Archives for category: Education Reform

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.

A dozen superintendents in Connecticut issued a manifesto for real reform. It is one that parents and teachers–and students too!–would happily embrace in place of the current stale and test-driven juggernaut that crushes learning and creativity.

They say, in part:

“Our public school landscape is littered with initiatives, while the vision for learning in Connecticut lacks clarity and coherence. In this “vision void” our measures (i.e. test scores) have become our goals, confounding the purpose of schooling and perpetuating yet another round of piecemeal initiatives.

“The path we should avoid taking is the one that implements the NCLB waiver plan as the de facto vision for the education of Connecticut’s children. Instead we should identify a clear and compelling vision for education in our state and employ all of our resources to achieve it. Staying the course of current reform efforts without a deep analysis of the effects in actual classrooms across the state will further cement the system of compliance and “one size fits all” that grips our very diverse school districts like a vise.

“One way to clarify the vision is to answer the direct and simple questions:

“What are the most worthy outcomes of our public education system?

“Are we preparing our students for the world they will enter when they graduate?

“Is our public education system positioned for continuous improvement, as opposed to ranking, sorting and punishing?

“To what extent do our laws increase conformity at the expense of innovation?

“The answers to these questions imply the need to foster the cognitive, social/emotional and interpersonal student capacities for work, citizenship and life. Additionally, they demand a deep analysis of the systemic efforts to continuously improve. Confronting these questions, and others, will require:

“A redefinition of the role of testing,

“An accountability model (mandatory in the NCLB waiver) matched to a clarified vision for 21st Century learning in Connecticut

“Statewide systems that incentivize innovation and a broad sharing of innovative programs…”

“Districts and teachers are suffocating from a “one size fits all”, compliance-based approach to schooling. One size does not fit all in education, no more than it does in medicine, social work or any other endeavor in which human beings are at the core of the enterprise. In an era that rewards and requires innovative thinking to solve complex problems, public schools have endured a stifling of professional autonomy through increased standardization and homogenization. As a result, energy is drained, a passion for teaching and learning evaporates, and many teachers and leaders question the lack of purpose to their work. Some ways to foster innovation include:

“Creating a “Districts of Innovation” program through which the State Department of Education would administer a rigorous process identifying various district approaches to current challenges faced by schools, such as, reducing bullying, improving school climate, evaluating the performance of individual teachers and administrators, etc. These districts would apply for a waiver or modification from state requirements in order to innovate their practices, while analyzing the impact. These districts could be required to partner with a university, commit to sharing their results, and, if successful, serve as a provider of professional development for other districts. The incubation of fresh, innovative ideas, by classroom teachers and administrators would exponentially grow the capacity of educators in the state.

“Working with Regional Education Service Centers (RESC) to develop an “expert in residence” program with area districts. Districts could grant a yearlong sabbatical to individual teachers to share their innovative work and provide professional development to schools across the state.
Pairing schools to work across different districts to collaboratively confront professional challenges. These partnerships could foster such promising practices as “lesson study”, peer to peer observations, and collaborative analysis of student work.”

These are but a few of the good ideas, grounded in experience and research, that these thoughtful superintendents propose. It is a vision for positive reform that should replace the sterile strategy of carrots and sticks.

This statement was posted as a comment on the blog:

 

 

The Rights of the Children

 

An education is the right for us, the children

And even now here in the USA

More than half of us don’t have enough clothes or food

Please don’t test our educational rights away

Don’t fire those teachers who are on our side

Please don’t make them go away

Just because we couldn’t get those very high scores

Testing us doesn’t help us learn more

Testing us more doesn’t increase our scores

An education is our ticket to our future lives

So our kids won’t come home to what we do now

An empty home, an empty house

No one to help us study or do homework

Because our parents have to work hard and long

They do not care about tests, but they care what we learn

Please don’t test our educational rights away

Don’t fire those teachers who are on our side

Please don’t make them go away

Just because we couldn’t get those very high scores

Testing us doesn’t help us learn more

Testing us more doesn’t increase our scores

An education is our ticket to our future lives

Cynthia DeMone

A suggestion from a very creative and imaginative reader:

 

Someone suggested attaching hashtags #PARCC and #Pearson, or just using those words, in all tweets. Sharing your Aunt Celia’s mac and cheese recipe? #Pearson. Tweeting about the next big storm coming? #PARCC Congratulating your cousin on his promotion? “Great job, Cousin Joe! You worked hard for this. PARCC!”

