Archives for category: Teaching

I recently posted a commentary by John Thompson, a retired teacher in Oklahoma who speculated about whether the state would permit high school teachers to teach Ken Burns’ series on the U.S. and the Holocaust. Oklahoma has a law—HB 1775–which might intimidate teachers.

In response, a teacher in Utah said that he or she felt sure that the Burns’ series would not be allowed because it’s controversial.

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post was taken aback by this intimidation. She asked me to invite teachers to send her an email and comment on whether they felt they would be in jeopardy if they taught the Ken Burns’ series, which acknowledges the unwillingness of the U.S. government to accept European Jews trying to flee from Hitler.

Please write her at Valerie.Strauss@WashPost.com.

She will protect your anonymity.

I don’t usually get enthusiastic about fictionalized portrayals of schools because they are typically sensationalized and hostile towards teachers and students. It’s easy to make a long list of such movies or TV programs, starting with “Blackboard Jungle.”

But wait!

Here’s a show you will love: “Abbott Elementary” is set in Philadelphia. The writer of the Emmy-award-winning show, Quinta Brunson, is also the star. She plays a first-year teacher in the first season. She is thrilled to be a teacher and her colleagues are helpful, funny, and the usual mix of personalities—real people. They care about the children. The children—all Black—are adorable. There’s not enough money for supplies, but everyone makes do. The spirit of the show is beautiful.

The show makes you feel like teaching is the very best job in the world. Don’t miss it!

In case you didn’t know, TFG IS The Former Guy.

This kindergarten teacher explains to him why you must not take things home that do not belong to you.

No one can explain better than a teacher!

I received the following statement by hundreds of Swedish teachers, protesting against the odious effects of privatization in education. They signed this post.

We teachers do not want to have it like this anymore

Published 28 Apr 2022 at 06.00

Filippa Mannerheim, high school teacher, Stockholm.

HP Tran, primary school teacher, Gothenburg.

Sara Persson, primary school teacher, Västervik.Photo: Sara Winsnes

Marcus Erhagen, high school teacher, Örebro.

Per Edberg, preschool teacher, Umeå.

We teachers demand a change. We demand that you politicians make sure to fix the institutionalized, corruption-promoting defects you yourself have built into the school system so that we teachers can focus on teaching Sweden’s children, 285 teachers write in a call against the marketized school.

This is a debate article. It is the writer who stands for the opinions in the text.

DEBATE. We who write this article do so even though we do not really have the time or energy. We write it even though it is not our job. We write it even though it should not have been needed and had not been needed in any other country than Sweden.

But as things stand now, we feel we have no choice.

We in Sweden today have large, commercial school groups that expand at the expense of the municipal school and make a profit through lower teacher density, fewer qualified teachers, fewer costly students and lower teacher salaries than municipal schools. Group schools receive permission from the Swedish Schools Inspectorate to start in municipalities even though the municipalities themselves say no and there is no need.

We do not want it like this.

Today, through the free right of establishment and the unregulated offer, a school can be opened anywhere and look any way. A teaching position can be anything for anyone. Nothing on the school grounds is regulated. Nothing is planned based on society’s needs.

We do not want it this way.

In the past, independent schools had lower school fees because the municipality must ensure that all students can go to a school close to home. The municipality can not choose the organization that is cheapest, it can independent schools. The municipality can not put students in line, it can independent schools. The municipality can not profile its schools so that some students feel that the school is not suitable for them, independent schools can. The municipality’s assignments are larger and more expensive, but the tuition fees are just as large. A majority of the Riksdag’s parties refuse to change this.

We do not want it this way.

The revolving doors between politicians and independent school companies are freshly blown and the close ties that exist between politicians, lobbyists and the business community are becoming increasingly tighter when former politicians take seats in school management or continue their careers as lobbyists.

It’s time to listen to the voters. It’s time to listen to us teachers. It is time to climb out of the school market swamp and act as elected politicians again.

Public opinion in Sweden is clearly against the private gains made in welfare and school. Nevertheless, this is not reflected in the Riksdag decisions that are made.

We do not want it this way.

School companies and large real estate companies today buy school properties so that the companies can make money at school even if politicians decide on a profit ban. They want to be able to move money from profits in school to profits in real estate companies. Instead of hiring teachers, the school fees are used for the real estate companies’ return requirements.

We do not want it this way.

