More From McMullan

More from the PJSTA’s Melissa McMullan, who is a participant on the New York State Standard Review Committee.  Below are what she wrote up after the third and fourth days on the committee…

Fearless advocates, this is for you!

“Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

Chinese Proverb

Today was the third day of the New York State Standard Review Committee. It is late. It has been a struggle to determine what to say. I wanted to discuss the tension between going narrow and deep to support learning and going an inch deep and a mile wide to protect students and their teachers from being harmed by state assessment. Additionally, I contemplated the true root of our woes in teaching English Languages Arts – instruction that has been so decimated by ninety-one different “learning strands” and ill-conceived, grossly mismanaged assessments. I began to review the side conversations I had with teachers throughout the day and into the evening. In the hours since I sat down to write, something startling has transpired.

The work we have done over the last several years is beginning to pay off. Those of you who have given hours, weeks, months and quite possibly years of your time to fight the harmful reforms to public education need to rest assured. Your work is getting noticed. Teachers all around me here are speaking up. Teachers working on this committee are deeply passionate about teaching, and the children they teach. The vast majority I have spoken with fall into one of two camps: teachers who are fiercely advocating for their students in the open, and those who are fiercely fighting behind the scenes because they have been silenced.

To protect teachers, I do not want to get into specifics. But teachers are rising — from beginning to ask why we are doing what we are doing, saying no to administrators when what the state “wants the school to do” is on opposition with what the student needs, to advocating for their entire schools to opt out of state tests for years. It is extremely evident to many teachers that the standards and the assessments to measure student progress have nothing to do with learning. It is clear, that this understanding resonates with a great number of people.

Those of us who can speak candidly need to keep doing so with whoever will listen.        We have made tremendous headway. We have a large army of teachers who are fighting every day in a myriad of ways to advocate for their students. These teachers are supported by a growing body of families who realize something is terribly wrong. Many more are open to join this fight knowing that they are not alone.

Thank you so much for standing for our children in any way you can. This is a monumental task where every piece matters.

The Elephant in the Room

“When there is an elephant in the room introduce him.”

~Randy Pausch

Elephant

Today was the fourth day of the New York State Standard Review Committee. I began the day, with a little tap on the knee from a fellow teacher deeply committed to ensuring her entire school refuses state assessments so her students can keep learning all year. “We don’t have time in our curriculum to stop for those” she said.

I am still not permitted to share any specifics about the committee’s work this week. What we have are incomplete recommendations that will have to be reviewed by the public, modified where necessary and approved by the Board of Regents. It has has been directed to us that we can’t get rid of the current standards. I can be honest and say that every minute has been spent contemplating how to modify the standards we have, in ways that support learning and protect children and their teachers on state assessments – the elephant in the room.

The elephant in the room is the state assessments’ impact on our children. It absolutely cannot be ignored. Each of us here, in a variety of ways, has made it very clear that state assessments have had a monumental, detrimental impact on children.

How? These are experiences teachers and parents have described this week:

  1. State assessment scores used by the state to threaten school teams, causing all instruction to be test-driven not student driven.
  2. Multiple episodes where a teacher has to sneak a developmentally appropriate text into a child’s hands because the test driven culture in his school demands that all students read texts that are deemed “at or above grade level.”
  3. A parent who is told that her son cannot read more complex books because he has maxed out at his grade level.
  4. Schools that no longer teach narrative writing because “it is not on the assessment.”
  5. Children with special needs who have worked hard the entire year, only to be “broken” when they have to take an assessment that contains passages whose text complexity is nowhere near where these children are in motivation, knowledge and experience.
  6. Situations where English Language Learners (ELL’s), in their first year in the United States, speaking no English, are required to work with grade level texts that they can make no meaning of.

We must remain steadfast in our mission. We will not rest until teaching serves children not publishers, financiers  nor politicians. It is time to show the elephant where the door is and get back to teaching…

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McMullan Reports on Standard Review Committee

PJSTA member Melissa McMullan reports on her experience on the New York State Standard Review Committee…

The Cycle of Standards, Instruction and Assessment

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.” 

~Jonathon Kozol

Today was the second day of the New York State Standard Review Committee. In total, sixty-eight people responded to my survey. This feedback is combined with a letter Stronger Together Caucus (ST Caucus) sent to the Board of Regents and the New York State Department of Education regarding the need for clear concise standards that included assessment limits for students and teachers. Once again, I sat with this feedback before me, as my grade level band and sub-group looked at specific standards.

We have been asked to refrain from sharing specific details of our work because right now it is all a work in progress. Ultimately, our recommendations will be made public for comment before these recommendations are brought to the Board of Regents (BOR) for review.

There are big ideas that are swirling around in my mind. I am eager for feedback from parents and colleagues.

First, as a society, what do we want the standards to do? I am genuinely curious about what people think of standards. What do they mean to people? What do we expect standards to accomplish?

Second, how do we ensure that assessment of progress toward reaching those standards remains directly connected with instruction? Do we seek a narrowing of standards that will streamline assessment? Do we maintain more holistic standards that leave more room for instructional freedom?

Finally, and most importantly, how much do we trust the teachers in our children’s classrooms? If we agree that standards, instruction and assessment are parts of a continuous cycle through which all learning takes place, then who do we trust to craft and implement these pieces?

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After BOE Approval, New PJSTA Contract is official

Following last night’s Comsewogue graduation, the Comsewogue school board voted to approve the MOA that was ratified by the PJSTA membership earlier in the day.  The new contract, a four year deal, takes effect July 1st and will expire on June 30, 2020.

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PJSTA Membership Ratifies New Contract

The PJSTA general membership overwhelmingly ratified our new contract today.  The MOA will now go to the Comsewogue BOE for final approval.

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The PJSTA Contract Extension Agreement

The PJSTA has reached an agreement with the Comsewogue School District on a contract extension.  The extension was approved unanimously at today’s Representative Counsel meeting.  The extension will be put to a ratification vote next Thursday, June 23rd at 1:00 pm in the Comsewogue High School auditorium. 

We will be holding meetings every day between now and then to answer questions from the general membership on the terms of the agreement.  Any member is welcome to attend any of the meetings.  The meeting schedule is as follows:

  • Friday, June 17th- 11:15 AM at Comsewogue High School
  • Friday, June 17th- 2:30 PM at JFK Middle School
  • Friday, June 17th- 4:00 PM at JFK Middle School
  • Monday, June 20th- 2:00 PM at Comsewogue High School
  • Tuesday, June 21st- 1:00 PM at Terryville Elementary School
  • Wednesday, June 22nd- 1:00 PM at Boyle Road Elementary School

RATIFICATION VOTE: Thursday, June 23rd, 1:00 PM at Comsewogue High School

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