Posted in A-F Grading, ALEC, Article Medleys, DeVos, Evaluations, NewYear, Religion, Teaching Career, Testing

2016 Medley #34: Happy New Year

Happy New Year, Real Life Classrooms,
Religion in Public Schools, ALEC,
School Grades, Betsy DeVos

WRAPPING UP 2016

This is the 93rd and last post to this blog of 2016.

It’s common to wrap up a year in “top ten” lists and such. But a calendar year is a human construct built around the cycle of seasons, and good and bad things happen every year. We all have successes and failures…triumphs and tragedies…joys and sorrows.

A lot has been made recently of the number of celebrities who died in 2016, and it’s true that there were famous people who died this year, just like every year. However, science blogger Greg Laden makes it clear that of the last 7 years, 2016 has had the fewest celebrity deaths.

It’s true that some of the celebrity deaths in 2016 were to people who were “too young to die” (Christina Grimmie, 22 and Anton Yelchin, 27) – artists who were just beginning to make their mark on popular culture. On the other hand, there were many who had lived long, productive lives (Elie Wiesel, 87, Noel Neill, 95 and Abe Vigoda, 94).

My point is not to minimize the importance of anyone’s loss at the death of a friend, relative, or cultural icon, but to suggest that 2016 is like any other year, with its share of sadness and tragedy.

The Guardian suggests that the emotional response to 2016 celebrity deaths is exacerbated by technology

There may not, in fact, have been an unusual number of celebrity deaths this year, but they seem to have been much more salient than before. Part of this must be the result of the growing reach and responsiveness of digital media. Technology makes it possible to observe and react to a distant readership almost as accurately and immediately as an actor can respond to their audience in a theatre. Sudden emotional impulses are amplified with astonishing speed across the internet just as they can be in a crowd. Each apparently solitary smartphone user is really sharing other people’s emotion as well as their own.

It’s not just emotions that are shared in this way. It’s memories as well. The generations of middle-aged people along with all their children and grandchildren have experienced a kind of collectivisation of childhood. This was a historic shift. Before the mass media, childhood memories were shared among very small groups, and anchored to particular places. But for the last 60 years, children in the west, and increasingly elsewhere, have grown up in front of televisions, and many of the most vivid characters of their childhood and adolescence were actors or singers.

Each year is also filled with events which elicit our emotional responses…events like: family occasions (births, weddings, etc), sporting events, and – dare I mention it – political contests.

The path of humanity through history is a path of emotional responses to events in our lives. Joy and sorrow are natural human responses and each is balanced by the other.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

REAL LIFE CLASSROOMS

“Reformers” are often strangers to public school classrooms, either because they haven’t been in one since childhood, or because they were never in one at all. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan never attended and never taught in a public school. His only experience with public education was as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools – where he got no first hand classroom experience and as a parent of public school children after he was already appointed Secretary of Education.

The new nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is likewise devoid of any public education experience. She never attended a public school. She never taught in a public school. Her children never attended a public school. How is she qualified to lead the federal department charged with supporting America’s public schools?

Real schools are peopled with real children and real teachers…real support personnel and real administrators. Their voices need to be guiding public education in the US.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Children

I teach first grade in the Chicago Public Schools. I know my job well, and I am actually very good at it (according to all the Christmas cards from children I just opened). And this is what I can tell you, in spite of the politics and policy of education that get harmfully thrown around – the most important part of this job is to keep children safe, and care for them deeply so they can live the lives they were meant to live.

The Only Subjects That Matter

I’m an English teacher, but I will argue till your ears are blue that history is the single most important subject of all and the root of all other education.

6 Ways in Which Teaching Is Nothing Like the Movies

It doesn’t work that way in real life. Maybe your kids do love you. Maybe most of them look forward to your class and work hard and achieve things they never thought were possible. But it’s not all of them, dammit! There’s always that one who fights everything you do. And there are always six or seven who sit quietly in the back of the class, and you never know whether they’re learning or sleeping or secretly plotting your violent overthrow. Yeah, sometimes the bad kid ends up being your greatest ally, just like in the movies. Other times he takes his pants off in your class. Mysteriously enough, often it’s both.