We have politicians who drum up “freedom of choice” as a mantra as soon as criticism is directed at the system, but the free choice they defend is in fact the school groups, which through targeted marketing to parents with high-performing children, have the choice to only give school to the “cheapest The students. Everything is as it should be in the best of worlds, the majority of our parliamentary parties believe.

But we do not want it this way.

The Swedish school once made class trips possible. The school was good at getting the majority of students to succeed – even children without a study background. Today, Sweden has the most unequal school of all the Nordic countries. Swedish school torn apart.

Instead of a cohesive compensatory school, we now have listed company schools, groups with fake coats of arms, schools that call themselves international and that have teaching in a language other than Swedish. We have religious schools with dubious values.

We teachers do not want it like this anymore. We demand a change. We demand that you politicians make sure to remedy the institutionalized, corruption-promoting defects you yourself have built into the school system so that we teachers can focus on teaching Sweden’s children. And avoid writing articles like this in the future.

It’s time to listen to the voters. It’s time to listen to us teachers. It is time to climb out of the school market swamp and act as elected politicians again.

We teachers do not want it like this anymore.

Rolf Wallander, subject teacher years 4-6, Haninge 

Miranda Chang, F-6 teacher, Gislaved 

HP Tran, primary school teacher, Gothenburg 

Helena Tarras-Wahlberg, teacher, Ängelholm

Anna Bränström, high school teacher, Sundbyberg municipality

Maria Karlsson, high school teacher, Knivsta 

Jonas Linderoth, Professor of Pedagogy University of Gothenburg 

Pia Ennemuist, elementary school teacher, leisure educator, Värmdö 

Therese Wikström, high school teacher, Ale 

Erik Winerö, high school teacher / doctoral student educational science, Lerum

Alexander Nilsson, high school teacher, Trelleborg

Marie Pettersson, special educator, Skövde

Therese Andersson, elementary school teacher, Örebro 

teacher , Stockholm

Magnus Svensson, university lecturer, teacher educator, Eskilstuna. 

Ann-Christine Norman, upper secondary school teacher, Boden

Daniel Runhage, primary school teacher, Malmö 

Per Edberg, preschool teacher, Umeå

Filippa Mannerheim, upper secondary school teacher, Stockholm 

Anton Ek, primary school teacher. Falun

Felix Björk, music teacher student, Stockholm

Aron Ihse Trägårdh, elementary teacher student, Malmö 

Anthon Brunzell, subject teacher student, Lund

Björn Dahlman, teacher, Ekerö

Terese Crona Lindström, teacher in after-school center, Ängelholm 

Simon Kvassman, subject teacher and teacher student, Örebro

Birch Petter 

MagnusBäcklund, teacher Hörby

Jenny Winberg, teacher, Västerås

Edvin Jensen, high school teacher, Linköping 

Maria Olsson, retired high school teacher, Ale

Martin Ahlstedt, high school teacher, Gothenburg

Pernilla Wallgren, elementary school teacher, Stockholm 

Lena Karlsson Saranpää, elementary school teacher, Motala

Maja Anselius, Special educator 

, , primary school teacher, Stockholm 

Erika Tidblom, teacher, Norrköping

Magnus Dahlström, high school teacher, Malmö

Tilde Jansson, high school teacher, Stockholm 

Lena Danelius, high school teacher, Lund

Daniel Lund, high school teacher, Norrköping

Rasmus Hardeström, teacher, Linköping

Maria Hals, high school teacher, Danderyd

Joel Larsson, High school, Danderyd

Maria Jarlsdotte r former principal, Ängelholm 

Per Johansson, high school teacher, Ängelholm

Karl Engqvist, primary school teacher, Arvika. 

