Mom, I’m Done!

Aaaahhhh, to hear that short exclamation booming through walls.  “Mom, I’m done!”  If you currently are or have ever been a parent to a child around the age range of 3-7 you know exactly what I’m talking about.

“Mom, I’m done!”  Oh how I dread that exclamation.  Oh the terrible thoughts that go through my head!

“Mom, I’m done!”  It comes again.

“Oh joy,” I think to myself, not responding right away.

“Mom, I’m done!!!”

“Alright!  I’m coming,”  I yell back.  Time to wipe another bum.

Yes, that’s my summons, to help a child that can’t even wipe his own bum!  Yet, in school he and other children as young as four years old are expected to perform to the rigors and high standards of the Common Core Learning Standards.

It frightens me that young kids can’t be kids anymore… and all because of an educational environment that panders to the test.

Even ABC news gets it, citing a 2009 Gallup poll that 1 in 5 elementary school principals are cutting back on recess in order to meet testing requirements.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/death-recess-12595562

And what about art?  Music?  Gym?  Field Trips?  Clubs?  Librarians?  Teachers?  Increased class sizes?  Technology?  Textbooks?  Foreign Language?  How will our children’s educational experiences change?

All the experiences that not only make school fun, but are fundamental for social and cognitive development in children, are being stripped away while students are forced to sit still for longer and longer periods of time.  And for what?  To pass a test.

“Mom, I’m done!”  And it’s true, he’s opting out of this ridiculous culture of standardized tests!

The Elusive and Illustrious Poached Egg

No, I’m not being metaphorical!  I’m really going to talk about poached eggs!

We eat poached eggs almost every morning.  Our truly free-range front-yard flock of hens provides the most delicious and nutritious eggs.  And when their laying slows in the winter months, we supplement our habit with eggs purchased from a nearby farm, where the hens are also allowed an existence full of chickenness!

I grew up on poached eggs.  They are as familiar to me as French fries are to most Americans.  The only twist… my son will eat poached eggs whereas he hasn’t touched a potato-based food ever in his five years of existence!  My whole family likes a yolky egg!  The other day, I accidentally overcooked the eggs while I was on the phone.  My own eggs, which I made after I got off the phone, were perfect.  Well, both my son and my daughter stole my eggs and left their overcooked yolks there on the plate! 🙂

I was on the phone with my sister when the overcooked egg travesty occurred.  During the course of our conversation, she asked what I was doing.  I told her, “making poached eggs.”  I’m always amazed at how many times people tell me they’ve never made poached eggs and they ask me how to do it.  My sister had also never made a poached egg!

Poaching is method of cooking food in liquid that is barely at a simmer.  It isn’t dropping a fragile egg into a catastrophic rolling boil!  No, it’s much more nuanced than that… but it isn’t difficult.

You’ll need a shallow pot or a pan with edges high enough to hold several inches of water.  Adding a bit of white vinegar will encourage the albumen in the egg white to stay together… a few tablespoons will do… I never measure.  But in my opinion, the ultimate key to perfectly poached eggs is freshness.  The whites of old eggs will run like water.  If you crack a fresh farm egg, you’ll notice the difference right away.  The egg white will stay together in a thick mass of jelly around the egg yolk.  Some people advice swirling the water and dropping the egg in the middle to help it stay together.  I’ve never done this.  Some people also advice cracking the egg into a small bowl from which you can more easily pour the egg gently into the poaching water.  This can make it easier.  Although ill-advised by many poaching coaches out there, I crack the egg right on the edge of the pan and separate it slowly just above the water, allowing the egg to slip gently into the poaching liquid.  I rarely have a problem!  I don’t use a poaching pan.  I don’t use a poaching cup, or any other apparatus on the market out there.  Just a pan, that’s all I need.

DSC_6232

How long does it take to poach an egg?  A single egg can cook in anywhere from 2-4 minutes, depending on how set you like them.  But remember, the more eggs you put in the pan, the longer it will take.  You can check your egg by gently lifting it above the water with a slotted spoon and jiggle it slightly to get a sense of how set they are.  Always remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on a paper towel to remove excess moisture.  Otherwise you’ll have soggy toast!

I serve mine on toasted homemade bread.  A sprinkle of freshly ground salt and pepper, DELICIOUS!  But poached eggs are also the method of preparation for the divine Eggs Benedict!

