Posted in A-F Grading, Evaluations, IREAD-3, ISTEP, retention, Testing, vouchers

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Test – 2017

ISTEP is still doing damage to Indiana students, teachers, and schools. The promise to end the mess that is the State of Indiana’s testing program was just political deception in order to assuage voters during the last election cycle. The election is over and we have elected the same folks who have been dumping education “reform” policies on the children of Indiana for the last dozen years. They have grown the importance of ISTEP into a bludgeon to punish low income children, their teachers, and their schools. The pretense of the test being a tool to analyze children’s progress has all but disappeared.

Public outcry against the test inspired former Governor Pence to form a team to find an alternative, but it was led by political appointees and some educators on the panel had their voices overruled by the sound of cash clinking into test-makers’ (aka political donors) wallets. Others gave up, apparently thinking, “This is the best we’ll get.”

Nevertheless, the recommendations of the panel were for a shorter test with quicker turnaround. The recommendations also called for a two year window to plan for the changes…in the meantime, the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad test continues.

ISTEP will involve too many hours of student instructional time – twice during the school year (thrice for third graders who are also subject to being punished by IREAD-3 for not learning quickly enough). ISTEP will still be responsible for teacher evaluations and A-F school grades even though it was designed only to evaluate student knowledge. So much for any rules of testing which say that tests should only be used to evaluate what they were designed to evaluate – in this case student achievement.

Maybe we ought to try education policies which have actually been shown to be effective. Let’s do this instead…

  • End the A-F Grading system for schools. A letter grade does not reflect the climate or quality of a school.
  • Stop using tests to evaluate teachers. There are other, better professional evaluation tools out there (see this report, by Linda Darling-Hammond, et al.)
  • End IREAD-3 and any student evaluation process by which students are retained in grade. Retention doesn’t work. Intensive early intervention does. See here, here, and here.
  • If standardized tests must be used, use those tests which can return student achievement information in a timely manner so teachers can use the information in their instruction.
  • Better yet, don’t use standardized tests at all. With the millions of dollars saved by not purchasing standardized tests, provide early intervention funds to schools with significant numbers of at-risk students.
  • Your suggestion here: __________
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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

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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.

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Posted in A-F Grading, Article Medleys, DeVos, Finland, library, Politics, Privatization, Teaching Career, Testing, vouchers

2016 Medley #30

Politics, The Teaching Profession,
Privatization, Testing, Libraries

POLITICS

My Letter to President-Elect Trump

Your entertainment for today consists of a teacher from Oklahoma, with no political or diplomatic experience, who has never traveled abroad, yet claims he is qualified to be the next US Secretary of State. How is this possible? If Betsy DeVos is qualified to be the US Secretary of Education, with no public education experience as a student, a teacher, an administrator, or a parent (has she ever even visited a public school classroom?), then the qualifications for other Cabinet positions should have similar requirements.

Maybe I could be appointed as the Attorney General. I’m not an attorney…never written a brief…never even appeared in court (although I have watched Lawyer shows on TV). Sounds like I’m perfect for it.

I know you are a busy man so I will get right to the subject of my letter. I would like to formally announce my strong interest in your administration’s open cabinet position as U.S. Secretary of State.

I think you will find my qualifications and experience to be exactly what you are looking for.

Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

There are so many articles and blog posts being written about the nomination of Betsy DeVos for US Secretary of Education (see above), that I thought it would be nice to collect them in one place. This is undoubtedly not all of them, but so far (as of noon ET on Nov. 29) I have listed about 80 and arranged them by date.

Full disclosure: Most of them are opposed to her selection as Secretary of Education. Someone else will have to collect those posts and articles which are in favor.

A collection of articles and information, sorted by date, about President-elect Trump’s choice for US Secretary of Education. Check back frequently for additional articles.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION

When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools

“Reformers” frequently claim that the US is “behind” the rest of the world in education. Finland, because of the high scores of its students on international tests, is often held up as an example of good education…until anyone suggests that we do the same sorts of things that the Finns do in education: no standardized testing, no privatization, 15 minutes of recess for every hour of school, teacher collaboration, and an investment of time. Then, “we can’t” duplicate it because education in the US is too decentralized and the population too diverse.

