The Chalk Board: September 14, 2015

By Sally Absher

More Districts Drop K-2 Standardized Tests

Teachers are continuing to speak out against the ever increasing number of standardized tests that students as young as Kindergarten are required to take in public schools. Former KCS kindergarten teacher Christina Graham took a stand against the developmentally-inappropriate SAT-10 testing of students in grades K-2, and some believe she lost her job because of it.

But a story from September 2014 by Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss has a different outcome.  Last year, the entire state of Florida dropped the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) for students in grades K-2 after Kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles of Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Gainesville, lorida posted on Facebook telling parents that she was refusing to administer the FAIR.

Calling it an “act of civil disobedience,” she acknowledged that she might be in breach of her contract by not administering this test. “I cannot in good conscience submit to administering this test three times a year, losing six weeks of instruction. There is a good possibility I will be fired.”

Rather than being dismissed for breach of contract, “Alachua County Public School administrators, the School Board, the teachers union and hundreds of parents and other teachers expressed support on social media for Bowles.”

Superintendent of Alachua County Schools Dr. Owen Roberts responded with a statement regarding Susan Bowles and FAIR testing. Roberts said “I certainly appreciate her concerns regarding FAIR testing. I have said clearly and publicly that I believe there is too much standardized testing here in Florida, and that much of it doesn’t offer a significant educational benefit for children.”

He pointed out, however, that Florida law requires that all kindergarten students take the FAIR test and that until the law changes, the district is obligated to administer the test. That being said, he noted the many technical issues with the FAIR test (given online), which he said “are making an already difficult situation for teachers and students even worse.”

He urged those with issues with the FAIR test in particular or testing in general to contact their local legislators and other state leaders. He indicated that he and the school board had already shared their concerns with those leaders over the past several years, but that they need to hear from parents and citizens.

Apparently, the school administrators, school board and parents were so effective in voicing their displeasure with this test that the following week, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart decided not to require FAIR testing for any students in grades K-2.

In lieu of the FAIR test, kindergarten teachers are required only to complete a very basic observational sheet on each student to meet the screening requirements of Florida law.

The next time KCS is shopping for a Director of Schools, we hope they remember the name Dr. Owen Roberts from Alachua County Public Schools in Florida.

 

SPEAK Identifies Key Points for Inclusion in BOE Policy GBG “Non-Tenure”

At the September Board of Education work session, the board agreed to defer approval of the first reading of revisions to BOE Policy GBG on non-renewals of non-tenured teachers for 30 days.

SPEAK members spent considerable time discussing the policy at last week’s SPEAK/SOCM meeting, and identified four key points they feel must be included in this policy. These include:

1. School administration shall address the deficiencies of potential non-renewed teachers early enough in the school year to give the teachers an opportunity to address their deficiencies by the end of the school year.

2. All non-renewal documentation shall be kept separate from evaluation documentation.

3. Deficiency documentation that has been subsequently addressed and corrected by the teacher shall not remain in the teacher’s file.

4. In the case of a non-renewed teacher seeking an appeal, the BOE shall hear the appeal to determine whether or not the policy was followed.

SPEAK is seeking members interested meeting (individually or in small groups) with their respective BOE member  to see that these points are effectively communicated with the hope that the Board will see the merit in these points and include them in the revised policy. For every parent and teacher who asks “what can I do?” this is an opportunity for you to take action and become involved in guiding positive policy changes to ensure Excellence for Every Child.

If you are interested in being part of this important process, please see Mark Taylor’s post on the SPEAK Facebook page.

Nearly all Tennessee School Districts Online Ready?

TN Classroom Chronicles, the feel-good PR arm of the state’s Department of Education, reports that “Nearly ALL districts are reporting that they are prepared to administer TNReady online this school year.” They cite the districts “tremendous progress to infuse technology into their schools and classrooms.”

More than 99% of schools reported their networks were ready to give the TNReady test online, an increase from 88% in 2014. Of the state’s 1,701 schools, 1,691 believe their networks meet the requirement. So far, no districts or schools have requested to take TNReady using paper and pencil tests.

90% of schools reported that they have enough devices to administer the online tests. This is an increase from 2014, when just over 60% of schools reported they had the recommended number of devices.  But “enough devices” is defined as one device for every six students.

We will find out next month just how ready TN is for TNReady. The state department has established October 1 as “Break MIST day.” Break MIST Day is a “trial run to test the capacity of MIST and help identify challenges when there is still plenty of time to fix them.”  Another day of instruction lost…

 

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