RELIGION IN THE SCHOOLS

Can students pray in public schools? Can teachers say ‘Merry Christmas’? What’s allowed — and what’s forbidden.

How do you handle religion in your classroom? Many teachers don’t understand what is and isn’t allowed in the classrooms.

“Can students pray inside their public school buildings? Can teachers say “Merry Christmas” to their students? Can religious music be played in public schools? Yes, yes and yes. There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to religious expression in public schools…”

Students are allowed religious expression in public schools unless it disrupts the education process. In other words, they can pray before they eat, before tests, at recess, and at other times during the day. They can talk about their own religious beliefs. They can even share them with others. What they can’t do is disrupt the class with religious preaching or interrupt the education of others or themselves. Adults in the school are not allowed to direct religious expression.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that kids can’t pray in school. What the Court has done — and continues to do — is to strike down school-sponsored prayers and devotional exercises as violations of religious liberty.

As a result of those decisions, school officials may not impose prayers, or organize prayer events, or turn the school auditorium into the local church for religious celebrations.

See also: Religion in the Public Schools: A Road Map for Avoiding Lawsuits and Respecting Parents’ Legal Rights

ALEC

ALEC politicians cut backroom deals to float voucher legislation in several states

Follow the money…from private schools, from charter school edupreneurs, to politicians’ campaign coffers.

State politicians across the nation are skirting ethics laws and making backroom deals with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to trade their votes away in 2017 to corporate special interests pushing voucher legislation.

GRADES

Opinion: What school grades really say

Students are not widgets. They cannot be standardized. Using the same bar to measure two students from diverse backgrounds is unfair, unrealistic, and unproductive. Using student tests to compare schools is equally unreasonable. Tests were made to measure student achievement, not school or teacher quality.

…factors outside of the school have a dramatic impact on academic performance, making so-called accountability measures such as school grades useless as a determinant of school and teacher quality. If we were serious in Indiana about improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all Hoosier students, we would stop focusing on standardized tests and school grades and listen to the professionals who work most closely with our children on a daily basis—their teachers. If we would allow teachers to do their work without interference and arbitrary judgements, what we would see would not be the same in every classroom or for every child, and that is as it should be. Education is a people business, not a product business, and it is time we start trusting our people.

See also: Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

School grades still reflect student demographics

How long will it be before “reformers” admit that standardized tests measure family income?

It was true five years ago and it’s still true today. The grades that Indiana assigns to schools say more about the students the schools serve than how effective the schools are.

A change in the grading system this year was a step in the right direction, but not a big enough step to make the grades fair or credible. Schools that get high grades are still more likely than not to serve few students from poor families. Those that get low grades are almost certainly high-poverty schools.

Op-ed: Indiana fails test on teacher bonuses

We know – and have known for a long time – that standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher “bonus” plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.

Perhaps the legislators and policy makers who put this plan into action were ignorant of the facts of testing. Perhaps they did so because they collected campaign contributions from pro-test groups and testing corporations. Whatever the reason, they shouldn’t be shocked at the result.

The policy is so flawed that the result was highly predictable. Gov. Mike Pence and his minions in the legislature boasted in 2013 that this would reward highly proficient teachers and sort out (shame?) the less effective.

In effect, it undermined the poorer districts and gave to the wealthy, shattering inner-city morale and contributing to a teacher shortage. It was a business model designed to make schools compete for resources, ignoring two important premises: (1) that excellent teaching is a collaborative effort, and, (2) competition creates winners but also losers. When it comes to our youth and their right to an education, we cannot afford to have losers.

NOMINATED SOE IS UNFIT: SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW

Letter: DeVos unfit for education post

Among the people who were considered by President-elect Donald Trump for the position of US Secretary of Education…

Michelle Rhee is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. She taught for three years, was the chancellor of DC Public Schools for one term, and put in place procedures that led to widespread cheating.

Tony Bennett is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. As State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana, he manipulated test score data to favor political donors and charter school owners. He also allegedly used government resources for his own campaign purposes.

Williamson Evers is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. He never taught in a public school. He was never an administrator in a public school. His only public school activity has been to cause damage. He is a self-proclaimed “education expert” for no reason.

Luke Messer is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. His only education experience is as a legislator making rules for schools without having to live with the consequences as an educator. He is an attorney.

