Archives for category: Students

I don’t know why we have to keep rediscovering the wheel in education. I guess it’s because the reformers keep imposing bad ideas that teachers know will not work and that violate their professional ethics that it becomes necessary to repeat again and again what used to be common knowledge.

 

Bill Boyle wrote a lovely reflection on the key ingredients in the classroom: human relationships and affection.

 

Big data can’t take the place of a caring teacher.

 

He writes:

 

“I continue to wonder, why do we attempt to impose technocratic solutions on contexts such as education that require the nexus of human relationships? To be more specific, why do use a market driven model of corporate education reform imposed from the top that uses data abstracted from context?

 

“It’s kind of like arguing for a first down in the game of basketball.”

 

He quotes the poet Wendell Berry, who said,

 

““I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it…By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind and conserving economy.”

 

This is why efforts to replace teachers with machines will not work. And it explains why class size is important. Too many students reduces the time for relationships.

 

Boyle writes:

 

“The hard fact of the matter is that this corporatist reform movement and the market fundamentalism that drives it will run their course. And then we will be left all that we’ve ever had from the beginning; each other, and what’s left of the land that we depend on.

 

“The more we practice affection in the meantime, the better prepared we will be.”

Experienced teacher Kathleen Jeskey posted the statement of Washington State tribal leaders, expressing their opposition to high-stakes testing and standardization.

The photograph accompanying the post poignantly tells the story of the federal government’s historic efforts to remove native Americans from their tribal cultures and to assimilate them into the mainstream culture.

The tribal statement begins like this:

We, the governing tribes of the Washington State Tribal compact schools, hope to break the chronic cycle of failure among schools serving American Indian reservations. We intend to capitalize upon the opportunity presented by this new Tribal Compact School law by promoting the adoption of teaching practices which we believe to be more congruent with tribal cultures. In support of this effort, we intend to foster some important reforms in educational accountability methods that will encourage and reward a change in practice.

In recent decades, state and federal educational policy has focused on raising test scores for poor and minority students up to the general population average by the third grade (or soon after) in an effort to minimize the dropout rate. This policy has been a particular disaster for most public schools serving Indian reservations. The result has been a system that labels Indian children early; subjects them to continued remedial instruction; and fails to keep them engaged after the 4th grade. The over-emphasis on early grade test scores has evolved into a self-fulfilling (and self-perpetuating) prophecy of failure for Indian students. We believe it is this labeling effect, coupled with limited instructional methods that cause many if not most dropouts.

The Iroquois Sachem Canasatego once said to the English colonists of his time, “…you who are so wise must know that different Nations have different Conceptions of things and you will, therefore, not take it amiss if our Ideas of this kind of Education happen not to be the same as yours. We have had some Experience of it…”.

Our experience has been that our schools have diligently tried to adopt “research based” models and “data based decision making” as primary methods for school improvement for years now. For the past 15 years, federal policy has placed more and higher stakes on test results. So much weight has been placed upon them that, standardized tests have become an end unto themselves. Something must change. We do not accept that standardized testing defines the potential or truly measures the growth of our children in any meaningful way. Therefore, as sovereign tribal governments, shouldering the new responsibilities under the state compact, we feel it is our duty to make a change toward authentic assessment and accountability. If Indian students are motivated, they will succeed. It is our goal to create places where our children and young adults wish to be and where there is an inherent expectation and tradition of success.

In recent years, the state has commissioned and adopted assessments, such as the High School Proficiency Test (HSPE) and End of Course (EOC) exams, which have only served to make the student disengagement and dropout problem worse. Now, with the coming adoption of the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) testing will take a quantum leap toward becoming much longer, more difficult, and demanding even greater attention. We believe that we cannot test our way to success. We have walked far enough down this path and are determined to change direction. Therefore, we are proposing a five-year moratorium from standardized testing in Tribal compact schools. During this time, we propose to develop a new evaluation paradigm based on applied learning and public demonstration. During this development period, we will use formative tests and/or other tools chosen by our staff to monitor progress and assist in teaching. We will develop a viable alternative evaluation system equaling or surpassing the rigor of state adopted testing. In addition, we will demonstrate American Indian student attendance and graduation rates that match or exceed state averages. Although intended for reservation-based districts, we hope such a system might be used by any district experiencing this chronic syndrome of failure.

It goes on from there to describe a means of teaching and learning that makes far more sense than the standardized tests that have been inflicted on every child in the nation.