That is true. We also have four times the child poverty rate, less effective social safety nets for our children, and the future of our country, based on our interest in educating everyone in a free, uniform, public education system, is a low priority.

Learning about the Finnish school system is an eye-opening experience for anyone who understands public education in the United States. The experience of these teachers, who came to the US from Finland, was certainly eye-opening to them. They “don’t recognize this profession.”

“I have been very tired—more tired and confused than I have ever been in my life,” Kristiina Chartouni, a veteran Finnish educator who began teaching American high-school students this autumn, said in an email. “I am supposedly doing what I love, but I don’t recognize this profession as the one that I fell in love with in Finland.”

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools (MA) has written an insightful piece about turning lemons into lemonade. The end of the piece, however, is where his comments really had an impact on me.

…it seems that every time those discussions arise the end results rarely align with what educators in the field believe is important to improve our system.

American educators are kept out of the room when public policy for public education is discussed. A mere three out of the eleven US Secretaries of Education (DeVos included) have had K-12 experience as a teacher. Most decisions are made by state legislators, governors, and school board members, only a few of whom have likely had public school experience. Medical decisions are made with the input of medical professionals. Legal decisions are made by those with experience in the US Legal System. Why is it different with education?

…all that educators are looking for is an accountability system that gives a fair and accurate picture of the health of a district. I still assert that standardized testing alone will not accomplish this goal and that we need a more comprehensive accountability system that takes a holistic approach based on more than test scores…

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

The Essential Selfishness of School Choice

Steven Singer, edu-blogger at Gadflyonthewallblog, has presented as good a case as I’ve ever read against school “choice.”

We have a large, functioning, public school system in the US which serves every child. If there are problems we need to fix them, not just throw the system away.

…school choice is essentially selfish. Even in cases where kids do benefit from choice, they have weakened the chances of everyone else in the public school system. They have increased the expense and lowered the services of children at both types of school. They have allowed unscrupulous profiteers to make away with taxpayer money while taxpayers and fiscal watchdogs are blindfolded. And when students return to their traditional public school after having lost years of academic progress at a substandard privatized institution, it is up to the taxpayers to pay for remediation to get these kids back up to speed.

Choice advocates talk about children being trapped in failing schools, but they never examine what it is about them that is failing.

Almost all public schools that are struggling serve impoverished students. That’s not a coincidence. It’s the cause. Schools have difficulty educating the poorest children. Impoverished children have greater needs. We should be adding tutoring, counseling and mentor programs. We should be helping their parents find jobs, providing daycare, healthcare and giving these struggling people a helping hand to get them back on their feet.

But instead we’re abandoning them.

See also

The Problem with Choice

We should improve our public schools, not close them.

If parents truly want choice, this is where we as parents and educators need to concentrate our efforts. In Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the statement that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” should be taken literally and used to fix public education for all, not to give choice only to the wealthy and the fortunate.

If we want true education reformation, we need to make sure the public tax dollars are being used correctly to create an actual choice movement within the public school system itself: Increase money being spent on public education to improve ALL schools, regardless of location; increase teachers’ salaries to create a true competition for quality teachers; increase public school autonomy so that principals and teachers can use their knowledge and experience to innovate and create the right learning environment for their students.

Scores drop when students move to private, magnet schools

What’s the purpose of “choice?”

The Indianapolis study suggests more choice won’t boost achievement and may hurt it. But Waddington notes that families choose schools for a variety of reasons. Some may find a private or magnet school a better fit. Evidence from Indiana’s voucher program suggests parents choose private schools for religious instruction, raising questions about whether the state should support sectarian education.