As unqualified as those four candidates are, they are all infinitely more qualified than the ultimate nominee for the position. Betsy DeVos is unfit to have anything to do with America’s public schools. Not only does she have no experience, unlike some of the names above, but she has actively worked to destroy public schools as an act of faith. She has promoted charter schools while demanding that they be allowed to function with no public accountability. She has worked to transfer public funds into private pockets. You want to see how well her policies have worked for public schools? Take a look at Detroit.

On Nov. 23, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Betsy DeVos to serve as secretary of education in his administration. From what we have seen in her home state of Michigan, DeVos is unfit for the Cabinet position. Her family has heavily funded a failed push for constitutional change to allow for vouchers, which allow taxpayer money to go to private schools.

Vouchers drain our public schools of the money they so badly need. DeVos also supports the rapid expansion of charter schools and online schools with minimal regulation. We’ve seen in Ohio with the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow how minimally regulated charters steal our children’s education and enrich business people.

Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

Meet Betsy DeVos: Alphabetical Listing

***
Posted in Accountability, Evaluations, Play Kid's Work, Public Ed, Quotes, Testing

December Quotes

Random quotes from 10 years (plus 2016) of Decembers on this blog. Quotes are from me, unless otherwise noted.

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

2016 Medley #31

from Arthur H. Camins

…it is democratically governed public schools that have made America great — not private schools and not charter schools. We all know that we can love what is imperfect. We need to strengthen the marriage between public schools and equity, not a divorce.

TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY’S REFLECTION

2015
Berliner in Australia: The Testing Fiasco

from David C. Berliner

Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

CAN WE JUDGE TEACHERS BY THE SUCCESS OF THEIR STUDENTS?

2014
Evaluate Harvard

During his college days Harvard should have trained Duncan in the correct use of tests. They apparently didn’t.

I think that means that Harvard has failed in its preparation of social scientists and Harvard students shouldn’t be allowed any federal grants.

TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY’S REFLECTION

2013
Our Nation is More Than a Test Score

from The AFT

One thing PISA research makes clear is that poverty’s effect on educational equity matters.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS HELP ALL OF US

2012
Darling-Hammond on American Education

from Linda Darling-Hammond

We all now have to care about the education of every person’s children. It’s not going to be enough to say my kids got educated because for every person who is not in the labor force, not paying taxes, not contributing to our health care system, to our Social Security, the social bargain that we have as Americans cannot be maintained. All of us have a vested interest in every child being educated, and yet kids who we wouldn’t spend $10,000 on to get them good teaching in Oakland, when they were second graders…to be sure they could learn to read…we’re spending $50,000 on them in prison ten years later.

NO MORE LOSERS

2011
The Most Important Speech on Education in Years

from Diane Ravitch

The free market works very well in producing goods and services, but it works through competition. In competition, the weakest fall behind. The market does not produce equity. In the free market, there are a few winners and a lot of losers. Some corporate reformers today advocate that schools should be run like a stock portfolio: Keep the winners and sell the losers. Close schools where the students have low scores and open new ones. But this doesn’t help the students who are struggling. No student learns better because his school was closed; closing schools does not reduce the achievement gap. Poor kids get bounced from school to school. No one wants the ones with low scores because they threaten the reputation and survival of the school.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2010
NY Student Play Banned

from a student play (N.Y.) on school reform

Tireseus (the blind prophet): Do you really think closing schools is the answer?

Chancellor: The school is failing.

Tireseus: Or maybe you are failing the school. Why not give them what they need to succeed?

Chancellor: But schools must be held accountable.

Tireseus: And what about you, Chancellor? Who’s holding you accountable?

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2009 (November)
What Are You Doing Wrong?

The obsession with testing is so that schools will be “accountable” to the greater society. Where is the society’s accountability, though? Why is it that we can spend billions of dollars on a contrived war, and ignore the “economy gap” in our society? Why is it that educators have to accept No Child Left Behind to eliminate the “soft bigotry of low expectations” yet local, state and national governments don’t have to be accountable for the “soft bigotry of urban neglect?”

ON TEACHING

2008
Top 10 Reasons Why Teaching Jobs Based on Test Scores Is A Bad Idea

8. Teaching jobs based on test scores will contribute to cutthroat competition among teachers for positions most likely to produce the best test results.

