Contact: Lisa Turner
Consider signing this petition by New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman. Especially here in Texas where our students have lost SO many days, it's horrible and nonsensical to divert precious instructional time to high-stakes testing.
Excellent response to Biden's call for Spring testing (see previous post). Thanks to Dr. Theresa Treviño of TAMSA for sharing. Beers' statement is so powerful and appropriate to the current moment.
Reader. Writer. Teacher. Speaker. Current Cancer Fighter
Posted on February 22, 2021
To members of the U.S. Department of Education, The National School Boards Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association and our nation’s teachers:As a long-time Texas educator, nationally- and internationally-known and respected educational consultant on matters of literacy, and an award-winning author of educational books, I have one piece of advice – not requested but offered with a genuine heart: stop.
Stop any conversation you hear (or might have considered starting) that “our kids are behind” and “they must catch up.” I respectfully ask, “Behind what?” “Catch up to what?” Our kids are not behind as a result of a pandemic though at some other time I will happily discuss the insidious systemic racial inequalities that have always existed in our schools, inequalities that have kept many with fewer opportunities than others. But our students are not “behind” now because of this pandemic.
What they are is stressed, anxious, lonely, worried, frustrated, and afraid of what happens next. But they are not behind a reading level or a math skill or a science concept. Rarely have I ever encountered any one concept in any classroom that is only taught once. We teach and reteach; we push kids to apply learned skills, strategies, and concepts in increasingly complex ways across the grades. That will continue to happen and anyone who says, “But they should have learned about mixed fractions in third grade and now we’ll have to do it in fourth grade” is too worried about benchmark learning and not focused enough on what learning should actually be about.
In many ways, our students across all grades have learned skills no one would have expected them to learn at their ages.They have been required to sit at a computer screen for 5, 6, 7 hours a day and figure out different learning platforms. They have had to figure out what to do when a school requires they be in their synchronous learning classroom when the sibling or parent is using the one computer in the home. Many have learned to monitor their own learning while watching siblings, preparing meals for siblings, or being scared while they are home alone. Many have finally returned to schools to be told, “Don’t touch,” “Don’t hug,” “Don’t get too close,” “Don’t share,” . . . . In a world where we want them to experience all they can do, they have been put behind see-through plastic screens on desks pushed that have been pushed six feet apart and told all that they can’t do.
In spite of all that, they have learned critical skills. They have learned empathy; they have – whether they realize it or not – become global citizens. They have learned what it means to stay inside; to substitute “I want to” with “I should.” And too many have learned what happens when parents lose jobs; too many have learned, at far too young an age, what grief is. They have learned that fear in the pit of your stomach when you hear someone you love has contracted Covid. They have learned how to cope with difficulties we never dreamed of preparing them to learn.
They have learned that some neighborhoods had more neighbors to contract the disease; they have learned that some hospitals received fewer supplies or received them later than other hospitals; they have seen, now, far more white people receive the vaccine than people of color or people of poverty. And they have questions about that. Questions they have been told “Don’t ask” and teachers have been told “Don’t answer.” They have learned that kindness counts. They have learned what it means to be without and how good it feels to help and to receive help. They have learned that in the worst of moments, they survived.
To dare to say our kids are behind, is to demean all the parents and teachers in this nation who have done their best under circumstances we never dared to imagine but experienced each and every day. These circumstances, for many teachers, were made worse when ridiculous requirements such as how long they must be at their computers, what they must do to show they are indeed teaching, how much they must cover of a curriculum that mattered little this year, how they must buy their own personal protection equipment and use their own dollars to supply classrooms with sanitizers, and teach face-to-face with no vaccines were never ending. This year has caused even our most veteran of teachers to question how they keep going and has reduced our novice teachers to questioning if they will stay in teaching. And now, now they are reminded they must never, ever forget the forthcoming TEST.
Stop relying on that ridiculous state test. It doesn’t measure a critical thing about what was learned this year or what was taught. If universities can set aside the lauded SAT/ACT this year, then what are we saying to our children, parents, and teachers when we say, “Oh, yes, we’ll be giving THE TEST this year”? What are we showing we value? Yes, let’s have a long-overdue conversation about this test. But for now, STOP the demands to “Make sure the kids are ready.”
To the U.S. Department of Education, stop waiting for states to ask for waivers to give THE TEST. Step in and stop the insanity.
