Archives for category: Education Reform

Sherm Koons left this comment. Check out Sherm’s blog, Tales from the Classroom. He is a veteran high school English teacher in Ohio.

 

Down the Rabbit Hole with PARCC.

It’s taken me a while to begin to wrap my head around what’s really going on with PARCC and what makes it so absolutely wrong, but standing in the hall after school today talking to some fellow teachers I think got a glimpse. As we discussed the inappropriateness of the exams for our students, it occurred to me that actually it all makes perfect sense if your goal is to generate the most data that you possibly can. If you believe that, given enough data, you can predict human behavior, environmental, societal and other factors, and all the infinite variables of existence to a degree that mimics reality, of course you would want the most data that you could get. And you become obsessed with data. And eventually you lose track of what you initially were hoping to measure. It becomes data for data’s sake. And soon it has absolutely nothing to do with education, students, or anything human. And as you disappear further and further down the rabbit hole, you can’t understand why nobody gets it but you. The reason we don’t “get it” is that IT MAKES NO SENSE. You have become lost in your never-ending quest for data. You are delusional. And you must be stopped.

Robert Shepherd, a frequent commenter on the blog, is an experienced veteran in the world of education publishing, having developed curriculum, textbooks, and assessments.

 

 

He writes:

 

The New York legislature just voted to dump inBloom. But Diane Ravitch’s first post about that subjected noted, wisely, that inBloom was dead “for Now.”

 

Don’t think for a moment that Big Data has been beaten. I am going to explain why. I hope that you will take the time and effort to follow what I am going to say below. It’s a little complicated, but it’s a great story. It’s a birth narrative–the astonishing but, I think, undeniably true story of the birth of the Common Core.

 

The emergence of the Internet presented a challenge to the business model of the big educational publishers. It presented the very real possibility that they might go the way of the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon. Why? I can point you, right now, to about 80 complete, high-quality, FREE open-source textbooks on the Net–ones written by various professors–textbooks on geology, law, astronomy, physics, grammar, biology, every conceivable topic in mathematics.

 

Pixels are cheap. The emergence of the possibility of publishing via the Internet, combined with the wiring of all public schools for broadband access, removed an important barrier to entry to the educational publishing business–paper, printing, and binding costs. In the Internet Age, small publishers with alternative texts could easily flourish. Some of those–academic self publishers interested not in making money but in spreading knowledge of their subjects–would even do that work for free. Many have, already. There are a dozen great free intro statistics texts with support materials on the web today.

 

Think of what Wikipedia did to the Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s what open-source textbooks were poised to do to the K-12 educational materials monopolists. The process had already begun in college textbook publishing. The big publishers were starting to loose sales to free, open-source competitors. The number of open-source alternatives would grow exponentially, and the phenomenon would spread down through the grade levels. Soon. . . .

 

How were the purveyors of textbooks going to compete with FREE?
What’s a monopolist to do in such a situation?

 

Answer: Create a computer-adaptive ed tech revolution. The monopolists figured out that they could create computer-adaptive software keyed to student responses IN DATABASES that they, AND THEY ALONE, could get access to. No open-source providers admitted.

 

Added benefit: By switching to computerized delivery of their materials, the educational publishing monopolists would dramatically reduce their costs and increase their profits, for the biggest items on the textbook P&L, after the profits, are costs related to the physical nature of their products–costs for paper, printing, binding, sampling, warehousing, and shipping.

 

By engineering the computer-adaptive ed tech revolution and having that ed tech keyed to responses in proprietary databases that only they had access to, the ed book publishers could kill open source in its cradle and keep themselves from going the way of Smith Corona and whoever it was that manufactured telephone booths.

 

Doing that would prevent the REAL DISRUPTIVE REVOLUTION in education that the educational publishers saw looming–the disruption of THEIR BUSINESS MODEL posed by OPEN-SOURCE TEXTBOOKS.

 

A little history:

Just before its business entirely tanked because of computers, typewriter manufacturer Smith Corona put up a website, the Home page of which read, “And on the 8th day God created Smith Corona.” 2007 was the 50th anniversary of the Standard and Poors Index. On the day the S&P turned 50, 70 percent of the companies that were originally on the Index no longer existed. They had been killed by disruptions that they didn’t see coming.
The educational materials monopolists were smarter. They saw coming at them the disruption of their business model that open-source textbooks would bring about. And so they cooked up computer-adaptive ed tech keyed to standards, with responses in proprietary databases that they would control, to prevent that. The adaptive ed tech/big data/big database transition would maintain and even strengthen their monopoly position.

