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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Common Core is not just stupid, but harmful

Mark Naison the Notorious Ph.d posted on Facebook A rap for the Common Core on Janaury 31, 2014:

My Core's not common,
Neither's my brain,
These tests they're giving
Drive me insane
My parents hate them,
My teachers too,
Someone was looking
For students to screw
To make them helpless
To make them fail
To get them ready
For Walmart or jail
But I'm not ready
To give up this soon
My parents taught me
To shoot for the moon
So I won't settle
For second best
It's time to remove
All Common Core tests

Mark and I are good friends who have been rooted in the struggle for school equity for decades. I love Mark's raps, his inspiring talks, the man is a legend and a hero to parents, teachers, and students. Not being able to rap in any way, I decided to honor my dear friend by putting a best practice and research base to the thinking behind his rap.
The Word on the Core from the Walking Man
The truth is NCLB/RTTT, and Common Core reformer concepts of accountability are not rooted in best practice, or research. It is exactly what all those nations who out score us on international comparisons have left behind. The most important data is the kind of data collected by teachers observing children dealing with the normal expectations of learning in the classroom. It always was, and still is the most informative data we have on any child. Research refers to this data as formative assessment. Formative Assessment is the data that teachers gather every single moment of their teaching day. It includes observations, authentic evaluations of how a child performs while meeting the expectations of being in the classroom. Teachers have quizzes, daily writing examples, daily oral language, all types of questions, projects, they collect data on how your child works alone, one to one, in pairs, in small groups, and within large groups, they see work as it develops all the way to completion. Any assessment framework that does not deeply value the data teachers collect is an unhealthy one for children. This is the a major problem with the Common Core it attempts mechanized what teachers and learners do naturally. 

Other informative data is diagnostic data, This data is used when a child is struggling to meet the daily expectations of learning in the classroom. It is done by professionals who specialized in formal testing. This type of assessment is done one to one, the purpose is not to compare you child to others, but to find a base line where your child is at, and to develop a carefully thought out plan to move a child towards meeting the daily expectations of learning in the classroom. For children who are struggling, this is some of the most important data collected, but it is useless if it does not come in the form of a collaboration between specialized professionals, parents, students, and teachers. This data is crucial to helping our children who fall outside the box of normal learning. At it's best it has the potential to transform lives. It offers the most hope to children who struggle with learning. This is the data my expertise and my work is rooted in as the clinical director of our Central Connecticut State University Literacy Center. It is also the data that helps improve learning by helping researchers, educators, and others multiple pathways to learning. Just because traditional ways of measuring can't see it, does not mean learning is not happening. Diagnostic assessment had the potential to transform both the learner and the professional. Those deeply rooted in this work understand children are our greatest teachers.   

The least informative data are norm-reference tests, these are the out of context multiple choice assessments that No Child Left Behind is deeply rooted in. They are not developed with school personnel and teachers. They can not inform parents of what a child is capable of achieving, but makes broad generalizations. They rate your child by comparing them to national norms that do not account for special needs, language issues, or poverty. They are outsourced, and often untimely as well. This means they often takes weeks or months to get the information back, and by time it arrives it is too late to adjust instruction. Policy makers and politicians love this data, because they use it to strike fear into the public. It can be useful for telling how a school compares to others, but making it punitive makes it just stupid!

Criteria reference assessments, formal testing that claims to represent authentic learning, but these days has turned into poorly-based assessments link to standards not vetted by parents, teachers, and educators. They are rooted in mastery testing, that is they set a proficiency standard as their bench mark. I like standards, but standards not vetted by teachers, educators, parents, and properly field-tested are just stupid. These can be useful, but not when they are created by outside entities, and rooted in for profit ventures. Most importantly they take so much time to evaluated that they are really useless to improving the individual learning of a child. These are the assessments that reduce our children to proficiency levels. Use them as the sole criteria for retention, and they become lethal to learning. 

Now back to the problem with the Common Core. It claims to be formative in nature, but as soon as you measure formative learning in controlled contexts you are no longer measuring actual learning in the classroom. As soon as you take the grading out of the hand of teachers, and give it to some outside entity you corrupted it.  Common Core SBAC and PARCC assessment consortia(s) are rooted not in best practice, the research, but in outdated concepts of assessment. This is why they have not been properly field tested, and why even after getting nearly a billion dollars of Federal and State monies they are still in limbo.

OK Dr. Turner, what kind of assessment is rooted in best practice?
A "balanced assessment framework" views academic achievement as a photo album of performance over time. This framework is rooted in a performance based portfolio assessment. Just like the family photo album, the balanced assessment framework includes many photos of the child’s progress in school.  The voices of children, parents, and teachers are highly valued within this type of album.  Children, parents, and teachers must have a say in what goes into the photo album of performance.  I am not opposed to using standardized tests. They are included, but they weigh equally with other inputs.  Simply stated, a balanced assessment framework is rooted in a genuine performance based portfolio; one which is driven by assessments that respect children, parents, teachers, local schools, and diverse communities.  (2013 Turner, J. & Foshay, J.).

