Saturday, September 17, 2016

NEW Keystone Exams for Students in 2017 or 2018

Thanks to Senator Dinniman, we have recourse for students in the class of 2017 and 2018 who are being placed in remedial classes, PBA, and/or 'required' to re-take the Keystone Exam(s).  Senator Dinniman had a Town Hall meeting  on September 12, 2016 and explained his plan to file amicus briefs on behalf of parents to file a lawsuit against the PDE.  During that meeting it was explained:
 An amicus brief would be filed by a legislator such as Senator Dinniman (who is not specifically affected by the action) on behalf of students/families that are directly impacted by the issue at hand. Possible examples of those who are directly impacted by the Keystone graduation requirement are: 
1. A student who has been prevented from receiving a high school diploma in 2016 as a result of not testing Proficient on one or more Keystones; 
2. A student who is being forced to take the Keystones repeatedly over the next several years (which could result in injurious consequences -- perhaps psychologically -- such as affecting the student’s mental health); 
3. A student who, as a result of not having passed a Keystone, is being placed in remedial courses and/or is required to take a type of Project Based Assessment (whether or not it is called by that name). Inordinate amounts of time spent on remediation could prevent the student from reaching his full educational potential in that it could preclude him from taking courses that would be more related to his individual educational pursuits and/or vocational goals. 
The first step:  parents request in writing (email is best) to their principal and superintendent that their child will not take the Keystone exams and/or is to be removed from from the PBA, and any remedial Keystone class.  The next step would be to contact Senator Dinniman for an amicus brief.  Below is a sample letter.

Dear Superintendent and Principal, 
Pleased be advised that pursuant to Act 1, (student name) will not take the Keystone exam and is to be immediately removed from the PBA and/or remedial class that (student name) was placed in that requires proficiency due to not passing the Keystone exam.  

If this request is denied please provide in writing a statement explaining the reason.  If (student name) is not removed from the PBA/or remedial class, then I will be submitting an amicus brief to Senator Andy Dinniman for the purpose of a lawsuit.

For your reference, Act 1 says:

(1)  Notwithstanding section 2604-B(b)(2)(v), 22 Pa. Code § 4.24 (relating to high school graduation requirements), 4.51 (relating to State assessment system) or 4.51c (relating to project-based assessment) or any statute or regulation to the contrary, the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement or as a benchmark for the need for participation in a project-based assessment shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year.

I look forward to your confirmation that (student name) has been removed from the PBA/or remedial class and will not be taking the Keystone exams.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Opt Out of Opt Out

Personalized Learning: A Threat to Education

Over the past three years I have opted out.  I've helped hundreds of parents and encouraged thousands more to opt their kids out of standardized tests too.  Each year our opt out "movement" has grown exponentially.  We were well connected, well informed and ready to battle against all things related to standardized testing.  We appeared to be well on our way to being a part of a change to the testing climate in schools across the country.

The changes coming to education as a result of federal and state level educational policies and the opt out movement turns out to be  worse than the testing and ALL the related issues surrounding standardized tests.

We are at a pivotal turning point in history.  There has been a transformation in education that has been slowly and quietly creeping in for decades and we are at the end days of education as we all know it, and we don't even know it.

Parents have increasingly opted out because:

  • Students are over tested
  • Students should have a broader curriculum that includes Arts and Humanities
  • Students are unique individuals not standardized.
  • Students learn in different ways at a different pace.
  • Students are more than a test score.

Ed-tech corporations feel the same way.  Students should take less tests and be assessed as individuals who should be able to learn at their own pace because they are more than a test score!

What does that really mean?  Here is where the pivotal turning point in history happens.  It's called Competency Based Education (CBE) or Mass Customized Learning (MCL).  Essentially, under the guise of 'personalized learning' it's education done with technology (computer devices) rather than humans (teachers) on a large scale level, like worldwide. 

We have it already, every state does.  In Pennsylvania where I reside, our schools use Study Island, CDT's and other similar online programs as well as hybrid courses.  Hybrid courses are where students are in a classroom with a teacher for 1-2 days and the rest of the coursework is done online, usually during a study hall or at home.  As the transition to more technology-based educational programs is occurring, critical and damaging changes are happening to the student-teacher and student-peer relationships.

High quality certified teachers will be deemed unnecessary in a classroom with increasing class sizes, replaced by facilitators who just need to monitor that students are on task on their devices.  Think about that for a moment.  Teachers who have 6-8 years of college education, and years of teacher experience in classrooms with student interaction will be obsolete, replaced by low-pay, inexperienced, untrained facilitators.  Then add the harmful impact of children being on a device for many hours a day to the physical, mental and emotional health of students - things are moving in the wrong direction, fast!!

Opt out has created the awareness that students are being tested too much and that the big test in the spring is complicated, unreliable and expensive.  With that opt out has given parents a way to protect their children from the testing and data mining.  However, the opt out movement has fed directly into the Ed-tech politically and financially driven corporate reforms, perfectly.  The problem was created with the poorly written tests, scores that don't come back in a timely or useful manner and lack of transparency of the actual tests.  Then backlash came from parents who opted out.  The problem was created, festered for a few years, and now big changes are imminent.  Over the next year, with the transition to ESSA into each state the educational environment with continue to change, this time it's going to be drastic.

There won't be a big test in the spring to opt out of, assessments will be embedded into the curriculum via 'stealth' assessments because students, teachers and parents won't know when a student is being assessed.  Nor will they know what content is being used with each student - an online, adaptive curriculum that will be disconnected from teachers and parents.  Online programs created by corporations who have little to no background or training in education, subject content areas or what is developmentally appropriate for children at each grade level.  Data-mining will be massive with the capacity to track students at every key stroke.

