Archives for category: Accountability

Nicholas Tampio, political science professor at Fordham University, here explains the profit-driven ambitions of Pearson and the philosophy of Michael Barber, the chief academic officer of Pearson. It is no surprise that Pearson looks to the American testing market as a cash cow. It is no surprise that it hires the best lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and in the key state capitols. It is no surprise that it is extending its reach across the globe, trying to persuade other nations that they need standardized tests to measure children and adults.

 

But what you need to read about is Michael Barber’s driving ideology, which he summarized in his book “Deliverology.”

 

We can learn more about Pearson and its sweeping vision for the future by turning to a 2011 book by the company’s chief academic officer, Michael Barber. In “Deliverology 101: A Field Guide for Educational Leaders,” he lays out his philosophy and, unintentionally, reveals why parents, teachers and politicians must do everything they can to break Pearson’s stranglehold on education policy around the world.

 

Barber has worked on education policy for British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as for McKinsey & Co. “Deliverology,” written with assistance from two other McKinsey experts, is clearly inflected by the worldview of management consulting.

 

The authors define “deliverology” as “the emerging science of getting things done” and “a systematic process for driving progress and delivering results in government and the public sector.” The book targets systems leaders, politicians who support education reform and delivery leaders, employees responsible for the day-to-day implementation of structural change.

 

Deliverology alternates between painting a big picture of what needs to be done and offering maxims such as “To aspire means to lead from the front” and “Endless public debate will create problems that could potentially derail your delivery effort.”

 

In a democracy, we do engage in “endless public debate,” but such debates slow down the reform train. That is why corporate reformers like mayoral control and state takeovers. They like one decider who can tell everyone what to do. Local school boards are not easy to capture, there are too many of them. Like ALEC, the corporate reformers want to bypass local school boards and give the governor–or a commission he appoints–total control.

 

Barber believes in the “alchemy of relationships,” or the power of a small group of people working together to enact structural change. For example, Barber applauds Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program for providing a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform public education in America,” including through the Common Core. Barber’s book offers leaders advice on how to implement the Common Corestandards that Pearson employees helped write.

 

Taking inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s motto “Don’t tell me what, tell me how,” Barber rarely discusses what schools should teach or cites scholarship on pedagogy. Instead, the book emphasizes again and again that leaders need metrics — e.g., standardized test scores — to measure whether reforms are helping children become literate and numerate. Of course, Pearson just happens to be one of the world’s largest vendors of the products Barber recommends for building education systems.

 

This spring, a prominent anti–Common Core activist tweeted, “I don’t think the Ed reformers understand the sheer fury of marginalized parents.” Barber understands this fury but thinks the “laggards” will come around once enough people see the positive results.

 

Deliverology even instructs leaders how to respond to common excuses from people who object to education reform.

 

“Deliverology” is a field guide — or a battle plan — showing education reformers how to push ahead through all resistance and never have second thoughts. As Barber quotes Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Parents and teachers who do not want to adapt to the new state of affairs are branded “defenders of the status quo.” Barber ends the book by telling reformers to stick with their plans but acknowledge the emotional argument of opponents: “I understand why you might be angry; I would not enjoy this if it were happening to me either.”

 

The best way to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of the “deliverologists” is to resist. Opt out. Refuse the test. Join with other parents to resist. Say no. Don’t let Pearson define your child.

 

 

 

 

Peter Greene watched “Defies Measurement,” and he urges you to see it too. It was made by a teacher, Shannon Puckett. You can see it free here.

 

Greene writes:

 

Let me cut to the chase– I cannot recommend enough that you watch Defies Measurement, a new film by Shannon Puckett.

 

The film is a clear-eyed, well-sourced look at the business of test-driven corporate-managed profiteer-promoted education reform, and it has several strengths that make it excellent viewing both for those of us who have been staring at these issues for a while and for teachers and civilians who are just now starting to understand that something is going wrong.

 

The film is anchored by the story of Chipman Middle School in Alemeda, a school that up until ten years ago was an educational pioneer, using the solid research about brains and learning (and where Shannon Puckett once taught). They were a vibrant, exciting, hands-on school that defied expectations about what could be done with middle schools students in a poor urban setting. And then came No Child Left Behind, and we see a focus on test scores and canned programs replace programs centered on creating strong independent thinkers, even as Laura Bush comes to visit to draw attention to the school’s embrace of testing culture. It is heartbreaking to watch some of the teachers from the school reflect on their experience a decade later; one sadly admits that she sold out, while another says she still feels remorse, but that she didn’t sell out– she was duped, making the mistaken assumption that the important people making edicts from on high knew something that she did not. She no longer thinks so.

 

The story of Chipman is a backdrop for considering the various elements that have played out in the reformosphere over the last decade. The film looks at the flow of reform-pushing money, the smoke-and-mirrors rise of charters and how that has failed in the Charter Dreamland of New Orleans, the misunderstanding of how kids learn (if you’re not a Howard Gardner fan you’ll have to grit your teeth for a minute), the history of standardized testing, the false narrative of US testing failure, the rise of resegregation, the corrosive effects of reform on the teaching profession, the destructiveness of Race to the Top, and how teaching the whole child in a safe and nurturing environment is great for humans, even if it doesn’t help with testing.

