Archives for category: Students

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.

EduShyster has figured out who were the real winners in the Vergara trial.

First, of course is the public relations firm behind Students Matter, which is now the go-to group for civil rights issues, just as if the Brown decision had a PR firm and was bankrolled by one wealthy guy. Then there are the lawyers, who will clean up as litigation to replicate Vergara moves from state to state. Also the Billionaires who love low-income children more than those who actually work with them every day. Lots of winners. Oh, yes, and students, although it is not so clear what they won.

Many charters in Néw Orleans tape a line in their hallways and insist that students must walk on the correct side of the line.

Reporter Danielle Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune writes here about this controversial policy and includes a video created by the charters to explain the value of this practice.

“Critics say it prepares students for prison, not college. A civil rights complaint filed this spring accuses Collegiate of imposing unnecessarily harsh penalties for stepping outside the lines — even, in one case, when a student’s disability made walking difficult.”

Defenders of the policy say it saves time and teaches automatic obedience to small rules, which later translates into unquestioning obedience to rules and authority, preparing students to succeed in life.

Judge Rolf M. Treu, who decided the Vergara case , declared that he was shocked, shocked to learn from Professor Raj Chetty and Professor Thomas Kane of Harvard about the enormous harm that one “grossly ineffective” teacher can do to a child’s lifetime earnings or to their academic gains.

How did he define “grossly ineffective” teacher? He didn’t. How did these dreadful teachers get tenure? Clearly, some grossly incompetent principal must have granted it to them. What was the basis–factual or theoretical–that the students would have had high scores if their teachers did not have the right to due process? He didn’t say.

The theory behind the case–as I see it–is that low test scores are caused by bad teachers. Get rid of the bad teachers, replace them with average teachers, and all students will get high test scores. You might call it the judicial version of No Child Left Behind–that is, pull the right policy levers–say, testing and accountability–and every single child in America will be proficient by 2014. Congress should hang its collective head in shame for having passed that ridiculous law, yet it still sits on the books as the scorned, ineffective, toxic law of the land.

You might also say that Judge Treu was regurgitating the unproven claims behind Race to the Top, specifically that using test scores to evaluate teachers will make it possible to weed out “bad teachers,” recruit and reward top teachers, and test scores will rise to the top. Given this theory, a concept like tenure (due process) slows down the effort to fire those “grossly ineffective” teachers and delays the day when every student is proficient.

Relying on Chetty and Kane, Judge Treu is quite certain that the theory of universal proficiency is correct. Thus, in his thinking, it becomes a matter of urgency to eliminate tenure, seniority, and any other legal protection for teachers, leaving principals free to fire them promptly, without delay or hindrance.

Set aside for the moment that this decision lacks any evidentiary basis. Another judge might have heard the same parade of witnesses and reached a different conclusion.

Bear in mind that the case will be appealed to a higher court, and will continue to be appealed until there is no higher court.

It is not unreasonable to believe that the California Teachers Association might negotiate a different tenure process with the Legislature, perhaps a requirement of three years probationary status instead of two.

The one thing that does seem certain is that, contrary to the victory claims of hedge fund managers and rightwing editorial writers, no student will gain anything as a result of this decision. Millions more dollars will be spent to litigate the issues in California and elsewhere, but what will students gain? Nothing. The poorest, neediest students will still be in schools that lack the resources to meet their needs. They will still be in schools where classes are too large. They will still be in buildings that need repairs. They will still be in schools where the arts program and nurses and counselors were eliminated by budget cuts.

If their principals fire all or most or some of their teachers, who will take their places? There is no long line of superb teachers waiting for a chance to teach in inner-city schools. Chetty and Kane blithely assume that those who are fired will be replaced by better teachers. How do they know that?

Let’s be clear. No “grossly ineffective” teacher should ever get tenure. Only a “grossly ineffective” principal would give tenure to a “grossly ineffective” teacher. Teachers do not give tenure to themselves.

