Response to chalkface A Glimpse at Many Sides of Education Reform

Our Education System is not preparing Our Children for College, the Workforce, and Life
Our Education System is not preparing Our Children for College, the Workforce, and Life

My response recognizes this topic is too complex and my view is reflective of one side.   To make informed decisions, we need to listen and understand as many sides as possible—that does not mean we agree!    Education Reform:  A Glimpse at Many Sides of Education Reform provides  snippets of other views, while stating my view separately— instead of out of context interpretions  and erroneous assumptions. For background info: Please read the post and my comments  below.  I knew my views would not be popular but this is America —  Education is important!   I  am concerned about disparities in education and health. Interestingly, your article is titled   “insulting things.”  Are you not being insulting yourself?… A  “spot” to air my “vendetta”… You may not realize it but I was hoping to engage in honest  discourse not name calling because I disagree. A few short weeks ago,  you were advocating students engage in Civil Disobedience — calling Education Reform a Civil Rights Violation. . BTW, I hold no grudges.  I speak my mind —  I am comfortable disagreeing with people.   I just do not like being labeled.   Do you?   It is healthy to have one’s own opinion? — I think so.    Why would I waste my time reading your blog and others whose opinion I do not share?    Because I want to understand  your point of view.   And quite frankly, I am having a very difficult time. Below is a copy of your post and my comment with your response. The format is in jest.  My rebuttal will follow shortly. KRIS NIELSEN: First, Do No Harm / 6 Insulting Things NYSED Keeps Repeating