 

 

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic governor of Virginia, signed a law repealing the A-F letter grades for schools. As Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch reports, this action takes place at the same time that North Carolina learned that the letter grades are highly correlated with the proportion of disadvantaged students in the school. Thus, the report card serves to stigmatize schools with high poverty levels, making it harder for them to recruit teachers and setting them up for takeover and privatization.

 

The A-F letter grades are Jeb Bush’s idea. As State Superintendent Tony Bennett showed in Indiana, the formula for the letter grades can be manipulated to protect campaign donors who own charter schools. Mainly they stigmatize schools that serve the neediest children.

A group of activist parents have turned the tide against high-stakes testing in Texas. They organized, informed themselves, informed others, and button-holed their state legislators about the overuse and misuse of testing in Texas’s public schools. Because of their activities and their persistence, they persuaded the legislators to reduce the number of tests needed to graduate. They are continuing their campaign by exposing the cost and continued overuse of standardized testing.

 

The group is called TAMSA, or Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, but admirers often call them “Moms Against Drunk Testing.”

 

They created a powerpoint to explain their concerns.

 

The powerpoint can be seen here. Watch it and consider doing the same thing in your state. If we organize and mobilize like TAMSA, we can turn around legislatures across the nation.

Arthur Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., warns that bipartisan agreement on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind may be bad news.

 

Just as parents are expressing their disgust with annual testing, Congress is close to mandating annual testing for yet another seven years (or maybe another 12 years if past experience is any guide).

 

 

He writes:

 

Bipartisan agreement makes for strange bedfellows as seeming opponents engage in an uncomfortable collective embrace of federal mandates of yearly, high stakes assessment. In the absence of obvious political alternatives some civil rights groups fear that without the harsh light of disaggregated data poor performance will be ignored. Those whose ideology bends their policy choices toward privatization see inevitable failure in the face unreasonable demands as a means to undermine faith in public education. Some are in the campaign contribution thrall of testing companies that stand to gain or loose billions from publically funded testing expenditures. Still others have an abiding faith in the power of rewards and punishments to compel behavior.

 

The continued focus of high-stakes assessment is the education equivalent of building inspectors requiring pipe wrenches to be used by all plumbers, framers, electricians, roofers and tile-setters, while bypassing the advice and needs of contractors and workers. For education, the sure losers are deep sustainable learning and equity.

 

Like building a home, creating an education system is a complex endeavor. As anyone who has undertaken it knows, significant remodeling may be even more challenging. When building or remodeling a complex system, it’s best to have a large, varied set of tools. Choosing the right tool for the right purpose is an obvious but often ignored principle- not least in education assessment policy. Pipe wrenches are great for large plumbing valves, but wreak havoc on smaller nuts. They have nasty teeth that rip and apply too much torque. Selection from a full set of open-ended wrenches would be a far better choice. Needle nose pliers are just the right tool for bending wires for electrical connections, but far too imprecise for removing the accidental building-related splinter. So it is with large scale standardized testing in education. The right tool can get the job done. The wrong tool fails and often causes damage….

 

Let’s start with the big picture. Education has three equally important purposes: Preparation for students for life, work and citizenship.

 

The values principle of equity implies that the design of our education system should accommodate and address the diverse needs of all students. To be clear, equity as used here has two meanings: opportunity equity and lived equity. The former refers to what is often called a fair shot to move up the socioeconomic ladder. The latter refers to a shorter ladder, in which position on the lower rungs does not preclude access to a decent secure life, with adequate food, clothing, housing and health care– what we have come to expect of a middle class life. The United States has neither kinds of equity and needs both.

 

The precision principle suggests the need to develop and select a variety of tools to assess progress and success with respect to all of the purposes and components of an effective education system. To assess education’s how are we doing questions, we need subsystem precision, lest we make the education-equivalent mistake of using meter sticks when micrometers are needed….

 

 

Equitable resources are essential, but they do not ensure equitable outcomes. While constitutionally, much of education decision-making authority in U.S. is delegated to the states, the interconnectedness of the nation clearly indicates that local outcomes are a national concern. Ineffective or poorly funded education in one state impacts another. The periodic National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) serves to monitor outcomes across the states. The NAEP is not given to every student at every grade in every year. Instead, it is administered at the end of grade bands and uses the well-known statistical strategy of sampling. Politicians know this technique well. They rely upon it extensively when they do polling to gauge potential policy positions because querying every citizen is impractical and not needed to get the information they need. As a tool for fair state or large city level big-picture achievement monitoring, NAEP does the trick, but different non-comparable state-designed tests do not….

 

 

ESEA reauthorization should not:

 

Mandate consequential state testing;
Include requirements for student assessment-based teacher evaluation.