To Dr. Jill Biden, thank you for your support of teachers and please see if you can perhaps push a little sanity into decisions being made right now.
And to all teachers: Stop listening to those who say your kids are behind. That’s a statement without merit, offered in unprecedented times, that is uttered by those who value testing, not learning, and statistics, not students. To those who say such things, I say they have not seen you delivering food to homes with little or none, staying online to talk to the kid who is alone, accepting work at any point in the unit, crying when one kid finally shows up because your heart has worried about that child/teen, and laughing with your students when a cat arrives to sit upon your shoulders. They haven’t seen all you have done to explain the unexplainable while you, too, wonder at this nation’s insanity.
Dear teachers, stop saying, “I can’t” because you have. You have shown up. You have done what you did not think you could. You have taught your kids under the worst of situations because it’s what you do. You are tired, stressed, anxious, worried, and feeling alone. I wish I could make those feelings go away. But I can remind you that feelings of inadequacy should be shoved aside. Please don’t think you can’t, because you did. You gave our nation’s students needed normalcy (though a new normalcy) and you showed them grace when few extended the same to you.
Our nation owes you so much and gives you so little. I wish we would all stop any belittling remarks toward teachers and those administrators who do support them. So, to all of the rest of us; stop saying what your child’s teacher did not do and start thanking that teacher for what was done.
Kylene Beers, Ed.D.
Co-author with Bob Probst of Forged by Reading, Disrupting Thinking, Notice and Note, and Reading Nonfiction
National Leadership Award recipient by the National Council Teachers of English
Teachers Choice Award recipient for Disrupting Thinking
Past President of the National Council of Teachers of English
Many of our Texas schools are still not open due to the winter storm damage such that our children will have missed so many days of instruction and now they want us to divert precious instructional time and resources toward this?
This is patently wrong-headed and unconscionable. This whole testing regime is a bipartisan bad idea.
By Andrew Ujifusa — February 22, 2021
States will not be allowed to cancel federally mandated standardized exams this school year despite the pandemic, though they will be offered significant flexibility in how they give those tests and how they’re used, the U.S. Department of Education informed state education leaders Monday.
In a letter to states, the department said that it will not invite state requests for “blanket waivers of assessments” required by the Every Student Succeeds Act; states received such waivers last spring. However, the department said it would allow states to administer shorter versions of state exams in English/language arts, math, and science, or let states administer exams this summer or even into the next school year.
The Education Department also told states that it will allow them to seek waivers from federal requirements for school accountability, including the mandate to identify certain low-performing schools, for the 2020-21 school year. Such flexibility would include a waiver from the requirement that states test 95 percent of eligible students.
“It is urgent to understand the impact of COVID-19 on learning,” Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant secretary in the office of elementary and secondary education, wrote to states. “We know, however, that some schools and school districts may face circumstances in which they are not able to safely administer statewide summative assessments this spring using their standard practices.”
Rosenblum said states would still have to publicly report data by student subgroups, as required. He also specifically encouraged states to extend the testing window for English-language proficiency tests.
Rosenblum did not give a deadline for when states would have to seek flexibility from accountability or other requirements. However he also said the department recognized that “individual states may need additional assessment flexibility based on the specific circumstances.” He added that in such cases, the department “will work with states to address their individual needs and conditions while ensuring the maximum available statewide data to inform the targeting of resources and supports.”
Whether to let states cancel these exams has been a major question looming over the Biden administration. Leading Democrats for K-12 policy in Congress and others have said the tests are crucial to informing educators about how students have been affected by the pandemic. Yet teachers’ unions and some Republicans are among those who have pushed for students and schools to be let off the hook when it comes to these exams. States like Michigan and New York have sought testing waivers from the department for this spring.
During his confirmation hearing, Miguel Cardona, President Joe Biden’s nominee for education secretary, said that assessments are crucial to learning where students stand but did not take a firm position one way or the other on letting states cancel them. Before his nomination, Cardona, Connecticut’s education commissioner, told his state last year that he planned to press forward with annual state exams. Cardona has not been confirmed by the Senate.
Last year, former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said her department would not grant blanket testing waivers for this year, although that position no longer mattered after President Joe Biden won the November election.
In response to Monday’s news, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called the decision not to grant waivers a “frustrating turn” of events.
