in their work lives, nor how students learn and best demonstrate learning. Children learn to read more quickly, generate more ideas and retain information better when they learn to write by hand.  And college students also learn better when they write notes by hand instead of on a computer. 

Standardized tests do not help poor, minority, English language learner and special ed students. These groups of students historically score low on standardized tests, in addition to particularly bright students who will often “overthink” answers. Low scores on standardized tests have created schools serving large numbers of these students into reward and punishment test prep centers, with fewer opportunities for enrichment and engaging lessons that higher socio-economically advantaged students have access to. More and more African American and other educators are defending the Opt Out Movement as an antidote to the systematic racism in our society in which poor and minority children receive fewer educational dollars and resources, and are viewed as “deficient”. Check out these powerful articles: this article or this article or this article or my own blog post on the issue.

Barack and Michelle Obama, along with many other well-educated and wealthy parents, have opted their children out of the national standardized tests by sending their children to private schools. Private schools offer smaller class size, enriching project-based curriculum, individual learning plans and a well-rounded education that includes humanities, arts, sciences, maths, world languages, physical education, extensive field trips, and community projects. Teachers and parents in these schools are not requesting that students take more standardized tests such as the SBAC, and they do not publish the scores of the tests that they do take. Public school students should have access to the same educational models that our most advantaged citizens have. Here is the beautiful Sidwell Friends school that the Obama children attend.

My child’s teachers may be rated on the outcome of how their students perform, regardless of school demographics and regardless of how much I believe my child has learned (or hasn’t). Although my child’s teachers will never see my child’s test to learn from it, they will need to take time from other essential instruction to teach students to perform on this test. Educational researchers have stated that the tests should for diagnostic purposes only, and should not be used to rank and sort teachers. Race to the Top (RTTT) mandated under the Obama administration coerced states into accepting a teacher evaluation system based in part on how their students do on the state assessments. This and other merit based plans do not improve student learning as borne out by research, but do lead to higher incidences of systematic cheating, questionable teaching practices and a narrowing of the curriculum.

There is no evidence to support that high stakes tests improve student learning. The accountability system set up by No Child Left Behind did not boost achievement, according to the National Research Council and many other peer-reviewed educational research. Yong Zhao, an education professor at the University of Oregon, has written books on the misuse of standardized testing in China and in the United States. He predicts that the U.S will lose its creative entrepreneurial edge by subscribing to the merit of standardized tests. He states, “we will see a further narrowing of the curriculum and educational experiences. Whatever innovative teaching that has not been completely lost in the schools may finally be gone.”

The cut scores are arbitrary and set with a political vision rather than an educational one. Last year, 70% of NY State students scored below proficient on the PARCC Common Core tests. This was a political decision aimed at making more families question whether public schools were doing their job. It backfired, NY changed the cut scores, and many New Yorkers are opting their students out of this year’s tests.

The SBAC are an experimental attempt to assess student proficiency on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). However, the CCSS themselves are still experimental and controversial in many regards. Very few teachers were involved in creating them, and many of us are quite skeptical of their claim that they can do what they propose: “to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career and life, regardless of where they live.” The standards were never tested on cohorts of students before their exceedingly quick implementation. Here is a detailed explanation of the 24 “work group” committee members who developed the standards. Here is a nice sheet about their how they were developed and the money behind them. 

Opting Out is a great democratic tool to fight the corporate takeover of public education. Many articles and books have been written about the loss of public school management, curriculum, and the overuse of testing due to well funded corporate interests.  Steve Nelson, head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan, said it this way, “This growing struggle over the future of American education may be proxy for the future of our democratic republic.”

Love the Common Core standards or hate the standards, when new standards are forcibly implemented by top-down federal initiatives without proper time to develop them, you end up with shoddy teaching, shoddy materials and shoddy tests. This article is about Jason Zimba, one of the authors of the CCSS math standards, who despises how his daughter is learning math with the new standards in place. He spends his weekends reteaching her so that she will love math as he does.

Opting out of the SBAC tests can help politicians understand that parents want well-funded schools, well-prepared teachers, small class sizes and respect for children. It may feel like an act of disrespect toward your child’s school or teacher; on the other hand, it is likely that your teacher will applaud your decision to support a better public education system with better funding, better teacher support, and fewer distracting standardized tests that eat up instructional time.

