Category Archives: Testing

Listen to this – 2020 #1 – Wearing a Mask Edition

Meaningful quotes…

KIDS LIVING IN POVERTY DON’T HAVE ANY LOBBYISTS

Schools have closed for the coronavirus pandemic and most will likely not open again this school year. Many school systems have gone to online learning, but because a significant percentage of students have little or no access to the internet, some students are not being served.

How can schools best serve all students (including students with special learning or physical needs) and what happens next year when some students have had the benefit of online learning experiences and others have not? Do we test all the kids to see where they are? Do we retain kids? (answer: NO!) The coronavirus pandemic, like other disasters and disruptions, hurt most, the kids who need school the most and have the least.

From Steven Singer
in Virtual Learning Through Quarantine Will Leave Poor and Disabled Students Behind

This just underlines the importance of legislation. Special education students have IDEA. Poor students have nothing. There is no right to education for them at all.

From Steve Hinnefeld and Pedro Noguera
in Time for ‘educational recovery planning’

…the massive and sudden shift to online learning is exposing huge gaps in opportunity. Some communities lack reliable internet service. Many families are on the wrong side of the digital divide. As Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said, a parent and three school-age children may share a single device, often a smartphone.

“The kids who have the least are getting the least now,” UCLA education professor Pedro Noguera told Hechinger Report. “They will, in fact, be behind the kids who are learning still.”

From Peter Greene
in Should We Just Hold Students Back Next Year?

Retention in grade doesn’t help — even in the face of nation-wide disruption.

…We have been suffering for years now under the notion that kindergarten should be the new first grade; next fall, we could give students room to breathe by making first grade the new first grade. In other words, instead of moving the students back a grade to fit the structure of the school, we could shift the structure of the school to meet the actual needs of the students.

From Nancy Flanagan
in If Technology Can’t Save Us, What Will?

Most important of all…kids need their teachers. They need human interaction which improves learning — and positive teacher/student relationships, even more. See also A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP, below.

It turns out that technology cannot, will not replace the human touch, when it comes to learning that is worthwhile and sticks in our students’ brains and hearts. We already knew that, of course. But it’s gratifying to know that school—bricks and mortar, white paste and whiteboards, textbooks and senior proms—is deeply missed.

Public education is part of who we are, as a representative democracy. We’ve never gotten it right—we’ve let down millions of kids over the past century or two and done lots of flailing. There are curriculum wars that never end and bitter battles over equity, the teacher pipeline and funding streams.

But still. We need school.

IT’S TRUE WHETHER OR NOT YOU BELIEVE IN IT

From Rob Boston
in The Religious Right’s Disdain For Science Is Exactly What We Don’t Need Right Now

Science is a process, not an outcome. We must improve our science education so students understand science. We ignore science at our peril.

The rejection of science and refusal to see facts as the non-partisan things that they are have consequences, as Jerry Falwell Jr. – and his students at Liberty University in Virginia – are painfully learning. Put simply, viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They will wreak their havoc either way. 

REMOVE TESTING FROM THE HANDS OF PROFIT

From Diane Ravitch
in Noted education scholar says parents now more aware of vital role of schools, by Maureen Downey.

The profit motive won’t create better tests. Teachers who know their students will.

If federal and state leaders gave any thought to change, they would drop the federal mandate for annual testing because it is useless and pointless. Students should be tested by their teachers, who know what they taught. If we can’t trust teachers to know their students, why should we trust distant corporations whose sole motive is profit and whose products undermine the joy of teaching and learning?

IT’S POVERTY — STILL

From Jitu Brown, National Director for the Journey for Justice Alliance
in One Question: What Policy Change Would Have the Biggest Impact on Alleviating Poverty?

The fact that poor children are suffering more during the current world crisis than wealthy students should not be surprising. We have always neglected our poor children.

According to the United Nations, America ranks twenty-first in education globally among high-income nations. When you remove poverty, the United States is number two. This tells me that America knows how to educate children, but refuses to educate the poor, the black, brown, and Native American.

NO MATTER WHAT THEY CALL IT, IT’S NOT PRESCHOOL

From Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of NAEYC,
in Making Connections. There’s No Such Thing as Online Preschool

Using public dollars intended for early childhood education to give children access to a 15-minute-per-day online program does not expand access to preschool. It doesn’t address the crisis in the supply of quality, affordable child care. It doesn’t help parents participate in the workforce. And it doesn’t help families choose an “alternative” option for or version of pre-K because it is something else entirely. To what extent we want to encourage parents to access online literacy and math curricula to help their 3- and 4-year-olds prepare for school is a conversation for another column. In this one, the only question is whether these technology-based programs can be “preschool”—and the answer is no.

ACCESS TO BOOKS

From P.L. Thomas
in Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)

Proponents of whole language and balanced literacy have never said that phonics wasn’t important. What they do say, however, is that other things are important, too.

Test reading is reductive (and lends itself to direct phonics instruction, hint-hint), but it is a pale measure of deep and authentic reading, much less any student’s eagerness to read.

