Posted in A-F Grading, Choice, DeVos, ESSA, Public Ed, Quotes, retention, special education, Teachers Unions, TeacherShortage

Listen to This #9

THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Sometimes They’re Right

America’s public schools are not “failing.” However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve. After reminding us how the nation’s public schools are the best in the world, Rob Miller goes on to remind us that many criticisms of public education are true. It’s up to us to make public education the “unequivocal BEST choice for America’s children.

From Rob Miller

…public education is an absolute right for every child in America, not just the privileged. No other school system anywhere in the world exceeds the United States in providing free access to education for everyone. And that, alone, makes us exceptional.

CHOICE

I got to choose private schools, but will vouchers really help other kids make it?

Indiana’s voucher program began as a way to “save poor children from ‘failing’ schools.” It was restricted by income, and parents had to try the public schools before they could get a voucher to send their child to a private school. It didn’t matter that it was the state, not the schools that was “failing” the students. All that mattered was that privatizers rationalize a way to give tax money to private schools and churches.

Once it was clear that private and parochial education didn’t provide better services for poor children, the argument changed.

The voucher program has been expanded to include middle class students, and students who have never set foot in public schools. Public dollars are being used to pay for religious instruction.

The call is now for “choice.” There’s no attempt to claim that private and parochial schools are better. The entire reason for the voucher program is now “choice.”

From Emmanuel Felton in The Hechinger Report

School choice by its very nature uproots its customers from their communities, increasing the proportion of Americans without any stake in what’s going on in public schools, the schools that will always serve the children most in need of attention.

GRADING SCHOOLS IN INDIANA

Board members favor counting test scores more than growth

From Christopher Tienken quoted by Steve Hinnefeld

Whether you’re trying to measure proficiency or growth, standardized tests are not the answer…

ESSA INDIANA

Diploma rule a setback for Indiana schools, students

Federal law requires that students with special needs have an IEP, an Individual Education Plan. It’s required that the IEP describe a modified program appropriate to the student. Yet, now we find that the same Federal laws which require those accommodations for special needs students, requires that they, along with their teachers and schools, be punished for those accommodations.

Since charter schools and schools accepting vouchers enroll fewer special needs students than public schools, it is the “grade” of the public schools which will suffer because of this loathsome and abusive practice. It is the students who were told what they needed to do, and who did it, who will be told, “your diploma doesn’t really count.”

From Steve Hinnefeld

…students who struggle to earn the general diploma and likely wouldn’t complete a more rigorous course of study, the change seems to send a message that their efforts aren’t good enough. About 30 percent of students who earn a general diploma are special-needs students.

TRUMP-DEVOS

After Six Months, What Has Trump-DeVos Department of Education Accomplished?

The sooner this administration is history, the better.

From Jan Resseger

To summarize—Betsy DeVos has said she intends to “neutralize” the Office of Civil Rights, which can only be interpreted as weakening its role. DeVos is delaying rules to protect borrowers who have been defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit colleges. While DeVos promotes school accountability through parental school choice, her staff are busy demanding continued test-and-punish accountability from the states. And finally, the D.C. voucher program remains the only federally funded tuition voucher program, despite that DeVos has declared the expansion of several kinds of school vouchers to be her priority.

DEVOS ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

The deep irony in Betsy DeVos’s first speech on special education

From Valerie Strauss, in the Answer Sheet

We should celebrate the fact that unlike some countries in the world, the United States makes promises that we will never send any student away from our schools. Our commitment is to educate every student. Period. It’s but one of America’s many compelling attributes.

The irony in this statement is that it is the traditional public education system in the United States that promises a free and appropriate education for all students. There is no question that many traditional public schools don’t meet this promise, but the goal is aspirational and seen as a public good. And it is the traditional U.S. public education system that DeVos has labeled a “dead end” and a “monopoly,” while the alternatives to these traditional public school districts that she promotes don’t make the same promise.

PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS

FL: Third Grade Readers Lose

The attack on public education, and on eight year old children in particular, continues. Florida uses a “third grade reading test” that students must pass, else they face retention in grade. Just like Indiana…
Just like Ohio…
Just like Mississippi…
and Oklahoma…
and Arizona…
and Connecticut…
California…
Michigan…

Another abusive “learn or be punished” policy.

From Peter Greene in Curmudgucation

What sucks more is that the final outcome maintains Florida’s power to flunk any third grader who refuses to take the test, regardless of any other academic indicators. In fact, the whole mess of a ruling would seem to suggest that Florida intends to ignore the part of ESSA that explicitly recognizes parental rights to opt out.

…the state had to explicitly declare that it doesn’t believe in the grades on report cards and that it values test-taking compliance above all else AND that it fully intends to ignore the opt-out portion of ESSA. So the face of education policy continues to be ugly, but at least they were required to show it without any mask or make-up.

TEACHER SHORTAGE: PAY

Teacher Pay Penalty Driving Educators Away From Profession

8 steps to destroy public education…

  1. Schools are labeled “failing.”
  2. Teachers are demonized for not raising test scores.
  3. Tax money is diverted to private and charter schools creating a public school funding crisis.
  4. Funding crises yields a drop in teacher salaries.
  5. Fewer young people choose a career in education creating a teacher shortage.
  6. Fewer teachers means larger class sizes.
  7. Larger class sizes means lowered achievement, especially for poor students.
  8. Lowered achievement means more schools will be labeled “failing.”

This quote deals with step 5 in the process.

From Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute.

“We are moving into a world where fewer people are trying to enter teaching, in part because the profession has been degraded by misguided accountability measures and also because of the erosion of pay,” says Mishel.

TEACHERS UNION

Blaming Unions for Bad Schools

From Walt Gardner

It’s so easy to scapegoat teachers’ unions for all the ills afflicting public schools (“State of the Teachers Union,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 6). The charge is that they are more interested in protecting teachers than in teaching students (“This is what teachers unions really protect,” New York Post, Jul. 6). Critics point to the success of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union, as evidence.

But what these critics don’t admit is that states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, which have strong teachers unions, also post high test scores. Is that merely a coincidence or is it evidence that the critics are wrong? (Correlation is not causation.) Moreover, not all charter schools post positive results by any means.

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Posted in A-F Grading, Article Medleys, DAP, ESSA, SBOE, vouchers

2017 Medley #22 – ESSA, A-F, and DAP, oh my!

ESSA, Private Schools, A-F, SBOE, DAP

FEDS MAKE A-F WORSE, STATE FAVORS PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Grad rates, grades to fall

A decision by the U.S. Education Department will result in thousands of Indiana students’ diplomas not being counted in graduation statistics causing dozens of schools to score lower on the A-F Grading System.

The fact that the USED can, with the backing of the federal ESSA law, lower the value of diplomas and thereby a school’s grade without any change in the actual achievement of the students is an indication that there is something wrong here.

The A-F grading system in Indiana has been wrong from day one. It’s been riddled with confusion and corruption. The original metrics weren’t adequate, said the State Board Of Education, so they “fixed” them. A former State Superintendent, Tony Bennett, manipulated them to increase the scores of favored schools. The mathematical manipulations have done nothing to improve student achievement or give patrons a better understanding of a school’s effectiveness. It has simply become a way to label schools and neighborhoods as “failing” (read “poor”).

This time, however, it’s the USED which is screwing things up.

As has been the case for the last couple of decades, the U.S. (under both Republican and Democratic administrations) seems hell-bent on making it more difficult for teachers and schools to do their jobs, and for students to learn. The only goal seems to be to humiliate students, schools, and neighborhoods where students struggle.

Local schools will see a drop in graduation rates – and related controversial A-F school grades – under a new interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education.

…McCormick lamented that the new Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to be more flexible yet the feds aren’t bending.

She warned that some schools might see their graduation rates drop into the 30 percent to 40 percent level.

…[NACS Superintendent, Chris] Himsel said, “I don’t even pay attention to the A to F stuff. It’s so not related to what we do for kids it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

While…many have lost confidence in that system it is still reported in the media and can cause harm to districts – especially along borders with competing schools allowing transfer students.

