The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

It is PSAT Bullying Time Again

This is the time of year when school districts and schools bluff, bully and  berate students into taking the optional PSAT. 

I am not sure how all districts handle this but in Palm Beach students are never told that they can opt out of this test. Students are forcably signed up. Another day of learning is lost and teachers become (unpaid)  proctors for The College Board.

This is all part of the numbing process. Districts and schools make students believe that massive testing is normal and to shut up and sharpen those pencils.

The PSAT should be optional and students should sign up IF they want to test. Stop bullying kids into thinking they must take this test or their futures are bleak. 

Despite what we hear, one main goal of the PSAT is to give The College Board personal information about students and begin tracking them.

Let the numbing begin.

When data trumps evidence…

At one Florida school, the obsession with meaningless data has caused harm to many students. Last year, hundreds of students in reading classes were forced to use the “Reading Plus” computer program as a core program. The results on the state graduation test (still FCAT for these Juniors and Seniors) showed a passing rate of 20%. Dismal at best.

One teacher took about 160 students and never used the program once. The teacher only had the students engage in self-selected reading, book talks and book discussions. The state test passing rates for these students was 77%.

You would think that this year all students would be able to join the community of readers and avoid “Reading Plus.” Foolish mortal!

Citing the need to gather “data,” the school continues ( this year)to require the computer program for most students while that one brave teacher is still allowed to save 160 kids.

160 saved and 600 lost.

The obsession with data defeats evidence. What the hell are we doing to kids?

Palm Beach Increases Standardized Testing

Things are getting out of hand down in Palm Beach. Secondary principals  are requiring teachers to give 30-40 diagnostic tests this year. This is a massive increase in standardized testing. The district confirmed that they are not requiring it, so is Robert Avossa even aware that he has test crazed principals who are forcing kids to spend hours testing on a weekly basis? Does this violate the 5% state rule? Is the Board asleep at the switch? How could Avossa not know? As it stands now, many students will be taking multiple diagnostic tests  every week.

When you constantly weigh the child and don’t feed the child – the child dies.

Avossa Increases Testing in Palm Beach

The Palm Beach County School District is spending $99,000 to force middle school students to take the PSAT. The purpose is to supposedly help identify students for higher level classes. This means more kids in AP classes and more money sent to The College Board. 

In reality this is a data mining scheme. Students reveal all kinds of information to The College Board when taking the PSAT- including date of birth and sometimes social security number.

Oh, and it means more time testing.

The Whimsy of Radicals

The recent spate of criminals shooting police officers is a bad omen and serves as a reminder of the past. In 1970 the Black Panthers were murdering cops. Hippies were hoisting the flag of North Vietnam over government buildings. Radicals in Greenwich Village were plotting to murder soldiers and their dates at a Fort Dix dance. Democrat George Corley Wallace was promising violence if President Nixon persisted in his plan to peacefully desegregate Southern schools with cabinet level committees. Out of this gangsterism and barbarism the silent majority rose up to give Richard Nixon the biggest electoral victory in history at that time. The radical defeatism of George McGovern and treason of the Jane Fonda crowd was rejected in favor of the gradual ending of the war in Vietnam and a rebuilding of the Great Society that LBJ lost in burning American cities and rice paddies of Vietnam. A focus on Sickle Cell, minority hiring, cancer research and drug treatment won out over those who sought to bring the nation down. 

The next time you hear a politician mention the silent majority, remember where the phrase came from and how they continue to regulate the whimsy of the radicals.

Under Avossa-the buck stops…there.

I recently reported that Palm Beach superintendent Robert Avossa was off to a rough start in his new job. He broke his own hiring freeze to bring in some friends to fill high paying positions and rewarded a plagiarizing principal with a desk job while overturning his original plan to dock the principal pay for ten days. In the process, Avossa ignored the hard work of the peer committee handling the plagiarism case.

It gets worse…

School opened up last week with major transportation problems that were well known and reported up the chain of command. Dangerous conditions continue to exist with bus routes.

The response from Avossa was to publically throw his employees under the bus. He called his own transportation department “tone deaf.” Not once did Avossa take blame. Good leaders do not publically throw employees under the bus.

Avossa claims nobody told him of problems but it is the job of a leader to find out what is going on. Again, Avossa passed the buck.

And what is new deputy superintendent -and Avossa friend -David Christiansen doing? If Avossa is too busy to meet with rank  and file employees, certainly his deputy can.

