Archives for category: Education Reform

Every once in a while, I come across something so delightful that I want to state it with you.

Here it is.

Under the dictator Pinochet, Chile became devoted to the free-market theories of libertarian economist Milton Friedman. It adopted a voucher system and embrace choice.

Over the years, the schools experienced growing social segregation and little or no improvement.

A vigorous and outraged student movement in Chile demanded changes.

Just today, a news story appeared saying that Chile intends to end public subsidies for private schools. (Oddly enough, the story is from Shanghai!)

We will keep watch on this breaking story.

The story says:

Chilean Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre Thursday reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ending private education.”The pursuit of profit is not a good objective for educational institutions. It is not a good ally of a good education,” Eyzaguirre told a press conference.

The administration of President Michelle Bachelet, who took office in March, has proposed an ambitious overhaul of the education system to provide affordable, quality education, as demanded by a national student movement launched in 2011.

The government’s proposed reforms basically call for greater public spending on education, free primary education, and an end to state-subsidies of private schools and to profit-oriented universities.

“The state needs to withdraw from many productive activities, but not those that are considered a social right,” said Eyzaguirre.

The current educational system, which was increasingly privatized by the previous pro-business administration, creates more tension between the nation’s privileged and working classes, the minister said.

State support for universities will have to be phased in slowly, the minister indicated, as many of the centers of higher education have not been certified.

“We can’t be throwing around public money without ensuring quality,” he said.

To finance the education reform, Bachelet has proposed increasing the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 25 percent, an initiative opposed by the business and conservative political sector, but expected to be adopted by the country’s legislature.

 

 

Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He sees right through the Obama education policy and recognizes that it is a continuation of George W. Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind.

 

In this astonishingly candid interview with Josh Eidelson in Salon, Rep. Grijalva lacerates Race to the Top, high-stakes testing, privatization, and the other features of the Obama education policy.

 

Rep. Grijalva recognizes that the Obama program is now driven by financial interests:

 

Obama’s education secretary is “a market-based person,” his education policy manifests a “market-based philosophy,” and “we continue to starve public schools,” the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus charged in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

 

The privatization of education “began as driven by ideology, but now [it’s] getting momentum because of the financial aspects,” Rep. Raul Grijalva argued to Salon. The Arizona Democrat called charter schools “a step towards” privatization, called the Chicago teachers’ strike a “necessary pushback” and warned of a “self-fulfilling conflict of interest.”

 

 

Grijalva was the first Congressman to support the Network for Public Education’s call for public hearings on the overuse of standardized testing, their costs, and misuse. Not only does he see the problem with high-stakes testing, but he understands that test scores are used to set schools up to fail and to be privatized.

 

He told Eidelson:

 

One of the things driving, right now, education is … mandatory testing … the frequency, the quantity of the testing that’s going on …

I understand accountability. I don’t have a problem with testing as a teaching tool, to help to guide the improvement in children. But what’s happened is the standardized testing has become the end-all-be-all in terms of curriculum, in terms of how you prepare students for the future.

And I think that issues related to what these tests are, how we are impacting communities that have, let’s say, learning disabilities … students who use primarily languages other than English, how are we dealing with cultural differences …

A whole hearing on testing, the culture of testing, and what it is producing for public education.

What you see … is a real move toward the privatization of schools, based on what test results are. A school doesn’t do well, a school doesn’t do well again, then suddenly there is a movement to either let that school be run by private management [or] let the students then go somewhere else — usually to a private charter school.

 

Rep. Grijalva sees the pattern on the rug: The game is rigged to starve public schools and force families to seek private alternatives:

 

And so we see enrollment in our public education system dropping as a consequence of people leaving the schools, or the schools being converted into more private institutions as opposed to the public schools … Public schools are still held to the standards that they should be held to … whatever situation they come into school, that [children] always be treated and educated in the same manner. Yet other schools outside the public institution system can pick and choose who they want to educate … and leave to the public schools a less and less diverse grouping of students, a more difficult group of students, with shrinking resources. At the same time all of this is going on, the funding at a national level and at a state level continues to shrink for public education.