Because of the accountability movement, then, and because of high-pressure textbook reading programs, we have for decades ignored a simple fact of research: the strongest indicator of reading growth in students is access to books in the home (not phonics programs).

A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP

From Russ Walsh
in Hula Dancing, Singing and a Teacher’s Impact

Over the years I’ve had several former students relate to me what they remembered from my class. I had a student tell me how important an art project was as a connection to his father. Another student thanked me for helping her during a difficult time in her family. A student who grew up to be a teacher and taught in my district told me that she was reading the same book to her students that I read to her class. Many students, in fact, talked about my reading aloud to them as the most important thing they remember. And a student remembered how I had trusted her to clean off the top of my desk every day after school.

I never had a student come to me and thank me for teaching them how to multiply…or spell “terrible”…or take a standardized test…or count syllables in a word. I take that as a compliment.

The messages we send to kids last a lifetime and they are not often about the times table or coordinating conjunctions or how many planets are in the skies. It is the personal messages and connections that are remembered. It is the belief a teacher instills that we can do that resonates through the years. It is that one book that made a special impression that we remember. That is a lesson we all must take into every interaction we have with a child.

SAY HELLO

From John Prine
in Hello in There

Thanks, and good night, JP.

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

🎧🎤🎧

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Filed under EdTech, music, OnlineLearning, PositiveRelationships, poverty, Preschool, Quotes, reading, retention, Science, Testing

2020 Medley #9: Hunkered Down at Home Edition

Dumping the tests, Some things don’t matter, Social Distancing, Focusing on students,
Beating Coronavirus Capitalism, Disasters

DUMPING THE TESTS IS A GREAT IDEA

Why Scrapping School Testing This Year Is a Good Idea

Before I retired, I had the difficult task of serving as one of my school’s co-test coordinators. It was my job to count, secure, distribute, secure, package up, secure, and prepare our state’s Big Standardized Test (h/t Curmudgucation) for shipping. Sadly, I have been trained in tests and measurements so I understood why, for so many years, the Big Standardized Tests were being overused and misused.

Now that the overuse and misuse of testing pendulum is, hopefully, swinging the other way, my fervent hope is that perhaps we can limit the damage done by the tests.

In the meantime, this year’s Big Standardized Tests are being canceled. Jersey Jazzman explains why that’s a good idea and in the process, also explains why the tests aren’t so good for students anyway. They are extremely accurate in assessing the economic status of students, but that’s about all.

Start with the obvious: a “standardized” test has to be administered in a standard way. If some students receive the test in different platforms, or in different environments, the test is no longer standardized. Of course, there were already huge differences between students in these factors… but Covid-19 has made things far worse. There’s just no way to even come close to standardizing the conditions for testing in the current environment. Will the students be at home, in school but “social distancing,” in regular school, somewhere else… we just can’t say.

Next, we have always had big differences in students’ opportunity to learn — but now the differences are greater than ever. Again, there are huge variations among students in their access to qualified educators, high-quality facilities, adequate instructional materials, well-designed curricula, and so on. The best use of test results was to make the case that the variation in these things was creating unequal educational opportunities, and that public policy should focus on getting resources where they were needed the most.

But in a quarantine, we now have to add all sorts of other inequalities into the mix: access to broadband, parents who have the ability to oversee students’ instruction, schools’ ability to implement distance learning, etc. Why implement these tests when inequities within the same classroom — let alone between schools — have grown so large?

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

Dear Teachers: There Are Many Things That No Longer Matter

A pandemic puts things in perspective. The health and safety of our students, and their families, are more important than the tests.

If you are attempting virtual learning with your students, now is the time to teach what you have always recognized are the crucial topics in your curriculum. Throw out the state requirements and embrace your professional decision-making skills. The state requirements do not matter. There will be no formal observations. No one will give you some annual professional performance review (APPR). We have known all along that those measures are bullshit. I am continuing to cover the most important content, but I am also asking my students to act as historians through recording a daily diary of this extraordinary time. This time will shape them forever, and we are their guardians.

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO WHILE SOCIAL DISTANCING

Top 10 Things I Want My Students to do During the Coronavirus Quarantine

Steven Singer, who blogs at Gadfly on the Wall Blog, lets his students know that there are things to do during “social distancing.” The first is to read a book. For those without access to books, there are the library apps Libby and Hoopla to get digital books.

He wisely includes writing, immediately after reading. Reading and writing are reciprocal. “Reading is the inhale; writing is the exhale.”

2) Read a Book

I ask all of my students to have a self-selected book handy for sustained silent reading in class. Hopefully, you brought it home. If not, take a look around the house. Maybe you’ve got a dusty tome hanging out in some corner. Or – hey – if you have Internet access, you probably have the ability to get an ebook.

Read something – anything you want.

It will while away the hours, relax you and maybe get your mind to thinking about things above and beyond how much mac and cheese you’ve got stored in the cupboard.

3) Keep a Journal

Do you realize you’re living through a moment of history? People will look back on this and wonder how people got through it. You could fill in the blanks for some future researcher. Just a description of your everyday activities, what you’re thinking and feeling, your hopes and dreams – all of it has historical value. Plus, you’ll get some practice expressing yourself in writing. And just think – a simple story about how you survived the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 could end up being taught in the classrooms of the future!