Unfortunately, the Vergara decision is the latest example of the blame-shifting strategy of the privatization movement. Instead of acknowledging that test scores are highly correlated with family income, they prefer to blame teachers and the very idea of public education. If they were truly interested in supporting the needs of the children, the backers of this case would be advocating for smaller classes, for arts programs, for well-equipped and up-to-date schools, for after-school programs, for health clinics, for librarians and counselors, and for inducements to attract and retain a stable corps of experienced teachers in the schools attended by Beatriz Vergara and her co-plaintiffs.

Let us hope that a wiser judicial panel speedily overturns this bad decision and seeks a path of school reform that actually helps the plaintiffs without inflicting harm on their teachers.

Two sixth-grade classes in Ipswich, Massachusetts, lost a week of instruction while taking field tests, and they want to be paid for their time.

“But for now the test is still in its trial period and Laroche’s 37 students are among the 81,000 that spent two 75-minute periods in March and two 90-minute periods this past week completing the test.

“This time would have otherwise been spent writing and solving and graphing inequalities from real-life situations.

“During class last Monday, May 19, a teacher jokingly mentioned that the students should get paid for taking the test since their participation helps the PARCC and at the end of class the students pressed Laroche further on the idea.

“The kids proceeded to tell me that PARCC is going to be making money from the test, so they should get paid as guinea pigs for helping them out in creating this test,” said Laroche. “So I said, ‘OK, if that’s the case and you guys feel strongly then there are venues and things you can do to voice your opinion, and one would be to write a letter and have some support behind that letter with petition.”

“At 8 p.m. that night Laroche received a shared Google document with an attached letter from A-period student Brett Beaulieu, who asked that he and his peers be compensated for their assistance.

“I thought it was unfair that we weren’t paid for anything and we didn’t volunteer for anything,” said Beaulieu. “It was as if we said, ‘Oh we can do it for free.’”

“Beaulieu used his math skills in the letter, determining that the two classes would collectively earn $1,628 at minimum wage for their 330 minutes of work. He then went on to figure out how many school supplies that amount could buy: 22 new Big Ideas MATH Common Core Student Edition Green textbooks or 8,689 Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils.

“Even better, this could buy our school 175,000 sheets of 8 ½” by 11″ paper, and 270 TI-108 calculators,” Beaulieu wrote.

“On Tuesday, May 20 he gathered over 50 signatures from students, as well as from assistant principal Kathy McMahon, principal David Fabrizio and Laroche.”

The students wrote to PARCC, Arne Duncan, and Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone.

Ira Shor describes our complex sustem, based on race, class, income:

“Teachers count only if their students count. To count in this society, kids have to come from affluent families; the teachers of those affluent kids are paid more and generally treated better. The vast majority of students in k-12 pub schls don’t count b/c they are poor, working-class, or lower middle-class, many not white, many first-generation immigrants. They need small classes and veteran teachers and lots of good food and warm clothes in winter and eye exams; we know what they get instead. The kids that count go to private schls and to pub schls in affluent suburbs. The teachers there are paid more b/c the families of the kids are richer. For the most part, these teachers are also treated with more regard. The private k-12 schls do NOT require their teachers to come out of teacher ed programs or to meet state certification requirements; they can pick and choose among many applicants. Some teacher ed programs are truly excellent despite this class-based hierarchy, despite being under-funded and over-regulated. Other teacher ed programs function as mediocre pipelines to mediocre school systems. The situation is fragmented b/c there are really 6-8 school systems in America–private independents, private religious, private special ed, public affluent, public working class, public poor, privatized charters, etc. Then, there is internal tracking in all schools which further separate elite segments from the general student group. It’s useful to clarify which sector of “American education” we are talking back b/c class and race differences affect schools so much.(Ted Sizer said 30 years ago, “Tell me the income of your students’ parents and I will describe to you your school.”) As long as poverty and inequality rule, schools for the bottom 80% will treat their kids and teachers largely with disregard and disinvestment.”

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