Open Letter to Teachers about Standardized Test Scores + {Teacher Appreciation Week Printable}

Open Letter to Teachers about Standardized Test Scores + {Teacher Appreciation Week Printable}

One of my least favorite times in the school year is the end of the year standardized testing. But probably not for the reason that you would think. You see, I know that those test scores become a major part of the teacher’s evaluation. Of course, I understand that it’s important to measure student growth because that could demonstrate how effective a teacher might be in the classroom. But there are so many important things that a test will never be able to show.

So this is my open letter to teachers about standardized test scores:

FREE Teacher Appreciation Printable #teacherappreciationweek #thankyou

Dear Teacher,

We know this standardized test will never show how many hours you spent preparing lessons, making sure that each subject is meaningful to every student in your classroom.

It will never show how you stood up for a child who was being bullied. Or how you lost sleep worrying about that student.

No test can show how you took a subject that a student never understood and made it come alive for them. Or how you see potential in the children, even if they can’t see it in themselves.

No test can measure the impact you have on the students’ lives. It won’t show the kindness and the compassion and the understanding that you provide on a daily basis. And it certainly doesn’t measure your patience. Because no matter how long it took, you never gave up on the child that needed you the most.

These tests can’t measure how much money you’ve spent, out of your own pocket, to make sure that your students have lunch to eat, school supplies to use, or even clothes to wear.

These test results won’t show how you’re the bright spot in a student’s day. How you helped a child who used to dread school and they now look forward to coming every day, because they know you will be there encouraging them.

No test can measure the love and kindness that you have poured into your students – my children. It may seem that so much of your hard work goes unnoticed…but it does not. We know that what you do everyday goes far beyond…

So no matter what the test scores show, THANK YOU for sowing into our children’s lives each and every day. We know you made a difference!

Open Letter to Teachers about Standardized Test Scores + FREE Teacher Appreciation Printable #teacherappreciationweek #thankyou

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Domestic Violence Being Joked About in Fourth Grade Curriculum

Lab Safety? | Money Savvy Living


This is not a topic that I would have even thought to write about on my own. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. Until, I was helping my son review for this science test a few days ago. I mean, why would I have even had reason to believe anything about domestic violence would show up in a “Thinking Like A 4th Grade Scientist” packet? Well, it did.


There were a couple of page on Lab Safety. Makes sense. Teach the kids to be safe when conducting experiments in the lab. Most of the rules and explanations sounded fine, until we get to “Horseplay out.” Here’s the entire excerpt of that section:


“Horseplay can lead to chemical spills, accidental fires, broken containers, and damaged equipment. Never throw anything to another person; be careful where you put your hands and arms; and no wrestling, punching, or shoving in the lab. Save that for when you get older and start dating.”


Did you catch that? “Save that for when you get older and start dating.”


Exactly what are they supposed to save for when they get older and start dating? Wrestling? Is this a lewd comment about making-out or some other sort of hanky-panky? Punching or shoving? Why would anyone need to save punching and shoving for dating?? Punching and shoving within a relationship is not a joke, it’s not flirtatious—it’s abuse. And why is the mention of dating even necessary when talking about lab safety for 4th grade science class anyways?


At best, this sentence is meant to be a joke—a very bad and inappropriate joke. At worst, it is trying to somehow justify physical violence within a relationship as acceptable. Either way, no student (not even in high school) should be exposed to this type of rhetoric, especially, not a child as young as fourth grade.


Why am I making such a big deal of this? It’s only one, little sentence, right? Well, the things we say to kids matter. They remember it. They are like little sponges, soaking up information about what we, as adults, say and do. So if they bring home something from school (a trusted source) that nonchalantly jokes about physical violence within a relationship—“when you get older and start dating”—then we are sending a message to our kids that it’s not a big deal, probably even acceptable, and should even be expected. That’s not the message that I want to send to my children.


