Saturday, December 31, 2016

My most popular blog posts of 2016, along with highlights and lowlights of the year

Here are my most popular blog posts of 2016, along with some of the highlights and low-lights of
the year:

May 14, 2016, 73 comments; 114,827 page views

My most popular post ever was this critique of the PARCC exam, written by an anonymous 4th grade teacher. Originally posted on Celia Oyler's blog, Celia deleted all references to specific questions after Laura Slover, the PARCC CEO, sent her a threatening letter, claiming copyright infringementsTwitter also took down many tweets, including mine, that linked to the the post, after complaints from PARCC.

I reposted the entire critique as originally written, and encouraged others to do the same.  Though the PARCC CEO convinced Google (owner of Blogger) and other online hosts to delete it from many many other blogs, including Diane Ravitch's,  my copy has been strangely left untouched to this day.

You can still see many of the Twitter and Google takedown notices on the  Lumen website,  The ensuing controversy was reported in the  NY Times, Slate, USA Today, the Progressive, and the Washington Post Answer Sheet.

Since last spring, PARCC has lost even more support, and according to Education Week, is trying to figure out how to "reorganize to survive the coming years."

ELA exam 2nd day: major snafu - what should now happen? Leave your comments below!
April 6, 2016, 31,168 page views

Lots of problems reported with the NY State exams, including test booklets with pages missing or unlabeled. The testing companies, Questar and Pearson, traded accusations as to who was at fault; in most eyes, they both deserved a big "F".  51 angry teachers, parents and administrators added their comments to the blog.

Sheri Lederman and her attorney, Bruce Lederman

May 10, 2016; 26,163 page views 

Sheri Lederman, Great Neck teacher, challenged the test-based New York teacher evaluation system in court as arbitrary and capricious and won.

Meanwhile Gallup released a new national poll revealing that most parents, teachers, students and administrators believed the quality of their state exams was poor or only fair, and that these tests do not improve learning. 

So was the testing experience for kids so much better this year? The answer must be no.
April  10, 2016; 4,694 page views

The NYS ELA exams included overly long, dense and grade-inappropriate reading passages with numerous typos, abstruse vocabulary and confusing questions.  In many cases, teachers themselves said they couldn't discern the right answers.  On the third grade exam, an excerpt from a book called “Eating the plate” was actually at the fifth grade reading level and sixth to eighth grade interest level.

On the eighth grade exam, one reading passage featured obscure words like "crag" and "fastnesses".  As one teacher wrote, "What are fastnesses?...I asked eight of my fellow colleagues to define this word.  1 of 8 knew the answer.  Unless you a geology major, how is this word a part of our everyday language, let alone the reading capacity of an average 8th grader? And our ESL students?"

I asked my husband, a professor of Geosciences; he didn't know what "fastnesses" meant either.     

Charter privateers on the defensive but not giving up on their Orwellian takeover schemes
August 27, 2016; 3692 page views 

It was a long, hard summer for the charter lobby.  First, the NAACP approved a resolution calling for a national moratorium on charter schools. Then, the Black Lives Matters movement urged the end to the privatization of our public schools.

Finally, John Oliver did a terrific takedown of the corruption and chaos created by the charter industry.  I included a link to the video, along with clips of the deceptive ad campaigns run in Georgia and Massachusetts in favor of school privatization.  Thankfully, in both cases, their campaigns lost more than two to one in the recent elections, as a result of brilliant grassroots efforts in those states.

So many reasons to #optout: Let’s keep it going until our kids get the schools they really deserve! 
March 31, 2016; 2623 page views 

My modest contribution to the opt-out movement, that continued to grow in NY with more than 250,000 kids refusing to take the state tests last spring.

As I pointed out in this post, this parent-led grassroots movement had already caused Governor Cuomo to place a moratorium on linking teacher evaluation to state test scores, and impelled a huge turnover of members on the NY Board of Regents, leading to the selection of Betty Rosa as the new Chancellor -- the best thing to happen to education policymaking in the state in more than a decade. 
In fact, in her very first press conference Dr. Rosa said that if she still had kids in the public schools, she would herself opt them out.

As Juan Gonzalez wrote about the opt out movement: "This grass-roots civil disobedience stunned the politicians and data-obsessed bureaucrats who have dictated public education policy for more than a decade.Ever since then, the bureaucrats have been scrambling to win back the confidence of fed-up parents."

Illustration by Gino Barzizza for The Indypendent
Yet if Betty Rosa's selection as Regents Chancellor was the best thing that happened in 2016, Juan Gonzalez' retirement as Daily News columnist and investigative reporter extraordinaire was one of the saddest.

Juan uncovered so much corruption and ineptitude among our elected and appointed officials -- in education and elsewhere -- and it  is impossible to fill his shoes.  Here's a video of the speech he gave at our annual Class Size Matters dinner last June, talking about the scam of charter schools and the amazing success of the opt-out movement here in NY and nationwide. To this day, Juan is the only person to have won our Skinny Award twice for uncovering the real "skinny" about public schools and public officials, here in NYC and throughout the state.

Juan Gonzalez speaking at the 2016 Skinny Awards from Class Size Matters on Vimeo.

We could really use Juan's analysis and digging now more than ever, especially with the astonishing election of Donald Trump and the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.  For more on the DeVos selection, who if confirmed would be the most unqualified person ever to serve in that post, check out my piece in the Indypendent here

Here's to 2017 and the continuing and growing resistance against high-stakes testing, privatization, and the dismantling and defunding of our public schools.