The DOE Smarter Balanced Propoganda-Brainwashing P.R. Campaign Begins Now!

The Delaware Department of Education released their latest newsletter called “Take Note” today with a very important message about their upcoming release of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  I feel obligated to break this down and give my thoughts on each part.  As usual, DOE’s stance is in black, mine is in red (which John Young from Transparent Christina invented, at least on Delaware blogs).

The Delaware Department of Education will release preliminary statewide Smarter Assessment results on September 2. Final results will be released in mid-September, when families also will receive score reports.

But they have had the results for well over a month now, but they were too chicken to actually release them.  Instead, they met with every single Delaware legislator individually.  Slowly but surely, I’m hearing some results here and there, and they are anything but promising, especially among students with disabilities.

The test results will show children’s strengths and weaknesses in different areas within each subject. This will help families and educators understand whether children need additional practice or need to be challenged by going deeper into a subject. Families can use these results to locate activities online that were designed specifically for each category at every grade level. Families also can use the test results to guide a discussion with their children’s teachers about additional supports or challenges that may be needed in class, as well as other ways to support their children at home.

The test results will show this is a crappy test, period.  This won’t show strengths.  It will show the inherent weaknesses in THIS test.  How will this help educators who no longer have the same child in their grade this year?  It won’t.  When you say “need to be challenge by going deeper into a subject”, what you are really talking about is teaching to the test.  “…to guide a discussion with their children’s teachers…”  I said this the other day.  If you have problems with the test, call the DOE.  The teachers want to teach, not go over a child’s test results when they weren’t even their teacher.  They don’t know how your child answered or even what questions they were given.  Parents, the best way to support your child at home AND at school is to REFUSE THE TEST!

There are many resources available. For example, you can find Delaware-specific resources differentiated by subject, testing area and grade level at Be A Learning Hero’s Skill Builder site (http://bealearninghero.org/skill-builder). Also check out GreatKids! (http://www.greatschools.org/gk/) for more resources, including a new Delaware-specific tool launching Sept. 1. Using a child’s individual results, a parent or guardian will be able to find resources that will match the child’s areas of strength and areas for improvement.

If the teacher isn’t teaching to the test properly, you can go online and have the same thing!  Because every child wants to go home and do the SAME thing for a high-stakes test they won’t even take until next Spring.  (Unless you REFUSE THE TEST and they don’t have to worry about it!)

Find these and other great resources and information about the Smarter Assessments on the DelExcels (www.delexcels.org) site. There you also will find sample score reports for each achievement level, an interpretive guide for reading the score reports and an extensive FAQ document.

Or parents, you could help your child out with their homework, or spend time with them and talk to them about how their day was, or go for a walk in the park, or count stars…you get the idea.

Students took the new tests, which assess children in grades 3 to 8 and 11 in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, for the first time in the spring. The tests replaced Delaware’s previous Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) state tests in reading and mathematics.

The U.S.A. is the ONLY country in the world that tests our children in all of these grades like this.  Something to be proud of…not!  DCAS was a much better test, and it actually showed growth, something this test doesn’t because there is NO growth model. And multiple states wisely jumped out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium because they knew it was going to be bad news.

The Smarter Assessments help parents understand how their children are doing and whether their children know and are able to do the things in each grade that are important for them to be prepared for the next grade level and the future. The tests show results in comparison to their peers in their grade levels and schools.  They also inform parents where their children need more support or additional challenges, which allows for more personalized teaching. Along with families knowing how their own children are performing, schools also benefit from knowing how all of their students are progressing, which enables educators to make the best and most-informed instructional decisions.

If it’s the first year of the test, how can the DOE say these tests “help parents understand how their child is doing”?  They can’t.  There is nothing to compare it to.  And they don’t show comparisons to their peers in their grade levels, they show comparisons to their peers from the LAST grade level, with a different teacher.  Your child is a guinea pig for the endless data machine that is killing public education.  Schools hate this test, and educators do as well.  The only ones that don’t are the ones who will use it to advance their own careers by sucking up to administration and DOE.  And how can teachers give “personalized” teaching when this test sucks the oxygen out of their entire school year?  And they have huge classrooms with little support?  Or are you talking about personalized learning, which is basically have the computer do all the talking and teachers just chat a little bit about it or go over homework?  No thanks.  I want my kid to be taught by a teacher, not a screen!

Next week’s score release will include preliminary aggregate results at the state, district and school levels. Final results, including analysis by student demographics and subgroups, will be released on Thursday, September 17 (but they have had the results for over a month) in conjunction with the State Board of Education meeting. Families will receive score reports for their students via U.S. mail beginning in mid-September.