But, of course, we can’t let those nasties at the USED damage Indiana’s favored private schools. They’ll still get public tax money for teaching religious doctrine, fixing church steeples, and expanding parochial school buildings, even if their students don’t “measure up.”

After unsuccessful first attempt, private voucher schools use new Indiana law to win reprieve from A-F consequences

Four private schools with repeated years of D and F grades from the state will get to accept new voucher students next fall.

The Indiana State Board of Education today approved Central Christian Academy, Turning Point School, Lutheran South Unity School and Trinity Lutheran School’s requests for waivers after a failed vote last month would have denied them.

The requests take advantage of a new Indiana law passed in April that allows the state board to consider such waivers for private schools that can still show their students have improved academically.

Today, six board members voted in favor of the waivers. Gordon Hendry and Steve Yager were still opposed. State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who also voted no last month, was out sick.

[Note: This method of ignoring “failure” for private schools while punishing the same “failure” in public schools is not unique to Indiana or voucher schools. It happens with charter operators, too. For another example, see Philadelphia: KIPP Gets Whatever It Wants, Despite Poor Performance.]

AND THE STATE DOUBLES DOWN

Test scores could get more important as state board looks to reverse course on A-F grades

To make a bad situation worse, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has decided that getting the right answer is more important than learning.

In an educationally indefensible reversal, the SBOE has chosen to give more weight to “proficiency” than to “growth” in figuring a school’s grade. The discussion was reminiscent of Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation Hearing (although at least the members of the SBOE appeared to understand the concepts), and members of the SBOE agreed with board member David Freitas who said that “Proficiency is more important than growth.”

This means that inadequate standardized tests, which are biased, advantage the wealthy, provide minimal feedback to classroom teachers, penalize non-standard thinkers, and use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores, will become even more important leading to more teaching to the test, focusing on “the bubble-kids,” and outright cheating.

[emphasis added]

Board members Thursday, though, said they think it’s more important to know how students are doing on the ultimate goal: performing on grade level.

“Growth, to me, is much less important than proficiency,” said B.J. Watts, a sixth-grade social studies and science teacher in Evansville.

Board members Tony Walker, Byron Ernest and Kathleen Mote said they, too, would like to see more emphasis on achievement. Walker said that if schools receive an A letter grade, the public should be confident they are already high-achieving.

“Right now, you can be on the road to high-performing and get an A,” he said.

GRADE LEVEL, DAP, AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

I challenge those members of the SBOE to define grade level. Anyone who has been teaching for more than a few years has seen the definition of grade level change. What was third grade in 1997 isn’t third grade in 2017.

It’s perhaps beneficial that expectations for what students can do should rise as humans grow and knowledge increases and changes. However, there is such a thing as “development.” Students develop at different rates. Humans are not the same. Using a measurement to help identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses is different than using that same measurement to classify a child as “successful” or “failing.”

Meeting students where they are, academically and physically, and helping them reach challenging, yet achievable goals, is called Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP).

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines DAP as

…an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development.

DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals.

This applies to older children as well, since the human brain doesn’t reach full development until sometime in the 20s.

Our obsession with testing…our obsession with trying to make all students learn at the same rate is not developmentally sound and it’s a statistical impossibility.

Punishing students, their teachers, or their schools, for not being “developmentally equal” to others is insane. Stop it!

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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 ESSA, Evaluations, ISTEP, NPE, poverty, Quotes, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, Testing

Random Quotes – February 2016

SCHOOLS OUR CHILDREN DESERVE

This is how Bernie or Hillary wins: The speech that would seal the nomination

Bertis Downs, a member of the Board of Directors of the Network for Public Education, wrote this for Salon. How many teachers and parents would support a candidate who promised that all public school children would get the education they deserved?

from Bertis Downs

Which campaign wants to lay claim to public schools supporters? Easy. Whoever embraces these ideas first. Just imagine:

