John Merrow reports on his blog that the official song of the national meeting of United Opt Out will be a well-known Kenny Rogers song, with some changes in the lyrics:

 

“YOU GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO TEACH ‘EM…

KNOW WHEN TO TEST ‘EM…

KNOW WHEN TO STEP ASIDE AND JUST LET ‘EM LEARN.

THE STATE KEEPS SAYING “TEST ‘EM,”

BUT ALL THAT DOES IS MESS ‘EM.

SCHOOLS DO TOO MUCH TESTING!

LET’S MAKE LEARNING FUN AGAIN”

 

I think John has become a true partisan of the Opt Out movement. He cares about kids, he cares about education

On her blog, VAMboozled, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley invites parents, students, teachers, and everyone else to let the American Educational Research Association know what you think about testing today. Too much or too little? Too long or too short? Used well or used poorly?

 

As the scholarly debate about the extent and purpose of educational testing rages on, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) wants to hear from you. During a key session at its Centennial Conference this spring in Washington DC, titled How Much Testing and for What Purpose? Public Scholarship in the Debate about Educational Assessment and Accountability, prominent educational researchers will respond to questions and concerns raised by YOU, parents, students, teachers, community members, and public at large.

 

Hence, any and all of you with an interest in testing, value-added modeling, educational assessment, educational accountability policies, and the like are invited to post your questions, concerns, and comments using the hashtag #HowMuchTesting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, or the social media platform of your choice, as these are the posts to which AERA’s panelists will respond.

 

They are extra interested in video recorded comments. The deadline is March 17 for  your submission. Read the post for the links.

 

 


The following comment was written by Robert Marzano, in response to my posting of Emily Talmage’s challenge to his teaching experience and to a purported contract with the Detroit public schools. Having no staff, I am not in a position to do any independent investigation of who is right or wrong. Marzano certainly has the right to defend himself, and I am glad to provide the space. Dr. Marzano, feel free to contact me at my NYU email. I don’t know what more I can do other than post your response.

 

 

Robert Marzano writes:

 

 

“Dr. Ravitch,
This is Bob Marzano commenting on your report of my interaction with Ms. Talmadge.
“When a friend sent me her blog post, I contacted her via e-mail and informed her that at least two of the statements she made about me were false. One was that I had never taught, and the other was that I had a 6 million dollar contract with Detroit Public Schools. I gave her some details about my teaching background and told her that I do not have a contract with DPS. I spoke one day about a year ago to district administrators for a modest fee. I said I would look into the contract issue since she sent me a link to a news story she had read that reported on such a contract. She had my e-mail and there was certainly a tacit invitation for her to respond to me directly. I found out that Learning Sciences International (LSI) does have a large contract with DPS. They use some of my intellectual property in their trainings. They have since written the original news agency that published the story and informed them of the error. They will be contacting you soon with the same information. To imply that I have a large contract with a district in financial difficulties certainly paints an inaccurate and unfair picture of me. I would have hoped that you would contact me first before writing a blog that implies I have lied and now have been “taken down.”
“I’m also quite disappointed with how Ms. Talmadge has handled this. Apparently she reached out to you instead of me, and you now have spread the false information even further. You have my e-mail now, so I would welcome a conversation with you and Ms. Talmadge that is not played out on a public blog. I must admit, i don’t understand blogs. They seem to be a venue for anyone to say anything they want without verification and without consequence for inaccuracies. In closely, let me say again: it is absolutely false that I have a 6 million dollar contract with DPS. You will be receiving proof of this shortly from LSI.”

Fred LeBrun, a columnist for the Albany Times-Union, wrote a terrific column about the power of the parents who opted out.

 

Without the pressure they exerted, Governor Cuomo would never have appointed a commission to review the Common Core standards and testing.

 

Without the force of their numbers, the state education department would have proceeded to evaluate teachers by student test scores, despite the research proving its invalidity.

 

Opt Out parents caused Cuomo’s poll numbers to plummet, and that got his attention. Poll numbers can outweigh hedge fund cash.