 

But to make that computer-adaptive ed tech revolution happen and so prevent open-source textbooks from killing their business model, the publishers would first need ONE SET OF NATIONAL STANDARDS. That’s why they paid to have the Common [sic] Core [sic] created. That one set of national standards would provide the tags for their computer-adaptive software. That set of standards would be the list of skills that the software would keep track of in the databases that open-source providers could not get access to. Only they would have access to the BIG DATA.

 

As I have been explaining for a long, long time now, here and elsewhere, the Common Core was the first step in A BUSINESS PLAN.

 

Bill Gates described that business plan DECADES ago. He’s an extraordinarily bright man. Visionary.

 

So, that’s the story, in a nutshell. And it’s not an education story. It’s a business story.

 

And a WHOLE LOTTA EDUCRATS haven’t figured that out and have been totally PLAYED. They are dutifully working for PARCC or SBAC and dutifully attending conferences on implementing the “new, higher standards” and are basically unaware that they have been USED to implement a business plan. They don’t understand that the national standards were simply a necessary part of that plan.

 

And here’s the kicker: The folks behind this plan also see it is a way to reduce, dramatically, the cost of U.S. education. How? Well, the biggest cost, by far, in education is teachers’ salaries and benefits. But, imagine 300 students in a room, all using software, with a single “teacher” walking around to make sure that the tablets are working and to assist when necessary. Good-enough training for the children of the proles. Fewer teacher salaries. More money for data systems and software.

 

Think of the money to be saved.

 

And the money to be made.

 

The wrinkle in the publishers’ plan, of course, is that people don’t like the idea of a single, Orwellian national database. From the point of view of the monopolists, that’s a BIG problem. The database is, after all, the part of the plan that keeps the real disruption, open-source textbooks, from happening–the disruption that would end the traditional textbook business as surely as MP3 downloads ended the music CD business and video killed the radio star.

 

So, with the national database dead, for now, the deformers have to go to plan B.

 

What will they do? Here’s something that’s VERY likely: They will sell database systems state by state, to state education departments, or district by district. Those database systems will simply be each state’s or district’s system (who could object to that?), and only approved vendors (guess who?) will flow through each. Which vendors? Well, the ones with the lobbying bucks and with the money to navigate whatever arcane procedures are created by the states and districts implementing them, with the monopolists’ help, of course. So, the new systems will work basically as the old textbook adoption system did, as an educational materials monopoly protection plan.

 

All this is part of a business plan put in place to prevent the open-source textbook revolution from destroying the business model of the educational materials monopolists.

 

In business, such thinking as I have outlined, above, is called Strategic Planning.

 

So, to recap: to hold onto their monopolies in the age of the Internet, the publishers would use the Big Data ed tech model, which would shut out competitors, and for that, they would need a single set of national standards. The plan that Gates had long had for ed tech proved to be just the ticket. Gates’s plan, and the need to disrupt the open-source disruption before it happened, proved to be a perfect confluence of interest–a confluence that would become a great river of green.

 

The educational publishing monopolists would not only survive but thrive. There would be billions to be made in the switch from textbooks to Big Data and computer-adaptive ed tech. Billions and billions and billions.

 

And that’s why you have the Common [sic] Core [sic].

 

The Education Law Center noted in 2012 that there was a pattern to the distribution of Race to the Top grants:

The states and districts with the most unequal funding won a large share of RTTT grants.

ELC writes:

Since 2009, the US Department of Education’s (USDOE) Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative has given billions in federal funds to states conditioned on launching various education reforms. The USDOE has awarded these grant funds without regard to how equitably the states fund their schools. States control 90% of all school funding, and successful reform requires adequate resources, especially in districts serving high concentrations of low-income students and students with special needs.

In early December, USDOE announced another round of RTTT grant awards, this time to 16 local school districts or groups of school districts. The 16 award winners will share $400 million to support USDOE school reform priorities.

