Mercedes Schneider, who teaches in Louisiana and holds a doctorate in statistics and research methods, continues her analysis of NCTQ, its letter grade reports, and its ties to the reform movement.
Anthony Cody has written a guest column for readers of the blog. As you may know, Anthony regularly blogs at “Living in Dialogue,” hosted by Education Week. He is one of the most thoughtful commentators on the education scene. He taught science in middle school in Oakland, California, for many years and is a National Board-Certified Teacher.
Bill Gates’ annual letter was just released and can be read here. http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/#
A preview of his letter stated this: http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2013/01/My-Annual-Letter-Accelerating-Impact-through-Measurement
“This year, my letter focuses on the catalytic role that measurement can play in reducing hunger, poverty, and disease. Setting goals and measuring progress are obviously not new ideas. But over the last year, I’ve really been struck by the impact this can have improving the lives of the poorest.”
Measurement has been central to the Gates vision for improving schools in the US as well. But this approach has not, in my view, improved the lives of the poorest among our students.
Ever since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001, school reform has been driven by measurement and numerical goals. But unfortunately for the poor, we are not measuring what matters most, nor are our responses to the measurements truly helpful.
Mathematician Cathy O’Neil has offered an interesting critique of the Gates method of solutions via measurement. She writes: http://mathbabe.org/2013/01/29/bill-gates-is-naive-data-is-not-objective/
“the person who defines the model defines success, and by obscuring this power behind a data collection process and incrementally improved model results, it seems somehow sanitized and objective when it’s not.”
“Don’t be fooled by the mathematical imprimatur: behind every model and every data set is a political process that chose that data and built that model and defined success for that model.”
There is an old saying, “when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” In our schools, standardized tests are our hammers, and as Cathy O’Neil points out, the standards and the tests that measure what has been learned have lots of questionable assumptions built in.
In his letter, Bill Gates draws an appealing portrait of how teaching is being improved at a school in Vail, Colorado. Reflecting the findings of the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching project, he points out that they focus on “several measures that schools should use to assess teacher performance, including test data, student surveys and assessments by trained evaluators.”
Unfortunately, a closer look at their research shows that the way these various models are validated is by the degree to which they align with test scores. This is circular, as Bruce Baker explains in some detail here. http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/gates-still-doesnt-get-it-trapped-in-a-world-of-circular-reasoning-flawed-frameworks/
We could choose to measure other things, of course. The idea of measurement is not useless. The trouble is that some of the things we truly value are harder to measure, and so we devolve back to the simplest metrics – test scores. This is defined as the “outcome” that we desire. But this is only one of a host of outcomes that we actually want for our students.
Nothing makes this clearer than the personal decisions made by people with the MOST control over their own children’s education. The schools attended by the very wealthy are not chosen for their test scores – in fact many of them do not give standardized tests at all. Neither do they use student test scores to evaluate their teachers.
While Bill Gates undoubtedly used test score data as the basis for his assertion that class size does not matter much, and should be allowed to rise, it is fair to assume that the small class sizes at the private school attended by his children offer outcomes other than test scores.
What are the outcomes these schools offer?
The Sidwell Friends school, attended by Sasha and Malia Obama, says this: http://www.sidwell.edu/about_sfs/school-philosophy/index.aspx
We cultivate in all members of our community high personal expectations and integrity, respect for consensus, and an understanding of how diversity enriches us, why stewardship of the natural world matters and why service to others enhances life. Above all, we seek to be a school that nurtures a genuine love of learning and teaches students “to let their lives speak.”
The Lakeside School, attended by Bill Gates himself several decades ago, and now by his children, says this: http://www.lakesideschool.org/academics
“Lakeside’s 5th- to 12th-grade student-centered academic program focuses on the relationships between talented students and capable and caring teachers. We develop and nurture students’ passions and abilities and ensure every student feels known.”
“Each student’s curiosities and capabilities lead them to unique academic challenges that are sustained through a culture of support and encouragement. All students will find opportunities to discover and develop a passion; to hone the skills of writing, thinking, and speaking; and to interact with the world both on and off campus. Lakeside trusts that each student has effective ideas about how to maximize his or her own education, and that they will positively contribute to our vibrant learning community.”
The parents who send their children to these schools keep a sharp eye on the outcomes that really matter. They know that personal relationships are key, and that is something that cannot be measured on a test. It is something that is made possible by small class sizes and a warm environment that recognizes the uniqueness of every child.
This is the opposite of using standardized measurement tools to score and rank every learner, and every teacher.
Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote back in 1947,
“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society.”
