Monday, April 7, 2014

District 2 principals fight back! Parents, Rally with your school on Friday morning vs awful State ELA exam

See letter from most of the Elementary school principals in Community School District 2 below; D2 takes up a large slice of Manhattan from the southern tip to 96 St. on the East Side and the 50's on the West Side, with a small chunk of the Lower E. Side taken out.

Note: the letter mentions "product placements":  Among the trademarked products in the ELA exams this year were not just Nike and Barbie mentioned below; but also Lifesavers, Ipods, Mug Rootbeer, Singer Sewing Machines, IBM and FIFA, trademark of the International Soccer Federation, each with the TM after their name and below the reading passage. Mug Rootbeer, Fifa and IBM were also in the exams last year.

Community Action: Join Principals  in Speaking Out Regarding the NYS English Language Arts Exam Friday, April 11th, at District 2 Schools

Dear District 2 Families,
Community School District 2 represents a richly diverse group of school communities and it is not often these days that we have an opportunity to join in a shared effort.  Last week, and for several weeks prior, every one of our upper grade classrooms devoted hours of instructional time, vast human resources, and a tremendous amount of thoughtful effort to preparing students to do well on the NYS ELA exams and, ultimately, to administering them.  Only a handful of District 2 families even considered opting out, and we are not advocating families do so, specifically because we believe our students are well prepared for the rigor and high expectations of the Common Core and our schools have worked hard for several years to adjust our curriculum and teaching to support students in meeting those expectations. 
We had high hopes for what this year’s tests would bring and assured families that they would reflect the feedback test makers and state officials had received from educators and families regarding the design of the test following last year's administration.  Our students worked extremely hard and did their very best.  As school leaders, we supported teachers in ensuring that students and families kept the tests in perspective – they were important, but by no means the ultimate measure of who they are as readers, students, or human beings. We encouraged them to be optimistic, and did our best to do the same.  Frankly, many of us were disappointed by the design and quality of the tests and stood by helplessly while kids struggled to determine best answers, distorting much of what we'd taught them about effective reading skills and strategies and forgoing deep comprehension for something quite different.   
Last Friday morning, Liz Phillips, the principal of PS321 in Brooklyn, led her staff and her parent community in a demonstration objecting, not to testing or accountability or high expectations for kids, but to these tests in particular and, importantly, to their high stakes nature for teachers and students, and the policy of refusing to release other than a small percentage of the questions.  500 staff and parents participated.
By Friday evening some officials were dismissing the importance of their statement, claiming that Liz and her community represented only a tiny percentage of those affected, implying that the rest of us were satisfied.  Given the terribly high stakes of these tests, for schools, for teachers and for kids, and the enormous amount of human, intellectual and financial resources that have been devoted to them, test makers should be prepared to stand by them and to allow them to undergo close scrutiny.
Many District 2 schools will be holding demonstrations this week, making sure our thoughts on this are loud and clear and making it more difficult to dismiss the efforts of one school.  On Friday morning, April 11th, at 8:00am, we invite our families and staff to join District 2 schools in speaking out, expressing our deep dissatisfaction with the 2014 NYS English Language Arts LA exams and the lack of transparency surrounding them. 
Among the concerns shared by many schools are the following: The tests seem not to be particularly well-aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards; the questions are poorly constructed and often ambiguous; the tests themselves are embargoed and only a handful of select questions will be released next year; teachers are not permitted to use (or even discuss) the questions or the results to inform their teaching; students and families receive little or no specific feedback; this year, there were product placements (i.e., Nike, Barbie) woven through some exams. We are inviting you and your family to join together as a school community in this action, helping to ensure that officials are not left to wonder whether our silence implied approval.  
Yours truly, District 2 Principals

Adele Schroeter, PS59; Lisa Ripperger, PS234; Robert Bender, PS11; Tara Napoleoni, PS183; Jane Hsu, PS116; Sharon Hill, PS290; Amy Hom, PS1; Lauren Fontana, PS6; Jennifer Bonnet, PS150; Nicole Ziccardi Yerk, PS281; Susan Felder, PS40; Alice Hom, PS124; Nancy Harris, PS397; Kelly Shannon, PS41; Nancy Sing-Bok, PS51; Lisa Siegman, PS3;  Irma Medina, PS111; Terry Ruyter, PS276; Medea McEvoy, PS267; Darryl Alhadeff, PS158; Samantha Kaplan, PS151; David Bowell, PS347; Lily Woo, PS130; Jacqui Getz, PS126; Kelly McGuire, Lower Manhattan Community MS


Anonymous said...

I reached out to my daughter's principal when I saw this posted on Diane Ravitch's blog bc I was curious that he was not on the list. But from your intro it seems that this is an elementary action--although there is one MS tacked on at the end. Is that the case? Our middle school, citywide, but physically in D2 would stand by these principals. The approach to the tests at ICE was different, however, from what the principals outline in their letter: no test prep and 75% test refusal!

Anonymous said...

From what I was told by our principal, middle school principals were asked and encouraged to join as well! So yes, I would definitely suggest inquiring further

K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

A peripheral testing issue (cute parody):