Olof Persson, High school teacher, Strömsund

Lotta Lindvall, preschool teacher in preschool class, Motala

Birgitta Hultkrantz, Municipal adult teacher Stockholm

Jonas Hemström, deputy principal, Stockholm

Andreas Olofsson, high school teacher, Ljungby 

Petter Cronberg, teacher, Nyhamnsläge

, elementary school teacher, elementary school

NyborgDanderyd

Kristina Lundin, high school teacher, Köping

Ulla Åkerström, leg. teachers who left school, Gothenburg

Johanna Verme, high school teacher student, Lerum

Jesper Berglund, high school teacher, Gothenburg

Lisa Göland, high school teacher, Linköping

Petra Särnhammar, school librarian and high school teacher, Linköping

Linda Odén, high school teacher, Gråbo

Lars Ljunggren, high school teacher, Falun

Åsa Tadell, high school teacher

Maria Gustavson, teacher, Västerås 

Fredrik Sandström, teacher, Arboga

Tom Bergström, vocational teacher, Sala 

Petra Lindström, teacher, Gnesta

Pontus Bierich, Teacher, Kungälv

Linnea Argårds, teacher, Örebro

Martin Viklund, teacher, Hudiksvall

Gunnar Wike, primary school teacher, Västerås

Anders Törnlund , teacher, Huddinge

Jan Kjellin, preschool teacher, Falun

Fredrik Björkman, high school teacher, Malmö

Elisabeth Ahrent, teacher Simrishamn

Johan Carlsson, high school teacher, Upplands Väsby 

Fredrik Törnqvist, high school teacher, Stockholm

Magnus Almström, high school teacher, Borås

Helena Edvardsson, elementary school teacher, Gothenburg

Christoffer Eriksson, high school teacher , Uppsala

Kari Nilsson, teacher, Malmö 

Elin Persson, after-school center teacher, Danderyd

Anna Östman, primary school teacher, Huddinge

Rickard Himre, upper secondary school teacher, Stockholm  

Fredrik Clausson, upper secondary school teacher, Lund

Nils Rickdorff Lahrin, upper secondary school teacher, Uppsala 

Björn Johannesson, primary school teacher, Gothenburg

Maryna Grip, primary school teacher, Söderhamn

Jan Magnusson,

Lotta Gedik-Cederberg, primary school teacher, Malmö

Jenny Vide, primary school teacher, Uppsala

Mathias Israelsson, primary school teacher, Gothenburg

Lilian Birath, high school teacher, Svedala 

Anna Heimer, preschool teacher, Partille

Patrik Unné, special educator 

Margareta Melin, primary school teacher, Kungälv

Jonas Fried, Gothenburg primary school

teacher , elementary school teacher, Ryd

Sara Persson, elementary school teacher, Västervik 

Maria Himre, high school teacher, Stockholm

Marie Karlsson, elementary school teacher, Svedala

Olof Loklint, elementary school teacher, Västerås 

Niclas Djupström, high school teacher, Skövde

Gunnel Alm, high school teacher, Norrköping

Bodil Ejwertz, teacher, Tylyl

, teacher , Sundbyberg

Helen a Svanängen, university lecturer, Jönköping

Isabella Åkerlund, teacher, Karlstad

Maria Hilber, preschool teacher, Huddinge

Isabella Verner, high school teacher, Stockholm

Malin Ahlgren, high school teacher, Stockholm

Elinor Löfstaf, teacher, Västerås 

Peter Sjöde IDH teacher Jönköping

Svensson Gothenburg

MånsPettersson, high school teacher, Stockholm 

Anders Lindborg, high school teacher Varberg

Karin Berg, high school teacher, Gothenburg 

Peter Alm, high school teacher, Uppsala 

Marina Nordin, teacher, Stockholm 

Calle Andén, primary school teacher, Gotland

Niclas Ländin, deputy principal, Sollentuna 

Hedvig Bolmgren, special teacher / special educator,

Östhammar Rosenberg, primary school teacher, Klippan 

Fredrik Hornegård, teacher, Stockholm 

EwaLiz Larsson, primary school teacher, Karlskrona 

Tobias Nilsson, special teacher, Lund 

Anna Nylander, high school teacher, Lysekil. 

Marika Lindholm, teacher, former. principal, Stockholm

Emma Sjödin, high school teacher, Stockholm 

Shpetim Ademi, high school teacher, Kristianstad. 

