May 25, 2016

From: Belcher, Kim

Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2016

To: ‘cngaa@tea.texas.gov’

Cc: ‘Kim.Alexander@tea.texas.gov’; ‘Jimmie.Aycock@house.state.tx.us’; ‘EBeltranSBOE@gmail.com’; ‘Paul.Castro@tea.texas.gov’; ‘Pauline.Dow@tea.texas.gov’; ‘Maria.Ferrier@tea.texas.gov’; ‘Stacy.Hock@tea.texas.gov’; ‘Andrew.Kim@tea.texas.gov’; ‘Michael.McLendon@tea.texas.gov’; ‘Kel.Seliger@senate.state.tx.us’; ‘Catherine.Susser@tea.texas.gov’; ‘larry.taylor@senate.state.tx.us’; ‘Theresa.Trevino@tea.texas.gov’; ‘Quinton.Vance@tea.texas.gov’; ‘John.Zerwas@house.state.tx.us’ Subject:

Good afternoon.

 I have been listening once again to the meeting of the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability.  My heart sinks every time I listen to these meetings.

Most importantly, I am disheartened by the discussions that sound as if you all are trying to somehow create education, like it has never been done before.  These meetings time after time miss the desired end result that we should all be trying to attain in every aspect of “education”… academically educated students. Whether it be the Commission, Commissioner, administrators of the TEA, SBOE, repeatedly the focus is lost in all the dynamics of this education “reform.”

 Assessment and Accountability should be the end of the line when everything else is in order.  Unfortunately, the rest of the house is not in order.  The TEKS (standards) are poorly written, developmentally inappropriate and leave gaps in student learning. This is wreaking havoc in our classrooms.  By the account of one Katy ISD administrator, we have a large population of students throughout this state that are 18 to 24 months behind in their skill sets due to the raucous of TEKS transitions and poorly structured TEKS, particularly in math.  Sadly, mathematician Dr. James Milgram has repeatedly informed the SBOE and TEA that long term exposure (3 years) to these poorly constructed standards and the curriculum that follows them ultimately leads to limiting a student’s ability to recover from exposure to them or prevents remediation of the student’s ability to perform math in its traditional (factual) form.  (please take the time to read this: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2014/09/01/common-core-blockbuster-mathematician-dr-jim-milgram-warns-common-core-will-destroy-america-s-standing-in-technology/)

Parents have relentlessly requested  that the SBOE make consideration for ridding our TEKS of the national standards (“common” core.)  These pleas have fallen on deaf ears and as recently as yesterday, we learned that the math standards have been pushed off yet again until the September SBOE meeting.  How are you going to assess and account for that?  Do we get to assess and account the TEA and SBOE performance?

All of this talk about assessment and accountability is lovely, really, but at the end of the day, what are you assessing?  When TEA was asked through a public information request to provide evidence that the STAAR assessments had been independently validated, they refused to share the documentation.  How can you justify holding teachers accountable for teaching students to flawed standards and assessments that no one is even sure aligns with them?  What happens with your assessment and accountability at the end of the day?  Failing schools so they can be sucked up by charters or communist style community schools (communes) in no way helps remediate a child that was not adequately instructed.  At the end of the day, the desired end result is  academically educated students.  Your discussions are not accounting for how to make those students whole.  It is all a dog and pony show.  (please take the time to see this: https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/top-ten-scariest-people-in-education-reform-8-arne-duncan-u-s-secretary-of-education/)

Why are you re-inventing the wheel?  The 70’s produced well educated, literate students.  The standards were set by grade level and broken down by month within the grade level as to what a student should be able to achieve for that developmental stage. It was very easy through the assessment process to determine what year and month the student was performing and which students needed remediation or additional instruction.  Remediation was meaningful and personalized to the child’s needs.  It didn’t require technology.  It did however utilize well educated teachers who identified and understood their students’ needs.  Our kids are far less educated today.   Get us back to basics with standards and assessment measures, then figure out better means of true accountability.  This is not hard.  My grandfather and his peers returned from WWII to help industrialize this nation with high school educations.  They engineered refineries, manufacturing facilities, you name it, with high school diplomas.   In the days when our one room schoolrooms popped up, it was as a result of a natural desire to learn and to teach.  Undeveloped nations evolve the same way. You are taking something that should come very natural and making way more noise about it than is needed. We have teachers in our midst today that are refusing to use the technology and are well demonstrating their ability to understand their students’ needs and fulfill their obligations to student learning.

Technology is grand.  It is a resource and should not be forced upon a teacher in the classroom, but left to the teacher’s discretion whether to be used. “Real time,” “any time” assessments are invasive for both the teacher and the student and there is no scientific data to support improvement of student outcomes can be expected. It is a crap shoot, at best. This line of thinking is opening the door to violations of student privacy and undermining the parent/child relationship.  Further, with the “millions of metrics” of data that will exponentially be created, there is no human being that can ensure the security of a student’s data.  You are moving to a place of using our kids as human capital, without our consent and without our input.

 Project based learning is a step backwards and only belongs in our classrooms in small doses, not as the focus of the classrooms. It is a lazy form of educating and amounts to nothing more than turning teachers into babysitters.  It undermines individual learning and takes the focus off the core subjects.  Our kids need to be able to read, write and perform arithmetic .  They don’t need you to know about their feelings, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs in order for them to be productive, academically educated students.

When President Obama said he would fundamentally transform America, education was a key piece of that plan.    I feel certain that none of you deliberately intends to “dumb down” our education system, but that is exactly what you are participating in. While you all are talking about all these topics as if they were new, out of the box ideas, our kids are getting passed on year after year  so as not to reflect poorly on a school’s retention or graduation rates.  Sure they get thrown into some remedial classes, which end up being just the class where they dump the kids that no one knows what to do with and gets the easy work so they can pass another year.  The least performing teachers are put in those classes because they have the least likelihood of passing the standardized assessments so they can’t waste their stronger teachers on them.  Summer school is now reserved for “refugee/homeless/illegal alien” (a district admin’s words, not mine)  children who either have limited English proficiency or no English, while kids that could benefit from meaningful remediation do not get the individualized attention they need.  Stop the madness and return the focus to academically educating our students, assessing their performance, holding everyone in the process accountable and remediating the students that are not on par.  Anything else is just bureaucratic, political manipulation.

 I leave you with the words of my friend, Mary McGarr:

“No matter who is doing this, the TEA, the SBOE, the TASA–it’s all BS.

 It’s Education 101 warmed over a thousand times.

 Anybody with an IQ over 100 can learn to read and learn to do math.  If they’ve got a 115, they can go to college and become a lawyer or a physician.

 People have known how to teach these two things for centuries and have.

 Draping the subject matter and the process for learning in all these stupid words is just that—-STUPID!!!”

 Mary McGarr

Students should have equal opportunities to achieve excellent outcomes.  Under no statistical probability in the world will they ever all perform equally, nor should we desire that for them, as they are wonderfully created to be unique individuals.  Stop trying to justify all of this madness and showcasing your profound wisdom; instead, let’s just get back to basics so we can restore real knowledge and learning to our classrooms.

Kim Belcher

 

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