 

Their monitoring system would be overloaded with hits.

 

Why not add #SBAC and other hashtags that will draw attention from the overseers??

I was invited to write an article for the notable publication EdSource in California about the reauthorization of NCLB.

 

I have no illusions that anyone in Congress is paying attention, but this is what I believe needs to be done to end the madness of high-stakes testing and the use of federal law to expand choice instead of equity.

 

My article was a response to Secretary Duncan, who had written a piece called “How Not to Fix NCLB.”

 

I wrote:

 

Instead of talking about “how not to fix NCLB,” here are a few ideas for how genuinely to fix NCLB:

 

Restore the original purpose of the ESEA: equity for poor children and the schools they attend. These schools need more money for smaller classes, social workers, nurses, and librarians, not more testing.
Designate federal aid for reducing class size, for intensive tutoring by certified teachers and for other interventions that are known to be effective.
Raise standards for those entering teaching.
Eliminate the testing and accountability portions of the law and leave decisions about when and how often to test to states and districts.
Rely on the federal testing program – the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – to provide an audit of every state’s progress. NAEP data are disaggregated by race, gender, ethnicity, language and disability status. NAEP tracks achievement gaps between blacks and whites and Hispanics and whites. Anyone who wishes to compare Missouri and California can easily do so with NAEP data that measures performance in reading and math in 4th and 8th grade every two years.
Testing every child every year in grades 3-8 and 11 is an enormous waste of money and instructional time. Testing samples of students, as the NAEP does, tells us whatever we need to know. Teachers should write their own tests; they know what they taught and what their students should have learned. Use normed standardized tests only for diagnostic purposes, to help students, not to reward or punish them and not to reward or punish their teachers or close their schools.

 

 

Jersey Jazzman, aka Mark Weber (public school teacher, public school parent, and doctoral student at Rutgers University) testified before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools of the New Jersey Legislature about “One Newark,” the plan devised by Cami Anderson, state-appointed superintendent of the Newark school district.

 

Weber says:

 

Our research a year ago led us to conclude that there was little reason to believe One Newark would lead to better educational outcomes for students. There was little empirical evidence to support the contention that closing or reconstituting schools under One Newark’s “Renew School” plan would improve student performance. There was little reason to believe converting district schools into charter schools would help students enrolled in the Newark Public Schools (NPS). And we were concerned that the plan would have a racially disparate impact on both staff and students.

 

In the year since my testimony, we have seen a great public outcry against One Newark. We’ve also heard repeated claims made by State Superintendent Cami Anderson and her staff that Newark’s schools have improved under her leadership, and that One Newark will improve that city’s system of schools.

 

To be clear: it is far too early to make any claims, pro or con, about the effect of One Newark on academic outcomes; the plan was only implemented this past fall. Nevertheless, after an additional year of research and analysis, it remains my conclusion that there is no evidence One Newark will improve student outcomes.

 

Further, after having studied the effects of “renewal” on the eight schools selected by State Superintendent Anderson for interventions in 2012, it is my conclusion that the evidence suggests the reforms she and her staff have implemented have not only failed to improve student achievement in Newark; they have had a racially disparate impact on the NPS certificated teaching and support staff.

Weber asks at the outset why the New Jersey Department of Education is not doing the kind of independent research that he presents. Could it be that the Department answers  to Governor Christie, as does Cami Anderson. It may be wishful thinking to expect nonpartisan research when education agencies are politicized.

