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A Middle-School Cheating Scandal | The New Yorker
"In an era of high-stakes testing, a struggling school made a shocking choice."



"The first teacher he approached was Lewis, who was resistant. Lewis told him, “Fuck the test. Our students are doing hot. We know they are learning.” But after several months, Lewis said, Waller “chewed away at me.” Waller reminded him that Parks was a “sanctuary,” a “safe haven” for the community. If the school didn’t meet its targets, Waller explained, the students would be separated and sent to different schools, outside Pittsburgh. Lewis said he felt that “it was my sole obligation to never let that happen.”"



"In 2007, Parks had to score even higher to surpass its falsely achieved scores from the previous year. According to statements later made by teachers and administrators (obtained through Georgia’s open-records act), the cheating process began to take the form of a routine. During testing week, after students had completed the day’s section, Waller distracted the testing coördinator, Alfred Kiel, by taking him out for leisurely lunches in downtown Atlanta. On their way, Waller called the reading coördinator to let her know that it was safe to enter Kiel’s office. She then paged up to six teachers and told them to report to the room. While their students were at recess, the teachers erased wrong answers and filled in the right ones. Lewis took photographs of the office with his cell phone so that he could make sure he left every object, even the pencils on Kiel’s desk, exactly as he’d found them.

Lewis dreaded the process. It felt to him like “a bad date where you’ve had too much to drink.” He woke up the morning after erasing answers and thought, I shouldn’t have gone that far. He worried that, because of the cheating, students wouldn’t develop “the feeling you get when you take a test and know whether you did all right or whether you knocked that shit out of the park,” he said. He also felt guilty that other teachers were deprived of feedback. Lewis never told his wife that other teachers were correcting her students’ answers. One year, she got the highest scores in the building. Lewis said, “I wasn’t going to burst her bubble. I was, like, ‘Good job. Keep going strong.’ ”"



"Of a hundred and seventy-eight educators named in the cheating investigation, Lewis was the first to be fired. “I felt like someone had hit me with the butt end of an axe,” he said. He shaved off his dreadlocks, which, in Rastafarian tradition—a culture with which he sporadically associated—signalled the loss of a child. What troubled him most, he said, was that “I was fired for doing something that I didn’t even believe in.”

He applied for jobs at charter and alternative schools, community centers, and jails, but he didn’t get any of them. “Education let me go,” he finally concluded. He broadened his search, applying for positions that required manual labor. In interviews, he promised employers that he had the “persistence and tough skin of a middle-school teacher to bring to the workforce.” He applied for a job installing cable, and, after getting a nearly perfect score on the applicant test, he daydreamed about how he would use his teaching skills to help employees streamline the process. But a few days later the company told him that he didn’t have enough experience.

His house was foreclosed on and his car was repossessed. Old friends came to him with alternative methods of earning money. “They had some of the most illegal propositions,” he said. “They were, like, ‘Man, remember when we used to take that trip to St. Louis? Don’t you want to take over that run?’ ” He supported his wife, their newborn son, and his daughter from his previous marriage by working as an auto mechanic.

At first, he was glad to see the district attorney bring charges against Christopher Waller, Beverly Hall, and thirty-three administrators and teachers, but he became troubled by the portrayal of their crimes as mercenary. On April 2, 2013, on the evening news, he watched his colleagues, nearly all of them black, report to the Fulton County Jail in an event that was described in the media as a “perp walk.” They were charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute—used to apprehend criminal organizations like the Mafia—and accused of conspiring in order to receive the bonuses tied to high test scores. Hall, who earned more than five hundred thousand dollars in bonuses, faces up to forty-five years in prison.

More than half of the defendants, including Christopher Waller, pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Now the senior pastor at a church three miles from Parks, Waller agreed to serve five years of probation, pay forty thousand dollars in restitution, and testify as a witness for the prosecution. He told me that he was offended by the idea that he would cheat in order to get what amounted to five thousand dollars in bonuses. He and other teachers at Parks spent their own money to buy groceries, H.I.V. medications, furniture, and clothes for students and their mothers, and this continued even after he was fired. “It wasn’t because of the money—I can promise you that,” he said.

In lengthy plea statements, Waller and the other defendants provided a miniature history of the past twelve years in education policy, describing how No Child Left Behind, in conjunction with the district’s targets, created an atmosphere in which cheating came to seem like a reasonable option. One principal described a “toxic culture throughout APS where all that mattered was test scores, even if ill-gotten.” Another said that the district’s “primary focus . . . became meeting targets instead of focusing on the needs of the students.”

In statements sent to me through their respective lawyers, Hall and Michael Pitts both denied wrongdoing and said they were confident that a jury would find them innocent of the charges. Hall wrote, “I did not order, request, or condone cheating to meet targets nor did I have knowledge of cheating.” She explained that in setting targets she had “relied on APS educators to behave with integrity.” She also said that, compared with the objectives set by No Child Left Behind, Atlanta’s targets were “decidedly more incremental in nature,” and the sanctions less “draconian.” (Many of her employees disagree; the district was unusual in that it required a certain percentage of students to exceed targets each year.)

Since the investigation, the stakes for testing in Georgia have escalated. Although the state is replacing the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test with a more comprehensive method of evaluation, this fall Georgia is implementing a new teacher-evaluation program that bases fifty per cent of a teacher’s assessment on test scores. The program, along with a merit-pay system, is required as a condition for receiving a four-hundred-million-dollar grant from President Obama’s Race to the Top program. Tim Callahan, the spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which represents eighty-four thousand teachers, told me, “The state is going down the same path as Atlanta, and we are not exactly enthused.” He said that many teachers have become so demoralized that they’re retiring early or transferring to private schools. He told me, “Our teachers’ best qualities—their sense of humor, their love for the subject, their excitement, their interest in students as individuals—are not being honored or valued, because those qualities aren’t measurable.”"

[though I'd bookmarked this when it came out, but doesn't seem to be in my collection]
2014  testing  standardizedtesting  cheating  atlanta  education  schools  schooling  incentives  rachelavivrttt  nclb  high-stakestesting  us  scandal  howweteach  teaching  learning 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Yong Zhao "What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education" - YouTube
"Proponents of standardized testing and privatization in education have sought to prove their effectiveness in improving education with an abundance of evidence. These efforts, however, can have dangerous side effects, causing long-lasting damage to children, teachers, and schools. Yong Zhao, Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas, will argue that education interventions are like medical products: They can have serious, sometimes detrimental, side effects while also providing cures. Using standardized testing and privatization as examples, Zhao, author of the internationally bestselling Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, will talk about his new book on why and how pursuing a narrow set of short-term outcomes causes irreparable harm in education."
yongzhao  2018  schools  schooling  pisa  education  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  china  us  history  testscores  children  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  sideeffects  privatization  tims  math  reading  confidence  assessment  economics  depression  diversity  entrepreneurship  japan  creativity  korea  vietnam  homogenization  intolerance  prosperity  tolerance  filtering  sorting  humans  meritocracy  effort  inheritance  numeracy  literacy  achievementgap  kindergarten  nclb  rttt  policy  data  homogeneity  selectivity  charterschools  centralization  decentralization  local  control  inequity  curriculum  autonomy  learning  memorization  directinstruction  instruction  poverty  outcomes  tfa  teachforamerica  finland  singapore  miltonfriedman  vouchers  resilience  growthmindset  motivation  psychology  research  positivepsychology  caroldweck  intrinsicmotivation  choice  neoliberalism  high-stakestesting 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
How Much Do Rising Test Scores Tell Us About A School?
"Reading and math scores have long been the currency of American schooling, and never more so than in the past two decades since the No Child Left Behind Act. Today, advocates will describe a teacher as “effective” when what they really mean is that the teacher’s students had big increases in reading and math scores. Politicians say a school is “good” when they mean that its reading and math scores are high.

So, how much do test scores really tell us, anyway? It turns out: A lot less than we’d like.

For all the attention to testing, there’s been a remarkable lack of curiosity about how much tests tell us. Last spring, for instance, researcher Collin Hitt, of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and two coauthors examined the research on school choice and found a striking disconnect between test score gains and longer-term outcomes. They reported, “Programs that produced no measurable positive impacts on achievement have frequently produced positive impacts on attainment” even as “programs that produced substantial test score gains” have shown no impact on high school graduation or college attendance. More generally, they observe:

The growing literature on early childhood education has found that short-term impacts on test scores are inconsistent predictors of later-life impacts . . . Studies of teacher impacts on student outcomes show a similar pattern of results . . . It turns out that teacher impacts on test scores are almost entirely uncorrelated with teacher impacts on student classroom behavior, attendance, truancy, and grades . . . The teachers who produce improvements in student behavior and noncognitive skills are not particularly likely to be the same teachers who improve test scores.


You would think this disconnect would prompt plenty of furrowed brows and set off lots of alarm bells. It hasn’t. And yet the phenomenon that Hitt et al. note isn’t all that surprising if we think about it. After all, test scores may go up for many reasons. Here are a few of them:

• Students may be learning more reading and math and the tests are simply picking that up. All good.

• Teachers may be shifting time and energy from untested subjects and activities (like history or Spanish) to the tested ones (like reading and math). If this is happening, scores can go up without students actually learning any more.

• Teachers may be learning what gets tested and focusing on that. In this case, they’re just teaching students more of what shows up on the test—again, this means that scores can go up without students learning any more.

• Schools may be focusing on test preparation, so that students do better on the test even as they spend less time learning content—meaning scores may go up while actual learning goes down.

• Scores may be manipulated in various ways, via techniques as problematic as cheating or as mundane as starting the school year earlier. Such strategies can yield higher test scores without telling us anything about whether students actually learned more than they used to.

It matters which of these forces are driving rising scores. To say this is not to deny the value of testing. Indeed, this observation is 100% consistent with a healthy emphasis on the “bottom line” of school improvement. After all, results are what matters.

But that presumes that the results mean what we think they do. Consider: If it turned out that an admired pediatrician was seeing more patients because she’d stopped running certain tests and was shortchanging preventive care, you might have second thoughts about her performance. That’s because it matters how she improved her stats. If it turned out that an automaker was boosting its profitability by using dirt-cheap, unsafe components, savvy investors would run for the hills—because those short-term gains will be turning into long-term headaches. In both cases, observers should note that the “improvements” were phantasms, ploys to look good without actually moving the bottom line.

That’s the point. Test scores can convey valuable information. Some tests, such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), are more trustworthy than others. The NAEP, for instance, is less problematic because it’s administered with more safeguards and isn’t used to judge schools or teachers (which means they have less cause to try to teach to it). But the NAEP isn’t administered every year and doesn’t produce results for individual schools. Meanwhile, the annual state tests that we rely on when it comes to judging schools are susceptible to all the problems flagged above.

This makes the question of why reading and math scores change one that deserves careful, critical scrutiny. Absent that kind of audit, parents and communities can’t really know whether higher test scores mean that schools are getting better—or whether they’re just pretending to do so."
frederickhess  standardizedtesting  2018  education  reform  nclb  rttt  standardization  policy  measurement  assessment  attainment  naep  learning  howelearn  howweteach  teaching  publicschools  schools  schooling 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Is The Big Standardized Test A Big Standardized Flop
"Since No Child Left Behind first rumbled onto the scene, the use of a Big Standardized Test to drive accountability and measure success has been a fundamental piece of education reform. But recently, some education reform stalwarts are beginning to express doubts.

There are plenty of reasons to doubt the validity of the Big Standardized Test, be it PARCC or SBA or whatever your state is using these days. After almost two decades of its use, we've raised an entire generation of students around the notion of test-based accountability, and yet the fruits of that seem.... well, elusive. Where are the waves of students now arriving on college campuses super-prepared? Where are the businesses proclaiming that today's grads are the most awesome in history? Where is the increase in citizens with great-paying jobs? Where are any visible signs that the test-based accountability system has worked?

Two years ago Jay Greene (no relation), head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, was writing about the disconnect in test scores-- if test scores were going up, wasn't that supposed to improve "life outcomes." Wasn't the whole argument that getting students to raise test scores would be indicative of better prospects in life? After all, part of the argument behind education reform has been that a better education was the key to a better economic future, both for individuals and for the country. Greene looked at the research and concluded that there was no evidence of a link between a better test score and a better life.

