Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I've been singing this song so long...just got to sing a little louder!

In May of 2009 I sent an early compilation of AUGUST TO JUNE footage to Secretary Duncan, and received a partially form-letter response from Assistant Secretary Joseph Conaty suggesting that if our district had made "significant gains in closing the achievement gap" we might want to apply for a grant. Cleaning up my files, I re-read what I wrote back to him. As we prepare to meet with educators from across the country at the SOS March and National Call To Action in DC in July, with alternative educators at AERO in August, with progressive educators at the Association for Constructivist Teaching, The Association for Experiential Education, and the Coalition of Essential Schools in October and November, it still rings true to me. Here is an excerpt:

"If your reference to achieving “at high levels” means how well our students score on standardized tests, we will not meet your measure. The parents in our programs strenuously object to that approach. After thoroughly studying the subject, over 90% of those in the Open Classroom program, and a sizable number in our other programs have chosen to opt their students out of the high stakes tests that California administers. As a result our district is labeled as needing “program improvement.”

One visit to our classrooms and it will be clear that we are the exact opposite of a failing school. Why should we be punished? Why aren’t the many measurement models that would affirm our success getting the acknowledgment they deserve, so states could incorporate them into their accepted assessments?

As you re-evaluate NCLB, and the federal government’s role in creating successful systems of public education, I urge you to support authentic assessments. These would include models based on observation, portfolios, parent/ teacher collaborations, accomplishing the goals of individual education plans, high school graduation rates (that follow individual students from elementary school through high school), and the percentage of students accepted into institutions of higher education. They would address the broad content of the education given to students, the adequacy of the facilities, the support for teachers, and the continuity and scope of services offered to students entering school at a disadvantage."