Berends and Waddington said the Indianapolis study provides more evidence that the key to improving student achievement doesn’t lie with a particular type of school. They said research suggests we should get past the “horse race” question of whether public, charter or private schools are better and seek a better understanding of the characteristics that make some schools more effective than others.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Recent Research Shows Vouchers Fail Children

The two most recent studies indicate that students do worse with vouchers.

TESTING

Feds say Indiana can drop its A-F system. But does it want to?

We’re still misusing standardized tests. Standardized tests are developed to evaluate the achievement of students, not teachers. Not schools. Not school systems. Not nations.

If Indiana wants to make changes to its A-F school grading system, new rules from the U.S. Department of Education announced today could make it much easier.

The question is: Does Indiana want to make a change? And what would an overhauled school rating system look like?

LIBRARIES

The value of reading and our neglect of libraries

Does your neighborhood public school have a library for its students? Did you know that there are schools in the US, the richest nation in the world, without a library or a full-time librarian for its students?

Isaac Asimov was right in 1995 and his insight is still valid: “When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.”

See also:

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Posted in A-F Grading, Charters, Choice, Equity, Privatization, Public Ed, Quotes, REPA, SchoolFunding, Testing, Value-Added, WhyTeachersQuit

Random Quotes – June 2016

THIS DOESN’T WORK…

Johnson Academy receives charter renewal

Hypocrisy at work.

The constant barrage of disdain against public schools by the legislature and the governor has led to an increase in the investment in privatization and the contrasting defunding of public education. “Public schools are ‘failing'” the refrain goes, “so we need to divert tax money from the public schools to vouchers and charters.”

Then we read something like this…

from The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Education One, a public charter school-authorizing entity based at Trine University, granted the Timothy L. Johnson Academy a two-year charter renewal.

The academy on Werling Drive in Fort Wayne now has a two-year charter effective June 30 through June 30, 2018.

The school was rated an “F” school in the A-F state accountability rating system for 2014. The two previous years, the school received a “D.”

The school, founded in 2002, lost its charter with Ball State University in 2013.

THIS DOESN’T EITHER…

Unqualified, Uncertified Teachers: Where is the Outrage?

How “reformers” have worked to destroy the teaching profession – Indiana version.

Problem: Career professional teachers, supported by professional teachers unions, demand higher wages and benefits. This stands in the way of privatization in two ways; 1) higher personnel costs results in lower corporate profits, and 2) education professionals support increased resources for their students thereby further reducing profits.

Answer: Destroy the teaching profession (and public schools along with it) through the following steps:

1. Claim that public schools are “failing” and blame it on “bad teachers.”

2. Evaluate teachers using test scores and restrict salary increases for teachers whose students score high. This reinforces the “bad teachers” myth and allows the destruction of the salary structure for all teachers. [Odd how “bad teachers” seem to congregate in schools with high levels of poverty. Oh, and deny that poverty is relevant to achievement.]

3. Threaten the livelihoods of teachers who work with hard-to-educate students, ESL students, students who live in poverty, and students with special needs, through punishments for teaching students with low test scores.

3. Attack and threaten teacher training institutions for turning out all those “bad teachers.”

4. Divert funding from public education to vouchers and charter schools providing less funding for “failing” schools. Budgets are cut. Class sizes rise. Test scores suffer. Continue to blame “bad teachers.”

5. Deny that experience matters. End seniority, salary schedules, and incentives for increased education or advanced degrees.

6. Once all these are in place and a teacher shortage develops, lower qualifications for teaching through state board of education policies.

7. Ignore all research about poverty and achievement, the effectiveness of experienced teachers, and the importance of investment in public education.

Success: Using non-professional, non-career teachers, with higher turnover rates, results in lower personnel costs and higher profits.

from Russ Walsh

I would like to see the business model of any successful company that says, “Let’s forget trying to make the job more attractive to top candidates, we can just hire someone who is unqualified for the job.”