Ask your child’s teacher about opting out and providing an alternative project during testing time. My child will be reading books with younger children, writing stories, and working as a Junior Coach. Talk to other parents about your decision to opt out. There is a huge movement that is growing from all sectors of society. Get familiar with alternative educational resources for standardized testing:

United Opt Out

National Center for Fair and Open Testing

Authentic Assessment – Fair Test

Alternative Assessments – Washington Post

Linda Darling-Hammond on standardized testing in the implementation of the Common Core

Diane Ravitch’s blog – a resource on public educational issues

Retired Oakland teacher Anthony Cody’s educational blog

Thank you for reading,

Maestra Malinche

“High-stakes testing is America’s Faustian bargain.” Yong Zhao

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.  I believe that the statements that you have made are borne out of a lack of access to educational research and critical literature on education in the United States.  Many of your statements come straight out of news sources that are more interested in creating consumers of news than in creating an educated public that has access to modern pedagogical debate, research, and practices in the educational world.  I would like to discuss education with people in this country – it is my passion, my career and my daily intellectual stimulus, but I wish I did not have to entertain a discussion in which there are so many misunderstandings and prejudices heaped upon public schoolspublic school teachers and public school administrators.

I have to respond to your statements, Tía, because they are demeaning and demoralizing in addition to being very superficial.  The amount of anti-teacher anti-union sentiment right now is extremely hurtful and disrespectful, and I, along with many other teachers, are having a very hard time coping with it because so much of it is hate-filled and lacking in any appreciation for the complexity of issues or acknowledgement of some historical perspective.  So, please, for my sake, and any of the number of good teachers you have had in your life, please, please do us a favor and read a lot more on the issues from multiple sources and consider the biases of the sources that you are reading or hearing from.

When you say you are not for the current “board of education, the system of education and teachers unions we currently have,” it would help to be more specific – each city, county and state have different boards of education, different systems of education in place and different teachers unions.  However, many California teachers belong to the California Teachers Union, an organization that has been on the front lines of making sure that students have qualified and professionally compensated teachers, an educationally manageable number of student contacts per teacher, and which also publishes a monthly magazine devoted to current educational research, improving student performance and behavior, lesson and curriculum ideas, and a multitude of easily digestible articles aimed at helping and supporting teachers be better teachers for their students.  My students have benefitted greatly by having unionized teachers who are paid a fair wage for our time and commitment, by having fewer students per class, among many other advantages.

Tía, you also mention that schools are “failure factories.”  As you say, “Schools all across the country have become failure factories if you have an “average” child, the statistics for graduating never mind attending college are beyond tragic!” Again, I have to disagree with the completeness of this statement.  I think that there is a historical perspective missing here – mainly that the United States is perhaps the only country in the world (and one of the first) to attempt to educate all (and I mean ALL) students, regardless of race, class, disability, etc.  Public schools in the United States do what few other countries do – attempt to educate the poorest to the wealthiest, the mentally and physically handicapped, emotionally abused and abandoned children, everyone comes in and we turn no one away – and we even keep them here through four years of high school.  This is a very recent development, and before the 1960’s, a smaller percentage of students graduated from high school, and a miniscule amount made it to college – college was reserved for mostly wealthy, mostly white and mostly male.  That so many women and so many people of color do now go to college and succeed is testament to the uniqueness and triumph of the educational system in the United States.

However, it is true that since the late 80’s, the achievement gap between white students and students of color has been on the rise again.  There is much much research on this phenomenon and what to do about.  One program you mention is the KIPP program which many cities (not just LA) have developed to better educate urban youth.  It has been successful, as have many other programs targeted to a local urban population – part of its success is due to extended staff hours (that are paid for), implementation of well-researched pedagogical developments in urban youth education, smaller class sizes, and a voluntary buy in from the parents of the students who choose to send their students to KIPP schools – parents who are generally a little more present for their children, and must agree to certain stipulations before sending their kids there.  And, if you look at all the research outcomes on KIPP schools, the evidence is mixed and not always as positive as you might have been led to believe.  KIPP is one example of educational innovation.  However, the amount and quality of educational innovation is staggering.  Public school teaching is not the same as when I grew up — that was mostly reading a dry textbook, answering dry questions and listening and / or tuning out a teacher’s lectures.  Nowadays, we public school teachers are ever increasing our knowledge of best practices by reading, collaborating with our colleagues, attending workshops and participating in staff development; we sing, dance and entertain, we teach using visuals, manipulatives, conceptual models, games and oral storytelling; we use primary sources, music, film, documentaries, guest speakers and realia.  When I think about how much this generation of teachers does as opposed to what my teachers did, I almost laugh at the absurdity and the discrepancy.  We are worlds away, and my, we teach better to a much more diverse group of students than the teachers of old ever did.