…John Dewey once said, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that we must want for all of the children of the community.” Well, under my administration, we will actually govern that way and foster the kinds of schools where we would all be proud to send our children. We all know the factors that make a school great: excellent teachers who are respected, compensated, and supported so they can better teach our children; a rich and varied curriculum that includes the basic academic subjects as well as the arts and physical education; safe and healthy learning environments; the school as a center of community; strong leadership that focuses on enabling educators to collaborate, develop, and improve as they teach; reasonable class sizes; and an active and engaged parent and community presence. These describe some of our best schools — both public and private. And these are the attributes our policies need to be building and sustaining, not undermining and discouraging. For too long, our policies have created a de facto parallel system — schools for the Haves and other schools for the Have-nots. We need to shift our thinking and try a different approach — one that strives to improve opportunities for all of our nation’s children, not just a select few. Put simply, we must redouble our efforts to expand on our schools’ existing strengths, while freeing teachers to teach and addressing the lingering inequality that presents challenges to teachers and administrators.

Which classroom would you choose for your child?

ESSA

Congress passed the reauthorization to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act last December. The Every Student Succeeds Act returns much of the task of monitoring the nation’s education system to the state. Testing, among other things (such as support for the for-profit charter industry), is still very much a part of the law. Here are two comments about the new law that focus on the same issue – poverty. No improved testing system is going to remove the effects of poverty on the huge number of students in America’s public schools who live with unmet physical, medical, emotional, and social needs.

Why are none of the candidates for President talking about America’s embarrassingly high child poverty rate?

Before we talk seriously about Every Student Succeeds …

There are certain requirements

from Stephen Krashen

I offer an updated version as a comment on the new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act:
When Congress passes
Every Student Is Well-Fed,
Every Student Has Proper Health Care, and
No Student Is Left Homeless,
Then we can talk seriously about
“Every Student Succeeds.”

There’s a Way to Help Inner-City Schools. Obama’s New Education Law Isn’t It.

from Pedro Noguera

[ESSA is] not addressing the real issues related to poverty that are contributing to why those schools are struggling. Having less emphasis on testing, particularly if states use those resources to devise other means to support schools, will be helpful. But you still don’t have federal or state strategies to address issues related to poverty and how they affect schools—that’s a glaring omission. The origins of these federal policies were tied to President Johnson’s war on poverty. Supplemental funds were sent to school districts serving poor children to compensate for issues related to poverty. Since the enactment of NCLB, the focus on mitigating poverty has been replaced by a focus on accountability as measured by test scores.

TESTING AND EVALUATIONS

from Alfie Kohn

Why Standardized Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers (and Teacher Education Programs)

Assessing any teachers with student standardized achievement tests is invalid. Achievement tests were developed to measure student achievement. The variables affecting a student’s standardized test are too many to give a teacher credit or blame for the score.

Legislators who are responsible for requiring that student test scores be used to measure teacher quality listen up: Learn something about tests and measurements before you start passing laws about tests and measurements.

from David C. Berliner, quoted in Audrey Amrein-Beardsley’s VAMboozled

Assessing new teachers with standardized achievement tests is likely to yield many false negatives. That is, the assessments would identify teachers early in their careers as ineffective in improving test scores, which is, in fact, often the case for new teachers. Two or three years later that could change. Perhaps the last thing we want to do in a time of teacher shortage is discourage new teachers while they acquire their skills.

Report: Lowest-scoring teachers concentrated in poorest schools

Any teacher who teaches in a school filled with students who live in poverty will become “low scoring teachers.” Why is the USA one of only three advanced nations on Earth investing more money in schools for the wealthy than in schools for the poor?

Emphasis added.

from University of Chicago Consortium on School Research

Researchers say, however, that they don’t know whether the discrepancies reflect true differences in the quality of teaching or that it’s just harder to be effective or get high marks in higher-poverty schools.

“They may reflect that it is harder to get high scores in unorganized, chaotic schools or in schools with few resources or instructional supports for teachers, as other studies have shown,” the report notes.

FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

NPE State Report Card 2016

The following is from the introduction to the 50 State Report Card given by the Network for Public Education. Diane Ravitch repeats her oft quoted belief that public education is something that we have agreed to provide for all children of our society because it benefits all of us.