Johanna Andersson, high school teacher, Malmö

Bernt Andersson, leg. teacher of music and English, SiS in Lidköping

Magnus Karlberg Teacher / leisure educator Stockholm

Ellinor Brantås, elementary school teacher, Järfälla 

Johanna Ramstedt, elementary school teacher, Stockholm

Linda Bäckström, high school teacher, Gothenburg

Niklas Aronsson, high school teacher Gothenburg

Hjalmar Holgersson, high school teacher, Gothenburg

Pelle Flemark, high school 

Eva Söderberg, certified teacher of handicrafts / Swedish, Gothenburg

Kedikova, high school teacher, Norrköping

Anna Lundin, music teacher, Västerås 

Helene Johansson, elementary / high school teacher, Uddevalla 

Jakob Winnberg, high school teacher, Växjö

Solveig Ivarsson, elementary school teacher, Svenljunga

Jan Gustavsson, Norrman Lotman,

Zumi, elementary school teacher, Ulricehamn 

Anna Klingström, high school teacher, Sala

Fredrik Månsson, high school teacher, Norrköping

Christina W. Källström, high school teacher, Katrineholm

Emma Solum Holst, high school teacher, Borlänge 

Alexandra Georgieva, elementary school teacher, Gothenburg

Carina Lindström, music teacher in elementary school, 

Södertarje high school Lina teacher, Stockholm

Helena Wessel, school secretary former high school teacher, Stockholm

Katarina Hjärpe, school librarian, Malmö 

Mattias Forsberg, high school teacher, Arvika

Henrik Estvik, high school teacher, Stockholm

Maria Ruukel, elementary school teacher, Valdemarsvik 

Åsa Andersson, elementary school teacher, Västerås

Jonathan Wikström, elementary school teacher,

L primary school teacher, Stockholm

Staffan Lindström, music teacher in primary school, Södertälje

Carin Hammarström, teacher, Malmö

Hans-Uno Karlsson, retired primary school teacher, Hajom

Jennie Gudmundsson, leg. teacher ma / bi 7–9, Ängelholm

Ragnar Suneson retired language teacher 7–9, Tranås

Cecilia Ekdahl Schewenius, subject teacher / assistant professor, Kungshamn 

Jan Wärmegård, primary school teacher, Stockholm

Cecilia F. Kroon, teacher, Staffanstorp 

Gunilla Martinsson, teacher Falkenberg

Maria Henriksson, language teacher Mora 

Anna Liljekvist, teacher, Nacka

Cecilia Svensson, teacher F-3, Sundsvall 

Inga-Lill Lagerlöf, retired teacher, Tierp

Hanna Wallinder, teacher, Malmö 

Helén Enqvist, language teacher years 6–9, Botkyrka 

Annette Säterberg, high school teacher, Kungsbacka

Ingemar Abrahamsson, handicraft teacher, Gothenburg

Lotta Carlson, subject teacher Ma / No, Kungsbacka 

Carola Svensson, adult teacher, Norrköping

Marie Wislander, teacher, Tjörn

Maria Jansson, special teacher, Stockholm

Jonny Wester, music teacher, Hylte 

Miriam Järlebark, teacher SFI, Örebro

Film Katja 

Roselli Åsell, teacher, Hofors

Jan Gustavsson, Municipal adult teacher, Norrköping

Helen Egardt, high school teacher, Lidingö

Thomas Bergström, high school teacher Ludvika

Mikael Winblad, teacher e, Strängnäs

Ann-Sofie Johansson, high school teacher, Västerås 

Pia Brodersen, special educator, Stockholm

Ulla Sunden, teacher, Gothenburg

Mirjam Cameron Sedwall, teacher, Stockholm

Linda Söderberg, teacher, Timrå 

Robert Warrebäck, teacher, Stockholm

Jenny Vad-Schütt, teacher, Täby 

Johan Thorssell, high school teacher, Gothenburg 

Cecilia Rosenqvist, subject teacher, Simrishamn

Rebecka Beijer, high school teacher, Eskilstuna

Jaana Vilén, special teacher, Karlskoga

Carola Sjöstrand, teacher, Jönköping

Elisabeth Broman, former elementary school teacher, Österåker

Sabina Granstrand, teacher Frida, Samstad

4-6 Gothenburg

Louise Halldin, high school teacher, Gothenburg

Birgitta Jensen, deputy principal, Emmaboda

Pia Thomasson, 7 – 9 teachers, Ängelholm

Sanna Dabolins, high school teacher, Gothenburg 

Linda Gunnarsson, teacher, Härryda 

Bengt Johansson, teacher, Nacka 

Malin Hökby, high school teacher, Nacka 

Anna Näslund War, primary school teacher 4–6, Karlskrona

Ingela Bursjöö, teacher, Gothenburg

Hasse Annerbo, primary school teacher 1–7 Falun 

Åsa Hartzell, upper secondary school teacher, Stockholm

Jessica Andersson Sjöstrand, upper secondary school teacher, Växjö 

Marie Rehnström, middle school teacher, Härryda

Johanna Stigmark, SFI teacher, Södertälje

Maria Knutsson-Torvaldsen, primary school teacher, Ockelbo 

Frida Lotfi, upper secondary school teacher, Danderyd

Kenneth Pilström, retired teacher, Kil

Anders teacher, Norrköping

Cecilia Rehnqvist, teacher, Malmö 

