Archives for category: Students

If you have not read Rachel Aviv’s “Wrong Answer” in The New Yorker, drop everything and read it now.

Aviv tells the story of the Atlanta cheating scandal through the ideas of one man, one teacher, who cared deeply about his student. Step by step, he got sucked into the data-driven obsession with test scores, thinking that if he raised the children’s test scores, it was a victimless crime. He knew that his students had needs that were even greater than their test scores, but the law’s absurd requirement that scores had to go up year after year drew him into a widespread conspiracy to falsify test scores.

One day will we look back on the Atlanta cheating scandal as the wake up call that made us think about how successive administrations and members of Congress have given their approval to laws and goals that hurt children and warped education? Or will we continue on the present path of destruction?

In this era of Big Data, many organizations want to collect and use personal student data for their own ends. In recent years, the U.S Department of Education has weakened the privacy protections embedded in FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Parent activists wants Congress to take action to protect their children’s privacy rights.

PRESS RELEASE

July 23, 2014

For more information contact:

Leonie Haimson: leonie@classsizematters.org; 401-466-2262; 917-435-9329

Rachael Stickland: info@studentprivacymatters.org; 303-204-1272

New Coalition Urges Congress to Listen to Parents and Strengthen Student Privacy Protections

A new coalition called the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy released a letter today to the leaders of the committees of the House and Senate Education Committees, urging Congress to strengthen FERPA and involve parents in the decision-making process to ensure that their children’s privacy is protected.

Many of the groups and individuals in the Coalition were involved in the battle over inBloom, which closed its doors last spring. They were shocked to learn during this struggle how federal privacy protections and parental rights to protect their children’s safety through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) had eroded over the last decade.

The letter is posted here, and calls for Congress to hold hearings and enact new privacy protections that would minimize the sharing of highly sensitive student data with vendors and among state agencies and would maximize the right of parents to notification and consent. The letter also asks for strict security requirements, that the law be enforceable through fines, and that parents have the right to sue if their children’s privacy is violated.

Rachael Stickland, a leader in the fight for student privacy in Colorado and co-chair of the Coalition to Protect Student Privacy points out, “inBloom’s egregious attempt to siphon off massive amounts of sensitive student information and to share it with for-profit vendors took parents by surprise. Once we learned that recent changes to FERPA allowed non-consensual disclosure of highly personal data, parents became fierce advocates for their children’s privacy. We’re now prepared to organize nationally to promote strong, ethical privacy protections at the state and federal levels.”

Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education said: “Since the passage of FERPA in 1974, parents expected that Congress was protecting the confidentiality of information about their children. However, in recent years, the US Department of Education has rewritten the regulations governing FERPA, eviscerating its purpose and allowing outside parties to gain access to data about children that should not be divulged to vendors and other third parties. The Network for Public Education calls on Congress to strengthen FERPA and restore the protection of families’ right to privacy.”

“The
uprising against inBloom demonstrated the extent to which parents are will not tolerate the misuse of their children’s sensitive personal information,” said Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s Associate Director Josh Golin. “But parents cannot be expected to mobilize against each and every threat to their children’s privacy, particularly if they’re not even aware of which vendors have access to student data. It is critical that Congress take real steps to protect schoolchildren from those who see student data as a commodity to be exploited for profit.”

“Parents Across America, a national network of public school parents, emphatically supports this call for hearings as a first step toward reversing federal actions that have eroded parental authority over student data, and including even stronger privacy protections for our children,” said Julie Woestehoff, a Chicago parent activist and PAA secretary. She added: “PAA recommends restoring parental authority over student data that was removed from FERPA by the US Department of Education, enacting state laws that include parental opt out provisions in any statewide data sharing program, strictly regulating in-school use of electronic hardware and software that collect student information, and including significant parent representation on any advisory committees overseeing student data collection.”

Lisa Guisbond, executive director of Citizens for Public Schools, a Massachusetts public education advocacy group, said, “Citizens for Public Schools members, including many parents, are deeply concerned about threats to the privacy of student information. We support hearings and strong legislation to protect the privacy of this data. Parents are increasingly left out of important education policy discussions. In this, as in all crucial school policy discussions, they must have a voice.”

“Parents will accept nothing less than parental consent, when it comes to their child’s personally identifiable sensitive information. As a parent of a child with special needs, I understand the devastation that confidential information used without my consent could have on my child’s future. As a long-time advocate for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, I implore the U.S. House and Senate to put the necessary language back into FERPA to protect students and uphold the right of their families to control their personally identifiable data,” said Lisa Rudley, Director of Education Policy, Autism Action Network and Co-Founder of NYS Allies for Public Education.

Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project said, “Regardless of intention, the collection of an individual’s personal information is a source of discomfort and intimidation. Government’s broad collection of such information threatens to undermine America’s founding structure: if government intimidates the people, government cannot be by and for the people.”

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and co-chair of the Coalition, concluded, “Since inBloom’s demise, many of the post-mortems have centered around the failure of elected officials and organizations who support more data sharing to include parents in the conversation around student privacy. We are no longer waiting to be invited to this debate. It is up to parents to see that we are heard , not only in statehouses but also in the nation’s capital when it comes to the critical need to safeguard our children’s most sensitive data – which if breached or misused could harm their prospects for life. We are urging Congress to listen to our concerns, and act now.”

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A comment from a Mad Mom in Utah. When the parents wise up and act in concert to protect their children, the toxic reform hoax will collapse.

She writes:

“I live in Utah and I have a third and fourth grader that completed the AIR SAGE test this last school year. Yes, those test are just as long as reported for my children. These tests were given over a number of days and my children suffered from high anxiety on these days and they were exhausted. After the testing was finished I asked them how they felt about it and they said they didn’t really like it because it was long and hard (there is no ceiling). I also heard from my children that some kids in their classes cried or just put their heads down and quit, which is interesting because some of the questions were supposed to get easier if they get a wrong answer on a harder question.

“I spoke with a retiring third grade teacher in another district to see if her experience with SAGE was similar and she said it was awful for the children. She said the tests lasted up to 10 hours for some children because of the essay section. Although, she said she had two students finish the essay in 10 minutes and then they hid under their desks.

“The crazy thing is that in Utah State Code R277-515-4 Educator Responsibility for Maintaining a Safe Learning Environment in Section B4 it states educators “shall take action to protect a student from any known condition detrimental to that student’s physical health, mental health, safety, or learning”. But right after this section, in B5, it states their duty on administering all of this testing. So, which is it Utah? Because I can attest that this testing is doing more harm than good for our children. Should educators administer the tests and remain silent (which I think they are being told to do) or should educators share their experiences so we can learn from them and hopefully do better?

“Shame on those in the position of power in my state for making this happen. And shame on me for allowing my children to be the guinea pigs. I know better; but I was curious. They won’t be taking SAGE tests next year.

“Thank you to all of those that have stood up and have been brave! You have educated me and reminded me that I too can be brave. I have a voice and it is time to use it.”

Common Core standards are usually described in the mainstream media in idealistic terms, using the positive and affirmative messages to sell the idea to the public. Doesn’t everyone want “high standards?” Doesn’t everyone want every single student to be “college and career ready?” Doesn’t everyone want students to be “globally competitive”? Of course. These claims, though untested and unproven, sound poll-tested.

Can standards be both “common” and “high”? If they are truly high and rigorous, won’t a sizable proportion of students fail? Can a single set of standards make everyone college and career ready? How do we know? What does it mean to be “globally competitive” with nations where educated people are paid a fraction of our own minimum wage?

Another way to view the Common Core standards is to see them as part of an integrated system of standards, tests, and teacher ratings that generate data. This data can be used to award bonuses, fire teachers, close schools, and identify students for remediation or college admission. The underlying assumption behind CCSS is that all children, if exposed to common standards, will learn at the same pace.

This post challenges the data-driven approach to school reform. “Data,” it says, “is the fool’s gold of the Common Core.”

He writes:

“Teachers should strive to meet the individual needs of their students, not the “needs” of standards or tests. There should be high academic expectations for all students, but to expect everyone, regardless of ability/disability, to meet those standards simultaneously and in the same way is foolish and inherently unfair.

“Standardized tests are toxic for the Common Core and they are the primary reason for the botched implementation efforts around the country. These tests do not generate comprehensive or reliable data regarding constructivist learning that is called for in the Learning Standards….

“The Common Core testing regime is more about satisfying data-driven enthusiasts’ ‘thirst” for more data, than it is about cultivating students’ thirst for knowledge.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented data collection “gold rush”, while the validity and reliability of this “fool’s gold” is of little concern to those who are mining it.

“The “college and career readiness” mandate or mission of the Common Core is misguided and not in the best interest of all our students. There are many “paths” to trade and vocational careers, and they don’t all go through college.

“Since the Common Core Standards were designed to serve and support the college and career readiness mandate, they are seriously flawed and deficient.