By Diane Ravitch in Valuing Public Education: A 50 STATE REPORT CARD

Educating all children is a civic responsibility, not a consumer good. Sustaining a public education system of high quality is a job for the entire community, whether or not they have children in public schools and even if they have no children. An investment in the community’s children is an investment in the future, a duty we all share.

PITTING TEACHER AGAINST TEACHER

Plan to change teacher pay and pensions passes after emotional debate

In their continuing effort to cause damage to the public education system, the Indiana House of Representatives has passed a bill, under the guise of easing the looming teacher shortage, which will allow school systems to pay some teachers more money, thereby reducing the amount of money available for everyone else. This is the latest attack on teachers by legislators who are hell-bent on hurting the Indiana State Teachers Association even if that means destroying public education in the process. The bill now goes to the Senate.

by Melanie Wright, music teacher and member of the Indiana House of Representatives

“If we make those salaries negotiable and outside collective bargaining, we will have salaries all over the place,” she said. “Our mid-level teachers will look for options to get out. They already are exhausted from all the mandates that have been put on them.”

A–F GRADING OF SCHOOLS

Most schools’ grades stay flat

Kudos to this superintendent who is determined that the damage caused by the legislature will not prevent his school system from providing the best education it can for its students.

By Chris Himsel, superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools

“It’s not going to change what we do. We try to provide a healthy and safe learning environment that engages our learners in meaningful activities and supports them whenever learning becomes difficult and obstacles get in the way,” he said.

“Nothing’s going to deviate us away from that mission, and our primary focus at this point is not to look back on the past and all the issues that came across with the ISTEP+ and the transition to the new test and the new accountability standards and those kinds of things.”

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Posted in Article Medleys, Duncan, ESSA, ISTEP, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed, Testing

2016 Medley #1

Hope for Public Education, Duncan, Privatization, Elections, Children As Products, ESSA, Testing

EXPERTS SPEAK

Can Schools Be Fixed? Experts on K-12 education offer their reasons for optimism and pessimism going forward.

This article has the wrong title.

Herein we get predictions from people who are “experts” in education (In this case, there are some people who have actually taught school and studied education, for a change). Some of their comments are thought provoking. Many of the writers claim that ESSA is a reason to hope for improvements to public education. Diane Ravitch, on the other hand, ignores ESSA which will do little to help our children escape test-and-punish education which is now the norm in America (see ESSA is a Lot of Suds, below). Instead she writes of the trust American’s have with their own, local school systems. She says she is hopeful for two reasons…

The reasons for hope are two-fold: first, the public doesn’t want to abandon its community public schools. No district or state has ever voted to privatize its schools. Second, every so-called “reform” has failed to promote better education or equal opportunity for the neediest children. Neither charters nor vouchers consistently get better results for children, unless they exclude the weakest students. Measuring teachers by student test scores has been a costly failure. The great majority of the public admires their public schools and their teachers and wants them to be better, more equitably funded, not eliminated. If democracy works, these misguided “reforms” will be consigned to the ashcan of history.

But the focus of this article’s title is wrong. “Can Schools Be Fixed?” In their introduction the authors themselves explain why there’s more that must be fixed besides America’s schools [emphasis added].

…Education is often touted as a means for boosting social mobility and making communities more equal, but inequality in school funding and resources has made that difficult to achieve, especially amid increasing poverty rates. Segregation in districts, both tacit and explicit, is holding scores of children back, and performance on math and reading assessments has remained relatively stagnant…

QUESTIONS FOR DUNCAN

Race To the Top Redux

Arne Duncan is gone and John King is the new acting Secretary of Education. The damage done by Obama’s Education Department remains, however. Mark Naison lists questions which need to be answered. [bullets added to improve readability]

When the full accounting of the Obama Administration’s Race to The Top is made, the following questions will have to be answered

  • How many schools were closed?
  • How many great teachers were fired or forced into retirement?
  • How many teachers still on the job were placed under a doctors care because test based accountability had destroyed their self-confidence
  • How many communities experienced sharp declines in the number of teachers of color working in their schools?
  • How many new charter schools were created which were embroiled in controversy because of financial irregularities or abusive practices?
  • ….