Measurement and standardization delivers efficiency without excellence. When this becomes the driving force in a marketized education system, it fosters conformity and channels innovation towards commercially viable solutions for those unable to purchase the sort of personalized education the wealthy choose for their own children. Measurement in education will not serve the poor. It will merely make our schools more efficient in preserving their poverty.
I was interviewed today by a Seattle radio reporter who said that the teachers who refused to give the MAP test may be fined 10 days pay.
I told him they were acting in the finest tradition of American resistance to unjust authority. I mentioned Thoreau and King as Americans who blazed the trail of resisting injustice. King taught us the power of collective action. He taught us that unity of large numbers of people can defeat money and political power.
There are two ways the Garfield teachers can win.
One is if teachers at every other school in Seattle join them. In unity is strength.
Second, if they are fined, I will personally lead a campaign to raise money to make up what they lose. I urge the Garfield teachers and their friends to open a bank account. I will gladly make the first contribution.
The Journey for Justice brought civil rights activists from across the nation to Washington, D.C., where they presented their demands to Secretary Duncan.
This is an important development because until now the leaders of the corporate reform movement have called themselves leaders of the “civil rights issue of our times.” This phrase has been bandied about by Joel Klein, Condoleeza Rice, Mitt Romney, Michelle Rhee, Michael Bloomberg, and Arne Duncan, as they applaud the closing of schools in minority communities, attack unions, and privatize public schools.
Now grassroots activists are speaking out in defense of their schools and communities. They are reclaiming the leadership of the civil rights from the 1%. Add to this the determination of the Garfield teachers in Seattle, the student protests in Portland, Oregon, and Providence, Rhode Island.
Something is in the air. Teachers, students. school boards, and parents are beginning to see what is happening, to understand that what is happening in their community is not a local issue but a determined, coordinated effort to privatize their schools.
Spring is coming.
Here is a first-hand account of the events associated with the Journey for Justice:
Many activists went to Washington, DC on a “Journey for Justice” to protest the school closings that are targeting our minority students living in impoverished communities.
Hear what transpired and be inspired.
This email came from Jaisal Noor- his coverage of the day
“Parents and Students Demand Nationwide Moratorium on Schools Closings
//”Journey for Justice” activists rally in DC to DOE investigate alleged Civil Rights violations in school closings
Chicago Parent and Activist Jitu Brown at “Journey for Justice” Hearing in DC
//Part 2 of TRN’s coverage of the “Journey for Justice” DOE Hearing on School Closings
New Orleans Parent and Activist Karran Harper Royal at “Journey for Justice” Hearing in DC
//Part 3 of TRN’s coverage of the “Journey for Justice” DOE Hearing on School Closings
JAISAL NOOR: PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS AND STUDENTS FROM 18 CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY GATHERED IN WASHINGTON, DC THIS WEEK TO DEMAND A NATIONWIDE MORATORIUM ON SCHOOL CLOSINGS.
FEDERAL PROGRAMS LIKE RACE TO THE TOP OFFERED FINANCIAL INCENTIVES TO CITIES AND STATES FOR RADICALLY CHANGING THEIR SCHOOLS, INCLUDING FIRING STAFF AND SHUTTING SCHOOLS DOWN. WHILE THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TOUTED THE COMPETITIVE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR PROGRAM AS A WAY TO IMPROVE EDUCATION AND BETTER PREPARE STUDENTS FOR COLLEGE AND THE WORKFORCE, MANY PARENTS, STUDENTS AND TEACHERS SAY THE CHANGES ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTING LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.
(CLIP HELEN MOORE) “I came here to demand, I am demanding an education for our children. We pay the money, we have a right to have our kids educated”
THAT’S HELEN MOORE, A DETROIT EDUCATION ACTIVIST. SHE WAS ONE OF HUNDREDS WHO ATTENDED A HEARING TUESDAY IN WASHINGTON DC CALLING FOR A NATIONAL MORATORIUM ON SCHOOL CLOSINGS. BROWN WAS PART OF A GROUP THAT FILED A TITLE VI CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT LAST SUMMER CHALLENGING THE POLICIES. SHE SAYS SCHOOL CLOSINGS IN DETROIT, A CITY ALREADY MARKED BY HIGH RATES OF UNEMPLOYMENT, VACANT HOUSES AND FORECLOSURES, ARE DESTABILIZING THE COMMUNITY.
(CLIP HELEN MOORE) “The neighborhood start going down as the families start moving out. They don;t want to be told what school to go to because there is no other school.