Make it a good one!

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STUDENTS

Our Students Need Us Now More Than Ever

Are you keeping in touch with your students during this extended coronviracation? You should.

If anything, we teachers and support personnel are needed now more than ever.

Close a school for a while and the community instantly feels the effects. Shut them down across the state and everybody has to adjust.

Our students look to us for guidance, direction, assistance, validation, answers, and the ability to use voice. Nothing has changed in that respect.

Educators advocate for students and schools. Nothing has changed in that respect.

We collaborate with each other and remove obstacles for our students. Nothing has changed in that respect.

We will adapt. We will overcome this obstacle. No one adapts to situations and change like we do.

Because it’s all about the students.

BEATING CORONAVIRUS CAPITALISM

Coronavirus Capitalism — and How to Beat It

Last week, in my post, Public Education, Disaster Capitalism, and COVID-19 (expanded into an op-ed in our local paper here), I discussed how “edupreneurs” will be likely to swoop in and take advantage of public education to further their dreams of privatization. I quoted author Naomi Klein from her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Today, I saw this post by Ms. Klein talking about the exact same thing.

The COVID-19 disaster is exactly the sort of disaster that disaster capitalists exploit. Klein wrote…

This crisis — like earlier ones — could well be the catalyst to shower aid on the wealthiest interests in society, including those most responsible for our current vulnerabilities, while offering next to nothing to the most workers, wiping out small family savings and shuttering small businesses. But as this video shows, many are already pushing back — and that story hasn’t been written yet.

DISASTER UPON DISASTER

Midwest Girds for Floods While under Corona Lockdown

While we’re worrying about COVID-19, we can’t forget that the Earth is still reacting to human-induced climate change.

As an upsurge in coronavirus infections stretches thin the capacity of health care workers and emergency managers nationwide, the Midwest is bracing for another battle: a potentially devastating flood season.

😷🚑🩺

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Filed under Article Medleys, climate change, DisasterCapitalism, environment, Medicine, reading, Testing, writing

2020 Medley #7

Poverty, COVID-19 and school, Testing,
Online instruction, Charters = risky business, Undermining religious liberty,
Talking to students about race

IT’S STILL POVERTY

We have a learning crisis but it’s not about the kids

We know that student achievement is based largely on out of school factors yet we continue to try to “fix” the schools. Changing curriculum, blaming schools or teachers, privatizing, or overtesting won’t solve the problem of low student achievement. The main link to low school achievement is poverty.

About a fifth of American students live in poverty (the same as child poverty in Indiana) and millions of those children live in food-insecure households.

As long as we, as a nation, refuse to address the growing inequality among our students, we’ll continue to have high child poverty levels. Since high poverty correlates with low school achievement, we’ll continue to have a large number of our students who fail to achieve.

World-class education nations don’t do what seems to be our main strategy: Insist schools compete against one another, use toxic accountability measures to control and measure what schools do, and hold teachers as scapegoats for plunged education rankings…

Half a century of systematic research has shown that teachers account for about 10 to 15 per cent of the variability in students’ test scores. A similar amount of variability is associated with other school factors, such as curriculum, resources and leadership. This means that most of the influence on students’ educational achievement lies outside school — in homes, communities, peer groups and students’ individual characteristics.

Make no mistake, teachers are the most influential part of school. We should stop thinking that teachers have the power to overcome all those inequalities that many children bring to school with them every day.

Schools Alone Cannot Save Children from Economic Inequality. Public Policy Must Assist Families in Deep Poverty

Public policy can ameliorate child poverty without being revolutionary. However, programs need to be redesigned and targeted to alleviate instability, privation and misery for the more than 2 million children living in America’s poorest families. Child poverty overall was reduced in the decade between 1995 and 2005, but during that same period, the number children living in the deepest poverty rose from 2.2 to 2.6 million children. These are the conclusions of a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) defines deep poverty as families living below half of the federal poverty level—below $14,000 per year for a family of four. Who are these children? “Children living in deep poverty are a diverse group…. In 2016, 37 percent were white, 30 percent were Latino, 23 percent were Black, and 6 percent were Asian; 45 percent lived in suburban areas, 32 percent in urban areas, and 11 percent in rural areas; 51 percent lived in a single-mother family, 37 percent in a married-couple family, and 6 percent in a single-father family; 16 percent lived in a family where someone had a work-limiting disability; and 89 percent were U.S. citizens and 31 percent lived in a family with a non-citizen.”

A TEACHABLE MOMENT?

Listen to Trusted Expert Advice: Coronavirus, Schools, Fear, and an Uncertain Future

Children all over the country are getting an unplanned vacation from school because of COVID-19. Their schools are moving to “virtual instruction” (more on that below). The virus seems to be the perfect “teachable moment” as explained by Ed in the Apple. Students who are still in school could also benefit.

I was speaking with a school supervisor yesterday: he was teaching a kindergarten class: how to wash their hands. The lessons should be replicated in all classrooms across the city.