 

ESEA reauthorization should:

 

Ensure funds to provide for and measure the attainment of equitable resources;

 
Provide funds to locales to increase educator expertise in the use formative assessment strategies to improve daily learning.

 
It is past time for all supporters of equitable education for life, work and citizenship to call out No Child Left Behind with its high-stakes testing centerpiece as a failed Faustian bargain. Choosing the right tools for the right purposes is a common sense starting point.

 

 

We learned in the past few days that Pearson is monitoring the Twitter accounts and Facebook accounts and other social media used by America’s children. Some call it spying. Pearson expects America’s teachers and principals to help them police the children to make sure that they don’t write about or even discuss the PARCC test. (The corporation administering the Smarter Balanced Assessments is trying to exercise the same control to protect its tests.)

 

Mercedes Schneider here describes Pearson’s intrusive policy for non-native speakers of English who take the “Pearson Test of English Academic.”

 

Part of the agreement signed by the test-taker states:

 

I confirm that I have carefully reviewed the PTE Academic Test Taker Handbook, including, but not limited to, those provisions relating to testing, score cancellations, privacy policies, and the collection, processing, use and transmission to the United States of the PTE Academic test taker’s personally identifiable data (including the digital photograph, fingerprint, signature, palm-vein scan, and audio/video recording collected at the test centre) and disclosure of such data to Pearson Language Tests, its service providers, any score recipients the PTE Academic test taker selects, and others as necessary to prevent unlawful activity or as required by law.

 

Excuse me, but what is a “palm-vein scan?” Does everyone know this except me?

 

Now, there is no point just baying at the moon. If you don’t like Pearson’s policies, why not write to the man in charge, Michael Barber? In Great Britain, he is called “Sir Michael,” but in the United States we don’t recognize titles, so you may address him in the democratic style as Michael Barber, or Mr. Barber, or Mike. He is best known for his ardent faith in targets, goals, or what he calls “deliverology.”

 

Write him here:

michael.barber@pearson.com

@MichaelBarber9

 

Be candid. Tell him what you think.

 

 

Laura H. Chapman offered the following comments about Ohio’s shell game of assessment. Among other troublesome issues, Ohio will encourage “shared attribution” for evaluating teachers; that means that teachers who do not teach tested subjects will be assigned a rating based on the scores of students they do not teach.

 

 

Chapman writes:

 

In Ohio, the State Superintendent of Public instruction, Dr Ross, has a request in to Governor and the legislators to lighten the testing load. The “Testing Report and Recommendations” ( January 15, 2015) includes some cockamamie statements about the purposes of tests, along with some revealing stats.

 

Among these highlights are there. Ohio students in grades K-12 spend about 19.8 hours a year taking tests on average. Ohio students spend approximately 15 additional hours practicing for tests each year.

 

A chart on page 5 shows that Kindergarten students are tested for 11.3 hours on average, and grade 1 students 11.6 hours on average. These are the lowest times. Add the test prep for a total of 26.3 hours and 26. 6 hours respectively for testing. That is slightly more than the time allocation for elementary school instruction in the visual arts in the era before test-driven policies determined everything about K-12 education.

 

The highest testing times are in grade 3–28 hours, and at grade 10–28.4 hours, not counting the test prep. The spike at grade 3 is from Kasich’s guarantee–“read by grade three” or repeat the whole grade. Dr. Ross wants to cut out some of the current test time for reading (about four hours) by letting grade three teachers do those super high stakes at will, more than once if necessary, with a summer grade three test being decisive for students who have not passed muster earlier. This strikes me as a shell game, not really a reduction but an increase for students who are still learning to read.

 

This report also recommends that testing time be reduced by cutting tests for SLOs. “Eliminate the use of student learning objective (SLO) tests as part of the teacher evaluation system for grades pre-K to 3 and for teachers teaching in non-core subject areas in grades 4-12. The core areas are English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.”

 

“Teachers teaching in grades and subject areas in which student learning objectives are no longer permitted will demonstrate student growth through the expanded use of shared attribution, although at a reduced level overall. In cases where shared attribution isn’t possible, the department will provide guidance on alternative ways of measuring growth” (p.10).”

 

This obscure language about the expansion of “shared attribution” as a way to measure student learning is not clarified by the following statement (pp. 10-11).

 

”…when no Value-Added or approved vendor assessment data is available, the department gives teachers and administrators the following advice.

 

First, educators should not test solely to collect evidence for a student learning objective. The purpose of all tests, including tests administered for purposes of complying with teacher evaluation requirements, should be to measure what the educator is teaching and what students are learning.

 

Second, to the extent possible, eliminate the use of student learning objective pre-tests. When other, pre-existing data points are available, teachers and schools should use those instead of giving a pre-test.” (pp. 10-11).

 

The convoluted reasoning and ignorance about testing is amazing. “The purpose of all tests, including tests administered for purposes of complying with teacher evaluation requirements, should be to measure what the educator is teaching and what students are learning.” Student tests are not direct measures of what teachers are teaching. Many tests document what students have or have not learned beyond school. Compliance with legislative mandates means you can ignore undisputed facts and sound reasoning about testing.