Rachel Wolfe made this wonderful 30-minute documentary called “Losing Ourselves.”

https://rachelbwolfe.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/losing-ourselves/

Rachel is an intern at The Future Project, an education non-profit focused on bringing passion and purpose to the lives of young people, and a sophomore in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. She graduated a year ago from Scarsdale High School.

She writes about her film:

I’ve been reading (and loving) your blog, and I thought you might be interested in a like-minded documentary I created during my junior and senior years of high school. The documentary is called Losing Ourselves and explores how an expectation for perfection and a status-driven definition of success undermines students’ love of learning and creativity and gets in the way of our ability to use high school as an opportunity to figure out what we love and who we are. The last chapter portrays how a fifth grade classroom in which creativity is encouraged and failure is praised creates kids who are intrinsically motivated, incredibly passionate, and terrified to have their creativity educated out of them.

Colorado Chalkbeat reports that the opt out numbers were high in the state, especially for high school students. Only five of the state’s 20 large districts met the federal government’s requirement of a 95% participation rate. The greatest concentration of opt outs was in the 11th grade.

Changes are planned, but test critics don’t think it will make a difference. The biggest source of information and support for opting out was, apparently, students talking to other students.

The PARCC language arts and math tests were given in two sections, one in March and the second at the end of the school year. Many districts reported that opt-out rates were higher for the second set of tests.

High school assessments and the testing schedule both will change in 2016. Juniors won’t be tested in language arts and math, and there will be only a single testing “window” in April.

“I don’t claim to be a prophet, but, yeah, I expected high opt-out percentages,” said Republican Sen. Chris Holbert of Parker, who was heavily involved in legislative testing and opt-out debates. He also suggested high school refusal rates were significantly driven by students. “The awareness and them advocating to each other is more important.”

“Folks have been wondering where those big districts would fall. It’ll be an interesting convers what we do about those big districts with a high rate” of opt outs, said Bill Jaeger, a vice president with the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Jaeger served on the state task force that studied testing before the 2015 legislative session and has followed the issue closely.

As for the variation among districts, Jaeger said, “It’s an interesting finding to me, and there’s a whole host of explanations that I don’t think anyone’s explored.”

Noting testing changes made by both the legislature and the PARCC, Jaeger said, “It will be interesting to see if there is a restoration of confidence in the assessments.”

One testing critic, St. Vrain Superintendent Bob Haddad, doesn’t think that will happen.
“I don’t think it will make a difference,” Haddad said of testing reductions. “I don’t think you’re going to get parents and students back at the table … because there’s no trust” in the state testing system. “CMAS was summarily rejected by our students and parents.”

Paul Farhi, a veteran reporter at the Washington Post, wrote an article recently about Campbell Brown’s new “news site” called “The 74,” which is a vehicle for her ongoing campaign against teachers’ unions and tenure and for charters and vouchers. Brown, who has no experience as a teacher, scholar, or researcher, who attended a private high school (her own children attend a private religious school), has become the new face of the corporate reform movement since Michelle Rhee stepped out of the limelight. Last year, Farhi wrote about Brown’s transition from TV talking head to advocate for vouchers, charters, and the elimination of teacher tenure. (You will notice in the earlier article that Brown takes great umbrage to my having described her as telegenic and pretty; well, she IS telegenic and pretty, and I would be happy if anyone said that about me! I consider it a compliment.)

Farhi reports the funding behind “The 74”:

As it happens, Brown raised the funds for the Seventy Four from some of the biggest and wealthiest advocates of the restructuring that the Seventy Four appears to be espousing. The funders include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, all of which have opposed teachers unions and supported various school-privatization initiatives. (Her co-founder, Romy Drucker, was an education adviser to billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.)

This would be just another garden-variety profile of a controversial figure, but blogger Alexander Russo blasted Farhi as biased against Brown. Although Farhi does not quote another corporate reformer, he quotes Brown herself extensively. Russo questioned Farhi’s objectivity as a journalist. He complained that there was no outside voice supporting Brown, and that Farhi ended the article with skeptical quotes from Washington insider Jack Jennings and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Russo says that Farhi should have allowed Brown to respond to the critics, and he should have found “another outside voice — a journalist, academic, or education leader of some kind — to express support” for Brown. He also wrote that “the overview was inaccurate or misleading” by stating that Brown’s views are supported by conservative politicians and business interests.