Science lessons, by grade, should explain what a virus is; English classes should be reading non-fiction about viruses and epidemics.

When I mentioned this I was told, “We don’t want to unduly scare children.” Knowledge is power: the more we involve the children, teach children, we all know that the “teachable moment” is at the heart of impactful instruction.

STANDARDIZED TESTS — A LOW PRIORITY

Public Schools Can Recover from the COVID-19 Quarantine by Skipping High Stakes Tests

What should schools do when they come back from the forced COVID-19 layoff? Skip the test!

First, debrief your students. They will all have stories to tell about how their family survived, who got sick, who might still be sick, what they did to amuse themselves, and how they coped.

Then, get back to the curriculum. We should not waste time on tests. Remember that the greatest impact on a child’s standardized test is what happens outside of school (see also We have a learning crisis but it’s not about the kids, elsewhere in this Medley).

The question remains – what do we do when we get back to class?

We could extend the school year, but families have vacations planned and other obligations. This wouldn’t solve much and frankly I don’t think it will happen unless we’re out for longer than expected.

I anticipate being back in school by mid April or so. That would leave about a month and a half left in the year.

This really leaves us with only two options: (1) hold our end of the year standardized tests and then fit in whatever else we can, or (2) forgo the tests and teach the curriculum.

If we have the tests, we could hold them shortly after school is back in session. That at least would give us more time to teach, but it would reduce the quality of the test scores. Kids wouldn’t be as prepared and the results would be used to further dismantle the public school network.

Much better I think is option two: skip the tests altogether.

How Can K-12 Schools Make Up Time Lost To The Coronavirus? Scrap High Stakes Testing.

There will simply be no way to know how much of this year’s test data is the result of coronavirus disruption. They will be a waste of time.

So don’t give them.

Schools can not only recoup the time lost for giving the tests, but all the time spent preparing for the tests (plus, in some cases, all the time spent on zippy test pep rallies).

Cut the test. Reclaim the instructional time and use it to patch the holes that the coronavirus is going to blow in the school’s curriculum. It’s not a perfect solution, but it makes far more sense than wasting a bunch of time and money on a meaningless standardized test.

ONLINE INSTRUCTION

Ohio’s Charter School War fails us when we could really use them.

If online charters are worthy of education dollars from the state, shouldn’t they be taking the lead in teaching students “laid-off” from school during the COVID-19 crisis? This article is specifically about Ohio but is appropriate for any state with public money going to online charter schools.

With all this COVID-19 talk, every Ohio Public School District is planning to move to online instruction through the end of the year. While that seems like a heavy lift, it really shouldn’t be. Why?

Because no state has more students already attending virtual schools than Ohio.

Yet in no instance has the Ohio Department of Education or any school district — despite this emergency crisis — said, “Hey, we have a lot of online schools already, why don’t we ask them for help?”

CHARTERS — A BAD RISK

Credit Ratings Agency: U.S. charter school sector “inherently risky and volatile”

Will higher risk relieve us of the charter school scourge which diverts public funds from real public schools?

5) National: Standard & Poor’s has issued an assessment of the charter school sector’s creditworthiness as part of an overview of public finance. “The charter school sector is inherently risky and volatile, relative to other public finance sectors, as reflected in our ratings distribution, and charter nonrenewal or revocations can affect credit quality swiftly. However, despite these intrinsic risks, the majority—82%—of S&P Global Ratings’ ratings in the sector carried stable outlooks as of Dec. 31, 2019. While the sector is facing increasing political support for stricter charter laws or oversight in some states, federal government support for school choice remains strong, per-pupil funding is generally stable to growing, and demand for charter schools continues to grow. From a financing standpoint, charter schools’ opportunities and options have expanded and interest rates remain low…

“Our rated universe increasingly reflects more established charter schools, which generally have completed several successful charter renewals, maintain steady academics, and experience less credit volatility than newer schools. While there are inherent credit risks that can affect schools throughout the year, such as failure to meet authorizer standards, charter nonrenewal due to factors such as academics, or enrollment shortfalls, we believe the sector’s outlook for 2020 will continue being stable due to continued demand and growing per-pupil funding levels. However, should charter law and policy changes of significant impact occur in states where we hold a large number of ratings, or some of the broader risks (such as a slowing national economy or recession) transpire during this calendar year, charter schools could face more credit stress.” [Registration required]

VOUCHER PROGRAMS UNDERMINE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

School Voucher Programs Undermine Religious Liberty, Misuse Taxpayer Funds

The following is from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Vouchers aren’t good for anyone…

Yes, “choice” sounds like it is associated with “freedom,” but by funneling government funds to religious schools, vouchers actually undermine the religious freedom of both the taxpayer and the religious institution receiving the payment.

Not only do vouchers force taxpayers to support religious education they might disagree with, they also threaten religious autonomy by attaching government regulations that may compromise the religious mission of the school. Once dependent on voucher funds for its success, a church-based school can be even further pushed toward gaining favor with government regulators.

In other words, government neutrality toward religion is good for the state and good for religion.