PLAY IS CHILDREN’S WORK

2007
Kindergarten and Developmentally Appropriate Education

Play is children’s work. They learn how to live in the world, how to get along, to solve problems, and to share by playing. They can’t learn these things, though, unless they are allowed to get up from their chairs and interact with each other.

Skills based, academically oriented kindergartens are now the rule rather than the exception. Developmentally appropriate practice does not exist in some places any more. Does this help children? No long term studies have been done at this point, but my hunch is that by taking the opportunity to grow at their own rate away from children we are asking many of them to do what they can’t do…we’re asking them to touch the ceiling without a ladder.

MISUSE OF TESTING

2006
Leave this law behind…

At one time standardized tests were designed to show how students were progressing and what areas they were weak in. The tests were designed to be used diagnostically…to guide teaching and learning.

The tests are still designed to do that…and, in some places, they are even used correctly. But even schools which use standardized test scores correctly are having their scores published and compared to others.

###
Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, GERM, NorthCarolina, Politics, poverty, Privatization, reading, Teaching Career, Trump

2016 Medley #33

Privatization, “Good” Teachers, Learning, Happiness–Love–Kindness, Politics

PRIVATIZATION

Every North Carolina Lawmaker Should Read The Recent Research From Stanford University About Public Investment in Schools. I Hear Stanford’s a Decent School.

The NC legislature is worse than most when it comes to lack of support for public education. Even so, blogger Stu Egan’s comments in this article can be universally appreciated just by inserting “Indiana” (or “Ohio,” or “Pennsylvania,” or “Florida,” etc) instead of “North Carolina.” GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement, is everywhere.

The first sentence below is what separates us from the “reformers.”

Public education is a sacred trust of the citizenry, not an open market for capitalistic ventures. If one wants to make the argument that states like North Carolina are free to allow for competition within its public school system, then that person would need to explain how that complies with the state constitution which explicitly says that all students are entitled to a good quality education funded by the state.

…“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom. This report explains how and why some children can lose in a privatized system and makes recommendations to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality educational opportunities”

…It’s almost as if it was written in response to North Carolina.

Privatization or Public Investment in Education?

For the nerdier among us…here’s the study to which Egan (see above) refers to.

Finnish educators attribute a modest dip in 2012 (although their scores remained) as potentially resulting from distractions caused by their popular international status. As a result, the country has refocused on the principles of equity, creativity, and the “joy of learning” that produced their high-quality system in the first place. Furthermore, Finland maintained its position as the top European performer in 2012 (well above the OECD mean), demonstrating the value of the public investment approach in developing and supporting high-quality teachers.

TEACHER QUALITY

Do Poor Students Get the Worst Teachers?

How does one define a “good” teacher? For too long the “reformist” definition has been based on test scores, a misuse of assessment since it’s been long established that test scores are a function of family income more than teacher quality. Students who live in poverty come to school with problems not seen in low poverty environments. David C. Berliner, in Poverty and Potential, notes six areas that

…significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These [out-of-school factors] are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

It takes more than test scores to define “good” teaching. I know this to be absolutely true. I’ve experienced it in my own classrooms. There have been children who have thrived in my classrooms…for whom I have had a major life impact. There are others for whom I was the wrong teacher at the wrong time. Some students had an outstanding teacher when they were in my classroom. Others not so much. What was the difference? I was the same person. I used the same teaching styles in most of my rooms. I read the same books, worked with the same intensity, and spoke with the same voice.

The difference was that, like all teachers, I’m a human being with inconsistencies, good days and bad days, emotional ups and downs. A teacher makes thousands of decisions over the course of a school year. Sometimes those decisions don’t yield the best result. No matter how “good” a teacher is, there will be days when the interactions between the teacher and students don’t go as planned.

In the current article, Peter Greene reminds us of this…

…teacher quality is not a solid state. Over time, we all have better days and not so better days. And how “good” we are is also a matter of which students you put us together with. One student’s terrible teacher is another students life-altering agent of positive change.