In an earlier post, Russo candidly disclosed that he had hoped to join Campbell Brown’s “team,” but didn’t make the cut:

Disclosures: This blog is funded in part by Education Post, which shares several funders with The Seventy-Four. Last summer and Fall, I spoke with Brown and others on the team about partnering with them but nothing came of it.

The curious aspect of this particular flap is that Russo’s blog is jointly funded by the American Federation of Teachers and Education Post (which is funded by the Broad Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation).

Randi Weingarten tweeted:

Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten)
7/26/15, 1:14 PM
Russo’s criticism of Farhi is off base. Farhi’s piece is smart, effective journalism: washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/styl…

Also:

Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten)
7/26/15, 3:27 PM
@alexanderrusso do u really believe Campbell Brown is no longer ideological or are u acting this way b/c of funding washingtonmonthly.com/the-grade/2015…

An earlier post today described No Nonsense Nurturing as training teachers to be robots.

Here is a video by its developers. It is indeed interesting, especially the product endorsement by Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP. Probably the product reflects the KIPP style.

Laurie Gabriel, a teacher with nearly three decades experience, decided that she had to do something to fight back against the absurd attacks on teachers.

 

The first thing she did was to create a documentary to explore the critical issues of the day. It is called “Heal Our Schools,” and it offers practical advice that most teachers would vigorously agree with. In her video, she interviews teachers, students, and a few outsiders (like me). The people she spoke to talked about what matters most in teaching and learning, which she would say is to encourage students to find their passions and pursue them. Her first recommendation, by the way, is to reduce class size so children can get individual attention when they need it.

 

The high point of the film, in my estimation, was when she spoke to some vocal critics of teachers. She invited them to teach a list of vocabulary words to ten students, and they accepted her offer. The scenes were priceless. The students were restless; one put his head on the desk. Announcements on the public speaker interrupted the lessons. When one of the “teachers” reprimanded a student and told him that when he was in the Army, he would have gotten 50 push-ups for his behavior, another student piped up and said, “We’re not in the Army.” After their students took their tests, Laurie gave them feedback about their performance. They were less enthusiastic about grading teachers by their students’ test scores and even seemed to be more respectful of the skill that it takes to teach middle schoolers.

 

The second thing she did was to take her documentary on the road, showing it to interested audiences. Her current schedule starts tonight in Wyandotte, Michigan. You can see her other stops listed below. If you live in one of these cities or towns, please show up and bring some friends.

 

July 21 WYANDOTTE MI (Detroit area)- 7:00 at Biddle Hall, 3239 Biddle Ave.
July 22 CLEVELAND – 7:00 at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church
July 23 PHILADELPHIA – 7:00 at the Ethical Humanist Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square
July 24 WASHINGTON DC – 8:00 at the Holiday Inn Washington Capitol, 550 C Street SW
July 26 – JERSEY CITY – 7:00 pm at the Jersey City Union Building, 1600 W. Kennedy
July 28 NEW YORK CITY – 2:30 pm at the Actors Theatre Workshop, 145 W. 28th Street, 3rd floor
July 29 RAYNHAM MASS. 6:00 pm at the Massachusetts Teachers Regional Office, 656 Orchard Street 3rd floor
July 30 PORTSMOUTH NH, 7:00 pm at the Women’s City Club, 375 Middle Street
August 3 – GRAND BLANC, MI – 6:00 at the Grand Blanc Mcfarlen Public Library.
August 9 DENVER – 1:00 pm at the Highlands Ranch Public Library, 9292 Ridgeline Blvd in Highlands Ranch

 

If you don’t live in one of those locales and want to see “Heal Our Schools,” contact Laurie at aspenquartet@hotmail.com

 

Perhaps you could arrange a showing in your community.

This post contains a valuable interview with Noam Chomsky.

 

Chomsky is a philosopher, not a statistician or an economist. He looks behind the facade of data to ask “why are we doing this?” “What are the consequences?” “What is the value of collecting the data?” “Why?”

 

Statisticians and economists (fortunately, not all of them) tend to think that when they have collected enough data, they will reach conclusions about the data. They think the data is as solid as “how many cars of this model sold? what was the profit margin? how should we price next year’s model to maximize profit?” or “how high will corn grow with this amount of fertilizer? how many acres should be planted with this seed?”

 

The starry-eyed data-mongers believe that children can be measured like any agricultural or mechanical product.

 

But teachers know that children are not corn; they are not electrical appliances; they are not engineered; they are all different.

