Monday, September 22, 2014

The lessons on unethical education policies will continue until you cry out against them. The policies, that is.

I am asking your school board to join more than 120 school boards across the state - to pass a resolution calling on our representatives in Albany and Washington to stop high stakes testing for grades 3 through 8, to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as No Child Left Behind), and to develop other systems for public school accountability and evaluation.

Concerned citizens want high quality education for all students. We know our state needs policies and spending to solve problems of poverty and equity. That money is instead being spent on tests and supporting materials widely recognized as inadequate and unreliable measures of student learning and educator effectiveness. The intensive focus on achievement, simply defined as test performance, narrows our schools’ curriculum, taking time from a broad range of learning experiences that promote innovation, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking - everything our students need to thrive in a democracy and a global society and economy, let alone in college or careers.

Even more problematic, students leave schools, sometimes dropping out, with no love for learning. Excellent teachers leave schools when policies countermand what they know professionally about teaching and learning. The negative effects of this nationwide wave of high stakes standardized testing are especially bad for low income students, English language learners, those with disabilities, and children of color - the very students we have said we wanted to help! Indeed, we had begun several promising initiatives for these students when NCLB interrupted our progress. In the years since, NCLB and Race to the Top have denied much of what we wanted to accomplish.

We do not have to go along with what we know is wrong. We can ask our state and federal representatives to instead work toward a school culture that matches what research tells us about fostering engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought, and breadth of knowledge for our students.

I am leaving a copy of a possible resolution for discussion by the board. I urge you to adopt it, or some form of it, and send it on, adding your voice to many that are starting to break through the formidable wall of corporate interests. Corporations, which drive this testing movement, do not belong in schools where student well-being, rather than profit, is our motive.

Thank you for taking time for a message that is so important for our children and our future.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thanks for your service, but please educate yourselves...

This is an open letter to New York State boards of education at local school districts across the state. I am Dr. Carol Mikoda, a lifelong resident of my school district, a former employee, and currently a local community college writing instructor.
I am here to talk to you, the local boards of education, elected representatives of this community whose children benefit from the K12 schools you oversee. I thank you for your voluntary service to our communities.
You are in a position to affect the quality of those schools and schools across the state and nation.
The New York State School Boards Association, at its annual business meeting in October, will discuss a resolution supporting the use of student performance in annual performance reviews of our teachers.
The Board of Regents wants state test scores to count for 40%.
I am asking you to send a message to NYSSBA that you do not support the evaluation of teachers using student scores.
Evaluating teachers in that way will not contribute to the quality of education and can actually produce schools with narrow curricula and students who think only in the most narrow sense, in limited ways, followed test-developed formulae.
Contrary to the justification given for using such tests, equity will suffer when students who do not perform well are shut out of an education.
I know you want all our students to leave Windsor as competent career- and college-ready problem solvers.
The changes that come with over-reliance on these flawed tests and with de-skilling of teaching professionals are far-reaching.
The evaluation plan has been declared flawed by groups such as the American Educational Research Association,  the American Statistical Association and the American Mathematics Society.  
Too many factors affect student performance to hold teachers accountable to that degree.
The tests students take are intended for other purposes, created by non-educators with no direct knowledge of our students and classrooms.
The motive of the companies producing the tests is profit, rather than our children’s potential.
These businesses have not provided evidence to support the effectiveness of these tests for performance review nor even for educational purposes.
I urge you to oppose the NYSSBA resolution number 9 on APPR by voting against it when attending the conference or by sending a letter of opposition by September 19.
We would like, of course, to use numbers and data to make schools more efficient, but education at its best involves human beings working face to face.
Teacher evaluation is difficult. Student assessment is complex.
Only the teamwork of professional educators can help us arrive at better systems of evaluation and assessment.
We should engage in that teamwork while asking politicians and interested philanthropists to solve the major problems affecting student achievement - namely, poverty and inequity.
Please take a look at the letter I’ve left with the clerk and consider sending it as a group or individually to NYSSBA before September 19.
Thank you for your time.