In a new report from the National Education Policy Center, Professor Noel Enyedy urges school leaders to be cautious in accepting claims that technology can “personalize instruction” or lead to transformational changes. The full report can be found here.

 

The use of computers in the classroom – or even instead of classrooms – has generated renewed enthusiasm in influential circles. Advocates of significantly advancing the practice often refer to greater reliance on computer-based learning as “Personalized Instruction.”

 

Yet while its potential merits thoughtful small-scale adoption, there is little evidence that marrying digital technology to education has changed schooling for the better, according to a new policy brief published today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

 

The reasons for such lackluster results are many, according to the report’s author, Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at the University of California-Los Angeles. Chief among them is the absence of a clear model for what actually constitutes “Personalized Instruction”; advocates of the practice apply the term to a wide range of approaches to teaching that rely heavily on online or other digital resources.

 

“Computers are now commonplace in the classroom, but teaching practices often look similar, as do learning outcomes,” Enyedy writes in his policy brief, Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning. The brief is published today by the NEPC, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

 

“After more than 30 years, Personalized Instruction is still producing incremental change,” Enyedy writes. Large-scale studies, including meta-analyses, of Personalized Instruction programs “show mixed results ranging from modest impacts to no impact.”

 

Additionally, Enyedy points out, the highest potential for benefits appears to reside principally with so-called blended instruction programs, which make use of traditional classroom teaching in close alignment with elements that might be delivered via computer, including online. Blended learning done well, he notes, is more expensive than traditional education – undermining the frequent claim that computerized instruction can help achieve significant fiscal savings.

 

In light of the growing interest – yet lack of evidence to support – sweeping changes in schooling that would rely on digital media, Enyedy offers a series of recommendations for policymakers and researchers:

 

While continuing to invest in technology, policymakers should do so incrementally. They should view skeptically claims and promotion of computerized learning that oversteps what can be concluded from available research evidence.
Policymakers and researchers should clearly distinguish among the key features of technologies being used in education so that research and discussions can revolve around shared ideas and concretely defined practices.
Much more research is needed in the K-12 education context, because the evidence primarily cited is extrapolated from research involving undergraduate students and in the professions, “where developmental and motivational factors differ,” Enyedy observes.
Policymakers should encourage developers of educational technologies to work with researchers and teachers in testing and validating particular software and hardware tools: “We cannot trust market forces alone to sort out which systems are effective.”
When investing in technology to be used in education, school administrators must ensure that there is “substantial professional development for teachers” to go with it.
Everyone involved with schools must understand that Personalized Instruction is just one of several models for using computers in the classroom, and all need to be open to considering alternative approaches to making greater use of technology in the learning process.

In his weekly report on testing reform and resistance, Bob Schaeffer of FairTest finds widespread sentiment to reduce the time devoted to testing, the frequency of tests, and the high stakes attached to them.

Here is his summary of the testing and anti-testing activities:

Want more proof that the assessment reform movement is exploding across the nation? Check out this week’s stories from 22 (!) states along with several great commentaries.

As always, let FairTest know how we can help you keep the heat on at the grassroots.

Arizona District Seeks Exemption From New State Test

http://www.abc15.com/news/region-northern-az/lake-havasu/havasu-schools-seek-to-exempt-some-from-new-test

Education Groups Seek Delay of California Test-Based School Ratings

http://edsource.org/2014/school-groups-ask-to-delay-api-scores-another-year/70029#.VGuAZnvvcZy

Thousands of Colorado High School Students Refuse to Take State Tests

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/14/us-usa-colorado-education-idUSKCN0IY2HO20141114

Is Colorado Student Opt-Out a Harbinger of Broader Protests?

http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=7361

Coloradans Launch Petition to Overturn Test-Based Teacher Evaluation

https://www.change.org/p/the-colorado-legislature-repeal-senate-bill-191-linking-standardized-test-scores-to-teacher-pay-and-performance

High-Stakes Testing Pressure Drives Experienced Teachers Out of Florida Classrooms

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20141108/ARTICLE/141109731

More Central Florida Families Consider Opting Out of State Exams

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/story/27387181/opting-out-becoming-more-popular-option-for-central-florida-families

Florida Teachers Consider Civil Disobedience to Say “No” to Testing

http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2014/11/17/florida-teachers-consider-civil-disobedience-to-say-no-to-testing/

The Problems With Using Tests to Rate Georgia Art, Gym and Music Teachers

http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/the-problem-with-using-tests-to-rate-music-art-and/nh3bP/

Why One Illinois Parent Opted Her Children Out of State Exams

http://realchicagomama.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/standardized-testing-redux/

