Tonight I had the pleasure of attending a well-run presentation by the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) related to the Delaware Performance Appraisal System, currently in a revised state of its second iteration (DPAS II (r) ), and it got me thinking.
It is no secret that I am a card-carrying, wristband-wearing, federal Department of Education-occupying, National Education Association (independent) caucus member of the BadAss Teachers Association, and have been a member since a few short weeks after its inception. My daughter and I own matching opt-out t-shirts, and I fully plan to send a notification to her school this year stating that she will not be taking the Smarter assessment, formerly known as the Smarter Balanced assessment.
However, I am a firm believer that one may not complain if one does not participate in the process, and furthermore that one may not complain with opinions and anecdotal evidence. “Show me the data” is a phrase I find myself using more and more as the decisions being passed down from “on high” cause more and more educators to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and even fearful for their jobs and livelihoods. It seems logical to me that if I, as an educator, am expected to know my students, their capabilities, and their needs as well as the research-based pedagogical methods of meeting those needs, then those responsible for making decisions that impact my ability to educate students should at a very minimum be as well-versed as I in current research-based theories of education. At the absolute minimum.
Here is my main point, up front and in no uncertain terms: Delaware has entered a school year invested in a standardized assessment that currently has no cut scores or ability to BE scored, no interim assessments (formative ways to check student learning throughout the school year), no bank of sample questions that are grade-appropriate (because there is no set of scores), and no current ability to be adaptive (to modify the grade level of questions up and down based on student responses). This assessment is based on a set of common national standards, adopted sight-unseen by a vast majority of states in response to a federal incentive of funding (most of which never even made it to a single classroom). Common standards that are copyrighted and cannot be modified or altered in any way (unless you count the “15%” rule, which I don’t because that’s ridiculous). Common standards across all states so the approximately 1.7% of children who cross state lines during their educational careers can be assured of learning the same thing everywhere. Common standards that are, in at least a few instances, rated less “rigorous” than the pre-existing standards in some of the states that adopted said common standards. Common standards touted to be written by educators when the reality is that, of the 15 members of the published CCSS work group for mathematics, only 2 had been classroom teachers in mathematics, and were not classroom teachers at the time the work was being done. Of the 15 members of the published CCSS work group for ELA, only 3 had been classroom teachers in ELA, and were not classroom teachers at the time the work was being done. None of the members of either group had ever taught elementary grades, special education, or English Language Learners. 5 members of the ELA group also served on the math group; they were all from test-development or -preparation corporations.
Show me the data? Hell, show me the money flow.
Show me the reason you voted YES to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Representatives Atkins, Ramone, Barbieri, Scott, Byron Short, Kenton, Daniel Short, Blakely, George Smith, Longhurst, Smyk, Brady, Miro, Spiegleman, Mitchell, Viola, Carson, Walker, Dukes, Osienski, Williams, Gray, Outten, Heffernan, Paradee, Wilson, Hudson, Peterman, Schwartzkopf, and Jacques, and Senators Blevins, Bushweller, Ennis, Hall-Long, Henry, Lavelle, Marshall, McBride, McDowell, Peterson, Poore, and Sokola. How can you POSSIBLY justify making this decision when we are literally making this test up as we go along? The Department of Education, under the leadership of Secretary Mark Murphy and the state board members, has NO PLAN for how students will be assessed or how educators will be assessed using this system. What were you THINKING???? If I walked into my classroom with no game plan, no idea of how to teach, no clue about the needs of my students, I would be summarily dismissed. You have made a decision that negatively affects the lives of so many Delawareans, most of them children, with no data, with no plan, and seemingly with no concern about any of these things. And what is the consequence? Thanks to the apathy of the American voter, most of you won’t even be tossed out of office.
Thank you to Representatives Johnson, Baumbach, Keeley, Bennett, Kowalko, Boulden, Mulroony, Williams, and Potter, and to Senators Hocker, Bonini, Pettyjohn, Lawson, Cloutier, Lopez, Simpson, Townsend, and Venables for your NO votes.