 

Eidelson asks him the crucial question–do you think there is any hope for change from the Obama administration, and Rep. Grijalva gives an insightful, powerful response:

 

I think the fight is keeping some of the worst from happening, No. 1. No. 2, as long as we are resource-deprived in public schools, they’ll never be in that competitive mode that Duncan talks about, OK? As long as we shift public resources to accommodate private ventures in education, and as long as you continue to be myopic about “one mandated test tells us all,” “one Common Core will be the solution …”

There’s also, you know, a shrinking of our curriculum in order to satisfy prepping for tests, as opposed to getting people ready in a more holistic way to be better human beings, and educated better …

If you continue to starve the schools, public education, then they’re never going to be [in] a position to be competitive. And if you do independent analysis, the public education system, compared to private charter schools, is no worse and no better. You know, there’s not a significant difference – yet … we continue to starve public schools. That’s why you see enrollment drop …

There’s a demographic shift going on in our schools … So this is a time to invest in those schools, because this generation of kids of color — with many of them having English learners coming into our public schools — those are the new Americans … Those are the generations of the future …

The public schools have always been one of the most powerful integrative social institutions that we have in our country, that build community and build the kind of allegiance to the values of this nation as part of the education process. Now you have a new demographic group coming into our schools, you’re disinvesting from the schools, and you’re leaving the public schools to that demographic with less resources and less attention. This is a really, really wrong time to be pulling [away] from the commitment to public schools. And it’s probably one of the times in our history when we should be doing more investment. Because this is the generation that is going to have the greatest responsibility for our nation come 10, 20 years from now.

From our friend Robert Shepherd, who may have watched the famous video in which David Coleman–architect of the Commin Core standards, now President of the College Board, which administers the SAT, original treasurer if Muchelle Rrhee’s StudentsFirst–uttered his immortal line about how no one “gives a &@(@” what you feel or think. This was his strong denunciation of personal expository writing. One of the best responses was written by Rebecca Wallace-Segall, a teacher of creative writing, who explained how important it is to allow and encourage young people to find and use their own voices. She wrote: “And where will we be as a nation if we graduate a generation of young people who can write an academic paper on the Civil War but have no power to convey the human experience?”

For David Coleman, in Honor of Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday

The very talented Peter Greene recently posted a humorous piece comparing Rheeformish language to a poop sandwich–nastiness wrapped in glowing phrases (e.g., “higher standards”). I generally love Peter’s writing, but I’ve never been fond of scatological humor. I’m not sure why I have this distaste (other than for the obvious reasons), since I consider swearing one of the most useful and engaging of the many boons conferred upon us by speech.

I once read, in “The American Scholar,” I think, or perhaps it was in “Verbatim,” a tragic report on the paucity of dedicated swear words in classical Latin. The Romans were always envious of the subtlety of the Greek tongue, of its rich resources for philosophical and literary purposes, but the Greeks were even less well endowed with profanities than the Romans were. The poor Romans had to result to graffiti, which they did with wild and glorious abandon, while the Greeks stuck to salacious decoration of vases.

I have a nice little collection of books on cursing in various languages. French, Spanish, German, Italian–the modern European languages, generally–are rich mines of lively expressions. But our language, which has been so promiscuous through the centuries, has to be the finest for cursing that we apes have yet developed. We English speakers are blessed with borrowed riches, there, that speakers of other tongues can only dream of.

So, when I watch a David Coleman video, there’s a lot for me to say, and a lot of choice language to say it with.

Those of you who are English teachers will be familiar with the Homeric catalog. It’s a literary technique that is basically a list. The simple list isn’t much to write home about, you might think, but this humble trope can be extraordinarily effective. Consider the following trove of treasures. What are these all names of? (Take a guess. Don’t cheat. The answer is below.)

Green Darner
Roseate Skimmer
Great Pondhawk
Ringed Cascader
Comet Darner
Banded Pennant
Orange Emperor
Banded Groundling
Black Percher
Little Scarlet
Tau Emerald
Southern Yellowjack
Vagrant Darter
Beautiful Demoiselle
Large Red
Mercury Bluet
Eastern Spectre
Somber Goldenring

Back to my dreams of properly cursing Coleman and the Core, of dumping the full Homeric catalog of English invective on them.

I have wanted to do so on Diane Ravitch’s blog, but Diane doesn’t allow such language in her living room, and I respect that. So I am sending this post, re Coleman and the Core, thinking that perhaps Diane won’t mind a little Shakespeare. (After all, it’s almost Shakespeare’s birthday. His 450th. Happy birthday, Willie!)

