Thursday, July 11, 2013

Minneapolis union consider test opt out campaign; CT Gov. rethinks tests; while NYS intensifies test push, & UFT OKs High-Stakes Tests

Minneapolis Teachers Ponder Opt-out campaign, St. Paul teachers ask to pull out of tests entirely - Conn. Gov. advocates loosening link between test scores and teacher evaluations - UFT? It endorses test-based evaluations as fair

The St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota) reported June 30, 2013 that the Minneapolis teachers' union has considered starting a public campaign advocating that parents opt their children out of high-stakes tests.
In contract negotiations, the teachers unions in St. Paul and Minneapolis have called on their districts to scale back standardized tests. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and a statewide parent advocacy group have separately weighed campaigns to enlist parents to opt out of them. A small number of parent such as Lamm are already letting their children sit out the exams.
The Pioneer Press began its front page and page 9 coverage, spotlighting Minneapolis parent, Sarah Lamm. We see early on the effect of union and parent groups' work:

Sarah Lamm had a "revelation" this spring, courtesy of teachers and other parents at Clara Barton Open School in Minneapolis She could opt her children out of the state's standardized tests.
Lamm followed a high-profile test boycott in Seattle, read up on research and asked her kids for their take on testing. She then let her school know her children would skip the test next year.
. . .
As contract negotiations ramp up in St. Paul, the teachers union has called on the district to pull out of the MCAs [Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments]-- an unprecedented proposal the district said will get it in hot water with the state. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers also is asking the district to give educators more leeway in designing their own assessments.
Mary Cathryn Ricker, the federation's president, says the pressure to perform on the MCAs has spawned more testing and narrower, more scripted curricula.
The pushback got attention earlier in the spring:
Will Minnesota Say Goodbye to Standardized Tests? The requirements for getting a diploma may change in Minnesota.
“You need some testing and accountability,” Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said. “But send third graders home thinking they’ve failed life because they failed some test—it’s just the wrong way to get kids to want to learn.”
Dayton told local reporters this week that he has been in talks with the state’s education commissioner “to figure out how we can reduce this excess of testing.”

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In Connecticut, state officials faced growing opposition from school teachers, parents and others who view linking students' standardized test scores to teacher evaluations as unfair. In the last 48 hours Governor Dan Malloy, mindful of the need to retain popular support for the 2014 election announced that he would reduce the number of standardized tests and he would allow the state's schools the option to not use student test scores to evaluate teachers. For detailed coverage, read Johanna Summers in "The Day," "Malloy would spare students a standardized test double-whammy."
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This all stands in contrast to business as usual in New York City. Note that Minneapolis area teachers' consideration of a union-wide campaign to promote opt-out among parents stands in stark contrast to UFT president Michael Mulgrew's failure to side with the test resistance movement or the anti-Common Core movement. (Note that amidst Common Core-based tests and June's release of test scores all that Mulgrew could say was that teachers needed a better Common Core curriculum. Never mind that the tests prompted numbers of students to leave classrooms with fits of nausea.)

And in Buffalo, the Teachers Federation has talked lawsuit to protect APPR side agreements with their school district not to link evaluations to teacher termination. (See Buffalo Teachers Fed.'s Evaluations Suit - MOU Too Embarrassing for Mulgrew to Let NYC Teachers See) And yet, here in New York City, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) president Michael Mulgrew agreed to a plan with a quota to terminate seven percent of teachers yearly, even before John King imposed the plan on the city. Contrast that with "Buff. Teachers Fed. Motion Slams APPR Toxic Stew of SLOs, LMAs, Overwork." Other countries? Linking students tests scores to teacher evaluation, advancement or punishment is RARE. See my post from late June, "International Studies of Teacher Evaluation: Student Tests Seldom Cited, Portfolios Carry More Weight." And statistics show, time and again, between districts of different levels of poverty in the United States, and between the United States and other countries, that student test scores rise and fall with levels of income.