Once again, the RTTT grant process ignores the key precondition for sustaining any meaningful education reform — a fair and equitable state school finance system. The winning RTTT districts are in 12 states, all of which have serious deficiencies in the way they fund schools. Some of the districts are in states with the most inequitable school funding in the nation.

Amanda Potterton of Arizona State University presented this paper at the recent annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Now that these charter chains are going national, it is a good time to review them.

Potterton writes:

Last November, I wrote a commentary published in Teachers College Record about two “highly performing” charter school management organizations (CMOs) in Arizona, BASIS and Great Hearts Academies; I summarize the findings below. These top-ranked schools rarely serve all students. When the demographics of these schools are compared to demographics of all public school students in the state, it is clear that disadvantaged students are vastly underserved by these schools. This is a critical issue that should be considered alongside enthusiastic calls for increasing the numbers of charter schools.

I compared the demographics of these schools using the most recent data available(2010-11) in Common Core of Data (CCD) (U.S. Department of Education, 2013). The BASIS schools I examined did not serve any students who received free or reduced lunches (a common indicator of family poverty), or who were English Language Learners. In comparison, 45% of Arizona’s public school students received free or reduced lunchand 7% were English Language Learners. Few students who had Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) attended BASIS schools, compared to 12% of Arizona’s total student population. Similarly, the Great Hearts Academy schools provided little to no service to students with special needs and to those who were English Language Learners. Five English Language Learners attended Great Hearts schools, four of whom attended Teleos Preparatory Academy. With the exception of Teleos Preparatory Academy, which serves a diverse population of students, all of these top-ranked schools served between 53% and 86% white students. In comparison, 43% of Arizona’s public school students are white. On the other hand, American Indian students, Hispanic students and Black students were underrepresented at these schools compared to state averages (except for Teleos Preparatory Academy, whose majority percentage of students were Black/ non-Hispanic). Among the schools noted above, Teleos serves the greatest number of poor and minority students. According to state accountability data, student achievement at Teleos is lower than student performance at the other Great Hearts Academy schools (Arizona Department of Education, 2013). Producing high test scores with low income minority children is apparently as hard for charter schools to do as it is for regular public schools.

I also highlighted some recent reports about BASIS schools that document questionable methods for enrollment procedures, high attrition rates, and methods including “counseling out” of students who might negatively affect average school performance rankings (Safier, 2013; see also Welner, 2013). The figures above suggest that “highly-ranked” BASIS schools serve a privileged demographic; Safier’s story suggests that they likely select even further amongst that privileged group. Visually striking declines in student enrollment at Arizona’s BASIS and Great Hearts schools in 2010-2011 are evident in the figure below:

Enrollment Declines: Arizona’s BASIS and Great Hearts Schools
enrollment

Other researchers have highlighted declining enrollment numbers in the years nearing graduation at BASIS schools (see, for example, Casanova, 2012). BASIS school representatives responded (BASIS_Communications, 2012) by challenging interpretations of the low numbers shown in the data, albeit without adequately addressing Casanova’s main concern about the “enrollment drop across grades.” Casanova’s analysis highlights the low numbers of enrolled students in the upper grades. The graph displayed above raises a question of basic comparability: is it even fair to include these schools in a comparison with Arizona’s public schools, since they are not drawing a representative population of Arizona’s public school students?

Finally, Ann Ryman (2012) documented business practices within BASIS and Great Hearts Academy schools that reveal potential conflicts of interest between board members and owners (see, also, these comments from Gene V Glass, 2012, here and here). These charter school organizations make large profits at the expense of the government and community members, through fees, book purchases, and building contracts. Other investigators have highlighted questionable practices that provide considerable access to policy makers who influence Arizona’s lawmakers. For example, Mercedes Schneider (2013) created a map of Great Hearts political connections, highlighting significant access between CMO executives and policy makers who influence laws, including members at the Goldwater Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The connections between executives of CMOs and policy leaders who influence lawmakers further complicate the problems of educational inequality and appear to provide charter schools with unfair competitive advantages. Children and taxpayers are the losers when public education dollars are at stake.