Petter Träff, high school teacher, Malmö

Maria Trulsson, teacher, Gothenburg

Kristina Broberg, elementary school teacher, Uddevalla

Nilla Wikberg, special educator, Uppsala

Elin Jonasson, teacher student, Mönsterås

Robert Alexandersson, middle school teacher, Kristinehamn

high school teacher Micke Hjalmarsson Motala

David Reljanovic, high school teacher, Borås

Edith Marelli, high school teacher, Malmö

Sophia Ivanovic, teacher Nässjö

Robert Svensson, teacher Trollhättan

Sara Berggren, teacher, Sundsvall 

Nicklas Ivarsson, teacher, Trelleborg

Per Olov Nordin, philosophy Master, retired, Söderhamn

Susanne Lindgren, speci Luleå

Anna Svensson, high school e-teacher, Skara

Magdalena Gyllenlood, high school teacher, Nacka

Marie Sandström, high school teacher, Vara

Maria Sköld, teacher, Haninge

Amanda Terlevic, high school teacher, Gothenburg

Kerstin Meurling, teacher, Kulturskolan, Sundsvall

Maria L. Persson, teacher, Varberg

Susanne Lärkeryd, teacher,

Skellefte Utter, upper secondary school teacher, Gothenburg

Elin Bergström, leisure teacher, Sundsvall 

Nicolas Micic, teacher, Huddinge

Jennie Frisk, primary school teacher, Uppsala 

Åsa Fondin, special teacher, Landskrona

Stina Carlsson, primary school teacher ma / NO 1-7, Dalsed

Johanna Leinås, teacher, Täby 

Christer Hällkvist, high school teacher, Linköping 

Susan Persson-Payne, teacher, Eskilstuna

Jenny Svensson, high school teacher, Halmstad

Johan Fransson, high school teacher, Linköping

Staffan Melin, primary school teacher, Gothenburg

Karin Wilsson, principal, Mark municipality

Majlis Seppänen, teacher, Boden

Niclas Skott, teacher, Gothenburg

Anton Svensson , teacher, Växjö

Klas Holmgren, teacher, Borlänge

My Landberg, teacher, Järfälla

Joakim Lindström, teacher, Huddinge

Josefine Forsberg, primary school teacher, Umeå

Kerstin Rödén, special educator, Östersund

Helena Eidenson, primary school teacher, Sigtuna

Rolf Back, mathematics teacher, Falun

Lars Persson, technology teacher, Sölvesborg

Ola Lindholm, teacher, Karlstad

Marcus Erhagen, high school teacher, Örebro

Göteborg Hjertén, teacher 

Finnhigh school teacher, Uppsala

Jenny Dahlin, high school teacher, Mark municipality

Eva Almestad, preschool teacher, Sundsvall

Olof Dahl, fil. dr, high school teacher, Mölndal

Åsa Marmebro, teacher, Kungälv

Ulrihca Malmberg, high school teacher, Stockholm

Sara Fransson, high school teacher, Huddinge 

Debora Påhlsson, teacher, Båstad 

Birgitta Olsson, teacher, Karlskrona

Karin Linderyd, high school teacher, Motala 

Steven Singer is an experienced English Language Arts teacher in Pennsylvania. In this post, he shows how he created a lesson about Ukraine and linked it to Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.”

He writes:

How does one teach about war?



With pictures or words?



With speeches or documentation?



With prayers or curses?



With laughter or tears?



I began my class like I always do – with a question.



“Has anyone heard about what’s happening in Ukraine?” I asked.



A few hands, but they had only heard the words. They didn’t know what was happening.



So I showed my 8th graders a short video that summarized events so far. I drew a map of Europe and Asia on the board. I outlined Ukraine, Russia and the European union. I explained about the Soviet Union and its collapse. I explained about NATO and the struggle for power and prestige.



When I was done, there was a moment of silence. They were all staring up at me. It was one of those rare moments of stillness, a pregnant pause before the questions started raining down.



A patter at first, then a storm.



They asked about what they were hearing at home. They searched for corroboration, explanation and/or other viewpoints.



One child asked if this was NATO’s fault. If it was President Biden’s doing.

I



And yet another asked about nuclear proliferation and whether this war meant the end of the world.



I couldn’t answer all of their questions, though I tried. When there was something I couldn’t say or didn’t know, I pointed them in a direction where they might find some answers.



But it led to some interesting discussion.



Then I asked them if they had talked about any of this in their other classes – perhaps in social studies. They all said no, that a few teachers had promised to get to it after finishing the 13 colonies or another piece of mandated curriculum.