LEARNING

Got to remember them all, Pokémon: New study of human memory for Pokémon finds that it is possible to boost memory capacity

One of the most important concepts for a teacher to keep in mind when teaching reading is to “activate prior knowledge.”

Call it schema, relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain experience, when students make connections to the text they are reading, their comprehension increases. Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know. When we help students make those connections before, during, and after they read, we are teaching them a critical comprehension strategy that the best readers use almost unconsciously.

A new study has shown that when people are familiar with content they can remember information related to it. Activating prior knowledge does this.

When I was working in my classroom I introduced students to study techniques to help them activate prior knowledge…helping to improve comprehension.

It works with Pokémon, too.

People can learn and remember more of a subject when they are already familiar with it, new research concludes. And the more familiar they are with the subject, the better they remember new information related to it, add the researchers.

HAPPINESS, LOVE, AND KINDNESS

In school relationships, just like in close personal relationships, positive connections are beneficial. A happy classroom is more conducive to learning. Students feel safe and are willing to take learning risks.

Below are three articles exploring personal relationships…

The Evidence is In: ‘Happy’ Schools Boost Student Achievement

A positive climate, most education stakeholders agree, is on most schools’ wish-list. Schools do not aspire, after all, to create environments that are detrimental to students and educators. But the No Child Left Behind era – a decade plus of “test and punish,” a stripped down curriculum, and narrow accountability measures – decoupled school climate from student achievement, in effect imposing a “nice schools finish last” credo. Sure, a “happy” school would be nice, but … about those test scores.

Love and Kindness

The older I get, the more certain I am that kindness is hugely important (though I don’t think kindness always looks like a warm, fuzzy Care Bear). There is science on my side; mean people really do suck, and they really do have a hard time building good relationships. We seem to have entered a pronounced mean streak as a country; the challenge will be to remember that unkind, ungenerous meanness is not beaten by more of the same.

Masters of Love

They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

DUELING ECHO CHAMBERS

Paul Simon sang,

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…

The political climate in the US is a perfect example of that. For the most part we stay in our own echo chambers hearing the “news” that supports our point of view. “Tell me what I want to hear, don’t confuse me with facts” is the attitude, and anyone else’s sources are “lies” and “fake news.”

One might have hoped that a new administration in Washington would have come in with the ability to ease the polarization of the nation. If so, one would have been disappointed.

Working in the Irony Mines

In the last eight years the Republicans have done everything they could to stop President Obama from governing…from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner saying they would obstruct everything Obama favored, to Ted Cruz forcing a shut down of the government rather than allow Obama’s policies to work. It’s ironic then – and by ironic, I mean amazingly, monumentally, ironic – that President-elect Trump’s campaign chair is blasting Democrats for establishing a “permanent opposition” to his administration. Was she not in the US in the last eight years? Was she hiding in a cave? Or perhaps she’s complimenting the opposition for adopting the policies of her party.

“The professional political left is attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy and ignores what just happened in this election,” [Kellyanne Conway] said. Liberals cannot, she added, “wave magic pixie dust and make this go away.”

Trump Opponents and Supporters Have Divergent Racial Attitudes

File this under, “so what else is new.” We all knew that there is an underlying racism in America and that the Trump campaign tapped it and benefited from it.

When economic times are tough there is a tendency to revert to scapegoating. It’s happened before. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

These findings aren’t particularly surprising. Others have also found that priming respondents to think of black people tends to make them tougher on crime and advocate for less generous social programs, like in this study on attitudes toward CA’s three-strikes law. What’s new here is the difference between Trump supporters and opponents. For opponents of Trump, priming made them more sympathetic toward mortgage holders; for supporters, priming made them less. This speaks to a real divide among Americans. Some of us feel real hostility toward African Americans. Others definitely do not.

Donald Trump’s Conflict-Of-Interest Network (COIN) – Otherwise Known As His Cabinet

President-elect Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos is just the tip of the unqualified iceberg in a collection of unqualifieds. Virtually every nominee and appointee has a history of working against the department for which they have been chosen. Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but instead turned over a rock.

2. A Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos) who opposes public education and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting private charter schools.

For more information about Betsy DeVos and her anti-public education policies see here.

***
Posted in DeVos, NPE, US Senate

From the Network for Public Education – The NPE Toolkit: Stop Betsy DeVos

The more we learn, the more we are certain that Betsy DeVos is bad for public schools and for kids.