“It misses a huge opportunity to really help our students by allowing the waiver of assessments and the substitution, instead, of locally developed, authentic assessments that could be used by educators and parents as a baseline for work this summer and next year,” Weingarten said.
Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, encouraged states to apply for the waivers being made available, but also disparaged the value of the state exams during the pandemic: “Standardized tests have never been valid or reliable measures of what students know and are able to do, and they are especially unreliable now.”
Meanwhile, Carissa Moffat Miller, the CEO of the Council of Chief State School Officers, indicated support for the department’s approach to assessments this year.
“We appreciate that the Department will provide flexibility on how to administer statewide assessments and modify accountability systems as state leaders manage the continuing effects of the global pandemic,” she said. “In addition, we are pleased that the Department has committed to working with states that may need additional flexibilities.”
Assistant Editor, Education Week
Andrew Ujifusa is an assistant editor who covers national education policy and politics.
As mentioned in yesterday's post, he past few days on the heels of Texas' winter storm, our Academia Cuauhtli (AC) program coordinators, Itzel Garcia and Alejandro Quiahuihtl Martinez, have been calling our AC families representing the 40 students that we serve to see how they are doing. The majority are working class immigrant students living in East Austin who bore the brunt of this storm with few resources.
Specifically, several of our parents have mentioned that they have limited supplies of food and water. Additionally, a large portion of them have mentioned that due to inclement weather, they have not been able to work, such that they are struggling to pay their upcoming rent.
Thanks to many of you who made donations over the holidays, we were able to donate the $2,500.00 we raised to our families in $50.00 amounts. Today, we ask for additional help so that we can address this big crisis situation they are currently in.
It is my understanding rent is roughly $500 per month, per family, and possibly more. Today, we are reaching out to donate funds for our families. Thanks to Education Policy and Planning doctoral student, Maria Unda and Texas State University undergraduate, Monica Villafuerte who moved on this right away, we have already raised over $2,000.00, as we have a list of 13 families that are in need of immediate assistance.
Any amount is greatly appreciated and will go a long way toward helping among the most marginal families in our Austin community.
Check out this amazing short video that is great for the Ethnic Studies, especially Native American Studies, classroom sent to me compliments of Indigenous elder and teacher Dr. Carlos Aceves titled, "The Song of Grandmother Cricket." Here's the published description:
Referencing the struggle over water rights, the film poignantly illustrates the immorality of privatizing water. Along these lines, I also encourage you to see a movie featuring Gael García Bernal titled, "Aún la lluvia," ("Even the Rain"). Here's the trailer. You can even view this very impactful film in English or Spanish.
As a global community, time really is of the essence. We must liberate water from corporate ownership everywhere.-Angela Valenzuela
Happy to share these resources, including FairTest's list below on states requesting waivers from federal testing requirements this spring.
A Seat at the Table With Education Week: Testing & Accountability, featuring Dr. Lorrie A. Shepard and Dr. Angela Valenzuela TEMPLATE: Editorial Webinar.
Jan. 26, 2021—FairTest Town Hall on Why and How to Suspend High-Stakes Testing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzZjtg6ODs8&feature=youtu.be
Jan. 27, 2021—You can hear Commissioner Morath defend his position before Ruben Cortez here: http://www.adminmonitor.com/tx/tea/committee_of_the_full_board/20210127/
Feb. 11, 2021--STAAR Town Hall this Friday, featuring Rep. Alma Allen, Dr. Walter Stroup, Dr. Theresa Trevino and Rep. Van Deaver https://www.facebook.com/texasaft/videos/285150123172965
Texas representatives request formal opt-out process for in-person STAAR test https://www.kxan.com/news/texas/texas-representatives-request-formal-opt-out-process-for-in-person-staar-test/
Feb. 16, 2021--TLEEC Town Hall on Assessment http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=4ahyo7vab&oeidk=a07ehjqxlvb79db8bae Members and friends of the Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition are holding a series of three community conversations about how we can work together to strengthen public education, particularly for students of color. Part 2 will focus on meaningful assessment and fair accountability and on preparing all students for college readiness
Friday, March 5, 2021, 12:00 noon—TCEP Brown Bag on High-Stakes Testing and Accountability with Rep. Mary Gonzalez and Dr. Theresa Treviño. [Zoom link, TBA]
States Requesting Waivers from Federal Testing Requirements