Stand for Children is a corporate front group and should stop telling the public how to run public schools

Despite an adorable brand name, Stand for Children has been a corporate front group for many years now and regularly does real harm to public schools. This article from Rethinking Schools does a good job laying this out. Same for this video:

Oregon Save Our Schools was largely founded by many former Stand for Children activists and leaders who were increasingly disturbed by Stand for Children being directed not by research and sound educational practices, but by a corporate agenda and funding from Bill Gates and Walmart, among others.

StandProtestYet, despite its lack of education expertise, Stand for Children continues to elbow into education discussions and pretending it is a grassroots organization, simply because many of its members have not yet discovered Stand stopped being a grassroots group back in 2009 or 2010. For instance, this week Stand had a presence in this program on OPB about opting-out. Not surprisingly, Stand for Children’s opinion was that it, not parents and students, know what’s best for parents and students. That stance is not only obnoxious, it is harmful.

High-stakes testing is unsound. It does not make schools better. It narrows school curriculum and hurts high-poverty schools. But note on the OPB program, Stand for Children has no testing expertise. The testing expert makes essential, research-based points and runs circles around Stand for Children’s talking points.

If you are a Stand for Children member, consider stopping your donations and encourage your friends to do the same. Your contributions won’t come close to matching their corporate funding anyway, and the fewer people they can claim as “grassroots members”, the better.

Stand for Children started in Oregon. For many of us at Oregon Save Our Schools, the instinct to apologize to the rest of the country runs strong.

Gov. Brown signs Parent & Student opt-out bill, some concerns we have…

GovBrownReleaseToday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown sent out a media release announcing she has signed House Bill 2655 into law. This is welcome news, and expands the rights of students & parents to opt-out of high-stakes testing. Some elements here have us concerned, though.

The statement wrings its hand over the possible loss of federal funding if the opt-out rate gets too high. Additionally, there are elements that point to an ongoing effort to intimidate parents & students from opting out. For example:

As educators and policy makers, it is important to demonstrate for parents the connection between high levels of student participation in assessment and system accountability – ensuring the success of every student.

The success of the national opt-out movement is based almost entirely on parents, students, and many teachers knowing education and what’s best for students far better than policy makers.

As we have posted before, high-stakes testing is not a realm of reason. It is a hostage situation. The stakes and expenses will simply increase, to the detriment of students, the more the high-stakes testing culture is appeased. It is well-past time for this practice to stop.

Gov. Brown’s action represents an important step forward in expanding parent & student rights. However, much education of policymakers remains to ensure we stop tossing our funds and students’ futures down the high-stakes testing sinkhole.

How much of this anti-teacher stuff is anti-women?

HysteriaFor the zillionth time, an editorial presumes to put teachers, a predominantly female profession, and parent activists (mostly moms?) in their place. Whether this editorial writer wrote the “hysteria” headline himself, or someone at The Oregonian did, doesn’t much matter. The word “hysteria” has misogynist roots:

A psychological disorder (not now regarded as a single definite condition) whose symptoms include conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms (somatization), selective amnesia, shallow volatile emotions, and overdramatic or attention-seeking behavior. The term has a controversial history as it was formerly regarded as a disease specific to women. —

Would it surprise you that the author of the editorial is a salesperson of education products who benefits from the expensive Common Core & high-stakes testing boondoggles?

Thankfully, parents and students and educators are reclaiming this territory. Teacher & parent Kathleen Jeskey has a tremendous response to this supposed “hysteria”. Yes, The Oregonian did use the same photo as in the original salesman’s opinion piece, too.

From Our Newsletter: ODE’s Reality Distortion Field

SmarterBalancedDiscussFrom today’s Oregon Save Our Schools Newsletter (subscribe here!).

You have to admire a bureaucracy that creates a reality distortion field as powerful as the one the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has built around Common Core and SBAC.

And now, there’s a rush toward a CCSS/SBAC masterstroke without ever taking time to evaluate if these standards and tests are good, productive, or helpful. And how would ODE do this? By putting in place a circular, self-fulfilling mandate.

We came across the following in a draft of a new ODE document with content designed to discourage parents from opting kids out of SBAC testing:

“Some colleges and universities now use students’ performance on the Smarter Balanced assessment to determine whether a student is ready to take credit-bearing college courses or must take remedial classes that cost the same as college courses but do not count toward a college degree.”

Really? This untested system of standards and tests is being mandated as THE new standard required for college?

What gullible and naïve college admissions team signed up for this? Apparently the one used for admissions by our Washington university system neighbors.