Did I mention that my hens provide the most nutritious eggs?  Yes, it’s true!  Eggs from pastured hens are healthier than your typical store-bought variety, with “More vitamins, less cholesterol and saturated fat — not to mention great flavor! — free-range eggs are far superior to supermarket eggs.”

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Natural-Health/Health-Benefits-Free-Range-Eggs.aspx#ixzz2JHTuHfTf

pastured egg versus store egg

Did you know that the yellow color of an egg yolk is related to the hen’s diet?  Hens that haven’t access to fresh greens, like hens locked in cages, won’t produce a yolk as rich in color as that of a free-range hen.  In fact, the feed used in large factory egg farms contains an additive to produce any yellow at all.  These additives may be the culprit behind some egg allergies.

Be wary of ‘organic‘ or ‘free-range‘ labels on cartons in the supermarket!  Are they better?  Are those hens treated more humanely?  “The truth is that buying organic or free range eggs from the supermarket or healthfood store is no guarantee that the hens providing those eggs lived a healthy life or that the eggs they provide are nutrient dense.”  Want to know more?

Yes, poached eggs are the method of preparation for me!  And I know that my children are starting the day with a healthy and natural breakfast.

For one last comparison, can you tell which egg came from my hens?

pastured poached egg versus store poached egg

NYSED and the Fear Machine

Recently this PDF was sent to all New York State school districts.

To summarize, the New York State Education Department is telling schools that students may not opt out of state assessments, and that if a school fails to reach a 95% participation rate, something bad will happen.

But what?  They don’t say.  What are the sanctions?  What are the consequences?  And furthermore, why did NYSED feel the need to circulate this memo?

I’ll tell you why!  They are scared because the opt-out movement is growing!  And they are playing the heavy-handed game of fear mongering in an attempt to nip our movement in the bud.

In almost every conversation I’ve had about opting out, the question arises, “If I opt out, what will that mean for my school?  Will my school be punished financially?”  And that seems to be New York State’s ace in their pocket.  But will they play it?  The fact is, we just don’t know.  It certainly is a big threat.

But for me personally, this is a risk I am willing to take.  Let’s imagine that 6% of students opt-out, causing a school to fail to reach its 95% participation rate.  What else can New York State take away?  All the good stuff in school is already being reduced or eliminated due to budget cuts because of the focus on tests and assessments.  Many schools are already missing recess, art, music, PE, and other valuable programs.  School has already been reduced to mindless hours of test prep and test taking.

NYSED has wagered its threat.  And now it is crucial that we do NOT back down.  Let’s make them play their card!  Many schools are far from seeing a 6% opt out rate.  But if they do, it will be big news.  And I believe that parents will win in the court of public and media opinion.  Let’s see NYSED cut our schools then.

NYSED’s memo makes it sound like this is law and any parent who dares question their policy will receive immediate sanctions.  It’s not law.  There is no law stating that parents can’t opt their children out.  NYSED governs schools, not parents.  In fact, here is NYSED’s disclaimer from their own website regarding the Commissioner of Education’s policies and regulations:

Disclaimer: These Rules of the Regents and Regulations of the Commissioner of Education (“regulations”) are unofficial, and are presented for general informational purposes as a public service. Although reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that these regulations are current, complete and accurate, the State Education Department does not warrant or represent that they are current, complete and accurate. These regulations are subject to change on a regular basis. Readers are advised to consult Title 8 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (8 NYCRR), published by the Department of State, and the State Registerexternal link icon for the official exposition of the text of these regulations, as well as for amendments and any subsequent changes or revisions thereto.

You see folks… they are “unofficial.”  Enough said.  Opt out now and spare your children the horror of sitting through another state-‘mandated’ test.  NYSED has puffed itself up to make its point.  Now it’s time to make ours.  If they believe that this memo will decrease the number of students opting out, let us prove them wrong.  Let us grow our numbers beyond their comprehension!

This is a true example of COURAGE! We should all look to this example of how we should be standing up against these useless tests (STAR included Morris, NY)

Seattle Education

December 21, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

We, the Garfield teachers, respectfully decline to give the MAP test to any of our students.  We have had different levels of experiences with MAP in our varied careers, have read about it, and discussed it with our colleagues.  After this thorough review, we have all come to the conclusion that we cannot in good conscience subject our students to this test again.  This letter is an objection to the MAP test specifically and particularly to its negative impact on our students.  Here are our reasons:

  • Seattle Public School staff has notified us that the test is not a valid test at the high school level.  For these students, the margin of error is greater than the expected gain.  We object to spending time, money, and staffing on an assessment even SPS agrees is not valid.
  • We are not allowed to see…

View original post 863 more words

Extra: New Species of Invertebrates Discovered in Rural Upstate Village!