WHEN A SCHOOL IS CLOSED, THE STUDENT POPULATION OFTEN HAS TO TRAVEL TO A DIFFERENT SCHOOL BUILDING OR RE-APPLY TO GO BACK TO THEIR SCHOOL. ADDITIONALLY, THE STAFF IS OFTEN REPLACED AND RESOURCES ARE REGULARLY CUT, SOMETIMES IN FAVOR OF A CHARTER SCHOOL THAT IS OPENED IN THE SAME BUILDING.
SETH GALANTER IS WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS. HE SAID THEY ARE INVESTIGATING PEOPLE’S CONCERNS AND THE 6 TITLE VI COMPLAINTS THAT WERE FILED:
(CLIP SETH GALANTER)” When we look at these things, i need to emphasize, we cannot deal with every harmful decision that happens. sometimes people are negatively affected, but that doesn’t mean civil rights violation. THe question we are asking is if there’s an intent to discriminate or decision to make an illegal closing. Not only investigate weather to close schools, which schools to close, and how these decision impacted and affect on students. “
AFTER THE HEARING, HUNDREDS OF PARENTS AND STUDENTS MARCHED TO THE MARTIN LUTHER KING MEMORIAL FOR A RALLY, CONTINUING THEIR CALL FOR JUSTICE. JOEL VELASQUEZ , A PARENT FROM OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA SAYS HE FOUGHT PLANS TO SHUT HIS SON’S SCHOOL BY LEADING A 3-WEEK LONG SIT-IN AT LAKEVIEW ELEMENTARY.
(CLIP JOEL VELASQUEZ) “After a year of trying to meet with officials, superintendent, we were left with no options, we took our school back. “
HE WAS JOINED AT THE RALLY BY OAKLAND EDUCATOR AND ACTIVIST MIKE HUTCHINSON WHO SAYS SCHOOL CLOSINGS AND INCREASED CHARTER SCHOOLS ONLY TARGET THE CITY’S LOW INCOME COMMUNITIES
(CLIP HUTCHINSON) “If you look at a map of Oakland, we have the flatlands and the hills. In the flatlands, which are less affluent, that’s where all the school closures have happened, thats where all the charters are. There are no school closures and charters in the hills. If charter schools and school closures are the best option I would expect them to be applied across the board, but I haven’t seen that happen”
A DELEGATION FROM NEW ORLEANS, THE CITY WITH THE HIGHEST PROPORTION OF CHARTER SCHOOLS IN THE COUNTRY, ALSO TRAVELED TO DC. STUDENT TERREL MAJOR SAYS HIS PUBLIC SCHOOL GETS LESS RESOURCES THAN THE CHARTER SCHOOL THAT SHARES THE SAME BUILDING.
(CLIP TERREL MAJOR)”Like when the storm Issac came, after we came back from the storm, – their side of the cafeteria- we sit on different sides, their side of the cafeteria and our side was damaged for weeks. It made me feel lesser than, that I didn’t really matter in our own school.”
MAJOR CALLS THAT DISCRIMINATION. DESPITE THE CHALLENGES, SOME ARE ENCOURAGED BY THE GROWING GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT AGAINST SCHOOL CLOSINGS, INCLUDING NEW ORLEANS PARENT AND ACTIVIST KARRAN HARPER ROYAL.
(CLIP KARRAN HARPER ROYAL) I think we are at a turning point because there are people organizing around the country. In Seattle its testing, we are organizing around school closures, there are teachers organizing around evaluation systems. We are at a critical point because we are not getting the desired outcomes. “
IN ADDITION TO A NATIONWIDE MORATORIUM ON SCHOOL CLOSINGS, ACTIVISTS ARE CALLING FOR SUSTAINABLE SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION, INCREASED RESOURCES AND A COMMUNITY-BASED INPUT PROCESS . ORGANIZERS HAVE VOWED TO RETURN TO WASHINGTON IF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DOES NOT TAKE ACTION. REPORTING FOR THE REAL NEWS AND FSRN, THIS IS JAISAL NOOR IN WASHINGTON.”
Colorado Information Coordinator
Save Our Schools
A Seattle parent explains why the Garfield teachers have the support of parents like herself.
For his first school-library experience in kindergarten, my five-year-old son was not allowed to check out a book. Instead he was placed in front of a computer with a set of headphones and told to take a test for an hour.
That was my family’s introduction to the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP®), a computerized, adaptive test for math and English, administered to Seattle public school children in grades K-9, three times a year since 2009.
Seattle parents were told the test would help teachers inform instruction and lead to personalized teaching for our children. Instead, it has cost our schools weeks in lost class-time and library access, reams of administrative busy work, and as much as $11 million in scarce district funding. It has also proven to be an unreliable tool, and one which our district is seriously misusing.
