Teacher Fired for Criticizing Standardized Test

Granite School District teacher Ann Florence has been fired during Spring Break so Granite School District could avoid as much of a media storm as possible. This action is unconscionable. Please read this post to the end and take action by emailing the people below your thoughts about them firing a wonderful and experienced teacher. As teachers find themselves reducing their teaching time (by as much as 20% of the school year by some accounts), in order to administer standardized tests, they are becoming increasingly worried about their students, as well as their own sanity as you’ll see below. Their free speech is curtailed just as it always is by narrowly-focused (I wanted to write small-minded but thought that might be perceived rudely) bureaucrats who have a very misplaced concern for children’s needs.

We must ask, what is the purpose of education? What is local control? I’ll tell you what it isn’t: It’s not bureaucrats and legislators trying to make teachers accountable through increased testing of children. Local control is a parent, responsible and concerned for the education of their children, communicating with a teacher about their children, and the three interested parties developing a plan that makes the teacher accountable to the parent and child to impart their knowledge. Testing is a part of education but that is best left to the teacher to evaluate students, and communicate with parents ensuring they know where their child has deficiencies to be able to appropriately address their children’s needs. Teachers need a quality program though. Fads like constructivist math damage children and Common Core has embraced this. The combination of good standards for a proper path of education, good teachers, good curriculum, parental involvement, and of course students’ needs, will do more to help educate children than anything else the state could implement.

Now to Ann. From all accounts, Ann was a superb teacher who was providing a wonderful educational experience for her students. Christel Swasey wrote up Ann’s being put on administrative leave days ago and noted that a year ago, Ann wrote an op-ed for the Tribune and said this:

“Managing teachers through intimidation is not working… teachers are looking for work elsewhere. Teachers who have loved their jobs are discouraging their own children from pursuing careers in education…. we feel exhausted and demoralized by the avalanche of mandates from the state and district… While legislators constantly raise expectations and think they can motivate us by publicly posting test scores, our time for teaching has shrunk….I now administer 19 days of standardized tests, costing me an entire month of instruction. This doesn’t include the days the testing site is down or the system crashes, eating up even more days…. I am held accountable for nine months of curriculum without enough time to teach it… Granite District has required teachers to learn the new Common Core, use a new grades program (which crashes regularly), design a new honors curriculum, use a new online system requiring the scanning and posting of all assignments and a daily summary of class activities, and learn to analyze complex data … No test score reflects the number of students who return to thank a teacher, the number who fall in love with reading again, gain new confidence to speak up in class, find solace in a teacher’s support, decide to try one more time just when they want to quit…  We are tired of having our dedication reduced to a number.”

The Trib yesterday reported the firing of this teacher thus:

“Florence was placed on administrative leave March 27 after she told her first-period class that she was facing disciplinary action and might be fired. Spring break began March 28, and the letter was mailed March 31.

When students learned of the disciplinary action on March 27, they started a petition drive and obtained nearly 100 signatures in one day supporting their teacher.

Florence refused to grade the writing portion of the districtwide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students’ and teachers’ time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher.

In a letter to her students, she said she loved her career but had to stand up for principle.”

Hmmmm, now why would this teacher be fired for criticizing a standardized test??? Could it be that she is interfering with district revenue? Looks like McGraw-Hill is offering a reward to help pilot their exam.

Acuity Incentives

State Superintendent Menlove just sent out this letter across the state as a stern warning to teachers.

“Testing environments need to be maintained to assure accurate testing of students without outside interference.  Only those authorized educators should be in the room(s) while testing is occurring.

I sent a document Monday concerning opting-out of testing.  Parents have the right to opt students out of testing.  However, this right is not extended to anyone other than a child’s parent or guardian.   I believe it is a violation of testing protocol and educator ethics for a licensed educator to encourage or suggest that individual students or groups of students not participate fully in State administered testing.

Please communicate with all licensed educators that those involved in sharing, or allowing the sharing, of any SAGE, DWA or other State assessment items will be referred to the Utah Professional Practices Commission and action may be taken against their teacher license This includes the requirement that all testing protocols will be followed.

Additionally, those who do not honor a parent’s right to opt out of testing, or those who inappropriately encourage or facilitate opting-out will also be referred to the Utah Professional Practices Commission for possible action against their license.”

Teachers should honor a parent’s right to opt out. But they should also be more concerned about the students in their care than some bureaucrat who wants to feed “big data” with a monstrous stream of data to the detriment of children.Please read this article by Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project on “Common Core and Data Collection” which contains this troubling quote from Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan:

“Hopefully, some day, we can track children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career . . . . We want to see more states build comprehensive systems that track students from pre-K through college and then link school data to workforce data. We want to know know whether Johnny participated in an early learning program and then completed college on time and whether those things have any bearing on his earnings as an adult.”

