Education Week - June 10, 2015 - (Page 23)

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 22 his teacher's performance. And hers is not an isolated story. Many other parents describe in various media their children's loss of enriching activities to test preparation. Perhaps even more alarming, however, is the lack of intellectual engagement the tests have engendered among students. At one middle school this spring, one of my undergraduate student-teachers watched helplessly as about a quarter of the students in her cooperating teacher's class breezed through an 8th grade assessment by simply selecting (b) as the answer for every question, without even reading the text. The teacher encouraged the students to do their best, but as one responded: "I have failed this for the past two years. Why do you think I could pass it now? It's a waste of time." The studentteacher was shocked, but also aware that the classroom teacher could not force the student to try harder. While the exam scores would help dictate whether this teacher received a high enough ranking to keep her job, there would be no place to note the lack of student effort. But we must remember this: Teachers, teaching assistants, school cafeteria workers, principals, athletic coaches, and others are all parents, too. They see in real time the distorting impact of testing. They do not have the power to stop it, nor to reduce the effect of test results on the rankings of their schools. They do, however, have the power as parents to prevent their own children from participating. And in their communities, at their dinner tables, or at family or neighborhood gatherings, they have the freedom to talk about what is happening. Although they are forbidden by law to discuss the contents of the test, they can share the stories of resistance, frustration, and defeat, as well as how the testing regime is changing the culture of their schools. All too often in our national conversation about testing, the arguments boil down to an oversimplified set of opposites: One is either for testing or against it, for "rigor" or against it based on definition, for teacher accountability or against teacher-bashing, and so on and so on. Yet, as the opt-out movement gains steam nationwide, parents are showing that they understand the fact that there are important details and meaningful nuances missing from the conversation. What does true accountability look like? Parents won't be easily fooled into accepting that the only path to it, as well as academic rigor and better teachers, is through what they see as a corporate testing regime that is highly prescriptive and punitive. If parents don't believe that the results of state tests reflect the true value of the schools they know and love, they have the power to stop participating in the process. This power of parents to question the changing direction of school reform and to address the diminished sense of cohesion and effectiveness in our public school communities-in effect, the ability of parents and students to vote with their feet and walk out of the testing site-is what education policymakers must now heed. n REBECCA PAGE JOHNSON is an assistant professor of education and a teacher-educator at Elmira College, in New York. She is a former public high school teacher and has worked privately as a college adviser for high school students. Her research is primarily concerned with education policy's impact on historically marginalized groups. jphed LETTERS to the EDITOR Nancie Atwell on the Common-Core Debate And Her Advice to Aspiring Teachers To the Editor: A letter to the editor "written collectively and in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success" and signed by a group of former and current state teachers of the year opined that "false statements on the common core have been perpetuated by some of our profession's most respected teachers, such as Nancie Atwell, the winner of the first Global Teacher Prize, who recently discouraged today's students from becoming tomorrow's teachers" ("State Teachers of the Year Defend the Common Core," May 20, 2015). I would like to respond. For more than four decades, teaching has been my pride and my passion; I have never advised anyone not to consider it as a career. But since the Common Core State Standards turned from theory into practice, I have listened to the voices of expert teachers from across the country who are no longer permitted to do what they know is best for their students as readers and writers. Instead, they are mandated to focus on unproven practices of questionable merit: cold close readings, text-complexity formulas, the dismissal of poetry writing from the K-12 curriculum and narrative writing in high school, and an imperative that all children must-as David Coleman, an architect of the Common Core State Standards, said in a speech in 2011-read like detectives and write like investigative reporters. Such essential goals as engagement, purpose, compassion, and love of literature are nowhere to be found. As for smart, creative people who aspire to be teachers, I empathize. They enter the profession seeking to light fires, but instead may find themselves consumed by prescriptive programs, data collection and analysis, and test preparation. A five-year attrition rate of 40 to 50 percent of teachers, as reported by the Alliance for Excellent Education in 2014, should be the cause of concern to anyone who cares about public schooling in this country. What I encourage aspiring teachers to do is to seek out positions where they'll be able to act as professionals: to exercise autonomy, read educational research and conduct their own, develop knowledge of how children learn, and create methods. While these conditions do apply in many independent schools, there are still public school administrators who regard teachers as reflective practitioners and support their initiative and innovations. New teachers might also look for like-minded mentors-veterans who have created wiggle room within a prescribed curriculum to afford their students authentic experiences as readers and writers. Teaching has never been a lucrative career choice, but it must be an intellectually and emotionally rewarding one if our schools are to attract and retain the best and the brightest. I am grateful that the Global Teacher Prize has given me a voice to raise in the ongoing conversation about the frustration that many teachers, administrators, students, and parents are experiencing with common-core practices and assessments. Nancie Atwell CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23 Founder Center for Teaching and Learning Edgecomb, Maine Bob Dahm for Education Week School Choice Letter Omits Research, Distorts Cumulative Polling Data To the Editor: Paul DiPerna's letter touting school vouchers and education savings accounts ("Governor's School Choice Essay Ignores Research, Critic Says," May 20, 2015) conveniently did not mention the research and published findings of University of Illinois education professors Christopher and Sarah Lubienski showing that the apparent private school advantage is due to those schools' selectivity (The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, University of Chicago Press, 2013). Further, the results of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice survey in Delaware, which were mentioned in Mr. DiPerna's letter, should be viewed with skepticism as, according to the group Americans for Religious Liberty, they run substantially counter to the results of 40 years of Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa education polls and 28 state referendums over the years, such as those in Hawaii in 2014 and in Florida in 2012. Dennis Middlebrooks Brooklyn, N.Y. COMMENTARY POLICY MULTIMEDIA: For a simulation of the Research for Action study results, check out the interactive graphic. Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit EDUCATION WEEK | June 10, 2015 | | 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 10, 2015

Education Week - June 10, 2015
Cleveland Embraces Social- Emotional Learning
Challenge of Co-Teaching A Special Education Issue
As Federal Grants Taper Off, Two N.C. Districts Tally Impact
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.Y. ‘Open’ Content Going Nationwide
School Choice Supercharged In Nev. Statute
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Debate Persists Around Kindergarten Reading Standards
New York Expanding Dual Language to Help Its English- Learners
Schools, Students Hit Hard by California’s Historic Drought
Blogs of the Week
Massachusetts School Transforms Renovation Into Teachable Moment
Magnet Schools Found to Boost Diversity—But Only a Bit
Survey: Students Need More Than Academic Prowess
Education Policy Issues In Arizona Crossfire
Congress Appears Poised to Tackle Higher Education Issues
SIG Money Gives Principal Tools For Turnaround
Federal Aid Fuels Multi-Tiered Instruction
Additional Entrants Join Presidential Race
High Court Rules in Online Threat, Religious Rights Cases
A Movement Gains Momentum
What Teachers Are Saying
Parents Have a Civil Right To Question Testing’s Goal
Parents See Testing’s ‘Distorting Impact’
What Are the Policy Implications of the Opt-Out Movement?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
An Early Opt-Out

Education Week - June 10, 2015