Here on Forbes.com this week, contributor Frederick Hess (director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-tilted thinky tank) expressed some doubts as well. AEI has always supported the ed reform cause, but Hess has often shown a willingness to follow where the evidence leads, even if that means challenging reform orthodoxy. He cites yet another study that shows a disconnect between a student's test scores and her future. In fact, the research shows that programs that improve "attainment" don't raise test scores, and programs that raise test scores don't affect "attainment."

Test scores can be raised with several techniques, and most of those techniques have nothing to do with providing students with a better education. Drill the test prep. Take at-risk students out of electives and make them take test-related courses instead. And have teachers learn, over the years, how to teach more directly to the test. But do you want higher test scores or better education? Because those are two unrelated things.

The end result is that the test scores do not tell you what they claim they tell you. They are less like actionable data and more like really expensive noise.

Hess and Greene represent a small but growing portion of the reform community; for most, the Big Standardized Test data is God. For others, the revenue stream generated by the tests, the pre-tests, the test prep materials, and the huge mountains of data being mined-- those will be nearly impossible to walk away from.

But there is one critical lesson that ed reform testing apostates should keep in mind. The idea that the Big Standardized Test does not measure what it claims to measure, the idea that it actually does damage to schools, the idea that it simply isn't what it claims to be-- while these ideas are presented as new notions for ed reformers, classroom teachers have been raising these concerns for about twenty years.

Teachers have said, repeatedly, that the tests don't measure what they claim to measure, and that the educational process in schools is being narrowed and weakened in order to focus on testing. Teachers have said, repeatedly, that the Big Standardized Tests are a waste of time and money and not helping students get an education. Teachers have been saying it over and over and over again. In return teachers have been told, "You are just afraid of accountability" and "These tests will finally keep you honest."

After twenty years, folks are starting to figure out that teachers were actually correct. The Big Standardized Test is not helping, not working, and not measuring what it claims to measure. Teachers should probably not hold their collective breath waiting for an apology, though it is the generation of students subjected to test-centered schooling that deserve an apology. In the meantime, if ed reform thought leader policy wonk mavens learn one thing, let it be this-- the next time you propose an Awesome idea for fixing schools and a whole bunch of professional educators tell you why your idea is not great, listen to them."
petergreene  standardizedtesting  testing  standardization  2018  schools  reform  education  measurement  nclb  rttt  parcc  sba  frederickhess  jaygreene  teaching  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  policy  schooling  publicschools 
september 2018 by robertogreco
“A Nation at Risk” Twenty-Five Years Later | Cato Unbound
"As to the relative responsibility of schools: A Nation at Risk was issued in 1983, a decade after the nation’s postwar narrowing of social and economic inequality had ended. By the time of the report, income was becoming less evenly distributed. The real value of the minimum wage was falling and the share of the workforce with union protection was declining. Progress towards integration had halted and, as William Julius Wilson noted in The Truly Disadvantaged, published only half a dozen years later, the poorest black children were becoming isolated in dysfunctional inner-city communities to an extent not previously seen in American social history.

Social and economic disadvantage contributes in important ways to poor student achievement. Children in poor health attend quality schools less regularly. Those with inadequate housing change schools frequently, disrupting not only their own educations but those of their classmates. Children whose parents are less literate and whose homes have less rich intellectual environments enter school already so far behind that they rarely can catch up. Parents under severe economic stress cannot provide the support children need to excel. And, as Wilson described, children in neighborhoods without academically successful role models are less likely to develop academic ambitions themselves.[12]

These nonschool influences on academic achievement were known to the commissioners who authored A Nation at Risk. The Coleman Report of 1966, still a major document of recent research history, had concluded that family background factors were more important influences on student achievement variation than school quality.[13] In 1972 and 1979, Christopher Jencks and his colleagues had published two widely noticed reassessments of Coleman, Inequality and Who Gets Ahead?, both of which confirmed the Coleman Report’s central finding. Yet the National Commission on Excellence in Education, in preparation for its Nation at Risk report, commissioned 40 research studies from the leading academic researchers in the nation, and not one of these was primarily devoted to the social and economic factors that affect learning.

Most remarkably, A Nation at Risk concluded with a brief “Word to Parents and Students,” acknowledging that schools alone could not reverse the alleged decline in academic performance. It urged parents to be a “living example of what you expect your children to honor and emulate… You should encourage more diligent study and discourage satisfaction with mediocrity… .”[14] This was the report’s only reference to nonschool factors that influence learning.

A Nation at Risk therefore changed the national conversation about education from the Coleman-Jencks focus on social and economic influences to an assumption that schools alone could raise and equalize student achievement. The distorted focus culminated in the No Child Left Behind legislation of 2002, demanding that school accountability alone for raising test scores should raise achievement to never-before-attained levels, and equalize outcomes by race and social class as well.

A Nation at Risk was well-intentioned, but based on flawed analyses, at least some of which should have been known to the commission that authored it. The report burned into Americans’ consciousness a conviction that, evidence notwithstanding, our schools are failures, and warped our view of the relationship between schools and economic well-being. It distracted education policymakers from insisting that our political, economic, and social institutions also have a responsibility to prepare children to be ready to learn when they attend school.

There are many reasons to improve American schools, but declining achievement and international competition are not good arguments for doing so. Asking schools to improve dramatically without support from other social and economic institutions is bound to fail, as a quarter century of experience since A Nation at Risk has demonstrated."
anationatrisk  richardrothstein  2008  1983  schools  politics  policy  education  poverty  publicschools  inequality  testing  standardizedtesting  backtothebasics  curriculum  teaching  nclb  society  economics  sociology  charterschools 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Dewey knew how to teach democracy and we must not forget it | Aeon Essays
"In 1897, Dewey described his ‘pedagogic creed’ as ‘individualistic’ and ‘socialistic’ because it sees the need to nurture each child’s unique talents and interests in a supportive community. …

For Dewey, however, it was not enough to ensure that his own children received a good education. He maintained that the future of US democracy hinged on offering a well-rounded, personalised education to all children and not just those of the wealthy, intelligent or well-connected. Dewey’s pedagogic creed is that ‘education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform’. Schools could teach students and communities to exercise autonomy and make democracy a concrete reality. The very name of the Laboratory School suggests that Dewey wanted the ideas developed there to be disseminated among education researchers and policymakers. What was unacceptable was a two-tiered education system that reinforced class and racial divisions. …

Why does this matter? Progressive education teaches children to pursue their own interests and exercise their voice in their community. In the 20th century, these kinds of young people participated in the movements against the Vietnam War and for civil rights. They founded Greenpeace and Students for a Democratic Society, listened to the Beatles and attended Woodstock, and established artistic communities and organic groceries. Though Dewey was not a beatnik, a hippy or a countercultural figure himself, his philosophy of education encourages young people to fight for a world where everyone has the freedom and the means to express their own personality. The education reform movement is not just about making kids take standardised tests; it is about crushing a rebellious spirit that often gives economic and political elites a headache. …

Dewey’s philosophy exercised a profound impact on US education in the mid-20th century. One reason is that many powerful individuals and groups advocated his ideas, including at Teachers College, Columbia University, as well as at the Progressive Education Association, at the US Office of Education and at state departments of education. Dewey’s influence peaked during the ‘Great Compression’, the decades after the Second World War when the middle class had the clout to say that what is good for wealthy people’s kids is what is good for their own. In Democracy and Education, Dewey envisioned schools ‘equipped with laboratories, shops and gardens, where dramatisations, plays and games are freely used’. If a public school has a gymnasium, an art studio, a garden, a playground or a library, then one can see Dewey’s handiwork.

In 1985, a few scholars wrote a book called The Shopping Mall High School to deride the tendency in the US to offer a wide array of courses, many of which have a tenuous connection to academic subjects. For Dewey, however, the other side of this story is that schools and communities were trying to find ways to engage children. As we shall see, Dewey did not think that schools should simply pander to children’s current interests. At the same time, he opposed efforts to impose a ready-made curriculum on children across the country – or, more pointedly, on those whose parents could not afford to send them to private schools. …

The task of the teacher, according to Dewey, is to harness the child’s interest to the educational process. ‘The problem of instruction is thus that of finding material which will engage a person in specific activities having an aim or purpose of moment or interest to him.’ Teachers can employ Dewey’s insight by having a pet rabbit in the classroom. As students take care of the animal, and watch it hop about the classroom, they become interested in a host of topics: how to feed animals, the proper care of animals, the occupation of veterinarians, and biology. Rather than teach material in an abstract manner to young children, a wise teacher brings the curriculum into ‘close quarters with the pupil’s mind’.

According to Dewey, teachers should cultivate a student’s natural interest in the flourishing of others. It is a mistake to interpret interest as self-interest. Our thriving is intimately connected with the flourishing of other people. The role of democratic education is to help children see their own fate as entwined with that of the community’s, to see that life becomes richer if we live among others pursuing their own interests. Democracy means ‘equitably distributed interests’. All children – rich, poor, black, white, male, female, and so forth – should have the opportunity to discover and cultivate their interests. Schools ought to be the site where we model a society that reconciles individualism and socialism, and that allows each child to add her own distinct voice to society’s choir.

What is controversial about Dewey’s concept of interest? Sometimes, far-right groups share the following quote attributed to Dewey: ‘Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.’ There is no factual basis for this attribution, and for good reason: it contravenes Dewey’s ambition to achieve a higher synthesis between strong-willed individuals and a democratic society, not to crush a child’s individuality for the sake of social uniformity. Dewey makes this point crystal clear in his essay ‘The School and Society’ (1899), where he announces a Copernican revolution in education whereby ‘the child becomes the sun about which the appliances of education revolve’.

Here, then, we understand the explosive core of Dewey’s philosophy of education. He wants to empower children to think for themselves and cooperate with each other. The purpose of widely distributing interests is to break down ‘barriers of class, race, and national territory’ and ‘secure to all the wards of the nation equality of equipment for their future careers’. Imagine a world without racism or sexism, one where all children get the same kind of education as the wisest and wealthiest parents demand for their own children, and one that trains workers to question whether their interests are being served by the current ownership and use of the means of production. Dewey is the spiritual head of the New Left whose writings have both inspired teachers and infused schools, and provoked a reaction from those who detest this political vision. …

Dewey believes that educators need to place themselves in the mind of the child, so to speak, to determine how to begin their education journeys. ‘An end which is the child’s own carries him on to possess the means of its accomplishment.’ Many parents who take their families to children’s museums are acting upon this idea. A good museum will teach children for hours without them ever becoming conscious of learning as such. Climbing through a maze gives children opportunities to solve problems; floating vessels down an indoor stream teaches children about water and hydrodynamics; building a structure with bricks and then placing it on a rumbling platform introduces children to architecture: all of these activities make learning a joy.

For Dewey, however, it is essential that educators lead children on a considered path to the cutting-edge of scientific knowledge on a multitude of topics. A good teacher will place stimuli in front of children that will spark their imagination and inspire them to solve the problem at hand. The goal is to incrementally increase the challenges so that students enter what the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky in the 1920s called ‘the zone of proximal development’ where they stretch their mental faculties. At a certain point, children graduate from museums and enter a more structured curriculum. There can be intermediary or supplementary steps – say, when they make a business plan, learn to sail, or intern at an architect’s office. Eventually, teachers have to rely on traditional methods of reading, lecturing and testing to make sure that students learn the material.

In the conclusion to ‘The Child and the Curriculum’, Dewey enjoins: ‘Let the child’s nature fulfil its own destiny, revealed to you in whatever of science and art and industry the world now holds as its own.’ He has faith that the child’s nature will find expression in the highest forms of human endeavour and that, for example, a kindergarten artist might grow into an accomplished painter. Dewey also believes that individual expression tends to lead to socially beneficial activities. These articles of faith are not necessarily vindicated by experience. Sometimes children choose the wrong path, and sometimes well-educated individuals seek to profit from other people’s misery. …

Dewey shows us that appeals to democracy carry weight. We recoil at the notion that some children deserve a better education than others because of their parents’ political or economic status. Nobody will say with a straight face that wealthy children should be raised to lead, while middle- or lower-class children are raised to follow, or that the kind of education available at the finest private schools in the US should be an exclusive privilege of those born with silver spoons in their mouths. ‘What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.’ Dewey’s words ring as true today as they did a century ago. In the face of the unrelenting attack of the education reform movement, we must fight to actualise Dewey’s vision of great schools providing the foundation for a living democracy."
via:anne  education  johndewey  sfsh  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  lcproject  democracy  schools  learning  pedagogy  society  individualism  individuals  community  class  inequality  us  policy  rttt  nclb  anationatrisk  race  training  howweteach  meaning  purpose  elitism  theshoppingmallhighschool  edhirsch  hannaharendt  vygotsky  zpd  interests  interest-basedlearning  children  criticalthinking  autonomy  interest-drivenlearning 
august 2016 by robertogreco
The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students - The New York Times
"FOR 15 years, since the passage of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, education reformers have promoted standardized testing, school choice, competition and accountability (meaning punishment of teachers and schools) as the primary means of improving education. For many years, I agreed with them. I was an assistant secretary of education in George H. W. Bush’s administration and a member of three conservative think tanks.