 

In the proposed policy, teachers who do not receive a VAM based on scores from PARCC tests (ELA and math) and/or tests from AIR (science and social studies) or from some other VAM-friendly standardized test from an “approved vendor” are asked to get used to the idea of “sharing scores” produced by students and teachers of subjects they do not teach and state-wide scores processed through the VAM calculations. There is no evidence these tests are instructionally sensitive, meaning suitable for teacher evaluation. The state approved tests seriously misrepresent student achievement, especially those from PARCC, because those tests assume learning of the CCSS have been in place, fully implemented, with cumulative learning from prior years.

 

SLOs and the district-approved tests for these appear to be dead (or dying) in Ohio, not because they were seriously flawed concepts from the get-go, but because those tests took longer to administer on average than others. The “loud and clear” demands for less testing are most easily met by cutting the SLO tests (those usually designed by teacher collaboration) in favor scores allocated to teachers under the banner of “shared attribution.”

 

Like many other states where governors and legislators are trying to micromanage teachers, there is an unconscionable insistence that any data point is as good as another, that tests are “objective,” and that junk science marketed as VAM is not a problem.

 

Unfortunately, all of the talk about “high quality” this and that does not extend to expectations for fair, ample, and ethical portrayals of student and teacher achievement.

George Joseph in The Nation has written a sharply researched article about the nine billionaires who have been planning to impose their ideas on New York state since at least 2010.

 

They are, as you might expect, hedge fund billionaires. They have given millions of dollars to Andrew Cuomo in both his election campaigns. They have also given millions to a group called New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany that campaigned to maintain Republican control of the State Senate. Their handiwork can be seen in organizations such as Families for Excellent Schools (no, these are not families of children in the public schools, they are the families of hedge-fund billionaires), StudentsFirst, Education Reform Now, and Democrats for Education Reform. Their goal: More privately-managed charter schools.

 

Joseph has done a stunning job of connecting the dots, showing the collaboration among the billionaires, Joel Klein (then chancellor of the New York City public schools), and John White (then an employee of New York City public schools, now state superintendent of Louisiana).

 

Why do they want more charter schools? Well, you could say, as some do, that they care deeply about the poor children of New York City and want each and every one of them to be in an excellent charter school (although most charters are not willing to take certain children, like those with severe disabilities, those who don’t read and speak English, and those with behavioral problems).

 

But Joseph thinks there is another reason for Wall Street’s passion for charter schools. They claim that charter schools are the best way to end poverty. It is certainly cheaper to open more charter schools with state money than to pay the billions that the state owes to New York City as a result of a court decision in a case called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

 

Cuomo has said that he is tired of spending more money on the schools. We tried that, he says, and it didn’t work. But a parent advocate does not agree: “Zakiyah Ansari, a parent and public schools advocate with the labor-backed Alliance for Quality Education, called such reasoning shameful, “Why do Cuomo and these hedge funders say money doesn’t matter? I’m sure it matters in Scarsdale. I’m sure it matters where the Waltons send their kids. They don’t send their kids to schools with overcrowded classrooms, over-testing, no art, no music, no sports programs, etc. Does money only ‘not matter’ when it comes to black and brown kids?”

 

Joseph explores the question of why the New York hedge fund leaders are passionate about charter schools, test-based teacher evaluation, and ending teacher tenure.

 

He writes:

 

Their policy prescriptions—basing 50 percent of teacher evaluations on student test scores, for instance—are not in any way grounded in mainstream education research.

 

“The problem is that Cuomo’s backers aren’t paying much attention to the people who actually understand how Value-Added Modeling works,” explains Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, an education policy researcher at California State University. “Education statisticians have come out many times saying these models are being used inappropriately and are unstable because other things happen in students’ lives outside of the teachers they encounter. When a kids’ parents in a high needs district are deported, and their achievement plummets, this actually has nothing to do with the teacher.”

 

Vasquez Heilig added that the reform proposals seem founded on a desire to destroy the development of long-term professional educators, rather than any empirical analysis: “We know 70 percent of teachers will bounce between high performing and low performing from year to year. So this is creating an impossible high stakes testing gauntlet between a young excited teacher and their path to quality, veteran expertise. If you’re looking for a cheap churn-and-burn teaching force, this is your policy, but if you want experienced, qualified teachers, committed to a schools’ long-term success, this is a disaster.”

 

From a purely business standpoint, however, such cost-effective education reform proposals do make sense for the hedge-fund community, especially given the alternative education reform option: the legally required equitable funding of New York public schools, as mandated by the state’s highest court in 2007. Low-income New York school districts haven’t received their legally mandated funding since 2009 and the state owes its schools a whopping $5.9 billion, according to a recent study by the labor-backed group Alliance for Quality Education. Yet somehow in this prolonged period of economic necessity, billionaire hedge-fund managers continue to enjoy lower tax rates than the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers.