Because the unelected State Board needs to know before parents!  What I really want to know is the number of opt-outs for each grade and sub-group.  The growth I want to see is how much that can be increased next spring.

In general, we expect fewer students to score at the proficient level on these exams than did on the DCAS. That’s because we are asking students to do more challenging work that will better prepare them for their futures. The new tests are measuring more complex skills including critical thinking, analyzing and problem solving, which is different than previous tests. A low score does not mean that a child did not improve or that he or she learned less. This first year’s test scores set a new baseline from which progress will be measured moving forward.

The first year’s tests will also punish schools by their participation rate.  Since the Feds said they can’t enforce federal funding cuts with opt-out, they are leaving this to the states.  The Delaware DOE, in conjunction with Delaware Superintendents and staff, with very little stakeholder input from other education organizations or parents, and almost no transparency passed this one on the sly.  A low score means the test is horrible Delaware parents!  If your child did well, they are probably good at memorizing what is on THIS standardized test because it was drilled into them for 7-8 months.  The DOE wants low scores, because if everyone does well, they have no basis for their continual high salaries and outside vendors they throw taxpayer money at, all in the name of the children.  Which is utter nonsense.

Back to normal color!  If you want to truly make a difference in your child’s education, REFUSE THE TEST!  Let’s get out of this high-stakes testing mentality that does nothing more than test, label and punish!  Just give the school a letter stating your child will NOT take the Smarter Balanced Assessment next Spring, and you expect your child to be educated during this time.  If the school wants to meet you to “discuss” this, politely say thank you.  If they pressure you, let me know.

Transparency Allows History To Rewrite Itself On A Daily Basis

Transparency.  We hear that word so much these days.  It is real, it is a force, and it is changing our view on every subject matter in seconds.  In the pre-internet days, we relied on word of mouth as well as what was shown in print media.  As students, we read the history books and we accepted whatever we read at face value.  But now the rules have changed, and with this comes more enlightenment than Voltaire ever counted on.

I was watching an episode of Sleepy Hollow yesterday, and someone said something to Ichabod Crane about freedom of the press.  Crane, trapped in the year 2015, after magic put him in a dark sleep in the ground for over two centuries, responds with “I don’t think the forefathers counted on a 24-hour news cycle.”  They certainly did not.  No one could have predicted that.

A state Department comes up with an idea.  They work feverishly for months to plan it.  The day comes when they announce their agenda to the world.  They put it on their website, send press releases to the major print media, and it is out there.  Someone shares the Facebook post, it spreads, and the next thing you know some blogger is tearing it apart.  Within hours, the blog post spreads.  People don’t know what to think.

Meanwhile, the blogger found out about this agenda months before, and has been planting seeds for readers warning them about the latest doom and gloom coming from this Department.  The pony express is dead.  Long live the digital age.

I was wrong.  I fully admit it, and I laugh about it to this day.  Twenty years ago, at Thanksgiving dinner, I was having a discussion with my eldest brother about this new internet thing.  He was telling me how it would change the world and open people up to things never before seen.  I told him it would be an invasion of privacy and would take away from what we already had.  I proved myself wrong on that nearly every day since.

We do everything on the Internet anymore, whether it is on a secured or unsecured network.  We interface with people thousands of times a day, and don’t even realize it.  We have become a nation glued to a screen, and we see the world.  The key to all of this is understanding what is real and what isn’t.  As a blogger, I focus on Delaware education for the most part.  I see what goes on backstage curtain while the audience is enamored with the play unfolding before their eyes.  I find out, and I publish.  It’s that simple.

We have never had more power in America as we do right now.  Our opinions and views on issues can be relayed to the world in an instant.  We publish, we comment, we react and we punish.  We tell people when they’re wrong or allow others to go back and forth while we sit back and watch the show.

On the flip side of this, we take away.  We delete.  I have seen, just in my fourteen months of blogging, quite a few bloggers come on the scene and disappear months later.  All that hard work, all the research and care, gone with a push of a button.  When things get to hot or the pressure starts bearing on us like a freight train barreling at us, some of us make it disappear, forever.  But we always leave a thumbprint.  Someone does a copy and paste, or a screen shot, or takes a picture on their phone.  Nothing is buried forever anymore.  If it is, nobody ever saw it.

This is our world, and until the great worm comes and unleashes a virus that destroys all, it will stay that way.  Public policy is weaved into a web that spreads until nobody knows what to think of it anymore.  The haves and have nots go at it until they are digitally black and blue in the face.  Welcome to transparency.  Chaos and order, both sides win.