 

The four components of “One Newark” are charter schools, “renewal” schools, consumer choice, and continuing state control. Without the last component, the others would surely be eliminated, based on the negative reaction of parents and students to the plan.

 

Weber demonstrates that Newark’s charter schools are not serving the same demographics as the public schools, and that the charters had few advantages over the public schools. Furthermore, the charters spend more on administration and less on support services for students.

 

As for the “Renew” schools, Weber says there is no evidence that terminating the entire staff of a school leads to improvement of the school. My review of the research shows that there is no evidence that reconstitution is a consistently successful strategy for improving schools. In fact, reconstitution can often be risky, leading to students enrolling in schools that underperform compared to where they were previously enrolled.

 

He ends his testimony by calling again for the state education department to exercise oversight and to provide the impartial data analysis that will help policymakers. He and the state’s education scholars stand ready to help.

 

 

 

I just read a comment posted by a reader, who pointed out that Pearson has an official policy about the use of social media.

 

Here is a portion:

 

How we use social media
Here you’ll find details of how we use social media such as Facebook and Twitter and the kind of response you can expect from us.
We have an active presence on social media and encourage students to use it too. It’s a great way to find information and share ideas, particularly when you’re revising for exams……

 

We also:
review Tweets about our brands (e.g. ‘Edexcel’ and ‘BTEC’) that don’t directly tag our profiles
monitor social media platforms such as Google+ and other online forums
We may not reply directly to these types of posts, but we monitor them to make sure that any of you with questions are getting the answers you need.
Monitoring activity on social media allows us to continuously improve the service we offer by keeping us up-to-date with what you’re saying about us online. In the past, this has helped us to identify problems with our website, driving improvements to our student pages.
Discussing us or our assessments online
Sharing ideas with others online can be really beneficial when you’re studying or revising. However, there are limits to the amount of information you can share, and you need to be careful not to break the rules. If you’re in doubt about what you can and can’t discuss, it’s always best to check with your teacher.
Sharing too much information with others is an example of ‘malpractice’. Other examples include:
copying someone else’s work or allowing your work to be copied
allowing others to help produce your work or helping others with theirs
being in possession of confidential material in advance of an exam
taking unauthorised items into an exam, such as a mobile phone or extra notes
passing on rumours of exam content
discussing the content of an exam before the paper has been completed in other parts of the world
threatening or harassing staff at an awarding organisation.
We have an obligation to investigate any case where there is the suggestion that you’ve acted improperly. If you are found to have broken the rules, you could face one of the following penalties:
a warning
the loss of marks for a section, component or unit
disqualification from a unit, all units or qualifications
a ban from sitting exams for a set period of time.
We understand that sometimes you are going to talk about us and our assessments with your friends. During stressful periods, some comments may not be very flattering. However, we’d like to ask you to act responsibly when discussing us or your exams and coursework online.

 

 

After Bob Braun published a post breaking the news that Pearson was spying on students’ social media during PARCC testing, his blog was shut down. If you read his note below, it will not be clear to you, as it is not clear to me, whether his site was shut down by the attack or by him, “to stop the attack.” Frankly, I would have no idea how to shut down my site. If you clicked on the link, you got a screen that says, “This Account Has Been Suspended.”

 

Bob Braun posted this note on his Facebook page:

 

TO MY BLOG AND FACEBOOK FRIENDS: My site has been attacked and has been shut down to stop the attack. You might want to contact Pearson and let them know you don’t appreciate suppression of legitimate news.

https://www.facebook.com/bobbraunsledger/posts/643285842467702?fref=nf

 

Here is the text of the original post and here is the original link: http://bobbraunsledger.com/breaking-pearson-nj-spying-on-social-media-of-students-taking-parcc-tests/

 

MARCH 13, 2015
BREAKING: Pearson, NJ, spying on social media of students taking PARCC tests
 ” Pearson, the multinational testing and publishing company, is spying on the social media posts of students–including those from New Jersey–while the children are taking their PARCC, statewide tests, this site has learned exclusively. The state education department is cooperating with this spying and has asked at least one school district to discipline students who may have said something inappropriate about the tests.