“A more inclusive and appropriate mandate such as readiness for “adulthood and employment” would better serve the academic, social, and emotional needs of all our students. Rather than simply “correcting” the inadequate Common Core standards, they should be reconstructed and redesigned from the ground up.”

Peter Greene here reviews and refutes Campbell Brown’s article in the New York Daily News about why she is bringing a Vergara lawsuit in New York. Campbell Brown was once a CNN anchor; her husband advised Romney and is on the board of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst New York. She is a fierce critic of teacher unions, tenure, and seniority. The lawsuit gives her an opportunity to act on her passionate hatred for veteran teachers while claiming to defend the “rights” of students, as the California sponsors of Vergara did.

Brown has thus far found six families to act as plaintiffs. She says that one of the students wrote an essay complaining about the quality of education she was receiving and was harassed by multiple teachers and had to change schools. Brown assumes that by getting rid of tenure, seniority, and due process, there would magically be a great teacher in every classroom.

Greene writes:

“It’s a good story because it underlines exactly what is problematic about this sort of narrative as a model of teacher evaluation. This could in fact be the story of a student who made a reasonable request, wrote an essay about it, and was unfairly hounded by multiple teachers. While I’d like to say that I can’t imagine that ever happening, it’s certainly not impossible (though the harassing phone calls from plural teachers is hard to imagine).

“But this could also be the story of a student who decide she knew better than a trained professional how the teacher should do his job, got called on it, and had the whole thing blow up when the school tried to deal with her insubordination and disrespect.

“Either version of the story could be the truth. If we put in student hands the nuclear option of ending a teacher’s career, we are certainly, as Brown says she wants to, changing the balance of power. But I’m not sure how we get to excellence in teaching by way of a student smiling and saying, “Mrs. DeGumbuddy, my lawyer and I think you really want to reconsider my grade on this essay.”

He writes:

“Tenure– NY makes teachers wait three years and eighteen observations for tenure. This is the most obvious difference between the New York case and Vergara (California was awarding tenure after less time). This is a hard argument to make– if an administrator can’t tell whether or not she’s got a keeper after three years and eighteen observations, that administrator needs to go get a job selling real estate or groceries, because, damn!

“On the plus side, I look forward to Brown’s accompanying argument that all New York schools should be barred from ever again hiring Teach for America two-year contract temps. If it takes more than three years to determine if a teacher is any good, then clearly TFA is a waste of everybody’s time. Do let me know when Brown brings that up.

“Dismissals– Too long, too hard. I’m not in New York, so I don’t know the real numbers here. This was the weakest part of the state’s case in Vergara– while you can’t rush through these proceedings, there’s no excuse for dragging them out for months and years. It’s not good for either party.”

And he concludes:

“In the meantime, teachers here in the East can now look forward to a PR blitz tearing down teachers in support of a lawsuit designed to dismantle teaching as a profession. We can only hope the ultimate result will be better than the California version of this traveling circus.”

In an article in the New York Times, two scholars explain how best to motivate people in every line of endeavor. Amy Wrzesniewski is an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. Barry Schwartz is a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College.

They make a distinction between internal motivation and instrumental motivation. Usually, psychologists contrast intrinsic motivation (the desire to do something well) and extrinsic motivation (the desire to win a reward for doing something well). Intrinsic motivation wins every time. Carrots and sticks may work for animals, but not so well for people. And yet our policymakers continue to pursue punitive policies that threaten students, teachers, and principals, as well as promises of bonuses and rewards. These policies fail and fail again, yet The Bush administration, the Obama administration, and Congress can’t give up their devotion to failed incentives and punishments.

Want to read the research?

Read Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” Or Edward Deci’s “Why We Do What We Do.” Or Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” or Andrea Gabor’s book about W. Edwards Deming, “The Man Who Discovered Quality,” especially the chapter on why performance pay never works.

And be sure to check out the report of a prestigious commission of the National Academies of Science in 2011 that concluded that test-based accountability had produced meager improvement. Education Week summarized its findings: “Nearly a decade of America’s test-based accountability systems, from “adequate yearly progress” to high school exit exams, has shown little to no positive effect overall on learning and insufficient safeguards against gaming the system, a blue-ribbon committee of the National Academies of Science concludes in a new report.”

Anthony Cody is confused by the contradictions of the corporate reform movement. “On the one hand, we have a seemingly utopian project with bold pronouncements about the boundless capacity of all students – even those with serious learning disabilities – to succeed on ever more difficult tests. On the other hand, we have tests that are apparently intentionally designed to fail in the realm of two thirds of our students.”