NOR DOES THIS…

The Disconnect Between Changing Test Scores and Changing Later Life Outcomes Strikes Again

A child is more than a test score.

from Jay Greene

If we think we can know which schools of choice are good and ought to be expanded and which are bad and ought to be closed based primarily on annual test score gains, we are sadly mistaken.

WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING

Report Demonstrates that Greater Investment, Well Distributed, Raises School Achievement

Mind the Gap: 20 Years of Progress and Retrenchment in School Funding, Staffing Resources, and Achievement Gaps

Instead of diverting funds away from public education we ought to be investing in our local public schools.

from Jan Resseger

“(A)cross states, over the past decade and a half in particular, states with lower pupil-to-teacher ratios and fairer distribution of staffing tend to have both higher outcomes among children from low-income families and smaller (economic) achievement gaps…. We also have evidence that states in which teacher wages are more competitive have smaller achievement gaps and higher scores for children from lower income families.”

Her conclusion…

…you get what you pay for, and if you want to close achievement gaps between poor children and their privileged peers, you should spend what you need to to ensure that the children living in the poorest communities get the added attention they need from highly qualified teachers.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Across the Nation, Education is Getting Short Shrift

Tax dollars earmarked for public education are being diverted to privatization schemes such as vouchers and charters. Americans, through their legislators, bought and paid for by corporate donors, are neglecting their future.

From Jeff Bryant at The Progressive

You can place blame for the country’s education funding crisis squarely at the feet of state lawmakers and policy leaders who simply refuse to fund schools.

STUDENT DREAMS

Second graders imagine their dream school. It isn’t what you might think.

What would you have wished for when you were in second grade?

Second graders at a Boston elementary school said they wish for a school with

  • “…pencils, markers, and glue sticks…”
  • “…a shiny and new school…”
  • “…a room with soft things and people to talk to…”
  • “…a better playground…”
  • “…a class pet and field trips to far-away places…”
  • “…a whole library…”

What kind of school do your kids deserve?

from Lily Holland via Valerie Strauss

I think I’ve changed my mind. When I introduced this activity, I originally said I dreamed of a school with an outdoor garden that my students and I could use to grow healthy food. Now I think I dream of a school where 7-year-olds don’t have to just dream about the schools they deserve.

WHY TEACHERS LEAVE

Teaching, GOP lose frustrated Hoosier

Professional, career teachers are leaving education. The loss will be felt in years to come when our leaders only come from the elites who could afford quality education and our voting population consists of adults whose education was damaged by greed and shortsightedness.

From Brenda Yoder in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Establishment Republicans don’t seem to care about these students or others who need caring teachers more than they need six weeks of ISTEP+. They don’t care about the rural communities where schools are fighting just to stay alive. They don’t care about excellent teachers who do their best for the students they love.

They care about the money they can get from ALEC, Pearson and from being elected by the “voucher” bandwagon. Seriously, vouchers aren’t the issue anymore. Integrity, real needs, and change are.

CHOICE HAS BRED CHAOS

We Can Recover From The School Choice Movement

The “choice” in education has always been available for those who were wealthy. “Choice” now means that privatized schools can choose their students. Parents who are confused and without a well-staffed, well funded neighborhood school to rely on, are left to struggle with the system.

from Ed Berger, Ed.D

“Choice” is a marketplace idea wrongly applied to education. The assumption that most parents have the information they need to make intelligent decisions about the education their children need, and the education children need to be effective citizens, has been proven wrong. School choice has failed to improve our schools. In fact, choice has created a chaos of confusion for parents who have risked (gambled) on moving their children out of comprehensive education programs to place them in partial education programs. The costs of these misguided experiments is evident in high dropout rates, incomplete educations, and damaged children.

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Posted in A-F Grading, ESSA, Indiana, ISTEP, NCLB, Testing

Why We Test

QUEST FOR A TEST

Indiana is currently wasting millions of dollars on bad tests used for the invalid purposes…for ranking students, retaining students in grade (IREAD-3), evaluating teachers, and grading schools.