Citation:

Potterton, A. U. (2013). A citizen’s response to the President’s charter school education proclamation: With a profile of two “Highly Performing” charter school organizations in Arizona. Teachers College Record. Retrieved from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=17309

References:

Arizona Department of Education (2013). Teleos Preparatory Academy > Great Hearts Academies- Teleos Prep. Retrieved from http://www10.ade.az.gov/ReportCard/SchoolSummary.aspx?id=90143&ReportLevel=1

BASIS_Communications. (2012, April 13). Re: The newest problem with graduation rates. [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-newest-problem-with-graduation-rates/2012/04/12/gIQAwsH2DT_blog.html

Casanova, U. (2012, April 13). The newest problem with graduation rates. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-newest-problem-with-graduation-rates/2012/04/12/gIQAwsH2DT_blog.html

Glass, G. V. (2012, November 18). May I have the envelope please. And the Pulitzer for education reporting goes…. Retrieved from http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2012/11/may-i-have-envelope-please-and-pulitzer.html

Glass, G. V. (2012, December 2). “Judge us by our results”. Retrieved from http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2012/12/judge-us-by-our-results.html

Ryman, A. (2012, October 12). Insiders benefiting in charter deals. Retrieved from http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20121016insiders-benefiting-charter-deals.html

Safier, D. (2013, April 17). BASIS charter’s education model: Success by attrition. Retrieved from http://blogforarizona.net/?p=645

Schneider, M. (2013, March 25). Arizona education: A pocket-lining, “conflict of interest” mecca. Retrieved from http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/arizona-education-a-pocket-lining-conflict-of-interest-mecca/

U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Search for schools, colleges, and libraries. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/globallocator/

Welner, K. G. (2013, April). The dirty dozen: How charter schools influence student enrollment. Teachers College Record. Retrieved from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/TCR-Dirty-Dozen

Parents are not allowed to see the Common Core tests. Teachers do see them. Here is what the teachers at PS 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, say about the tests.

Dear Diane,

WOOHOO! Don’t you feel we’ve reached a turning point? It is amazing to see all of the incredible acts of resistance bubbling up all over the country!

Thank you,

Michelle Kupper
CEC 15 member
Parent, PS 29 Brooklyn

—-

At PS 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, teachers could not wait any longer to speak their minds about the tests. For too long, they had felt the curriculum growing more restricted, the pressure mounting to get their students to perform, and an increasing dissatisfaction with the profession they so love. A group of six progressive teachers wrote a strong position paper on testing with the intention of moving the conversation along in the neighborhood and forging a path of resistance against the testing machine.

Last year, a forum was held at the school about high-stakes testing. Teachers voiced their concerns about the high-stakes nature and growing prominence of the exams. This year, a group of like-minded teachers and parents came together to form an Education Action Committee. The teachers on this committee drafted the resolution and presented it to the staff as test prep was getting underway. They had the resolution ready to go before the tests began. Out of respect for the community and the families helping to ready their children for these stressful exams, however, they decided to delay its release until after the exams were over. It became clear – with the ELA’s incredibly developmentally inappropriate content and ambiguously worded questions – that they could wait no longer to go public with their sentiments.

They advocate for parents to join the movement against high-stakes tests; they advocate that parents raise their voices and take meaningful actions such as contacting legislators and making informed decisions for their children about the tests; and they advocate for parents to gain a better sense of teachers’ sentiments about high-stakes tests and make public the conversations about tests that have been happening in private for years.

The full resolution is below. Thank you to the growing throngs of parents, students, and educators all over the country raising their voices TOGETHER!

PS 29 Teachers Resolution

April 4, 2014

Over the past decade, standardized tests have taken on greater importance in New York’s public schools. New York City’s students now take state ELA and math exams in grades 3 through 8, and their performance on these tests is linked to promotion, middle- and high-school admissions, teacher evaluations and school progress reports.

Because the tests are now aligned with the Common Core State Standards, they have become more difficult, resulting in much lower passing rates across New York City and State. The tests have also become longer: elementary school students will spend between seven and nine hours taking the state tests this month and next, and students with testing accommodations may have to sit for as many as eighteen hours of testing this spring. Moreover, during March and April, students in testing-grade classrooms can spend up to three hours per day preparing for the state tests.

As teachers, we feel the impact of these changes in our classrooms. In testing grades, the anxiety that students and teachers have about the state exams is palpable. Some students break down in tears during testing and related test-prep sessions, knowing that their performance impacts not only their promotion to the next grade, but also their chances of getting into choice middle and high schools.