Help protect our teachers

Please take a moment and write a polite email of support for Ann and other teachers to the following. Send emails separately or put them on the BCC (Blind carbon copy) line of your email.

Granite’s Superintendent Martin Bates: mwbates@graniteschools.org

State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove: Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov

Wasatch Jr High Principal Christine Judd: crydalch@graniteschools.org

Wasatch Jr High Asst. Principal John Anderson: jcanderson@graniteschools.org

State School Board:

kbuswell@wadman.com; jensen1brit@earthlink.net; dthomas@summitcounty.org; krb84010@aol.com; dgriffiths@tannerco.com; lesliebrookscastle@gmail.com; jj@jenniferajohnson.com; heather.groom@gmail.com; crandall@xmission.com; jeffersonRmoss@gmail.com; dixieleeallen@gmail.com; markopenshaw@gmail.com; debrar@netutah.com; barbara.corry@schools.utah.gov; teresatheurer1@gmail.com; jensenmk@ldschurch.org; freddiecooper1@comcast.net; jamesvolsen@gmail.com; kelinkowski@msn.com; dbrowley@q.com;

Granite School Board:

ggandy@graniteschools.org; thbawden@graniteschools.org; clanderson@graniteschools.org; ccburgess@graniteschools.org; jmjolley@graniteschools.org; dlofgren@cowboy.us; srmeier@graniteschools.org;

Governor Herbert: http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_comment.html (copy/paste your email into this form to send it to the Governor)

Your legislators: http://le.utah.gov (lookup by address here)

 

19 Responses to Teacher Fired for Criticizing Standardized Test

  • J. Belnap says:

    WOW. Really? I had TWO teachers at parent teacher conference lean forward and secretly tell me(in front of my daughter) that they wished ALL parents would opt their kids out of these SAGE tests so they wouldn’t have to teach the test!!!! OUR teachers ARE SCARED as they should be of this kind of administration and others like it. At the very least, it’s bullying at its finest. It’s also a cowardly act when a teacher is not supported by her own administration for just wanting to teach. And where is the teacher’s union in all this? Isn’t the use of these kind of tactics why teachers pay good money to be represented, or are they just another casualty of CC? It also has not helped that our own governor has taken the road DOWN to CC. I wish I knew if this is true ignorance on his part or is it just all aboutt the $$$$$$. Better wake up your neighbors and inform them of CC and the nightmare it is.

  • Angela says:

    From all accounts I have read, including this post, it seems to me that the teacher was fired because she refused to grade the test, NOT for speaking out against the test, standards, curriculum, policies, or encouraging or suggesting opting out of the test. If I am not correct, I would love to be pointed towards information that shows otherwise.

    • Oak Norton says:

      She was fired for criticizing standardized testing and perhaps for refusing to grade the test. I botched the headline this morning. I had the article right but for some reason forgot to change the headline. I’ve changed it now.

      • Angela says:

        Can you point me to where it has been said that she was fired for what she said and not what she did? All the articles I’ve read have indicated it was the *action* (refusing to grade the test) and not her *words* (OpEd piece, other speaking out/criticizing) that was the problem. I’m not saying her concerns are not valid, but I think there is a difference between what she has said and what she did and it seems like concerned individuals are attributing her firing to the words while all the reports and official district letters are saying it was her actions. I also don’t think it was entirely appropriate to bring her class into the situation, and her words in that situation could rightly be an *action* that is a firing offense (I don’t know the specifics of teacher ethics & contracts).

        • Belle says:

          Angela,

          I don’t really get the point behind if she was fired for an act of civil disobedience (not grading a test she is ethically opposed to grading) or if she was fired for speaking out. To me personally, I see this as an act of punishment and a method of nudging, pushing, and shoving teachers to get in line and behave. She was fired not because she is poor teacher or for an inability to educate children, but because she cares too much about the exploitation of our children, so much so that she wasn’t intimidated into compliance even up to being fired. It is so devious and underhanded and I find it disturbing when others try to justify the actions by saying that she wasn’t fired for speaking out…Hugh? So friggin what?

          The point is that this over-bloated government, even at the district level, will sacrifice others (teachers, parents, and the students themselves) to get “their” arrogant agenda in place, damn whomever gets in their way. Oh, and they will find a legal way to eliminate anyone else who threatens that agenda!