TALK TO WHITE KIDS ABOUT RACE

White Fragility in Students

We should talk to all our students about race in America.

In our interviews with young people around the country for our Teaching While White podcast, we have seen firsthand an inability among white students to talk about race without exhibiting racial stress. We hear white children as young as nine years old express anxiety about being white and what they think that means. Often these white students, who mind you have volunteered to be interviewed, feel ill equipped and sometimes unable to engage in racial conversations. It seems that we are successfully raising the next generation of white people who, like too many in the current generation of adults, feel afraid and reluctant to talk about race.

There is a common cultural myth that racism is diminishing among youth today. In reality, not only are white students not talking about race, but incidents of blatant individual acts of racism are currently on the rise. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there has been a surge in reports of hate and bias in schools in the last three years. Racism appears to be the motivation behind a high percentage of these hate and bias incidents, accounting for 63% of incidents reported in the news and 33% of incidents reported by teachers in the SPLC survey. School responses to this uptick in racialized incidents has been disappointing. More than two-thirds of the educators SPLC surveyed had witnessed a hate or bias incident in their school. According to the report, “most of the hate and bias incidents witnessed by educators were not addressed by school leaders. No one was disciplined in 57% of them. Nine times out of 10, administrators failed to denounce the bias or to reaffirm school values.”

👧🏾🚌👦🏻

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Medicine, poverty, Racism, Testing, VirtualSchools, vouchers

2020 Teachers’ New Year’s Resolutions: 2. Teach your students, not “the test”

2020 Teachers’ New Year’s Resolutions
2. Teach your students, not “the test”

It’s a new year and as is our custom here in the USA, we make resolutions which, while often broken, can be redefined as goals toward which we should strive.

[Updated and slightly edited from 2018]

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #2

  • Teach your students, not “The Test.”

NO, DON’T TEACH TO THE TEST

I taught third grade in the mid-1970s. At that time the State of Indiana didn’t require standardized testing for evaluation of teachers or promotion of third graders. Nevertheless, my school system used standardized tests in grades three, six, eight, and ten. The purpose of the test was to see how our students were progressing and to diagnose any specific problems. We were specifically told by the administration not to “teach to the test.” It wasn’t professional!

When the results came back (always within a couple of weeks) we were able to see how each of our students was doing in particular areas, and plan our instruction accordingly.

10 years later, Indiana started the ISTEP. We were still told to remain professional and not to “teach to the test.”

NCLB — YES, TEACH TO THE TEST

In 2001 everything changed. No Child Left Behind shifted the attention from students to test scores. No longer were we told not to teach to the tests. Teaching to the tests was now encouraged because, we were told, the test covered everything the students needed to learn.

Our school’s success depended on the test scores. Individual students were only important insofar as they contributed to the success of the school. It was time to teach so that test scores rose. Nothing else mattered. Teach test-taking skills. Teach test-like questions. Teach skills the students wouldn’t normally get to until later in the year because it will be on the test. Focus on the “bubble” kids. Why are you teaching kids about dinosaurs…it’s not on the test!

WHY NOT TEACH TO THE TEST?

What happens when you teach to the test, instead of teaching to your students’ needs?

1a. It skews the curriculum.

When you spend your day (or most of it) teaching to the test, other content gets lost. Elementary teachers, especially, teach all subjects. If, in a 6 or 7-hour instructional day, most of the instruction is how to take a test and drilling on presumed test content, then there won’t be much time left for non-tested content such as social studies, science, health, or read aloud (see Resolution #1). If the goal of public education is a well-rounded education, then a well-rounded curriculum is the logical route to take. Focusing only on test content is not the way to get there. FairTest says,

High-stakes testing often results in a narrow focus on teaching just the tested material (test preparation). Other content in that subject as well as untested subjects such as social studies, art and music are cut back or eliminated. High-stakes testing also produces score inflation: scores go up, but students have not learned more. Their scores are lower even on a different standardized test. This undermines the meaning of test results as well as education.

1b. It redirects a teacher from curriculum-teaching to item-teaching (aka it skews the curriculum).

Testing expert James Popham defines this as follows

In item-teaching, teachers organize their instruction either around the actual items found on a test or around a set of look-alike items…

Curriculum-teaching, however, requires teachers to direct their instruction toward a specific body of content knowledge or a specific set of cognitive skills represented by a given test…In curriculum-teaching, a teacher targets instruction at test-represented content rather than at test items.

1c. It creates a one-size-fits-all curriculum instead of allowing teachers to focus on students’ individual interests and abilities (aka it skews the curriculum).

It forces teachers to focus on state (or national) standards instead of the needs of his/her students. Standards are important, but sometimes individual students need something else.

1d. It excludes the affective domain (aka it skews the curriculum).

A child is more than a reading and/or math score. The school day, and instruction, should reflect that. A well-rounded curriculum includes the arts, civics, play, and other content.

2. It promotes convergent, rather than divergent thinking – excludes higher-order thinking skills.

How much creativity is extinguished by focusing on one right answer? How is problem-solving improved?

