Thursday, March 26, 2015

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 21 - 24, 2015 - Fair Test social media links March 24, 2015 #EdBlogNet

Fair Test social media links March 24, 2015

Senate Takes Up Bill Establishing Opt-Out Procedures #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Charter Schools See Rise in Test Opt Outs     #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Testing: The Truth About Smarter Balanced  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

District of Columbia
Test-and-Punish Policies Have Not Worked  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Assessment Reform Movement is Test for Jeb Bush Presidential Aspirations  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

State Senate Bill Would Examine Testing Fallout  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Georgia School Testing Still Does Not Make the Grade  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Schools Drop Arts, Music for Testing  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Educators Seek Three-Year "Hold Harmless" Period From Any New Test Evaluations  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Louisiana Parish Topped 15% Opt Outs  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

District Reports More Than 50% Opt Outs  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Maryland Test Study Commission Approved by Both Houses of State Legislature  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Massachusetts Educators Explain How Testing is Undermining Learning and Teaching  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Parents Reject State Tests to Reduce Pressure on Kids  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Kalamazoo College Goes ACT/SAT Optional  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

New Jersey
Testing Obsession is Damaging Learning and Teaching  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Educators, Parents and Students Plan "Take Back the PARCC" Event  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

New Mexico
PARCC Protest at School Chief's House  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

New Mexico Teachers Question Times Devoted to Testing  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

New York
Billionaires' Plan to Remake Public Education  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

New York Governor Uses Flawed Tests as Political Weapon  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

North Dakota
Opt-Out Movement Heats Up  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Superintendent "Profoundly Concerned About New Common Core Tests"  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Excessive Testing Consumes Learning Time in Ohio  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Teachers Slam Emphasis on State Tests  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

House Passes Bill to Suspend Test Consequences for Teachers and Schools  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Pennsylvania "Test In" Shows Parents, Teachers Question Value of New Exams  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Rhode Island
Districts Have Large Numbers of Opt Outs  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Common Core Tests Are a Failure  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Texans Advocating for Meaningful Assessment (aka Mothers Against Drunk Testing) Powerpoint  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

State Board Will Not Use Smarter Balanced Scores to Evaluate Schools This Year  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Virginia Governor Signs Bill Into Law Repealing A-F Grades  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Test Security vs Privacy in the Social Media Age  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

New Video "Defies Measurement" Available for Free  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Parents of Disabled Children Tell National Groups: "You Do Not Speak for Our Children"  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

"No Child Left Behind" Is a Cheats' Charter  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

The Cult-Like Religion of Corporate Ed Reform  #EdBlogNet @Idraedu @FairTestOffice

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office-   (239) 395-6773  fax-  (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

Webinar on Fostering Latino Family Education Leadership Thursday April 9, 2015 – 1:00-2:30 p.m. CST – Free! #AllMeansAll

Webinar on Fostering Latino Family Education Leadership 
Thursday April 9, 2015 – 1:00-2:30 p.m. CST – Free!

Webinar on Fostering Latino Family Education Leadership

Find out how you can foster Latino family engagement for leadership in education.  Panelists from six organizations from across the nation whose mission includes educational equity and access will share the story of their leadership development programs that have proven successful with Latino families.

Thursday April 9, 2015 – 1:00-2:30 p.m. CST – Free!

Panelists include: Dr. Maria S. Quezada, California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE); Richard Garcia, Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition; Patricia Ochoa-Mayer, Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE); Gina Montoya, MALDEF; Hilda Crespo, ASPIRA Parents for Excellence (APEX); and Aurelio M. Montemayor, IDRA.

This conversation will bring to light practices that are both authentic and also culturally and linguistically appropriate. Presenters will also describe successes and challenges in the work.


Shortened links for the webinar:
Registration page
Web page
Flier (pdf)

Monday, March 23, 2015

No, it is not wrong to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day! By Rodolfo F. Acuña #EdBlogNet @idraedu #idraed

No, it is not wrong to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day!
Rodolfo F. Acuña

In my last blog I made the point that it is becoming routine and even careless by venerating the dead instead of remembering how they changed our lives. This year’s Martin Luther King Holiday was a relief from what was becoming an excuse not to go to school. The reason for this is that it was tied to the heroic changing of the system by events such as Selma. It made me think what would our lives be without sacrifices of the people who were clubbed, mauled and attacked by ferocious dogs?

Similarly Cesar Chavez could have lived a comfortable life.  He had a promising career as an organizer for the Community Service Organization (CSO). Cesar sacrificed it all for a principle: promoting a life with dignity for farmworkers and their families.