I, along with many other educational researches, believe that the true systemic problems in education are not due to “lack of choice,” “teachers unions,” “apathetic parents and students,” “relaxed standards,” etc., but rather they are due to the economic disparities in this country and the inequity in educational funding.  Poor kids have schools with less money, period, everywhere in the United States in which this disparity exists.  Poor kids have poorer health and poorer nutrition.  They have higher incidences of trauma, stress, violence in their lives.  They have less access to adult models of success in the community and fewer adults who care for them.  Test scores are always correct in one way – they show us the socio-economic-nutritional-caregiver world that the students bring to the classroom.  And at public schools, we love and teach every one of them for a better price than at a private school.

Examine what San Francisco Public Schools get paid to educate each child:

$4,000-5,000 per year per student (every student accepted regardless of class, sex, religious affiliation, disability or merit)

Examine the tuition of a private school education (each student hand-picked by administrators):

$6,000-12,000 per year (Catholic)
$18,000 Friends School
$21,000 San Francisco Day School

Public schools get more bang for their buck, over and over and over again, and I would like to reiterate, we teach everybody!  Every special need, we will accommodate and abide by the Federal and State mandates!  I will tell you stories if you’d like!

Anyway, I am tired.  I have joys and sadnesses everyday in my classes watching my students learn, struggle to learn, hate to learn, or opt out of learning altogether.  But, after a long day at work, the last thing I want to read is someone I know and love, completely dismiss my profession, my colleagues and the institutions I work for.  Please, please, be more open to learning the complexities, all the greys that make for no easy solutions or answers.  Just like there is no “one” correct way to teach an individual student, there is no one silver bullet solution to mend the problems of poverty and inequity in education.  If you are really interested in some non-teacher public school bashing reform ideas that are based on research, please read some of the articles that one educational reformer, a former professor of mine from Stanford wrote:

http://www.annenberginstitute.org/VUE/summer09/Darling.php

http://www.thenation.com/article/restoring-our-schools

Love,

Tu Sobrina Malinche

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.

Writing is a difficult life-long skill that many many high school students simply don’t get a good opportunity to develop. How can they when their public school teachers have 35 students in a class, five classes a semester?  How are students able to get the individual attention, the critical feedback and the encouragaement that they need in order to get better at producing logical organized thought?   And what was I thinking?  Each paper takes me 10 minutes to grade and there are almost 70 of them!!!!  I need an assistant or two!

I imagine that the Common Core State Standards are supposed to help us fix these issues like the national critical thinking gap – I like to think that, at least.  The ELA standards focus much on critical thinking and writing – and they are decoupled from one particular curriculum, so as to make it just as much the science, social studies and Spanish teachers’ jobs to help students develop these skills as the English teachers’.  I love this idea, in theory. But, the year that Common Core is rolled out in California is the same year that class sizes go up in my district, and much of our Professional Development is spent on trying to figure out computer software that will help our students with the new computerized Common Core tests (not to help students get better in writing, mind you, but just to get the district ready for computerized testing itself).

So here is why I haven’t written since October.

In early October, the faculty and staff of the high school where I work spent 45 minutes or so taking the new Smarter Balanced practice tests for the Common Core.  On the following website, you too can take a practice test, in math or ELA, in 3rd grade, 8th grade or high school, and you can see what it is all about.  I ask you to please do so, so that you know what our kids will have to go through.

https://sbacpt.tds.airast.org/student/

After attempting to take a few of the tests, I became utterly depressed and I actually shut down.  I really lost sleep for a few nights thinking about these stupid tests!  Eventually, I did write to the tech coordinator of my district with specific feedback, but here is my brief takeaway from my humble experience:

–       The computer based tests that many California students are required to take this year are still in beta stage, full of glitches, bugs, annoying pop-ups and randomly assigned control keys! The math portions actually did not work on ourschool computers!

