When I ran for State Representative, I often spoke out against standardized testing. For me, and my family, it hasn’t been a big issue. We’ve always done very well on standardized tests. They have not hurt us, in fact, if anything, they’ve most likely helped us, getting us educational opportunities we wouldn’t have gotten if we didn’t test well.
Yet if we’ve been privileged by taking tests designed in a way that benefits us, it begs the question of whether others have been disadvantaged because of the same tests.
Back when it was just the SATs, it was easier to overlook this, and go along with the system. Yet when No Child Left Behind came along and it started affecting school districts, it became harder to gloss over the impact standardized testing was beginning to have.
Now, we are confronting Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC tests. There is a lot of discussion going on about the pros and cons of Common Core and the SBAC tests. Friends are opting out of the tests and so we’ve had some family discussions about this as well.
While I am, at best, ambivalent about the SBAC tests, I always look for the teachable moments. What can my daughter learn by taking the test, even if it is flawed or inconsequential? It is good practice taking tests, in this case, using technology, a skill she is likely to need from time to time in the future.
On the other hand, might there be a more valuable teachable moment, in opting her out of the SBAC test? In search of this moment, I told her that if she wanted to be opted out of the SBAC test she should write a persuasive essay on why she believe she should be opted out. She put a lot of effort into this and with her permission, I’m sharing it on my blog. Based on this, it is our intention to opt our daughter out of the SBAC tests.
However, the teachable moment is not necessarily over. Let’s continue the discussion. What do you think? Should we opt our daughter out of SBAC? What do you think she should be doing while other students are taking SBAC? What other things should we consider?
Why I Shouldn’t Take The S.B.A.C.
I do not believe I should take the S.B.A.C. test because it accounts for nothing. It does not reflect on me or the school. Making my reasons clear in this essay will help teach me to stick up for what I believe is right. S.B.A.C. stands for Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium.
The results of this test will not will not reflect on the school or me. We are not going to get our scores back either. The Board of Directors is using students as test subjects to see if they should keep using the test. I believe that there would be better ways to develop a good test than by someone who doesn’t know the students making it up and putting pressure on teachers to make sure students do well.
If I opt out of the test it will help me learn to stand up for what I believe is right. I do not believe that S.B.A.C. is a good thing because it seems to be taking away from school time that would be better if we studied something else. I will be taking the test on the IPads which will be much harder than a computer or a pencil and paper. It will be a much harder test then C.M.T.’s. I have heard that teachers might be fired if students don’t do well on the test, and this isn’t fair.
Yes, it will be good practice for the future, but it is taking away valuable learning time away from us. It is a test that I believe will take four weeks, not to mention all the practices we have to do. Mu teacher has been working on poetry with us, which I am enjoying very much, but because of S.B.A.C. we will not be able to finish our unit. He also turned down a chance for the Lieutenant Governor to come in and talk to us because he is trying to give us more time for digital storytelling before S.B.A.C.. He seems very stressed out about the tests, and has been taking his stress out on us students. It is hard to learn when everyone is so stressed out.
For these reasons I believe that I should not take the S.B.A.C. Tests. They don’t account for anything. It will help me to learn to stand up for what’s right. It takes away precious learning time. That is why I think I should opt out.
It is the last Saturday evening of March and the rain is coming down. Kim is downstairs, watching television, unwinding after more social interaction today than an introvert feels comfortable with. Fiona is on the living room couch, cuddling the cat and watching something on her smartphone. I am writing, trying to make sense of the past few weeks.
I’m not sure if I’d describe part of March as being either lion like or lamb like. If anything, March has been like a senile lion, at times dangerous, at times, somewhat peaceful, but always trying. It has been another month where I haven’t gotten to write as much as I normally would like.
Friday, I watched parts of TEDxPhilly livestreaming on my computer. There were lots of bright people saying inspiring things, but does it matter? My thoughts drifted to Benjamin Bratton’s TEDx talk, New Perspectives - What's Wrong with TED Talks? Are TED (and TEDx) talks really just placebo politics? Are they a distraction from the real hard work of changing the world?
At home, Friday evening, I read various news stories about the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital. This was the hospital closest to the town I grew up in. I’ve slowly been learning the details of what led up to this, but I still have a very incomplete picture and uncertainty about what it means for the people of Northern Berkshire County going forward.
This morning, I headed off to the West Haven Funeral Home for a memorial of Bridget Albert. She was a local reporter and an animal rescuer. As I walked into the funeral home, the old feelings about how contrived funeral homes seem came back to me; the wide halls that you can carry caskets in, the large rooms with enough folding chairs for six dozen people, the front of the room with the casket and fresh flowers, instead of the large screen television that seems to grace most large family rooms. The flowers will soon wilt and be discarded. Those who mourn will slowly pick the pieces and find a new normal.