I was surprised but not shocked. I know the tyranny of the curriculum.



I was only able to talk about this, myself, because of the scope and sequence of Language Arts. You see, it was poetry time and I was about to introduce my students to Alfred Lord Tennyson and “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Continue reading to learn about the lesson.

Many state legislatures have passed laws banning the teaching of “critical race theory,” even though most legislators don’t know what it is. Many have banned the use of “The 1619 Project,” which puts the African-American experience at the center of U.S. history. Many have prohibited teaching “divisive concepts,” which presumably means anything controversial. The people passing these laws say they want “patriotic history,” the kind they learned as children, where America was the land of the free and brave, where nothing bad ever happened and all the heroes were white men.

History, think the Neanderthals, is a list of facts and battles and names to be memorized and recited.

But, writes Peter Greene, that’s not history at all. History, he writes, is a conversation.

I had the pleasure of reading the galleys of Audrey Watter’s fascinating new book—Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning—about the origins of education technology, which began with the search for a machine that could replace teachers: a teaching machine. She goes into detail about the pioneers of this innovation, notably B.F. Skinner, who tried relentlessly to find a publisher to produce and monetize his invention.

Watter’s’ book was published by MIT Press. You will enjoy it.

The search for the best “teaching machine” seems akin to the search for the Fountain of Youth or Shangri-La, but with a big profit when on the market.

You can listen to Audrey talk about her new book with Leonie Haimson on Leonie’s radio show.

A former student who all’s him/herself “ArtTeacher” left the following moving tribute to our beloved friend and frequent contributor Dr. Laura Chapman. I wonder if she knew how many lives she influenced, how admired and respected she was? I learned from everything she wrote here.

ArtTeacher wrote:

I was an art education student of Dr. Chapman and her life partner, Patricia Renick from 1974-78 at the University of Cincinnati. We called Patricia “Pat,” and she was vivacious, loving, and upbeat. Her nickname was “Mother Art.” Even as adults, my classmates and I had difficulty dropping the “Dr.” because we held Laura in such high esteem.

I was the first Art Education major to graduate summa cum laude from the school of Design, Architecture and Art, and I still have her letter of recommendation that described me as one of the “brightest and best.” I felt as if I had failed them both when I quit teaching after being RIFed from 2 schools in 3 years.

In 2000 when I became an art teacher again, NCLB was in full force in Ohio, and I boldly phoned her to meet and catch up on current education trends. She laughed when I told her how she struck fear in our undergraduate hearts if we showed up unprepared for her class. She was interested in hearing that two of my 8th graders filled in their scan-tron sheets to create a smiley face and a penis. When I asked what on earth they were doing, one of them said that he was only there so he could attend the dance that Friday. “I happen to know this test doesn’t affect my GPA,” he told me, pointing a finger at my face, “It affects YOU, and I don’t care about you. You can make me come to school, but you can’t make me try.” I told Laura that surely the principals and superintendents would protest the obvious flaws in forcing a school in a rural, low-income area to improve scores on such a test each year, when students’ home lives were such a struggle. The next year I was hired by a surburban elementary school to teach art to over 600 fourth graders, many of whom became physically ill on testing days because they wanted so much to do well, the opposite of the other school.

In 2012 she sent an email asking me to describe how I’m evaluated, how many students I taught, budget, schedules, etc. for a research paper. She said, “The evaluation of teachers by standardized test scores and principal observations is going in the direction that hit the teacher at Oyler (a public school in a low-income area near U.C.). In fact, more standardized tests are in the works and scheduled for administration in 2014, grades 3-12, as a condition for schools receiving federal funds from the ESEA. New state mandates are getting on the books regardless of the governor’s political affiliation. Since 2009, Bill Gates who thinks he is qualified as an expert on education, had been funding many projects that converge on more data gathering and sruveillance of teachers and the overall performance of schools.” So you can see that even as a retired professor, Laura was right on top of everything that was happening, who was doing it, and why.

I started meeting her for breakfast every month or so, to fill her in on what was new at school, and she explained the agenda behind it all, and warn me about was was coming next. I used to awaken in the wee hours with the chlling thought that it was like the plot of a bad sci fi movie, where there seemed no way to effectively fight the evil forces that had taken over. I joined BATs about a month after it began, full of hope that all we had to do was reveal what we knew was going on, and our communities (and unions) would shut it right down. I had even greater hope listening live to the first NPE convention from my home as I prepared art lessons. I remember our union presidents promising Diane to stop accepting Gates’ money, then reneging on that promise three days later.