Cody considers the views of Bill Gates, who has finally admitted that student motivation plays a role in whether students learn.

Cody points out that student motivation is affected by their sense of their own future. Yet as Gates himself admits:

“Well, technology in general will make capital more attractive than labor over time. Software substitution, you know, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… It’s progressing. And that’s going to force us to rethink how these tax structures work in order to maximize employment, you know, given that, you know, capitalism in general, over time, will create more inequality and technology, over time, will reduce demand for jobs particularly at the lower end of the skill set. And so, you know, we have to adjust, and these things are coming fast. Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

So if there are fewer jobs, a shrinking middle class, and fewer opportunities for social mobility, students face a bleak future. How can they be motivated in an economy where their prospects are dim?

Cody writes:

“Gates is suggesting we increase taxes on consumption by the wealthy, and use those revenues to provide a sort of subsistence level payment to the poor. He opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it might raise employer costs, which they would then try to cut by laying people off.

“Gates is unconcerned about income inequality as an issue. He defines poverty as abject starvation and homelessness, and hopes employers can be convinced to keep on employees because they do not cost very much.

“The motivation of 50 million K12 students in the US is directly related to the degree to which their education leads to a brighter future. We have a big disconnect here when the future does not, in fact, offer much chance at access to college or productive employment. And as Wilkinson and Pickett established in their book The Spirit Level, the level of inequality societies tolerate has a dramatic effect on the mental state and wellbeing of its citizens…..

“As I wrote earlier in the week, there seems to be an attempt to use ever more difficult Common Core aligned tests to certify as many as two thirds of our students as unworthy of such opportunities.

“This brings to mind a dystopian future where an underclass of Common Core test rejects is allowed to subsist with the bare minimum payments required to keep starvation at bay, while a shrinking cadre of insecure workers maintain the machinery that keep the lights on and the crops harvested.

“The fundamental problem of the current economy is that we have not figured out a means by which the top 1% can be persuaded to share the prodigious profits that have flowed from technological advances…

“I cannot reconcile how this future of growing inequality and a shrinking workforce intersects with the grand utopian vision of the Common Core. So then I go back and have to question the validity of the promises made for the Common Core, since the economic projections Gates is making here seem sound….

“These economic problems will not be addressed by Common Core, by charter schools or any other educational reforms. They will not even be addressed in a significant way by what we might praise as authentic education reforms, such as smaller class sizes or more time for teacher collaboration – though these are worthwhile and humane things.
Imperfect as they have been, public schools have been an institution under mostly democratic control, funded by taxpayers, governed by elected school boards, and run by career educators. Market-driven education reform is bringing the cruelty of commerce into what was part of the public sphere, attempting to use test scores to open and close schools like shoe stores, and pay teachers on test score commissions as if we were salesmen.

“The rhetoric of the corporate reform project draws on the modern movement for civil rights, and even Bill Gates asserts that his goal is to fight inequity. But elites have rarely, if ever, designed solutions that diminish their privilege, and this is no exception. It appears that corporate education reform has devised a means to affix blame for inequity on classroom teachers, even as technological advances make it possible to transfer even more wealth into its sponsors’ bank accounts, with fewer people being paid for the work that remains necessary. The promise that the Common Core will prepare everyone for the American dream is made a lie by the intentionally engineered failure rates on Common Core aligned tests.”

Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University offers common-sense ideas about closing the achievement gap. She says that testing is less important than teaching. No surprise there.

She reviews an OECD study about teachers. What it shows is that teachers in the U.S. work longer hours under more difficult conditions than teachers in many other nations.

“Now we have international evidence about something that has a greater effect on learning than testing: Teaching. The results of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), released last week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), offer a stunning picture of the challenges experienced by American teachers, while providing provocative insights into what we might do to foster better teaching — and learning — in the United States.

“In short, the survey shows that American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work. Not surprisingly, two-thirds feel their profession is not valued by society — an indicator that OECD finds is ultimately related to student achievement….

“Nearly two-thirds of U.S. middle-school teachers work in schools where more than 30 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. This is by far the highest rate in the world, and more than triple the average TALIS rate. The next countries in line after the United States are Malaysia and Chile. Ignored by our current education policies are the facts that one in four American children lives below the poverty line and a growing number are homeless, without regular access to food or health care, and stressed by violence and drug abuse around them. Educators now spend a great deal of their time trying to help children and families in their care manage these issues, while they also seek to close skill gaps and promote learning.