But as I watched the harmful effects of No Child Left Behind, I began to have doubts. The law required that all schools reach 100 percent proficiency as measured by state tests or face harsh punishments. This was an impossible goal. Standardized tests became the be-all and end-all of education, and states spent billions on them. Social scientists have long known that the best predictor of test scores is family income. Yet policy makers encouraged the firing of thousands of teachers and the closing of thousands of low-scoring public schools, mostly in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

As the damage escalated, I renounced my support for high-stakes testing and charter schools. Nonetheless, I clung to the hope that we might agree on national standards and a national curriculum. Surely, I thought, they would promote equity since all children would study the same things and take the same tests. But now I realize that I was wrong about that, too.

Six years after the release of our first national standards, the Common Core, and the new federal tests that accompanied them, it seems clear that the pursuit of a national curriculum is yet another excuse to avoid making serious efforts to reduce the main causes of low student achievement: poverty and racial segregation.

The people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven’t come true. Even in states with strong common standards and tests, racial achievement gaps persist. Last year, average math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress declined for the first time since 1990; reading scores were flat or decreased compared with a decade earlier.

The development of the Common Core was funded almost entirely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was a rush job, and the final product ignored the needs of children with disabilities, English-language learners and those in the early grades. It’s no surprise that there has been widespread pushback.

In 2009 President Obama announced Race to the Top, a competition for $4.35 billion in federal grant money. To qualify, states had to adopt “college and career ready standards,” a requirement that was used to pressure them into adopting national standards. Almost every state applied, even before the specifics of the Common Core were released in June 2010.

The federal government, states and school districts have spent billions of dollars to phase in the standards, to prepare students to take the tests and to buy the technology needed to administer them online. There is nothing to show for it. The Race to the Top demoralized teachers, caused teacher shortages and led to the defunding of the arts and other subjects that were not tested. Those billions would have been better spent to reduce class sizes, especially in struggling schools, to restore arts and physical education classes, to rebuild physically crumbling schools, and to provide universal early childhood education.

Children starting in the third grade may spend more than 10 hours a year taking state tests — and weeks preparing for them. Studies show that students perform better on written tests than on online tests, yet most schools across the nation are assessing their students online, at enormous costs, because that is how the Common Core tests are usually delivered. Computer glitches are common. Sometimes the server gets overloaded and breaks down. Entire states, like Alaska, have canceled tests because of technical problems. More than 30 states have reported computer testing problems since 2013, according to FairTest, a testing watchdog.

Standardized tests are best at measuring family income. Well-off students usually score in the top half of results; students from poor homes usually score in the bottom. The quest to “close achievement gaps” is vain indeed when the measure of achievement is a test based on a statistical norm. If we awarded driver’s licenses based on standardized tests, half the adults in this country might never receive one. The failure rates on the Common Core tests are staggeringly high for black and Hispanic children, students with disabilities and English-language learners. Making the tests harder predictably depresses test scores, creating a sense of failure and hopelessness among young children.

If we really cared about improving the education of all students, we would give teachers the autonomy to tailor instruction to meet the needs of the children in front of them and to write their own tests. We would insist that students in every school had an equal opportunity to learn in well-maintained schools, in classes of reasonable size taught by expert teachers. Anyone who wants to know how students in one state compare with students in other states can get that information from the N.A.E.P., the existing federal test.

What is called “the achievement gap” is actually an “opportunity gap.” What we need are schools where all children have the same chance to learn. That doesn’t require national standards or national tests, which improve neither teaching nor learning, and do nothing to help poor children at racially segregated schools. We need to focus on that, not on promoting failed ideas."
2016  dianeravitch  commoncore  standardization  standardizedtesting  testing  government  us  nclb  rttt  georgehwbush  gatesfoundation  billgates  standards  education  schools  publischools  poverty  inequality  segregation  naep  statistics  achievementgap  opportunitygap  politics  policy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Limits of “Grit” - The New Yorker
"For children, the situation has grown worse as we’ve slackened our efforts to fight poverty. In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives were a major national priority, the poverty rate among American children was eighteen per cent. Now it is twenty-two per cent. If we suffer from a grit deficiency in this country, it shows up in our unwillingness to face what is obviously true—that poverty is the real cause of failing schools.

In this context, grit appears as a new hope. As the federal programs stalled, psychologists, neuroscientists, pediatricians, education reformers, and journalists began looking at the lives of children in a different way. Their central finding: non-cognitive skills play just as great a role as talent and native intelligence (I.Q.) in the academic and social success of children, and maybe even a greater role. In brief, we are obsessed with talent, but we should also be obsessed with effort. Duckworth is both benefitting from this line of thought and expanding it herself. The finding about non-cognitive skills is being treated as a revelation, and maybe it should be; among other things, it opens possible avenues for action. Could cultivating grit and other character traits be the cure, the silver bullet that ends low performance?"



"Now, there’s something very odd about this list. There’s nothing in it about honesty or courage; nothing about integrity, kindliness, responsibility for others. The list is innocent of ethics, any notion of moral development, any mention of the behaviors by which character has traditionally been marked. Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth would seem to be preparing children for personal success only—doing well at school, getting into college, getting a job, especially a corporate job where such docility as is suggested by these approved traits (gratitude?) would be much appreciated by managers. Putting it politically, the “character” inculcated in students by Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth is perfectly suited to producing corporate drones in a capitalist economy. Putting it morally and existentially, the list is timid and empty. The creativity and wildness that were once our grace to imagine as part of human existence would be extinguished by strict adherence to these instrumentalist guidelines."



"Not just Duckworth’s research but the entire process feels tautological: we will decide what elements of “character” are essential to success, and we will inculcate these attributes in children, measuring and grading the children accordingly, and shutting down, as collateral damage, many other attributes of character and many children as well. Among other things, we will give up the sentimental notion that one of the cardinal functions of education is to bring out the individual nature of every child.

Can so narrow an ideal of character flourish in a society as abundantly and variously gifted as our own? Duckworth’s view of life is devoted exclusively to doing, at the expense of being. She seems indifferent to originality or creativity or even simple thoughtfulness. We must all gear up, for grit is a cause, an imp of force. “At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.” Through much of “Grit,” she gives the impression that quitting any activity before achieving mastery is a cop-out. (“How many of us vow to knit sweaters for all our friends but only manage half a sleeve before putting down the needles? Ditto for home vegetable gardens, compost bins, and diets.”) But what is the value of these projects? Surely some things are more worth pursuing than others. If grit mania really flowers, one can imagine a mass of grimly determined people exhausting themselves and everyone around them with obsessional devotion to semi-worthless tasks—a race of American squares, anxious, compulsive, and constrained. They can never try hard enough.

Duckworth’s single-mindedness could pose something of a danger to the literal-minded. Young people who stick to their obsessions could wind up out on a limb, without a market for their skills. Spelling ability is nice, if somewhat less useful than, say, the ability to make a mixed drink—a Negroni, a Tom Collins. But what do you do with it? Are the thirteen-year-old champion spellers going to go through life spelling out difficult words to astonished listeners? I realize, of course, that persistence in childhood may pay off years later in some unrelated activity. But I’m an owlish enough parent to insist that the champion spellers might have spent their time reading something good—or interacting with other kids. And what if a child has only moderate talent for her particular passion? Mike Egan, a former member of the United States Marine Band, wrote a letter to the Times Book Review in response to Judith Shulevitz’s review of Duckworth’s book. “Anyone who would tell a child that the only thing standing between him or her and world-class achievement is sufficient work,” Egan wrote, “ought to be jailed for child abuse.”

Duckworth not only ignores the actual market for skills and talents, she barely acknowledges that success has more than a casual relation to family income. After all, few of us can stick to a passion year after year that doesn’t pay off—not without serious support. Speaking for myself, the most important element in my social capital as an upper-middle-class New York guy was, indeed, capital—my parents carried me for a number of years as I fumbled my way to a career as a journalist and critic. Did I have grit? I suppose so, but their support made persistence possible.

After many examples of success, Duckworth announces a theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.” It’s hardly E=mc2. It’s hardly a theory at all—it’s more like a pop way of formalizing commonplace observation and single-mindedness. Compare Duckworth’s book in this respect with Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Gladwell also traced the backgrounds of extraordinarily accomplished people—the computer geniuses Bill Gates and Bill Joy, business tycoons, top lawyers in New York, and so on. And Gladwell discovered that, yes, his world-beaters devoted years to learning and to practice: ten thousand hours, he says, is the rough amount of time it takes for talented people to become masters.

Yet, if perseverance is central to Gladwell’s outliers, it’s hardly the sole reason for their success. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people. Gladwell provides the history and context of successful lives. Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion? All professional football teams train hard, so grit can’t be the necessary explanation for the Seahawks’ success. Pete Carroll and his coaches must be bringing other qualities, other strategies, to the field. Observing those special qualities is where actual understanding might begin."
grit  2016  angeladuckworth  race  class  luck  perseverance  daviddenby  education  mastery  practice  kipp  character  classism  elitism  obsessions  malcolmgladwell  serendipity  mikeegan  judithshulevitz  capital  privilege  success  effort  talent  skill  achievement  history  culture  society  edreform  nep  pisa  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  socialscience  paultough  children  schools  poverty  eq  neuroscience  jackshonkoff  martinseligman  learnedoptimism  depression  pessimism  optimism  davelevin  dominicrandolph  honesty  courage  integrity  kindliness  kindness  samuelabrams 
june 2016 by robertogreco
What's Worth Learning in School? | Harvard Graduate School of Education
"These days, he says we teach a lot that isn’t going to matter, in a significant way, in students’ lives. There’s also much we aren’t teaching that would be a better return on investment. As a result, as educators, “we have a somewhat quiet crisis of content,” Perkins writes, “quiet not for utter lack of voices but because other concerns in education tend to muffle them.” These other concerns are what he calls rival learning agendas: information, achievement, and expertise.

INFORMATION

For starters, most education has become a mastery of a very large body of information, even if it’s not what Perkins calls lifeworthy — likely to matter, in any meaningful way, in the lives learners are expected to live.

“It’s nice to know things. I like to know things. You like to know things,” Perkins says. “But there are issues of balance, particularly in the digital age. The information in textbooks is not necessarily what you need or would like to have at your fingertips.” Instead, even though most people would say that education should prepare you for life, much of what is offered in schools doesn’t work in that direction, Perkins says. Educators are “fixated” on building up students’ reservoirs of knowledge, often because we default to what has always been done.

“Conventional curriculum is chained to the bicycle rack,” he says. “It sits solidly in the minds of parents: ‘I learned that. Why aren’t my children learning it?’ The enormous investment in textbooks and the cost of revising them gives familiar elements of the curriculum a longer life span than they might perhaps deserve. Curriculum suffers from something of a crowded garage effect: It generally seems safer and easier to keep the old bicycle around than to throw it out.”

As a result, “the lifeworthiness of the multitudinous facts and ideas in the typical curriculum is spotty,” he says. “It seems not to have been thought through very carefully.”

And simply having a vast reservoir of knowledge isn’t helpful if it’s not being used. “Knowledge is for going somewhere,” Perkins says, not just for accumulating. But too often, we tend to focus on short-term successes — scoring well on a quiz, acing a spelling test. Unfortunately all of that test knowledge, all of that accumulated knowledge we thought was worth knowing, becomes useless if not used.

“The hard fact is that our minds hold on only to knowledge we have occasion to use in some corner of our lives,” Perkins writes. “Overwhelmingly, knowledge unused is forgotten. It’s gone.”