If ODE has its way, Oregon won’t be far behind as seen in the above quote. We also see it in the  organization called “Oregon Core to College” which is a multi-year effort with four goals (sorry – “outcomes” to use official state jargon) including “Postsecondary use of the Smarter Balanced assessment as a means to demonstrate readiness for transferrable, entry-level, credit-bearing college courses”.

It’s breathtaking really. Common Core remains an untested theory. ODE wants to rush to bet everything on it – and they probably hope to put a stop to opposition with this move since few parents will risk a child’s future by Opting Out of college entrance exams.

Our guess is that ODE doesn’t want to wait for the data because data might show that CCSS/SBAC hurts, rather than helps, our schools. It might show that CCSS/SBAC might be a worse judge of college readiness than, say, grades. Or even prove that ODE is draining $300M per year from classrooms.

At this writing SBAC tests are being used for the first time ever. We have no data about what they mean, no data about whether they help students, and certainly no data to prove that specific SBAC test scores predict a student’s success in college.

ODE’s rush probably reveals a desperation. ODE has clearly failed to convince parents, teachers, and administration that CCSS/SBAC are the godsends they promised. And there’s much higher legislative concern in the session right now than ODE has ever seen.

This is desperation — to dash ahead without waiting for data to learn whether their theories are right. ODE needs to be patient — it will take years (YEARS!) before there’s enough data to even know if CCSS does no harm. To learn if it does good? That’s even further off.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The history of corporate reform and high stakes tests shows the same pattern every time:  Proponents declare immediate success. But once it’s available, the data shows little or no improvement, and sometimes serious harm.

This is true of the NYC reforms of the late 1990s, the San Diego reforms of the early 2000s, the “New Orleans Miracle” that wasn’t, and the bust/sham called the “Texas Miracle” that started NCLB (before the data was in).

We need parents, educators, legislators, and our new Governor to stand tough:  There’s no evidence today that CCSS makes kids college ready or that CCSS helps kids be more career ready. ODE should NOT be rushing into college admissions.

That said, we shouldn’t be surprised ODE is rushing things. They threw out 10 years of OAKS high stakes testing without even holding public hearings to determine whether OAKS had done any good.

Now they’re rushing to judgment on CCSS and SBAC. For an organization that prides itself on using data well, ODE clearly doesn’t want the data – they just want to claim victory.

Teaching-to-the-test hurts a student in special ed “She is crying for our help”

HSTdoesnothelpThis story from an educator about how narrowing a curriculum to focus on testing subjects does not improve test scores and makes students feel worse about school, not better.

I am an ESL teacher at the elementary level. I worked with a student from 1st grade through 5th grade who was also a special education student. We worked hard together to get her as high as we could before middle school. Now she is in 6th grade at the middle school.

I got a call from the counselor saying that she was not doing well in school, getting in trouble, not eating, and suicidal. I asked to look at her schedule and saw it consisted of nothing but core and remedial classes with double doses of math and reading.

These are no electives in her schedule and after school she has homework club. This is common practice for those who haven’t passed the state test. This discriminates as it denies our most vulnerable populations to the activities that would maintain their interest in school. According to the ODE, she has about a 1% chance of passing the Language Arts Smarter Balanced test in 8th grade. This is nothing less than child abuse. She is crying for our help.

Smarter Balanced lessons not screened for sexually-charged ads

KimKardashianFrom a teacher via our Send Your Story webpage:

So, we received our SBAC [Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium] lessons we have to teach before the 5 day writing test. There are 3 websites I had to show the kids, so I created a document so all I’d have to do is click and not have to type in the address. I checked out the first one, fine.

The second one had links to articles on orgasms and 10 things men wished women knew about sex at the bottom, and the third one was blocked by the district. I notified the district and they unblocked it. That one had ads all over with large bosomed, scantily clad women (10 Famous Wardrobe Fails!, Kardashians! etc.). I notified our VP and she sent screen shots to IT. They said they “blocked” the ads, but no, they were still there. Then they blocked the site again and claimed that hackers put in inappropriate ads.

So, word to the wise: when you receive your lesson, check the ads (all the way to the bottom) so there are no unpleasant surprises. Also, SBAC should be ashamed – I cannot believe that outside sites are part of the test and that they AND our district didn’t vet the resources.

Parent: “Who are the students projected to fail? How will this help?”