Let’s begin with some adjectives:

Artless, beslubbering, bootless, churlish, craven, dissembling, errant, fawning, forward, gleeking, impertinent, loggerheaded, mammering, merkin-faced, mewling, qualling, rank, reeky, rougish, pleeny, scurvie, venomed, villainous, warped and weedy,

And then add some compound participles:

beef-witted, boil-brained, dismal-dreaming, earth-vexing, fen-sucked, folly-fallen, idle-headed, rude-growing, spur-galled, . . .
And round it all off with a noun (pick any one that you please):

Bum-baily
Canker-blossom
Clotpole
Coxcomb
Codpiece
Dewberry
Flap-dragon
Foot-licker
Hugger-mugger
Lout
Mammet
Minnow
Miscreant
Moldwarp
Nut-hock
Puttock
Pumpion
Skainsmate
Varlet

Or, if you want whole statements from the Bard himself:

“Thy tongue outvenoms all the worms of the Nile.” (worms = snakes)

“Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.”

“You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”

“You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!”

“Thou sycophantic, merkin-faced varlet.”

“Thou cream-faced loon!”

There. Glad I got that out of my system.

BTW. Those are names of dragonflies, above. Beautiful, aren’t they? Shakespeare loved odd names of things. Scholars have shown that he used in writing a wider vocabulary than any other author who has ever wrote in our glorious tongue. Again, happy birthday, Willie. What fools those Ed Deformers be!

Perhaps someday historians will figure out how the Obama administration pulled the wool over the eyes of so many people about its plans for urban schools. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama named Professor Linda Darling-Hammond as his senior education advisor. She went on national television to describe the progressive policies he would pursue if elected.

Soon after the election, President-elect Obama dropped Darling-Hammond and selected his basketball buddy Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. He introduced Duncan as someone who had enjoyed remarkable success in turning around the Chicago public schools. We now know that Duncan did not enjoy remarkable success, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is applying a wrecking ball to the Chicago public school system.

What went wrong? How did Obama fool us? Once he was elected, why did he choose as Secretary a non-educator who was determined to make standardized testing the centerpiece of his program, to advance the privatization of America’s public schools, to demoralize teachers, and to make common cause with the nation’s most rightwing governors? Why does Duncan never speak out against segregation? Why does he pretend that poverty doesn’t matter so long as poor kids have “great” teachers? Why does he never speak out against vouchers? What will historians say about Race to the Top, which turns out to have as much evidence as No Child Left Behind?

 

The Obama Administration’s “Scorched Earth Policy” for Urban Schools

By Dr. Mark Naison

The Obama Administration, in the five years it has been in office, has pursued an Education “Scorched Earth” policy in major urban centers, closing public schools en masse and replacing them with charter schools. And for the most part, Democratic Mayors have enthusiastically supported this policy. Only in the last year, there has been finally been some resistance to this policy, by newly elected Mayors in New York and Pittsburgh. That resistance must spread if public education is to survive and be revitalized in Urban America. Electing anti-testing, anti-charter school and pro public school Mayors in big cities should be a major priority of activists in the last three years of the Obama Presidency, along with building the multi-partisan movement against the Common Core Standards. That is the only way we can build public schools into strong community institutions where creative teaching and learning is practiced and honored.

 

Dr. Mark Naison is one of the Co-founders of BATs with Priscilla Sanstead

http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-obama-administrations-scorched.html

Peter Schrag has written sensibly about education issues for many years.

In this article, he analyzes the complexities of the Vergara trial, in which a rich and powerful coalition of corporate reformers are trying to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

In the end, he argues, the outcome of the trial won’t change much for poor kids.

If the plaintiffs win, some very good veteran teachers may be fired to save money.

The legislature will enact some new laws, perhaps basing layoffs on “effectiveness” (i.e. test scores) rather than due process, but as we know from the recent report of the American Statistical Association, test-based accountability (VAM) is fraught with problems and will end up stigmatizing those who teach in high-poverty schools.