I finally received a letter from my Board of Education in response to my letter asking them to pass a resolution against high-stakes testing.  It reads like this:

On Behalf of the Morris School Board, I want to thank you for your letter and sample resolution on high-stakes testing.  We recognize that this is a hot issue for many and can be controversial.  With the information getting to us on the day of our last bord meeting, members were not able to thoroughly read and digest your letter or resolution.  We do have some initial thoughts to your information, however.

First, whether we are in full agreement with some of the state mandates that require us to implement testing at various grade levels, the fact is that over 62 percent of our funding is provided by the state.  With threatened loss in aid for failure for the district to follow the state guidelines, we could be putting the district at risk to ignore these state mandates.

Secondly, we feel that a great deal of the testing is providing important and meaningful information to teachers that helps them better assess students’ specific strengths and weaknesses.  For example, STAR assessments that all students in PK-12 participated in have helped teachers’ better pinpoint skills that individual students need assistance in.  This has been found true also int he 3-8 grade testing and with the Regents that our students take each year.

Lastly, we also trust that our administrative team will do what is the best interest of the students of Morris.  With the three team members having over 80 years combined experience in education, we have faith that they will keep us abreast to any negative practices that may arise in the school district and that they will ensure that the educational staff are using testing as a way to enhance education rather than detract form it.

Thank you once again for the information and we will take the sample resolution in consideration.

That pretty much sounds like a blow-off to me.  I think they’ve already considered my information as much as they’re going to.

Here’s my letter to which they responded (I also attached a copy of the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing):

Most of you know me. My name is Danielle Boudet and my son O.K. goes to Pre-K here in Morris. I’m here to ask you to consider the negative impact of high-stakes testing on all members of our school. Currently this issue doesn’t affect me or my son, but I want to say that we are part of United Opt Out National—a growing movement to boycott high-stakes testing. My children will never participate in any state-mandated test or assessment during their years here at school other than the Regents exams. (Kathy Smith is already aware of our position.) For the record, I am not against testing and support our teachers in any means that they, of their own accord, choose to evaluate their students.

As a parent I have serious concerns about the growing amounts of time, money, and energy being spent on high-stakes standardized testing. It is widely accepted that standardized testing is an inadequate means of gauging both student learning and educator effectiveness. The over-reliance on high-stakes testing is hampering the quality, innovation, and creativity of our educators, and it is narrowing our curricula. I believe that the overuse of standardized testing fosters unnecessary stress in our students and strips their joy of learning, depth of thought, and breadth of knowledge. I do not want my children, nor any of our students, to be reduced to merely a number and I am extremely uncomfortable with the government’s heavy-handed interference with our local school system.

I love our small rural school and I’d like to keep control of our curricula in local hands. One of the focuses of a local Board of Education is to “Approve the Educational Program.” Historically you were deeply involved in evaluating the educational program within your purview and you made and adopted changes to that program. There is no scientific evidence backing the use of high-stakes testing, but there is growing evidence of its negative ramifications. I hereby respectfully ask that the Board of Education take the time to review the attached copy of the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing and adapt and sign one of your own.

High-stakes school testing is out of control in the United States. Parents and educators are fed up with the stress, the endless test prep and the costly fallout that includes narrowing curricula and paying for corporate-developed tests & preparation materials. According to the National Research Council, this huge expansion of testing has failed to improve learning. It’s time to end the madness.

Let’s send the message that we have had enough. By signing the resolution, you call on elected officials and education policy makers to eliminate state and federal mandates driving high-stakes testing expansion. It was put together by a coalition of national education-focused groups, based on a resolution passed by hundreds of Texas school boards. A similar resolution was recently passed in September by the Niagara Regional PTA.

I urge you and your fellow school board members to join this movement. The first step is to endorse the Resolution.

High-stakes testing is increasing across the country each year, so it’s especially important to act now!

Many states are planning to test every child in every subject every year.

The federal Race to the Top program and No Child Left Behind waivers require states to use student test scores to evaluate teachers.

All these tests and their high-stakes uses are bound to lead to more teaching to the test. This will undermine, not improve, education and learning.

