Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Leonie Haimson on Lisa Nielson

The testing rebellion and opt-out movement in NYC has a supporter -- inside Tweed
I did a piece on this yesterday with video of Deputy Chancellor Shael Polokow-Seransky endorsing the rights of parents to opt out which is no different than what Lisa Nielson has done. But the NY Post does not seem interested in THAT story. Here is Leonie's take on her blog.

Lisa Nielson
Robert Perry, announced that testing had become a "perversion of its original intent.” Over the last year, 86 percent of Texas school boards representing 91 percent of the state’s students, have passed resolutions against the use of high stakes testing. The view is now so mainstream that in his introductory remarks before the Legislature, Joe Straus, the new, conservative GOP Speaker of the Texas House recently announced,

"By now, every member of this house has heard from constituents at the grocery store or the Little League fields about the burdens of an increasingly cumbersome testing system in our schools…Teachers and parents worry that we have sacrificed classroom inspiration for rote memorization. To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing: The Texas House has heard you." 
Joining the movement is Joshua Starr, the superintendent of Montgomery County, Maryland, who has called for the nation to “stop the insanity” of  evaluating teachers according to student test scores, and has proposed a three year moratorium on all standardized testing.  Starr has joined forces with Heath Morrison, the newly-appointed superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, a Broad-trained educator no less, who calls testing “an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars” that won’t help kids.  
Then last week, the movement jumped into the headlines when teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle voted unanimously to boycott the lengthy computerized MAP exams, which take weeks of classroom time to administer; the teachers were supported by the school’s PTA and the student government.   Other Seattle schools have now joined the boycott, and yesterday, more than sixty educators and researchers, including Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, and Noam Chomsky, released a letter of support for the boycott, noting that "no student's intellectual process can be reduced to a single number." [Full disclosure: I was among the letter's signers.]
Even before this, more than one third of the principals in New York State had signed onto a letter, protesting the state-imposed teacher evaluation system, which will be largely based on test scores, and Carol Burris, a Long Island principal and the letter’s co-author, has more recently posted a petition that has now over 8200 signatures from parents and educators, opposing all high-stakes testing. 

Though many NYC teachers and principals have spoken out against the particularly onerous brand of test score-based accountability imposed by DOE, with decisions over which children to hold back, what schools to close and which teachers to deny tenure to, based largely on the basis of test scores, no one inside the halls of Tweed, DOE’s headquarters, has up to now been brave enough to speak out publicly against the system. 

Until now.  As reported in yesterday’s NY Post, Lisa Nielsen, the  newly-appointed digital guru at Tweed, has not only stated that she believes that high-stakes testing is severely damaging our children and schools, she has also offered creative suggestions of activities that parents can offer their children rather than allow them to be subjected to the state tests.  On her personal blog, the Innovative Educator, she writes:    There are so many ways kids can learn on opt out of state standardized testing days.  All it takes is community coming together to take back our children’s freedom to learn.
Lisa also runs the Facebook NY State Opt out of Testing page, and has pointed out the “12 Most Unconventional Reasons to Opt Your Child Out of Standardized Testing,” including the fact that they are a “horrific waste of money”, and cause unneeded anxiety and stress.  She adds: 
“Instead of spending billions of dollars on funding testing this money could go toward providing resources for children or lowering class size. Let the teachers do what they were trained to do — teach and assess. Keep big business out of the equation. Keep the billions of dollars out of the pockets of publishers and let it remain in the classroom.”

We now have our own anti-testing advocate at Tweed, and  we should all celebrate Lisa’s honesty and her courage in speaking the truth. 
Pasi Sahlberg, expert on Finland’s renowned educational system, had said that if his government decided to evaluate their teachers on the basis of test scores, the “teachers would probably go on strike and wouldn’t return until this crazy idea went away.”  
It’s time for all our educators to join the movement, follow the inspired leadership of Lisa Nielsen and the teachers in Portland, go public with their opposition, and refuse to participate in this oppressive system any longer.

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