On Common Core standards again, they came from policy makers, private entities, political consultants not researchers, cognitive experts, developmental psychologists, or the professional organization of academic teaching organizations. This alone makes them highly suspicious. Standards are good, but not when they are designed by those who do not work closely with learners, teachers, specialized experts in child development, and actual learners. Unlike the "Ten Commandments" that Moses brought down to the Hebrew people from God, standards in a democracy need to come from the people. Best Practice in developing standards depends on them being inclusive creations developed in a democratic process that include all stake holders. These Common Core Standards are not based in any democratic process, and they certainly did not come down from God, or the people. The only mountain they came down from was "hey we can make billions off our public schools" groups. Michele Moinar in Education Week last April gave us an example of how much money can be made in

So to keep it simple, the Core is not balanced, not rooted in best practice, the research, or in any sense of the way in a balance assessment framework. It's not just stupid it's harmful to children, teachers, and our public schools. 
Let me end with a line from Mark's rap and a new verse of my own.
"It's time to remove
All Common Core tests"

My brain's to big to fit inside your your bubble
Stop the Core it's killing my brain
Damn, don't you know I'm more than a test score
Dr. Jesse Patrick Turner AKA The Walking Man

If you want to know what the Walking Man is listening to today it's Barry Lane and Amy Ludwig's "More Than A Number"...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Last night Atlanta teachers did what they always do, they came through for parents

Last night while Washington DC drank champaign and made much to do about nothing with President Obama's State of the Union, hundreds of children and their teachers slept in classrooms, gyms, stayed on buses, and school libraries. Ed reformers were not there, but teachers were.
Via Stephanie Lavender Weber on Facebook:  "I am spending the night in my building with about 70 middle school students and 20 some faculty because the ice/snow has shut down this north Georgia county. Our busses couldn't continue and the parents can't get through the roads. We "dismissed" early at 1:00, but it really meant nothing without busses. We have even cooked for them."

Above is an image of what educators do, below is the image of what DC politicians do.

Evaluate that DC Ed Reformers! 
Still marching,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

Want to know what the Walking Man listened to on his walk on this cold, cold Pete Seeger's Snow, Snow, Snow....;_ylt=A2KLqIUl_uhSfk0Af.n7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTB2Y3ZuNzNzBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDVjE0NgRncG9zAzI-?p=pete+seeger+let+it+snow+song&vid=073392aa49f3eeb29db8cd51149447f1&l=2%3A53&

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Walking Man Response to the President's State of the Union

President Obama said about education: "It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it's worth it - and it's working."

My Walking Man response, it's not working, and your Secretary of Education is all about filling in bubbles on high stakes testing, and closing our local schools. The Senate, Congress, and the White House are what is not working!
Our children and their teachers are not data points. We reject your Common Core, your new teacher evaluations, your school closings, your fake school choices, and we are coming to Washington DC this July to demand an end to high stakes testing, the Common Core, and the resignation of Secretary Arne Duncan.
See you in July Mr. President,
Jesse The Walking Turner 

If you want to know what the Walking Man is listening to tonight it's Barry Lane Jesse Turner Walkin man.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I went up to the moutain, because you told me to
I plan to honor Dr. Martin Luther King not just his holiday, but everyday,
I plan to honor Dr. King by rejecting the status quo,
I plan to honor Dr. King by being a radical for justice,
A radical for hope,
A radical for equality,
A radical against injustice,
A radical for peace,
A radical for love,

I plan to honor Dr. King by marching for children, teachers, and our public schools,
I plan to honor Dr. King by rejecting the reduction of children to data points,
I plan to honor Dr. King by continuing the war on poverty,
I plan to honor Dr. King by marching in Selma in March,
Marching to Hartford in April,
Marching in Washington DC in July,
I will honor Dr. King not by remembering him, but with radical actions against justice denied,
Ain't nobody gonna turner me around.
Still marching,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

 If you want to know what the Walking Man listened to on his cold winter walk over the mountain. It was Patty Griffin's  honoring Dr. King with "I went up to the mountain."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

We demand a Balanced Assessment system that advocates for activist teaching that transforms learners. Either that or Opt Out

The Role of Advocacy, Activism, and Transformation in a Balanced Assessment Framework
Jesse P. Turner, Ph. D.
Central Connecticut State University

Let’s get the white elephant in the room out front with respect to Smarter Balanced Consortium and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career consortia’s. All across America school districts and Education Departments are facing a growing group of parents who are refusing to let their children take state mastery tests. We have the National United Opt Out organizing occupations of the United State Department of Education in 2012 and 13. In NYC in 2013 over 8000 parents opted their children out of mastery testing. The Connecticut State Department of Education has a protocol for dealing with parents who are opting out their children from state mastery tests. This is an unheard of phenomenon in the history of American Education. The question for me as an educator, academic, and researcher is how this phenomenon with assessment came about?