Here’s where, during the Future of Learning session, Perkins asked the audience to think about something they learned during the first dozen years of schooling that really matters in their lives today, beyond basics like learning to read and not including specialty professional skills.

“The frightening thing when I have these conversations is how hard it is for people to answer,” he says. “I find that frightening. It also says a lot about the current state of education.”

Take mitosis, the process of cell division. During the Future session, he asked everyone in the audience — hundreds of people — to raise their hands if they had studied mitosis in high school. Pretty much every hand went up. He asked how many people remember, basically, what it is. About half went up. He then asked how many have used their knowledge of mitosis in the last 10 years. One hand went up.

Perkins acknowledged that he personally finds mitosis fascinating and stressed that with learning, there should always be room for passion, “but in terms of generalized education and what everyone should learn, something like mitosis doesn’t score well.”

ACHIEVEMENT

Just as educators are pushing students to build a huge reservoir of knowledge, they are also focused on having students master material, sometimes at the expense of relevance. This happens, for example, with the achievement gap. While Perkins is quick to say that the achievement gap is a highly important problem that should be taken seriously, in general, he says, “achievement” is about mastering a topic and less about providing lifeworthy content. The achievement gap asks if students are achieving X. Instead, it might be more useful to look at the relevance gap, which asks if X is going to matter to the lives students are likely to lead.

“If X is a good mastery of reading and writing, both questions earn a big yes!” Perkins says. “Skilled, fluent, and engaged reading and writing mark both a challenging gap and a high-payoff attainment. That knowledge goes somewhere. However, if X is quadratic equations, the answers don’t match. Mastering quadratic equations is challenging, but those equations are not so lifeworthy.” Perkins says we can fill in X with thousands of topics that make up the typical curriculum, such as geography. Students are drilled to remember state capitals and major rivers and rewarded as “achieving” when they score well. And while it’s nice and sometimes useful to know those things, Perkins argues that instead, knowing how the location of rivers and harbors and other features of the land have been shaped and continue to shape the course of history offers more in terms of lifelong usefulness — more so than “a bag full of facts. All that talk about achievement leaves little room for discussing what’s being achieved.”

EXPERTISE

And then there’s what Perkins calls “the Holy Grail” of learning in school: becoming an expert. The typical math curriculum is a good example of how we want learners to move toward expertise in a subject, with little regard for usefulness. Arithmetic leads to algebra, including many “hardly used twists and turns” of advanced algebra, then to geometry and calculus, “an entire subject that hardly anyone ever uses,” Perkins writes.

Unfortunately, if someone questions whether this expertise serves students well and instead suggests more life-relevant topics, Perkins says the common reaction is: “We’re sacrificing rigor!” But that doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of building during the first 12 years of schooling toward expertise in an advanced topic like calculus that hardly ever comes up in our lives, Perkins says students can instead become “expert amateurs” in something like statistics — a rigorous topic that is also used in daily life. In fact, expert amateurism works great, he says, in most of what we do in our lives — raising children, filing taxes, appreciating art, understanding insurance rates, or dealing with our own health care.

Perkins is very clear that expertise in a specific field is not bad; in fact, he encourages it and assumes it will happen at the college or university level. But he advocates that in today’s world, younger students need to first master the fundamentals of key learning and then decide where they want to specialize.

So we come back to the question: What is worth learning? In his book, Perkins promises that he is not going to answer that question, at least not in a tidy way. There’s no list of 1,000 things we must know or teach. Perkins says there would be no way to create a definitive list because there are lots of things worth learning at any given time or for a specialized career or even simply because we enjoy learning.

Instead, he does know that the encyclopedic approach to learning that happens in most schools that focuses primarily on achievement and expertise doesn’t make sense.

“The fixation on the heap of information in the textbooks is itself part of the problem because the world we are educating learners for is something of a moving target,” he says.

Historically, the first 12 or so years of schooling have focused on educating for the known, “the tried and true, the established canon,” he writes. “This made very good sense in the many periods and places where most children’s lives were likely to be more or less like their parents’ lives. However, wagering that tomorrow will be pretty much like yesterday does not seem to be a very good bet today. Perhaps we need a different vision of education, a vision that foregrounds educating for the unknown as much as for the known.”

And to do that, Perkins says we need to rethink what’s worth learning and what’s worth letting go of — in a radical way.

“We do kind of need to blow up the system and start fresh,” he says. “Well, maybe not blow up the whole thing, but at least some corners.”

One of those corners is the drive to educate through high-stakes testing, he says.

“It’s clear that NCLB has not worked well,” with pressures on teachers and students, sometimes leading to instances of cheating and maneuvering. With high-stakes testing, he says, there’s a fixation on “summative” versus “formative” assessment — evaluating students’ mastery of material with exams and final projects (achievements) versus providing ongoing feedback that can improve learning. “You end up shooting for the Big contest, the Big test, at the end of the year,” he says. “It’s a distortion.” As a result, “students are asked to learn a great deal for the class and for the test that likely has no role in the lives they will live — that is, a great deal that simply is not likely to come up again for them in a meaningful way.”

Perkins stresses that he isn’t taking a stance against assessment, which he says is critical for learning. Instead, “it’s more about how assessment is made. This is a vote for a richer form of achievement.”

To be fair, he says, the assessment “game” as it’s usually played in education seems perfectly reasonable — at first. Tests “are socially pretty efficient. You can distribute them widely and score them efficiently,” he says. “We give those tests. We evaluate those tests. But that makes for shallow learning and understanding. … You cram to do well on the test but may … [more]
davidperkins  loryhough  2015  education  curriculum  thewhy  why  teaching  achievement  information  expertise  purpose  schools  assessment  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  knowledge  learning 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Against School | New Republic
"In this previously unpublished essay, Aaron Swartz sought an explanation for the persistent—and possible deliberate—failures in our school system."



"Linda Perlstein spent a year at one school struggling to survive No Child Left Behind. Everything that wasn’t tested had to get cut—not just art and gym, but recess, science, and social studies (yep, no science on the tests). What remains is converted entirely over to test prep—the only writing students ever do is short answer sections (“What text feature could have been added to help a reader better understand the information?”) and the stories in class are analyzed only in terms of what questions might be asked about them.

Large sections of the class have nothing to do with learning at all. Students are instead drilled on test-taking procedure: take deep breaths, work until time is called, eliminate obviously wrong answers. Every day students are taught special vocab words that will earn them extra points and reminded about how to properly phrase their answers to get the maximum score. Instead of covering the walls with students’ art, they’re covered with test-taking advice (“BATS: Borrow from the question, Answer the question, use Text supports, Stretch the formula”).

The single-minded goal of maximizing test scores has been a blessing for the textbook market, which forces schools to buy expensive “evidence-based curricula” which has been “proven” to maximize test scores. The packages include not only textbooks and workbooks but also scripts for the teachers to read verbatim—deviating from them hasn’t been proven to raise test scores, and is thus prohibited. The package also comes with trained supervisors who drop in on teachers to make sure they’re actually sticking to the script.

The effect on the students is almost heartbreaking. Taught that reading is simply about searching contrived stories for particular “text features,” they learn to hate reading. Taught that answering questions is simply about cycling through the multiple choice answers to find the most plausible ones, they begin to stop thinking altogether and just spout random combinations of test buzzwords whenever they’re asked a question. “The joy of finding things out” is banished from the classroom. Testing is in session.

Such drills don’t teach children anything about the world, but it does teach them “skills”—skills like how to follow senseless orders and sit at your desk for hours at a time. Critics of high-stakes testing say that it isn’t working as planned: teachers are teaching to the test instead of making sure kids actually learn. But maybe that is actually the plan. After all, employers seem to like it just fine."
schools  schooling  education  capitalism  2015  aaronswartz  business  influence  money  testing  learning  nclb 
january 2016 by robertogreco
First they make you crazy. Then they sell you the cure: Be Mindful of Mindless Mindfulness
"So – if I’m not against art, or coloring, or relaxation or mindfulness what is my problem? Here it is: The explosion of mindfulness as the cure-all du jour. And I’m wondering why is this happening? Why now?

Brave New World is Aldous Huxley’s ironic title for his dystopian novel. In this future the fictional drug soma has “All of the benefits of Christianity and alcohol without their defects.” Huxley takes the word soma – this “Christianity without tears” – from an unknown drug believed to have been used in ancient Indian Vedic cults as part of religious ceremonies. The soma of Brave New World is a perversion of that ancient drug. Rather than conferring insight and wisdom it clouds reality. It is not used to deliver enlightenment but rather to blunt ugly truths that arise to disturb the surface of experience. Soma is a tool of the state to keep its citizens quiet and to prevent them from the seeing the truth and demanding change."



"I have no problem with children learning anything that can help them thrive in our stress-inducing, anxiety-ridden age. My problem lies with the fact that we must first stop creating and exacerbating the problems to which all this is then the answer. As a society we are driving our kids crazy and we have to stop."



"Let’s return for a moment to those backpacking counter cultural wanderers and to those who have searched for inner peace and meaning and found answers that include the moral and spiritual wisdom of the Buddhist tradition. That tradition is about enlightenment and developing our intellectual capacity to the fullest. It is about waking up, compassion and kindness. Admirable goals and worthy aspirations. Nothing wrong with that. It would be good to see schools helping children know themselves better and see themselves as a part of the great universe. But the mindfulness fad is often about mindless acceptance of the unacceptable – more to do with mitigating symptoms of sickness rather than true self-awareness and personal growth."

[See also (referenced within): http://www.salon.com/2015/11/08/they_want_kids_to_be_robots_meet_the_new_education_craze_designed_to_distract_you_from_overtesting/ ]
josieholford  mindfulness  buddhism  schools  buzzwords  fads  2015  children  mentalhealth  anxiety  nclb  grit  health  injustice  testing  standardizedtesting  wellness  trends  education  learning  teaching 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Achievement Gap in Elite Schools - New York Times
"AN uneasy amalgam of pride and discontent, Caroline Mitchell sat amid the balloons and beach chairs on the front lawn of Princeton High School, watching the Class of 2004 graduate. Her pride was for the seniors' average SAT score of 1237, third-highest in the state, and their admission to elite universities like Harvard, Yale and Duke. As president of the high school alumni association and community liaison for the school district, Ms. Mitchell deserved to bask in the tradition of public-education excellence.

Discontent, though, was what she felt about Blake, her own son. He was receiving his diploma on this June afternoon only after years of struggle - the failed English class in ninth grade, the science teacher who said he was capable only of C's, the assignment to a remedial "basic skills" class. Even at that, Ms. Mitchell realized, Blake had fared better than several friends who were nowhere to be seen in the procession of gowns and mortarboards. They were headed instead for summer school.

"I said to myself: 'Oh, no. Please, no,' " Ms. Mitchell recalled. "I was so hurt. These were bright kids. This shouldn't have been happening."

It did not escape Ms. Mitchell's perception that her son and most of those faltering classmates were black. They were the evidence of a prosperous, accomplished school district's dirty little secret, a racial achievement gap that has been observed, acknowledged and left uncorrected for decades. Now that pattern just may have to change under the pressure of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Several months after Blake graduated, Princeton High School (and thus the district as a whole) ran afoul of the statute for the first time, based on the lagging scores of African-American students on a standardized English test given to 11th graders. Last month, the school was cited for the second year in a row, this time because 37 percent of black students failed to meet standards in English, and 55 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics failed in math.

One of the standard complaints about No Child Left Behind by its critics in public education is that it punishes urban schools that are chronically underfinanced and already contending with a concentration of poor, nonwhite, bilingual and special-education pupils. Princeton could hardly be more different. It is an Ivy League town with a minority population of slightly more than 10 percent and per-student spending well above the state average. The high school sends 94 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges and offers 29 different Advanced Placement courses. Over all, 98 percent of Princeton High School students exceed the math and English standards required by No Child Left Behind.

So is the problem with the district, or is the problem with the law?

The answer seems clear to those parents - mostly black, but some white and Hispanic - who have been raising the issue of the achievement gap for years. While the Princeton community includes a slice of black bourgeoisie attached to the university or nearby corporations, most of the African-American population came here a century or more ago to serve as the butlers, maids, cooks and chauffeurs of a university and town with a nearly Southern fondness for segregation. The high school, for instance, did not integrate for nearly 20 years after its founding in 1898, and the elementary schools waited until they were compelled by state law in 1947.

