Archives for category: Education Reform

Joanne Yatvin has been a teacher, a principal, and a superintendent. She wrote these reflections on what constitutes a good school.

 

A few weeks ago, a New Hampshire teacher, Shawna Coppola, shared her ideas about what makes a good school, in contrast to the schools that are celebrated because of high student test scores. Although I agree with much that Shawna says, I want to take the challenge she voices at the end of her piece to describe my own view of what a good school is.

 

I first put my own definition and description of a good school into words a long time ago when I was asked to write a review of a book about a disintegrating school that was rescued by a new principal. I repeat it below with only a few word changes to reflect contemporary terminology and my own growth.

 

In my view a good school mirrors the realities of life in an ordered society; it is rational and safe, a practice ground for the things adults do in the outside world. A good school creates a sense of community that permits personal expression within a framework of social responsibility. It focuses on learnings that grow through use–with or without more schooling–such as clear communication, independent thinking, thoughtful decision-making, craftsmanship, and group collaboration. It makes children think of themselves as powerful citizens in their own world.

 

In contrast, an effective school, as defined by today’ standards, looks at learning in terms of test scores in a limited number of academic areas. It does not take into consideration students’ ability to solve real life problems, their social skills, or even their practicality. It does not differentiate between dynamic and inert knowledge; it ignores motivation. When we hear of a school heralded because of its high test scores, should we not ask what that school does to prepare students to live the next several decades of their lives?

 

A good school has a broad-based and realistic curriculum with subject matter chosen not only for its relevance to higher education and jobs, but also to family and community membership and personal enrichment. It uses teaching practices that simulate the way people function in the outside world. Children are actively involved in productive tasks that combine and expand their knowledge and competence. They initiate projects, make their own decisions, enjoy using their skills, show off their accomplishments, and look for harder, more exciting work to do.

 

The effective school asks much less. Children who put all their efforts into “covering” a traditional curriculum in order to “master” as much of it as possible are not seekers, initiators, or builders. They are at best reactors. The knowledge they dutifully soak up is not necessarily broad based or useful. It is taught because it is likely to appear on tests. It is quickly and easily forgotten.

 

Any school can become a good school when its principal and teachers have made the connections to life in the outside world that I have been talking about. It operates as an organic entity—not a machine—moving always to expand its basic nature rather than to tack on artificial appendages. A good school is like a healthy tree. As it grows, it sinks its roots deep into its native soil: it adapts to the surrounding climate and vegetation; its branches thicken for support and spread for maximum exposure to the sun: it makes its own food; it heals its own wounds; and, in its season, it puts forth fresh leaves, blossoms, and fruit.

 

The issue of mayoral control of the schools in New York City is now before the State Legislature, as its authorization expires in 2016. The current form of mayoral control was established in 2002, when the Legislature responded to newly elected Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s request for complete control of the sprawling school system. Mayoral control was renewed by the Legislature in 2009. Bloomberg promised to bring efficiency to the system and managerial expertise. Now the Legislature must decide whether to renew mayoral control or to tweak it or to substitute some other form of management.

 

I have written about mayoral control on many occasions over the years. My first book, published in 1974, was a history of the New York City public schools, and a large part of the story consists of the search for a competent way to govern the schools of a huge city. The city as we now know it was created by popular vote in 1898 (many people in Brooklyn, who opposed consolidation, thought the vote was rigged). In the nineteenth century, New York City consisted only of what is now Manhattan. Brooklyn was a separate city, and the other regions were towns and villages in what are now the boroughs of Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

 

I won’t recapitulate the history of governance here; I wrote a paper on the subject a few years ago. It is not necessary to go into the twists and turns of the nineteenth century other than to point out that there was only one time in the past when the Mayor took total control of the previously independent New York City Board of Education and turned it into a department of the city government. That was during the heyday of the Tweed Ring. William Marcy Tweed (Boss Tweed), then in the legislature, steered through “reform” legislation in 1869 that gave over the entire school system of New York to his crony, who packed the board with allies and steered contracts to favorites of the Tweed Ring. The Tweed board canceled all book contracts with Harper Brothers as punishment for its publication of Thomas Nast cartoons ridiculing Boss Tweed. In 1871, the Tweed Ring was exposed, and its members eventually prosecuted. In 1873. the legislature restored the independent Board of Education.