The metaphor, I use at the Central Connecticut State University Literacy Center with parents and teachers, and in my work when discussing a “Balanced Assessment Framework” is one of a family photo album. A balanced framework views academic achievement as a photo album of performance over time. This framework is rooted in a performance based portfolio assessment. Just like the family photo album, the balanced assessment framework includes many photos of the child’s progress in school.  The voices of children, parents, and teachers are highly valued within this type of album.  Children, parents, and teachers must have a say in what goes into the photo album of performance.  I am not opposed to using standardized tests. They are included, but they weigh equally, no more, no less with other inputs.   Formative assessments are created by teachers not outside entities. Simply stated, a balanced assessment framework is rooted in a genuine performance based portfolio; system that advocates for a celebration of differences, vested in activist instruction that empowers individuals, and transforms all learners via an activism of instruction that fits each and every learner. 
There is no one size fits all, but is rather a celebration of the humane relationship between teacher and student. An assessment system that transforms classrooms using assessments that respect children, parents, teachers, local schools, and diverse communities. 
For the past 20 years parents and teachers “get” and desire this type of assessment framework. The literature at every level supports this type of framework. So what is with the white elephant question? Well many researchers argue the current assessment frameworks of NCLB/RTTT are not balanced. I would argue they are not balanced, because policy makers and United States Department of Education officials have not vetted any of their assessment systems in genuine partnerships with parents, teachers, and their professional organizations.

  1. The current accountability system is problematic in that it is a top down driven assessment model, one that is dominated by standardized summative testing. One can not assume entities who have no roll in actual instruction can and would advocate for differential instruction for ELL learners, special needs learners, the poor, those students fighting terminal illnesses, or those being abuse. High-Stakes testing entities approach the realities these learners face as non-measurable uncontrolled variables. They are data points ignored. A major problem with High-Stakes is they are more punitive in nature than reward based.  One cannot ignore the negative effects of over a decade of a primary punitive system that fails to recognize differential variables.
At the core of the NCLB/RTTT’s, high stakes assessments dominate the measures of children, their teachers, and our local schools.  Dr. Elaine Garan award-winning researcher, educator, grandmother, and author of Resisting Reading Mandates (2002) writes of the problem with NCLB & RTTT assessment framework. There is no court of appeal because the testing culture is cold, remote, and faceless.” ~ Garan, E. (2007)

  1. My concern with the Smarter Balanced Consortium and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career frameworks currently being developed is, we have more of the same; standardized test driven framework.  The Smarter Balanced Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career  consortium have failed to explain where are the voices of the learners, parents, and teachers in their frameworks? Imagine a medical diagnostic model that did not speak to parents, their family, and their caregiverS’? One cannot imagine such a diagnostic model in medicine, because it would violate the main ethical principles of medicine: do no harm, and beneficence. Such a medical model could not meet the rigor of bringing new medicines or interventions to market without extensive feedback from patients and care givers. If someone tried to by pass these two ethical principles, they would be charge with violating the law, and subject to imprisonment.   
  1. Thus any assessment system not observing the above two ethical principles of (1) Do no harm,  (2) A well being component lacks the ability to advocate and act for children, parents and teachers. Where is the humanity in an assessment framework that is unable to advocate personal, social, economic, and emotional concerns of the children it claims to assess?

Four crucial questions that are not being discussed as United States policy makers and political leaders quake in fear of not being able to compete future 21 first century markets are:
  1. Is assessment and evaluation meant to be cold, heartless, and disconnected from primary stakeholders, or should it contain a wellness or instructional component?
  2. Where is the Court of Appeals for children, parents, teachers, and local schools in this new era of accountability?
  3. Can an assessment system claiming balanced be rooted in punitive evaluation tools that are linked exclusively in formal standardized measures be balanced and fair?
  4. Can a balanced and fair assessment framework not take into accounts the voices of children, parents, teachers, local schools, and diverse communities?

I argue any assessment system that that does not include the voices of children, parents, teachers, local schools, and diverse communities can not an honest broker, but becomes a dictator of reductionist thinking. Simply put children are more than test scores, and test scores alone do not measure the value of what a child knows, understands, and is capable of learning. An assessment system based solely on test scores lack the depth required to captured the whole child.
Assessment product providers are not dictators of what should be measured. If they want to be viewed as honest brokers than they to become helpful service providers in a balanced assessment system.

