"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

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Medley #28

"reform," Retention in Grade, On Teaching, Evaluations, Republic Lost, Dissent


Pillars of Reform Collapsing, Reformers Contemplate Defeat

Anthony Cody gives us hope that the "reformers" are losing steam. It doesn't appear that way in Indiana as Governor Pence has doubled down on privatization, however, if it's happening nationally, then that, at least, is good news.
...this year TFA is hitting some serious headwinds. They are finding that recruitment has dropped for some reason, and the organization is even closing its New York training institute office. Perhaps students have been finding out some of the problems with the program, discovering in advance that five weeks is not adequate preparation for the challenge of teaching in a challenging school...

...charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed.


Using High-Stakes Assessments for Grade Retention and Graduation Decisions

The International Reading Association has released a position paper on using high-stakes tests for grade retention and graduation decisions. While I haven't agreed with everything the IRA has done during the last few years of "reform" this is welcome.

It would have been nicer if the position statement took a stronger view against grade retention in general since nearly all the research over the past century has shown that it doesn't work. Still, this is better than nothing.
  1. Grade retention and graduation decisions should be based on multiple assessments, including teacher professional judgment, results of formative assessments, and student and family input, as well as results from standardized literacy assessments.
  2. Schools, school districts, and policymakers should be guided by the expertise of professional associations and literacy professionals when making decisions about how to best utilize results obtained from high-stakes literacy assessments.
  3. Professional development should be available for teachers on assessment strategies for obtaining a complete picture of a student's literacy performance.


Teacher Team Offers New Vision of Responsibility

Here's a list (the article expands on each) of recommendations for improving education by actual teachers...not billionaires, politicians, or people who think they know about education because they attended school as a child.
From the collective ideas, came six recommendations:

1) Shift Away from Blame, Toward Shared Responsibility
2) Educate the Whole Child
3) Top Down Funding Without Top Down Control
4) Teacher Autonomy and Professionalism
5) Emerge from Evaluation to Support
6) One Size Does Not Fit All


What’s wrong with using data to grade teachers?

Even the U.S. Department of Education knows that VAM is junk science. It's an invalid use of student achievement tests to evaluate teachers...and schools...and school systems...and teacher training institutions. Duncan knows this...yet he ignores it.

Prediction: Once the Obama administration leaves office in January of 2017, Duncan will find himself working for some "reformer" group...
VAM-style evaluations might work well for internal diagnostics in painting broad-brush district comparisons or in pinpointing areas for teacher training. Yet the shoddiness of specific VAM forecasts raises serious doubts about their use in determining an individual teacher’s worth. A 2010 report (PDF) commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) found that the error rate for value-added scores can be as high as 35 percent when using only one year of data. A system that could rate 1 in 3 teachers incorrectly is one that essentially plays pin the tail on the donkey with their livelihoods.


Duncan Chases Teachers Away

If Duncan and the privatizers have their way, everything will depend on student test scores, including the value of teacher training institutions. The "reformers" and privatizers have already damaged the reputation of public schools and public school teachers, it was obvious, perhaps, that the colleges which trained teachers would be next.
Duncan proposes that teacher prep programs be evaluated by looking at the test results of the students of the graduates of the college. If that seems like a twisted sentence, that's because it's a twisted program. We can make two early and easy predictions about what effects it will have.

The first is simple. It will mean the college education departments will cut spending on programs so that they can afford whatever administrative assistant has to be hired to spend all their time chasing the numbers necessary to make the report to the feds. Some bunch of adjunct professors are going to have their hours cut so that somebody else can spend his days wending through the labyrinthian process of tracking down alumni, then tracking down their scores.

The second is, well, also simple. We already know that the best predictor of good student test scores is family income. Every college education department that doesn't want to get spanked by the US Department of Education has to do one simple thing-- they must do everything in their power to keep their graduates from getting jobs in poor urban schools.


Is education a dying field?
According to statistics from Ball State University, in the past decade, enrollment has been on a steady decline. Enrollment in elementary and kindergarten teacher-preparation programs have dropped from 1,512 students to 839 over the last decade.

In addition, undergraduate enrollment in all teacher-preparation programs has dropped from 2,273 students to just over 1,900.