 

For most of the history of New York City’s public schools, the members of the central board were appointed by the mayor. Mayoral control was typical, not atypical. In addition, there were local boards where citizens could participate in the governance of their community public schools and make their views known. For a time in the nineteenth century, the central board and the local boards were elected. After the debacle of the Tweed takeover, both boards were appointed, not elected, in an attempt to insulate them from politics. It is clear, however, that politics can intrude on any arrangement, whether appointed or elected.

 

When the city was consolidated as the Greater Metropolitan New York City in 1898, each borough had its own school board. However, there were frequent conflicts over money, curriculum, hiring policy, and other issues. The city leaders agreed that uniformity was needed, so in 1902, the legislature established the New York City Board of Education as a single governing body for the large school system. The new board consisted of 46 members, all appointed by the Mayor, representing all the boroughs. The city was divided into 46 local school districts, each of which had its own appointed local school board.

 

True power in the new, consolidated system rested in the hands of the professional Superintendent of Schools and his Board of Deputy Superintendents. As it happened, New York City had an outstanding educator as its first Superintendent, William Henry Maxwell. He was a superb administrator and a visionary, who saw the responsibilities of the schools as extending beyond academics to the health and well-being of children. He served for 20 years in that post, setting academic standards, opening schools for children with disabilities, creating adult education centers, and producing a host of innovative reforms that benefited the city. The city also had a Board of Examiners, which tested those who wanted to teach in the system.

 

Over the course of the twentieth century, the size of the school board was reduced from 46 to 7 and then expanded to 9, but it continued to be appointed by the mayor. The system was highly centralized until 1969.

 

From the mid-60s until 1969, black and Hispanic activists engaged in demonstrations and protests to demand desegregation. When their demands were ignored, they sought community control of the schools. The Ford Foundation subsidized an experiment in community control in three districts. In 1968, the city’s teachers went on strike for two months to protest the firing of union teachers without due process in one of those districts, Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn. Mayor John Lindsay sided with the black community leaders. In 1969, the Legislature passed a new decentralization law, establishing a seven-member central board and local community boards (which for a time were elected). The seven-member board consisted of five members appointed by the five borough presidents and only two members appointed by the mayor. This was most certainly a rebuke to Mayor Lindsay. Even under this new form of decentralization, the mayor still exerted considerable control, both through his control over the budget and his alliances with at least two of the borough presidents.

 

Almost every mayor subsequently asked for a larger role in the running of the schools but was ignored by the Legislature. When Michael Bloomberg was elected in 2001, one of his major campaign promises was to gain control of the schools and reform them. The Legislature complied and granted him full control in mid-2002. What was once the New York City Board of Education is now the New York City Department of Education, just another city agency, akin to the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Sanitation Department. The legislation kept a central board of 13, but the majority (8) was appointed by the mayor and serve at his pleasure (Mayor Bloomberg called it the Panel on Educational Policy, to signify its powerlessness). Local school boards were replaced by powerless community education councils. Mayor Bloomberg appointed attorney Joel Klein as his first chancellor (and subsequently replaced him with publisher Cathie Black, who had a brief and stormy three-month tenure, then replaced her with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott). The system went through several reorganizations. The Bloomberg administration relied on test scores to close low-performing schools and to open many new small schools and more than 100 charter schools.

 

What should be done now? Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Rudy Guiliani have appealed to the state legislature to retain mayoral control and to make it permanent.

 

Here is what I think, based on what I know: I agree that there should be mayoral control. But it should be modified to add checks and balances. No one chief executive should have total control of the public’s schools. No one chief executive should have the unlimited power to change the schools without referring to anyone else. No one mayor should be able to ignore the views of public school parents.

 

The mayor should continue to appoint the members of the New York City Board of Education. Those who wish to serve should be vetted by a review panel composed of representatives of civic and educational organizations (this was the practice in the early 1960s). This prevents the mayor from stacking the board with campaign donors and friends.

 

Members of the Board of Education should serve for a set term of three or four or five years, to ensure their independence. At present, they serve at the pleasure of the mayor, making the Board a rubber-stamp.

 

The Board of Education, not the mayor, should select the Chancellor. The Chancellor should report to the Board of Education and seek their approval for his/her proposals and budget.

 

Local school boards should be elected by parent associations, with the approval of the borough presidents.

 

Mayor Bloomberg was right to restore mayoral control, but it should now be improved upon by inserting checks and balances. The mayor should appoint the Board of Education, and this board should serve set terms and be responsible for the appointment and replacement of the chancellor.

