My Writing on Education

Why I am Not a Defender of the ‘Status Quo’ in Education — Huffington Post

The Doublespeak of Ed Reform — Huffington Post

Open Letter to Bill Gates from a Public School Parent — Huffington Post

How to tell if your School District is infected by the Broad Virus — Seattle Education Blog

15 Reasons Why the Seattle School District Should Shelve the MAP® Test–ASAP

— Seattle Education Blog

Why Aren’t Our Schools Encouraging Our Kids to Reach for the Stars Anymore?                   — Huffington Post (though written a few years ago, under a former superintendent, this post is timely again, as the Seattle School District has just proposed (5/30/13) splintering its highly capable program into pieces — yet again)

My (unanswered) letter to the L.A. Times about its teacher-ranking witch hunt: “Have you no decency?— Seattle Education Blog

The Shocking Doctrine of Ed Reform Laid Bare by NBC — NaomiKlein.org, & Seattle Education Blog

Vote NO on charter school Initiative 1240 (pass it on!) — Seattle Education Blog

10 Concerns About Charter Schools — Charter-Watch Washington

Can we save the old Horace Mann Building? The classic building, last one standing by an early architect, has been closed by the School District. That could create serious problems for a crime-torn neighborhood, unless a new use is found. Some residents are trying.— Crosscut, July 2009

Why, as a parent, I support Garfield teachers’ opposition to excessive and inaccurate testing Ed Voices Blog, Jan. 2013 (link no longer active. Here is the post:)

By Sue Peters January 30, 2013 1:16 pm

For his first school-library experience in kindergarten, my five-year-old son was not allowed to check out a book. Instead he was placed in front of a computer with a set of headphones and told to take a test for an hour.

That was my family’s introduction to the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP®), a computerized, adaptive test for math and English, administered to Seattle public school children in grades K-9, three times a year since 2009.

Seattle parents were told the test would help teachers inform instruction and lead to personalized teaching for our children. Instead, it has cost our schools weeks in lost class-time and library access, reams of administrative busy work, and as much as $11 million in scarce district funding. It has also proven to be an unreliable tool, and one which our district is seriously misusing.

Seattle public school children are already fed a veritable alphabet soup of tests, beginning in kindergarten – MAP®, MSP, EOC, HSPE, SAT, ACT, and now, tests tied to the Common Core State Standards.

So when the teachers at one of Seattle’s most highly respected schools, Garfield High School, made national news on Jan. 10 by announcing that they will no longer administer the MAP® test, I applauded their courageous act.

Here’s why:

In 2010, a small group of Seattle parents met with the school district’s test administrators. We wanted to know more about this new test. Why did our children have to take it so often, and at such an early age? Was it intended to take so long? Did the district know that libraries were monopolized by MAP-testing for weeks at a time?

We were told that MAP® should take an hour, but kids may take longer; that it is not well suited for kids in grades K-2 because of their limited reading and computer skills; that advanced learners tend to hit the ceiling so it was of limited use for them; and yes, 40 percent of our school libraries were rendered off-limits three times a year because of MAP®.

I also learned that MAP® is not appropriate for English Language Learners or children with special needs, and that the margin of error in 9th grade exceeds the potential margin of growth.

Above all, the test is not aligned to our district’s curriculum, so it is not a relevant or meaningful assessment tool. This is the main – and legitimate – grievance of the Seattle teachers who oppose it, and a good reason for parents to object to it as well.

In fact, almost from the beginning, parents have reported bewildering swings in their children’s MAP® scores. Then in 2012, the vendor, Northwest Evaluation Association, Inc., announced a “recalibration.” It retroactively recalculated Seattle student test scores for three years, changing some by as much as 20 points. Parents jammed the district web site trying to find out what had happened to their children’s scores.

In Seattle, MAP® has morphed into an all-purpose, arbitrary gauge of most everything. The district is using it to determine eligibility for advanced learning programs, to screen fifth-graders for math placement in middle school, and now, in an apparent bait and switch, to evaluate teachers, a purpose for which even vendor, NWEA, has said  it is not designed.

MAP® in Seattle has effectively become a high-stakes test.

Endless testing is not the education experience I want for my children, and that is why I have opted my children out of MAP® for the past three years. I want them to become critical and creative thinkers, not subservient test-takers. I don’t want my children or their teachers shackled to a faulty testing product, or any standardized test, for that matter. That is why I support the Garfield teachers. That is why parents and teachers are saying: Enough – and opt out!

Sue Peters is a Seattle Public Schools parent, a founding member of Parents Across America, and the co-founding editor of the Seattle Education Blog.

Our Declaration of Support for Public Schools — Seattle Education Blog    

In the current national discussion about education reform, the loudest voices are not necessarily those of the people who are directly affected by what happens in our schools – the students, parents, teachers and school communities themselves.

We are parents with children in public schools. These are our kids, their teachers, our schools. And we would like to be heard.

What’s more, the message coming from the current league of reformers is largely negative, much talk about what’s wrong with our schools, but little discussion of what public schools and teachers are doing right, and what they could do even better if given full support.

Can our public schools be improved? Absolutely. But that begins with fully funding our schools and believing they can work.

We believe they can, when given the chance.

We also believe that too many of the latest proposed education reforms are too punitive and are not changes for the better.

We believe there are valuable aspects of public education worth preserving and supporting, beginning with the very principle itself, free public education for every child in the country. We believe this has always been a noble goal and one that we’re not willing to give up on.

So we have created a Declaration of Support for Public Schools.

We invite others across the nation who share our vision for public education to sign on to our statement, to send a message to the president, education secretary and school district officials throughout the country.

The message is simple:

Let’s fix what’s broken, but don’t break what isn’t.

And do not impose detrimental changes on our schools and children in the name of “reform.”

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