WELCOME ABOARD! | Public School Shakedown

I absolutely love the quote from Diane Ravitch!

“Free public education, doors open to all, no lotteries, is a cornerstone of our democracy,” Ravitch adds. “If we allow large chunks of it to be handed over to private operators, religious schools, for-profit enterprises, and hucksters, we put our democracy at risk.”

WELCOME ABOARD! | Public School Shakedown.

My Letter to the Editor

A recent article in the Londonderry Times regarding concerns about the new, Common Core aligned SBAC test contained statements made by Heather Gage, Director of Educational Improvement for the New Hampshire Department of Education. Ms. Gage asserted, “Somehow there’s misinformation about us asking questions regarding social issues, such as gun control and sexual orientation. There’s nothing in the assessment like that”. I agree, these exact questions are probably not part of the test. However, what Heather neglected to mention is the fact that, in The US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology Draft, “ Promoting Grit Tenacity and Perseverance” it is clearly stated that, “ noncognitive factors—and particularly grit, tenacity, and perseverance—should play an essential role in evolving educational priorities.” It also states, “we found common operating principles for designing supportive contexts and evidence that contributing psychological resources can, to a large extent, be taught and cultivated.” I’m not clear on exactly what the intent is here or how it will be implemented. However, if you couple this with the fact that FERPA laws have been weakened and the fact that there has been a shocking lack of transparency regarding Common Core and its associated data collection through SBAC and other means from both the state and federal government, this becomes greatly concerning.

In early February of this year, upon approaching the NH Department of Education myself about my concerns regarding Common Core and SBAC, I was given a link that led me to the works of Linda Darling-Hammond, proponent of using psychometric tests and close friend and colleague of the communist and Weather Underground founder, Bill Ayers. When I approached the NH State BOE regarding these same concerns, I was urged by the board’s chair, Tom Raffio, to acquaint myself with the works of Dave Coleman, head of the College Board and responsible for aligning the new SAT to Common Core. Instead of solid academic research, I was instead given biased information supporting Common Core.

Indeed, we need to be concerned about Common Core’s experimental, one-size-fits-all copyrighted curriculum standards, scripted lessons, untested methods of teaching math, corporations making billions by helping to design and implement this, “ transformation”, high-stakes tests, data mining, and emphasizing test scores which will encourage teaching to the test and inevitably narrow the curriculum. However, what we really need to worry about is the underhanded and undemocratic way that all of this has come about, who is in charge of education in this country and exactly what it is that they are doing.
I have yet to hear of a society that collects personal data on its citizens and uses one-size-fits-all instruction to effectively force “equality” (attempts to force sameness are NOT synonymous with equity) on its masses remain democratic or avoid violating the civil liberties of its citizens.
Diane Rose Sekula
Experienced Educator
RPCV, Moldova, Former USSR, ’99-01

Freedom of Speech For Teachers

It is more important now, than ever, for teachers to speak up about what is going on in public education.  Attempts to bully us into silence will ultimately fail. Public teachers are smart, tough, and well informed.

Information on Freedom of Speech for Teachers:

“Teachers do not forfeit the right to comment publicly on matters of public importance simply because they accept a public school teaching position. Teachers cannot be fired or disciplined for statements about matters of public importance unless it can be demonstrated that the teachers speech created a substantial adverse impact on school functioning.” ACLU

ACLU: https://aclu-wa.org/news/free-speech-rights-public-school-teachers

A Satirical View of Test and Punish Through Common Core

I wrote the piece below out of frustration from what I have been experiencing in the classroom since returning from teaching abroad in Moldova. I was unsettled from making an increasing number of parallels between what I was experiencing in the classroom here in the United States and had experienced abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching in the Former USSR. After writing this, I started searching for answers as to why I had been making an increasing number of parallels. This is when my true education began.

My Late Night Musings on How to Deal With High-Stakes Testing and
Ways for School Districts and Teachers to Increase Test Scores

My suggestions below might be a little snarky, but humor is the only way that I can deal with what has become of my teaching career. From 1999-2001, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching in the Former USSR where I was told by an employee of our federal government that it was very important to help teachers build critical thinking skills into lessons because it wasn’t something that was done during Soviet times; students could memorize information for a test, but were given few opportunities to question or create. Now I am told by that same federal government that standardized test scores matter more than anything else. In fact, my career depends on how students score.

My musings on the current state of public education in many places across America and how teachers and school districts can increase test scores.

Ways for school systems and teachers to increase test scores:

1. Replicate how it’s done in some developing countries; put your students with learning disabilities in a special school and don’t test them, they don’t count. The answer to the question of what to do with those pesky twice-exceptional kids is go ahead, put them in there too – you can’t afford that kind of crapshoot with your test scores, and let’s face it, they’re kind of high maintenance anyway.