 

No one should imagine that mayoral control is a panacea. It is not. Cleveland has had mayoral control for many years, and it continues to be one of the nation’s lowest-performing cities (and also a city with extreme poverty). Detroit had mayoral control for a few years, until voters eliminated it (one of the city’s mayors went to jail a few years ago). Chicago has mayoral control, and this enabled the mayor to close 50 public schools and to ignore the outcry from the affected communities; no one (except perhaps Arne Duncan) would consider Chicago to be a national model. Boston has mayoral control, and performance varies with economics, as it does everywhere. The District of Columbia has mayoral control, and it also has the largest black-white, Hispanic-white achievement gaps of any urban district tested by NAEP. The highest performing districts on NAEP (Charlotte and Austin) do not have mayoral control.

 

Mayoral control, with the checks and balances I described, makes sense organizationally. By itself, it solves no problems. It still requires the hard work of school improvement, the hard work of creating good schools and a good working environment for students, teachers, and principals. And schools in urban districts still require the resources to meet the needs of the children they enroll, regardless of who appoints the central board.

 

 

 

 

Why do we refuse to learn from successful nations? The top ten high-performing nations do not test every child every year.

 

Why aren’t we willing to learn from educational disasters in other nations? Take Chile, for example.

 

In this post, two scholars–Alfredo Gaete and Stephanie Jones–explain what happened in Chile when national leaders imposed the free-market ideas of two libertarian economists, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

 

Inspired by the ideas of such neoliberal economists as Hayek and Friedman, the “Chilean experiment” was meant to prove that education can achieve its highest quality when its administration is handed over mainly to the private sector and, therefore, to the forces of the market.

 

 

How did they do this?

 

 

Basically by creating charter schools with a voucher system and a number of mechanisms for ensuring both the competition among them and the profitability of their business. In this scenario, the state has a subsidiary but still important role, namely, to introduce national standards and assess schools by virtue of them (in such a way that national rankings can be produced).

 

 

This accountability job, along with the provision of funding, is almost everything that was left to the Chilean state regarding education, in the hope that competition, marketing, and the like would lead the country to develop the best possible educational system.

 

 

So what happened? Here are some facts after about three decades of the “Chilean experiment” that, chillingly, has also been called the “Chilean Miracle” like the more recent U.S. “New Orleans Miracle.”

 

 

First, there is no clear evidence that students have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests, the preferred measurement used to assess schools within this scenario of the free market.

 
Second, there is now consensus among researchers that both the educational and the socioeconomic gaps have been increased. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures.

 
Third, studies have shown that schools serving the more underprivileged students have greater difficulties not only for responding competitively but also for innovating and improving school attractiveness in a way to acquire students and therefore funding.

 
Fourth, many schools are now investing more in marketing strategies than in actually improving their services.

 
Fifth, the accountability culture required by the market has yielded a teach-to-the-test schema that is progressively neglecting the variety and richness of more integral educational practices.

 
Sixth, some researchers believe that all this has negatively affected teachers’ professional autonomy, which in turn has triggered feelings of demoralization, anxiety, and in the end poor teaching practices inside schools and an unattractive profession from the outside.

 
Seventh, a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has arisen not only among school communities but actually in the great majority of the population. Indeed, the ‘Penguins Revolution’ – a secondary students’ revolt driven by complaints about the quality and equity of Chilean education – led to the most massive social protest movement in the country during the last 20 years….

 

The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all. Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.

 
It is also a miracle that such profit-seeking private companies and corporations, including publishing giants that produce educational materials and tests, have managed to keep the target of accountability on teachers and schools and not on their own backs.

 
Their treasure trove of funding – state and federal tax monies – continues to flow even as their materials, technological innovations, products, services, and tests fail to provide positive results.

 

Why are we allowing philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and the U.S. Department of Education to force us to follow the same path as Chile? Are we powerless? No. Show your displeasure by opting out, speaking out, contacting your elected representatives. Organize demonstrations and protests. Make them notice you. Stop them.

John Thompson, teacher and historian, admires Anya Kamenetz’s “The Test,” with some qualifications.

http://www.livingindialogue.com/kamenetz-test-can-value-truly-measured/

He writes:

“Anya Kamenetz’s The Test comes from the conversation she’s had again and again with parents. She and they have “seen how high-stakes standardized tests are stunting children’s spirits, adding stress to family life, demoralizing teachers, undermining schools, paralyzing the education debate, and gutting our country’s future competitiveness.” Like so many Gen X and Gen Y parents, Kamenetz sees how “the test obsession is making public schools … into unhappy places.”