I’ve been to more than my share of funeral homes over the past decade and I looked around this one. Sure, there were the requisite flowers, but there were pictures of rescued animals as well. I glanced around at the crowd. Instead of the distant relatives standing awkwardly in groups around the room, this crowd was made up of people deeply involved in the local community. There were members of various boards and commissions. There were people from various animal rescue organizations. There were local reporters. Yeah, some of them may have watched TED talks, but often they were too busy making sure that the local community they lived in worked as well as possible.
I feel like I straddle these worlds. I sit on boards and commissions, support animal rescue activities, and write about local events when I get time, but I also have my digital life. I took part in a Thunderclap this morning to encourage people to sign up for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Over a hundred people participated and the message went out to over a hundred thousand people. Did it make a difference? We’ll see.
I read through Facebook posts, and final got around to watching Upside: Anything is Possible; an advertisement by Ford appealing to those who try to make the world better, in contrast to the self-absorbed character in the Cadillac ad. Yes, Pashon Murray, like Bridget Albert, is the sort of role model we should be looking for.
Tomorrow, I’ll head up to TEDxSomerville where Miranda will be speaking. Will the people there be promoting role models like Pashon and Bridget? Will they be offering placebo politics? How can we think more deeply about the issues?
A while ago, a friend posted on Facebook wall a link to 20 Crucial Terms Every 21st Century Futurist Should Know. One of the terms that was discussed was ‘Repressive Desublimation’ based on the work of Herbert Marcuse.
pop culture encourages people to desublimate or express their desires, whether those are for sex, drugs or violent video games. At the same time, they're discouraged from questioning corporate and government authorities
Is this another way of talking about the placebo politics that Bratton talked about? I think so.
It is tempting to wander off on thoughts about how this relates to Godel’s second incompleteness theorem or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, systems change, and the possibility of the created understanding the mind of the creator. But these thoughts, as well, may end up distracting us from the daily tasks around us of making the world better.
So, I’ll wrap this up, finish clearing the table, head off to bed, and hope my mind will be clear for tomorrow.
A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?
The monk replied, “I have eaten.”
Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”
At that moment the monk was enlightened.
As part of its eighth anniversary celebration, Twitter came out with a tool to find your first tweet. Mine was, “playing with twitter” back on October 15, 2006. Twitter wasn’t as well-known back then, but it was a great source of news. I’m guessing it was about a year later that my wife made me a shirt which said, “I get my news on Twitter”. It would raise eye-brows when I wore it to conferences on the future of journalism.
At these conferences, people would talk about how Craigslist was stealing all the classified advertising revenue and large corporations were buying up local papers, sucking whatever they could out of the profit, laying off local reporters, and trying to cover every story from headquarters in Chicago or Yardley, PA.
People talked about how the Internet might be used for news in the future but always talked about the importance of the local reporter. Local reporters had the relationships necessary to get the news. They had the background to provide the context and they had the readers that would follow them to whatever platform.
Bridget Albert was a great example of one of these local reporters. She worked for a while for the New Haven Register, one of those legacy news organizations bought up by folks from Yardley, and now working on reinventing itself. She later worked for The Orange Times. She covered me when I ran for State Representative. She covered my daughter’s radio show. I was a source. I was a reader. I was a friend.
It only seems fitting that Friday night, I learned of her passing from a post her partner posted on her Facebook page. “Bridget has passed. She died suddenly in her sleep. Memorial information will be forthcoming.”
As I read through the outpourings of grief, I find may friends and acquaintances from the community, people I’ve worked with in politics and animal rescue. There are numerous offers condolences and help. It is a fitting tribute to a wonderful local reporter. Rest in Peace, Bridget. I got my news from you.
On Thursday, Connecticut House Republican’s Chief of Staff George Gallo resigned as the word spread about a federal investigation into how candidates used a direct mail firm out of Florida. People asked me if that wasn’t the same firm that my opponent used in 2012. It was. Yet I don’t think she is any more culpable in this than Chris Donovan was in the improprieties that took place in his Congressional campaign. It is easy to suggest that the candidate either knew, or should have known about possible illegal activity. It is too easy. It doesn’t get to the real issues. Perhaps it simply reflects one of the bigger issues.
In the Hartford Courant article about Gallo, former state GOP Chairman Chris Healy, talking about direct mail firm simply states, “we got a better deal”. A cynic might ask what that deal was. Was there any sort of illegal quid quo pro in the better deal? But this, too, perhaps doesn’t get to the real issue.
I often quote Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture in my blog, and I’ll provide a more complete version of one of my favorite quotes here:
OK, and so one of the expressions I learned at Electronic Arts, which I love, which pertains to this, is experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And I think that’s absolutely lovely. And the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that
I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important.