Film Premiere Sparks Indiana Opt-Out Movement

http://in.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/16/testing-foes-call-for-change-after-films-premiere/#.VGn5EnvvcZw

Indiana Panel Asks Whether Testing Has Gone Too Far

http://in.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/17/teachers-students-community-members-debate-merits-of-testing/#.VGtGQnvvcZw

Iowa Parents Should Stand Up to Claims They Have No Opt-Out Rights

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/abetteriowa/2014/11/13/amy-moore-school-testing-opt-out/18969065/

How Frequently Should Kansas School Children Be Tested?

http://www.thekansan.com/article/20141111/NEWS/141119984/-1/Sports

Debate Ranges About How Much Time Maryland Students Should Spend Testing

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/education/bs-md-testing-investigation-20141115-story.html#page=1

Minnesota Legislators Plan Bills to Cut Back Testing

http://forestlaketimes.com/2014/11/12/education-issues-on-the-docket-for-2015-house-republicans/

No Quick Fix for Minnesota Achievement Gap

http://www.sctimes.com/story/opinion/2014/11/14/turn-quick-answer-achievement-gap/19048273/

Parents Push Back Against New Jersey’s Latest Standardized Exam

http://www.app.com/story/news/education/education-trends/2014/11/13/parents-try-opt-parcc-test/18982547/

Local New Jersey Education Ass’n Adopts Strong Position on High-Stakes Testing

http://teacherbiz.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/the-delran-education-associations-position-on-high-stakes-standardized-testing/

Teachers Add Critical Voice to New Jersey Commission Investigating Testing

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/11/11/teachers-add-critical-voice-to-newly-named-testing-commission/

New Mexico Teachers Say Testing Overkill is Undermining Education

http://www.koat.com/news/teachers-standardized-testing-is-taking-away-from-education/29710982

Common Core Tests Prompt New Mexico Backlash

http://www.taosnews.com/news/article_dc24c53c-6c4b-11e4-ae30-a38a2d5729ca.html

New York Regents Try to Make Field Tests “Mandatory” to Combat Exam Boycotts

http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/11/8556878/faced-opposition-regents-move-bolster-field-testing

Local North Carolina School Boards Seek End of State-Mandated, Test-Based School Grades

http://www.statesville.com/news/school-board-voices-disagreement-with-state-policies/article_658f6090-6a8d-11e4-a9e3-47ed378d838e.html

Ohio Legislative Committee Approves Limits on Testing Time

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/11/limit_on_state_testing_of_stud.html

Oklahoma First Grade Teachers Explain Why They Won’t Administer Standardized Test

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/18/your-kids-deserve-better-than-this-first-grade-teachers-tell-parents/

Oregon Educators Offer Advice on Aiding Families Who Want to Opt Out of Testing

http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-32442-permalink.html

Pennsylvania School Ratings Not Accurate Measure of Educational Effectiveness

http://standardspeaker.com/news/professor-scores-not-true-measure-of-school-districts-1.1786040

Local Super Blasts Pennsylvania’s Biased School Grades for Ignoring Poverty

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/11/central_dauphin_superintendent_1.html

Resignation of Tennessee Ed. Commissioner Creates Opening for Testing Overhaul

http://wgnsradio.com/rep-womick-applauds-education-commissioner-leaving-and-hopes-common-core-exits-too–cms-23466

Virginia Test-Review Commission Prepares Recommendations

http://www.dailyprogress.com/newsvirginian/news/local/sol-committee-member-offers-update-on-work/article_0bef57a6-6a11-11e4-91e3-43c9050fee0f.html

Washington State Super Seeks State Grad Test Repeal

http://www.theolympian.com/2014/11/15/3425844_state-schools-chief-no-more-tests.html?sp=/99/101/112/&rh=1

Q & A With FairTest on Assessment Reform
http://www.asbj.com/HomePageCategory/Online-Features/FiveQuestions

FairTest on Education Town Hall Radio

http://educationtownhall.org/2014/11/16/fairtest-joins-bus/

“Smarter Balanced” Tests Not Ready for Prime Time

http://edsource.org/2014/smarter-balanced-tests-are-still-a-work-in-progress/69828#.VGoPr3vvcZx

Can We Stop Relying on Standardized Tests to Drive Education Reform

http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/can-we-stop-using-tests-to-drive-education-reform/

Making Ed Reform a True Civil Rights Movement By Overhauling Test-Based Accountability

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-thompson/making-school-reform-a-tr_b_6090204.html

Is Common Core Testing “A Cash-Grabbing Hoax?”

http://www.reviewjournal.com/opinion/common-core-must-prove-it-s-not-cash-grabbing-hoax

“This is Not a Test” — Review of Jose Luis Vilson’s New Book by Diane Ravitch

http://dianeravitch.net/2014/11/13/my-review-of-jose-luis-vilson-this-is-not-a-test/

Don’t Copy China’s Test-Prep Culture

http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/17/opinion/zhao-common-core-testing/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

In a shocking decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the state has no legal responsibility to provide a quality education to every child. The case centered on the Highland Park school district, where achievement was lagging; the state turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter operator that had no track record of improving low-performng schools. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed the suit.