 

Here is part of LeBrun’s perceptive column:

 

According to the latest Siena poll, education has jumped to the top of the list for what matters most to New Yorkers, ahead of jobs, taxes, and that perennial favorite, governmental corruption.

 
Granted, education is a wide umbrella covering higher and lower ed, funding, curricula, charter schools, and a lot more, plus the poll indicates the greatest concern for education is held by downstate Democrats.

 
They’ve got the numbers to dictate the poll. But at the least we can reliably say the poll affirms how important public education consistently remains for upstaters and downstaters alike.

 
When it’s that important to voters, it’s critical to politicians.

 
In the brash youth of his governorship, Andrew Cuomo confidently swaggered to war against teachers and the “educational bureaucracy,’’ which it turns out is mostly parents, by trying to impose a cockamamie Common Core system that brutally punished school children and a punitive and grossly unfair teacher evaluation system, all in the name of “reform.”

 
Washington, in the embrace of billionaire advocates of privatizing public education, applauded.

 
So did New York hedge-funders promoting charters.

 
The governor used all his cunning and considerable available resources to get his way, and even beat up the Legislature to become complicit.

 
Yet he got his ass handed to him. By whom? By the most potent force there is in public education, the public.

 
Cuomo’s poll numbers fell through the floor. In December, the governor sent up the white flag and sued for peace with a landmark Common Core review commission report that made 21 splendid, common sense recommendations to put New York public education back on track.

 
In his State of the State this year about all he had to say on the subject was urging the Board of Regents to pass all 21 recommendations.

 
That’s exactly what the Regents should do, and we have every high hope they will once two new progressive members of the 17-member Regents are appointed by the Legislature, and once the Regents leadership becomes more enlightened and attuned, which is also imminent.

 
There are several factors behind why the governor lost the war, including a change of heart in Washington, but high among them is the Opt Out movement that last spring kept 220,000 New York pupils from taking the state’s ridiculous standardized tests.

 
Opt Out has been the most powerful in-your-face, can’t-ignore referendum on the governor’s policies since he took office.

 
So here’s the irony of Opt Out for the governor, post-truce.

 
If there is another Opt Out uprising this spring, the popularity fallout will still be the governor’s to reap even though he has been forced to see the light and change course. In the public’s eye he remains the architect of that dismally failed model for public education.

 
It should come as no surprise that Opt Out is a very real possibility again this year.

 
That’s because there’s a Grand Canyon between the considerable rhetoric of change we’ve heard and the reality of where we actually stand with altering or eliminating high stakes testing and the Common Core, teacher evaluations, and inappropriate pressures on our youngest citizens.

Peter Greene brings his sharp scalpel to the latest “research” by the National Council for Teacher Quality. This is the group created in 2000 by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation with the purpose of bringing down teacher education. As I wrote in an earlier post, NCTQ was sustained at the outset by a $5 million grant from Secretary of Education Rod Paige, when it had not yet figured out a way to destroy traditional teacher education programs.

 

Now NCTQ has issued a new “report,” claiming that it knows exactly what makes for successful teaching.

 

Greene writes:

 

 

The National Council on Teacher Quality is one of the great mysteries of the education biz. They have no particular credentials and are truly the laziest “researchers” on the planet, but I think I may have cracked the code. Let me show you their latest piece of “research,” and then we can talk about how they really work.

 

Their new report– “Learning about Learning: What Every New Teacher Needs To Know” (which is a curious title– do other teachers NOT need to know these things?)– is yet another NCTQ indictment of current teacher education programs. The broad stroke of their finding is that teacher education programs are not teaching the proven strategies that work in education.

 

That’s the broad stroke. As always with NCTQ, the devil is in the details. After all, that sounds like a huge research undertaking. First, you would have to identify teaching strategies that are clearly and widely supported by all manner of research. Then you would have to carefully examine a whooooooole lot of teacher education programs– college visits, professor and student interviews, sit in classes, extensive study of syllabi– it would be a huge undertaking.

 

Or you could just flip through a bunch of educational methods textbooks.