 This website discovered the unauthorized and hidden spying thanks to educators who informed it of the practice–a practice happening throughout the state and apparently throughout the country. The spying–or “monitoring,” to use Pearson’s word–was confirmed at one school district–the Watchung Hills Regional High School district in Warren by its superintendent, Elizabeth Jewett.
Jewett sent out an e-mail–posted here– to her colleagues expressing concern about the unauthorized spying on students. She said parents are upset and added that she thought Pearson’s behavior would contribute to the growing “opt out” movement.
In her email, Jewett said the district’s testing coordinator received a late night call from the state education department saying that Pearson had “initiated a Priority 1 Alert for an item breach within our school.”
The unnamed state education department employee contended a student took a picture of a test item and tweeted it. But it turned out the student had posted–at 3:18 pm, after testing was over–a tweet about one of the items with no picture. Jewett does not say the student revealed a question. Jewett continues:

 

“The student deleted the tweet and we spoke with the parent–who was obviously highly concerned as to her child’s tweets being monitored by the DOE (state education department).
“The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during the PARCC testing.”

A report from public education champion Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy:

“Thorough and efficient system of common schools clause will stay in the Ohio Constitution

“The Education, Public Institutions, and Local Government committee of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission (OCMC) voted unanimously to retain the thorough and efficient system of common schools in the Ohio Constitution during the committee meeting today, March 12, 2015.

“In April 2014, the chair of the committee proposed that this clause be removed from the Ohio Constitution. Subsequently, a loud cry of protest reverberated across Ohio, particularly from the education community.

“Thank you to those who testified before the committee and those who made their opinions known to committee members and other state officials.

“The kids of Ohio won one today!”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

A group of school superintendents in New York banded together in late February to form The Alliance to Save Public Education.  They currently number 30 superintendents from Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and Monroe County. They invite other superintendents from across the state to join them in signing their Declaration below. They welcome the signatures of school board presidents and leaders of parent associations as well.

 

 

Please contact your Superintendent, Board President, or PTA President to sign:

 

Print it, then sign the printout with a dark flair-type pen in a blank spot 

 

Scan & email it (or fax it) back to dgamberg@southoldufsd.com

You can download the letter to print here.

 

 

Here is the text of the letter:

 

 

March X, 2015

 

Dear Lawmaker:

 

Every day, nearly three million children and adolescents attend New York State’s public schools:  upstate and downstate, rural, urban and suburban, small, medium and large.  The variety is immense.  It may be painfully true that 109,000 students attend failing schools in New York State, but it also means that between 2.8 and 2.9 million students are attending successful schools.  Even in successful schools, we are familiar with a certain percentage of our children who fail.  We are constantly looking for ways within those systems to discover new and better methods to teach those struggling students and eliminate failure from the landscape of our public schools.  However, we must continue to support the segments of our systems that can create success.  In fact, they should be celebrated and replicated where possible.  The current effort at State reform, rather than focusing on our success and supporting what works effectively, appears to focus only on the State’s failures.  Failures can never be ignored, and do in fact need to be fixed, but not at the expense of damaging what creates our successful schools.

 

The Governor’s agenda is connecting the politics of State aid to education policy … AT WHAT COST?

 

The Governor’s agenda is removing control of our schools from our local communities … AT WHAT COST?

 

At what cost do we over test our students?  It must not be at the cost of our children, and our communities.

 

New York’s public schools include many that sustain student learning at high levels, and also some schools that fall below everyone’s expectations.  We believe the best use of our resources allows schools that work to continue to do so, and, at the same time, to support schools that need help to engage their students at the level we expect for all children.  In a state as varied as New York, a one-size-fits-all approach to school improvement is bound to damage schools that already engender students success, while dissipating the focused support that failing school require, to meet the needs of their students.

 

We urge the legislature to refrain from enacting the Governor’s proposals without a thoughtful debate.

 

Sincerely,

 

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