3. It makes the test an end in itself, instead of a means to an end.

Not all students learn at the same rate. Some students take longer. When a standardized test-based curriculum is forced on a classroom there will be some students who aren’t ready for some of the content. This is why many states have required the educationally unsound practice of in-grade retention to punish third-graders who cannot pass the test.

Instead of a test-based curriculum or in-grade retention, students should receive high-quality instruction and, when needed, intervention using best practices at their instructional level.

Student learning, not a test score, should be the goal of education.

4. When teachers are evaluated by test scores, it incentivizes a conflict of interest.

Ethical and professional problems can occur when a teacher’s livelihood is dependent upon student achievement.

New Year’s resolution #2 depends, of course, on where and what you teach. It might be easy for one teacher (an art or foreign language teacher, for example) not to teach to the test, since there aren’t state-required tests for all subject areas. English and Math teachers might have more difficulty. If you’re a classroom teacher who is forced to “teach the test” you’ll have to adjust this resolution to meet your own circumstances.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #1

  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.
✏️📓✏️

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Filed under Testing

Listen to This – Nineteen for 2019

Nineteen meaningful comments and quotes from 2019 from my blog and others…

JANUARY

Making Laws About Teaching

Speaker Bosma, Qualifications Matter!

Jennifer McCormick

Perplexing but not surprising- people who are most judgmental & outspoken about the qualifications necessary to perform a job are typically those people who have never done the job.

Hey Kindergarten, Get Ready for the Children.

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

Peter Greene

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem. The solution is not to declare, “We had better lean on these little slackers a little harder and get them away from their families a little sooner.” Instead, try asking how your kindergarten program could be shifted to meet the needs that your students actually have. 

FEBRUARY

Punishing third graders

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

Nancy Flanagan

Now we are witnessing the other consequences of the Third Grade Threat—pushing inappropriate instruction down to kindergarten, as anxious districts fear that students who are not reading at grade level (a murky goal, to begin with) will embarrass the district when letters go out to parents of third graders who are supposed to be retained. Because it’s the law.

Who’s to blame when students lag behind (arbitrary) literacy benchmarks, for whatever reason…

Blaming Teachers

At What Point Do We Stop Blaming Teachers?

Paul Murphy

As a teacher who has been told to teach a program as it’s written, how the hell is it my fault if the assignments students get are not challenging enough? I’m not the one who designed the assignments.

If you’re requiring me to read from some stupid script written by publishers who’ve never met my students, then how can you fairly evaluate my instruction? It’s not my instruction.

Should we be surprised that students aren’t engaged during a lesson that’s delivered by a teacher who had no hand in creating it and who sees it as the contrived lump that it is? I’m not a terrible actor, but hand me a lemon and I’m going to have trouble convincing even the most eager-to-learn student that I’m giving them lemonade.

MARCH

The Intent of Indiana’s Voucher Program

School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”

Doug Masson

…that the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.

Why is this even a thing?

Teachers Union: No Teacher Should Be Shot at As Part of Training

Dan Holub, executive director of the ITSA

Our view is that no teacher, no educator should be put in a small room and shot at as part of a training process for active shooter training…

Retention-in-grade Doesn’t Work (Still)

Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

Stu Bloom

Can we just stop flunking kids, and use the money we save from repeating a grade and foolish third-grade retention tests to give them the support they need in the years leading up to third grade?

APRIL

Reading on Grade Level…

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

Mitchell Robinson

Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”

So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.

MAY

The Relationship Between Teacher and Child

It’s All About Growth

Stu Bloom

There is so much more to education than tests and standards. Children learn much more than can ever be put on a standardized test. Teachers – living, breathing, actual human beings – make the learning process part of life. One of the most important aspects of the education of our children is the relationship between teacher and child.

No test can ever measure that.

JUNE

Reading Aloud Instead of Worksheets

Father’s Day 2019: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

Stu Bloom

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

JULY

Just say “NO!” to Online Preschool

Why Online Preschool is a Terrible Idea

Matthew Lynch

Think about it: why are children sent to preschool in the first place? Isn’t it because they need human interaction? One of the most important skills children learn in preschool is how to make friends. Life is about human relationships after all. How do you learn about making friends, sorting out differences, and obeying the rules when you are staring at a screen, looking for the right color to click on?

Children learn through play, not screens

AUGUST

Science in the United States

Who does President Trump treat worse than anyone else? Scientists.

Robert Gebelhoff

This is the intellectual rot of the Trump era. It’s more than just an anti-big government ideology; it’s a systematic assault on science across the federal government. These actions will reverberate in our government for years to come, even after the Trump administration is gone, in the form of policy decisions we make without the benefit of the best evidence available. And worse, Americans may not even be aware of how they are being deceived and deprived.

That’s the true scandal of Trump’s war on scientists. No other group is so pervasively targeted and so thoroughly ignored. Yet it is their voices, more than any other, that our nation needs in this disturbing political moment.