The same applies to Christmas, what does it really mean? It is a day that we gorge ourselves with hormone laden turkey, making graveyards out of our stomachs. As a child I remember just wanting to get through the mass so I could rush home to unwrap my gifts that had very little meaning other than they were new.

Americans incessantly criticize Islam for being a fanatical religion, which is pure hypocrisy. The American Bigot is the most fanatically religious person in the world. He or she wallows in religion and acts pious. These same people have historically gone to church on Sunday and segregated their neighbors on Monday.

I wonder how many of them take seriously “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If it had meaning they wouldn’t be fighting health care and would be calling for a single payer system like most advance countries enjoy. They would want quality and equal education for all children. As in the Middle Ages they would recognize that greed is a mortal sin and that money policies are usurious.

To preface this is the biblical saying “'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people,”  I do not think many Christians think about this when celebrating their mass. I do not think that Netanyahu thinks of all people about being his brothers and sisters that he is waging wars of extermination against.

How much different is the hypocrite from the sinner?  I doubt whether he or she thinks about it while hanging his/her head in prayer contemplating the bombing of a Planned Parenthood Center.

The only think that I was asking for my last blog is for people to THINK!  Look at David Bacon’s photos of farmworkers and their families and pictures of deportees and THINK of what is to be done. If you don’t THINK what value is there in going to church, going on a march venerating the past?

Most Americans are no different than Bull Connors or Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They hate whereas King and Chavez loved. They weren’t perfect, but they we doing something unlike most Americans who deny evolution or climate change.

We are not good people because we feed the poor on one day a year and then say nothing about taking away their food stamps.

If nothing else holidays should be a day of THINKING and dedicated to changing society.

Sunday, March 22, 2015



At a time when there is such extensive conversation around PARCC testing and teacher evaluations, especially in places like New Jersey, one area that hasn’t been explored as much is the impact on student teaching.
Essentially, the opportunity for field placement\student teaching in the spring semester has disappeared. While we as student teachers are still “in the classroom,” the opportunity to engage in what is at the core of student teaching is slowly fading away.
Teachers College at Columbia University describes student teaching as the following:
The student teaching experience provides pre-service teachers the space and opportunity to learn how to ask important questions about teaching and learning, come to know children and adolescents by observing and interacting with them consistently over time, apply newly acquired knowledge, theories, strategies and models in a variety of contexts within and across classrooms, and experiment with, design and adapt practice according to learners’ needs.

During the student teaching experience, pre-service teachers are guided and instructed by two key individuals – the cooperating or mentor teacher, and the university supervisor. While both work collaboratively to support the growth and development of the student teacher, each assumes a very specific role. 
Field placement\student teaching in the spring semester encompasses March and May – the testing window months of PARCC. I have heard stories of students who sit around all morning doing nothing because, well, their classes are testing. Often, those same classes are then doing lighter activities in the afternoon, even just watching movies. Students, especially in the younger grades, are coming home with no schoolwork of any sort, often reflective of the little to no work they are doing in school. One has to ask: when does all of this testing provide for the opportunity for student teachers to teach? The answer: it doesn’t.
Teachers across the board have expressed concerns over taking student teachers, especially with the potential impact on their evaluations (SGO’s\SGP’s\VAM’s of any sort). Understandably, teachers are nervous to hand over their classrooms in any capacity to someone with a lot less experience – and who is still just beginning their intense learning (as teaching and life are always about learning) – with the pressure and risk of evaluations, test scores, etc.
At the core of student teaching, in my mind, is the opportunity to make mistakes. Learning is about making mistakes. The best learning is messy. But in this time of high-stakes education, there is no room for mistakes. Aside from this, teachers are also strapped for time: between increasing class sizes, increasing amounts of useless paperwork, and the daily work of a teacher for their classroom, where is the time for mentorship? The answer: there isn’t.
Sure, this is not across the board. There are always going to be teachers who find a way to take student teachers and provide them with the best learning experience they can. But what we see happening here is no fault of the teachers: rather, it is a result of the “education reform movement” happening to our schools. Think about it: as it becomes harder and harder to find placements, and regulations on teacher education programs become stricter and stricter, it leaves more opportunities for groups like Teach for America to send their corps members into the classroom. They only have to commit for two years, schools can keep them low on the pay scale with the conveyer belt of teachers in and out of schools, and most importantly it’s a win for the privatizes who love groups like TFA.
Before the State Board of Education in New Jersey earlier this month were regulation changes to teacher education programs. One of the proposed changes was increasing student teaching to a full year, or two semesters. While in theory I think this is great – more experience in the classroom – I worry about the quality of that experience (we’re these regulations to pass and become practice). How much am I going to learn about teaching if I’m not, well, teaching? I won’t student teach for another few years by the structure of my program: what are classrooms going to look like then? I worry that I am going to miss the collaborative mentorship that is so crucial to the student teaching experience because of the testing, evaluations, and sheer commitment it takes for a host teacher, despite the aforementioned.
All I’m speaking about here are my personal experience and sharing some of the feedback I’ve gotten. I’m sure research would have to be done in some capacity looking at trends in student teaching over the years, etc. But the place to start is at least having the conversation? Why aren’t schools of education actively expressing concern over this? That’s a rhetorical question – I know the politics of it all. But we better start having the conversation before student teaching is taken over by the corporate model, too. This is a full blown attack on education from K-12 to teacher education programs\students to teachers themselves to retirees to the entire system.
I am in a teacher education program to learn about teaching, to be the best teacher I can be, and learn from the best that my mentor teachers have to offer me.
I am not spending five years getting my Master’s in education to become a test administrator.