 

As a recent Hedge Clippers report pointed out, the hedge-fund community has achieved these gains over the last decade and a half by buying political influence and carving out absurd breaks and loopholes in the New York state tax code. Since 2000, 570 hedge fund managers and top executives have poured $39.6 million into the campaign coffers of New York state politicians. Thus, despite New York’s progressive reputation, its school-district funding-distribution system is actually one of the most regressive nationwide, similar to that of states like Texas, North Carolina and Missouri.

 

According to Michael Kink, an advocate of fair share taxes with the labor-backed Strong Economy For All Coalition, “We could fund the court order completely with fair share taxes.” This would include closing the carried interest loophole that allows hedge funds to pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than, according to Hedge Clippers, “their limousine drivers, dry cleaners, servants, helicopter pilots, and doormen.” Taxing hedge fund fees and profits fairly would bring New York hundreds of millions of dollars that could go straight to local schools. A recent Hedge Clippers analysis found that fair-share taxes and fees targeting hedge funds, billionaires, high-income LLCs and major corporations could raise between $3.1 and $4.2 billion dollars per year—well over the annual minimum required by state law’s school funding formula. But Cuomo’s hedge fund–backed proposals fail to even approach these standards, instead parroting the convenient logic of corporate education reformers that the problem is not the lack of school funding, but the way in which it is spent.

 

“It was outrageous when the governor said the lack of school funding was not an issue,” explains New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D). “And it’s consistent with his attempts to fail to make good on the CFE lawsuit commitment, somehow ignoring the fact that the poorest-achieving schools are also the most underfunded.” Commenting on the hedge fund forces backing such proposals, Krueger continued, “I can never know what people’s actual intentions are. But it does seem that there is a pattern of spending enormous lobbying money in lobbying and attempting to influence campaigns…. Hedge funds seem in particular to have made a fine art of not paying their taxes, allowing fundamental public services to be inadequately funded.”

 

Putting it more explicitly, Jonathan Westin of the labor-backed New York Communities for Change, argues the main point of the hedge fund–backed education reform push is thus “about shaping and controlling the public school system so that they will continue to get away with not paying hundreds of millions in taxes.”

 

In this light, the hedge-fund community’s fervent advocacy of the charter-school movement reflects its neoliberal social vision for the state and society. Charter schools are imagined as institutions where students can be reshaped to prevail against structural barriers like racism and poverty. As hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II claimed, contrary to decades of empirical evidence, “We proved with the charter school that the achievement gap was a myth, that with the right schools, kids from the poorest neighborhoods could do every bit as well as kids from the richest ones.”

 

To “make up for” pervasive inequality, in lieu of correcting it, hedge-fund billionaires like Daniel Loeb of Success Academy and Larry Robbins of KIPP have promoted charter schools that envelop students in hyper-disciplined and surveilled school environments in which their every decision, down to their most minute physical movement, can be measured, assessed and addressed. This “no excuses” pedagogical approach signals to students that the only barrier to their success is their character. In other words, as Cuomo put in his the State of the State address, students under the charter school paradigm should understand their educational opportunity as “the great equalizer.”

 

Read the article to see the links. Everything is carefully researched and sourced. It confirms what many of us have long known about the role of Wall Street in financing privatization and other policies that hurt teachers and public schools. And it is still scary. And anti-democratic.

 

A high school principal sent the Grit Scale that is used in KIPP charter schools and possibly in other schools as well to measure whether students have “grit” and how much of it they have. The idea of “grit” was popularized by Paul Tough in his best-selling book “How Children Succeed.” The commonsense idea that is summarized as a four-letter word is that character, perseverance, and determination enable children even in the most difficult of circumstances to overcome obstacles and succeed. Who would disagree? But the question I have after reading this scale is whether it actually measures the qualities it says it measures, and whether those qualities can be taught in school. Is saying that one has perseverance the same as persevering? I don’t know. What do you think? I am reminded of the self-esteem craze of about 20 years ago, when California actually created a task force to study how to teach self-esteem; the bubble was burst (I think) by scholars who said that the typical measures of self-esteem might identify a bully, whose ego was so inflated that he became aggressive when anyone challenged him. I am not saying that character cannot be taught, but that in my experience it is taught best by a combination of modeling, expectations, and behavioral guidelines of family, school, religious institutions, and other environments in which children live. What do the adults do? What do they admire? What do they expect?

 

 

Grit Scale

 

Directions for taking the Grit Scale: Please respond to the following 17 items. Be honest – there are no right or wrong answers!

