We all make mistakes. When we do, our real character becomes public… Do we choose to continue harming others to support our own misguided judgment for no other reason than personal vanity?  Or, do we switch sides when the evidence is overwhelming, and admit our mistake (*we were lied to) and fight all the harder to make what is “right”, happen for those powerless and counting upon us?……

Hitler is an example of the first… The morphing of the Apostle Paul from the Hebrew Saul, is an example of the latter…..

Both Deborah Wilson and Jea Street were quoted in the News Journal being against HB 50, the Parental Opt Out Bill… Both cited inner city children as the reason for their assessment….

Their difference in opinion comes from the stark difference between their dreams and the reality of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  No one should be held up to ridicule for their dreams…

Their dream is noble;  I fully support them.  Where we differ is that their actions are harmful to that dream’s achievement, whereas ours are supportive…  I sort of liken their attitude to those Reconstructionist blacks elected in the South after the Civil War, who became convinced that an ignorant populace was detrimental to the advancement of blacks and allowed and even supported the imposition of poll tests and poll taxes which soon eliminated all blacks from voting…  Whereas ideally only enlightened people, well educated on all government’s details, should be allowed to cast their votes, their decision to back that, disenfranchised black votes for almost 100 years…  Until the Civil Rights Acts, blacks never could overturn those bad choices because they could never vote….

Blackie, how many jelly beans are in that jar?

Blackie, use the connect line tool to determine the boundaries of rectangle that has 875 square units (problem 609 on the 5th Grade Smarter Balanced Assessment).

Their dream and mine, is to make it possible for ever child, no matter how poor, to have the opportunity to become a doctor if he/she so desires…  And they are absolutely correct:  education is the only tool that can ever make that happen.  But like guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar, the Smarter Balanced Assessment actually makes that dream harder to achieve, not easier….

It does so in these ways.

A).  It sets the standard so unrealistically high, no inner city child can ever reach it.  Imagine… setting this minimal standard for being allowed on a beginning level basket team:  hitting over 70% of 3 pointers shot…  That standard will never create inner-city basketball stars because no poor child is ever given the opportunity of joining a team, then receive instruction to grow and develop ones skills by trial and error until that level can be reached…. yet the daughter of one of New Castle’s top land developers can be have such an opportunity because they were born with a basketball court in their back yard…

Yet what would work (to continue the basketball analogy), would be to set up basketball camps every summer which all inner city participants could freely participate and even recruit NBA superstars to show up and give helpful tips and teach role modelship.

Whereas the ideals are consistent; the direction taken is as wrong as is the difference between success and failure.  Deborah Wilson and Street misleadingly think that supporting “a high standard”, will in itself create good players… Creating good players is the right goal; they are mistakenly backing the wrong approach.

B)  It like the horror stories of Communist Russia and Communist China under which many of us grew up hearing as to why “we always should be proud and supportive of America”…. the Smarter Balanced Assessment will catalog each child by the time they are eight as to what their future should be.  Imagine if you were cataloged at age 8…   Would any inner city child at age 8 be cataloged as a future doctor?

This test is not some buoying buttress raising poor children from out of the raging flood… Instead, it actually cuts the ropes previously in place, from the bridge preventing anyone lucky enough to catch one, from ever pulling themselves out.

What IS needed to achieve that dream, is dedicated teachers with a union behind them strong enough to stand up to power junkies who would use your children just to enrich their own pockets.  That is exactly what we don’t have, and why we are considering “OPTING OUT” today.  Were their unions actually strong enough to say, “NO” to the smarter balance assessment during its inception, as did all who privately were part of the decision to go forward,  this would never have created the political vacuum in our legislatures allowing this bills to pass.  Teachers would simply not have it.

But laws banning strikes have undercut the power of teachers so much that if any teacher today speaks her mind about the damage Common Core is doing to American Education overall, they will be fired… Which explains why there has been too much silence up to now coming from teachers over this topic.

Imagine if every teacher had only 11 students and their job was to make sure each of those students improved over the course of their tutelage.   Now imagine if each class of 11 students were all at similar levels of development.  Now imagine the teacher could go as fast forward, or as slow as necessary as her group of eleven children needed to grow and develop to their point necessary… Imagine if the only grade those children got, came from their one teacher, who knew what they were capable of and who knew exactly what they did or did not know?

