Reflections On High Stakes Testing

Pauline Hawkins:

How do students feel about PARCC? Here is one student’s perspective.

Originally posted on chandleredu:

While walking through my middle school during summer cleaning, I came across a crumpled page. I picked it up to see if it was anything important. It was hand written in a student’s printing. As I read the content I realized this was some sort of “prewriting” that a student must have been working on, so as to be able to express her/himself when asked. I am thinking this must have been written by a sixth or perhaps a seventh grade student. I have transcribed it word for word.

“I’ve been waiting for this question for so long! Ok lemmi (let me) rant. Thank you!”

“I absolutely hate PARCC and everything to do with it. The questions are terribly worded and flat out stupid. I get so agervated (aggravated) taking this test cause if you don’t have a mouse you are constantly scrolling and I like being able to see…

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Uncommon Core Book Reading

On August 24, 2015, I read Chapter 19: Teach Them How to Be Happy from Uncommon Core: 25 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in a Cookie Cutter Educational System at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, NH.

To purchase Uncommon Core, go to WordCrafts Press or Amazon.

To schedule a book reading, speaking engagement, or interview contact me at or Bethany Ring, Publicist, WordCrafts Press

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Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: August

What are the best ways parents can help teachers and that teachers can help parents?

Communication and honesty are keys to building a positive, healthy relationship between parents and teachers. This relationship is the main reason I wrote Uncommon Core: 25 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in a Cookie Cutter Educational System. I wanted to encourage parents to become collaborators with teachers and vice versa “by giving parents a glimpse into the classroom. It is eye opening for people to see how a seemingly harmless behavior becomes detrimental to a child’s educational success. When parents see the characteristics in the context of the classroom, they may better understand how to collaborate with teachers through their parenting at home.”

We have to understand, from both sides of the desk, the goals, difficulties, and emotions involved in each role and communicate those things honestly and effectively in order for our children to have the tools necessary to achieve educational success. “As I navigated through my parenting experiences, I struggled with many of the things I talk about in [my] book. I struggled as a mother on the other side of the desk with how my children were treated by teachers and students in the classroom. However, my experiences as a teacher have given me insight into my collaboration with my children’s teachers, and I hope to do the same for my readers. If we all have the same information, we can effectively help our children become happy, successful adults.” It’s important that parents and teachers find that common ground and respect each other’s positions in students’ lives.

Also, if we are being honest, we have to see how we have become pawns in this crazy educational reform movement that is not doing teachers, students, or parents any good:

Over the years, I noticed many things change about education. I watched teacher autonomy slowly dissipate with the arrival of state standardized testing. Instead of allowing teachers to use their natural skills and strengths in the classroom, administrators encouraged teachers to be more like other successful teachers. Administrators started judging teachers on their abilities to prepare students for standardized tests rather than their connections with students and their unique teaching style.

I also heard many students blame teachers for their inability to engage with the material. I am a huge proponent for teaching students where they are and meeting their needs; however, this complaint was something different. Students have a responsibility in the learning environment – they need to want to learn. Even with the best lessons, some students refused to participate in their own education.

The most discouraging change to education was the dwindling partnership between teachers and parents. I started to notice that somewhere along the line, parents stopped looking at teachers as collaborators in their child’s education; instead, parents expected teachers to be responsible for every element of a child’s success and failure in the classroom.

Parents and teachers can work together to help transform the learning experience for our children so they want to learn again.

To read the rest of the discussion go to Huffington post or CM RubinWorld.

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The New York Times Ponders An Emerging Teacher Shortage

Pauline Hawkins:

There is an emerging teacher shortage; I’m not surprised by that at all. When I resigned from the profession I loved, when I made a plea for my incredible colleagues and disheartened students, I knew that this would happen if the reform movement didn’t change directions quickly. Teachers cannot and will not function under this supposed “educational reform.” The students who should be applying to college as education majors have lived the consequences of this deeply flawed system. Why would they want to get involved with a profession that is disrespected so thoroughly? Why would they sign up to be scapegoats and test proctors? Teaching is a calling, not a job. Those of us who feel that way become teachers because we want to improve our students’ lives. Until the profession allows teachers to do that again, I doubt this shortage will be resolved.

Originally posted on Daniel Katz, Ph.D.:

Motoko Rich of The New York Times wrote a feature article for today’s print edition on the looming teacher shortage, and that nationwide scramble to fill available teaching positions.  Predictions of a future teacher shortage are hardly new.  Consider this Senate hearing where the then frequently made prediction that we would need “2 million new teachers over the next 10 years” was repeated by Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts:

This chart is a good summation as to what the current conditions are. This year, K-12 enrollment reached an all-time high and will continue to rise over the next 7 years. 6,000 new public schools will be needed by the year 2006 just to maintain current class sizes. We will also need to hire 2 million teachers over the next decade to accommodate rising student enrollments and massive teacher requirements. And because of the overcrowding, schools are using trailers for classrooms…

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15 Truths of Having Your Child Diagnosed with Cancer 

Pauline Hawkins:

Even though Ian’s cancer battle is years behind us, this list describes what we went through and still experience (especially 11-15).