Compounding the emotional turmoil, teachers in testing grades must narrow their otherwise rich curricula in order to make room for test prep. Subjects like social studies, word study and read aloud are cast aside, and valuable social-emotional learning and exploration must be limited in order to make sure that students are ready for the exams come spring.

High-stakes tests require that teachers narrow not only their curricula but also the skills they emphasize. As teachers in testing grades prepare students for the state exams, they must often put aside their emphasis on skills like elaboration and creative thinking in order to teach kids to write formulaic responses and find the one right answer.

Even the lower grades have been affected by these high-stakes tests. The pressure to prepare students for their upcoming years of testing has cut time for exploration and play. Additionally, that pressure has increased the need for students to meet, at times, developmentally inappropriate milestones in reading and writing.

Beyond the scope of individual classrooms, high-stakes tests have significant consequences for a school as a whole. As teachers are pulled from their programs to accommodate the proctoring and scoring of exams, a number of critical support services, ESL periods, ICT classrooms and specialty programs are disrupted for nearly a month.

When used correctly, we believe that assessment is a powerful tool. At PS 29, we constantly assess our students, collecting meaningful data that informs our day-to-day instruction. Unlike the high-stakes tests, our assessments improve the education we provide.

Across grades, we feel with great certainty that the rise of standardized testing—and most specifically, its high-stakes nature—has eroded real student learning time, narrowed the curriculum and jeopardized the rich, meaningful education our students need and deserve.

As such, we, the undersigned, believe that it is crucial for teachers to raise our voices on these issues, and we resolve to stand together to advocate for the elimination of the high-stakes nature of standardized tests.

Sincerely,

Kim Van Duzer
Leah Brunski
Rachel Knight
Peter Cipparone
Sara Thorne
Susannah Sperry
Liz Sturges Cosentino
Carolyn Rivas
Sophia Soto
Kristen Adamczyk
Sarah McCaffrey
Mollie Lief
Chantelle Luk
Melissa Bandes Golden
Frank Thomas
Jackie Lichter
Tristram Carver
Jessica Albizu
Hana Pardon
Lisa Cohen
Dan Turret
Lauren McGivney
Adam Gerloff
Bradley Frome
Izzi Kane
Molly Dubow
Kathy Nobles
January Mark
Jasmine Junsay
Nadira Udairam
Aaron Berns
Monica Salazar-Austin
Rachel Certner
Alice Pack
Marisa Noiseux

Gerri K. Songer maintains that the Common Core standards misunderstands how students learn to read. In a previous post, she demonstrated that the reading levels of PARCC were set so high and were so unrealistic that they would cause a very high failure rate.

New Research on Text Complexity – CCSS vs. Sound Educational Practice

By: Gerri K. Songer, Education Chair – Illinois Township High School District 214

Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) offers a review of research asserting that it is important for students to read complex text in order to be successful in meeting college and career challenges. CCSS argues, “The research shows that while the complexity of reading demands for college, career, and citizenship have held steady or risen over the past half century, the complexity of texts students are exposed to has steadily decreased in that same interval. In order to address this gap, the CCSS emphasize increasing the complexity of texts students read as a key element in improving reading comprehension.”

The study in Appendix A evaluates six different computer programs:

ATOS by Renaissance Learning
Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) by Questar Assessment, Inc.
Flesch-Kincaid
The Lexile Framework for Reading by MetaMetrics
Reading Maturity by Pearson Education
SourceRater by Educational Testing Service
Easability Indicator by Coh-Metrix
The different qualitative dimensions include:

1. STRUCTURE – Texts of low complexity tend to have simple, well-marked, and conventional structures, whereas texts of high complexity tend to have complex, implicit, and (in literary texts) unconventional structures.

Translation: CCSS finds it more desirable for students to read text that does not follow standard convention rules (i.e. text without an identifiable pattern).

2. LANGUAGE CONVENTIONALITY AND CLARITY – Text that rely on literal, clear, contemporary, and conversational language tend to be easier to read than texts that rely on figurative, ironic, ambiguous, purposefully misleading, archaic, or otherwise unfamiliar language (such as general academic and domain-specific vocabulary).