 

In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.
A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

 

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

 

The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

 

“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”

 

In a dissenting opinion, appellate court judge Douglas Shapiro accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are governmental entities, and of protecting the rights of all who live within Michigan’s borders, particularly those, like children, who do not have a voice in the political process.”

 

MEAP test results from 2012 painted a bleak picture for Highland Park students and parents. In the 2013-14 year, no fewer than 78.9 percent of current fourth graders and 73 percent of current seventh graders will require the special intervention mandated by statute. By contrast, 65 percent of then-fourth graders and 75 percent of then-seventh graders required statutory intervention entering the 2012-13 school year.

 

At the time the state of Michigan decided to privatize the Highland Park schools and turn them over to the Leona Group, some saw it as a last-ditch effort to save the district from its debt. 

 

The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2012:

 

Phoenix-based Leona will receive $7,110 per pupil in state funding, plus an as-yet-undetermined amount of federal funds for low-income and special education students. In addition, the Highland Park district will pay Leona a $780,000 annual management fee.

 

Unions have been sidelined after the district’s entire professional staff was laid off, as allowed by the state emergency law, but teachers can apply for jobs with Leona. Leona has budgeted about $36,000 a year for Highland Park teachers on average, the company said—compared with almost $65,000 a year the teachers received in the 2010-11 school year.

 

In a typical school it takes over, Leona has hired back about 70% of the teachers, the company said. Leona also will lease the Highland Park district’s buildings.

 

Under the five-year contract with Leona, the new city charter board will monitor the company’s progress in improving student performance.

 

Leona runs 54 schools in five states. Students in almost half of them fail state academic benchmarks. But of its 22 Michigan schools, 19 meet the mark, Leona officials said.

 

Leona Chief Executive William Coats said the company had no incentive to cut corners in Highland Park. “As we build equity, we give that back to the schools,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting when an audience member raised doubts about the for-profit approach. “We’re trying to manage this so you [the district] stay in business.”

 

Highland Park is where Henry Ford opened his first assembly line and Chrysler Corp. built its original headquarters. It has suffered the same ills as Detroit, its larger neighbor: an exodus of auto jobs, depressed housing stock and a surge in crime.

 

The city, which spreads across three square miles, lost nearly 30% of its population from 2000 to 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census. Nearly half of the 11,776 residents live below the poverty line.

 

Students and parents complain of dirty classrooms, exposed wiring in the schools, rationed textbook and swimming pools—once used by powerhouse swim teams—that now sit drained of water.

 

John Holloway, the school board president, said the problems became a “runaway train that we could not stop.”

 

As the situation worsened, the state gave the district a $4 million loan in July 2011 and advanced it $450,000 more earlier this year just to meet its payroll.

 

A union-backed initiative that could go to voters statewide in November seeks to repeal the emergency-manager law under which Ms. Parker was appointed to run the district. The law had been strengthened in 2011 by the governor.

 

Glenda McDonald, a Highland Park resident and laid-off teacher, said that the problem was not entirely the fault of the community. “The disinvestment in our communities led to the disinvestment in our schools, and that’s why people left,” she said. “We had nothing to offer them.”

 

After Leona took over, things did not go well. Enrollment dropped sharply. The company closed the district’s high school. It agreed to waive its fee for one year because of a lingering deficit.

 

 

Colorado has one of the very worst, most punitive educator evaluation laws in the nation, called SB 191. It was written by ex-TFA member State Senator Michael Johnston.

Please sign this petition to repeal 191.

In typical corporate reform fashion, the bill has a deceptive title,”like “Great Schools, Great Teachers,” but the mechanism of “greatness” is to tie 50% of teachers’ evaluations to student test scores. In 2010, when the bill was passed, value-added-assessment was new and promising. The Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education promoted it. To be eligible for Race to the Top funding or for a waiver from the impossible mandates of No Child Left Behind, starred were required to evaluate teachers by their students’ scores.

Now we know that VAM doesn’t work. It is inaccurate , unreliable, and demoralizing. It says more about who is in the class than teacher quality.

It is time to get rid of VAM.

David Brennan, Akron industrialist, operates Ohio’s largest charter chain. Most are low-performing. But Brennan donates generously to key politicians, and his schools are rewarded, not closed down.