Unless changes are made, the number of tests our children are taking will rise, and the focus on test scores will grow.

Tests are one tool to inform teachers and parents about what students are learning and help them make needed improvements. But test preparation should not be the main focus of schools. Students, schools and teachers should be assessed on the actual work that students do throughout a year, not by scores on exams that cover only a limited portion of the rich education we all want for our children.

Our nation’s current regime of high-stakes testing does more harm than good. I urge you to help end it by endorsing the resolution. I am sending this letter in lieu of attending tonight’s board meeting as it is difficult for me to attend because of my 14-month-old. I also thought that you would appreciate the time to review some of the research and the resolution itself. In the future, if you have questions or would like to discuss this in more depth, I would be happy to plan to attend a future meeting.

Good and reliable sources of information can be found at:

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and I look forward to the Board’s correspondence.

The Look, part 1

I am certain the path that education reform is taking is the wrong one, and I am thankful for the national community of activists that are fighting to change this.  I have been thinking a lot lately about how to convey my concerns about education to other parents, particularly parents in my district or nearby districts.  In my district, I am the first one to commit to opting out of the testing craze sweeping public schools across the nation.  I have also vocalized my disdain for the new Common Core Learning Standards that I feel will deaden education.  I have some friends who understand where I’m coming from, but many people look at me like I am crazy whenever I start talking about education.  Do you know that glazed-over look?  It can range from slight discomfort, where I think they just want me to stop talking, to extreme annoyance, where they simply can’t understand why I’m so worked up.

The last four months of 2012 were a crash course in what is going on in public schools today.  Like many a parent with young children just starting school, I entered completely unaware of any of the issues surrounding education and how those issues will affect my children.  My son is in Pre-K and my daughter is only one.

Pre-K orientation tells you a bit about what to expect.  New parents learn how the meal program works.  We are asked to send in a blanket and a change of clothes for our child on the first day.  We are also asked to remember to send in a snack and juice on each school day.  We are assured that tears at the door are normal and not to worry.  For most of us who don’t have older children already in school, there are fears about sending our babies off to school that are very real.  We worry about our children.  We wonder how they will fit in and if they will miss us.  We know we will miss them.  But in these early days, most of us aren’t even thinking about tests and assessments.  We don’t know what VAM is, and although we know that Race To The Top (RTTT) exists, we don’t know what that means for our children, and the Common Core Learning Standards have yet to be explained.  Most of us have never heard of them.  Acronyms like AYP, SLO, and APPR are meaningless.

It was apparent during orientation that I was destined to look at everything with a critical eye.  After all, it was stated that breakfast would be served in the classroom and it was assumed that all children would be eating it.  That was my first experience with the look!  Apparently I was rocking the boat for no reason when I stated I would be serving breakfast at home AND I would also be sending lunch in (another uncommon notion).  Okay, so meal choices aren’t really world-altering events.  But…

…With the critical eye, one quickly becomes concerned with serious matters like the corporate-driven reforms being promoted in education.  With a little research one learns that the Common Core Learning standards that our state adopted in order to receive meager Race To The Top (RTTT) grant money are not based in research and completely untested.  Real educators weren’t even involved in their creation.  Schools and teachers are being asked to align their lessons  to these new standards and everyone, our kids included, is under the gun to perform according to this ONE system of standards.  And this results in massive amounts of testing that our children will have to endure.  Not only are our children under a lot of pressure to do well, the scores of these tests are being used to rate their teachers and their schools.  My previous posts went into more detail and there are certainly better, more informed sources out there unmasking the real truths of the Common Core and education reforms and policies.

It isn’t my intent with this blog to appear as an authority on the matter.  I’m far from that!  I’m learning every day, and many of the disastrous results of education reform have yet to affect me or my children first-hand.  But I know that it will as they move up through the grades, and I know that our school will face tough decisions in the years ahead as tight budgets necessitate cuts in programs and faculty.  I will continue to opt my children out from all state tests and assessments.  And I will continue to be involved with the various national groups of educators and parents who are also outraged by what they see happening to our schools.  I’ll be here, ready, when other local parents or teachers start to see what I see.  Perhaps then my perspective will be of value.

Until then, I will continue to add my voice to certain aspects of education.  Hopefully my voice will evolve in a way that is inique to me, my experiences, and my identity in this world.

Just gimme some truth!

EngageNY– the smiling PR face of New York State education reform.

To quote my father (or actually the outlaw Josey Wales!), “Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.”