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[Susan notes: Vermont is on the verge of applying for the NCLB waiver. I voice my dissent.]

Submitted to Vermont State Board of Education but not published
12/19/2011

Dear Vermont State Board of Education Members:





I listened in on the phone conference call for the Oct. 3 special Board of Education meeting--and my hosannas were published in several newspapers and blogs when you insisted on seeing the ESEA Flexibility Waiver Request before it went to Washington. I'm hoping that now the obfuscation, circumlocution, and outright harm to students and their teachers are spelled out in the Waiver Request, you will bury it.



I find that I am unable to attend the meeting on December 20th. I just want to let you know how concerned I am about the Waiver Request. It puts those in the NCLB frying pan right into the fire.



Reading the proposal, I find much to worry about but will address only assessment.



2

c. Consistent application (in Pre-K, K, grades 1, 2, & 3) of formative assessment and progress monitoring methods with evidence of closing identified learning gaps for students in reading and numeracy ΓΆ€“ applied across all students in all schools and aligned to the learning progressions in math and ELA that lead to CCRSS.



3. Monitoring student progress and access to high quality education opportunities statewide by ensuring that the following elements are provided locally --





I know of no evidence showing that testing poor kids more increases their achievement.

And calling the tests "formative" doesn't change the fact that testing what can be measured crowds out important things that can't be measured.



This child at four knew grebes,

Grosbeaks, finches, buffleheads

And Coots' velvet necks, white beaks.

At five in school,

Only DIBELS speed will count.

--When Childhood Collides with NCLB



I wonder why ALL students would be subject to Accuplacer, ACT, SAT, and Work Keys assessments. I read the online sample questions from Accuplacer. What garbage! Putting ugly old test prep materials online doesn't improve them. Nor does collecting the results in a data warehouse make those results any more useful. I offer the NECAP answer from a Vermont high schooler whose career goal was to be a lumberjack. WARNING: This contain vulgarity. The student spelled out the words.



You f_ _ _ing a_ _holes

I have been taking these f_ _ _ _ing test since first grade. I am f_ _ _ ing sick of it. I know I can't spell. You know I can't spell. I have more important things to do than this bulls_ _ _ test.



This pain and outrage went on for six pages., ending with



This is a f_ _ _ing waste of time. You could spend this time teaching me something.



I send this to you because I think we all need to feel this student's pain. This Waiver Request plan mandates that this boy should spend more time taking more tests. I ask: To whose benefit?



The Waiver Request operates on the principle that teachers and principals are to blame for achievement gaps. I predict that the current federal intention to reduce heating oil subsidies will have a much greater effect on Vermont student test scores than teachers administering another test or attending another professional development session on assessment.



Data driven efficiency and fanatical devotion to test scores can produce one thing-- obedience from people working in schools. There's no evidence that it can produce better learning outcomes. If we want to count things, I suggest counting the number of books for children in the homes of Vermonters--starting at birth. And work on reducing these inequities. Research shows that owning books makes a difference in student school performance. There's no research showing that any of the mandates in the Waiver Request matter.





I thank you for your work for the children of Vermont and I urge you to reject this Waiver Request.

Susan Ohanian


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