Bill Phillis of Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy writes:

“Brennan strikes again: More money proposed for the drop-out recovery schools

The billion dollar charter school operator, David Brennan, is about to get a huge early Christmas gift. His charter school empire includes dropout recovery charter schools. One of his dropout recovery charter schools graduated 2 out of 155 students in four years. A provision in HB 343, which is currently sailing through the House, will allow drop-out recovery charter schools to enroll students up to 29 years old for GED or diploma programs at a cost of $5,000 per student.

This provision in HB 343 exacerbates the transfer of tax money to private hands. For decades, Ohio public schools have provided adult basic education programs with remarkable results. The Johnny-come-lately state officials may be unaware of this.

Ohio taxpayers need to be informed about this, yet another example of inefficient use of tax money in charterland.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

When the grand jury was convened, I thought sure there would be an indictment. There was not. Obviously, I did not hear the evidence, but this much is clear: Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth, was shot dead by a police officer.

 

Nothing that Michael did or said on that fateful day could justify his death. I look at events like this and feel that the young man got a death sentence. No matter what the grand jury heard, Michael didn’t do anything that deserved a death sentence.

 

Having lost a child myself, I grieve for his parents. I grieve for our country.

 

I grieve even more for Michael, who lost his life in an altercation with a police officer. Does it seem too much to expect the police to protect us, not to harm us? Michael was owed as much protection as I hope for and expect. The police should be our guardians. I don’t have any answers. Just a deep sense that a terrible injustice was done.

The 22-year-old who received a charter from the New York Board of Regents said he graduated Rochester’s School Without Walls when he was 16, received an online bachelor’s degree at 18, then earned a master’s and doctorate in four years.

The following email just arrived:

Hi Diane.

I was the principal of Rochester, New York’s School Without Walls from 1987 to 2010. Ted Morris, the young man awarded permission to open a charter school in Rochester, NY, and claiming to be a graduate of School Without Walls in 2008, attended SWW for less than a year and then voluntarily left to be home schooled. He never graduated nor received a diploma from School Without Walls.

Dan Drmacich

It was surprising to learn that the Néw York Board of Regents awarded a charter to a 22-year-old prodigy with no educational experience. Peter Greene did some research and found that the young man and his supporters first applied for a charter when he was only 18 and had just won his bachelor’s degree online. He went on to receive a master’s and a doctorate in the next four years, subject not specified, possibly online but not clear. Peter thinkshe may also be an ordained cyber minister.

The question is, why did the Regents refuse to grant him a charter when he was 18? Andre Agassi has lots of charters, and he is a high school dropout. Like, what’s the standard here? Age, money, charisma, experience, or what?

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy fears that Governor John Kasich plans to privatize the public schools of Youngstown:

Bill Phillis writes:

According to a November 20 Youngstown Vindicator article, the state representative-elect from Youngstown said the Governor told her he would like to shut down Youngstown City Schools and replace the district with a great charter school. Could this happen? That scheme already exists in New Orleans. Look for it in the state budget bill to be unveiled by the Governor in February 2015.

Ohio law provides that charters are privately-operated entities with near zero accountability and transparency. A charterized Youngstown School system would signal that a private, non-transparent, unaccountable system is superior to a publicly-controlled, accountable, transparent system. It would signal that privatization is superior to democracy. It would tell the world that democracy has failed in Youngstown Ohio. What is next? A privatized city council for Youngstown?

Ohioans better wake up to the erosion of democracy via the charter school scheme. If the complete privatization of pubic K-12 education happens, democracy will be history.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Jonathan Prlto blows the whistle on Steve Perry’s expansion plans, which Pelto says are illegal under Connecticut law.

Perry is principal of Capital Prep Magey School in Hartford. He has received permission from the state Board of Education to open a charter in Bridgeport and from Néw York’s Board of Regents to open a charter in Harlem. He will remain principal of the public magnet school in Hartford and will use materials and personnel from the public school for the charters.

Pelto writes:

“The proposals for both schools openly admitted that the plans were based on Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, that the materials used will be the same as those used at Capital Prep Magnet School and the management team that will run the Bridgeport and Harlem charter schools will be the same group of senior administrators and teachers that are presently running Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford.

“The proposals even included many of the written materials that can be found on Capital Prep Magnet School’s present website.

“But of course, Steve Perry and his team know perfectly well that such a move is blatantly illegal.

“The law is very clear, materials and concepts developed by public employees during the course of their work belong to their employer – the government that pays them and its citizens.”

Pelto says:

“Perry will collect $2.5 million per year for the first five years as a charter operator.”

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