 

What Every Teacher Needs To Know

 

First, NCTQ had to select those methods that “every new teacher needs to know.” Here’s the methodology for that piece of research-based heavy lifting:

 

In Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning: A Practice Guide, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, identified proven practices that promote learning for all students, regardless of grade or subject, and that are especially potent with struggling students. Six practices stand out for the research behind them. There is little debate among scholars about the effectiveness of these six strategies.

 

Here are a few things to know about Organizing Instruction and Study To Improve Student Learning.

 

It was published in September of 2007. It was produced under a USED- IES contract with Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, a policy data-analysis business. It opens with a disclaimer that includes this:

 

The opinions and positions expressed in this practice guide are the authors’ and do not necessarily represent the opinions and positions of the Institute of Education Sciences or the U.S. Department of Education.

 

The IES paper does, in fact, appear to be a group of researchers checking to see how much research basis there is for seven ideas that they think will help teaching subjects “that demand a great deal of content learning, including social studies, science, and mathematics.” So, not actually “all subjects and grades” as NCTQ says. And they are based around a memory-based model of education.

 

More importantly, the IES paper rates the seven approaches according to strength of the research to support them. Four of the seven are rated “moderate,” two are rated “low,” and the seventh is rated “strong”.

 

NCTQ then peruses methods textbooks to see if they actually teach the methods identified in the 2007 paper. They also looked at course syllabi. NCTQ assumes that the 2007 represents the latest and best research. They do no research themselves. They don’t actually visit any ed schools or talk to any faculty. Based on the textbooks and course syllabi reviewed, they once again decide that teacher education is failing.

 

These are the great minds that publish ratings of education schools every year in US News & World Report.

 

Greene writes:

 

NCTQ depends on the reluctance of people to read past the lede. For this piece, for instance, anybody who bothered to go read the old IES paper that supposedly establishes these as “bedrock” techniques would see that the IES does no such thing. Anyone who read into the NCTQ “research” on teacher program difficulty would see it was based on reading commencement programs. The college president I spoke to was so very frustrated because anybody who walked onto her campus could see that the program NCTQ gave a low ranking was a program that did not actually exist.

 

But NCTQ specializes in headline research– generate an eye-catching pro-reform headline and hope that if you follow it with a bunch of words, folks will just say, “Well, there’s a lot of words there, so they must have a real research basis for what they’re saying.”

 

So, sixteen years later, NCTQ has fulfilled the purpose of its founding: It has become a giant wrecking ball aimed at traditional teacher education programs. What will come in their wake? Relay “Graduate” School of Education? Match “Graduate” School of Education? Places where there are no scholars, no research, just charter teachers teaching future charter teachers the tricks for raising test scores.

Tennessee is still Racing to the Top although they are still far away. So, of course, the state switched to online assessment for its Common Core testing, at a cost of $108 million.

 

Yesterday was the first day, and the system crashed.

 

There was a “major outage.” The state commissioner, a huge fan of Common Core, blamed the vendor. She told schools to go back to the “worst case scenario,” that is, pencil and paper testing.

 

Since we learned not long ago that students who took the PARCC tests on paper instead of on a computer tend to get higher scores, this may have a bright side.

 

 

The state board of canvassers approved a petition to recall Governor Rick Snyder. Nine other petitions were rejected because of spelling errors and other defects. 
“A petition to recall Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was approved by the Board of State Canvassers Monday after more than 100 citizens attended the meeting in anger over the Flint water crisis.
“The petition approved aims to recall Snyder for creating the State School Reform/Redesign Office. Another nine petitions more directly related to the Flint water crisis were rejected (full list below.)
“The approved petition is valid for 180 days after approval at the Board of State Canvassers level. To move forward it must collect 789,133 signatures in a 60-day period within that 180 day window. Doing so would then put a question before voters statewide, most likely on the state’s Aug. 2 election.
“The board has considered around a dozen such attempts to recall Gov. Rick Snyder since November of 2015, but has rejected each attempt before today’s meeting. On Monday the board rejected nine of ten petitions for reasons ranging from misspellings to the misstatement of a law’s title.”

This morning, politico.com wrote about a new group that wants to be heard by the candidates for president. It is called Student Voice. At first, I thought this might be a group representing high school students, like the Providence Student Union, which effectively fought against standardized tests as a high school graduation test. 