He quotes Russlyn Ali, who was Secretary Arne Duncan’s assistant secretary for civil rights and is now supporting the Vergara plaintiffs:

 

Laws that make it hard to dismiss or replace teachers were originally designed to protect them against the nepotism and the racial, social and cultural biases that were all too common in education until well after World War II. If those protections are curtailed, and if a new system relying heavily on “effectiveness” — itself an uncertain standard — is put in place, what’s to say it won’t make teachers competitors and undermine morale and collaboration?
It’s possible that if the courts find that the tenure laws in this case offend constitutional equal protection guarantees, many of the system’s other inequities might be open to legal challenge as well. Ali, among others, has that hope, and she sees Vergara as a first step in that larger battle.
But if the Vergara plaintiffs win a resounding victory in this case, don’t look for any quick change in the schools or some great improvement in outcomes for disadvantaged kids. There are just too many other uncertainties, too many inequities, too many other unmet needs.

 

My view: the trial continues the blame game favored by the Obama administration and the billionaire boys’ club, in which they blame “bad” teachers as the main culprit in low academic performance. Their refusal to recognize that standardized tests accurately measure family income and family education is their blind spot. It is easier to blame teachers than to take strong action to reduce poverty and racial segregation. It is sad and ironic that the most segregated schools in the United States today are charter schools, yet the Obama administration wants more of them. If the Vergara plaintiffs win, there will be fewer teachers eager to risk their reputation teaching the kids who have the greatest needs. If the plaintiffs win, this case will then be a setback for the rights of the kids, no victory at all.

 

If the corporate reformers refuse to attack the root causes of low test scores, then Peter Schrag is quite right to say that nothing much will change.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-schrag-vergara-teacher-union-20140403,0,3459594.story#ixzz2ygmthcp2

 

Principals, teachers, and parents in New York state complained that the Common Core tests for grades 3-8 were too long. The tests for math and reading together take about 7 hours. Commissioner John King responded in a recent speech at New York University that students were spending “less than 1%” of the school year, which is sort of an odd way to explain (defend) 7 hours of testing for little children.

 

One of our readers decided to compare the amount of time required foe Common Core testing to the amount of time required for other examinations typically administered to college applicants or adults:

 

So I was curious about other standardized tests and how they compare to the tests they expect 8-13 years olds to do. Why would an 8-year old need to sit for longer than 7 hours to see if they can read and do math which is longer than every test until you get to the NYS bar exam.

 

GRE:
The overall testing time for the computer-based GRE® revised General Test is about three hours and 45 minutes. There are six sections with a 10-minute break following the third section. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about/content/cbt/

 

SAT:
The SAT is made up of 10 sections:

A 25-minute essay
Six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
Two 20-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
A 10-minute multiple-choice writing section

Total test time: 3 hours and 45 minutes

You’ll also get three short breaks during the testing, so don’t forget to bring a snack!

http://sat.collegeboard.org/about-tests/sat/faq

 

LSAT:

The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. These sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to preequate new test forms. The placement of this section in the LSAT will vary. The score scale for the LSAT is 120 to 180. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. The writing sample is not scored by LSAC, but copies are sent to all law schools to which you apply.

http://www.lsac.org/jd/help/faqs-lsat

 

MCAT (Medical school)

Total seated time 5 hours and 10 minutes and total content time 4 hours and 5 minutes.

https://www.aamc.org/students/download/63060/data/mcatessentials.pdf

 

NY Bar Exam:

Schedule for First Day of the Examination (Tuesday):
In the morning session, which begins at 9:00 A.M. and ends at 12:15 P.M., applicants must complete three essays and the 50 multiple choice questions in three hours and 15 minutes. Although applicants are free to use their time as they choose, the Board estimates an allocation of 40 minutes per essay and 1.5 minutes per multiple choice question.

In the afternoon session, which begins at 2:00 P.M. and ends at 5:00 P.M., applicants must complete the remaining two essay questions and the MPT in three hours. Again, although applicants are free to use their time as they choose, the National Conference of Bar Examiners developed the MPT with the intention that it be used as a 90-minute test. Therefore, the Board recommends that applicants allocate 90 minutes to the MPT and 45 minutes to each essay.