When De Vos has to choose between quality schools and “the free market,” she chooses “the free market” of privatized choice every time. The best interests of children take a back seat.

And we know the DeVos endgame–shut down our neighborhood public schools, and replace them with a patchwork of charters, private schools and online learning.

We can’t let that happen and we need your help. Present and future generations of children are depending on us to act now. We now know that some Senators have grave doubts. It is our job to make those doubts grow into active resistance to DeVos. Our senators are in district offices from 12/17 – 1/2.

Here are our three toolkits to help you do your part.

Toolkit 1. Call your senators’ offices. The toolkit with numbers and a phone script can be found here. It includes a link to phone numbers.

Toolkit 2. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can find a model here.

Toolkit 3. Visit your senators’ offices. If you cannot get an appointment, hand deliver a letter. Our toolkit, which you can find here has a model to use, and directions to find local offices. If you cannot hand deliver it, send your letter in the mail.

When you go into the toolkits and commit to an action, we have a simple form that let’s us know what you did. As a thank you, you will receive a special badge for your Facebook page or Twitter account each time you complete an action, and you will be entered into our drawing for a copy of Reign of Error signed by Diane Ravitch.

The drawing will be held on January 5th, so please begin your actions today. Share this link on your Facebook page and Twitter account, or email it to a friend.

We thank you for all that you do. Sadly, our nation’s children need you to do more.

For more go to: The NPE Toolkit: Stop Betsy DeVos

###
Posted in A-F Grading, Article Medleys, EdTech, Evaluations, Testing

2016 Medley #32: Still Testing After All These Years

Testing, Teacher Evaluations, EdTech,
A-F Grading System, Classroom Grades

TESTING MADNESS

In America we misuse standardized tests. We grade school systems, schools, teachers, and students, and no amount of “tweaking” testing programs will change the fact that using tests as a high stakes measurement is inappropriate.

The overuse and misuse of testing hasn’t improved education in the US, so why do we continue to do it? The answer is simple. Money.

When we decide to focus on student learning instead of trying to make a buck off of children’s education, or solve social problems with test scores, we might begin to improve education in America.

No comparing school grades to previous years

Tests measure income, pure and simple. We’ve known it for years, and it hasn’t changed in years.

…there’s still a strong correlation between grades and family income. Nearly all schools in Hamilton County — one of the lowest-poverty areas in the country — get A’s and B’s. And of the 89 Indiana schools that got F’s, over half were in the urban districts of Indianapolis Public Schools, Gary and South Bend.

Teacher bonus inequity shouldn’t be a surprise

When you have a teacher evaluation plan based on standardized tests, like Indiana’s, you reinforce the economic segregation of public schools by rewarding teachers for working in high income areas.

Schools in areas of high poverty need good teachers, but where’s the incentive for teachers to work in those schools?

Why is the US one of only three countries in the OECD who spend more money on the education of wealthy children than of poor children?

Indiana used to provide more resources for high poverty districts…one of the few states who did…until last year’s legislature turned that around.

Here in Indiana we pay teachers extra for good test scores. Guess which teachers get the big bonuses?

…The results, released last week, are what you’d expect. The biggest awards go to suburban districts where there are few low-income families. In Carmel Clay Schools, one of the lowest-poverty areas in the nation, the average award is estimated to be $2,422 per teacher…

At the other end of the scale, teachers in Indianapolis Public Schools will get an average of $128.40 In Indianapolis Wayne Township, they will get $42.50 In Kokomo, $39.79. In East Chicago, zero.

…To say this is unfair doesn’t begin to describe it. No one can argue with a straight face that teachers employed in wealthy districts deserve huge bonuses but teachers who dedicate their lives to helping poor children should get a slap in the face. Yet that’s the program the legislature gave us.

The new standardized testing craze to hit public schools

Changing the medium over which tests are administered doesn’t remove the damage caused by high stakes. And it further exacerbates the differences between schools in wealthy districts and schools in poor districts.