It appears Avossa is in over his head and the Board should put the new superintendent on a very short leash. The public humiliation of employees is a troubling sign.

As Predicted! PERT testing not going away in Palm Beach & other counties. Opt out?

Despite the new law making the PERT test optional and no longer state funded, districts are still going to force students to take this test. The result is more class time lost and local tax dollars diverted.

This test can be easily taken by students at any local community college if they want to or need to for admission. Why force students to test in high school? The answer is simple. It is part of the accountability system and schools help their “school grades” if they get kids to pass. I can assure you that this test is meaningless and repetitive. It is also the loss of an entire class period.

Today – Robert Avossa announced that Palm Beach will still force students to take this test. While not all students take the test- many will be required to do so. 

Parents and students need to know they can opt out of this test and take it in a relaxed setting IF they need to- at a local college.

The testing addiction continues.

Should School Board in Palm Beach consider firing Robert Avossa?

I know Robert Avossa has only been on his $350,000 a year and $1,000,000 life insurance policy job for a few months but he has already shown his hand. He has increased the size of the district administration, broken his own hiring freeze fiat and now comes word he wants to turn the district into a charter district. This allows the circus of profiteers, privateers and assorted money changers to enter the county in full force. It destroys the limited power of the union and gives him the autocratic power he seeks. Only the elected board (that oddly picked him despite better candidates) stands in his way. It might be time for the school board to put him on notice. A warning now might allow him to have a chance to realize the people do not want his charter agenda. Maybe he can succeed when he realizes he works for the people. I hope it works out but given past history and current remarks, the school board should be very firm here- or citizens should vote them out.

Is there some special crisis requiring the moves Avossa is attempting? No. I saw a message from someone familiar with Avossa from Fulton County. This lady posted a note in response to the Diane Ravitch piece about this topic that you can read here. Scroll down and read the reply from a lady who explains the Avossa game of masking a tightly controlled Broad agenda with the illusion of “listening.”

Voters also need to ask hard questions of the school board that picked Avossa- a man who said he had a passion for teaching but left the classroom after less than a decade.

Minnesota Ed. Commissioner Blames Teachers and is Addicted to Testing

Brenda Cassellius went to great pains to make sure the public knew that teachers were to blame for stagnant test scores and a so called “achievement gap.” This is what politicians do. They use testing as a political hammer and do everything to divert blame from their own failed philosophy that is centered on meaningless testing and test preparation.

Casselius said the test scores failed to show the progress that students might be making but that did not stop her from bashing teachers or continuing to advocate for the state’s testing regimen.

In response to years of stagnant math scores, Casselius said that the state will offer more training for teachers. Yes Brenda. Blame those stupid teachers who do not know their subjects.

In response to “low” reading scores, Casselius launched another attack saying, “As teachers master the standards and get better, it will work.” Brenda just could not resist attacking teachers who are given little freedom outside of her test preparation empire.

R.T Rybak, the executive director of Generation Next, a group that supposedly wants to close the achievement gap in Minnesota said, “We believe the number of children reading below grade level is shocking and should require immediate action.” R. T throws out the old “grade level reading” line that is also a hammer that is used to mislead about schools.

Grade level reading is a political term that means nothing. I can show that students read “on grade level” one day, above the next and below the following day. A lot depends on interest and the text itself. Valid cut scores live in the same land as unicorns.

Standardized literacy tests that states like Minnesota use are akin to literacy tests of the Jim Crow era and do more to keep minorities from college than any in school factor. They are mostly proxies of income. The research on the disparate impact of standardized testing on the poor and minorities is well known- but ignored by politicians eager to please the educational testing complex.

Let’s say that the passing score on the test is 245. If you score 244 you are labeled non-proficient and one who cannot read. What a scam$. These tests do a great job of killing one of the main goals of public education- creating avid lifelong readers. Individuals progress at different speeds and the on grade level canard must be exposed. Massive testing is a civil rights crime and robs us of our educations. Independent and religious schools trust teachers to evaluate students and so should the state. It is time to end the political hackery of cut scores, “on grade level” and test based accountability. In fact, we must demand its end.

Keep looking for those unicorns Brenda.

Welcome to Testergarten in Florida!

Just a reminder to all of you in Florida that state law forces all kindergartens to test all students within 30 days of the start of school. This test is meaningless and scripted. It offers little- if any- value. The testing beat goes on. Standardized testing is introduced to 5 year old children in order to properly numb them for the next twelve years. Let the sorting begin.

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