2. Redistrict. Get some other school district to take those darn kids whose parents have a hard time making ends meet and have little time to be involved their child’s education. Get rid of them! Your school’s scores will go up, I promise. It’s OK, don’t worry! Johnny doesn’t need that nutritious snack you provide him with ( purchased with the funds from your whopper of a paycheck ) every day of the week. He’ll be fine in that overcrowded school that accepts him because they desperately need the meager funds attached to any new student they take to hire that 22 year old Teach For America Super Star who aced her two-week teacher training program.
3.Give me your tired, your poor, blah, blah, blah. Send the immigrants back where they came from. Who cares if they enrich your classroom discussions in a multitude of ways and Little Sue’s mother is the only pharmacist in town who remembers that you are allergic to the generic Prozac? Some of your students have only been here for two years, they’re good thinkers, but let’s face it, their grammar isn’t going to cut it on that argumentative writing part of the test. Plus, we speak English, so the rest of the world should too. Just send them back already! (Note to you sensitive types, it’s OK to send Amy back to the civil war she came here to escape from, the shooting has slowed down. When you get sad, go grab a book from the library to escape. You’ve got time! Scripted lessons don’t require a whole lot of prep. ) An added benefit to the above is that the district will have to let that crunchy ELL teacher go. Nobody’s really sure what she does all day or how she does it, and these are certainly not the days for ambiguity! Uniformity is the key to success!
4. If a teacher needs to “show growth” through test scores during the academic year, the teacher should be encouraged to have a party or pull the fire alarm during the taking of the initial test (low scores are imperative) and then, at the end of the year, for the final test, when scores need to go up, teachers should find a way to test individually. The other kids can play games or text when it’s not their turn (Of course you can use Snapchat kids!). It’s about testing , not teaching, everybody knows that so it’s not really important what they do while you are busy. Sit with each individual student and make sure that he reads and answers each and every individual question. We all know that all students always take their time to answer every question and try their hardest, but you know, just in case.
5. Ritalin and Adderall. Get this from an online pharmacy and give it to your students. Recess wastes valuable test prep time and you’ll get better results with the meds . ( Note of caution, if your students refuse to take it, you might be tempted to crush the pills up, put them into those chocolate donut holes you used to buy for your students, BUT remember, you must sneak those donut holes in through the back door so Michelle Obama’s nutritional spies don’t see you. ) And no, this doesn’t require a call home to the parents, they don’t need to know, it’s called, ” in loco parentis.”
6. Come up with your own standardized test language and share it with your students. For example, “Go get a tissue and blow your nose instead of wiping it on your sleeve” = The answer is B.
7. Teachers- Get a summer job at Pearson writing test questions to learn what the questions will be. You’ll probably make more money than you do teaching, plus who cares if Pearson is an unethical corporation that has been sued for bid-rigging and and having its non-profit arm create tests that could be used by its for profit corporation to make money? Money is money, and you’ll finally be able to replace that baby gold 1979 Kenmore refrigerator you inherited from your Great Aunt Harriet when she died in’99.
8. Teachers- Give up and give in. Teach to that test! You really don’t need to worry about giving your students your best. Nobody cares what experience or skills you have, or that you created those amazing lesson plans that really got your students excited and interested in learning. Forget about your passion for teaching. (Are you really still clinging to that??) Just read that script (like the robot Arne Duncan wants you to be) and teach to the test. Stop caring so much! Plus, they don’t have a rich curriculum that fosters independent thinking, creativity and curiosity in other countries (like North Korea) so it’s OK! We need workers anyway, not thinkers. The extra bonus to this is that your district will think you are passive, and you know that they are looking for door mats right now. This, plus the increased test scores, you get to keep that step 17, $39,842 annual salary (20 years – 3 just because = step 17).
9. Impostors. Make the high-strung gifted kids take the test for everybody else. Who cares if it makes those high-strung kids even more anxious? Your scores will go up and you’ll get away with it too. Even with the Race to the Top funds your district gets from drinking the “Test and Punish” flavored Kool-Aid, it can afford that $150,000 data mining software, but it can’t afford to retina scan to verify the identity of test-takers just yet.
10. Tell your students to use the method below.
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a tiger ( you know the rest). Using this method is just as effective as trying to get a logical answer to such well thought out questions as, ” Joey makes $5 per hour mowing lawns. On Saturday he mows lawns for 2 hours, on Sunday, he mows for 3 hours. How much money does David make on both Thursday and Friday?”

My Statement In Support of NH HB-101, Prohibiting the state from forcing school districts to implement Common Core State Standards

I have been a teacher for well over a decade and this spring, I will turn in my resignation because of Common Core and its associated data collection through SBAC and other means.

Common Core is substandard and the required data collection highly UNETHICAL. It is causing stress amongst students, teachers, and parents alike and has taken much joy out of teaching and learning.

I have witnessed extreme anxiety and tears from both teachers and students because of the pressure, confusion and uncertainty surrounding Common Core and SBAC Testing.

When I taught in the Soviet Union as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1999-2001, I was told by our federal government to help teachers design lessons that included opportunities for creativity and innovation as this was not done under Soviet Rule. Under Soviet Rule testing was everything and you were labeled. Labels work for bottles of poison,  BUT NOT FOR CHILDREN OR DEMOCRATIC SOCIETIES. Our ability to nurture individual dreams and  encourage innovation is one of the things that makes the United States BETTER than socialized countries in many ways.

The Common Core is not what it was sold as.

It encourages uniformity through one-size-fits-all standards at the cost of individuality, individual thinking and individual differences.

The Derryfield School has referred to it as INFERIOR.

It is not used at Thomas Hassan’s school, Philips Exeter.

The way this is going, public school children will be trained as workers while those who can afford it will get a true education.

New Hampshire children, families and teachers deserve better than Common Core.

Common Core & SBAC Related Links

A Sampling of Common Core Articles, Government Testimony, Policy Drafts, Opinion Pieces and More: 

Recent Concerns From a Medical Doctor


Special Education Issues and Concerns


Instruction Under Common Core


The Dead Poets’ Society and The Trojan Horse



A Burgeoning Market






DATA Collection

Promoting Grit and Tenacity



Big Brother


Where Does the Information Go?











Who Will Teach Your Children?



A Multicultural Perspective



An Important Common Core/SBAC Ruling


The Schools That Won’t Use Common Core




Congressional Record from 1998
“International Implications Of School-ToWork Programs”

The Growing Movement To Refuse and Opt Out
A Sampling of Opt Out and Related Groups

Stop Common Core New Hampshire
Opt Out of State Standardized Tests, New Hampshire
Opt Out of the State Test, The National Movement (aprox. 17,00 members)