Parents Across America’s report on the dangers of EdTech suggests six questions parents can ask, including: which devices and programs are being used, how much time children spend on electronic devices, and what kind of data is being collected. Parents should also ask whether assessments are mostly multiple choice, how often they are administered, if some students (e.g., students with disabilities or English learners) are tested more frequently, and who controls the data and how it is being used.

Armed with detailed information, parents can fight back against technology misuse and overuse.

A failing grade: Folly of state’s school-assessment system apparent at even a cursory glance

Why stop at grading teachers based on test scores when you can misuse standardized tests even further by grading schools? Indiana jumped on the Jeb Bush bandwagon to grade schools in 2011 and while the A-F grading system hasn’t done anything to improve schools we keep using it.

The A-F Grading System continues to show us that wealthy students score higher on the tests than poor students. Did we need to spend $800 million on testing over the last 30 years to learn that?

Under Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent Tony Bennett in 2011, the state board threw out the descriptive labels and adopted a letter-grade system, a practice championed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Indiana’s new approach was broken from the start. It was revealed in 2013 that Bennett privately ordered staff to change the metrics so that dozens of school grades improved. A charter school operated by one of the state superintendent’s biggest campaign donors saw its grade boosted from a C to an A.

In spite of repeated problems and unsuccessful efforts to develop a valid grading formula, Indiana policymakers have refused to give up on their quest to attach grades to schools.

Why?

Beyond Grades: How Am I Doing?

During my 35 years of teaching (20 of those in gen-ed classrooms) I consistently struggled with grades. I would keep track of student scores, average them out, and then, at the end of the “grading period” figure out what grade all those numbers represented. More often than not I would comment to myself that “I really would like to say more” about a child’s learning than just a letter grade and a quick general comment on a report card, but with the time constraints of the structure of education in the US, I was rarely able to do more than just write down the grade and move on to the next.

Since I’m retired, I can now admit that sometimes I would “embellish” or “fudge” on grades because of the child’s effort, actual learning, or some other reason, and in that way I would rationalize to myself that the grade reflected the actual progress of the child. It would be nice if teachers had time to actually analyze their teaching and their students’ learning.

I wonder how they figure grades in Finland?

Parents believe grades have some meaning, primarily because we have tried to convince them that they do over the past 150 years. We all know better. We need to tell parents we were wrong, We need to show them there are better ways to report on learning.

Click here for part one of this series by Russ Walsh.

¶¶¶
Posted in birthdays, music

Musical Interlude: A Beethoven Concert

DECEMBER 16, 1770

Today is Beethoven’s birthday.

Biography.Com says,

Composer Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770, in Bonn, Germany. He was an innovator, widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto and quartet, and combining vocals and instruments in a new way. His personal life was marked by a struggle against deafness, and some of his most important works were composed during the last 10 years of his life, when he was quite unable to hear. He died in 1827 at the age of 56.

He performed in his first concert at the age of seven…and published his first work at 13. By 1819 he was completely deaf, but went on to compose some of his most famous pieces of music including, the Ninth Symphony.

Last year we listened to the Seventh Symphony (my personal favorite) and in 2014, the Ninth Symphony (Ode to Joy).

Beethoven wrote more than his 9 symphonies. He also composed

  • a horn sonata
  • an opera
  • five cello sonatas
  • five choral works
  • seven piano concertos numbered #0 through 6, the last being unfinished
  • seven piano trios and a piano quartet
  • ten violin sonatas
  • sixteen string quartets
  • thirty-two piano sonatas

A CONCERT OF PIANO WORKS

This year’s concert of about 50 minutes, consists of five pieces exploring Beethoven’s piano works.

Beethoven’s first published work (at age 13): Nine Variations on a March by Dressler for piano.

Piano Concerto in E flat major is one of his earlier works, written in 1784 when he was 13. Only the piano part survives today, although there are some indications in the manuscript for orchestral cues. On the occasions when the work has been performed, the orchestral part has had to be arranged beforehand. The concerto is sometimes referred to as Piano Concerto No. 0, as it came before all of Beethoven’s other piano concertos. It is rarely performed.

This is the third movement, Rondo Allegretto.

From early works, to one of the latest – Beethoven wrote his last piano sonata, number 32, in 1822, after he had completely lost his hearing. This is one of his most interesting pieces with traditional phrases, hints of Mozart, along with a pre-shadowing of modern music and a few jazz licks. The second movement is performed here by Spanish pianist, Alberto Cobo.