Originally posted on acancermomslife:

I had guessed how bad it would be when I heard my 19 month old had cancer. I imagined a million different scenarios in my head: some of which would happen while others did not. The Internet has been circulating “10 things you didn’t know about this” or “The top 15 reasons you blah blah blah.” So, here’s my version. But this one isn’t funny or cute. It won’t hit everyone that reads it with a familiar nod as if to say “OMG! Yes! I do that too!” This list is somber and sobering. It will be understood entirely by only those who have been down this road. Regardless, I think you should all know. Because I never thought pediatric cancer could effect my family, my precious children. No one does. Until it does. So here goes:

1. At some point or another, you will assume your child is going…

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Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: July

Writing stillWhat are several real ways you have seen bullying reduced?

The only way to reduce bullying is for parents and teachers to take an active role in teaching and role modeling respect for other people to the children in their lives. Most “bullying” is due to a lack of respect for another person, plain and simple. Teaching children how to respect their peers will render bullying nonexistent. Bullying has become pandemic in the classrooms, on the playgrounds, and throughout social media; that is why I devoted many chapters in Uncommon Core to respect, kindness, compassion, happiness, apologizing sincerely, picking good friends, and standing up for themselves and others.

When parents are proactive in teaching and role-modeling respect, teachers have very little work to do with those students. One of my favorite students was a young man who was smart, respectful, and friendly to everyone:

He never associated with students outside of school who were making bad choices, but he was always kind to them. I asked him one day how he was able to be friendly with all students without getting caught up in the teenage drama that seemed to be rampant at school. Without hesitation, he told me what his mom taught him: “It’s nice to be smart, but it’s smarter to be nice.”. . . The smartest thing parents can do in every aspect of their lives is to be kind to others and model that behavior for their children. (Chapter 6: Teach Them to Respect Their Peers)

Another adage I use with my son (I also use it in my classroom) is to “Honor the untold story.” Ian doesn’t have to be friends with everyone, but he must be respectful to everyone:

I remind him that we cannot know what another child is going through or why he or she is acting, dressing or saying the things he or she is saying. There could be a lot of pain in that child’s life and saying something mean will only exacerbate that pain. (Chapter 6)

Children also need to know that there’s a big difference between wanting to be friends with everyone and picking friends wisely. Wanting to be popular will lead to bad choices and disrespecting other people to achieve that popularity:

Unfortunately, the unwritten social rules in school teach children the art of self-preservation – children figure out quickly who not to upset, how to stay under the radar and with whom not to be friends. . . . Once someone wants to establish his or her power in a peer group, he or she will find a weaker child to belittle. If more children were taught at home to stand up for weaker or more innocent people, we could end bullying in schools. The only reason a bully has power is because other people let it happen. (Chapter 11: Teach Them to Stand Up for Others)

The anti-bullying programs in schools will have little influence on students if the adults in their lives are not teaching and modeling respect.

For other responses to this month’s discussion go to Huffington Post

or CM Rubin World

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Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: June

What are the best ways a teacher can demonstrate leadership in the classroom?

One of my former students asked me questions about my teaching experiences for a college class she was taking. One of those questions was “What encourages teachers to become leaders?” My answer to that question as well as a few others formed the introduction to my book Uncommon Core because these questions are important ones that all teachers must answer before and during their teaching careers.

“Being a teacher in itself is being a leader. We stand in front of the classroom and help a room full of people discover the beauty of knowledge, and discover who they are and who they can become some day. If teachers are not embracing their roles as leaders, then they are wasting their time in the classroom. Leadership means that we cannot be government puppets; to do so would be a mockery of knowledge itself. We also cannot be puppet masters of our students; we educate them so they can think for themselves, not to think the way we think. We lead as role models; we lead as educational coaches and knowledge facilitators; and when we see injustices in the world, we need to lead by example and take action.” (Introduction vi)

Regardless of public opinion or government criticism, teachers are leaders and we need to embrace that fact. We should also know what type of leader we want to be. Early on in my career, I chose to put the “power and control” type of leadership away, and become the type of leader who serves her followers–her students. I provide opportunities for my students to discover where they fit in, what their niche is, and to discover their own leadership abilities.

Another key element to this type of leadership is a genuine care and concern for those that we are leading. The old adage “They won’t care what you know until they know that you care” is relevant in the classroom and any leadership position. I have worked with some highly intelligent teachers, but they looked at teaching as a way to demonstrate their knowledge, not as a way to empower students. With this mentality, students could care less how smart that teacher is. Most students despised those teachers because refusing to show kindness, compassion, and concern for those students turned teachers into talking heads, not leaders.

Besides classroom leadership, teachers need to take leadership positions in educational reform. Only a few teachers are involved in these discussions. If educational professionals took leadership opportunities, we would see positive changes in education creating better environments for students and teachers. Speak up in school and at board meetings; write letters to state and federal officials; opt your children out of state tests and boycott proctoring those exams that rob our students of time, money, and resources that should be used for edification, not data collection. Teachers should not be afraid to stand up for what they know is right; after all, we are the experts.

To read the rest of the discussion from the other Top 12 Global Teacher Bloggers go to

Huffington Post


CM Rubin World


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