Friday, March 20, 2015

David Hinojosa, J.D., Named IDRA National Director of Policy @idraedu #EdBlogNet

David Hinojosa, J.D., Named IDRA National Director of Policy

The Intercultural Development Research Association announced today that we are pleased to welcome David Hinojosa, J.D., as the new IDRA National Director of Policy. Hinojosa is well-known for his litigation and policy work as the Southwest Regional Counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). He will join IDRA's Director of Policy, Dr. Albert Cortez, in developing leadership within communities, schools, and policymaking bodies to advocate educational policies that assure educational opportunity for every child.

The Thorny Path of the Non-compliant Xeriscapist (updated with Epilogue)

The Thorny Path of the Non-compliant Xeriscapist
(in San Antonio, Texas)

It’s been almost 25 years of xeriscapery, though passive at first…lazily letting whatever would grow flourish. I had finally stopped paying rent and moved into my own little house with plenty of yard space in front and back.  I took pictures of the lush growth in my enclosed back yard. My green reverie was soon desiccated -- I received a citation from the city! My verdant grasses and tall plants were in violation of the city code. If I didn’t comply within a certain time limit there would be a hefty fine to pay. 

(Those green sprigs in the picture are Pigweed and are no longer part of my garden. See Epilogue.)

For several years I would wait for the notice and then retreat over the city code line that my natural vegetation had again criminally crossed and trim the luscious growths back to a code-acceptable height and width.
It seemed that someone in my neighborhood didn’t like my yard style and would regularly make complaints. I don’t think there is enough staff to patrol all our streets in search of weedophiles (it would be runcophile if I used the Latin word or hierbaphile if I used the Spanish) – there had to be some self-appointed monitors who would call in the official weed-killers.

About ten years ago I decided to become an active xeriscapist. I researched catalogues and other online sources and found Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas -- exactly what I was searching for: offering seed mixes for this region and also for special purposes, e.g., attracting butterflies.

I bought seeds by the pound and randomly strewed them in my front yard. I was getting mixed results but every year I would have more beautiful flowers that were natural to the region and needed very little care and watering. I am not a dedicated gardener – my hobbies lie elsewhere.

I continued getting periodic visits from our code compliance friends from the Development Services Department – Field Services Division – Code Enforcement Section of our venerable City of San Antonio.

One winter friends helped clear my front yard, turn the soil and plant about $200.00 of Texas native wildflowers. I had included a variety of sunflowers that grew to be huge golden borders. I was very new to all this so I had many smaller flowering plants that were hidden by the large sunflower plants. After that I increased the varieties of seeds and was more organized where I scattered them. I made sure to cover with a bit of topsoil so that the birds wouldn’t have a feast at my expense.  I no longer planted the big sunflowers with the edible seeds: birds, bugs and ants just love them and I won’t use pesticides. The wild sunflowers, quite common to this region do quite well on our roadsides, empty lots and my front yard.
And still I would get the code-enforcer visits. One year I was actually at home (I usually got the message from a form tacked to my front door). I tried dialoguing with the lady about my garden which was in full bloom that early summer day. She was adamant that I had to chop every green thing down to a height of one foot regardless of what the plant was because everything in my front yard was considered a weed or noxious plant.
I contacted my city council office and talked to some young intern who seemed perplexed by my situation. I emailed pictures of my yard and a kind civil note, which took some effort because diplomacy is not my strong suit. A week later I got a note from a supervisor from the city department that has taken such an interest in my yard. He had driven by and saw the flowers and told me to chop them down when the yard was finally dry and flowerless.