Translation: CCSS finds it more desirable for students to read text that is unclear, misleading, old, unfamiliar, ironic, and figurative (text that doesn’t say what it means).

3. KNOWLEDGE DEMANDS – Texts that make few assumptions about the extent of readers’ life experiences and the depth of their cultural/literary and content/discipline knowledge are generally less complex than are texts that make many assumptions in one or more of those areas.

Translation: CCSS finds it more desirable for students to read text with which few people can identify in terms of life experience.

4. LEVELS OF MEANING (literary texts) OR PURPOSE (informational texts) – Literary texts with a single level of meaning tend to be easier to read than literary texts with multiple levels of meaning (such as satires, in which the author’s literal message is intentionally at odds with his or her underlying message). Similarly, informational texts with an explicitly stated purpose are generally easier to comprehend than informational texts with an implicit, hidden, or obscure purpose.

Translation: CCSS finds it more desirable for students to read text that has multiple meanings with information that is implied, hidden, or obscure.

SUMMARY: CCSS advocates utilizing text for educational purposes that follows no pattern, that is unclear and misleading, that few people can identify with, and that has multiple meanings.

REALLY? This must go against every best practice strategy in existence! Perhaps this explains why politicians seem to be clueless.
In the quotation above, therefore, CCSS must be demonstrating the following skills:

“The research shows that while the complexity of reading demands for college, career, and citizenship have held steady or risen over the past half century . . . “

Purposely Mislead the Reader (PMR): It has most likely stayed the same over the past half century.

” . . . the complexity of texts students are exposed to has steadily decreased in that same interval.”

Obscure Information Using Multiple Meanings (OIMM): What type of complexity was actually analyzed in the research? From what study was this information taken?

Conclusions Based on Lack of Experience (CBLE): It is obvious CCSS has very little to no experience in helping students become better at reading because they would never advocate for text that follows no pattern, that is unclear and misleading, that few people can identify with, and that has multiple meanings as a means for improving comprehension.

“In order to address this gap . . . “

Figurative Language Lacking Patternization (FLLP): This must be figurative language because all educators know this is not actually happening. The inferred meaning is, “in order to steal public funding and confound future generations of America.” There is no pattern to support a gap actually exists, let alone that CCSS can bridge it. (If truth be told, I made up the term ‘patternization’ as it applies to text complexity. If CCSS advocates misleading, confusing, calling something something that it isn’t, and implying misinformation, I thought I’d give it a shot.)

“. . . increasing the complexity of texts students read as a key element in improving reading comprehension.”

Satiristic Assertion (SA): I have to call this one satiristic assertion because it’s really funny, yet hysterically tragic. Reading comprehension will not be increased by increasing the complexity of text in the manner proposed by CCSS. (I made up Satiristic Assertion too; although, I don’t think CCSS gives bonus points for creativity.)

Reading comprehension is a skill; it is just like learning to throw a football, make a basket, or hit a baseball. Athletes become good at their sport because they consistently practice individual skills.

Recall the first time you learned to ride a bike, throw a ball, or swim. Imagine how, in the beginning, someone demonstrated these activities. Yet, you could only learn so much from watching someone else; eventually, you had to give it a try yourself. With repetition and time, you became proficient in these activities, and perhaps, you may have ultimately excelled at and enjoyed them.

Apply these activities to reading. In the beginning, reading is modeled and taught. But, students can only learn so much from observing others read. At some point, students need to read for themselves. If they practice, they will become proficient, and in the end, they can excel and even enjoy this skill.

In order for students to read, they must practice reading consistently (a minimum of several 20 minute intervals each day) using text that has a vocabulary they understand and a level of complexity they are cognitively able to manipulate. I advocate that students read material they connect with and enjoy, so they are motivated to read rather than turned off by it. As time goes by and students demonstrate mastery of comprehension skills (finding the main idea; identifying supporting details; recognizing sequential, comparative, and cause-effect relationships; understanding the meaning of words; and making generalizations and conclusions) the complexity of text increases, as does vocabulary. I’m not against increasing text complexity, I am against increasing it in a manner aligned with the study produced by CCSS.

As a side note, sequence is a difficult skill for students with learning disabilities to master since most neurologically-based academic deficits include a processing deficit in the area of short-term (working) memory. Sequence is a skill that requires short-term memory; therefore, students with an academic deficit in the area of reading benefit from scaffolded instruction when practicing this skill.