Public Schools for the Common Good

Support Our Public Schools – And The Teachers Who Work In Them

Rob Boston

As our nation’s young people return to public schools, there are things you can do to shore up the system. First, support your local public schools. It doesn’t matter if your children are grown or you never had children. The kids attending public schools in your town are your neighbors and fellow residents of your community. Someday, they will be the next generation of workers, teachers and leaders shaping our country. It’s in everyone’s best interest that today’s children receive the best education possible, and the first step to that is making sure their public schools are adequately funded.

SEPTEMBER

Read Aloud to your Children

Want to Raise Smart, Kind Kids? Science Says Do This Every Day

Kelly at Happy You Happy Family

The best thing about this particular “keystone habit” for raising smart, kind kids is that it’s completely free, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, and anyone can do it.

To get smart, kind kids, you don’t have to sign your kid up for expensive tutoring or have twice-daily screenings of the movie Wonder.

All you have to do is this: Read to your child. Even if they already know how to read to themselves.

Because research shows reading aloud is the powerful keystone habit that will raise smart, kind kids. (More on that in a minute.)

Misusing Tests

Testing…Testing…

Sheila Kennedy

The widespread misuse of what should be a diagnostic tool is just one more example of our depressing American tendency to apply bumper sticker solutions to complex issues requiring more nuanced approaches.

The times they are a’ changin’.

Greta Thunberg’s full speech to world leaders at UN Climate Action Summit

Greta Thunberg

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

The Teacher Exodus

Educator: There’s A Mass Teacher Exodus, Not Shortage

Tim Slekar

When we have a shortage, say of nurses, pay goes up, conditions get better and enrollment in nursing programs skyrockets. So if we have a teacher shortage, pay would go up. It’s not. Conditions would get better. They’re not. And enrollment in teacher education would go up. It’s declining. That can’t be a shortage then.

When you talk about the fact that nobody wants to do this job, that parents are telling their kids right in front of me in my office that they don’t support their child becoming a teacher, this is a real issue that needs to be talked about quite differently and that’s why exodus is much better because you have to ask why are they leaving and why aren’t they coming.

NOVEMBER

Billionaire Busybodies

Organizations with the Audacity to Blame Teachers for Poor NAEP Reading Scores!

Nancy Bailey

The latest “criticize teachers for not teaching the ‘science’ of reading” can be found in “Schools Should Follow the ‘Science of Reading,’ say National Education Groups” in the Gates funded Education Week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds most of the organizations in this report that criticize public schools and teachers for low NAEP scores. Yet they are behind the Common Core State Standards, which appear to be an abysmal failure.

Most individuals and groups never teach children themselves, but they create policies that affect how and what teachers are forced to teach. They have always been about privatizing public education.

DECEMBER

It’s Poverty

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us

Stu Egan

What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.

🏫🎓🚌

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Pearl Clutching Over PISA

IT’S STILL POVERTY

The latest PISA scores have been released and edu-pundits are clutching their pearls because “our scores are terrible.” Yet hardly anyone has mentioned that, just like in the past, the scores in the US are lower than many others in the OECD because the US has a high rate of child poverty.

I wrote about this after the last release of PISA scores

The problem that DeVos and others don’t understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested. To be fair, Secretary DeVos might not know this. She never attended a public school and never sent her children to public schools. In her experience, children who weren’t achieving academically might have been weeded out of her private schools. She probably never realized that they were then sent to public schools, where all students are accepted.

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.

North Carolina blogger Stu Egan (Caffeinated Rage) did notice it this time and posted…

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us

What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.

Egan posted these graphs (along with others) from the latest PISA tests. They show that, within each quartile of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status, the US scores are near the average for the rest of the OECD. Check out his entire post.

In reading, the US 15-year-olds scored a little above the OECD average at each quartile.

In math, the US 15-year-olds scored slightly below the OECD average at each quartile.

We’re not number one. But we’re not “failing” either. If our child poverty rate was lower, we wouldn’t have so many more scores in the lower quartiles and our average scores would be higher.

Egan also includes a long quote from the Economic Policy Institute (from an earlier version of the PISA) which explains things very well. Here’s part of it…

What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.

  • Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.

We won’t be able to climb to the “top” of the PISA rankings as long as we are near the “bottom” of the OECD in child poverty. What we’ve been doing has actually been making things worse.

  • We spend too much time on testing and not enough on teaching.
  • We divert too much of our education funding to the privatization of public schools instead of supporting the common good.
  • We’re so focused on cutting taxes for the wealthy that we don’t have enough money to support our future.

Nothing has changed since I wrote the following in 2017

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,

…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.

🚌📚📝

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Time to Panic? The NAEP Scores Didn’t Go Up!

The NAEP scores are in and the “reformers,” or as Diane Ravitch has taken to calling them, the “Disrupters” are up in arms because the scores haven’t improved. The disrupters promised all of us that charter schools, testing, vouchers, and other “reforms” would solve the low achievement scores, but as we now can see, that didn’t happen. Perhaps there’s something else that might be affecting the achievement of the students in our classrooms…

When reading through the articles noted below it’s important to remember two things.