“Kamenetz covers ten arguments against testing, starting with “We’re testing the wrong things,” and ending with “The next generation of tests will make things even worse.” I’d say the second most destructive of the reasons is #4 “They are making teachers hate teaching.” The most awful is #3 “They are making students hate school and turning parents into preppers.”

“The second half of Kamenetz’s great work starts with the Opt Out movement, the grassroots parent revolt. She recalls the disgusting practices that drive families to opt out. Under-the-gun schools have resorted to “petty intimidation” of eight-year-olds, even forcing a nine-year opt-outer old to watch test takers rewarded with ice cream and candy, and requiring student opt-outers to sit and stare without books or diversions for hours while classmates take tests.”

“Kamenetz then presents alternative approaches to high-stakes testing. She explores four different types of assessments that could replace standardized testing. In doing so, she reminds us that “…education’s purpose in the twenty-first century is to prepare students to excel at the very tasks that computers can’t master …”

“As much as I enjoyed the tour Kamenetz takes us on, describing digital tools to quantify and improve teaching and learning, we should not be surprised that 21st century technology has created such promising, and potentially dangerous, technologies. Even if a magic wand existed and it enabled a ban on all these measures from public schools, would anyone doubt that those tools would be used and abused by affluent families? Rightly or wrongly, in or outside of classrooms, there will be elites who use data-driven techniques to build better Ivy League scholars, to produce faster and leaner child athletes, and more determined ballet dancers. Moreover, those who can afford it will continue to make low tech investments, ranging from field trips, family vacations, and portfolio assessments, that expand their children’s worldviews.

“Is there any doubt that the new metrics will result in modern versions of John Stuart Mill, who are raised to be geniuses and to bring the next generation of utilitarianism to an unprecedented level? Isn’t it also inevitable that some parents will follow in the footsteps of Mill’s father, and lead their children to nervous breakdowns?….

“Corporate reformers have no right to impose these assessments or, for that matter, primitive high-stakes multiple choice regimes on public schools. Neither is there a place in public education for grading students’ character or their states of mind.

“Kamenetz clearly understands the potential downsides of emerging assessments, as well as their dangers in the hands of reformers who believe that they should be empowered to micromanage testing and the learning that it guides. For instance, she writes, “Most troubling to me is the ways in which measuring and holding schools accountable for the social and emotional health of their students, if done in wrong ways, might, once again, worsen the effects of inequality.”

“She also compares the data accumulated through new testing methods to putting computer chips in the ears of migrating antelope. Moreover, “student data, like health data, is extremely sensitive.” The idea that it could be used for marketing, hiring, tracking, stigmatizing children is “creepy.”

“So, while I respect Kamenetz’s effort to frame solutions in a constructive manner, I believe that the focus must be on the way that “standardized testing leads to standardized teaching.” We must concentrate on the way that output-driven accountability means that “whatever subject the kids hate most … takes over all of school.” We should not give defenders of bubble-in accountability (or those who are tempted to collaborate with it) an easy out. We must focus on Kamenetz’s wise metaphor, “Pervasive assessment is a nightmare version of school for most students. It’s like burning thirsty plants in a garden under a magnifying glass, in the hope they will grow faster under scrutiny.”

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

NY Teacher wrote the following comment in response to the TeachPlus survey, which said that teachers think the PARCC test is better than their own state tests. This gave me a belly laugh.

 

 

“Before the teachers were allowed to assess the tests, Teach Plus provided them with training to ensure they had the necessary background knowledge.”

 

“This training was preceded by a snack of psilocybin mushrooms laced with a generous sprinkling of lysergic acid diethylamide. Teachers were not only impressed with the quality of the PARCC items but were also mesmerized by cursors that continuously changed size, shape, and color, keyboard keys that greeted them by spelling out their name, and wallpaper in the test room that breathed as if alive.”

Great  news! Max Brantley reports that the bill to privatize the Little Rock School District was withdrawn and will not be introduced again in this session of the Arkansas legislature.  The lobbyists pushing the bill were all connected to the powerful multi-billionaire Walton family, and many people thought their victory was a foregone conclusion. (See this post and this post for details.)

 

Brantley writes:

 

The rally in opposition to the bill at the Capitol tonight turned into a victory party.

 

Here’s Ross’ take on the decision:”We hear there was pressure from the Walton family who are tired of the bad press.”