Für Elise, which Beethoven wrote for piano (1810), is here, played on a classic guitar.

Today’s concert closes with the complete Piano Sonata No. 14, the “Moonlight” Sonata. This is perhaps his most well known piano piece, here performed by Valentina Lisitsa.

FURTHER EXPLORATION

A Complete Listing of Beethoven’s music

Ludwig van Beethoven on Biography.Com

Ludwig van Beethoven at Encyclopædia Britannica

###

Birthdays, music

Posted in DeVos, DollyParton, reading

What DeVos Could Learn from ‘The Book Lady’

Billionaire Betsy DeVos, the President-elect’s nominee for US Secretary of Education, has a lot to learn about education, and she could learn some of it from another rich woman who has donated some of her millions to actually helping children.

DeVos, whose family is worth more than $5 billion, is a product of private schools and the advantages of money. She went to a private high school in Holland, Michigan, and attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science.

Betsy DeVos and her family have donated millions to the arts and have a family foundation which is

motivated by faith, and “is centered in cultivating leadership, accelerating transformation and leveraging support in five areas”, namely education, community, arts, justice, and leadership.

It’s in the area of education that her activities have been damaging and reflect her privileged background. She has funded and worked steadily for the privatization of public education.

What should she have done differently as a philanthropist…what should she have done differently to have a positive impact on children’s learning?

‘THE BOOK LADY’

‘The Book Lady’ grew up “dirt poor,” never went to college, and made her millions in the entertainment industry. Unlike DeVos, she has invested her money, time, and energy into improving the literacy of America’s (and other) children one book at a time.

‘The Book Lady’ grew up in a one room cabin in eastern Tennessee. Her father, a farmer and construction worker, paid the doctor who delivered her for his services with a bag of oatmeal. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar…and by the time she was twenty-five, she had begun her successful and award-winning career. Since then she has accumulated more than two dozen gold and platinum singles and albums in the US, Canada, and the UK, as well as

  • eleven Academy of Country Music Awards
  • three American Music Awards
  • eight Grammy Awards and nearly four dozen Grammy nominations
  • two Academy Award nominations
  • two Tony nominations
  • five Golden Globe nominations
  • a Living Legend Medal from the US Library of Congress
  • a National Medal of Arts awarded by President George W. Bush
  • and other awards which you can read about HERE.

‘The Book Lady’ is famed singer, actress, and philanthropist, Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Dolly Parton, whose net worth, about $500 million, is about 1/10th that of the DeVos family, has given some of her millions to help the American Red Cross, HIV/AIDS-related charities, efforts to preserve the bald eagle, and a proposed $90-million hospital and cancer center to be constructed in Sevierville in her home county of Sevier in Tennessee.

But she earned the title ‘The Book Lady’ when she started the Imagination Library.

In 1995, Parton began her involvement with literacy by sending an “age-appropriate” book every month of their first five years to every child born in Sevier County, Tennessee. The Imagination Library has grown since then…

Today, children across the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Belize have received tens of millions of books, and the program continues to expand. By November, Imagination Library will be distributing more than 1 million books each month to children. And next year, Parton’s Imagination Library will have distributed a total of more than 100 million books.

She founded the Imagination Library, raising money for the program through her companies and charity concerts, to fulfill a promise to her father.

Literacy is a very personal issue for Parton: her father, Robert, never learned to read, and he implored her to use her star power and resources to help ensure his fate was not repeated in others. “I started my Imagination Library in honor of my dad,” she says. “He didn’t get to live long enough to see it do well, but it’s a wonderful program that I take a lot of pride in.”

She should take pride in it…

The Imagination Library was a quick success, and pre-school teachers in Tennessee cited its impact on young children’s love of books…Repeated studies by the foundation have shown that Parton’s efforts are helping to improve children’s vocabularies and early-school readiness.

Instead of using her money to support the destruction of public schools, Parton has developed a program which directly benefits every child who participates. Instead of working to prevent accountability measures for private and charter schools, Parton has worked to help students learn to read, and learn to love reading.

DeVos could learn a lot about education from ‘The Book Lady.”

For Further Reading:

$$$