–       The tests are extremely user unfriendly; and are not similar at all to instructional materials that students use in class!

–       If students use computers with small screens or tablets, the reading requirements are ridiculous!  Scroll through 4 different articles of text in a small window and simultaneously analyze them critically without being able to scan them whole or write notes on them?  I have a Masters Degree, and I can’t keep that much information in my head; I doubt most high school students could do better. But why would they even want to? This test doesn’t grant them anything except a headache!

–       Answering the muliple choice questions are confusing, and made me think the computer was telling me which one was the correct answer before I made my choice!

–       The third grade questions made my head spin- there were so many correct answers to choose from! And often, I didn’t understand what it wanted me to do or think.

–       How will this actually convince students and teachers to take it seriously?

–       Why is so much money going into this?  Who is making money off of these tests?

–       How will an entire high school get every single student to take the tests in a short time frame? How do we get enough computers?  Is this an educational goal to have more computers than we need during the rest of the year just so that we can give students state tests?

–       Will our schools have the resources to hire the multiple techs needed to fix every problem that comes up as students take these tests?

–       Should third graders really be judged by how well they can type on a computer? Shouldn’t they have an art teacher or a librarian or a really good social studies fieldtrip learning experience instead of spending money for the purposes of this computerized test? Can’t they learn how to type in middle school, and spend a whole class period daily learning the skill well?

–       Can the Smarter Balanced Assessment actually ever be a quality assessment tool?  Will most students be able to demonstrate their learning effectively? Will students be motivated to do well and try their best? Will students be distracted by the software itself? Will students be better off taking this test or engaging in classroom instruction? Will teachers get the results they need to inform their instruction?

So, ugh.

In the meanwhile, I traveled to New York, talked to my sister-in-law who complained non-stop about the effects of the Common Core on her two elementary school aged daughters (“everybody in New York hates it”); and I have continued to read about the uproars in New York about the Common Core.  For those of you who have not followed the major news: the tests showed that 70% of New York students are below standards and almost no English language learners or Special ed students passed; parents and teachers and superintendants have been fighting the rollout of Common Core there and feel that the Board of Regents is not listening to their complaints; then US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, made fun of the “white suburban moms” who found out that their kids weren’t as smart as they thought they were.

Here is a really good article written by several NY superintendents who argue against the Common Core standardized testing regime

Valerie Strauss’ article about Arne Duncan’s reaction to the parents who are complaining about the Common Core – “white suburban moms”

An article by Stanford Education Professor Larry Cuban about the iPad rollout disaster in Los Angeles:

An article about Long Island parents and teachers opting out of the Common Core testing.

And one more brilliant article by Deborah Meier on the problems with standardized education in forming democracy  :  “Maybe it boils down to this. I want my child’s schooling to be the responsibility of someone I can talk to—eyeball to eyeball.  I want a lay board and faculty that I can try to persuade, and that is— in the end—accountable to a democratic process that rests with citizens I can, with my limited resources, influence. . . In the end, I simply want for all children what the wealthiest count on for theirs.   A close-to-impossible task in a society as unequal as ours (and growing more so daily), but human beings have accomplished impossible challenges before.”

I love Deborah Meier.

So, if there isn’t enough to be wary of, I give you this one more topic of concern: many parents and teachers are also concerned about the “data sharing” of students’ records made possible by a system called “InBloom”.  I am trying to figure out if this is a real concern; I imagine that it is one more thing we Californians should be paying attention to, although so far Jerry Brown has been a fairly good in this area.

Mercedes Schneider is an English teacher blogger who has researched Common Core and InBloom and this is her latest.  The resulting comments are fascinating and include commentary by the power players in question.  And, if any of you are up to it – enroll yourself in Thursday’s webinar about whether parents have a right over their children’s school data being shared by private corporations.

http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/beware-of-data-sharing-cheerleaders-offering-webinars/

Mercedes Schneider is a great blogger, a great researcher and a great writer!  I could definitely learn something from her!