 

Indeed. And it will be complicated when plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the state’s takeover of the district — which would provided a speedway to privatization under the proposed law — begin questioning subpoenaed witnesses about their ties to the Waltons and others that have invested big money in wanting to see the district heavily charterized.

 

The public outcry was vital in this defeat, if Cozart can be trusted. I suspect even more vital was the entry of the PTA, the School Boards Association and, particularly, the school superintendents, in the fight. What was about to happen to Little Rock could happen to anyone — a loss of school boards, an expropriation of local property tax millage, the required surrender of facilities for no charge.

 

There are important lessons to be learned here. The Waltons apparently got “tired of the bad press.” Public outcry was vital. The supporters of public education rallied. The public interest beat the Waltons. Don’t forget those lessons!

Laura H. Chapman, a retired teacher and curriculum advisor in the arts, posted this comment:

 

 

People who work in the “orphaned subjects” have a long history of playing tag-a-long to subjects deemed to be “core.” There is a persistent hope that writing standards in great detail will somehow get you a bit more curriculum time.
Just published standards in Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Art, and Media Studies (new discipline) seem to have been written in the wild hope that all of the standards will be tested with “authentic” assessments.

 

These standards are grade-specific, starting in Pre-K. The standards come to a screeching halt in high school, with three levels defining studies: Proficient, Accomplished, and Advanced. The writers of the standards wanted a parallel structure for each art form.

 

I have seen the standards for the visual arts and media arts. Each of these art forms has acquired 234 standards. If the writers followed that rule across all of the arts, then students and teachers are facing 1,170 arts standards.

 

I see that a model evaluation for the new Dance standards for grade 2 has nine conventional “knowledge and skills” statements…. (“students will…” ). Then the same assessment guide throws in five references to the CCSS,  four references to “Blooms,” three “21st century Skills,” four DOK’s, and ten “habits of mind.”

 

Some arts educators hoped to hitch their star to STEM subjects. Just transform the acronym into STEAM.

 

Same for those “21st century Skills.” They have been like sticky glue. Most of the skills are not distinct to the 21st century, are modified statements from personnel managers, and came into being by virtue of the political savvy of Ken Kay, a lobbyist for the tech industry (KAY tried twice to get his mixed bag of terms and phrases into federal legislation.)

 

When I entered teaching, there were frequent claims and articles to the effect that arts educators were going to help the nation beat the Russians, win the Space Race because we knew how to educate “creative scientists.”

 

Some readers may recall the standards written under the Goals 2000 Educate America Act (H.R. 1804, 1994). At that time, K-12 standards were written in 14 domains of study, 24 subjects, then parsed into 259 standards, and 4100 grade-level benchmarks.

 

A dispute over the status of history versus social studies ended in no “approved standards” for the latter, but 1,281 grade level standards for history. In those history standards, facts are supposed to matter. Even so, students were (falsely) expected to know that Mary Cassatt was a famous American Regionalist painter. (Wrong. The artist lived in Paris for most of her life, is best known as an Impressionist). Source: Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education, “Process” Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, (2011), http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/process.asp

 

Teachers are drowning in standards and the waters keep on getting churned. The tsunami of expectations is just short of asking all of our students to be omniscient. Writers of the CCSS think their version of the 3R’s are just fine and that all teachers should comply even with the ridiculous Lexile Score in ELA.

 

Ohio currently has 3,203 standards on the books, including 1,600 CCSS (counting parts a-e). That’s about 267 per grade level. The arts standards in Ohio were developed and approved at the state level before the NEW arts standards were written. Which ones really matter will be determined by which ones are acceptable for teacher evaluations.

 

If Ohio’s current standards are typical, there has been no crosschecking of the sets of standards for duplications, synergies, contradictory expectations, feasibility, developmental coherence, or simply dead wrong content.

 

The CCSS standards are surrounded with all of the mandatory rhetoric of the day. They are strictly academic. They are rigorous. Students must master them on time, grade-by-grade with no regard for networks of understandings that may later produce unexpected insight and understanding. Not all learning occurs in a tidy progression within or across the grades.

 

Federal officials seem to want national standards for every subject, as if the sum of all the separate standards that can be conjured will make educational sense and favor the development of coherent and feasible curriculum work. They are clueless and learned nothing from the Goals 2000 project.

 

In any case, well-informed work on curriculum does not begin with standards. It begins with a vision of what education is for, and who should be involved in deciding that, especially in a democratic society.

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