"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Medley #1

Test based Grade Retention, "Corporate" Reform, "Real" Reform, Misuse of Testing, Libraries, No Child Left Behind

Schools preparing for high-stakes reading test

After decades of research there's still very little that supports retention as a way to improve student learning. See here, as well as the articles listed under RESEARCH ON RETENTION IN GRADE in the side bar. This is a punitive, unfair, and educationally unsound approach to "school reform," yet Indiana's third graders will be subject to forced retention if they can't read "at grade level."
Indiana third-graders will take the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination test (IREAD-3) for the first time this March. Despite scores on any other tests, students who do not pass the IREAD-3 in March or after remediation and a retest in the summer will remain in third grade for reading and language arts the following year.

A 2001 analysis in School Psychology Review looked at 20 research projects from between 1990 and 1999 on grade retention and found the majority of research shows that grade retention does not benefit students more than moving on to the following grades. Ummel said that is the most recent comprehensive analysis on retention

Corporate Education Reform Has Turned Kids into Commodities
Educational entrepreneurs (some backed by Wall Street hedge funds who know a sure thing when they see it) have figured out how to make millions without the usual risks of the marketplace, drilling for profits in the ever lucrative field of school reform.

No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s 2001 education reform package, since embraced by President Obama, may have forced needed attention onto failing schools, but the law also created an extraordinary new industry funded exclusively with public money.

The NCLB mandate for standardized tests requires the nation’s public schools to administer some 50 million tests annually, costing some $700 million a year, most of that money going to corporations that create and publish the tests, score the results and provide “interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports.” Since I was a school boy, testing costs have risen by 3,000 percent. And so too has the opportunity to make a buck.

What real education reform looks like
We’ve learned, for instance, that our entire education system is not “in crisis,” as so many executives in the for-profit education industry insist when pushing to privatize public schools. On the contrary, results from Program for International Student Assessment exams show that American students in low-poverty schools are among the highest achieving students in the world.

We’ve also learned that no matter how much self-styled education “reformers” claim otherwise, the always-demonized teachers unions are not holding our education system back. As the New York Times recently noted: “If unions are the primary cause of bad schools, why isn’t labor’s pernicious effect” felt in the very unionized schools that so consistently graduate top students?

NEA President says misuse of standardized tests must stop

I've had my differences with Dennis Van Roekel...the early endorsement of President Obama, the collaboration with Wendy Kopp of Teach For America...but he's right on this one. The misuse of standardized testing is one of the biggest mistakes in the American Education System. When I first started teaching, "teaching to the test" was unprofessional. Now, it's required.
When we use shoddy, fill-in-the bubble tests as the basis for an accountability system – tests that frequently aren't aligned with what's being taught in classrooms – so-called accountability systems lose all credibility,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It doesn’t make sense to students, educators, parents, or credible testing experts, and now they’re fighting back.”

“Well-designed assessment systems do have a critical role in student success. We should use assessments to help students evaluate their own strengths and needs, and help teachers improve their practice and provide extra help to the students who need it.”

Why not try the obvious first?

The current trend of cutting libraries and library services for communities and schools is academically counter productive. Stephen Krashen's letter to the Chicago Tribune is concise and based on solid research. Wouldn't it be nice if education "reformers" would do likewise?
According to one principal, students need a longer school day so they can catch up in reading (“Chicago schools to begin longer days Monday,” Jan 9).
We can get much bigger gains spending less money and with much less work, with an approach that children will like a lot better than staying in school longer: Invest in libraries and librarians.

Studies show that children who do not do well on reading tests often have little access to books. Studies also show that increasing access to books through libraries increases how much reading children do, and more reading results in better reading, spelling, grammar, writing, and a larger vocabulary.

In our recent analysis of an international reading test given to fourth graders in 40 countries, we found that students who were given time to read in school and who had access to a good school library had higher scores, but more instructional time was associated with lower scores.

Why not try the obvious, an approach with substantial support in the research, before rushing to institute expensive, elaborate programs that have no research support?

NCLB: The Death Star of American Education

No Child Left Behind has been the law of the land for 10 years and has failed to do what it promised. Yet, "reformers," instead of being willing to try something else (something research based, perhaps), are doubling down and calling for more of the same. Led by the Obama Department of Education, the call is for more and more testing, which hasn't improved student achievement, and for more and more charters, which are no better, and often a lot worse, than regular public schools.

When Republican Governors and State Legislatures lower the axe on the working people of the country, with special emphasis, it seems, on educators, the Obama administration is silent. In the meantime, money for education is being transferred to tax breaks for corporate political donors, charter schools, and vouchers for private and religious schools, and teacher's are being pitted against their neighbors because of their compensation.

Meanwhile, students in poverty are dropping out in ever higher numbers and fewer and fewer college students are becoming educators. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are leaving thousands of children behind, and destroying America's public education.

Diane Ravitch explains why.
After 10 years of NCLB, we should have seen dramatic progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but we have not. By now, we should be able to point to sharp reductions of the achievement gaps between children of different racial and ethnic groups and children from different income groups, but we cannot. As I said in a recent speech, many children continue to be left behind, and we know who those children are: They are the same children who were left behind 10 years ago.

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