I am sorry to have written so much, but, really, should public education be this difficult to navigate?

Maestra Malinche

“It is what we are excited about that educates us.”- Mike Rose

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.  WTF? I mean this just seems wrong, and it is wrong because common sense dictates that smart kids don’t belong to only a couple of ethnic groups.  But this is what happens over and over again, and teachers, we love to try to turn it upside down.  I mean, really, who can be a teacher who doesn’t believe that every kid is capable?  If you believe that black and brown kids were born dumb, well you would have chosen a different line of work in this day and age.
Some teachers love tracking; some teachers hate it.  Most teachers feel uncomfortable and have mixed ideas about it.  Our one and only black teacher who teaches World History bemoans the day that AP Euro started being offered to sophomores because it meant that there was one less opportunity for kids to actually engage academically with each other across the color and socio-economic divide, and in a World History Class, no less.  And now, white and Asian students can learn only Euro history and get away with it, along with their other 3-5 tracked classes of the day.  And tracking doesn’t just track students; it tracks teachers.  Many of the same teachers teach Honors classes year after year.  The ELD teachers at my school are seen as second class citizens by many of the Honors English teachers because of the content that they teach and their students.  It is actually incredible to see some of these interactions of snubbing and dismissiveness toward the ELD teachers, who, being realistic here, usually work twice or three times as hard creating lessons as an Honors English teacher, and went to the same colleges and read the same books as their peers. Duh. I know it seems like I am making this up, but it really does happen.  I am just as sure that several Lowell teachers in this district look down at their colleagues who teach at Mission High, yet pat themselves on the back when they look at the Lowell API scores, as if the teachers actually accomplished that.  But, when Mission High had their API scores started go up — that feat actually did require some heavy lifting and some amazing teaching.
After my one year stint teaching the lowest performing Latino students in a Spanish class for Native Speakers, I said never again would I subject myself to the sociological battle that ensued in which the students themselves argued with me that Latinos are indeed stupider than whites and Asians.  I realized that the “sweat hog” tracked kids basically spend all day with each other and have never known what higher achieving students do in their classes and assume the worst about themselves.  I even started getting shit by my administrators and the dean for sending down so many referrals, and I started wondering what an Honors English teacher would do — an Honors teacher who has rarely had to write a discipline referral on a kid.  Seriously, I got crap because I chose to teach the lower performing kids and tried to discipline them for nasty behavior.  Who wants to teach in that environment, seriously?  No wonder no one wants to teach at lower performing schools — everyone is mean to you, not just the students.  So I took a different tactic the next semester.   I started elevating some of these kids into my Honors Spanish class at the semester just so some of these kids (including some of the worst offenders) would have access to higher level ideas and functional academic behaviors in their peers.   Each year I have tweaked the program so that no Spanish teacher in my department ever has to deal with a class of purely unmotivated and angry kids who have hated school for a long time and have never gotten to be around honors kids doing interesting things.  Now we mix them into other classes where, wow — many of these kids perform and achieve at a higher level.  Learning is so amazingly social and psychological, and the trick seems to be to have kids be around as many motivated kids as possible; yet not in a class that is so far above them that they feel completely stupid.
We all judge.  Every student judges himself and forms a belief about their academic potential, and when they are in tracked classes they believe what the tracking is telling them, and that is usually a racial, if not racist message.  And teachers judge.  And I judge.  And yet I am bewildered by how students show me different sides of themselves each year, each semester.  My super low level special ed student from last year’s Native Speakers class begged me to let her take my Honors Spanish class, and I really didn’t want to let her.  She had so many problems with memorization and deep understanding, I thought that she would die in a more rigorous class, and yet she didn’t.  She freaking completely turned around 180% and articulates her opinions as well as any other kid in my class and passes my hard grammar benchmark tests the first try, unlike many of my white and Asian straight A students.
The suck about tracking is that it is always so wrong, even in one summer a student can change their mind about themselves and their goals.  And all of the current research on intelligence and performance is about the psychological and sociological games being played, how we all learn more or less the same; and thus more and more teachers are tapping into this research to change young minds about how they think about themselves and their potential.  I don’t know if this is the research that SFUSD is looking at, but I am the first one to argue for fewer divisions up until age 14 or 16, deeper and more meaningful content for everyone, then let the young adults figure out what track to take next and give them some vocational options.  It also seems to me that SFUSD, or the lack of leadership at many of the schools, may mistake “equity” for teaching to the lowest common denominator.  And this is probably more a societal error because all of us are just accepting test-driven lowest common denominator curriculum as the nature of public schools these days.  The trust between the public and the schools diminishes and diminishes, and by taking away “honors,” the school system alienates the educated families further.  And yet, many many teachers want more heterogeneous classrooms because we, as teachers, are more engaged by them, as they engage more of our students.
But my rant doesn’t mean that I think that all kids should be together all the time either.  When grouping students in any class, kids need to be grouped with others at their level much of the time.  In my class, I think super carefully about how to group the kids.  Of course, sharp kids need to be challenged.  Sometimes this means that the uber sharp “I want to learn Spanish right now” kid has to work with the kids who arrived in this country two weeks ago, and won’t get to use a word of English; sometimes this means two brilliant creative story writers work together to create a dialogue; sometimes this means two weak students have to struggle together and gain some confidence in themselves.  And sometimes brilliant kids flop; and sometimes weak kids surprise you (and I get giddy when all of my preconceived notions are spoiled again!)
If schools are taking away rich engaging curriculum from kids, and teaching to the test, it is not in the name of “equity,” but in the name of poor teaching or poor leadership, and definitely poor politics.  If you have to take an art class away, you better have a lower student to teacher ratio in teaching something else.  Equity for me and my cohorts means providing amazing teachers for everyone, and having a full well-rounded curriculum for everyone.  Heterogeneous classes are part of how to do this; and specialized leveled classes are part of how to do this.  (Currently, the state of California mandates that all 9th graders take Algebra, even if they came here from rural Guatemala speaking Mayan and can only count to 10, it is illegal to teach them anything except Algebra, until they can be tested for Special Ed).  There is no one approach that will work all the time, and leadership has to figure out the best way to balance it, and create trust with the community in creating this balance.
Maestra Malinche