In 2014 Laura gave a lengthy slide presentation at the Ohio Art Education convention that was titled “The Circular Reasoning Theory of School Reform: Why it is Wrong,” explaining in part why SLOs and VAM were invalid measurements of learning. It was, as you can imagine, annotated like a Master’s Thesis. Her voice was weak because was suffering from COPD and recovering from a cold, but her presentation had an enormous impact. Immeditately afterward we art teachers attended a workshop by the Ohio Dept. of Education intended to train us to write SLOs for our K-12 art students. We nearly rioted. Yet, the following school year, I had to give a test to my fourth graders the first day of school over a list of art vocabulary words I was certain they would not already know. At the end of the year, I tested them on the same 15 words, and nearly every one of 850 students passed with flying colors. Yet most were upset to see their low scores from the beginning of the year. “I can’t believe I was that stupid,” one girl said. I told her that I had to show that she learned something from me, so she was supposed to fail the test the first time. “WHY would you DO that to us?” she gasped. Now we have opted for shared attribution, where 50% of my evaluattion as an art teacher is based on 4th grade math and reading scores.

My students look forward to art class, and I have lost no enthusiasm for teaching them. This is my 20th year at my school, and every year I have something new to try, something marvelous to experience with my students. I rarely miss a single day of teaching. My way of fighting back is to absolutely refuse to let anything dampen my love for teaching art. I actually feel lucky to be an insider during these years, to see and know that even with the most misguided of mandates, my colleagues and I show up every day for the children who come through our doors.

The last time I saw Laura was in late February 2020 when it was becoming obvious that teaching in a building with 2400 fourth, fifth and sixth grade students was putting me at risk for contracting COVID, and that our Saturday breakfasts must stop to protect Laura’s health. I held my breath and hugged her. My school shut down mid-March, and I was allowed to teach online from home last year — to about 900 students in grades 1-4. I sent long emails describing what that was like, and she was fascinated by my reports. She said she was picking up groceries, staying in her condo, and of course, continuing her research and advocacy. In the spring I asked if we could get together again, and although she didn’t say no, she closed by wishing me and my famliy good health and happy lives. I knew that it was her way of saying good-bye.

Les Perelman, former professor of writing at MIT and inventor of the BABEL generator, has repeatedly exposed the quackery in computer-scoring of essays. If you want to learn how to generate an essay that will win a high score but make no sense, google the “BABEL Generator,” which was developed by Perelman and his students at MIT to fool the robocomputer graders. He explains here, in an original piece published nowhere else, why the American public needs an FDA for assessments, to judge their quality.

He writes:

An FDA for Educational Assessment, particularly for Computer Assessments

As a new and much saner administration takes over the US Department of Education led by Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, it is a good time, especially regarding assessment, to ask Juvenal’s famous question of “Who watches the Watchman.” 

Several years ago, I realized computer applications designed to assess student writing did not understand the essays they evaluated but simply counted proxies such as the length of an essays, the number of sentences in each paragraph, and the frequency of infrequently used words.  In 2014, I and three undergraduate researchers from Harvard and MIT, developed the Basic Automatic B.S. Essay Language Generator, or BABEL Generator that could in seconds generate 500-1000 words of complete gibberish that received top scores from Robo-grading applications such e-rater developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).   I was able to develop the BABEL generator because I was already retired and, aside from some consulting assignments, had free time for research unencumbered by teaching or service obligations.  Even more important, I had access to three undergraduate researchers, two from MIT and one from Harvard, who provided substantial technical expertise.  Much of their potential expertise, however, was unnecessary since after only a few weeks of development our first iteration of the BABEL Generator was able to produce gibberish such as

Society will always authenticate curriculum; some for assassinations and others to a concession. The insinuation at pupil lies in the area of theory of knowledge and the field of semantics. Despite the fact that utterances will tantalize many of the reports, student is both inquisitive and tranquil. Portent, usually with admiration, will be consistent but not perilous to student. Because of embarking, the domain that solicits thermostats of educatee can be more considerately countenanced. Additionally, programme by a denouncement has not, and in all likelihood never will be haphazard in the extent to which we incense amicably interpretable expositions. In my philosophy class, some of the dicta on our personal oration for the advance we augment allure fetish by adherents.

 that received high scores from the five Robo-graders we were able to access.