Seattle public school children are already fed a veritable alphabet soup of tests, beginning in kindergarten – MAP®, MSP, EOC, HSPE, SAT, ACT, and now, tests tied to the Common Core State Standards.
So when the teachers at one of Seattle’s most highly respected schools, Garfield High School, made national news on Jan. 10 by announcing that they will no longer administer the MAP® test, I applauded their courageous act.
In 2010, a small group of Seattle parents met with the school district’s test administrators. We wanted to know more about this new test. Why did our children have to take it so often, and at such an early age? Was it intended to take so long? Did the district know that libraries were monopolized by MAP-testing for weeks at a time?
We were told that MAP® should take an hour, but kids may take longer; that it is not well suited for kids in grades K-2 because of their limited reading and computer skills; that advanced learners tend to hit the ceiling so it was of limited use for them; and yes, 40 percent of our school libraries were rendered off-limits three times a year because of MAP®.
I also learned that MAP® is not appropriate for English Language Learners or children with special needs, and that the margin of error in 9th grade exceeds the potential margin of growth.
Above all, the test is not aligned to our district’s curriculum, so it is not a relevant or meaningful assessment tool. This is the main – and legitimate – grievance of the Seattle teachers who oppose it, and a good reason for parents to object to it as well.
In fact, almost from the beginning, parents have reported bewildering swings in their children’s MAP® scores. Then in 2012, the vendor, Northwest Evaluation Association, Inc., announced a “recalibration.” It retroactively recalculated Seattle student test scores for three years, changing some by as much as 20 points. Parents jammed the district web site trying to find out what had happened to their children’s scores.
In Seattle, MAP® has morphed into an all-purpose, arbitrary gauge of most everything. The district is using it to determine eligibility for advanced learning programs, to screen fifth-graders for math placement in middle school, and now, in an apparent bait and switch, to evaluate teachers, a purpose for which even vendor, NWEA, has said it is not designed.
MAP® in Seattle has effectively become a high-stakes test.
Endless testing is not the education experience I want for my children, and that is why I have opted my children out of MAP® for the past three years. I want them to become critical and creative thinkers, not subservient test-takers. I don’t want my children or their teachers shackled to a faulty testing product, or any standardized test, for that matter. That is why I support the Garfield teachers. That is why parents and teachers are saying: Enough – and opt out!
Sue Peters is a Seattle Public Schools parent, a founding member of Parents Across America, and the co-founding editor of the Seattle Education Blog.
Tim Slekar is launching a new front in the battle against high-stakes testing and privatization.Satire alert!!!! Tim’s website is temporarily down. Try again later.
On Friday at 9:00 am EST please visit the new and substantially improved @ the chalk face media site (http://atthechalkface.com/). Along with columns by Chalkface and Tim Slekar a host of new authors joins @ the chalk face. Paul Thomas, Chris Cerrone, Kris Neilsen, Katie Osgood, Kuhio Kane, Barbara Madeloni, and Lauren Cohen will each add a their own touch of magic.
Committed to a take no prisoners approach in exposing the corporate reform movement @ the chalk face internet radio will feature regular interviews with @ the chalk face authors and continue to interview the leading activists engaged in fighting for the American public school system.
And just so “the other side” is not totally shut out we are happy to introduce Wendi Hatch-Mhee
You’ve probably already heard of Wendi Hatch-Mhee. She began her career in education as part of the Americans Teaching program. She gained respect for teachers after spending nearly 370 days helping under-privileged minority children close the achievement gap. When her students made extraordinary progress on state achievement tests, Hatch-Mhee was invited to bless a medium-sized east coast school district with her many talents. She worked as their chancellor for three years before moving on to found the American Alliance for Successful Students. Today she serves as the CEO of AASS whose mission is to raise the scores of American public education students to rival those of less important countries. She recently published another book. This one entitled, “History Maker.”
Wendi agreed to contribute to this website to serve as the contrasting voice of reason amongst the clamoring din of unionized thugs who are content with the status quo.
Remember! Set your alarms and mark your calendars! @ the chalk face media debuts this Friday at 9:00 am EST.
A teacher in Indiana(A Huntington Teacher) has this proposal:
“I would deconstruct my entire office until only I was left.
Then, I’d fire myself.”
The School Reform Commission of Philadelphia plans to close 37 schools to save money while opening charter schools.
The city’s schools have been under state control for the past decade.
The School Reform Commission was urged by management consultants–the Boston Consulting Gtoup–to privatize more schools, even though Philadelphia tried it a decade ago and it didn’t work.
What am I missing here?
Dr. Patrick Wolf has made his reputation evaluating voucher plans in Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee, but now we see that he is speaking at a conservative think tank about the “success” of vouchers during a celebration of school choice.