As far back as the 1960's, according to the local historical society, black students suffered from "low expectations from teachers" and a high dropout rate. In the early 1990's, an interracial body calling itself the Robeson Group - in homage to Paul Robeson, the most famous product of black Princeton - mobilized to recruit more black teachers and help elect the first black member to the school board.

Despite such efforts, the achievement gap remained. A tracking system for math separates students in middle school. The high school, while not formally tracked, has such a demand for seats in Advanced Placement classes and honors sections that a rigid hierarchy exists in effect. Guidance counselors find their time consumed by writing recommendation letters for seniors who routinely apply to 10 or more high-end schools.

And until the No Child Left Behind law was enacted there were no concrete consequences for failing to address the resulting disparity. Which may be why a number of black parents here credit the federal law with forcing attention on the underside of public education in Princeton. It requires all districts to reveal test results and meet performance standards by various subgroups, including race.

"If you scratch the surface of this town, a lot of contradictions are going to emerge," said Ron Plummer, a project manager for a technology company and a co-chairman of the school district's minority education committee. "I do have some suspicions when measurements come from standardized tests alone. But if it's going to shine a bright light on the inadequacies of the system, especially as it regards children of color, then I'm all in favor."

In any case, there can be a tone of defensiveness, even smugness, among certain school leaders in Princeton. "We're proud of our F," said Lewis Goldstein, the assistant superintendent, referring to the contradiction between the district's overall success and its standing under No Child Left Behind. "It's as if you handed in your homework and the teacher handed it back and you got a 98 on it and an F. That's the situation we're in."

TO be fair to Princeton, it is hardly the only community to include both a large number of superachieving students and a smaller but persistent number of low-income, nonwhite stragglers. Princeton, in fact, belongs to an organization of 25 similar school districts, the Minority Student Achievement Network, which includes Evanston, Ill.; Shaker Heights, Ohio; and Eugene, Ore., among others, that are working to find techniques to address the issue.

Princeton's superintendent, Judith Wilson, has accepted the challenge of reducing the achievement gap. As a newcomer to the district - she arrived last February from the working-class, half-minority district in Woodbury, N.J., near Camden - she sounds less beholden than some of her colleagues to Princeton's exalted sense of itself.

"If the gap can't be narrowed in Princeton," she said in an interview in her office last week, "then where can it be narrowed? There can't be a question here of resources, or of community support, or of quality of staff. So if we can't impact the students who are not born into privilege, then where can it happen?""
education  nclb  2005  inequality  policy  schools  via:jannon  princeton  testing  standardizedtesting  assessement  race  samuelfreedman 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Standardized Testing (HBO) - YouTube
"American students face a ridiculous amount of testing. John Oliver explains how standardized tests impact school funding, the achievement gap, how often kids are expected to throw up."
johnoliver  testing  standardizedtesting  assessment  rttt  nclb  schools  publicschools  us  policy  pearson  education  learning  teaching 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Marc Tucker and the declension myth in American education debates
"It is a tempting story, because it is easier to argue that we have declined from some better point in the past than to explain consistently middling results. But it is the consistency of middling results that is the true history, and there never was a golden age of education in the United States. Tucker’s purported history is pulled from thin air and is wrong on several key points:

• Child poverty and family decline: Child poverty rates declined in the years when divorce was becoming more common (look at the 1960s and 1970s in the poverty-by-age chart from this source). Teen birth rates have declined dramatically in the past quarter-century, and there is pretty good survey evidence that there are other improving trends in risky behaviors for teenagers.3 We should be ashamed at the level of child poverty that exists, but that is a continuing issue rather than something that has dramatically increased in the past 50 years.4

• Grade inflation in high school from parental pressures: There is relatively little peer-reviewed research on high school grade inflation. One 2013 article used transcript data from several national longitudinal studies. Based on transcripts, the authors argue that there has been grade inflation at the secondary level since the early 1970s but that there has not been a huge change in the inferred meaning of grade differences–i.e., if there has been grade inflation, we may not need to be worried about it as a motivator or signal of achievement.

• Grade inflation and lowered standards in college: Tucker’s chronology is all wrong here: if there has been grade inflation in college (see a 2012 article in Teachers College Record), the bulk of the decline in C and D grades happened between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s, with more stable grading patterns for the following 15 years and then a different pattern of inflation since 1990. This does not fit with Tucker’s story: the end of the baby boom hit colleges in the grade-inflation lull, and grade inflation continued during the baby-boom echo’s “traditional age” college years, when the incentives should have reversed.5 Caveat: the 2013 article linked above claims that there is much less evidence of grade inflation in colleges than in high schools.6

• No Child Left Behind pushed states to lower standards for high school students and diverted energy from the standards movement: The mandated test grades in NCLB were 3-8, with one grade in high school (selected by the state). I may be wrong, but my strong impression is that in the years after NCLB’s enactment, most states were obsessed with elementary and middle school accountability much more than in high schools. While many states may have set the proficiency thresholds low because of NCLB, it is hard to argue that most states had accountability systems with higher expectations before NCLB and suddenly dropped those expectations. More to Tucker’s claim about diversion, it is hard to find a proponent of what he calls the standards movement in the late 1990s who was not in favor of NCLB in 2001. Many self-identified reformers have since backed away from NCLB, and we are seeing further backpedaling from Race to the Top with this spring’s test fiascoes. But as Paul Manna and others have written, at the time NCLB was a consensual policy change for those who called themselves as education reformers. If high-stakes testing is a diversion from standards, it was one fully endorsed by the bulk of those in the 1990s standards movement.

• A decline in the status of teachers: In every era, American teachers have been the target of criticism. See Dana Goldstein‘s The Teacher Wars for a recent book on the topic.

• Declining quality of teachers and enrollments in colleges of education: It is hard to parse out the relationship between greater job opportunities for college-educated women and college grads of color, which shrank the pool of potential teachers, and the greater numbers of college attendees with the baby boom, which expanded the pool of potential teachers. The decline in teacher education programs is very recent, essentially since the Great Recession, and is hard to put into a story of declining standards across decades.

• Declining vocational education: The late W. Norton Grubb was brutally honest about the historical failures of vocational education, from its uses in discriminatory tracking to the weak evidence of effectiveness in recent decades. Grubb and Marvin Lazerson’s The Education Gospel (2007) is the right source for this topic. The point is not that one has to agree with Grubb and Lazerson’s policy prescriptions, but that even in a narrow area such as vocational education, there has never been a golden age.

In the past few years, my morale about education policy has been boosted moderately by more recognition of history in education policy discussions, especially in Washington, DC. I thought the major inside-the-Beltway players understood that Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars was mandatory reading, and also possibly Rick Hess’s The Same Thing Over and Over. So let me just put it out there more generally, as the object lesson from Tucker’s columns this month: if you are tempted to argue that there was a golden age of education, you have not read enough education history."
shermandorn  2015  education  history  policy  reform  edreform  nclb  danagoldstein  teaching  teachers  poverty  grades  grading  assessment  gradeinflation  divorce  pedagogy  curriculum  narrative  vocationaleducation  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  schools  publicschools  learning  us  rickhess  marctucker 
may 2015 by robertogreco
My Objections to the Common Core State Standards (1.0) : Stager-to-Go
"The following is an attempt to share some of my objections to Common Core in a coherent fashion. These are my views on a controversial topic. An old friend I hold in high esteem asked me to share my thoughts with him. If you disagree, that’s fine. Frankly, I spent a lot of time I don’t have creating this document and don’t really feel like arguing about the Common Core. The Common Core is dying even if you just discovered it.

This is not a research paper, hence the lack of references. You can Google for yourself. Undoubtedly, this post contains typos as well. I’ll fix them as I find them.

This critique shares little with the attacks from the Tea Party or those dismissed by the Federal Education Secretary or Bill Gates as whiney parents.

I have seven major objections to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

1. The CCSS are a solution in search of a problem.

2. The CCSS were implemented in a remarkably undemocratic fashion at great public expense to the benefit of ideologues and corporations.

3. The standards are preposterous and developmentally inappropriate.

4. The inevitable failure of the Common Core cannot be blamed on poor implementation when poor implementation is baked into the design.

5. Standardized curriculum lowers standards, diminishes teacher agency, and lowers the quality of educational experiences.

6. The CCSS will result in an accelerated erosion of public confidence in public education.

7. The requirement that CCSS testing be conducted electronically adds unnecessary complexity, expense, and derails any chance of computers being used in a creative fashion to amplify student potential."

[continues on to elaborate on each objection, some pull quotes here]

"there is abundant scholarship by Linda Darling-Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Gerald Bracey, Deborah Meier, and others demonstrating that more American kids are staying in school longer than at any time in history. If we control for poverty, America competes quite favorably against any other nation in the world, if you care about such comparisons."



"As my colleague and mentor Seymour Papert said, “At best school teaches a billionth of a percent of the knowledge in the world and yet we quibble endlessly about which billionth of a percent is important enough to teach.” Schools should prepare kids to solve problems their teachers never anticipated with the confidence and competence necessary to overcome any obstacle, even if only to discover that there is more to learn."



"When teachers are not required to make curricular decisions and design curriculum based on the curiosity, thinking, understanding, passion, or experience of their students, the resulting loss in teacher agency makes educators less thoughtful and reflective in their practice, not more. The art of teaching has been sacrificed at the expense of reducing pedagogical practice to animal control and content delivery."



"The singular genius of George W. Bush and his No Child Left Behind legislation (kicked-up a notch by Obama’s Race-to-the-Top) was the recognition that many parents hate school, but love their kids’ teachers. If your goal is to privatize education, you need to concoct a way to convince parents to withdraw support for their kid’s teacher. A great way to achieve that objective is by misusing standardized tests and then announcing that your kid’s teacher is failing your kid. This public shaming creates a manufactured crisis used to justify radical interventions before calmer heads can prevail.

These standardized tests are misunderstood by the public and policy-makers while being used in ways that are psychometrically invalid. For example, it is no accident that many parents confuse these tests with college admissions requirements. Using tests designed to rank students mean that half of all test-takers be below the norm and were never intended to measure teacher efficacy.

The test scores come back up to six months after they are administered, long after a child advances to the next grade. Teachers receive scores for last year’s students, with no information on the questions answered incorrectly. These facts make it impossible to use the testing as a way of improving instruction, the stated aim of the farcical process."



"It is particularly ironic how much of the public criticism of the Common Core is related to media accounts and water cooler conversations of the “crazy math” being taught to kids. There are actually very few new or more complex concepts in the Common Core than previous math curricula. In fact, the Common Core hardly challenges any of the assumptions of the existing mathematics curriculum. The Common Core English Language Arts standards are far more radical. Yet, our innumerate culture is up in arms about the “new new math” being imposed by the Common Core.

What is different about the Common Core approach to mathematics, particularly arithmetic, is the arrogant imposition of specific algorithms. In other words, parents are freaking out because their kids are being required to solve problems in a specific fashion that is different from how they solve similar problems.

This is more serious than a matter of teaching old dogs new tricks. The problem is teaching tricks at all. There are countless studies by Constance Kamii and others demonstrating that any time you teach a child the algorithm, you commit violence against their mathematical understanding. Mathematics is a way of making sense of the world and Piaget teaches us that it is not the job of the teacher to correct the child from the outside, but rather to create the conditions in which they correct themselves from the inside. Mathematical problem solving does not occur in one way no matter how forcefully you impose your will on children. If you require a strategy competing with their own intuitions, you add confusion that results in less confidence and understanding.

Aside from teaching one algorithm (trick), another way to harm a child’s mathematical thinking development is to teach many algorithms for solving the same problem. Publishers make this mistake frequently. In an attempt to acknowledge the plurality of ways in which various children solve problems, those strategies are identified and then taught to every child. Doing so adds unnecessary noise, undermines personal confidence, and ultimately tests memorization of tricks (algorithms) at the expense of understanding.