 

We need to listen to philosophers. We need to think about what we are doing to children and to teachers by treating them as products of a process that can be tightly controlled.

 

Chomsky says:

 

In recent years there’s a strong tendency to require assessment of children and teachers, so that you have to teach to the tests, and the test determines what happens to the child and what happens to the teacher. That’s guaranteed to destroy any meaningful educational process.

 

It means a teacher cannot be creative, imaginative, pay attention to individual students’ needs. The students can’t pursue things that – maybe some kid is interested in something, but you can’t do it because you need to memorize something for this test tomorrow. The teacher’s future depends on it as well as the student’s.

 

The people sitting in offices, the bureaucrats designing this, they’re not evil people, but they are working within a system of ideology and doctrines, which turns what they are doing into something extremely harmful.

 

By treating children and teachers as widgets, we destroy the meaning of education. The rankings derived from data, Chomsky says, are meaningless because the tests are artificial social constructs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington State officials acknowledged that 53% of high school juniors opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Yesterday early estimates predicted the number was 27-28%. Obviously a gross underestimate.

Participation rates in 3-8 were high.

This was posted recently as a comment on the blog by Mamie Krupsczak Allegretti:

 

 

Both my husband and I are teachers in New York. He teaches high school English, and I teach French. We are both concerned about the state of education now, and I am actively taking steps to change my career after 23 years in teaching.

 

Let’s make no mistake about the situation. The move toward privatization of public education, the destruction of unions, and the loss of our democracy is well underway. I personally feel that the only way teachers, administrators, and parents can counter this is by refusing to participate in Common core tests and any tests that are used to evaluate a teacher’s performance. Teachers are now giving pretests in the beginning of the year knowing that students will fail because they have not yet learned the material! This is absurd, not to mention immoral and unethical. We are losing our common sense. Teachers are being evaluated by student performance on tests and those tests are in NO WAY reflective of what students have done in class.

 

For example, some teachers’ evaluations are based on how students do on a 15 minute computerized test–a test that does not count for the students! It’s not a test grade; it’s not a graduation requirement; it’s not a Regents exam. It’s an exercise that serves as a referendum on an individual teacher’s ability. Furthermore, the subject matter of the test is peripheral to the subject matter of the classroom. Many kids know this; therefore, instead of taking it seriously, they tap the keys and answer carelessly. Is this logical? Does this make sense? Would any businessman accept this evaluation system? In addition, I think parents and the public would be shocked to know how much time has been wasted on policies and plans that pop up and then are changed months later. I have worked countless hours on preparing items and then watched as the school discarded my work. Wouldn’t my time have been used better to create great lessons for students or helping them? There is no plan, no vision.

 

The two pillars of this “reform” movement are corporate greed and misogyny. I say misogyny because in NY over 70% of teachers are women, and the teaching profession is dominated by women. Our NYS union NYSUT is headed by a woman, and recent NYSUT pictures show a child saying, “Gov. Cuomo you’re breaking our hearts.” This kind of appeal will not work to influence men. Men are influenced by ACTION, not by appeals from children. Example: In basketball, Coach Dean Smith installed the four corners offense. Instead of shooting the ball, he would have his players dribble for minutes on end. He did this because he knew the game needed a shot clock, and this was the action he took within the rules of the game to bring it about. This is why I say that we need to refuse the tests. It is ACTION we need in the actual academic arena to bring about change! And teachers, if you’re concerned about losing your job for speaking out, it may happen anyway if the Governor gets his new teacher evaluation plan through the legislature! If you happen to be a teacher who has been around for a while and earn “too much” money, you’d better worry.

 

In the beginning of this post, I said I was actively seeking a new career after 23 years in teaching. Why? First, the stress of day-to-day teaching. People think teaching is easy. Try being with children all day -some of whom are disruptive, disrespectful, and not motivated. Try helping students who haven’t eaten, slept or been loved by their families. Try listening to their stories of abuse, poverty, and helplessness. It takes a toll on you. Second, I’m tired of the loss of respect and professionalism that teachers have suffered. We are losing control of our classrooms, our creativity, and our independence. We are now at the mercy of administrators, politicians and billionaires who are creating curricula, assessments, and evaluation plans for financial gain. Mostly, I am saddened at the diminishment of intellectual curiosity and joy in learning that is pervasive in our culture today. None of the “reforms” currently suggested will positively influence this. Thank you for this forum, and thank you Diane Ravitch for your cogent arguments and your advocacy.

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