1. I aim to be the best in the world at what I do.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

2. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

3. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

4. I am ambitious.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

5. My interests change from year to year.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

6. Setbacks don’t discourage me.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

7. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

8. I am a hard worker.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

9. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

10. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to
complete.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

11. I finish whatever I begin.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

12. Achieving something of lasting importance is the highest goal in life.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

13. I think achievement is overrated.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

14. I have achieved a goal that took years of work.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

15. I am driven to succeed.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

16. I become interested in new pursuits every few months.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

17. I am diligent.

  • 􏰀 Very much like me
  • 􏰀 Mostly like me
  • 􏰀 Somewhat like me
  • 􏰀 Not much like me
  • 􏰀 Not like me at all

Directions for scoring the Grit Scale

For questions 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, and 17, assign the following points: 5 = Very much like me

4 = Mostly like me
3 = Somewhat like me
2 = Not much at all like me 1 = Not like me at all

For questions 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, and 16, assign the following points: 1 = Very much like me

2 = Mostly like me
3 = Somewhat like me
4 = Not much at all like me 5 = Not like me at all

Grit is calculated as the average score for items 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, and 17. The Consistency of Interest subscale is calculated as the average score for items 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 16. The Perseverance of Effort subscale is calculated as the average score for items 2, 6, 8, 11, 14, and 17.

The Brief Grit Scale score is calculated as the average score for items 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 17. Ambition is calculated as the average score for items 1, 4, 12, 13, and 15.

Grit Scale citation

Duckworth, A.L, & Quinn, P.D. (2009). Development and validation of the Short Grit Scale (Grit- S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 166-174. http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Duckworth%20and%20Quinn.pdf

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1087-1101.

A few weeks ago, I heard from Alex Suarez, a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a B.S. in Bioengineering from Rice University. Alex read my book “Reign of Error” and asked if he could propose an new approach to accountability. He put his ideas on paper, and I am glad to share them with you. What do you think of Alex’s ideas?

 

Alex writes:

 

 

 

 

Anyone who has watched “Waiting for Superman” or listened to the endless educational debates will be quick to hear how our public school system is failing. Who’s the culprit in their opinion? The teachers. Contrast that with my own experience of seeing countless dreamers poised with incredible capabilities to inspire and teach, get put into incredibly challenging situations.

 

Teachers can start in a classroom of 22 students; they don’t fare too well. With the current system based on standardized testing, poor performance strips resources. There goes the budget.

 

What does that mean? That same teacher struggling with 22 students is now being asked to teach classes of 30. It doesn’t make sense. Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error sums it up best: Let’s say the national goal is to be 100% crime free. Depending on the severity of the failure, you lose resources. Imagine the inner city of Chicago versus the upper middle class suburbs. After one year, the inner city of Chicago fails miserably at the goal compared to suburbia so the government heavily restricts the resources allocated to their local police. How do you think the crime rate is going to be next year?

 

We operate on the assumption that any teacher can help any students reach the best score despite anything. No excuses, right?

 

Let’s take a quick look at the metric of how standardized testing affects motivation of teachers and students. Teachers come in with the idealistic dream of inspiring the next generation to love learning the way they have. Once they enter the school, there’s one goal: high standardized test scores. They get pushed to try to meet test standards that ruin the beauty of learning. You suck out their motivation to teach. It isn’t much better from the students’ perspective. Students enter a classroom and are told, “It’s important to learn.” They then quickly lay witness to why they “need” to learn: to get a high test score. Educators try to plead with their students that learning is more than this.

 

Educators are right, there should be more. Why is our current education system’s assessment so focused on these standardized tests?

 

​I would like the opportunity set a few items straight. Many Americans have heard the statistic that public school is broken, that internationally we are fourteenth in reading, seventeenth in science, and twenty-fifth in mathematics. It’s time to sound the alarms and kick our butts into gear.

 

What if, however, I were to tell you that further analysis of these international test scores sheds a different light on the conclusions that can be drawn? If you took the scores of American kids who were in schools with less than 10% poverty, they would be identical to Shanghai, the number one scorer on the exam.

 

Further, Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein believed there to be a sampling error in the test where a higher proportion of American schools in poverty were evaluated. Adjusting for this, the United States public education system ranked fourth in reading and tenth in math.

 

Let’s take one-step back, why are these international tests all that important? Reformers say if our students are scoring poorly on international assessments, these future business leaders and our economy will not be able to compete. It makes sense. Right? The data does not seem to corroborate this. Keith Baker, an analyst at the Department of Education, looked at the relationship between how well countries did on international testing and its future GDP. He found that “ the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth.” We have put all our belief behind a relationship that does not exist.

 

Now, the one thing that American students have that no country can compete with is our level of creativity and innovation. As we push more and more resources to attaining higher scores on standardized testing, we are sacrificing what makes America great. Look at the many schools that are dropping critical components of a liberal arts curriculum to pour more time and energy towards standardized tested math and reading classes.

 

​Legislators attempting to change education have this contrived notion that teachers are machines. Representatives argue that better teachers=better results. They treat teachers much like production lines of old. They argue that streamlining the production line for the purpose of increasing test scores is the way.

 

They say it’s the corporate way, the American way. They are right, kind of. That was the corporate America… of the mid to later twentieth century. They don’t acknowledge the industrial/organizational psychologists research that is driving the best global companies. Workers are not machines. Workers are human. Motivation is critical. Take these two for example: Google and Apple. Look at their campus. Look at their work schedules. Look at what their culture promotes. It promotes health, inspires creativity, and most importantly sparks motivation.

