PS 29 John M. Harrigan School | 425 Henry St | Brooklyn, NY 11201 | (718) 330-9277800-123-456
 

Education Action Committee

Teacher Contact: Kim VanDuzer  Parent Contact: Peter Rothberg

Email: PS29EducationAction@gmail.com 

WHAT WE DO/ABOUT THE EAC

We are a group of parents and educators endeavoring to keep the PS 29 community informed on important educational issues affecting our students, classrooms, and school. There are many changes taking place in NYC public schools today, and the EAC is committed to informing parents about these significant changes and to encouraging active involvement in the ongoing dialogue about them. The existing problems such as large class sizes and years of budget cuts are now compounded by an ever-increasing emphasis on state tests. In these times of increasing test pressure and the new teacher evaluation system, it is more important than ever to support the provision of a rich, meaningful curriculum and a healthy learning environment for our children. To do these things, it is vital to stay informed.

We work closely with our district Community Education Council (CEC) to stay connected to education issues on the district level.

Please visit the Education Action Committee’s blog for more recent actions and links.

WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT TESTING

  • We do not oppose testing and assessment. Assessments have a very significant place in the education of our children. Teachers engage in meaningful, ongoing assessments to find out what their students know and don’t know, and to find out which skills and concepts have been mastered and which need to be reinforced. Assessments can provide a lot of information, and the results should be used to inform instruction.
  • We are opposed to the high-stakes nature of the testing. Scores from an individual test should not be tied to decisions about student promotion, admission into schools, teacher effectiveness, or a school’s progress rating or overall score. We believe there is more to children’s learning, more to teachers’ abilities, and more to a happy and healthy school environment than what scores from one test can possibly tell us.
  • When high stakes are tied to scores on a particular test, those tests get privileged above all else. Priorities in the classroom shift, and how time is spent and what gets valued and taught follow the test. For example, the components of “speaking and listening” as part of the English Language Arts curriculum are not so easily tested, so the components of “reading and writing” get the attention and focus. On a broader level, the arts, languages, physical education, and science get cut to make way for more math, reading, and writing.
  • We are opposed to the punitive, not informative, nature of the tests. Parents can’t see the tests and teachers don’t have access to useful information. We simply find out which students are 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s.
  • We are opposed to the financial priorities that high-stakes testing places on schools. As budgets are continuously cut and schools lose out on arts and enrichment, the City and State Departments of Education fund huge contracts with testing corporations.
  • We are opposed to the corporate nature in which these changes have been imposed on our public school system. We believe that the test score data does serve a corporate purpose: the targeting and marketing of curriculum packages, tutoring services, and individualized instructional technologies. This purpose serves the needs of private, not public, interests.
  • We are opposed to Race to the Top, a federal mandate which forces states to adopt the Common Core standards based not on their merits but by linking federal dollars to states’ compliance.
  • We do not believe that testing can solve the problems of a city, state, or national school system. The tests were put into place to ensure a higher quality of education for our students, but data alone can’t do the job. A test score is like a temperature read: just as a sick child won’t get better without medicine, nurturing, and time to heal, an “at-risk” student or school won’t improve without resources and aid. High standards are not the problem, but lip service about raising standards in our poorest schools is not the answer. Working toward equality of educational opportunity, not gathering more and more data, will get us closer to a real solution.
  • We do not believe that we should sacrifice what is developmentally appropriate for students in service of knowing where they are on the track to college and career readiness.

WHAT WE’VE DONE

December 2013:
Attended and supported Teachers Talk Testing, an event at PS 321
Flyer: PS321 Teacher forum flyer.pdf
Read the notes: Teachers Talk Testing PS321 notes.pdf
Watch video from the event: http://www.teacherstalktesting.com/teacher-videos/
Read articles about the event: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140113/park-slope/ps-321-high-stakes-testing-foes-hope-for-win-after-years-of-battle
http://www.wnyc.org/story/brooklyn-teachers-decry-high-stakes-attached-tests/

November 2013:
Community Education Council representative submitted oral and written testimony in support of Resolution 1394 to the City Council on behalf of Community Education Councils and concerned parents.
Read the testimony: City Council testimony 11-24-13.pdf
Read the legislation: City Council legislation on testing.pdf
Read the CECs’ letter to Bill DeBlasio: CEC Letter to DeBlasio.pdf

September 2013:
Participated in the District 15 Community Education Council forum on high-stakes testing.
Flyer: September 30th meeting flyer.pdf
Department of Education’s presentation: D15 CEC presentation 09 30 13.pdf
Notes from the event : CEC15 Sept ‘13 testing forum take-aways.pdf

June 2013:
Supported a grade-wide refusal of field tests. After weeks of ELA and math tests in April, the fourth grade was scheduled to take Pearson’s ELA field tests. Parents said enough was enough, and 100% of parents of fourth graders signed letters to refuse the field tests. There have been no repercussions. Opting out of field tests is a low-stakes but powerful way to send the message that there is too much testing.

Read what testing expert Fred Smith has to say about field tests: http://www.citylimits.org/conversations/175/testing-before-the-test-how-to-prep-next-year-s-questions

May 2013:
Hosted a forum for NYC mayoral candidates on the topic of public education. Questions were generated from public school parents. The forum was moderated by educational historian and former Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Education, Diane Ravitch.

(Attached photos)

Flyer: mayoralFlyer.pdf

February 2013:
PS29 teachers participated on a panel about testing. They discussed the effects of the tests on their students, on classroom culture, and on education in general.