As an English teacher, I would define text complexity in terms of the conventions used to produce the text at sound level and word level(decoding), and at the paragraph level, multi-paragraph level, single text level, and multi-text level (comprehension). These steps apply to all types of literature, including fiction, non-fiction, and informational text.

1. A simple sound would consist of one letter: | f |.
2. A complex sound increases in complexity based on the number of letters blended together: | ph | is more complex than | f |.
3. A simple word would be one syllable: cat.
4. A complex word increases in complexity as it increases in syllables: feline is a more complex word than cat.
5. A simple sentence is one that contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought.
6. A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator.
7. A complex sentence has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence always has a subordinator such asbecause, since, after, although, or when (and many others) or a relative pronoun such as that, who, or which.
8. A simple paragraph would consist of applying comprehension strategies exclusively to one paragraph.
9. Multi-paragraph complexity would increase as the number of paragraphs increase.
10. Simple text would consist of applying comprehension strategies to a text promoting a single point of view.
11. Multi-text complexity would increase as the number of differing viewpoints, either within a single text or within multiple texts, increase.

An error I find that is commonly made in reading instruction is based on the lack of understanding behind how fluency should be used. I have observed that mega-corporations producing reading materials often promote fluency when soliciting comprehension materials.

Fluency is a skill needed for students who are reading at the level of decoding. When these students begin to put together sounds and to form words, fluency is important so students can hear the sounds put together to form a word. At this level, they also need to read more fluently in order to process, or manipulate, the information they read. Sounds become words, words become sentences, and sentences become paragraphs.

Yet there is a grey area between decoding and comprehension where fluency is no longer the objective, comprehension is. No teacher would tell a student struggling with comprehension to, “read faster” (fluency). It is at this point where students actually benefit from slowing down and interacting with text using strategies such as annotation and materials such as graphic organizers related to individual comprehension skills as listed above.

Once students get to this level, it is purely a matter of consistent practice and raising the level of text complexity (as I identified it above) upon mastery of individual comprehension skills, while also increasing their vocabulary. This is similar to how a judo player would advance from one level to the next, for example. Of course, teachers will also have to deal with issues such as student motivation, attendance, the availability of appropriate materials, the number of students in a class, administrative decision-making, and etc. Those issues are beyond the scope of this article. It’s my intent to merely identify the components of solid reading instruction.

As you can clearly see, in contrast to CCSS, this follows a pattern. As demonstrated in the publication, ‘Learning About Numbers With Patterns,’ best practice maintains that children learn better when they can identify patterns. Although this study cites an example related to mathematics, its example can be applied to any discipline. Students learn better when they can see patterns, connect patterns, and build on patterns. This is a complete negation of the educational information CCSS is soliciting to the public.

This superintendent posted a request for help. I will be posting a summary of research on value-added-measurement later today. I think it is fair to say that while economists like VAM (they measure productivity), education researchers overwhelmingly oppose VAM because they know that most of the factors affecting test scores are beyond the control of the teacher.

 

 

I am a Superintendent in Texas and I’m looking for some insight into a connection I just became aware of. The state of Texas has begun the process of revamping principal and teacher evaluations. Recently (in the last few months) the Commissioner of Education reached a compromise with the USDE about NCLB requirements. Part of the compromise required Texas to include test scores in the teacher evaluation tool.

Now I see, taken from the SEDL website ( http://txcc.sedl.org/our_work/), that the states’ work on both the Principal and Teacher Evaluation systems are based on the priorities of the USDE. Unless I’m mistaken, the USDE priorities have been in place for several years. That would make the Commissioner’s “compromise” essentially a lie. He planned all along to implement a system like this. The best remedy to this kind of “in the dark” activity is sunlight.

Can anyone help explain these connections? I realize my explanation is short on details, best I believe the answers could be very enlightening when you consider the following points:
-Texas, especially our governor, has made a point of opposing EVERYTHING Washington
-Texas filed a waiver from NCLB and then pretended the result was the best it could do
– Educators are about to have an evaluation system imposed on them that will for all practical purposes, reestablish High Stakes Testing as a priority in this state by requiring student test scores be a SIGNIFICANT (emphasis TEA) portion of their evaluation

This stuff is not a coincidence, just look at the pattern of reform initiatives in other states. Its only just begun here in Texas.