What one parent sent to our Send Your Story:

It’s enough for me to see the projection that 60% or more of the students will fail this test! Who are the students projected to pass? Who are the students projected to fail? How will this help? Also it is very computer dependent, making it even more inequitable for the kids who don’t have technology at home!


Eugene school district doubts parent religious beliefs are legit

OptOutAgainstRacismWhen a system is pressured irrationally, it will start going haywire. The Eugene 4J School District decided to pressure parents to think about whether their personal/religious beliefs are legitimate. Oregon law provides that parents/guardians or students may opt-out due to physical disability or “religious beliefs” (read our How to Opt-Out page). Here’s the essential phrase from Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 581-022-1910:

(1) The school district may excuse students from a state required program or learning activity, where necessary, to accommodate students’ disabilities or religious beliefs

Districts and administrators being told to produce-test-scores-or-perish are tempted to lose sight of the rights of students, families, teachers, and principals. They will lose sight of the humanity of the people in their schools in favor of widget production quotas and other assembly line & factory metaphors. We’ve heard of building principals here and there challenging parents & students on their personal/religious beliefs, but Eugene is the first major Oregon school district that has stepped into this dehumanizing territory in a big way.

As reported in Eugene Weekly in a terrific piece about the growing opt-out movement in Eugene, the local school district has decided Oregon law isn’t enough. Read this galling maneuver (emphasis ours):

The 4J district’s form elaborates on this by adding the words “sincerely held” and requiring parents to initial a statement that reads, “The term ‘religious beliefs’ means religious, moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious convictions. Merely wishing to avoid testing, or having political or social objections to testing not based on sincerely held religious belief, do not meet the requirements for the exemption.”

Districts are not completely obliged to accept opting-out requests due to religious reasons, but the smart ones do. Smart school districts do not want to get into the muck of telling parents and students whether held personal/religious beliefs are legitimate or not. By adding its own bureaucratic-ese to Oregon law, and acting like a religious legitimacy detector, the Eugene School District is being shortsighted and stupid. Take that dumb scare tactic off your form, Eugene 4J School District. You’re better than that.


Great Discussion with Education Heavy-Hitters

Diane Ravitch, teacher-activist Jesse Hagopian from Seattle, teacher-activist Brian Jones, and parent-activist Dao X. Tran had a lively discussion about high-stakes testing and opting-out featured on Book TV. Three people of color debunking the “failed schools” narrative and why it’s important to opt-out. High-stakes testing rooted in the racist eugenics movement. Great, spirited insights. Humor. A little bemoaning about the Seattle Seahawks losing the Super Bowl. You won’t regret watching this.


The Oregonian’s Misguided Push to Restrict Parents’ Rights

Parents Can! Opt out!Canby teacher & parent Kathleen Jeskey takes on a recent editorial in The Oregonian. We encourage those who support a parent’s right to opt his or her child out of high-stakes standardized testing to contact the Oregonian Editorial Board and let them know that testing is not providing the information and support needed, either in the classroom or in the home.  Also, contact your legislators and encourage them to support Lew Frederick’s HB 2714 which supports a parent’s right to opt-out for any reason.

by Kathleen Jeskey

The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board published this yesterday. What is truly “misguided” is The Oregonian’s defense of an attempted government takeover of our local schools from the top down. Our public schools should be democratic institutions, with elected school boards and community oversight. They should not be controlled by people from far away who do not know our children.

Lew Frederick’s bill, allowing parents to opt their child out for any reason, is the right thing to do. Parents have not just a right, but a responsibility, to protect their children from harm.

If significant numbers of parents around the country, both “conservative” and “liberal”, believe these new Common Core tests are not in their children’s best interest, they should be listened to.

When both parents and teachers are telling you something is not in the children’s best interests, it’s time for our lawmakers to listen.

When respected administrators, professors and historians of education in Oregon, like Professor Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon, and across the country Joseph Rella of New York, Stephen Krashen of California, and Diane Ravitch, former assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton (to name just a few) say it, having the Oregonian mock those parents is insulting.

Also insulting is the Oregonian’s insistence that these tests hold any value for evaluating teachers and schools. Principal Carol Burris disagrees. So did the Washington state legislature, which refused the federal waiver from No Child Left Behind because it required the state’s teachers to be evaluated based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The resulting threat from the US Department of Education to withhold federal dollars from the state again points up the overly intrusive nature of the federal government in local matters of education.

This should not even be a question. Parents should have the right to opt their child out of standardized, high stakes testing. Email your legislator (use the “Find My Legislators” feature), and support HB 2714, Lew Frederick’s Opt Out bill!