 

They understand that workers are humans and are driven by psychological needs.

Now what are these specific “psychological needs”?​
​In his TED Talk, Tony Robbins best highlighted what he feels to be the six universal needs.

 

The first four are of the body: certainty, uncertainty, significance, and love/connection. The final two are of the spirit: growth and living for something greater than yourself. I believe that if we are able to create an environment that better facilitates public K-12 educators meeting these six needs, we will revolutionize education. How do we go about this?

 

Change the metric, change the country.

 

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg recalls Paul O’Neill’s reign as CEO of the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). During his first meet and greet with share holders, where CEOs typically declare their vision for boosting profits by lowering costs, he shocked the audience. He set out his vision: making Alcoa the safest company in America. Safety will be an indicator that we’re making progress in changing the habits across the entire institution. All the stockholders were caught aback. They thought the company was going to crumble. Within a year, Alcoa’s profits would hit a record high. Thirteen years later, the net income was five times its original size; its market capitalization had risen by $27 billion. What shareholders didn’t fully understand was that in order to have the safest environment, the company had to establish several procedures. These safety procedures demanded a streamlined corporate structure and a production line that avoided injuries that would slow production. The important thing here to realize is that people operate within a system defined by its metric.

 

Turning to education, we have seen administrators’ decisions to cut classes of the liberal arts education to solely focus on areas that would be tested by the standardized test. Our metrics are out of whack.

 

I move for a change in the strived-for metric from high stakes standardized testing to teacher satisfaction.

 

Teacher satisfaction will be obtained by asking each teacher the following questions. Each of these will be rated on a 1-10 score, with 10 being the highest.

 

How much pressure do you feel that you could lose your job?

 

How comfortable do you feel asking for help?

 

How much autonomy do you feel in the classroom?

 

Do you feel like you are making a significant impact on your students?

 

How supported do you feel by your fellow teachers?

 

How supported do you feel by your administrators?

 

Do you feel like you have the resources you need to do your best work?

 

How collaborative of an environment do you have?

 

Do you feel that you’re becoming a better teacher?

 

Do you feel that you’re becoming a better role model?

 

These scores will be tallied and will be the primary determinant of how schools will be evaluated. The school’s score will be made public. Schools that perform poorly will have leading educators come to the school and help the school get back on track.

 

We will no longer strip resources from the schools that are most in need. If the teacher’s answers to these questions are yes, they will feel fulfilled by their career and intrinsically motivated, the most powerful driving force. Teachers dream about intellectually stimulating the future generation. They want to develop meaningful relationships with children. They want their kids to escape poverty’s grasp. We must create an environment that helps,not hinders, teachers.

 

Evaluation of teachers will consist of a student questionnaire and student testing. The student questionnaire will read as follows (Note: language will be geared to that grade level; it will be completely anonymous, with the option of the student to right their name if he or she wishes)

 

​Do you feel safe?

 

​Do you feel comfortable with your teacher?

 

​Can you be honest with your teacher?

 

​Do you feel cared for by your teacher?

 

​Do you feel understood by your teacher?

 

Do you look up to your teacher?

 

​Do you enjoy school?

 

​Do you feel like you’re learning?

 

​How much do you think about things learned in school at your home?

 

​Do you feel that your hard work is noticed and rewarded?

 

​Do you feel like your hard work is paying off?

 

​Do you feel if you have an error it is caught?

 

When it is corrected, do you understand why?

 

Do you understand how to fix it/ prevent it from happening again?


​​
The questionnaire results will be shared with the school’s principal and the student’s teacher.

 

The second component will be student’s scores on the exams that are a part of the school’s curriculum. The student’s scores on these will be compared to their standardized testing at the end of the year (in a diagnostic fashion) to ensure the teacher’s curriculum is up to par with national standards. This check is intended to prevent a situation where curriculum exams become super easy and everyone gets As, but at the end of the year all the kids fail to be proficient. In that case, the local school curriculum and tests will need to be made more rigorous.

 

Low scores on any of these metrics will not be immediate grounds for firing. The teacher will collaborate with other teachers and the principal on ways to improve his or her score much in a similar way as the Peer Assistance and Review program in Montgomery County, Maryland. New teachers with no experience and teachers who receive low ratings on these are assigned a “consulting teacher” to help them improve. The consulting teachers help teachers plan their lessons and review student work; they model lessons and identify research-based instructional strategies. The obvious follow up question is what if this teacher doesn’t or can’t improve?

 

That question brings up the idea of tenure and how to remove a teacher. Now, I believe K-12 “tenure” plays an important role in meeting the teacher’s psychological need of certainty. Much in the same way that you wouldn’t be able to focus on reading this article if the ceiling above you could cave in at anytime, the teacher struggles to take innovative risks with the thought that he or she could get fired at the end of the year based on high-stakes standardized tests. However valuable I believe tenure to be, I do believe that some districts make it a near impossibility to remove a poor performing teacher. In those districts, it should change.