This scenario goes something like this. Kids estimate in lots of different ways. Let’s teach them nine or ten different ways to estimate, and test them along the way. By the end of the process, many kids will be so confused that they will no longer be able to perform the estimation skill they had prior to the direct instruction in estimation. Solving a problem in your head is disqualified."
garystager  commoncore  2015  education  policy  schools  publicschools  standardization  standardizedtesting  standards  learning  teaching  pedagogy  technology  testing  democracy  process  implementation  agency  howweteach  howwelearn  publicimage  seymourpapert  numeracy  matheducation  math  mathematics  numbersense  understanding  memorization  algorithms  rttt  gatesfoundation  pearson  nclb  georgewbush  barackobama 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Why are teachers cheating the American school system? This videogame will explain - Kill Screen - Videogame Arts & Culture.
"Children are the worst. They have needs and wants and a complete inability to distinguish between the two. Pity the poor teachers tasked with educating these indolent creatures. Their jobs would be much easier if these pesky students lost all of their child-like qualities.

PUPILS HAVE BEEN MAGICALLY TRANSFORMED INTO TEST-TAKING PINEAPPLES. 

Subaltern Games’ No Pineapple Left Behind, which just released its alpha trailer, will let you live out this pedagogical dream. You are the principal of a school where, by a magical intervention, the pupils have been transformed into test-taking pineapples. Their prowess in passing exams brings the school money. If left unsupervised, however, the pineapples revert to being kids with personalities and interests that keep them from studying. So what do you, as the principal, do?

[game trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twimJX7O7H4 ]

No Pineapple Left Behind’s title is a joking reference to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. The crueler joke, however, is that the No Child Left Behind Act has proven to be a game in its own right. Rules—whether politicians or game developers impose them—create a series of incentives that shape human behavior. No Child Left Behind established a system of financial penalties and rewards for American schools. Failure to meet proscribed standards would result in reduced funding. This makes some sense as an abstract economic theory, but try telling a teacher with struggling students that the answer is less support. Thirteen years on, it’s clear that a policy designed to foster higher educational standards has encouraged a subset of America’s teachers to game the system.

The most famous example of this phenomenon took place in Atlanta, where eleven teachers and administrators were recently convicted on multiple felony charges after it was discovered that they systematically altered test results. One of the teachers, Damany Lewis, told The New Yorker’s Rachel Aviv "I'm not going to let the state slap [students] in the face and say they're failures." This attitude is hardly confined to Atlanta. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office reported, "40 states detected potential cheating during the past two school years and 33 states confirmed at least one instance of cheating."

“40 STATES DETECTED POTENTIAL CHEATING."

Of course, gaming the system can have less criminal meanings. Teaching to tests, for instance, is the logical outcome of a system that puts tremendous emphasis on end-of-year standardized exams. This, too, arguably comes at the cost of forms of learning that are not as easily quantified.

There is very little humour to be found in America’s education system, which consistently outspends much of the OECD only to produce average or below average outcomes as measured on the PISA index. If No Pineapple Left Behind can wring some humour from this political and ethical morass, more power to it. However, it might mean the game only manages to highlight the absurdist status quo."
standardizedtesting  testing  schools  schooling  education  gaming  videogames  subalterngames  nopineappleleftbehind  humor  satire  children  teaching  learning  howweteach  factoryschools  standardization  nclb  rttt  publicschools  pisa  absurdism  atlanta  cheating  economics 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Defies Measurement on Vimeo
"DEFIES MEASUREMENT strengthens the discussion about public education by exploring why it is so important to address the social and emotional needs of every student, and what happens when the wrong people make decisions for schools.

For information on how to screen this film for others and for resources to learn more and take action, visit defiesmeasurement.com

By downloading this film, you are agreeing to the 3 terms listed below:

1) I will only use portions of Defies Measurement or the whole film for educational purposes and I will NOT edit or change the film in any way. (Educational purposes = viewing a portion or complete version of the film for an individual, private or public event, free of charge or as a fundraiser)

2) I will post a photo or comment about the film and/or screening on the Defies Measurement Facebook page

3) I will spread the word about the film to others via social media and word of mouth. Follow us @defymeasurement #defiesmeasurement"

[See also:
https://www.shineonpro.com/
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/115791029088/defies-measurement-via-will-richardsondefies ]
testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  schools  education  middleschool  chipmanmiddleschool  lindadarling-hammond  alfiekohn  martinmalström  socialemotionallearning  poverty  iq  assessment  policy  howweteach  howelearn  learning  competition  politics  arneduncan  jebbush  measurement  quantification  inequality  finland  us  edreform  tcsnmy  community  experientiallearning  communitycircles  morningmeetings  documentary  film  terrielkin  engagement  meaningmaking  howwelearn  teaching  sylviakahn  regret  sellingout  georgewbush  susankovalik  lauriemclachlan-fry  joanduvall-flynn  government  howardgardner  economics  anthonycody  privatization  lobbying  gatesfoundation  marknaison  billgates  davidkirp  broadfoundation  charitableindustrialcomplex  commoncore  waltonfamily  teachforamerica  tfa  mercedesschneider  dianeravitch  davidberliner  publischools  anationatrisk  joelklein  condoleezzarice  tonywagner  business  markets  freemarket  neworleans  jasonfrance  naomiklein  shockdoctrine  karranharper-royal  julianvasquezheilig  sarahstickle  ronjohnson  alanskoskopf  soci 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous - The Washington Post
"For most of its history, the United States was unique in offering a well-rounded education. In their comprehensive study, “The Race Between Education and Technology,” Harvard’s Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz point out that in the 19th century, countries like Britain, France and Germany educated only a few and put them through narrow programs designed to impart only the skills crucial to their professions. America, by contrast, provided mass general education because people were not rooted in specific locations with long-established trades that offered the only paths forward for young men. And the American economy historically changed so quickly that the nature of work and the requirements for success tended to shift from one generation to the next. People didn’t want to lock themselves into one professional guild or learn one specific skill for life.

That was appropriate in another era, the technologists argue, but it is dangerous in today’s world. Look at where American kids stand compared with their peers abroad. The most recent international test, conducted in 2012, found that among the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranked 27th in math, 20th in science and 17th in reading. If rankings across the three subjects are averaged, the United States comes in 21st, trailing nations such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia and Estonia.

In truth, though, the United States has never done well on international tests, and they are not good predictors of our national success. Since 1964, when the first such exam was administered to 13-year-olds in 12 countries, America has lagged behind its peers, rarely rising above the middle of the pack and doing particularly poorly in science and math. And yet over these past five decades, that same laggard country has dominated the world of science, technology, research and innovation.

Consider the same pattern in two other highly innovative countries, Sweden and Israel. Israel ranks first in the world in venture-capital investments as a percentage of GDP; the United States ranks second, and Sweden is sixth, ahead of Great Britain and Germany. These nations do well by most measures of innovation, such as research and development spending and the number of high-tech companies as a share of all public companies. Yet all three countries fare surprisingly poorly in the OECD test rankings. Sweden and Israel performed even worse than the United States on the 2012 assessment, landing overall at 28th and 29th, respectively, among the 34 most-developed economies.

But other than bad test-takers, their economies have a few important traits in common: They are flexible. Their work cultures are non-hierarchical and merit-based. All operate like young countries, with energy and dynamism. All three are open societies, happy to let in the world’s ideas, goods and services. And people in all three nations are confident — a characteristic that can be measured. Despite ranking 27th and 30th in math, respectively, American and Israeli students came out at the top in their belief in their math abilities, if one tallies up their responses to survey questions about their skills. Sweden came in seventh, even though its math ranking was 28th.

Thirty years ago, William Bennett, the Reagan-era secretary of education, noticed this disparity between achievement and confidence and quipped, “This country is a lot better at teaching self-esteem than it is at teaching math.” It’s a funny line, but there is actually something powerful in the plucky confidence of American, Swedish and Israeli students. It allows them to challenge their elders, start companies, persist when others think they are wrong and pick themselves up when they fail. Too much confidence runs the risk of self-delusion, but the trait is an essential ingredient for entrepreneurship."
stem  education  testing  standardizedtesting  us  policy  sweden  israel  testscores  comparison  innovation  technology  science  conformity  conformism  standardization  diversity  williambennett  nclb  rttt  ronaldreagan  anationatrisk  writing  criticalthinking  liberalarts  fareedzakaria  2015 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Education at Risk: Fallout from a Flawed Report | Edutopia
"Nearly a quarter century ago, "A Nation at Risk" hit our schools like a brick dropped from a penthouse window. One problem: The landmark document that still shapes our national debate on education was misquoted, misinterpreted, and often dead wrong."



"Once launched, the report, which warned of "a rising level of mediocrity," took off like wildfire. During the next month, the Washington Post alone ran some two dozen stories about it, and the buzz kept spreading. Although Reagan counselor (and, later, attorney general) Edwin Meese III urged him to reject the report because it undermined the president's basic education agenda -- to get government out of education -- White House advisers Jim Baker and Michael Deaver argued that "A Nation at Risk" provided good campaign fodder.

Reagan agreed, and, in his second run for the presidency, he gave fifty-one speeches calling for tough school reform. The "high political payoff," Bell wrote in his memoir, "stole the education issue from Walter Mondale -- and it cost us nothing."

What made "A Nation at Risk" so useful to Reagan? For one thing, its language echoed the get-tough rhetoric of the growing conservative movement. For another, its diagnosis lent color to the charge that, under liberals, American education had dissolved into a mush of self-esteem classes.

In truth, "A Nation at Risk" could have been read as almost any sort of document. Basically, it just called for "More!" -- more science, more math, more art, more humanities, more social studies, more school days, more hours, more homework, more basics, more higher-order thinking, more lower-order thinking, more creativity, more everything.

The document had, however, been commissioned by the Reagan White House, so conservative Republicans controlled its interpretation and uses. What they zeroed in on was the notion of failing schools as a national-security crisis. Republican ideas for school reform became a charge against a shadowy enemy, a kind of war on mediocrity.

By the end of the decade, Republicans had erased whatever advantage Democrats once enjoyed on education and other classic "women's issues." As Peter Schrag later noted in The Nation, Reagan-era conservatives, "with the help of business leaders like IBM chairman Lou Gerstner, managed to convert a whole range of liberally oriented children's issues . . . into a debate focused almost exclusively on education and tougher-standards school reform."

The Inconvenient Sandia Report

From the start, however, some doubts must have risen about the crisis rhetoric, because in 1990, Admiral James Watkins, the secretary of energy (yes, energy), commissioned the Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico to document the decline with some actual data.

Systems scientists there produced a study consisting almost entirely of charts, tables, and graphs, plus brief analyses of what the numbers signified, which amounted to a major "Oops!" As their puzzled preface put it, "To our surprise, on nearly every measure, we found steady or slightly improving trends."

One section, for example, analyzed SAT scores between the late 1970s and 1990, a period when those scores slipped markedly. ("A Nation at Risk" spotlighted the decline of scores from 1963 to 1980 as dead-bang evidence of failing schools.) The Sandia report, however, broke the scores down by various subgroups, and something astonishing emerged. Nearly every subgroup -- ethnic minorities, rich kids, poor kids, middle class kids, top students, average students, low-ranked students -- held steady or improved during those years. Yet overall scores dropped. How could that be?

Simple -- statisticians call it Simpson's paradox: The average can change in one direction while all the subgroups change in the opposite direction if proportions among the subgroups are changing. Early in the period studied, only top students took the test. But during those twenty years, the pool of test takers expanded to include many lower-ranked students. Because the proportion of top students to all students was shrinking, the scores inevitably dropped. That decline signified not failure but rather progress toward what had been a national goal: extending educational opportunities to a broader range of the population.

By then, however, catastrophically failing schools had become a political necessity. George H.W. Bush campaigned to replace Reagan as president on a promise to confront the crisis. He had just called an education summit to tackle it, so there simply had to be a crisis.

The government never released the Sandia report. It went into peer review and there died a quiet death. Hardly anyone else knew it even existed until, in 1993, the Journal of Educational Research, read by only a small group of specialists, printed the report.

Getting Educators Out of Education

In 1989, Bush convened his education summit at the University of Virginia. Astonishingly, no teachers, professional educators, cognitive scientists, or learning experts were invited. The group that met to shape the future of American education consisted entirely of state governors. Education was too important, it seemed, to leave to educators.

School reform, as formulated by the summit, moved so forcefully onto the nation's political agenda that, in the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton had to promise to outtough Bush on education. As president, Clinton steered through Congress a bill called Goals 2000 that largely co-opted the policies that came out of the 1989 Bush summit.

