The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of Testing

The only thing Florida schools care about these days is how to get kids to “pass” the new common core tests. Teaching to the test is still the mantra. Schools have art and music classes writing thesis statements and essays to prepare kids for common core writing and reading tests. The obsession has taken control beyond what we saw during the halcyon days of FCAT.

All Florida children deserve to go to schools that do not test 100 days a year. All Florida children deserve to go to schools that are full of learning, exploration and joy. Schools are testing centers that run like train stations. Billions are diverted to testing as band students are in the streets like buskers in order to fund programs.

To what end?

The Florida DOE and legislature are in a desperate attempt to keep power and fund a Jim Crow agenda hidden in the perfume of “choice” and “accountability.” These knaves have no shame, no morals and an affinity for educational gangsterism. They will always claim some crisis. The purpose of education is to create thinking, loving, caring and book-loving citizens. Public education is a public good- not a fish farm for markets. Testing is a political hammer- nothing more.


Florida Testing Update- Unreal and Criminal?

In case you think there is teaching going on in Florida schools this month- let me bring you back to reality. This just went out to teachers in one district….

This week we are taking testing to another level with 3 different assessments at the same time:
  • FCAT Reading Retakes (Round 3 and Make-Ups)
  • Fall Diagnostics (All tested subjects)
  • PBPA (Writing/Grades 9-11)

*There is testing every single day in October from the 6th to the 31st. Did I mention all 10th graders were forced to sign up for the PSAT which is also this week? That is a 4 hour test on Wednesday. I just spoke with a student who has tests all five days this week. This is Florida and someone needs to end the madness.

AFT will sell you Common Core videos

I wonder how much money was spent by AFT to produce a new video series that is pure common core propaganda. AFT is still trying to push this test based nightmare. But what would you expect? AFT worked with PARCC on test questions. And now they claim to be against a testing fixation?
Tell me when the clown car at AFT headquarters is finally empty.

The reading myth that will not die…

Many politicians and others wanting to justify all sorts of educational torture continue to push the myth that at 3rd grade there is some magical shift from “learning to read to reading to learn.” I can tell you that this is manifestly incorrect and those mountebanks pushing it should stop. Let me be clear – we are always learning to read and reading to learn. When that student in 2nd grade decides they want to read a book about lions -they are reading to learn and learning to read. When a 1st grade teacher does a read aloud about planets, the students are learning to read and reading to learn. High school students -even in honors classes – are always gaining insights on their reading and often pick up new good reader habits as they grow as readers.
We are always growing and changing as readers.
Let’s stop the lie that there is some magical shift from learning to read to reading to learn. It is dishonest and political.

Part of the Reading Plus Scam Uncovered

A teacher has uncovered part of the “scam” that the Reading Plus computer program uses to promote its value. The program puts kids in really low levels so “gains” are guaranteed. A teacher explained that her students were matching bunnies to rabbits in 10th grade. The placement tests are apparently rigged -according to this teacher.

Florida Tests are Designed for Failure

The FSA tests that Florida has diverted tons of money to, are designed for failure. One sample writing prompt asks students to write an informational essay on the relationship between clothing styles & developments in clothing creation. There are two articles that you are supposed to use for evidence. Not only are these tests designed for failure, they will continue to create generations of kids who hate reading and writing. Process -on demand -writing is a not so silent killer.
After reading both articles I still had no idea what the hell they wanted me to write about. Evaluating kids on cold writings is just as bad as evaluating them on cold readings (for fluency).
The emperor is without clothes but few have the testicular fortitude to ACT. Opting out is the path- come what may. We need to hound these hucksters at DOE and in the legislature from hell to breakfast.

The Huckster’s Tale

Many of us have read all or part of the Canterbury Tales. I wish to add The Huckster’s Tale. AFT leadership under Rhonda Weingarten has been very busy spinning a narrative that pretends to oppose high stakes testing. At the same time, AFT joined with PARCC to work on high stakes test items. More recently, AFT has offered money to teachers who want to work on common core – which is test driven. AFT called for a moratorium on high stakes attached to testing but forgot to oppose the billions being diverted to give them- regardless of stakes. This would be high comedy if not so damaging to kids and teachers. AFT will beg for “wrap around programs” because of the billions being taken away for common core. And AFT supports it all.

Let me send this warning based on The Miller’s Tale.

“Now Rhonda”, quod Bill Gates, “I wol not lye; I have found in myn bank account, As I have looked in the moone bright, That now a decade next, and for more, Shal falle a reyn of testing, and that so wilde and wood that half so greet was nevere Noes flood.
“Schools,” he seyed, “in less than a few years Shal al be dreynt, so hideous is the shour. Thus shall children be drenche, and schools shall be blamed.”