Important References

For International comparisons:
Brown Center on Educational Policy at Brookings (2010). The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning? Available at

For a decade review of NCLB:
Important Additional Resource/link that provides a decade review of NCLB by Fairtest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law “failed badly both in terms of its own goals and more broadly,” leading to a decade of educational stagnation. That is the central conclusion of a major new report marking NCLB’s tenth anniversary. President George W. Bush signed the program into law on January 8, 2002. >

For a deeper understanding of the role politics plays in school reform.
When Politics, Profit, and Education Collide Elaine M. Garan, (2004).
 ISBN 978-0-325-00647-5 / 0-325-00647-4

See for a better understanding of a Balanced Assessment:
Turner, J. P., Foshay J. d., Pansofar, E., (2013)Toward a More Balanced Assessment Framework: Transforming School IAP Charlotte North Carolina.

If you want to know what the Walking Man listened to on his walk under a Jamaican was 

I Dreamed A Dream (Anne Hathaway) from Les Misérables

Still marching,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Call me one Badass Teacher fighting his way to DC this July 28, 2014

Today I am walking under a Jamaican sun, I have the honor and the pleasure of working with 19 Jamaican reading teachers here. They have arrived at the last course on their three-year journey to becoming Reading Specialists. They have crossed so many rivers to become Reading Specialists, gone into debt, made far too many sacrifices to come to this river. I have been their captain. One lost her toddler son just less than two months ago, and still grieving she came to cross this last river in honor of her son. 
I am in awe of my teachers. Jamaicans teachers are no different than American teachers they never stop learning, never stop sacrificing, and almost always on their own dime. It pains me to hear so many in power undermining and belittling their work.  
I said I was their Captain, but it's the crew who lifts the anchor, and sails the ship out and in of port. This by far is one of the best crews that any captain ever had. So for this blog I am drawing on one of Jamaica's Seven National Heroes. Marcus Garvey in their honor. For my Jamaican teachers have given me far more than I them.

Jonathan Kozal wrote about savage inequalities that define our public schools two decades ago. He called our leaders to equality, he called them to justice, to dignity, and to honor.

Bob Marley said: "How many rivers do we have to cross before we talk to the boss?"
Equality does not come through testing,
Equality does not come through reducing children to data points,
Equality does not come through demoralizing teachers,
Equality does not come through forcing schools to compete against each other on unleveled playing fields.

Equality will not come through Common Core Standards that fail to study our history:
Equality does not ignore the brutalization of our Native people,
Equality does not ignore the continuous noble struggle of a people dragged from Africa's shore in bondage rising from the evil shackles of slavery to freedom,
Equality does not ignore that the first cargo unloaded at James Town was 20 Black slaves,
Equality does not ignore the struggles of Black, Latin, Women, GLBT for Civil Rights,
Equality does not ignore the struggles of labor unions,
Equality does not ignore the history of those who sacrifice all to defend the freedom of all,
Equality does not ignore the immigrant journeys of all Americans, our journeys did not end at Plymouth,
Equality does not ignore the cries of the poor, 
Equality does not ignore the disastrous lessons of bubbles, speculators, and economic collapses.

Equality will not come with out a deep study of who we are, where we came from, and an thorough examination of the sacrifices of all Americans. 
Focusing on standards rooted in 3 Rs and testing while ignoring the sacrifices, the struggles, the joys and triumphant stories of we the American people,
These Ed Reform Standards are not standards, but an insult, and an attack on the American people.  
Marcus Garvey said “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
I see no roots in Common Core standards that claimed to be are all things to all people, but lack any real specificity about America's journey.  
Where is the spoken word in these standards? I am not referring to the conventions of English, but the voices of who we are, where we are going, our different points of view, and our deepest hopes? 
These standards appear to aim at silencing our young not at helping to raise their collective voices. Garvey also said: “The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue is mightier than them both put together.” I see silence and apathy rooted in these standards not the lifting the voices of our young. Any wonder, why we talk about unmotivated students and prison to school pipelines.

Returning to Equity. As long as we give one school more than another, and expect the same results. 
First, I acknowledge we were rooted in inequality before NCLB, but have made unfair competition and inequity the core of our NCLB/RTTT Education Reforms.
Second, any national standards not rooted in equity are not standards, but shackles upon the dreams and hopes of our children.
Thirdly, I know evil when I see it,
Finally, I know a righteous fight when I am in it,
Call me one Badass Teacher fighting his way to DC this July 28, 2014,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you want to know what the Walking Man was listening to on his walk, it was Bob Marley's Stand up..Get Up... and James Weldon Johnson's Lift Every Voice