He wrote an opinion piece for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune warning that the state was falling behind in providing school choice.
Can he be an independent evaluator and an advocate of school choice at the same time?
Thursday, January 31
8 – 9 a.m.
De La Salle High School
1 De La Salle Drive
Minneapolis, MN 55401
* * *
School Choice Week Events
America’s Future Foundation
School Choice Celebration
Thursday, January 31 – 5 p.m.
The Minnesota School Choice Coalition
Invites you to
A Free & Informal Breakfast
(Coffee and Pastries)
Prof. Patrick Wolf
Endowed Chair in School Choice and Education Reform
University of Arkansas
“School choice is a big win for
children and for the broader society”.
Read Prof. Wolf’s Star Tribune Column
As part of National School Choice Week, Dr. Patrick Wolf, one of the nation’s most respected and prolific scholars when it comes to what’s empirically – not just anecdotally – known about school choice in general and vouchers in particular, will discuss the first-rate research that continues to document the very real value of vouchers, tax credits and the like. This is especially the case with many low-income and minority students.
Professor Wolf earned his Ph.D. in political science at Harvard and did his undergraduate work at the University of St. Thomas – which was only right, as he’s a Minnesota native. He’s currently leading an evaluation of the controversial DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, and is also overseeing a national research team conducting an independent evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
This event is free but your registration is required for planning purposes and to receive parking instructions.
Minnesota’s School Choice Coalition
Center of the American Experiment
January 30, 2013 | *FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*
CONTACT: Aaron Regunberg | Aaron@ProvidenceStudentUnion.org | 847-809-6039 (cell)
STUDENTS CALL ON GOVERNOR TO STOP HIGH-STAKES TESTING POLICY
Providence, Rhode Island – January 30, 2013 – Public high school students, teachers, and other community members staged a press conference today to protest Rhode Island’s new high-stakes testing graduation requirement, calling on Governor Chafee to end a policy they described as unjust and ineffective.
“We are here today to explain why we believe this graduation requirement will do nothing to improve the quality of our schools or our education,” said Priscilla Rivera, a member of the youth organization the Providence Student Union (PSU) and a junior at Hope High School. “Instead, it will cause real harm to the lives of many students like me.”
Starting with the class of 2014, Rhode Island’s new policy requires students to score at least “partially proficient” on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) in order to graduate from high school. Students stressed the widespread implications this policy could have, pointing out that last year, 44 percent of all students across the state did not score high enough on the NECAP to have graduated under the current requirement. Seventy-one percent of black students and 70 percent of Latino students in Rhode Island did not score high enough last year to have graduated, and in Providence, 86 percent of students with disabilities in Individualized Education Programs and 94 percent of students with limited English proficiencies would not have graduated.
“We believe in high expectations,” said Kelvis Hernandez, another PSU member. “We believe that we should graduate with a high-quality education. But this policy is not the right way. Punishing students—particularly those who haven’t had the opportunity to receive the great education we deserve—is neither effective nor just. It is ineffective because we have spent 10, 11, or 12 years in schools that are underfunded, under-resourced, and unable to give us the support we need to do well on the NECAP. And it is unjust because the students who have received this inadequate support are the ones being put on trial.”
Speakers at the press conference also pointed to other harmful effects of high-stakes testing. “Test prep is not what we mean when we say education,” said Dawn Gioello, a family member attending the press conference in support of her niece. “I want my niece to be going to school to learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to become a young woman with the confidence and abilities to succeed in college and her career. I don’t want her to go to school to get really good at taking this one test so that she will be able to graduate. I don’t want her whole school experience—her curriculum, her class work, her time after school—to become dedicated to drilling for one exam when she will need so much more than that to achieve her dreams in life.”
“What’s even worse,” added Tamargejae Paris, a junior in high school and a member of PSU, “the NECAP was not designed to be used as a high-stakes test. The makers of the NECAP themselves have said that the test should not be used as a graduation requirement.”
After delivering hundreds of messages to the Governor’s office in opposition to this policy, students called on Governor Chafee to support them. “In just one week, the results of this year’s NECAP test will be released,” said Kelvis Hernandez. “It’s our hope that everyone in Rhode Island passes. But it’s more likely that thousands of students will not score high enough to pass this graduation requirement, particularly among the state’s most vulnerable populations—English Language Learners, students with disabilities, students of color, and low-income students. Will you support this policy that takes away so many of our futures? Or will you join us in calling on the Board of Education—whose members you nominate—to end this discriminatory and misguided graduation requirement? We hope you’ll make the right decision.”