Don’t get the wrong idea here. I am NOT blaming the school or my son’s teacher. As a teacher myself, I understand that it is totally possible and reasonable to expect that a teacher, or the Board of Education who probably approved the curriculum, has NOT read every single sentence of every textbook or supplemental material packet that is going to be used. They are looking at an overview of the curriculum and trusting that the publisher has taken their due diligence within the writing and printing of materials. It is not until teachers actually start teaching from a particular series that they can fully know how the implementation of that material is working.


We are very fortunate to be in a great district and when I contacted the teacher, he was very understanding and said he didn’t know that sentence was in there until the packets had already gone home and would remove that sentence for future use. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better resolution in this situation.


But I still had to think, what if my son’s teacher wasn’t so understanding and willing to resolve this issue immediately? What if I hadn’t read through my son’s curriculum to find it in the first place? I’m sure there are many districts across the country that do actually use controversial curriculum and probably don’t even care the message it sends to kids. How many other publishers, like the Wild Goose Company—the creator of this ridiculousness—are slipping in controversial remarks or weaving inappropriate undertones into curriculum that are slowly and methodically ingrained into our children as core beliefs?


I don’t know if the teacher would have caught it. I don’t know if other parents caught it. What I do know is that we have the right, and responsibility, as parents to speak up for what we want our kids to be taught, and when something doesn’t seem right, say something.

As parents, be involved in what your children are learning. Be an active participant in their education.

Every Kid in a Park: Fourth Graders and their families get FREE admission to National Parks

Every Kid in a Park | Money Savvy Living


Is your child a fourth grader for the 2015-2016 school year? If so, your fourth grade student—and entire family—qualifies to visit all national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other federal park lands throughout the 2015-2016 school year—for FREE as part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative!


Every Kid in a Park passes are scheduled to be available on September 1, 2015. Passes will be good for one year. Details on obtaining and using the passes will be announced September 1, to coincide with the launch of the program. As information is released, or as updates are made, check the Every Kid in a Park page for the most current program details.


Every Kid in a Park joins the National Park Foundation’s Open Outdoors for Kids program in helping children learn history, culture, and science while exploring the great outdoors. With kids spending more time in front of technology these days—smart phones, video games, tablets—it is more important than ever to encourage children to learn by experiencing and not just researching online.


Because the fourth grade student and their entire family can get into the parks for FREE, visiting one of America’s beautiful national parks would be a frugal—and educational—vacation for your family this year.  Want to plan a trip?  Click here to get a pass for your fourth grader and family.


Following is a list of the parks that are a part of this program. Check out the locations and links and start planning your visit today:


Acadia NP—Bar Harbor, ME

Arches NP—Moab, UT

Big South Fork NRRA—Oneida, TN

Biscayne NP—Homestead, FL

Bryce Canyon NP—Bryce, UT

Cape Cod NS—Wellfleet, MA

Cape Hatteras NS—Manteo, NC

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP—Hagerstown, MD

Death Valley NP—Death Valley, CA

Everglades NP—Homestead, FL

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP—Fredericksburg, VA

Glacier Bay NP and PRES—Gustavus, AK

Glacier NP—West Glacier, MT

Grand Canyon NP—Grand Canyon, AZ

Grand Teton NP—Moose, WY

Great Basin NP—Baker, NV

Grand Sand Dunes NP and PRES—Mosca, CO

Great Smokey Mountains NP—Gatlinburg, TN

Harpers Ferry NHP—Harpers Ferry, WV

Lassen Volcanic NP—Mineral, CA

Mammoth Cave NP—Mammoth Cave, KY

Mesa Verde NP—Mesa Verde, CO

Mount Rainier NP—Ashford, WA

Olympic NP—Port Angeles, WA

Ozark NSR—Van Buren, MO

Rocky Mountain NP—Estes Park, CO

San Antonio Missions NHP—San Antonio, TX

Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP—Three Rivers, CA

Shenandoah NP—Luray, VA

Sleeping Bear Dunes NL—Empire, MI

Theodore Roosevelt NP—Medora, ND

Virgin Islands NP—St. John, Virgin Islands

Yellowstone NP—Yellowstone NP, WY

Yosemite NP—Yosemite NP, CA

Zion NP—Springdale, UT


*The initiative is an administration-wide effort among the National Park Service, Forest Service, Department of Education, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The False Assumptions of Common Core and PARCC

PARCC practice test question

You are probably aware that Common Core testing started last week in a state-wide rollout in Ohio. For our state, it was the implementation of the PARCC test (Partnership Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Even if your state didn’t give the PARCC test, if you live in a state which has adopted the Common Core standards, your child may very well be receiving a very similar round of testing.