SCRAPING

WEEKEND QUOTABLE

Mike Klonsky and his brother Fred are bloggers from Chicago. The picture below is one done by brother Fred and posted on brother Mike’s blog. It depicts Arne Duncan looking for his replacement, John King.

A PRIMER ON PRIVATIZATION

A primer on the damaging movement to privatize public schools

An excellent summary of the test-blame-privatize movement from Marion Brady.

Look at standardized tests from the kids’ perspective. Test items (a) measure recall of secondhand, standardized, delivered information, or (b) require a skill to be demonstrated, or (c) reward an ability to second-guess whoever wrote the test item. Because kids didn’t ask for the information, because the skill they’re being asked to demonstrate rarely has immediate practical use, and because they don’t give a tinker’s dam what the test-item writer thinks, they have zero emotional investment in what’s being tested.

As every real teacher knows, no emotional involvement means no real learning. Period. What makes standardized tests look like they work is learner emotion, but it’s emotion that doesn’t have anything to do with learning. The ovals get penciled in to avoid trouble, to please somebody, to get a grade, or to jump through a bureaucratic hoop to be eligible to jump through another bureaucratic hoop. When the pencil is laid down, what’s tested, having no perceived value, automatically erases from memory.

POLITICS

Bernie Sanders: I Oppose Charter Schools

At last Bernie gives us a glimpse – but only a glimpse – of his K-12 education agenda. It’s nice to know that he is against privatization through charters. Now, what about excessive testing, accountability based on test scores, vouchers, “turnaround schools,” and the rest?

“I’m not in favor of privately run charter schools. If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world. I believe in public education; I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education. I really do.” – Bernie Sanders (Quote begins at 1:48:32)

For a more detailed discussion see the following two entries in Anthony Cody’s blog, Living in Dialogue.

Cruz campaign official says Christians must take over public schools to stop ‘deception of the seed’

Elections matter. Voting matters [emphasis added].

Dunbar said nearly all American students attend public schools — which she warned were a secular plot to turn children away from Republican values.

“When we have 88 to 90 percent, which is approximately the number of the students that are being educated within our socialized education system, effectively indoctrinating our children with our own tax dollars, guess what?” she said. “We lose every other issue. We lose life, we lose marriage — we lose all of it. So I think this is the linchpin issue.”

CHILDREN ARE NOT PRODUCTS

My Daughter is Not a Widget

Here’s a beautiful piece by Steven Singer (the gadflyonthewall) about why Exxon-Mobile’s CEO’s view of America’s children is misguided. Children are not products. Education is not a business. There’s more to educating children than “college and career-ready standards.”

I am but a simple man. I don’t bring in a six-figure salary. I’m a teacher in that same public school system. I’m also the father of an elementary student. I am a man of no monetary means and thus little merit. But I say this: the Tillersons of this world are wrong. Our children are worth more than these tiny bean counter brains realize. The purpose of education is not to provide more resources for their pointless game of Monopoly.

My daughter has a life, and her education is a tool to enrich that life. It is her vehicle of understanding the world around her. It is a process to invigorate her sense of wonder. It is a method of understanding how things work and where she fits in the universe.

Yes, she will one day need to seek employment. But what she chooses as her occupation will be up to her. SHE will decide where she fits in, Mr. Tillerson, not you. SHE will decide what is valuable in her life. SHE will decide if she wants to spend her hours in the pursuit of profits or less tangible enterprises.

As such, she needs literature – not standardized tests. She needs mysteries to solve – not Common Core. She needs equitable resources – not charter schools. She needs teachers with advanced degrees and dedication to their jobs – not Teach for America temps… [emphasis in original]

ESSA IS A “LOT OF SUDS”

New education law: a lot of suds

A lot has been written about the new education law, ESSA. Here are four point that must be remembered when thinking about the new law. In essence, the horrible parts of NCLB and RttT are not necessarily gone…they’ve just been handed over to the states to oversee. The overemphasis on testing is still there. The developmentally inappropriate standards are still there. The accountability (aka punishment) based on test scores is still there. The financial incentive for charters is still there [emphasis added].