 

I support the PAR model for removing poorly performing teachers. A panel of teachers and administrators at that school reviews the performance of the new and experienced teachers who have received one year of PAR support. The panel decides whether to offer another year of PAR, to confirm their success, or to terminate their employment. This method of teacher evaluation has the support of teachers and principals in schools that have adopted this model. In Montgomery with PAR, they have fired over 200 teachers with this new model; in the prior decade to PAR’s implementation, only five teachers had been removed.

 

A few additional principles will get us back on track and help us achieve this new metric of teacher satisfaction.

 

• I call for classroom sizes to be 12 students. Low socioeconomic students need attention. In Daniel Coyle’s Talent Code, he explores why some environments keep producing unbelievably successful talents. He breaks it down to three key characteristics that are needed: deep practice, ignition, and coaching. Deep practice is the process with which people focus intently on trying to achieve something and every time they fail, they acknowledge why they failed, how to correct it, and go about it another time. Classrooms need to be small to allow for the teacher to execute this oversight. The coaching relationship is key, and I think it’s pretty evident in the questions that are on the kid’s questionnaire above. Having a mentor who you trust and can provide a meaningful relationship is also something that I believe can only be fostered on this scale. I want to take a quick moment to expand on how important a role model can be.

 

According to Paul Vitz’s discussion on “The Importance of Fatherhood” in Eric Metaxas’s “Socrates in the City,” there are plenty of poor environments where the fathers are present and there is no criminality: “We think of criminal behavior as somehow related to ghettos or the inner city or something like that. When the social scientists take out whether the father is present and whole issue of the stability of the family, there are no ethnic, racial, linguistic, or cultural factors related to criminal behavior. There have been examples of people who have been step-in fathers that have achieved the goals a father should for their kid.”

 

I think the heart of education for lower socioeconomic children is providing meaningful and trusting relationships with teachers so that they can guide them out of their troubles. Additionally, the classroom of size of twelve students can be broken into pairs or groups of 3, 4, or 6 to compete in challenges and activities.

 

• As for Coyle’s ignition, students need to be surrounded by triggers that further their drive to learn. They need to be exposed to what can happen if they work hard in the classroom. As one example, I recommend after school programs where students have the ability to paint murals in their hallways of prominent historical figures. Even hanging up pictures of people nominated for Time’s People of the Year with a short descriptor below could do the trick. One of the telltale signs of a great school is its relationship with its community. I also wish to support bringing in prominent community members who can serve as role models for these kids and further ignition.

 

• Getting a higher percentage of teachers trained for a year or two before starting in the classroom.

 

• All schools should be staffed with a child psychologist, health care worker, social worker, and school counselors as recommended by the teaching staffs.

 

• Education should include physical education, health, literature, history, music, etc. (all the strong pillars of a liberal arts education).

 

• Teachers should be well paid. Payment should follow a curve similar to an enzymatic curve of saturation. Payment should be a function of three things: overall years of experience, how many years you have been at that one school, and performance. Let’s say a teacher has been at a school for 10 years, and wants to change schools. There should be some deterrent for having the teacher leave schools. Potentially, her pay will be lowered (to 8 years of experience [subtract 2]) with the aim to keep teachers at a particular school over the course of career. Low turnover is an important factor for students.

 

Now, there may be many contentions to what I have offered. One of the main ones against smaller classroom sizes is the cost. Administrators know teachers are the highest cost to education, yet they are the most valuable. People say we can’t spend this amount of money on education. This argument hits at one of the human rules of thumbs that tend to make us err as stated in the book Nudge. “According to economic theory, money is “fungible” meaning that it doesn’t come with labels. Twenty dollars in the rent jar can buy just as much food as the same amount in the food jar. But households adopt mental accounting schemes that violate fungibility for the same reasons that organizations do: to control spending.”

 

Now, as I respect any public official’s attempt to have a balanced budget, it’s important we realize the impact on our budget if we don’t do anything. We will continue to spend over $30,000 per inmate per year, yet $10,000 per student per year. Why do we continue to invest our money and efforts to far downstream of someone’s life?

 

​To meet the class size, we will need more teachers. Economically speaking, we know one thing: a strong middle class yields a strong economy. Increasing the strong middle class jobs (number of teachers) with reliable income will only be good for the economy. They will purchase goods and spend their money, thereby keeping the money in the economy.
​In general, it is my belief we need to spend more money on human capital that will be present in kid’s lives at the school. People and relationships make the differences in kids’ lives.

 

​Overall, the recommendations presented will create a profession that will be respected and desired. This will promote high caliber individuals entering the field. Right now, 40% of teachers leave the profession sometime in the first five years. I am confident that changing our metric would decrease high teacher turnover and burnout, which are highly problematic for struggling schools and more importantly struggling students. It will drive highly motivated individuals towards teaching. The metric will finally allow instructors to inspire curiosity and the love of learning in all their students. Instead of castigating teachers, let’s help them. Crazy idea?

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