After the 2000 election, George W. Bush dubbed himself America's "educator in chief," and until terrorism hijacked the national agenda, he was staking his presidency on a school-reform package known as the No Child Left Behind Act, a bill that -- as every teacher knows -- dominates the course of public education in America today."



"Reform, Not Improve
Bush Sr. launched the idea of a national education policy shaped at the federal level by politicians. Clinton sealed it, and our current president built on this foundation by introducing a punitive model for enforcing national goals. Earlier education activists had thought to achieve outcomes through targeted spending on the theory that where funding flows, school improvement flourishes. The new strategy hopes to achieve outcomes through targeted budget cutting -- on the theory that withholding money from failed programs forces them to shape up.

Which approach will actually improve education? Here, I think, language can lead us astray. In everyday life, we use reform and improve as synonyms (think: "reformed sinner"), so when we hear "school reform," we think "school improvement." Actually, reform means nothing more than "alter the form of." Whether a particular alteration is an improvement depends on what is altered and who's doing the judging. Different people will have different opinions. Every proposed change, therefore, calls for discussion.

The necessary discussion cannot be held unless the real alternatives are on the table. Today, essentially three currents of education reform compete with each other. One sees inspiration and motivation as the keys to better education. Reform in this direction starts by asking, "What will draw the best minds of our generation into teaching? What will spark great teachers to go beyond the minimum? What will motivate kids to learn and keep coming back to school?"

In this direction lie proposals for building schools around learners, gearing instruction to individual goals and learning styles, pointing education toward developing an ever-broader range of human capacities, and phasing in assessment tools that get at ever-subtler nuances of achievement. Overall, this approach promotes creative diversity as a social good.

A second current, the dominant one, sees discipline and structure as the keys to school improvement. Reform in this direction starts by asking, "What does the country need, what must all kids know to serve those needs, and how can we enforce the necessary learning?" In this direction, the curriculum comes first, schools are built around the curriculum, and students are required to fit themselves into a given structure, controlled from above. As a social good, it promotes national unity and strength. This is the road we're on now with NCLB.

A third possible direction goes back to diversity and individualism -- through privatization, including such mechanisms as tuition tax credits, vouchers (enabling students to opt out of the public school system), and home schooling. Proponents include well-funded private groups such as the Cato Institute that frankly promote a free-enterprise model for schooling: Anyone who wants education should pay for it and should have the right to buy whatever educational product he or she desires.

What's Next?
Don't be shocked if NCLB ends up channeling American education into that third current, even though it seems like part of the mainstream get-tough approach. Educational researcher Gerald Bracey, author of Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered, writes in Stanford magazine that "NCLB aims to shrink the public sector, transfer large sums of public money to the private sector, weaken or destroy two Democratic power bases -- the teachers' unions -- and provide vouchers to let students attend private schools at public expense."

Why? Because NCLB is set up to label most American public schools as failures in the next six or seven years. Once a school flunks, this legislation sets parents free to send their children to a school deemed successful. But herds of students moving from failed schools to (fewer) successful ones are likely to sink the latter. And then what? Then, says NCLB, the state takes over.

And there's the rub. Can "the state" -- that is, bureaucrats -- run schools better than professional educators? What if they fail, too? What's plan C?

NCLB does not specify plan C. Apparently, that decision will be made when the time comes. But with some $… [more]
anationatrisk  2007  tamimansary  assessment  diversity  class  ronaldreagan  georgehwbush  georgewbush  nclb  policy  education  1983  1990  1993  1989  1992  2000  billclinton  sandiaeport  testing  standardizedtesting  statistics  power  politics  publischools  privatization  curriculum  rttt 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Grading Teachers by the Test - NYTimes.com
"In 2004, the Chinese government decided there were too many accidental deaths. China’s safety record, it decreed, should be brought in line with those of other middle-income countries. The State Council set a target: a decline in accidental deaths of 2.5 percent per year.

Provincial authorities kicked into gear. Eventually, 20 out of a total of 31 provinces adopted “no safety, no promotion” policies, hitching bureaucrats’ fate to whether they met the death ceiling. The results rolled in: by 2012 recorded accidental deaths had almost halved.

It wasn’t, however, all about increased safety. For instance, officials could reduce traffic deaths by keeping victims of severe accidents alive for eight days. They counted as accidental deaths only if the victims died within seven.

In a study of China’s declining deadly accidents, Raymond Fisman of Columbia University and Yongxiang Wang of the University of Southern California concluded that “manipulation played a dominant role.” Bureaucrats — no surprise — cheated.

This is hardly unusual. It is certainly not exclusive to China. These days, in fact, it has acquired particular importance in the debate over how to improve American education.

The question is, what will happen when teachers are systematically rewarded, or punished, based to some extent on standardized tests? If we really want our children to learn more, the design of any system must be carefully thought through, to avoid sending incentives astray.

“When you put a lot of weight on one measure, people will try to do well on that measure,” Jonah Rockoff of Columbia said. “Some things they do will be good, in line with the objectives. Others will amount to cheating or gaming the system.”

The phenomenon is best known as Goodhart’s Law, after the British economist Charles Goodhart. Luis Garicano at the London School of Economics calls it the Heisenberg Principle of incentive design, after the defining uncertainty of quantum physics: A performance metric is only useful as a performance metric as long as it isn’t used as a performance metric.

It shows up all over the place. Some hospitals in the United States, for example, will often do whatever it takes to keep patients alive at least 31 days after an operation, to beat Medicare’s 30-day survival yardstick. Last year, Chicago magazine uncovered how the Chicago Police Department achieved declining crime rates, simply by reclassifying incidents as noncriminal.

“We don’t know how big a deal this is,” said Jesse Rothstein, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has criticized evaluation metrics based on test scores. “It is one of the main concerns.”"



"Critics have questioned the Harvard scholars’ findings. Teachers argue there is no way they could isolate the impact of teaching itself from other factors affecting children’s learning, particularly such things as the family background of the students, the impact of poverty, racial segregation, even class size.

Professor Rothstein at Berkeley suggested that sorting plays a big role in their results: better-ranked teachers got better students. Other studies found teachers’ scores jump around a lot from year to year, putting their value into question. Professors Rockoff, Chetty and Friedman have defended their results.

In this heated debate, however, it is important not to lose sight of Goodhart’s Law. Most of these studies measured the impact of test scores when tests carried little weight for teachers’ future careers. But what happens when tests determine whether a teacher gets a bonus or keeps his or her job?

From Atlanta to El Paso, school officials have been accused of cheating to improve their standing on test scores.

Fraud is not the only concern. In one study, schools forced to improve grades by the No Child Left Behind law were found to have focused on helping children who were at the cusp of proficiency. They had no incentive to address those comfortably above the cut or those with little hope of gaining enough in the short term.

A survey of teachers at a school district in the Southwest that awarded bonuses based on test scores found that many tried to avoid both gifted students and those not yet proficient in English whose grades were tough to improve. Others employed “drill and kill” strategies to ensure their students nailed the tests.

Education reformers acknowledge the challenge but argue that should not stand in the way of rigorous assessments.

“Anytime you perform an evaluation you must worry about unintended side effects,” said Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City schools, who famously battled the teachers’ union. “But the absence of evaluation is totally unacceptable.”

High-stakes tests can encourage bad behavior. But they encourage good behavior, too. A study of public schools in Florida found that schools did focus on low-performing students, lengthened the time devoted to teaching, gave teachers more resources and tried to improve the learning environment."
nclb  assessment  testing  standardizedtesting  teaching  education  schools  goodhart'slaw  2015  cheating  china  measurement  metrics  hesserothstein  atlanta  florida  elpaso  texas  policy  howweteach 
march 2015 by robertogreco
In test-based systems, even young kids resist learning
"Children show a vastly improved ability to absorb knowledge when they are allowed to make some of their own decisions about what they want to learn.

Testing, in other words, gets in the way – and worse.

Indeed, as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation comes up for re-authorization this week President Obama has himself stated that testing should be cut down to “a bare minimum.”

Testing was introduced by policymakers during the eighties as a way to measure how much kids were learning in classrooms. But now there is research that shows it is detrimental and that technology may offer better ways to track learning.

Learning skills in first grade

My own research has shown that children develop a range of sophisticated capabilities when their learning environments allow them, at least in part, to decide how and what they learn.

I spent four years in Texas first grade classrooms, as part of my Agency and Young Children project where students - mostly children of immigrants - were allowed to choose research topics, move freely around their classroom, and collaborate on projects.

I observed these young children gain critical literacy and numeracy skills. Children, who had initially refused to learn English, became so engaged that they started writing Spanish and English words to label a model volcano. Instead of resisting learning in English or Spanish, they started asking for more and more words.

When children feel comfortable sharing their stories, they write better. When children can initiate conversations, they are more likely to listen to one another. And when children have what I call “agency” or the ability to influence or make decisions in their learning, they develop a wider and deeper range of capabilities than just standard math and literacy skills.

It was policy-makers, who without much input from teachers, researchers or parents, started pushing for testing, starting in the 1980s and leading upto the early 1990s.

Over time, it was seen that testing was not the best measure. Researchers at Stanford have, in fact, found that testing is a terrible, stand-alone measure of accountability.

Other evidence against testing has been mounting as well. Earlier in 2015, teachers testifying to Congress emphasized the effects of standardized testing on teaching and learning from NCLB.

Creative use of technology could replace testing

Perhaps, the most troubling of these are the harsh realities of how testing pressures change the learning experiences of kindergarteners and preschoolers.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) argues that testing for young children should be developmentally appropriate as well as have some benefit to the child.

In an attempt to move away from testing, some teachers are using technology to broaden and deepen the ways children can demonstrate what they know and can do. Relatively accessible recording devices found on phones, iPads and cameras can be used by children to demonstrate what they are learning.

For example, I recently visited a teacher in Austin who is using croak.it to share with parents what their children are learning about the civil rights movement and ideas about race, justice and community.

Early testing leads to labeling, and parent anxiety

Testing emphasizes learning as “right and wrong answers”, which is not the way most kids learn. Kids have been shown to learn through trial and error as well as discovery. Testing values directions and achievement over creativity and a range of learning experiences.

In addition, early testing leads to early labeling, parent anxiety as well as teacher recruitment and retention issues. Testing has a demonstrable detrimental impact even on children’s happiness.

As an early childhood teacher educator, I find myself sympathizing with teachers who, under pressure from administrators and policymakers, have to prepare young children to be successful on tests that begin in third grade.

Testing has pressured teachers to move away from experiments, discovery and creative projects to more instruction and directions. Kindergarten teachers are being asked to prepare children for right and wrong answers, instead of creating lesson plans that allow children to make their own decisions.

No longer do five year olds in schools spend their days in imaginative play, or design. In fact, young children often go hours without recess or the ability to move and explore.

Just a few months ago in a well-performing Texas school, I saw classrooms where five-year-old children were trying to follow their enthusiastic and kind teachers through 90 minutes of district-mandated literacy instruction using a 300-page textbook.

Teachers find it difficult to get to know children and their families or to build on the individual strengths and interests of the increasingly diverse groups of kids in their classrooms.

This is even more problematic for the over one in four children from immigrant communities whose parents face disproportionate barriers in working with teachers and schools.

Testing leads to teacher retention issues

Sometimes advocates for standardized testing argue that tests, including benchmark or “school readiness” tests help catch learning problems early.

Yet, usually, it is a smart, thoughtful, observant teacher who, by watching, engaging and interacting with children each day, spots someone having trouble with oral language, fine motor skills, conflict or letter recognition.

So much testing also puts us at risk of losing teachers.The National Education Association (NEA) reports that nearly half of teachers want to leave the profession because of standardized testing.

These concerns about testing are now being reflected in President Obama’s keenness to cutt down testing. But if leaders are serious about changing the testing climate in schools, they need to act fast for the sake of the youngest students.