I and the BABEL Generator were enlisted by the Australian Teachers Unions to help the successful opposition to having the national K-12 writing tests scored by a computer.    The Educational Testing Service’s response to Australia’s rejection was to have three of its researchers  publish a study, “Developing an e-rater Advisory to Detect Babel-generated Essays,” that described their generating over 500,000 BABEL essays based on prompts from what are clearly the two essays in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the essay portion of the PRAXIS teacher certification test, and the two essay sections of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and comparing the BABEL essays to 384,656 actual essays from those tests.  The result of this effort was the development of an “advisory” from e-rater that would flag BABEL generated gibberish.  

Unfortunately, this advisory was a solution in search of a problem.  The purpose of the BABEL Generator was to display through an extreme example that Robo-graders such as e-rater could be fooled into giving high scores to undeserving essays simply by including the various proxies that constituted e-rater’s score.  Candidates could not actually use the BABEL Generator while taking one of these tests; but they could use the same strategies that informed the BABEL Generator such as including long and rarely used words regardless of their meaning and inserting long vacuous sentences into every paragraph.

Moreover, the BABEL Generator is so primitive that there are much easier ways of detecting BABEL essays.  We did not expect our first attempt to fool all the Robo-graders we could access to succeed, but because it did, we stopped. We had proved our point.   One of the student researchers was taking Physics at Harvard and hard coded into BABEL responses inclusion of some of the terminology of sub-atomic particles such as neutrino, orbital, plasma, and neuron.  E-rater and the other Robo-graders did not seem to notice.  A simple program scanning for these terms could have saved the trouble of generating a half-million essays.

ETS is not satisfied in just automating the grading of the writing portion of its various tests.  ETS researchers have developed SpeechRater, a Robo-grading application that would score the speaking sections of the TOEFL test.  There is a whole volume of scholarly research articles on SpeechRater published by the well-respected Routledge imprint of the Taylor and Francis Group.  However, the short biographies of the nineteen contributors to the volume list seventeen as current employees of ETS, one as a former employee, and only one with no explicit affiliation.

Testing organizations appear to no longer have a wide range of perspectives, or any perspective that runs counter to their very narrow psychometric outlook.  This danger has long been noted.  Carl D. Brigham, the eugenicist who then renounced the racial characterization of intelligence and the creator of the SAT who then became critical of that test, wrote shortly before his death that research in a testing organization should be governed and implemented not by educational psychologists but by specialists in academic disciplines since it is easier to teach them testing rather than trying to “teach testers culture.”  

The obvious home for such a research organization is the US Department of Education.  Just as the FDA vets the efficacy of drugs and medical devices, there should be an agency that verifies not only that assessments are measuring what they claim to be measuring but also the instrument is not biased towards or against specific ethnic or socio-economic groups.  There was an old analogy question on the SAT (which no longer has analogy items) that had “Runner is to marathon as: a) envoy is to embassy; b) martyr is to massacre; c) oarsman is to regatta; d) referee is to tournament; e) horse is to stable.   The correct answer is c: oarsman is to regatta.   Unfortunately, there are very few regattas in the Great Plains or inner cities.

The Biden administration selected San Diego Superintendent of Schools Cindy Marten to become Deputy Secretary of Education, the #2 job in the Department of Education.

She has a long career as a teacher, as principal of a high-poverty school in San Diego, and as Superintendent of the state’s second largest district since 2013.

Louis Freedberg of Edsource describes her career in this article.

Marten has been superintendent of San Diego Unified since 2013. But before that she had been a teacher for 17 years, as well as principal of San Diego’s Central Elementary School, a school in the diverse City Heights neighborhood where 96% of students qualify for free and reduced-priced meals.

It was after several years at Central Elementary that she made the virtually unheard of jump from an elementary school principal to being superintendent of her district — not just any district, but the second-largest district in California and the 20th-largest in the nation.

Derrick Johnson, President of the national NAACP, tweeted his support for her candidacy.

The San Diego chapter of the NAACP, strong supporters of charter schools, has criticized Cindy Marten for the high suspension rates of black students (black students are 4% of the SD enrollment but 12% of suspensions). The critics do not note that the San Diego school board passed a resolution to replace suspensions with programs of restorative justice, which will drive down suspension rates.

No such voices complained about John King, when he was nominated to be Secretary of Education by the Obama administration, after Arne Duncan stepped down. King’s no-excuses charter school in Massachusetts had the highest suspension rate in the nation (nearly 60%), but no one mentioned it. He was “the king of suspensions,” but no one cared.

Marten is committed to child-centered education, with a heaping dose of the arts and play. She is a worthy choice to serve as Deputy Secretary of Education.