The general consensus is that the tests are too long, taking too much time from instruction, so more money is being spent on the quest for a new test…one which will likely also be a bad test used for the same invalid purposes, but perhaps a bit shorter.

Today’s Chalkbeat featured an article about the search for a new test and why Indiana would probably not choose a test which teachers actually liked and found helpful…the NWEA MAP test.

[Note: The NWEA MAP test is the same test Seattle Teachers boycotted in 2013 because it was being misused…it wasn’t tied to the curriculum, and it was used to evaluate teachers. The creators of the test said that the test should not be used to judge students and teachers. See Why Garfield teachers boycotted the MAP test]

In Chalkbeat’s article, Here’s why a test loved by teachers isn’t likely to replace Indiana’s ISTEP, Shaina Cavasos wrote,

The test, created by the Northwest Evaluation Association, can be administered two to four times per year in English and Math. It takes far less time than typical state exams — about an hour per subject per session — and teachers can see the results immediately, enabling them to tailor their lessons to areas where kids are showing deficits.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? The test is shorter, taking less time away from instruction. It’s more helpful to teachers so they can actually use it to learn what their students academic needs are and improve instruction.

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

What’s the purpose of testing? Is it a tool to identify winners and losers in public education or is it a tool to help teachers improve their instruction and help students learn?

Indiana law also discourages the use of tests like MAP — so-called “formative” or “interim” assessments — as an annual state exam because the state’s A-F grading system is based on the percentage of students who pass or fail the test. MAP isn’t designed to determine which students have passed or failed according to state expectations for what kids should know at each grade level like ISTEP is — students can theoretically score anywhere on the MAP scale in any grade.

The problem is that the MAP test does what a test is supposed to do – it tells teachers where a child is in his or her learning and gives them information they can use to help their students achieve.

Indiana doesn’t want that, however. Indiana wants a test that separates kids into winners and losers. Indiana wants a test that will label schools, and their neighborhoods, on a scale of A to F.

“Measuring student growth independent of grade level … that is a different purpose then measuring student performance against grade level,” Mendenhall said.

Indiana’s test must tell us which students are at “grade level” – an arbitrarily determined number designed to brand as “failing” schools, teachers, and children.

The test is also inadequate for compliance with ESSA the new federal law which replaced NCLB.

“(Federal law) requires we have a grade level test on grade level standards,” Roach said. “While we do generally like (MAP), and it’s very useful to us, I think…that would need to be studied in-depth.”

The law still requires that we test kids every year…though one nice change is that punishment for failure is left up to the state.

But it’s hard to ignore that teachers say they appreciate the more specific feedback from MAP over any kind of results they get from ISTEP or A-F grades.

It’s hard to ignore a test that teachers actually think might be helpful…unless you’re an Indiana policy maker, or Governor, who needs a way to label teachers and schools as failures in order to bust the teachers unions and divert public funds to privately run and private schoools.

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Posted in A-F Grading, Evaluations, ISTEP, Pence, Testing

Indiana’s Quest for the Test: An Invalid Effort

Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, along with other state officials, have rounded up a collection of twenty-three educators and political appointees in a panel to choose a new student achievement test to replace the ISTEP. Unfortunately, the panel is faced with an impossible task. The law requires the test to measure student achievement, school quality, and teacher quality. There is no such test which can validly and reliably do all three tasks at once.

REPLACE ISTEP

According to a May 10 article in the Indianapolis Star, the chair of the panel, Nicole Fama, principal of School 93 in Indianapolis, said that ISTEP was too long.

Head of ISTEP review panel says test is ‘just too long’

“The test is just too long,” said Nicole Fama, principal of a charterlike Indianapolis school. “So we want to look for a better option — collectively. I think we want to do right by kids…”

Another member of the panel, Scot Croner, superintendent of Blackford County Schools, said, “I want to make sure we get it done right.”