Flyer: testing forum flyer.pdf

Notes from the forum: What we learned from High Stakes Testing Forum.pdf

WHAT WE WANT TO DO

  • Host a forum with teachers from PS 29 and neighboring schools. Teachers will speak from the front lines about testing and inform the parent community about what is going on with assessments.
  • Host speakers about education issues and inform the PS 29 community about such events going on around the city.
  • Screen the film Race to Nowhere. Participate in the associated social action campaign, Future of Education Summits, in which communities come together to engage in a conversation about what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next in our schools. http://www.racetonowhere.com/
  • Support actions around the city, state, and nation, in line with our mission and beliefs.
  • Work with organizations that are key to influencing New York City’s transition to our new mayor, Bill De Blasio, and new education chancellor, Carmen Fariña.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

Lower the stakes around testing for teachers and families in NYC. Sign the petition:

http://www.teacherstalktesting.com/

End testing in grades K-2. Sign the petition from the Castle Bridge School:

http://pta.castlebridgeschool.org/

Consider running for Community Education Council. Shape educational policies and priorities:

http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/CEC/default.htm

Keep informed by joining groups on Facebook such as

Long Island Opt-out Info

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Longislandoptout/

Parents and Kids Against Standardized Testing https://www.facebook.com/pages/Parents-Kids-Against-Standardized-Testing/117479641627357

The Network for Public Education

https://www.facebook.com/networkforpubliceducation

Badass Teachers Association

https://www.facebook.com/BadassTeachersAssociation

If you are interested in participating on the Education Action Committee and/or have an idea for an event that we should hold, please email us:

educationactionps29@gmail.com

RESOURCES AND READING

Watch moving videos of Brooklyn teachers from PS 321, 15, and 24 talk about testing and education:

http://www.teacherstalktesting.com/teacher-videos/

They are all excellent, but if you only watch one, choose the one by Liz Phillips, principal of PS 321

Change the Stakes

http://changethestakes.wordpress.com/

Parent Voices New York

http://www.parentvoicesny.org/

Time Out From Testing

http://timeoutfromtesting.org/index.php

United Opt Out

http://unitedoptout.com/

Class Size Matters

http://www.classsizematters.org/

The Network for Public Education

http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

Parents Take a Stand Against Standardized Tests (News video)

http://www.wivb.com/news/local/parents-take-stand-against-standardized-tests

New York Magazine: The Movement Against Testing in Schools

http://nymag.com/news/features/anti-testing-2013-12/

Follow blog of Diane Ravitch, education historian and activist

http://dianeravitch.net/

New York Principals’ Letter to Parents about Standardized Testing, signed by principals across the state, including our own Rebecca Fagin

http://www.newyorkprincipals.org/letter-to-parents-about-testing

Read about the K-2 testing boycott at Castle Bridge School in Washington Heights:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/parents-opt-city-test-article-1.1492127

Performance Standards Consortium, Schools with Alternative Assessments:

http://performanceassessment.org/

An argument against the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review):

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/08/how-one-great-teacher-was-wronged-by-flawed-evaluation-system/

Letter from New York Principals about APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review):

http://www.newyorkprincipals.org/waiver-request/updatedapprletterposted

Engage NY: Common Core

http://www.engageny.org/common-core-curriculum-assessments

Engage New York: Teacher/Leader Effectiveness

http://www.engageny.org/teacherleader-effectiveness

Parents Rights in Public Education: FAQ about inBloom

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2013/07/faq-on-inbloom-inc-what-is-your-school.html

President Obama and Education Policies:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/obama-bashes-his-own-education-policies/2011/03/29/AFKbDlyB_blog.html

Author Jonathan Lethem’s favorite teacher was Carmen Fariña:

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/37/2/all-deblasio-farina-lethem-2014-01-10-bk_37_2.html

About the new school chancellor, Carmen Fariña:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/nyregion/no-mary-poppins-schools-chief-honed-blunt-style-over-40-years.html?_r=0

A Vision of an Effective Teacher Evaluation System

http://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/creating-comprehensive-system-evaluating-and-supporting-effective-teaching_1.pdf

Pearson pays $7.7 million in Common Core settlement

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/pearson-pays-77-million-in-common-core-settlement/2013/12/13/77515bba-6423-11e3-aa81-e1dab1360323_story.html

Teachers Refuse to Give Standardized Test at Seattle High School

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/11/teachers-refuse-to-give-standardized-test-at-seattle-high-school/

Letters to Bill Gates, video from upstate John King forum, and a 15-year old connects the dots about the Common Core:

http://teachersletterstobillgates.com/2013/10/13/bill-gates-commish-king-pta-and-special-interests-follow-the-money/

Read about the new measures of student learning

http://criticalclassrooms.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/measures-of-student-learning-performance-assessments-grade-1-report-of-information/

The Case for Fewer Tests

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/09/07tucker.h33.html?tkn=OTCCtP%2FAeZ4THqI17cvTqiy3skiFjTb04rmB&cmp=clp-sb-ascd

NY Times editorial board explains why we should scale back on testing:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/opinion/sunday/the-trouble-with-testing-mania.html?_r=1&

A BNS teacher, who proctored this year’s state tests, breaks down what made this year’s tests harder, and it wasn’t because our kids were asked to do more challenging work. Bad questions are not the same as hard questions:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/312508-did-pearson-go-college/

The coming revolution: John Tierney explains corporate reform policies

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/the-coming-revolution-in-public-education/275163/