Making every school a quality school – not just for the lucky ones

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In Massachusetts there is big debate brewing around raising the current charter school cap. It is on the ballot for November 2nd. “The ballot question could allow charters to expand into areas where they don’t exist now, taking millions of dollars away from successful district public schools. Under the proposed ballot question, 12 new charter schools enrolling up to 1 percent of the school-age population could be approved every year, forever, with no limit. These charters could open anywhere in the state, and there are no restrictions on how many charter schools could be opened in a single community or how much money any one district could lose to these new charter schools. The amount of money lost will grow: $100 million more the first year, more than $200 million the next year, more than $300 million the year after that, crippling our school system with every passing year.” (saveourpublicschoolsma.com)

RuthDEY’s National Advisor, Ruth Rodriguez-Fay has written a public letter to Governor Baker of Massachusetts. We have included a few snippets below, and invite you to read the entire letter here. If you are resident of Massachusetts, we strongly urge you to vote no on question 2.

 

Dear Governor:

The people of the Commonwealth wait for your leadership to protect our most sacred institution, our public schools.  We look for your assurance to families that you will use the power to make every public school the quality every child deserves.  We have followed your campaign promoting charter schools, while portraying the public schools as failing.  The “failing” based solely on a test designed with a 60% failing rate. You have shown disrespect to the thousands of teachers, families and students that have been at the helm of a system that prior to the privatization reforms, enjoyed the admiration of the nation and the world.


There are unconfirmed reports that the people behind Question 2 are some of the same who contributed to your candidacy for Governor; and they expect something in return.  It is no secret that investors have found quite profitable the Charter School Enterprise. Why, we even have foreign companies investing in charter schools.  Perhaps you might want to encourage them of a more just and equitable way to help the children of the Commonwealth.


Finally, I humbly suggest that you listen to the advice of Juvenile Court Judges that since the implementation of the MCAS as a high school graduation requirement, and the zero-tolerance policies of the Charter Schools, have witnessed a rise in their courts of majority Black and Latino youths, and over 90% failed the test. This is a classic example of what we have come to see as the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Again, consider making every school the quality school that every child deserves, not just the lottery lucky ones,

Thank you,

Ruth Rodriguez-Fay

Worcester, MA

 

For more information check out the Save Our Public Schools website: https://saveourpublicschoolsma.com/

 

 

Opting out of high-stakes testing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts public school parent Ricardo D. Rosa has publicly opted his child out of high-stakes testing. His letter to the New Bedford school board and superintendent has been posted by Valerie Strauss in her blog “The Answer Sheet” at the Washington Post. Rosa’s letter may inspire others to join him in opting out. Here is a snippet:

“…our continuous focus on scoring well evades more important public dialogue about funding inequities and the root cause of educational disengagement – poverty. Allowing testing corporations to continue reaping billions of dollars in profit from public education only exacerbates the problem. Any administrator, school committee member, or school functionary still standing before students, teachers, and families touting the virtues of high-stakes testing should be ashamed. And, if you know that it’s wrong but remain silent, you’re complicit in educational malpractice.

“Furthermore, subjecting English Language Learners to the MCAS and the PARCC after only having been in the country for one year is immoral. Emergent bilingual students are 9 times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers. These tests are part of the problem. In addition, a high percentage of students with disabilities are not meeting graduation requirements as a result of these tests.”

Rosa encourages everyone to “read the Massachusetts Statement Against High-Stakes Testing  endorsed by countless professors in the state, myself included. As MCAS is imposed on our schools next week and the rest of the school year, I encourage parents to write letters opting students out and requesting an in-school alternative to high-stakes testing. If we’re truly interested in ending bullying in schools, let’s end the bullying of high stakes testing. If families really have a ‘choice,’ they must be allowed to exercise the choice to opt-out.”

We urge you to read the entire letter here.

Rosa invites parents to join him for a forum and community dialogue on high-stakes testing and opting-out at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9 at Whaling National Historical Park Museum, 33 Williams St., New Bedford, MA. And he invites you to join the S.E. MA and RI Coalition to Save Our Schools to continue the dialogue and organization to reclaim public education in the interest of all families.

For more information you can write to ricardorosa1973@yahoo.com or cheoso@verizon.net or visit Facebook.com/SouthEastMARIOptOut.

136+ MASSACHUSETTS EDUCATION PROFESSORS, RESEARCHERS ENDORSE STATEMENT AGAINST HIGH-STAKES TESTING

More than 136 Massachusetts education professors and researchers have added their voices to a growing national rebellion against high-stakes testing. In a joint statement, the experts called for a new state assessment system that will better evaluate the competencies children need to succeed. The signers also urged an end to the state’s current overreliance on high-stakes standardized exams.

The signers say Massachusetts standardized tests “provide only one indicator of student achievement, and their high-stakes uses produce ever-increasing incentives to teach to the test, narrow the curriculum, or even to cheat.” Because of these negative consequences, the signers “call on the [Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education — BESE] to stop using standardized tests in high-stakes decisions affecting students, teachers, and schools.”

The endorsers of the statement recommend that the Secretary of Education, Education Commissioner and BESE:

    Work with educators, parents and the public to craft a new assessment system that will more fully assess the many competencies our children need to succeed in the 21st century and that will avoid the current overreliance on standardized tests.
    Stop using MCAS test results as a barrier to high school graduation.
    Prohibit the use of student test scores in educator evaluations and in decisions for hiring, firing, laying off or rewarding teachers.
    Focus teacher evaluations on the appropriate use of evidence-based teaching practices and a comprehensive set of indicators of classroom and school-based student learning rather than one-shot test scores.

Professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige of Lesley University, a leading national early childhood education expert, is one of the statement’s four initiators. “The over-reliance on standardized tests, a destructive influence in American education for over a decade, has now become commonplace in classrooms for our youngest learners,” Carlsson-Paige said. “Increasingly, in early childhood programs across the country, testing and test prep are taking the place of the high-quality education experiences that early childhood professionals have long known are essential for long-term success in school and in life.”

Among the signers are former public school teachers who are now higher education faculty. Floris Wilma Ortiz, Assistant Professor at Westfield State University and the 2011 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, said, “I come from 23 years of teaching classes of English Language Learners. I know first-hand what the MCAS does to them. How can we unite our forces on behalf of a pretty quiet population, immigrants and ELLs who often are overlooked and measured with the same stick?”

Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, is Author in Residence at Northeastern University. He sees the negative impact of the testing regime on his students’ writing ability. “The past decade of high-stakes standardized testing in our schools has created college classrooms where the crucial skills of critical thinking and expression are eclipsed by concerns for ‘what’s on the test?’” MacDonald said. “The college professor—particularly of writing–who wants students to express their ideas clearly has to spend precious classroom time undoing the paralysis caused by the culture of testing. With the lessons ingrained by high-stakes standardized exams, our schools fail to nurture the potential citizen leaders a democracy requires. And, ultimately, our nation fails the test.”

“The common sense outcry against the testing regime is gaining momentum across the nation,” said Dr. Leigh Patel, Associate Professor, Lynch School of Education, Boston College. “This anti-testing statement reminds all of us who are interested in the welfare of children to join together to stop the madness that has conflated learning with test score production for the benefit of testing corporations.”

Dr. Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, also helped initiate the statement. “Across the nation, parents, students, teachers, other community members and academics are saying, ‘Enough!’ to the overuse and misuse of standardized tests,” Neill said. “This statement by a broad range of Massachusetts professors and researchers is an important addition to the growing national test reform movement.”

See full list of endorsers here.