Saturday, April 20, 2013

Edited down version 2

April 18, 2013

Dear Commissioner King,

     I have just completed administering day 3 of New York State standardized Tests for third grade, in accordance with the policies and procedures as set forth by the New York State Department of Education, facilitated by devoted administrators and other staff working diligently to ensure proper distribution, collection, and security of all testing materials. Your message regarding adherence to testing protocols has been delivered clearly, and you now have a state full of teachers who feel that their careers are at stake should they not preserve the Pearson/NY procedures, controls and reputation.

     Mr. King, the testing policies you promote are misguided, and more involvement from practitioners is needed if you expect success. I can tell you as an educator with over a decade of experience in the classroom, all of those years in public schools serving the “main street” (not Wall Street) population, your policies are not serving students in those schools well. Not just that: they are doing more harm than good. Your experiences have not put you in proximity with, and your policies are not informed by the real developmental needs more and more students come to real public schools school with.  You just don't know who the real public is, and what their children need from their schools.

     Let’s pretend for a moment that “pineapplegate” didn't happen. Giving you a "pass" on that one doesn't erase:

·                     That early in your tenure as Ed Commissioner (May, 2011) and under the urging of Governor Cuomo you pressured public schools into test-based teacher evaluations-even though core-aligned assessments and curriculum were not in place.

·                     That you've demonstrated disconnect and/or denial (2012 conversations with Buffalo schools, for one example) regarding how conditions outside teacher control impact achievement. According to you: 

     While I accept that attendance is not solely the responsibility of educators, I reject the notion that educators do not contribute to student attendance. (Does this mean that you will propose that exemplary student attendance will earn teachers special NYS effective teacher bonuses? I doubt it.) In addition, more recent admonitions of agreements between districts and their teachers regarding evaluations and consequences reveal how unfit you are for authority and how invalid any agreement with you is. Your previous admissions that state tests are a work in progress, an airplane being built in the sky, a bridge to nowhere, a flaming bag of poo thrown on our porch by hooligans...whatever you want to call all the evidence needed that jobs and schools should not be put on the line under any agreement at this time. Districts are not guilty of going back on an agreement that was dishonest to begin with-they are simply recognizing the dishonesty.

·                      That you have seemed to work in concert with the current governor to de-fund and overburden public schools.

·                     That you have allowed Rupert Murdoch's quest for profit to intrude. Involved in phone hacking private text messages, on the record in favor of publicizing nude photos of the royal family, openly  interested in the hundreds of billions to gain in the education "business",,,I think he should have been barred. But guess who's in our school guts like a tapeworm? Guess what name was inside my day 3 test book?

     Administrator and teacher concerns have all been rebuffed, but the disgust of parents with what is being done to their children and their schools has suddenly brought the state's defense and PR machine to life. The line is no longer how vital ferreting out bad schools and bad teachers is-it's how vital and important submitting to these tests is for the educational program of  children.

     Is that what I say on "day three" when I have three students cry, two lay their heads down absolutely exhausted, and one who draws an absolute blank? Well, no...that response is not allowable according to the scripted proctoring protocol.

     Is that what I tell my own elementary age "level 4" daughter who entered kindergarten able to read, has read at the high school level since third grade, but experiences anxiety at such disruptions and abnormal high-pressure approaches to "learning"?

     Mr. King, I can tell you as a father of three gifted, brilliant and beautiful young girls who are blessed with a loving home and involved parents that I am offended by your assumptions and assertions regarding what my children or their public school peers really need. You have not spent enough time in the classroom or widened your frame of reference to truly understand what most of these children need, and your allegiances and methods are suspect at best. The testing juggernaut that you describe as some kind of education salvation is devastating, and ignores more wide-ranging, immediate and demanding unwritten mandates our public schools are silently given.

Dan McConnell

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