The Common Core math textbooks have been in schools for several years now, spreading as the accepted “new” way to teach math and adopted by many schools nationwide. As this way of teaching math has become more prevalent, parents have started speaking out.


As a parent—and educator, and professional—I try to keep an open mind to change. Just because we have always done things a certain way doesn’t mean that there isn’t something better out there—but it also doesn’t mean that the change isn’t for the worse either. Either way, when a change is implemented, we need to be able to look at the effects and objectively analyze the results, then make necessary adjustments.


But sometimes we just get change for the sake of change.


I have tried to rationalize the concept of Common Core math, and I absolutely embrace the need for teaching students to think critically; however, I have not been able to figure out how on earth Common Core math even comes remotely close to meeting its lofty goal of raising the standard. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does the opposite.


So, let’s take a look at an example question from the PARCC practice test for third graders:

Cindy is finding the quotient 27 / 9. She says, “The answer is 18 because addition is the opposite of division and 9 + 18 = 27.”
Part A: Identify the incorrect reasoning in Cindy’s statement. Enter your explanation in the space provided.
Part B: Show or explain how Cindy can correct her reasoning. Find the quotient when 27 is divided by 9. Enter your answer and your work or your explanation in the space provided.


Honestly, it is hard for me to know where to start. Not with solving the math problem, but with pointing out all the things that are wrong and inappropriate about this question.


Common Core is negatively reinforcing math concepts.


First of all, the wording of this question is not directly asking the child to solve the math problem—or find the quotient—with the correct quotient actually being the answer. Instead, the math problem is posed with a hypothetical Cindy getting the wrong answer, based on faulty reasoning. Let’s think about this for a second. Why are we even posing questions that have misinformation in them to students? This can be a very destructive way to teach. I can guarantee that a small percentage of students will pick up on the phrase “addition is the opposite of division” and will remember this, even though it is explained in the question as “incorrect reasoning.”


Let me give you an example of the selective hearing that will lead to some students gleaning the incorrect statement of “addition is the opposite of division.” The other day, my third grade son came home from school and asked to play on his ipad. I told him that he could after he had a snack and did his homework. He came over and ate his snack, then went to the living room to play his ipad. I reminded him that he needed to do his homework first. His response was, “but you said I could play my ipad.” Does this scenario sound familiar to any other parent out there? Sometimes kids hear what they want to hear… maybe they only listen carefully to part of what is being said… maybe it was because that was the last part of the sentence and it stuck with him… who knows, but it is not out of the question to think that a third grader, who is just learning multiplication and division might get confused by the wording of this question. Perhaps, an older student, who has a more firm grasp of multiplication and division would be a better group of students to present “incorrect reasoning” questions to.
Second, let’s look at what the actual question is asking the student to do: “Part A: Identify the incorrect reasoning in Cindy’s statement. Enter your explanation in the space provided.” Now, the test is actually reinforcing the incorrect reasoning by asking students to only identify the incorrect reasoning and enter it in the space provided—this part of the question is not explicitly asking the student to explain why it is wrong. It is not until Part B of the question that the student is asked to identify how Cindy can correct her reasoning. Finally, the second action item of Part B asks the student to solve the math problem of 27 divided by 9 to find the quotient.