— Testing: The issue of greatest public concern was too much standardized testing, which generated a parents’ rebellion. The administration said the onerous requirements should be relieved. So what got relieved? Well, nothing. The same grades still have the same tests. In addition, some states are developing “interim” assessments. Psychometricians are getting apoplexy trying to figure out how such Rube Goldberg contraptions can work. Tighter restrictions are placed on testing severely handicapped children and on those who do not speak English. The quadra-power may not be so mountain fresh.

— Standards: The Common Core State Standards were reviled on both the left and the right. So the new law contains tough, unequivocal “ultra deep” language prohibiting the U. S. secretary from forcing or even encouraging states to adopt the common core or any other particular set of state standards. Instead, states must still adopt federally approved “challenging,” state standards, at a “comparable” level.

— Accountability: Previously, schools had to meet ever-increasing goals for each year or be subject to state intervention. Whereas the new system requires the state to intervene in the lowest performing 5 percent, any high school that has a low graduation rate, and those schools that are not making sufficient progress in closing the achievement gap. In the old system, all schools faced sanctions if every student could not meet very high standards. In the new system, since every state has a lowest 5 percent, schools in high-scoring states will be subject to intervention no matter how high they score. (You may be having problems telling the difference between the 100- and the 92-ounce jugs).

— Federal spending: Here’s where the price increase slides in. Much was hurrahed about the increase in federal spending of $1.4 billion. That’s a nice piece of change until you consider that the nation currently spends about $650 billion per year on education — which makes the increase a touch over one-fifth of 1 percent. Not mentioned is that federal education spending was cut 20 percent over the past five years. We haven’t caught up with where we were before the recession. The new law also slips $333 million of the money to charter schools.

As weak and inadequate as this effort is, we can be pleased our federal government was able to act on something. We can also take some limited comfort in this token effort to address the needs of our economically deprived and children of color.

Unfortunately, the new suds look disappointingly like the old suds. But it isn’t the similarity of the old and new that is the problem — it is the mindless repetition and continuation of an utterly ineffective test-based reform system that must concern us.

ISTEP IS “ILL-SUITED”

United on ISTEP+: State leaders show they grasp test’s weaknesses

I know I’m beating a dead horse…because the state has decided that student achievement testing should be used to evaluate teachers and schools, even given that the tests haven’t been developed for that purpose.

However, if enough people hear this and raise the question, perhaps the policy can be changed.

ISTEP is an “ill-suited tool for measuring the performance of students, teachers, schools and school corporations.” The problem is not that the testing process had some problems last year (although that surely is an issue to correct). The problem is that, as Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “We’re using the wrong kinds of tests…We’re using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways.”

ISBA’s position speaks to the much larger problem with ISTEP+: It is an ill-suited tool for measuring performance of students, teachers, schools and school corporations. The push to do so comes from so-called school reform groups like Stand for Children and the pro-voucher Institute for Quality Education, both of which testified Wednesday in opposition to the accountability delay.

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Posted in Accountability, Charters, David Berliner, ESSA, Evaluations, ICPE-MCSCI, JohnOliver, NCLB, Ritz, Sagan, Testing

Videos 2015

Teaching, Testing, and Acountability: Poverty and Charters

Every now and then I’ll embed a video in my blog. Here I have chosen six – informative and inspiring – from 2015, comprising about 2 hours of video. I’ve added emphasis with boldface and italics.

February 1

What would happen if state and federal legislators actually listened to educators? Notice how many of the legislators in this video talk about “accountability.” The assumption is that before “reformist” type accountability (aka standardized tests used to rank students, teachers, and schools) we never knew how our children were doing in school.

So long as public education policy continues to be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public school children we will resist these unjust testing laws.

Jia Lee…the only woman at the hearings, from a female dominated profession…tries to teach legislators about the damage done by runaway testing.

Watch her testimony in the video below and read more about the hearings in…Teachers Rally Against Standardized Testing At No Child Left Behind Hearing.