6 Insulting Things NYSED Keeps Repeating

April 20, 2013 By Kris Nielsen 16 Comments Every time the media reports a story about brave and caring parents who are allowing their kids to refuse the state tests, the reporters go ask NYSED officials to comment (in the name of fairness). What the officials of our education department offer are soundbytes and talking points that are ridiculous, at best, and completely insulting, at worst. Without further ado, here are the six most insulting things that NYSED keeps repeating in the media. #6 Parents don’t care about their kids’ progress whatever Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the State Education Department, said, “Parents who keep their children from these tests are essentially saying ‘I don’t want to know where my child stands, in objective terms, on the path to college and career readiness’ and we think that’s doing them a real disservice.” What Dennis is effectively saying here is that teachers are worthless in regards to teaching and assessing your kids. He believes that parents are actually hurting their own kids by allowing teachers–who spend hours and days with their students watching and listening and evaluating–to assess kids. Here’s a history tidbit: teachers have been objectively and qualitatively measuring students’ progress for a very long time. And if there’s one thing we’ve already found out over the past decade, standardized tests do not objectively measure student progress. That’s not even what they’re designed for, according to John King. #5 We should expect that our kids feel pain Dennis Walcott, NYC Chancellor of Schools (not NYSED, but still), famously stated that he knows the tests will be incredibly difficult and that several students will not pass, which may hurt their little hearts and minds, but “It’s time to rip the Band-Aid off, and we have a responsibility to rip that Band-Aid off.” Our first question is: What Band-Aid? Does this imply that our schools and our kids are bleeding and there is some temporary tourniquet keeping our education system from bleeding out? If so, then the analogy is sort of clever, in a not-so-innovative way. But the fact is, ripping the Band-Aid off with tests that we know our kids are going to fail is not a cure. This assumes that the state tests are like Neosporin, which can speed the healing. Wrong. You can’t heal a problem by causing more damage. #4 Parents are a bad influence on their children Kids are like flowers.  You have to smother them with dirt. Er, I mean, tests. These flowers are happy because I told them to be. Ken Wagner, Associate Commissioner of NYSED, told the New York Times that he was worried that the concerns of parents were rubbing off on their children, causing kids to suffer anxiety about the state tests. He’s then quoted as saying, “My heart goes out to any kid that’s suffering stress or anxiety, but we have to think very strategically about the messages that students are getting from the adults they are around.” Two major problems with this: (1) the parent concern was a direct result of kids’ anxieties and fears, not the other way around; and (2) who gets to make the “strategy” regarding what messages kids get to hear from their concerned parents? If there’s one thing that’s getting very tiring around here, it’s listening to state officials trying to tell parents how to parent. It’s especially tiring because the parental “advice” they’re offering has nothing to do with kids–it has only to do with not making their corporate buddies mad. #3 Without the state tests, children will never be ready for college and/or career We’re going to use Ken Wagner again, from the same article, because he’s such a pompous liar. However, this line has been repeated ad nauseum by many different officials. We hear it over and over again. The Common Core State Standards are the “answer” to our kids’ inabilities to succeed in college or the workforce (that one was from John King). The problem with this cheap and overused line is that there is no evidence, whatsoever, to back it up. The standards have never been tested, never been shown effective, and have actually been deemed inappropriate for the 21st century, if you use models from other countries as an example. And the tests do not prepare kids. They do not evaluate kids. They aren’t designed to track student progress. (Again, that is also what John King said.) Now, Bill Gates does want to use them to track our kids, but not in the way that we would like. We also hate that this statement makes a blanket assumption about all kids. In order for our students to get into college, they must learn everything in the standards and pass tests. You know who doesn’t care about state tests? Ask your closest university. #2 Stressing your kids to the point of vomiting is healthy. I don't think that crying kid is "healthy" enough. I don’t think that crying kid is “healthy” enough. Merryl Tisch, who is also not technically part of NYSED, is the Chancellor of the Board of NY Regents. She was seen in a recent Wall Street Journal piece responding to reports from principals, teachers, students, and parents of kids breaking down crying during and after tests, vomiting during tests, and not wanting the leave the bathroom–all due to the anxieties and stress of the overwhelming English-Language Arts testing during the last three days. Her response was that she visited several schools and only saw one kid crying. The Wall Street Journal then goes on: But she called it a “healthy problem.” It would be worse, she said, if tests were described as unfair or poorly done. Last year, for example, the state had to toss out questions related to a passage that was widely ridiculed for being confusing. “I would be so bold as to say they were better than most people expected them to be,” she said. So, it’s healthy for our kids to suffer this way, according to the obviously out-of-touch and basically stone-hearted Tisch. And we’re going to go ahead and join the growing camp of people with test design experience who suggest that this year’s tests are not just poorly done and unfair (which we can only assume from the stories we’ve heard, since we can’t see the tests for at least another year). They are a flat-out disaster. They are, as Chris Cerrone has written, a #fail–with a hashtag!. #1 Even though the tests don’t mean anything for students, they should do them anyway. Because they’re hard. Taking money from Pearson is "hard." Taking money from Pearson is “hard.” Coming in at number one is our friend, John King, Dictator Commissioner of New York State Education Department. You can find many stories of Dr. King repeating the same things as his cohorts above. But what really gets our goat is his nerve when trying to tell New York parents how to educate their kids, and then doing the complete opposite. He tells us, as parents, that we should encourage our kids to try things that are hard, while letting them know that the most important thing is that they tried their best. Hey parents: is there anyone out there who doesn’t do this on a pretty consistent basis? But here’s the thing, John. We don’t ever tell them, for months on end, that if they don’t do well on something, then their teachers will get a bad grade and that their schools will suffer. They may even have to give up some fun classes and activities because, if you can’t pass the tests like a normal kid, you’re going to have to take extra math and reading classes. These are kids, John. They aren’t your lackeys. And that’s not even the worst part. We know, thanks the New York Times, that John King’s own children don’t take state tests. They don’t go to a school that’s drowning in the Common Core. That’s very, very confusing. If the Common Core is the “answer” to college and career readiness, and the state tests are the only objective way to determine if kids are going to make it, then are John King’s kids doomed ? Want to read something that doesn’t repeat all of its insults? Read Children of the Core on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play. Angela Grant says: April 20, 2013 at 8:39 am This is becoming so divisive with parents courted by both sides who have their own motives that are not in the best interest of disadvantaged families. Where were the concerned teachers/educators when poor kids were failing and being sent off to jail from the school halls? Now there is a possibility poor kids may sit next to your kids, everyone is concerned—but under the guise of concern for poor families–about their own interests. On this site, i tend to get clobbered for exercising my first amendment rights. I do not accept your truth. Many of the things stated here are your truths and perspectives. There are other sides that are unfairly misrepresented. Others sides that differ dramtically, instead of listening or finding common ground, there is a rush to slander and disseminate more misinformation. As role models for our children, I expected better. One more thing, could you all be angry because poor kids might end up getting better education than your own children or relatives? Yes, I finally Got it off my chest. There are great teachers but this daily barrage of propaganda is getting annoying because I don’ t think many of you guys careless about poor kids. What’s inciting this bitter battle: keeping your tenure, no merit-based pay, and of course no testing of teachers knowledge. Oh yes, no testing of students if their results mean you ( teachers) have to find creative ways of increasing performance. I started out being sympathetic now I am not. Please put things back in their context and remember if you had done the job you were paid to do , maybe we would not be here. It’s time for self-reflection and pressure your peers to do better! Reply

  • Kris Nielsen says:April 20, 2013 at 8:52 amActually, Angela, I was responding to the slander and lies coming from the state–and I wrote it 100% from the perspective of a PARENT. And perhaps I did take the liberty of putting my own little interpretations on things they said. I didn’t make it any of it up, and I’m a relatively smart guy. Not to mention, I’ve been in touch with plenty of parents, students, and teachers who believe that these are truly insulting. I won’t ask if you have a kids, but if you do, and youwere treated as these parents have been, you would have more sympathy.Either way, your comment strikes me as disingenuous, since I spent almost no time talking about teachers or tenure or merit pay or any of that. This article is aboutthe endurance of our parents to have to read day after day from the state education department how lousy they are as parents because they are refusing their precious state tests.And where did all this about poor kids come from? Just a side note: many, many of the kids who bravely opted out were in Title I schools. This has nothing to do with class or income. If anything, we’re tellingNYSED that these tests aren’t fair to anyone.So, I’m happy I gave you a spot to put whatever vendetta you have against teachers out there, but you pretty much missed the point. If you want to yell at someone about their disservice to poor kids in NY, I suggest you call John King or Gov. Cuomo. Reply

Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

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