This concept of teaching works…  Arbitrarily guessing answers on a test you don’t understand (and no adult understands) does not ….

C)  There was a time (and both Jea Street and Deborah Wilson remember them), when students of color and poverty, were written off.  Their schools were token shells and though their teachers were well meaning, resources were lacking to give all children of color an education equivalent to those white, right, and having money.  To this extent, both of the above are trying to prevent this return and both see having schools be accountable to a test, as the one way to make sure the slide backwards does not occur….

However, that said, and to use the basketball analogy again, this test and its cutoff of failing the bottom 70% of population, is not the answer. It is harmful to the dream…

Another test, any other test, perhaps might be conducive.  But it would have to be created by educators, real teachers. real professors, and not corporate shills who once slept in a Holiday Inn Express because its bill was paid by one Bill Gates and Melinda Foundation.  Experts in education?  Not.

D)  The Smarter Balance Assessment can become the equivalent of the wearing of a Jewish star in Nazi Germany.  It separates those who are considered the pathetic underclass from the rest. This rebuts what was presented by one of Markell’s butt-lickers in the House Education Committee hearing on that bill.  He was concerned the pickanninies of the inner city would encourage opting out, blessed with the hat tip from schools who didn’t want them lowering the scores. This he stated, would give false readings…  The truth is that with massive non-involvement, all ratings would be null and void because the 95% threshold of test-taking would not be met… His entire argument is moot, in other words.

However if his concern was genuine, he should instead look to a solution… That solution is to insist and finance all schools with over 50% of reduced lunch in grades k thru 5 and in 9th grade, with an 11:1 student teacher ratio.  All personal experience as well as psychological research point to this indelible effect of teaching:  we only learn what we want to learn.  If we don’t want to learn something, our brains won’t let us learn it…

There are two ways to make one want to learn… One is through threats like this : if you don’t pass the Smarter Balanced Assessment you will fail:.. The other is through inducements…  and the greatest inducement in human behavior is praise from someone we desire to receive praise from….  “You got it!  I’m so proud of you!”

That latter one cannot happen as long as the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the only determinant worth of every child…. We are not machines, nor should we ever strive to be.  We are human beings whose brains receive no influence by how dark be our skin,  and we all learn when our emotions “like” something so much, they indelibly etch those moments on our gray matter forever.

If you want doctors to come from poor homes in the inner city, you can have them, lots of them… but you have to go down the right path to get them…  You have to invest in teachers who have time, past experience, and the dedication to teach.  You need teachers who deeply care about children as human beings, and to whom the children love being taught.. You also need an efficient system to remove those disrupters who repeatedly interfere with learning…. Except for a few exceptionals, that would usually be the teacher in an 11:1 student teacher ratio.

WE can achieve the dream…

The first step is allowing parents to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment thereby undermining any credibility those who wish to keep children of color down, will draw from.  That means pass HB 50.

The second is to fund an 11:1 Student Teacher Ratio in all schools with larger than 50% reduced lunch, from ages K through 5 and 9th Grade….

The third, is to remove The Smarter Balanced Test from the test regime all together…  Return to the DCAS or do nothing; both an improvement over the status quo.

The fourth, is to stop charter schools from stealing public school funds.  Either let public schools inherit the Charters as they expire, or fund all charters by line items in the state budget as are vocational schools, and raise taxes on the top one percent to pay for them. Let public schools keep all funding the public voted for them to have.

The fifth, is to put students in classes grouped on their same level… This allows more efficient teaching than having to alternate between teaching exceptional children and severely challenged while losing those in the middle of all the same class..

When and if inner city schools again become places where learning is fun, we will get our fair share of doctors…  Hard work can be fun, whenever there is a viable reason behind it…   The Smarter Balance Assessment has as much reason behind each of its questions as was the reason behind guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar….

So how will you assess how well this new educational program is doing?  Simply count the large number of doctors you can now create….

But first, you have, utterly have to get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the first step… And that does mean opting out en masse… 

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