Randi Weingarten & Disrespect of Teachers

The CEO of AFT has a lot of nerve. She pretends to oppose a testing fixation yet constantly lauds schools who test prep their way to higher standardized test scores. This shows utter contempt for teachers and a lack of understanding of the purpose of education.
CEO Weingarten also pretends to care about helping needy kids while she supports diverting billions to common core.
Weingarten is a politician. A few months ago she was posting pictures from a graduation at some corporate charter school she is involved with in some manner. I think she noted 100% graduation rate until I and another teacher pointed out that the school had kicked out counseled out massive numbers of students who would not graduate.
Poor Randi responded with something like, “Can’t you be happy for the kids graduating?”
She dodged the issue and failed to realize the harm she did by shilling for schools that kick out those who will not graduate.
Randi, the politician.

Lee County Board Member Set to Flip Vote

After voting 3-2 to opt out of the state’s massive and unethical testing regimen, the swing vote now claims she wants to switch her vote. There is a hurried meeting called for 8:30 am on Tuesday. This morning meeting after a holiday is designed to keep opposition away. Yes – parents work. I would urge the other opt out votes to skip the meeting and deny a quorum. Where did the pressure come from to flip the vote of Mary Fischer? Why did the superintendent Nancy Graham actively and publicly undermine the opt out decision of the board? Should the board remove her?
Nancy Graham has a vested interest in common core and its massive testing. She was a “common core academy” member for several years.
Testing will increase in FL this year. AIR testing will be longer than FCAT and test more grades. There is also another EOC being added. Last year, a middle school principal held a press conference to report that his school was involved in testing for 90 days. My high school was closed for testing (partly or fully) for 100 days. EOC testing alone took 47 days.
With several counties considering an opt out – a Lee County reversal will be devastating. Standardized testing is increasing and DOE and the legislature will not back down. Testing is a political hammer. All kids deserve to go to schools not testing 100 days a year. Test results mean little – if anything. GPA is the best predictor of college success and test scores have no influence on the economic success of a nation.
The goal of the legislature and DOE is to make public schools so onerous with testing that people leave. Politicians want to create the illusion of crisis using test scores as a cudgel. We must stay and fight to create schools that value learning, kids, and not testing. If Lee County reverses their vote they enable those who prey on schools and seek to scapegoat them for the ills of society.
The state cannot do anything if Florida counties unite. The Florida Constitution gives boards control over their districts- Article IX Section 4b.
Districts must act to end testing tyranny. Come what may…

PS: There are no state tests that kids have to take to graduate. The ACT or SAT can always be substituted. The AIR test does not count for graduation this year as there are no cut scores. Why take it? I can think of many tests that we should refuse to give.

Patty Levesque is at it again.

Chief testing shill- and non educator- Patty Levesque runs the Jeb Bush foundation. When parents and elected officials in Lee County decided to dump the money taking, time stealing and soul sucking Florida testing machine- Patty threw a fit. Her usual lie tactic is to accuse districts of giving tons of tests not required by the state.
What Patty ignores is that the average high school was closed down (in part or full) for about 100 days last year for EOC and FCAT testing. The new AIR test will take longer than FCAT and there is an additional EOC added this year. Also, more grade levels are being tested.
Each EOC takes about 6 instructional days- including makeup testing. There are also smaller EOC testing periods for those needing to retake the tests.
How many EOC tests are there? This year there are at least 6 EOC tests. Due to AIR testing – many juniors will be taking 5 EOC tests in a 6 week period. Not much learning or teaching when much of your class is gone for yet another test.
Wait! I forgot that the state also mandates the PERT test. Wait! I forgot the state also mandates ePat testing. There is a 30min ePat test for each new EOC a student takes.
In order to get a good school grade and avoid sanctions – schools are pressured to force students to take other tests like the PSAT and SAT.
The state has made testing a way of life if you want to get a good school grade. They incentivize testing.
Not including FCAT or anything else, my school spent a total of 47 days last year- just giving EOC tests. Yes, 47. Yes Patty, those are required.
Patty Levesque will never admit the failure of her test and punish policy. Results mean nothing in regards to learning, college readiness or the economy. Testing in FL is a way to bring back things like the poll tax. End results matter. Graduation rates for Black males in FL are near the bottom of the nation. Testing is a political hammer that smacks of Jim Crow and is used to justify the segregation of choice.
The goal of politicians like Patty Levesque is to make public schools so onerous with testing, that people flee. They create the illusion of crisis.
The next time Patty Levesque goes apoplectic about districts testing – remind her of how much state mandated testing there is and remind her how much is incentivized by school grades. Do not let her lie about state mandated tests and the time they take away from learning. Also remind her that standardized test results are of little -if any- value.
I call on all 67 districts in FL to opt out of harmful testing. Pam Stewart and Patty Levesque… come get us!

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