The sad thing is that, despite the fact that NCLB has been replaced, annual, high-stakes testing is still with us.

Jia Lee, a New York special education teacher, said the tests “can only measure right or wrong,” not complex questions. “I will refuse to administer a test that reduces my students to a single metric. … Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave.”

Jia Lee – Senate Hearings Reauthorization of NCLB Jan 2015 from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

February 22

In February several hundred pro-public education supporters went to Indianapolis to “Rally for Ritz”…a rally in support of Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Superintendent Ritz was continually at odds with the appointed members of the pro-charter, pro-voucher, “reformist,” school board.

Bloomington mom, and chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County and South Central Indiana, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer’s speech to the assembled crowd was memorable, calling for, and defining legislative accountability, not just school accountability. Click here for the complete text of the speech.

My child is not “college and career ready” because HE IS A CHILD

…Accountability is representing your constituents, not your donors

…Accountability is research driven education policy. Standards don’t educate kids, teachers do.

Accountability is seeing to it that every child has a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym, art, and music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, and band. Every. Single. Indiana. Child.

…no six year old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity

Legislators and “reformers” are all for accountability…for others.

May 4

John Oliver shows us just how inane and stupid our obsessive focus on standardized testing really is – test-pep rallies, school cheers – trying to convince children that high-stakes tests are “fun.”

Yet, we all know that high-stakes tests are inappropriate for our most vulnerable students…and they make the pain of the also inappropriate test-prep-standards-based education even more painful.

Official instructions for test administrators specify what to do if a student vomits on his or her test booklet…and something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit. Tests are supposed to be assessments of skills…

[NOTE: NSFW Some images and language might be offensive…just like Pearson’s tests.]

October 24

JOHN MERROW vs. EVA MOSKOWITZ

Success Academy procedures hurt children. They are used by charter school chains to get rid of “undesirables” (aka, students who are difficult and/or expensive to educate or whose test scores don’t measure up) despite what Moskowitz says in this report.

The fact that the two schools highlighted at the beginning of this report – one public, one charter – share the same building, is part of the problem. “Dual occupancy” – two or more schools sharing one building – is a problem. Public schools and their buildings belong to the community which built them. Taking part of a building away from a public school and turning over part of a building to a privately run charter school is like stealing the community’s property for profit. We don’t turn over control of certain parts of public parks for privately run athletic teams. We don’t close of parts of public libraries and let for-profit book sellers “share the space.” Neither should we do that with public schools.

Merrow said it all when he said…

In the end, how charter schools conduct their business is basically their own business.

November 22

What kind of future are we building for our nation?

Policy makers regularly talk about how important it is to have good schools, but there’s no follow through on their part. They blame schools for low achievement, but don’t accept their responsibility for the high levels of poverty in the nation, the main cause of low achievement.

Schools…the education of our citizens…is not a high priority for this nation, despite the rhetoric. Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” If that’s true, then the nation is in jeopardy.

The late Carl Sagan had this to say more than 25 years ago…

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.

December 19

This is the latest and longest of the videos I posted this year. It’s an important one because, despite ESSA, many teachers and schools around the nation are still judged by the test scores of their students, a practice which Dr. Berliner says is invalid. He also discusses the fact that outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wanted to carry the process one step further and evaluate schools of education by the test scores of their students’ students.

We’re using standardized achievement tests incorrectly. They are invalid as a measure of teacher competence, school quality, and teacher training program effectiveness. The discussion of whether or not to use this year’s ISTEP tests to evaluate teachers and schools is irrelevant. We shouldn’t be using any standardized student achievement test to evaluate teachers or schools.

Student achievement tests measure only student achievement.

David C Berliner’s presentation is titled Teacher evaluation and standardised tests: A policy fiasco. You can read about the video presentation by Dr. Berliner at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education web site and watch the hour-long video below.

Teachers and teacher preparation programs are perfect targets to take legislators minds off of all the poverty and inequality that make some of America’s education systems an international embarrassment. Blaming teacher education programs and the teachers they produce for disappointing standardized achievement test scores appears to me to be a diversion, of the type used by successful magicians. 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.

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