“Along with these challenges, U.S. teachers must cope with larger class sizes (27 versus the TALIS average of 24). They also spend many more hours than teachers in any other country directly instructing children each week (27 versus the TALIS average of 19). And they work more hours in total each week than their global counterparts (45 versus the TALIS average of 38), with much less time in their schedules for planning, collaboration, and professional development. This schedule — a leftover of factory-model school designs of the early 1900s — makes it harder for our teachers to find time to work with their colleagues on creating great curriculum and learning new methods, to mark papers, to work individually with students, and to reach out to parents.”

She offers specific proposals for supporting teachers.

She concludes:

“We cannot make major headway in raising student performance and closing the achievement gap until we make progress in closing the teaching gap. That means supporting children equitably outside as well as inside the classroom, creating a profession that is rewarding and well-supported, and designing schools that offer the conditions for both the student and teacher learning that will move American education forward.”

In a big victory for the Providence Student Union, the Rhode Island House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a three-year moratorium on the use of a high-stakes graduation test. The vote was 63-3. A similar bill was passed earlier by the State Senate. The legislation now goes to Governor Lincoln Chafee.

The PSU engaged in numerous acts of political theater to demonstrate their opposition to the use of a standardized test as a graduation requirement. They held a “zombie march” in front of the Rhode Island Department of Education, they invited accomplished professionals to take a test composed of released items from the NECAP test (60% failed), they delivered a “state of the student address,” and they found many other creative ways to dramatize their cause. They proved to the world that kids today are amazing!

The Providence Student Union issued this statement:

“Today, the Rhode Island House of Representatives took a powerful step toward improving education statewide by approving H-8363, a three-year moratorium on the misuse of the NECAP exam as a high-stakes graduation requirement. The bill echoes S-2059 passed by the Senate on May 14th. If signed by Governor Chafee, these bills will ensure that no students from now through the Class of 2017 will be barred from graduating simply because of their score on the state assessment.

“We are so excited by this huge step, and grateful to everyone – students, parents, teachers, legislators, and more – who worked so hard to make this possible. We urge Governor Chafee to side with Rhode Island students and families and sign this moratorium into law,” said Providence Student Union student leader Sam Foer.

“This victory caps the Providence Student Union’s two-year campaign to change Rhode Island’s high-stakes testing graduation requirement and increase public demand for more student-centered alternatives. From zombie marches, guinea pig rallies, and the “Take the Test” event, to State House testimonies and meetings with the Governor, Speaker of the House, and more, the Providence Student Union’s youth membership designed and delivered a highly effective advocacy campaign that those involved attest was key in winning this passage.

“Yet students agree this legislation is just the beginning. As PSU student leader Cauldierre McKay said, “The Providence Student Union will continue to focus on winning the truly high standards, the investments, the student-centered learning, the rigorous performance-based assessments, and the meaningful opportunities all students deserve.”

Somehow, Andrea Gabor got a copy of most of the New York State English Language Arts Common Core-Aligned State tests.

 

She describes them here.

 

She writes:

 

Once again I am in possession of a bit of educational contraband.

For the second year in a row, I have received a copy of the New York State English Language Arts tests for grades 6 to 8, which were administered in April. (Though, this year, my set appeared incomplete as it contained only books one and two for each grade–not the three books that were included last year and that I was told were given this year. So my analysis here is confined to only two booklets for each grade.)

Anyone who has followed the controversy around the introduction of the New York State’s “common-core aligned” tests, knows that there has been a growing backlash–and not necessarily against the common core itself. Rather, a great many educators object to the quality and the quantity of tests–in addition to six days of “common core” testing, New York kids are now finishing the Measurements of Student Learning (MOSL) tests, the sole purpose of which is to evaluate teachers, as well as field tests for next year’s “common core” tests. In the fall, students as young as kindergarteners endured base-line testing for the MOSL.

Most importantly, educators are outraged by the secrecy in which the tests are cloaked.

 

Pearson, which has a $32 million contract with New York, will not permit teachers or anyone else to see the exams.

 

They are hidden by a gag order.

 

This is insane.

 

The value of tests is to learn what students do and do not know or understand

 

If the students, parents, and teachers are not allowed to review the tests, then nothing can be learned from them.

 

There is no point in having tests that are hidden from the view of those who most need whatever information they provide.

 

Of course, the gag order also protects Pearson from public scrutiny and possible discovery of poorly written or inaccurate questions, like the Pineapple questions.

 

So who benefits from the gag order? Not the students.

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