First, the National Reading Panel did not support heavy phonics instruction despite what “phonics-first” partisans might tell you. It’s true, the National Reading Panel Summary said that a phonics-based approach was supported, however, that was different than what was actually in the full National Reading Panel report! (See also I Told You So! The Misinterpretation and Misuse of The National Reading Panel Report by NRP Panel member, Joanne Yatvin and More Smoke and Mirrors: A Critique of the National Reading Panel (NRP) Report on “Fluency” by Stephen Krashen.)

The actual National Reading Panel Report says (p. 2-97),

…it is important to emphasize that systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program. Phonics instruction is never a total reading program. [emphasis added]

So…the NRP recommends something akin to Balanced Literacy…something the “phonics-firsters” decry as “unscientific.”

Second, as Steven Singer (Gadfly on the Wall Blog) reminds us, NAEP proficient level isn’t the same as grade-level. Diane Ravitch, who served on the NAEP Governing Board for seven years explains it this way

Proficient is akin to a solid A. In reading, the proportion who were proficient in fourth grade reading rose from 29% in 1992 to 34% in 2011. The proportion proficient in eighth grade also rose from 29% to 34% in those years. In math, the proportion in fourth grade who were proficient rose from 18% to 40% in the past twenty years, an absolutely astonishing improvement. In eighth grade, the proportion proficient in math went from 21% in 1992 to an amazing 35% in 2011.

Basic is akin to a B or C level performance…

In other words, Proficient is the level where the highest-scoring students achieve. Basic is closer to what we think of as “grade-level.”

NAEP scores and “the science of reading”

The miniscule changes in reading scores since 2015 are interpreted in “National Reading Emergency” as a reason to embrace “the science of reading,” which is code for heavy phonics instruction. The real “science of reading,” based on a substantial amount of research, consistently shows that intensive phonics instruction produces strong results only on tests in which children pronounce words out of context. It has little or no impact on tests in which children have to understand what they read.

The best predictor of performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read is real reading, especially self-selected reading.

The Big Lie about the “Science of Reading”: NAEP 2019 Edition

Paul Thomas’s bullet points below are a good summary of why the NAEP scores do not signal a “national emergency.”

With the release of 2019 NAEP data, as we should expect, the same folk are back at over-reacting and misunderstanding standardized reading test data (mostly mainstream media), and dyslexia/phonics advocates are cherry picking evidence to reinforce their ideological advocacy.

All in all, these responses to NAEP data are lazy, and incredibly harmful.

Broadly, responses by the media and advocates have been overly simplistic, and lacking even a modicum of effort to tease out in a scientific way (ironic, eh?) mere correlations from actual causal associations among student demographics, reading policy, reading programs, the fidelity of implementing policy/programs, NAEP testing quality (how valid a proxy is NAEP reading tests for critical reading ability?), etc.

…Only fair things to say about new round of NAEP reading scores:

• The US has never had a period over the last 100 years when we said “reading scores are where they should be.”

• There is always a claim of “reading crisis.”

• This is irrespective of how reading is taught.

• NAEP scores, like all standardized test scores, are mostly (60% +) correlated to out-of-school factors.

• NAEP scores only marginally about student achievement/reading, teacher/teaching quality, reading program effectiveness.

• NAEP scores are very pale proxies of reading

This is a good place (see bullet #4, above) to remind you to read Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, by David C. Berliner. Unfortunately, little has changed since the report was first published in 2009.

Organizations with the Audacity to Blame Teachers for Poor NAEP Reading Scores!

The low scores are, as they always have been, just another excuse to blame teachers, label schools as “failing”, and promote the privatization of public education.

The latest “criticize teachers for not teaching the ‘science’ of reading” can be found in “Schools Should Follow the ‘Science of Reading,’ say National Education Groups” in the Gates funded Education Week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds most of the organizations in this report that criticize public schools and teachers for low NAEP scores. Yet they are behind the Common Core State Standards, which appear to be an abysmal failure.

Most individuals and groups never teach children themselves, but they create policies that affect how and what teachers are forced to teach. They have always been about privatizing public education.

Reading instruction is the conduit for corporate school reformers to reach their privatization goals.

NAEP Test Scores Show How Stupid We Are… To Pay Attention to NAEP Test Scores

The US Education Secretary, she who must not be named, is, of course, ignorant about what testing in general means, what “grade-level” means, and what the NAEP scores mean specifically. It’s time we replace her with someone who actually knows something about the education of children.

[Note: While the current US Education Secretary is certainly the worst person we’ve ever had in charge of the nation’s K-12 public schools, she’s not the only Secretary of Education who displayed ignorance of the field of education. In fact, only three of the eleven Secretaries of Education had training and experience in the field of K-12 education.]

Education Blogger Peter Greene claims that this move is based on a reading comprehension problem the Education Secretary is having, herself.

She says that the NAEP results mean that 2/3 of American students read below grade level. However, Greene points out that she is conflating two different things – grade level proficiency and NAEP proficiency.

Here’s what the NAEP wrote:

“The NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade-level proficiency, but rather competency over challenging subject matter. NAEP Achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted and used with caution.”

Which kind of begs the question of why we need these scores in the first place.

📝🚌📝

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