Soon, parents will not be able to opt out.  That is intentional thanks to our federal and state legislators and the Ed-tech corporations who create and make billions of dollars off the backs of students.

The time to take action is now.  Some things parents can do are:

  • Decline or refuse Google Apps for Education (GAFE)
  • Decline a google email account for your student
  • Request a group or anonymous ID for login
  • Request paper/pencil 
  • Write to your local and state legislators
For more helpful information:

wrenchinthegears writes:  Stop!  Don't opt out.  Read this first.

Opt out families are being set up as pawns in this fake “assessment reform” movement. I began to realize this a year ago when our dysfunctional, Broad Superintendent-led school district was suddenly almost eager to help us inform parents of their rights to opt out. It wasn’t until the ESSA passed, and I started learning more about competency-based education, out-of-school time learning, and workforce badging that the bigger picture came into focus.

Peggy Robertson, Busted Pencils: Opt Out is Dead
“The key is refusing the online testing and curriculum IN MASS. One person trying to do this alone has a hard road and a slim chance of succeeding – ultimately this online curriculum will be tied to grades (and already is in many cities), therefore making it more challenging to refuse.  Parents and citizens, in mass, who speak to the school board, who publicize their desire to refuse this online curriculum, can win. Expose it. Gather support. And REFUSE IT. Demand authentic learning by authentic teachers in democratic classroom settings.”
Cheri Kiesecker, Missouri Education Watchdog: ABCs of Classrooms at Risk: Don’t Just Opt Out
“Ask your school what online vendors (like Knewton) they use. Ask to see data contracts, the data collected and shared. Ask why your child is exposed to more and more screen time, and industrial strength Wi-Fi at school. Ask to have the radiation levels measured, and ask to follow these best practices when using Wi-Fi.  Ask to have amount of screen time documented and limited to pediatrician recommended limits.  Remember your child’s  classroom, your child,  is being subjected to much more than just one end of the year test. When you think Opt Out, think big.  Think more. Think Protect the Child….all year.”

Kevin Ohlandt, Exceptional Delaware: Opt Out as we know it is dead. Long live the badge.
If you are with me and agree, join me.  Join those of us, across the country, who believe children should not be guinea pigs for futurists and their money-making agendas.  Talk to your legislators.  Find out what upcoming legislation would allow this future, whether it is Blockchain technology or something else.  Look for “Pay for Success” legislation which has corporations hedge bets based on student outcomes, otherwise known as Social Impact Bonds.  Tell them to fight this and advocate for the restoration of FERPA to pre-2011 levels.  Speak out and share information with other parents and friends.  Opt Out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is dead.  It is now time to opt out of anything which will bring this future to pass and will cause more harm to your children than anything before.
Emily Talmage, Saving Maine’s Schools: Parents: Time to Step Up Our Game
“It’s time for us to dial up the original Opt Out spirit – the one that wasn’t afraid to say hell no – and realize that we’re going to need to extend this fight way beyond the big end-of-year-test.
Data-mining.  Key-stroke tracking.  Collection of sensitive personal information that ends up in the hands of advertisers.  Digital badging.  Unhealthy amounts of screen time. Growing class sizes. Depleted school budgets.
If I sound alarmist, it’s because I’m a mom and a teacher, so we’re talking about my kids here. I am seriously alarmed.”

Friday, September 2, 2016

Senator Dinniman - Keystone Exam Issues/Parental Input Request

Please read the below email from Senator Dinniman and his request from parents or organizations who might want to take the PDE to court and for amicus briefs.  Please also consider attending the meeting on September 12th mentioned below.  

To Supporters of Ending Common Core Exams in Pennsylvania:

Despite Act 1 of 2016, which suspended any use of the Keystone exams or the Project Based Assessments for graduation purposes during the two year period of 2016-18, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is blatantly ignoring the law and issuing directives to local school districts to use the exam if they want to for graduation.

It certainly appears that PDE has shown their solid commitment to the Common Core testing process and the continued collection of data.  They don’t seem to care about or respect the law.  This is not government by the elected legislature but government by the bureaucracy.

You will be interested to learn the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, since 2008, spent $1.1 billion on these Common Core tests, with $741 million of that going to one testing company, Data Recognition Corporation (DRC).

Please view the supporting material at the following links:
1. An explanation of the Data Recognition Corp. (DRC) contracts.

2. A chart showing the DRC contracts, which come to $741,158,039.60, and the total paid to date of $440,512,625.69.

3. A listing of material requested from PDE but, as of this date, not provided.
4. A column from the July 23, 2016 New York Times  providing background on these Common Core Exams, which in Pennsylvania are the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exams.
Additionally, it appears that PDE is forcing the children of parents who opted out to take the Project Based Assessment, whose use is currently suspended by the legislature.  There seems to be no respect by PDE for the rights of parents concerning their own children.

So the question now is “what will we do about this situation?”  If you know parents or organizations who might want to take PDE to court or file amicus briefs, let me know.  

In the meantime, I am having a meeting for those concerned about PDE’s actions in my district office, One North Church Street, West Chester, on Monday, September 12th, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.

This is a matter of great importance.  A number of us have been working for years against excessive testing and have serious concerns about Common Core.  Please invite your friends to join in the September 12th meeting.


Andrew E. Dinniman

State Senator, 19th District