And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.
What candidates want is to get elected, but most of them don’t get elected, they just get experience. This experience might help them get elected the next time around. It might turn them bitter against the system, or it might inspire something greater.
Why do we want to get elected? Hopefully, it is to make their communities better places, and this gets back to the quote from Chris Healy. What is that ‘better deal’ he spoke about?
On my campaign, we often spoke about who we would purchase our services from. We wanted to make our community a better place, and we argued whether it was better to get services from companies in the district, or if it made more sense to use less expensive companies in other parts of Connecticut. It was a difficult balance, and I don’t know how well we really did on it, but at least we didn’t spend most of our budget, a large amount of which came from a Connecticut state grant, with companies in Florida.
We also had people offer us great deals because they were friends that believed in our campaign. We sought to make sure that everyone was paid fairly for the work they did and that there was no expectation of quid quo pro, real or perceived.
Yet most importantly, the focus was on issues. I wanted to talk about health and education. I did. I wished I could have gotten into more discussions about these issues. I wish people would engage more on the issues our state faces instead of making decisions based on a few pieces of mail crafted by political consultants in Florida. I wish more political coverage in the traditional media could be about the issues, and not the horse race and the corruption.
Hopefully, I moved the needle a little bit in that direction. No, I didn’t get elected, but I got “the better deal”.
Last year, as a member of the Connecticut Health Foundation’s Health Leadership Fellows Program the group I was part of mapped out plans for bring Health Impact Assessments into Connecticut policy decisions, especially the state legislative process.
A key component of this plan was to improve the way health advocates work together during the legislative session. We set up a Google Group, CT Health Equity Bills to discuss this. As we enter another legislative session, members are encouraged to discuss upcoming bills and opportunities to testify.
I must admit, prior to becoming a CT Health Foundation fellow, I would often be asked to support various bills, and I rarely thought about these bills in terms of the impact they would have on health equity, and I suspect that many legislators don’t think about bills in terms of health equity the way I believe they should.
The Connecticut Health Foundation has published a blog post, Things We’ll Be Looking Out For During the 2014 Legislative Session. While it doesn’t address specific bills, it provides an important framework for this year’s session. I have been speaking with other organizations and hope to share thoughts about their agendas as well.
Meanwhile, I’m already getting messages from activists to support different bills. One of the first bills I received a message about was S.B. No. 23 AN ACT CONCERNING BENEFIT CORPORATIONS AND ENCOURAGING SOCIAL ENTERPRISE.. Friends have pointed me to a Change.org petition uring the senate to take up SB 23 this year.
it is early in the session and I don’t know what SB 23 is going to look like by the end of the session, but I strongly support the goal. Yet I hadn’t been thinking of this bill in terms of health equity. My gut feeling is that it won’t harm efforts for health equity and has the potential to benefit health equity efforts, but beyond that, I haven’t really thought it out much.
Then, at dinner last night, I got into a fascinating discussion with a friend from Yale’s Global Health Initiative. She was at a conference where people were talking about using a social impact exchange as a means of encouraging social entrepreneurship and investment in Haiti to deal with the issues of cholera.
While I do expect the passage of SB 23 to lead quickly to the issue of Social Impact Bonds, or the establishing of a social impact exchange, and a resulting improvement in efforts to address health equity in the state, it does seem like a step in the right direction.
Another bill I was contacted about was S.B. No. 120 AN ACT CONCERNING DYSLEXIA AND SPECIAL EDUCATION.. “To include dyslexia detection, recognition and intervention education as part of the professional development program for teachers and to amend the state IEP form to include dyslexia.”
With sponsors ranging from Sen. Bye to Rep. Cafero, this seems like a pretty straight forward broadly supported bill. Yet even with a bill like this, it is important to think about how it relates to health equity. Are there disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia in Connecticut? How are they tracked? How will they be tracked and corrected?
A final bill for this blog post: H.B. No. 5144 AN ACT CONCERNING ACCESS TO BIRTH CERTIFICATES AND PARENTAL HEALTH INFORMATION FOR ADOPTED PERSONS., “To provide adult adopted persons, twenty-one years of age or older, access to their biological parents' health information and information in the person's original birth certificate or record.”
A friend contacted me about this bill. She was adopted as a child and does not have access to information about her biological parents. While it is easy to think of this in terms idle curiosity that an adopted child might have about their history, there are important health issues to consider. Are there biological family history information that could help the adopted child better deal with their own health? Again, I don’t know much about the health equity aspects of this. Are there disparities in access to birth and health information by adopted children along racial or ethnic lines? Would this bill help address such disparities?
Over the coming days, I expect I will hear more about these and other bills. I hope you’ll join me in thinking about the impact these bills would have on health equity in our state.