Let’s make sure we are keeping this straight. The student is reinforced of faulty information in the wording of the question and then asked to identify and explain the incorrect reasoning—two times being negatively reinforced—before being asked to come up with correct reasoning as to how to solve the problem and finally coming up with the quotient.  So the tests are not positively reinforcing that a child know the correct answer, but are negatively reinforcing the concept if they don’t now why hypothetical Cindy got the question wrong.  Hmmmm…


My suggestion for better wording for this question for a third grader: Find the quotient 27 / 9. Show all your work or explain how you got your answer. The wording of this question asks the student to solve the math problem, positively reinforcing the concept. Asking a student to show all work or explain how they got the answer will give the teacher (or test grader) an idea of the student’s reasoning.


But let’s be honest, math is numbers, not writing essays. If a third grader can solve basic math facts correctly, time and time again, I don’t really think the explanation is necessary because getting a correct answer indicates that a student has basic understanding of the concept. So if the student can come up with the quotient of 3 for this question, but is unable to identify hypothetical little Cindy’s faulty reasoning or explain what she can do to correct her reasoning, do we say this student missed the question? How much credit does the student get for arriving at the correct answer, but failing to come up with a satisfactory essay for the other parts of the question? Did the teacher fail to teach multiplication and division if the student cannot come up with an adequate essay answer? Is this fairly evaluating a teacher’s ability to convey math concepts?


Reasoning for how to solve 27 divided by 9 and identifying strategies to do so is what goes on during classroom instruction. Really, the only person in a third grade classroom that needs to be able to identify Cindy’s incorrect reasoning and figure out what she needs to do differently, is the teacher. The TEACHER.


Finally, the computerized implementation of these tests assumes that all students are fully computer literate, able to seamlessly navigate between screens and understand all button functionality. I think it is safe to say that it would be a pretty accomplished feat for a third grader to be able to type with correct finger placement, let alone expecting them to toggle back and forth with the math symbol keys at the side or knowing when to flag a question for review.


Teaching students how to use a computer is great—and should definitely be a part of their education, integrated throughout the years, but why must we place even more pressure on students by making this the basis for high stakes testing?


I know there are some people out there that think something along the lines of “What’s the big deal? I was tested when I was a kid. We want to raise the standard, don’t we?” Yes, of course we want to raise the standard. Yes, standardized tests have been around for a very long time. But Common Core and PARCC are different.


The purpose of the PARCC testing is also different than typical standardized tests. In the past, standardized tests have been given to students every few years to benchmark education. When fully implemented, some students will be tested 12 times during a school year, which will consume several days and take 18-24 hours away from necessary classroom instruction, not to mention test prep time. The purpose, according to PARCC’s website is to now assess students, several times a year: “The PARCC states’ high quality assessments will allow parents and educators to see how children are progressing in school and whether they are on track for postsecondary success. The PARCC assessment also provides teachers with the ability to identify students who may be falling behind and need extra help.”


So is PARCC is telling us is that teachers do not know how to do their jobs? A teacher’s ability to assess a student throughout the year and keep them progressing is a pretty basic teaching skill. Why do we need these high stakes tests—putting unnecessary pressure on students and teachers? Why are so many teachers remaining silent when they disagree with Common Core and PARCC? Because their jobs are being threatened. So where are the unions? Why aren’t they standing up for the teachers?


If Common Core and high stakes testing are not acceptable or beneficial to a child’s educational process, let’s repeal them and give control back to the states and allow teachers to do what they do best—teach.

19 Action News Picked Up Our Efforts to Repeal Common Core and PARCC

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to Reporter Dan DeRoos about concerns that parents (and teachers) here in Ohio are having regarding Common Core and PARCC testing.

I am also very happy to report that since starting the petition to repeal Common Core and PARCC just two weeks ago, we have received over 2500 signatures! If you are interested in signing and sharing, here is a direct link to the PETITION. Let’s continue to send a message, loud and clear, to our legislators that we want higher standards in education and accountability, but Common Core and PARCC are NOT the way to accomplish those goals. We need to allow teachers to teach students, not perpetually be in test-prep mode.

I have written a couple of articles on this subject lately:
The Cost of Common Core and PARCC: An Open Letter to Parents and Legislators
The Big Business of Education: Breaking Down the Dollars Behind Common Core and PARCC