The last two years had been uneventful until I got a Notice of Violation tacked to my door on June 25, 2014.

This year (2014) I planted my seeds very late and so everything didn’t start coming up until late April.
It wasn’t until late May and early June that I had a decent variety of flowers but no Bluebonnets and few Indian Blankets. Right now, aided by some rainy days, there’s a color riot dominated by the Zinnias and wild sunflowers (not the edible kind). A thick growth of a plant with a tiny yellow flower (a weed I didn’t plant) covered some sections of the yard and actually choked out some of my seeds. I assumed that was the noxious plant referred to. I had put fertilizer in the soil because I was planting so late and so I have a lush growth, mostly of plants I like and want. What I didn’t do was trim the ‘weeds’ (plants I didn’t want) because I didn’t want to cut the flowers that are now blooming profusely.  
Several years ago I started encouraging plants that die in the winter but become nice bushes in the spring and that had just appeared in my yard with no formal invitation or planting.

One is a reed-like plant that spreads easily and blooms with pleasant (to me) wheat-like spikes. Another is a dark green leafy plant with daily purple blossoms that die in the evening. The reed-like plant, located at the intersection of the public sidewalk and the one leading to my front door, this year is huge! I love it but I think it is one of the main code-criminals. We trimmed it and left a few tall spikes. (Noxious weed, now totally uprooted - See Epilogue)
So -- We went out there and trimmed more of the edges (from 1 foot wide to 2). We lawn-mowered through some of the thicker sections of the unwanted plants but there were too many floral casualties with that approach.  Because the soil was moist from a recent shower I was able to pull out almost each unwanted plant (weed to the City of San Antonio). 
I hope I've made my horticultural design intentions clear: the plants that remain are “… cultivated flowers and gardens, or native grasses, perennials and annual plants installed as part of a landscaping design.” 
Maybe I should give the whole subsection as given in the San Antonio Property Maintenance Code – Notice of Violation – In Person/Posted.
302.4 Weeds All improved premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weed or plant growth in excess of 12 inches in height. All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation, other than trees and shrubs provided; however this term shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens, or native grasses, perennials and annual plants installed as part of a landscaping design.
I’m old enough to remember my youthful appreciation of Lady Bird Johnson’s campaign for the bountiful natural variety of things that grow natively to Texas.  I fully induct myself in that horticultural order, culture and practice.
Maybe I have neighbors with time to spare and go around as amateur code-enforcement cops. I assume their concern is ‘property value’ and what is deemed proper for a middle-class neighborhood. They seem to prefer the ugly, un-ecological water-gorging regularly-trimmed lawns -- they need to see an order and design that fits within very narrow perimeters.  Some of my neighbors were stopped from erecting some really elegant iron fences. We are now a historical area and the codes are even stricter. (Forget that many ugly cyclone fences were left in place and grandfathered when the new codes were established.)
The only thorns along my xeriscape floral path are the San Antonio Property Maintenance Codes! But in the Lady Bird Johnson tradition I will (Candide-ly) continue to let my Texas wildflowers grow.

Last summer (July/2014) an Assistant City Arborist (Development Services Department - Land Development | ISA Certified Arborist) visited my front yard and engaged in the most diplomatic and instructive visit I have ever had from a city agent. I’ve had numerous visits from the code compliance offices, none of which were helpful much less understanding of my garden goals and wishes. This young man, Justin R. Krobot, was able to explain to me clearly why some plants are labeled noxious. These are the real-life versions of the “Little Shop of Horrors” people-eating plant. They spread their roots endlessly and don’t let anything else grow. So my Johnson grass and Pigweed had to go because they were a threat not only to my garden but to all the neighboring turf. I no longer saw them as ‘cute green plants’ but as a dangerous to the life of all my other wildflowers blooming in unrestrained profusion.  I will continue to keep good counsel on that.

He advised me to be a little more orderly in how I seeded the yard and have some visible sense of pattern and human-imposed order so that my neighbors and the self-appointed code-compliance-cops wouldn’t be so bothered. That’s a very different issue and I’m still going to have my garden be much more random than a Formal English Garden.  As I continue the quest of dreaming the impossible natural floral garden, I’ll encourage my crazy zinnias to snub their multicolored noses at the yards and yards of un-ecological, non-native burr-cut, water-gorging lawns that surround us.