          We need to protect our teachers from this type of retaliation, not justify it (but perhaps you are amongst the arrogant CCers). This makes me worry so much about what will happen, or what devious punishment will be put in place for us parents who have opted our children out of the SAGE tests, this story highlights that they will put forth a devious “reason” as to why they eliminate opposition and get away with it…of course we all know the real reason why. How corrupt…..It. Just. Makes. Me. Sick!

          • April says:

            The punishment in place to parents whom opt their children out of the SAGE test comes in the form of punishing the child. I opted my kids out, to be called by the elementary principal letting me know all of my children would be scored as 1- “not proficient”. He said they, principals, were required to tell me this. We had a brief discussion and his opinion and mine is this is another bullying tactic the state board has put in place to get us all to conform. He said forcing kids to learn is going to have an adverse effect that is going to create years of productivity gaps for these kids. I couldn’t agree more!! The middle school principal never informed me my children would be poorly marked on their tests. Yet it was supposed to be “required”?

  • Thank you for this report, Oak. Here is the letter I sent today to Granite, the State School Board, and Superintendent:

    Dear Granite School District, State Board, and State Office of Education:

    Granite District made news this week by firing Ann Florence, an honors English teacher who stood on principal and did what she (and I) saw as the right thing to do. I am writing to voice my support for Ann Horner’s actions and to ask the District and State Board to take action to right this wrong.

    The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Florence refused to grade the writing portion of the districtwide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students’ and teachers’ time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher. In a letter to her students, she said she loved her career but had to stand up for principle.”

    The Acuity Test (McGraw Hill) was offering financial compensation to schools for having students take this test. Did Granite District actually fire Ann Florence for refusing to enable the District to make money –by using children for unpaid research guinea pigs? What does “professional compliance” and “teacher ethics” really mean to the district?

    Ann Florence’s opinion editorial of one year ago in the Salt Lake Tribune deserves careful re-reading. Her concerns included the non-validity of high-stakes testing because of the testing conditions provided at the school, about the push for Common Core and data analysis, and about the non-validity of reducing the whole time and dedication of a teacher to one student-test-based number, a number over which that teacher has relatively little actual control.

    The Tribune also reported that this teacher was punished for speaking about her concerns with the high-stakes tests vocally, including speaking out in front of students.
    Does a teacher lose her Constitutional right to freedom of speech just because she is employed by the government? Are teachers to pretend to political neutrality or should they instead be shining exemplars as vibrant participants in the American process of open debate –and sometimes also in honorable disagreement?

    Furthermore, basing the heaviest “accountability measures” of state tests on the federal-corporate collusion known as Common Core State Standards, in my opinion, is not only an error but a form of academic malpractice.

    Thus, any teacher who refuses to push the SAGE test on students, or refuses to give or grade the Acuity Test, or to promote other high-stakes tests that do not honestly benefit students nor teachers –tests that exist to benefit powermonering politicians and moneygrubbing corporate aims, is, in my opinion, the teacher who is ethically and morally defensible.

    The Granite District has marred its honor by firing Ann Florence. The State Board and Office, by doing nothing in this teacher’s defense, are complicit in the wrong.

    Christel Swasey
    Heber City

  • Natalee Lyon says:

    Mrs. Florence has been my daughter’s English teacher. I am shocked to read this post. My daughter mentioned she has had a substitute this week and that she didn’t know why. I am so disappointed in her school in general. When I opted her out of the CATs this week, I was told Granite District only allows me to opt her out of SAGE but not the Acuity tests. I was actually going to email Oak a copy of the letter Granite District gave me so that more parents would know about the games Granite District is playing. Also wanted to let Granite District parents know that they are requiring their own form for opting out and would not accept the form I brought from this website.

  • Betsy says:

    Can you refer us to a link or some source where the letter from Menlove came from? I’m talking to other people about it, and without “proof” it just sounds like hearsay.

  • Gary Jensen says:

    Thank you for keeping us informed. Here is a copy of the letter I sent to State superintendent Menlove. I also cc’d my local representatives and every member of the state board:

    I have rarely taken the time to express my feelings about the education of our states children because I have felt that, overall, the state was doing its best with the resources it had to educate our children. I have been a lifetime resident of the state of Utah, and went through the public k-12 education program, took several AP classes, and was able to enter college with credits from passing AP exams.
    I graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in mathematics. I give you this background so that you may have some idea of my qualifications in giving my perspective over the new Common Core standards, including the testing standards.
    I have an 8 year-old who is learning under the Utah Common Core curriculum, and have been very disappointed in the quality of the teaching system. The homework which she brings home (usually worksheets) are very confusing. I am highly qualified to tutor mathematics and have done so in the past with several students ranging from grade 4 to grade 11. The current approach that my daughter has been forced to use is confusing even to me. I usually can figure out a way to help her understand the concepts, but they seem unnecessarily cumbersome in their methodology.
    It is with great concern that I have recently been made aware of the firing of Granite School District English teacher Ann Florence. From what research I have been able to make, she seems like a well-qualified teacher who cares about her students and their individual educational progress.
    It seems wrong that a teacher should have to administer, then have to grade a standardized test that will then be used to evaluate him/her and their teaching abilities. How can this be considered a fair and impartial method of rating our teachers.
    I believe a teacher has the right to express their concerns about a curriculum that doesn’t meet the needs of her students without having to worry about reprisals from being willing to letting their voice be heard. In my experience, if you have a small percentage of people complaining about a subject like this, you have a much higher percentage that share this feeling but are afraid to voice it for fear of reprisal. The fact that Ann was subsequently fired (during spring break, no less) appears to me to be an effort to fuel that fear and keep others quiet.
    I appeal to you to reconsider the actions taken, and look for ways for our great state to educate our children using methods that aren’t dictated by federal mandates and funding.

    Sincerely,

    Gary Jensen
    717 W 700 N
    Clearfield, UT 84015

  • Mary says:

    Granite District is corrupt. Our school system is corrupt. Let’s stand together and combat them! Take your children out of the CAT/SAGE testing. It’s so easy. Go in, get a form from your principal, sign it and your child is exempt and you help combat the big money making machine that the tests have become. Make your voice heard and support Ann Florence by showing the district that Ann is not the only one who feels frustrated with the tests!

    Make this national news! Make the District give Ann her job back. How wrong it is for the district to do this to such a great teacher who truly cares about teaching!

    • Rosie Griffith says:

      Wow! The district needs to reconsider the firing of this teacher, but probably won’t. I’m sure many more teachers feel the same way she does about the testing but are afraid of losing their jobs also should they speak up like Ann.!! I encourage the teachers to do the right thing! Tossing in my mind this very minute if my child will be better off homeschooled. He has been diagnosed with FAS and ADHD and had an IEP in tact until 3rd.grade till it was dissolved. I couldn’t believe it! Of course they said he now is doing fine and that is why they discontinued it. Well anyone that truly understands these diagnoses would say they’ve made a big mistake!
      Math,especially is always a weakness for children with FAS: and tests can be disasters for these kids. Grades keep falling because he has not got the help he needs but yet teachers say he is fine. Disappointed with the system not the teachers as I am sure now that they are just doing their job.

  • Shirley says:

    I hope that Ann will be hired at one of the great private schools here in UT or that homeschoolers or anyone will seek her out as a tutor. I admire her for standing up for what she believes in! I also agree that our schools are in great danger with Common Core and all the crazy testing! It’s so sad how this program became law! I homeschooled for 22 years and highly recommend the book The Well Trained Mind if any parent wants to supplement their child’s education. My heart goes out to all the teachers, parents, and children in the Granite School District!

  • J. Belnap says:

    Re: Comment made April 10th,
    My comments were mainly meant for parents—for all of us who know and see what is going on (thanks in large part to this website) to inform those who just have no clue about what is happening. Yes, parents are BUSY—-but I believe if they knew the gravity of the situation and the long-term affects it is going to have on education in our state if it is not stopped they would all be on board with helping to eliminate cc.

  • Jason Eddie says:

    Ann Florance should not have been fired for speaking her mind plus she was trying to accommodate for a Student. It seems that Granite School district is on a power kick If you don’t think they are reading the emails here is the phone number to the school district 385-646-5000. I have 3 children one in Second Grade. schools should be able to tailor to the individual and we need to do away with common core.

  • Tm Swainston says:

    I have asked a number of students if the felt like public school is more about the administration getting paid than it is about the students. Overwhelmingly the response has been yes, particularly those who were able to get out of public school and get into a charter school who use action teaching methods of learning.
    I have also met a number of those who did very poor in public school but when they are able to engage in work that lets them shine they do. It seems it is a badge of honor to drop out of the the public school systems rather than a badge of honor to get “good grades.”
    It raises the question “Is public school system about education or is it just about school?” “Is it about the students and preparing them for our future or is it more about protecting the jobs of the the hired help?”

    I really see no difference between the methods of control in the public school system and the methods that radical Islam uses except killing is rarely allowed. There are many good and willing people in the system but they seem to be controlled by the narcotic of the pay check. Hooray for those who are willing to stand up even at the threat of having their narcotic being cut off. Hooray for those who prepare themselves so the don’t have that addiction of a pay check. To bad that the emphasis of school is about preparing students mainly only for the dependency of a pay check.

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