Ken Folks, superintendent of East Allen County Schools, said, “I want it to be accurate. I want it to be what’s best for the children…”

The way to “do right by kids” – the way to “make sure we get it…right” – the way to make it “best for our children” is to make sure that no high stakes decisions are based on any standardized test.

APPROPRIATE TESTING

The American Psychological Association has information about the appropriate use of testing and emphasizes that high stakes decisions about student placement and achievement not be based on the results of a single test.

…high-stakes decisions should not be made on the basis of a single test score, because a single test can only provide a “snapshot” of student achievement and may not accurately reflect an entire year’s worth of student progress and achievement.

The replacement test for the ISTEP shouldn’t do that. The sole educational purpose of the test should be to ascertain what the students know relative to what they were taught.

Finding a test which can do that is not impossible. Whether the state will use the test in an appropriate and valid way is another story.

[IREAD-3, for example, is an additional achievement test given to third graders. It is a high stakes test and is used to punish third graders for not learning to read.]

But there are two serious problems associated with testing in Indiana which the panel cannot solve simply by choosing another assessment. Both of those problems are based on the political purposes behind testing and both of those purposes do use the tests for making high stakes decisions.

INVALID USE OF TESTS

1. The test is used to evaluate and grade schools. It is used to label some schools as “failing” in order to allow the state to take over so-called “failing” schools and transfer control and fiscal responsibility (aka “profit”) to charter operators. It is also used as a reason to divert public tax funds to private and parochial schools through vouchers.

Unless a test has been developed to evaluate and grade schools it should not be used for that purpose.

The evaluation of a school program is much more complicated than how well its students score on a single standardized test. Such an evaluation ought to also include

  • how does the school work to involve the community in its program?
  • is the school’s curriculum developmentally appropriate for its students?
  • is the school climate conducive to learning?
  • how is the school attempting to meet the needs of all its students?
  • what wraparound services are available for students who need them, such as social workers, guidance counselors, and school nurses?
  • does the school have a library? is  it staffed by a trained librarian?
  • what is the physical condition of the school?
  • are students provided a complete and varied curriculum including physical education and the arts?

Those questions, of course, are not answered by looking at student test scores. Furthermore, if a school has unsatisfactory answers to any of those questions then the state and local school board ought to work together to improve the conditions. The school and its staff are not to blame for inadequately funded, resourced, or maintained schools. The state’s policy makers should take responsibility for their inability (or refusal) to support public education instead of blaming the school by labeling it a “failure.” Fix it. Don’t throw it away.

2. The test is used to evaluate teachers. It is used to support a state-mandated merit pay plan which denies the value of a teacher’s experience and denies the influence of external variables on student achievement. It makes a career in teaching less attractive, and opens the door for lowering the standards required for teachers to enter the classroom.

Unless a test has been developed to evaluate teachers it should not be used for that purpose.

Nicole Fama said, “…and we want to do right by teachers.”

Doing “right by teachers” means not using student test scores for their evaluations. Like school programs, the evaluation of teachers is much more complicated than tallying students’ scores on a single test. Instead, teachers ought to be evaluated on things like…

  • does the teacher have a sufficient knowledge of their subject matter and child development?
  • does the teacher have a firm grasp of the curriculum?
  • can the teacher communicate well to her students?
  • how well does the teacher motivate his students?
  • are the teachers lesson plans complete, well-developed, and organized?
  • how does the teacher support their own professional growth?
  • is the teacher’s classroom organized?
  • does the teacher have good classroom management skills?
  • does the teacher demonstrate professionalism in her relationships with students, parents, and colleagues?

The answers to those questions cannot be measured by student achievement test scores.

MISUSE IS LAW

The panel-to-choose-another-test can likely find a test which will evaluate a child’s achievement (though how well standardized tests actually do that is another discussion altogether). But the current state legislature, the Pence administration, and its predecessor, have built the misuse of tests into state law.

No test exists which can validly and reliably fill the three disparate goals of tracking student achievement, grading schools, and evaluating teachers.

The overuse and misuse of testing needs to end.

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