My email is bendeancarson@gmail.com

THE BELOW INFORMATION IS FROM THE SEDL WEBSITE REFERENCED ABOVE

This project relates to the following USDE Priorities:

Identifying, recruiting, developing, and retaining highly effective teachers and leaders
Identifying and scaling up innovative approaches to teaching and learning that significantly improve student outcomes

 

I came across an article in the Washington Post by Michelle Rhee, in which she chastised parents who opted their children out of state tests. This article made me happy, because it shows that the Queen Bee of high-stakes testing is worried. She is worried that the opt out movement is gaining traction. She is worried that parents are sick of the Status Quo of the past dozen years. If parents opt out, there won’t be enough data to fire teachers, to give bonuses, and to close schools. The Status Quo might collapse. How will we know how students are doing if we don’t test them? How will we know if their teachers are any good without standardized tests? How will we know if their school should be closed?

I must say that I was brought to a sharp halt in my reading of this article when Rhee spoke of what happened when her daughter came home from public school, relieved that the last test was over. This puzzled me because Rhee lives in Sacramento, and her daughters live in Nashville. I wondered, was she visiting Nashville that day? Then I remembered that one of her daughters goes to a public school, and the other goes to an elite private school that does not give standardized tests. How does she know how the daughter in the private school is doing? How can she judge her teachers? How will the principals in that school know if the teachers are doing a good job if the kids don’t take standardized tests? It is very puzzling.

And I wondered about one other thing: Michelle Rhee is a fierce advocate for charters and vouchers because she believes in choice. Why doesn’t she believe that parents should be able to choose to say no to state testing? Many voucher schools are exempt from state testing but I haven’t heard her demand that legislators include them. How will they know how their children are doing?

I wasn’t going to write about Rhee, because she seems so yesterday, but then Peter Greene sent me this hilarious post, and I realized I had to write too. But he is so funny! he calls it: “The WaPo Wastes Space on That Woman.”

The Board of Trustees of the Meridian, Mississippi, public school district voted unanimously to terminate an agreement with Freedom Rock Christian Fellowship Church because the church planned to open a charter school.

 
“Freedom Rock is among a dozen groups statewide that have filed applications for the first charter schools in Mississippi. The Meridian church and its parent organization New Destiny Urban Community Development Corporation have submitted a petition for the New Destiny Charter Academy, also referred to as “The Academy.” The Academy is a two-phase project, which, in the first two years – SY2014-2014 and SY2015-2016 – will serve students from K-3, and beginning in SY2016-17 will begin additionally serving grades 4-5.
The school district and church entered into an agreement in October 2013 for operation of Freedom Rock’s Camp Destiny after school program, which was awarded a $1.7 million 21st Century Grant by the Mississippi Department of Education, with the money to be disbursed over 4.5 years.
“The Department of Education does provide those type of grants, and they are awarded to organizations that have significant relationships with school districts,” Taylor said.
Should Freedom Rock establish a charter school in the district, that would put them in competition with MPSD, Taylor said, adding that the establishment of a charter school in the local school district would mean a loss of state funding and educators for MPSD.
“For example, if a charter school came into our district and they were just mildly successful and were able to attract 100 of our students, the Meridian Public School District would lose 100 students, $1 million dollars, 15 teachers and we would have to close a school building. None of our expenses would go down, we would just lose that much money and teachers,” he said.

 

Common sense: The school board was not prepared to harm its public schools for the sake of a charter school run by the church.

 

In the past few days, the media has barraged us with stories about how American students rank on PISA’s “problem-solving” test. We were told that they scored better than average yet still behind other nations.

 

But what is the test and what does it mean?

 

Andy Hargreaves of Boston College, co-author with Michael Fullan of Professional Capital, tweeted to me an article in the British press that contains examples taken from the test.

 

As I read the questions, I am reminded of standardized test questions I have seen that pop up on tests of reason and logic or on IQ tests.

 

Why don’t we administer the PISA problem-solving test to our state legislators and publish their scores? Or to the top officials at the U.S. Department of Education?

 

Now that would be interesting, wouldn’t it?

 

 

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