 

Schedule for Second Day of the Examination – MBE (Wednesday):
The second day of the examination is the Multistate Bar Examination. The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a six-hour, two-hundred question multiple-choice examination covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, and real property. The examination is divided into two periods of three hours each, one in the morning [9:30am to 12:30pm] and one in the afternoon [2:00pm to 5:00pm], with 100 questions in each period.

http://www.nybarexam.org/TheBar/TheBar.htm#descrip

In 2006, Xavier High School students wrote letters to their favorite authors, inviting them to visit their school. Kurt Vonnegut–then 84–was the only one to reply. He wrote a letter explaining that he was too old to make the visit, but he offered them sound advice about how to get a real education.

 

Please read his letter.

 

Among other things, it speaks to the current obsession with bonuses and punishments, with grades and test scores and other ways of signifying success or failure.

In this post, New Jersey high school teacher Dan Ferat reflects on how many tests he is now required to give to his students, as compared to ten years ago.

 

Here is a sample, read it all:

 

So, in only ten years, we have gone from students taking five exams per year (six for juniors with the HSPA) to 34 exams per year (30 for seniors) with many more in sight because there will be a PARCC for EVERY SUBJECT supposedly because there are CCCS for every subject except electives (plus those PSAT/SAT/ACT tests which I’m not even counting).

 

Forget the amount of time teachers will have to spend grading all these exams and writing them and adjusting them over the years. Honestly, that’s beside the point when it comes to education. It’s true we don’t get enough time “on the clock” as it is, but the real issue is the students. See, I always thought education was about LEARNING a subject in a classroom from readings, teachers, and experiences (like labs). But with all this testing, there will be less learning and more studying for tests. We teachers are evaluated on how well our students do on all the tests, so of course we’re going to teach to them. One would be a complete moron not to since one can wind up fired if one gets too low scores in two years. This will narrow curricula, which means less information and fewer skills learned. It will standardize curricula more, which means fewer choices for students and less of a need for EXPERIENCED TEACHERS, who share so much of their insight and experiences with students to bring their subjects to life. But if everything is just straight out of a book, like a script, all you need is a warm body to watch the kids and lead them through the standardized curriculum.

 

If parents understood this, they would not be happy. They would begin to recognize what the legislators and the federal government are doing to undermine genuine education and to dampen students’ ardor for learning as well as to demoralize teachers.

 

 

A few days ago, I published a post about a paper by Kirabo Jackson, explaining that the non-cognitive effects of teachers are often more important than the test scores of their students.

 

As it happened, mathematician Robert Berkman read the paper and explains here why it is another nail in the coffin of value-added measures, which judge teacher quality by the rise or fall of student test scores.

 

Berkman writes:

 

In this post, I’m going to examine one of the studies that no doubt had a profound impact on the members of AMSTAT that led them to this radical (but self-evident) conclusion. In 2012, the researcher C. Kirabo Jackson at Northwestern University published a “working paper” for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works (I’m quoting here from their website.) The paper, entitled “Non-Cognitive Ability, Test Scores, and Teacher Quality: Evidence from 9th Grade Teachers in North Carolina” questions the legitimacy of evaluating a teacher based on his/her students’ test scores. Actually, it is less about “questioning” and more about “decimating” and “annihilating” the practice of VAM.

 

He adds:

 

What should be noted is that Jackson is not an educational researcher, per se. Jackson was trained in economics at Harvard and Yale and is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy. His interest is in optimizing measurement systems, not taking positions on either side of the standardized testing debate. Although this paper should reek with indignation and anger, it makes it’s case using almost understated tone and is filled with careful phrasing like “more than half of teachers who would improve long run outcomes may not be identified using test scores alone,” and “one might worry that test-based accountability may induce teachers to divert effort away from improving students’ non-cognitive skills in order to improve test scores.”

But lets get to the meat of the matter, because this paper is 42 pages long and incorporates mind-boggling statistical techniques that account for every variable one might want to filter out to answer the question: are test scores enough to judge the effectiveness of a teacher? Jackson’s unequivocal conclusion: no, not even remotely.

 

The only puzzle is why Arne Duncan keeps shoving VAM down the throats of states and school districts.

 

 

PS: Berkman added his credentials in a comment:

“I’m a math teacher who has worked with pre-K through college aged students for 30 years. My degrees are in Urban Studies, and Elementary Math Education. I have also done extensive work in neuroscience and numeracy, as well as technology and education, not to mention cognitive science.”
 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95,457 other followers