¿Qué demuestran los exámenes estatales? / 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.  International standards include more critical thinking skills necessary for professional employment opportunities.  The United States scores are actually dropping on international measures of assessment in spite of more teaching to state standardized tests.  This is disproportionately affecting poor students and Latino and African-American students who often go to poorly funded public schools that spend more time on state test preparation, and less time developing critical thinking skills.

If you are interested in these issues as I am, here are a couple of easy to read articles on the topic by Linda Darling Hammond, a very well-respected teacher educator and researcher on schools and learning.

http://www.thenation.com/article/restoring-our-schools

http://ed.stanford.edu/news/darling-hammond-excessive-testing-dangerous-obsession

Mamá Malinche

Los resultados de los exámenes estatales del Estado de California (STAR ) ahora están disponibles para que los profesores, padres, administradores e investigadores educativos los miren y los discutan.

Creo que vale la pena poner por ahí algunas perspectivas interesantes que existen en el campo de la educación sobre los exámenes de STAR:

Aunque los exámenes de los estudiantes continúan aumentando en general en los exámenes estatales en los EE.UU., nuestros estudiantes no están haciendo ningún aumento en las normas internacionales de aprobación escolar. Las normas internacionales demuestran más las habilidades de pensamiento crítico que hoy día son necesarias para las oportunidades de empleo profesional. Las puntuaciones de los exámenes de los Estados Unidos en realidad están cayendo sobre las medidas internacionales de evaluación, a pesar de tantos años de enfoque en los exámenes estatales que nuestros alumnos toman. Esto afecta de manera desproporcionada a los estudiantes pobres y a los estudiantes latinos y afro-americanos que suelen ir a las escuelas públicas con pocos fondos donde dedican más tiempo a la preparación de los exámenes estatales, y menos tiempo en el desarrollo de habilidades de pensamiento crítico.

Si usted está interesado en estos temas como yo, aquí hay un par de artículos fáciles de leer que tratan el tema.  Están escritos por Linda Darling Hammond, una profesora de educación y muy respetada como investigadora en las escuelas y el aprendizaje.

http://www.thenation.com/article/restoring-our-schools

http://ed.stanford.edu/news/darling-hammond-excessive-testing-dangerous-obsession

Mamá Malinche