This is what politico reported

“STRENGTHENING STUDENT VOICE: The non-profit organization Student Voice [http://bit.ly/1QhRJ1i ] has been touring the country in an attempt to raise awareness about the role of education in the race for the White House, among other things. They’ve been shadowing the presidential candidates and hope to get their attention in South Carolina later this month. Andrew Brennen, national field director for Student Voice, said he plans to visit eight school districts at the center of a landmark South Carolina 2014 court ruling [http://bit.ly/1T2EJ5N ], in which the state Supreme Court said the state was failing to provide a “minimally adequate” education to the state’s poorest districts. He’ll tour the schools with Merrit Jones, a high school senior and founder of the student-run South Carolina non-profit StuSpace, and listen to student stories. Brennen and Jones plan to invite presidential candidates along for the visits – they’ve already been in touch with staffers for Republican candidate Marco Rubio and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders – stressing that they want the candidates to listen to students. 
– They’re also hoping to ask a question during the Republican debate on Feb. 13. (Brennen said they’ve been in touch with moderator John Dickerson of CBS News, but they haven’t been confirmed to ask a question.) “We want to ask, what are you going to do to improve education?” Brennen said. “Not what are you going to take away, but what is one policy change that you’re going to make?” There are schools in South Carolina and across the country, like in Detroit, that “are literally falling apart,” he said. “The only education policy issue we’re hearing from the candidates is about Common Core … It would be a shame if they didn’t focus on this.”
Gosh, the Network for Public Education has been trying to get the candidates to pay attention to K-12 issues. Could this be an ally?
But then I went to the website and looked at the sponsors. Its sponsors: Microsoft, Intel, Dell, the Nellie Mae Foundation, Cengage, the Alliance for Excellent Education, and a few others. 
Not allies. Whoever they are, they can afford to pay for a PR campaign. NPE can’t. 
Wonder which questions they are eager to ask? 

Politico.com reports that the Council of Chief State School Officers is partnering with Chiefs for Change, the group created by Jeb Bush to promote school choice, digital learning, and high-stakes testing, as well as Achieve, one of the groups that created the Common Core standards, to help states make the transition to ESSA. I can’t confirm which state superintendents belong to Chiefs for Change because its website is down.

 

Mercedes Schneider wrote that the Gates Foundation recently gave $15.4 million to CCSSO, so you can see where this “assistance” is going.

 

 

FIRST LOOK: GROUPS TO HELP WITH ESSA TRANSITION: The Council of Chief State School Officers is partnering up with a number of groups in a new initiative this year to help states transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act. The group is teaming up with Chiefs for Change, Achieve and Ed Counsel to help states design new accountability systems, for example. A working group of state chiefs and district leaders will do a deep dive into the accountability design process, looking at “their vision for school improvement in their state, the systems they need to achieve that and the strategies they need to do it,” Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee told Morning Education. Former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has also been tapped as a consultant for the new initiative. CCSSO said the groups hope to provide sample accountability models and best practices for states. And they’ll be holding meetings and conference calls with states in the coming months to provide guidance and feedback as states develop new accountability frameworks.

 

 

– CCSSO will also work with states in its Innovation Lab Network [http://bit.ly/1m4RI8C ] – like California, Kentucky and New Hampshire – to share ideas and best practices to help states that may be looking to participate in new innovative assessment pilots under ESSA. And CCSSO hopes to work with states as they refine – and possibly look to change – teacher evaluation systems under the new law.

At last, someone is doing something to help the people of Flint.

300 union plumbers arrived from all over the state to install filters in the homes of Flint residents. They volunteered their weekend time to help.

“According to ABC12, not all the faucets in Flint can fit a filter, which each resident of the city desperately needs in order to get rid of lead in their drinking water. Some of the faucets are older and oddly shaped, making the installation of a filter nearly impossible.

“Local plumbers with United Association Local 370 in Flint have been going door-to-door making sure that faucets are filter ready since October, reports Michigan Radio. And last weekend, they got a boost from hundreds of union volunteers.”

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