...Meredith said a portion of the decline can be attributed to the demands of the career.
"Teachers do so much more than teach. Teaching is an exhausting, emotionally draining field that has rewards that cannot be quantified or explained...Tests to prepare for tests, scripted curriculum, ranking and rating teachers and schools, all of that creates an environment that can be toxic to students and educators, alike. For some who recently left the profession, they will tell you they were exhausted. They couldn't believe that they were being slammed with so many things, especially being judged by things that they had little control over. Some of the best teachers say they weren't teaching anymore, they were being told what to do every minute of the day and that sucked the joy out, the joy of inspiring learning," Meredith said.


A Radical Fix for the Republic 

The "reform" movement has been pushing for privatization because of money, not based on what's best for students. Like other areas of federal and state government, the legislatures, executive offices, and state boards of education have been purchased by companies and edupreneurs hoping to make a buck off the nation's children.

Lawrence Lessig's book, Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It, is a must read for everyone concerned about the growing American oligarchy.
...when Franklin walked from Independence Hall as the Constitutional Convention ended, Lessig writes, a woman asked what he had wrought. “A republic, madam,” he replied, “if you can keep it.”

...in the last two decades, Lessig writes, members of Congress have developed a fearsome dependency: campaign cash. The total amount spent on campaigns by all candidates for Congress in 2010 was $1.8 billion. Fundraising has become a way of life, and extravagant giving has been institutionalized; only the diamonds are missing.

...Lessig concludes that, measured against problems such as fascism, institutionalized racism, and sexism that “our nation tackled throughout the course of the twentieth century,” this “narrow but profound flaw at the core of our Constitution…that has allowed our government to become captured” by moneyed special interests is “tiny by comparison.” What it will take to fix things, he says, is for Americans to recognize that “the corrupting influence of money is the first problem facing this nation. That unless we solve this problem, we won’t solve anything else.” 


Dissent – The Most “Un-American” American Value

Don't blame protesters for the actions of one less than sane murderer...
America has a history of crazy people doing all kinds of crazy things for just as many crazy reasons.

When Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” killed 3 people and injured 23 with home-made bombs because of his hatred of modern technology, no one blamed Apple computers.

When John Hinckley shot President Reagan to get the attention of Jodie Foster, no one blamed the Academy Award winning actress.

When Brenda Spencer fatally shot a principal and custodian and injured eight children and a police officer from her home across the street from a school because she “didn’t like Mondays”… Well, we still have Mondays.

But suddenly when a lunatic’s motives are politically expedient, they’re justified.


You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.

This was originally posted last February, but it's worth repeating. Just because someone went to school doesn't mean they know how teaching works.
All of you former students: you did not design curricula, plan lessons, attend faculty meetings, assess papers, design rubrics, create exams, prepare report cards, and monitor attendance. You did not tutor students, review rough drafts, and create study questions. You did not assign homework. You did not write daily lesson objectives on the white board. You did not write poems of the week on the white board. You did not write homework on the white board. You did not learn to write legibly on the white board while simultaneously making sure that none of your students threw a chair out a window.

You did not design lessons that succeeded. You did not design lessons that failed.

You did not learn to keep your students quiet during lock down drills.

You did not learn that your 15-year-old students were pregnant from their answers to vocabulary quizzes. You did not learn how to teach functionally illiterate high school students to appreciate Shakespeare. You did not design lessons to teach students close reading skills by starting with the lyrics to pop songs. You did not miserably fail your honors level students at least in part because you had no books to give them. You did not struggle to teach your students how to develop a thesis for their essays, and bask in the joy of having taught a successful lesson, of having gotten through to them, even for five minutes. You did not struggle with trying to make SAT-level vocabulary relevant to students who did not have a single college in their county. You did not laugh — because you so desperately wanted to cry — when you read some of the absurdities on their final exams. You did not struggle to reach students who proudly announced that they only came to school so that their mom’s food stamps didn’t get reduced.

You did not spend all of New Years’ Day crying five years after you’d left the classroom because you reviewed The New York Times’ graphic of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and learned that one of your very favorite students had been killed in Iraq two years before. And you didn’t know. Because you copped out and left. So you cried, helplessly, and the next day you returned to the practice of law.

You did not. And you don’t know. You observed. Maybe you learned. But you didn’t teach.

The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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