As one teacher sadly explained to me during a workshop on children’s agency, “It is hard to give kids a lot of freedom in my classroom when I don’t really have any myself.”"
testing  learning  howwelearn  children  schools  2015  nclb  standardizedtesting  accountability  jenniferkeysadair  ece  earlychildhood  anxiety  howweteach  teaching 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Our Obsession in American Education With Ranking People - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society
"ONE OF THE KEY findings of the value-added study published by Raj Chetty and his colleagues—a finding rarely mentioned in the media—was that out-of-school factors, such as family income and neighborhood poverty, currently have a far greater effect on the achievement gap than do differences in teacher quality between schools (which, the researchers reported, accounts for only seven percent of the current gap). They also acknowledged that their study, like almost every other major value-added study ever conducted, took place in a low-stakes setting—that is, teachers were not being evaluated or paid according to their students’ test scores. In a higher-stakes setting, they warned, educators might teach to the test, or even cheat, in ways that would cause test scores to lose their predictive power. Nonetheless, they were hopeful: If the top value-added teachers in the country could somehow be moved systematically to the lowest-performing schools, they theorized, perhaps three-quarters of the current test-score achievement gap could be closed. That theory is almost impossible to test, however, given the unattractive working conditions in many low-income schools. When a Department of Education/Mathematica Policy Research trial offered more than 1,000 high-value-added teachers $20,000 to transfer to a poorer school, less than a quarter chose to apply. Inconveniently, too, those who did transfer produced test-score gains among elementary school students but not among middle schoolers—a reminder that teachers who succeed in one environment will not always succeed in another.

Contemporary education researchers, among them Andrew Butler and John Hattie, have written extensively on the most academically powerful uses of testing. And when it comes to gathering information about how teachers should actually teach, Butler and Hattie’s work suggests that value-added measurement, as useful as it is in other ways, is mostly beside the point. That’s because it’s based on standardized state tests given toward the end of the school year. Spending a lot of time preparing for those tests turns out to be counter-productive for learning. Research shows that kids learn best when classroom teaching is geared not toward high-stakes year-end tests, but toward low-stakes, unit-level quizzes, created and graded by classroom teachers who use the results to refine their instruction throughout the year. The soundest use of testing, in other words, is as an instrument to figure out what children do and do not know, so that we can teach them better along the way.

Any achievement testing attached to high stakes for educators invites teaching to the test, which often narrows the curriculum in counter-productive ways. Because of that, Jonah Rockoff, who co-authored the value-added study with Raj Chetty, suggests that we need to come up with new ways to measure teachers’ influence on students, perhaps by studying how teachers affect students’ behavior, attendance, and GPA. “Test scores are limited,” Rockoff says, “not just in their power and accuracy, but in the scope of what we want teachers and schools to be teaching our kids. … There’s not just one thing we care about our kids learning. We’re going to measure how kids do on socio-cognitive outcomes, and reward teachers on that, too.”

But is it really fair to judge teachers on their students’ attendance, given the role that, say, parenting and health play? Should a teacher be punished if a boy in her homeroom gets into a fistfight during recess? These are the kinds of questions we’ll need to grapple with as we experiment with new kinds of education science. And as we do, we’ll need to keep in mind the much bigger question suggested by the history of failed American school reforms: Should we continue to devote our limited political, financial, and human resources to measuring the performance of students and teachers, or should we devote those resources to improving instruction itself?"
standardizedtesting  testing  education  policy  history  phrenology  iq  2015  danagoldstein  nclb  anationtrisk  johnfriedman  jonahrockoff  rajchetty  economics  valueadded  assessment  instruction  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  schools  rankings  measurement  sat  robertrosenthal  lenorejacobson  tedbell  georgewbush  politics  johnhattie  andrewbutler  sorting 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Talk to Your Kids: The poorer parents are, the less they talk with their children. The mayor of Providence is trying to close the “word gap.”
"Providence Talks had its critics, some of whom thought that the program seemed too intrusive. The A.C.L.U. raised questions about what would happen to the recordings, and one of the organization’s Rhode Island associates, Hillary Davis, told National Journal, “There’s always a concern when we walk in with technology into lower-income families, immigrant populations, minority populations, and we say, ‘This will help you.’ ” She continued, “We don’t necessarily recognize the threat to their own safety or liberty that can accidentally come along with that.”

Others charged that Providence Talks was imposing middle-class cultural values on poorer parents who had their own valid approaches to raising children, and argued that the program risked faulting parents for their children’s academic shortcomings while letting schools off the hook. Nobody contested the fact that, on average, low-income children entered kindergarten with fewer scholastic skills than kids who were better off, but there were many reasons for the disparity, ranging from poor nutrition to chaotic living conditions to the absence of a preschool education. In a caustic essay titled “Selling the Language Gap,” which was published in Anthropology News, Susan Blum, of Notre Dame, and Kathleen Riley, of Fordham, called Providence Talks an example of “silver-bullet thinking,” the latest in a long history of “blame-the-victim approaches to language and poverty.”

To some scholars, the program’s emphasis on boosting numbers made it seem as though the quality of conversation didn’t matter much. As James Morgan, a developmental psycholinguist at Brown University, put it, obsessive word counting might lead parents to conclude that “saying ‘doggy, doggy, doggy, doggy’ is more meaningful than saying ‘doggy.’ ” Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist at Temple University, told me that Hart and Risley had “done a very important piece of work that pointed to a central problem”; nevertheless, their findings had often been interpreted glibly, as if the solution were to let words “just wash over a child, like the background noise of a TV.” Her own research, including a recent paper written with Lauren Adamson and other psychologists, points to the importance of interactions between parents and children in which they are both paying attention to the same thing—a cement mixer on the street, a picture in a book—and in which the ensuing conversation (some of which might be conducted in gestures) is fluid and happens over days, even weeks. “It’s not just serve and return,” Hirsh-Pasek said. “It’s serve and return—and return and return.”

The original Hart and Risley research, whose data set had only six families in the poorest category, was also called into question. Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “Do low-income people talk with their kids less? Well, that’s a question about millions of people. Think of people in the survey business, trying to predict elections or develop a marketing campaign. They would find it laughable to draw conclusions without a large randomized sample.” Encouraging adults to talk more to children was all to the good, Liberman said, but it was important to remember that “there are some wealthy people who don’t talk to their children much and some poor people who talk a lot.”

Indeed, recent research that supports Hart and Risley’s work has found a great deal of variability within classes. In 2006, researchers at the LENA Foundation recorded the conversations of three hundred and twenty-nine families, who were divided into groups by the mothers’ education level, a reasonable proxy for social class. Like Hart and Risley, the LENA researchers determined that, on average, parents who had earned at least a B.A. spoke more around their children than other parents: 14,926 words per day versus 12,024. (They attributed Hart and Risley’s bigger gap to the fact that they had recorded families only during the late afternoon and the evening—when families talk most—and extrapolated.) But the LENA team also found that some of the less educated parents spoke a lot more than some of the highly educated parents.

Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford, has published several papers examining the influence of socioeconomic status on children’s language development. In one recent study, Fernald, with a colleague, Adriana Weisleder, and others, identified “large disparities” among socioeconomic groups in “infants’ language processing, speech production, and vocabulary.” But they also found big differences among working-class families, both in terms of “the children’s language proficiency and the parents’ verbal engagement with the child.” Fernald, who sits on the scientific advisory board for Providence Talks, told me, “Some of the wealthiest families in our research had low word counts, possibly because they were on their gadgets all day. So you can see an intermingling at the extremes of rich and poor. Socioeconomic status is not destiny.”

In response to the privacy concerns, Mayor Taveras and his team volunteered their own households to be the first ones recorded. They also guaranteed that the LENA Foundation’s software would erase the recordings after the algorithm analyzed the data. Though this probably reassured some families, it also disappointed some scholars. “That’s a huge amount of data being thrown out!” James Morgan, of Brown, told me. “There were real concerns whether families would participate otherwise. But as a scientist it breaks my heart.”

To those who argued that Providence Talks embodied cultural imperialism, staff members responded that, on the contrary, they were “empowering” parents with knowledge. Andrea Riquetti, the Providence Talks director, told me, “It really is our responsibility to let families know what it takes to succeed in the culture they live in. Which may not necessarily be the same as the culture they have. But it’s their choice whether they decide to. It’s not a case of our saying, ‘You have to do this.’ ” Riquetti grew up in Quito, Ecuador, came to America at the age of seventeen, and worked for many years as a kindergarten teacher in Providence schools. In Latino culture, she said, “the school is seen as being in charge of teaching children their letters and all that, while parents are in charge of discipline—making sure they listen and they’re good and they sit still. Parents don’t tend, overall, to give children a lot of choices and options. It’s kind of like ‘I rule the roost so that you can behave and learn at school.’ ” The Providence Talks approach “is a little more like ‘No, your child and what they have to say is really important.’ And having them feel really good about themselves as opposed to passive about their learning is important, because that’s what’s going to help them succeed in this culture.”

Riquetti and the Providence Talks team didn’t seem troubled by the concerns that Hart and Risley’s data set wasn’t robust enough. Although no subsequent study has found a word gap as large as thirty million, several of them have found that children in low-income households have smaller vocabularies than kids in higher-income ones. This deficit correlates with the quantity and the quality of talk elicited by the adults at home, and becomes evident quite early—in one study, when some kids were eighteen months old. Lack of conversation wasn’t the only reason that low-income kids started out behind in school, but it was certainly a problem.

The biggest question was whether Providence Talks could really change something as personal, casual, and fundamental as how people talk to their babies. Erika Hoff, of Florida Atlantic University, told me, “In some ways, parenting behavior clearly can change. I have a daughter who has a baby now and she does everything differently from how I did it—putting babies to sleep on their backs, not giving them milk till they’re a year old. But patterns of interacting are different. You’re trying to get people to change something that seems natural to them and comes from a fairly deep place. I don’t know how malleable that is.”

After decades of failed educational reforms, few policymakers are naïve enough to believe that a single social intervention could fully transform disadvantaged children’s lives. The growing economic inequality in America is too entrenched, too structural. But that’s hardly an argument for doing nothing. Although improvements in test scores associated with preschool programs fade as students proceed through elementary school, broader benefits can be seen many years later. A few oft-cited studies have shown that low-income kids who attended high-quality preschool programs were more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to become pregnant as teen-agers or to be incarcerated; they also earned more money, on average, than peers who were not in such programs. Such data suggest that a full assessment of Providence Talks will take decades to complete."
class  language  cultue  education  parenting  2015  margarettalbot  headstart  bettyhart  toddrisley  nclb  learning  vocabulary  rttt  policy  angeltaveras  providence  rhodeisland  conversation  words  children  howwelearn  providencetalks  andreariquetti  jamesmorgan  linguistics  annettelareau  patriciakuhl  richardweissbourd  debate  verbalacuity  advocacy  self-advocacy  academics  schoolreadiness  kennethwong 
january 2015 by robertogreco
As if teachers' jobs aren't hard enough, they're asked to fix poverty, too - YouTube
"Big ideas in public education, such as the Obama administration's Race to the Top and Teach For America, often say teachers could improve inequality. Dana Goldstein, author of The Teacher Wars, sat down with us to explain why this is magical thinking that's been around since the 1800s.

For more on public education reform, Goldstein also contributed a feature to Vox on how Teach For America is starting to seriously reform after 20 years of criticism.

http://www.vox.com/2014/9/5/6079493/teach-for-america-criticism-changing "

[via (embedded here): http://www.vox.com/2014/12/18/7402261/social-security-teachers-pension ]

[See also: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/09/06/345293914/q-a-dana-goldstein-author-the-teacher-wars ]
danagoldstein  teaching  teachers  poverty  edreform  tfa  2014  criticism  inequality  race  rttt  nclb  magicalthinking  teachforamerica 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Balance : Stager-to-Go
"Ah, balance!

Balance is the Fabreze of education policy. It is a chemical spray designed to mask the stench of a two year-old tuna sandwich found in the minvan with the artificial bouquet of an April rain dancing on a lily pad.

• Balanced literacy got us systemic phonics.
• Balanced math begot Singapore Math worksheets.
• Balanced standards produced The Common Core.
• Balanced policy debates produced No Child Left Behind and Race-to-the-Top

A balanced approach to educational technology made computer science extinct in schools and has now taught two generations of children to find the space bar in a computer lab-based keyboarding class.

I could go on.

Balance is elusive. It is fake and lazy and cowardly and sad. Balance is embraced by those who don’t know or can’t/won’t articulate what they truly believe. Balance fills the void left by the absence of alternative models and excellence. It is anonymous.

Educators are told that passion should be tempered. Every pedagogical idea is just fine as long as it is “for the children.” We should just do our jobs and not complain about outrageous attacks on our dignity, paycheck, curriculum, working conditions, or the living conditions of the students we serve.

Balance fills the school day with mandates and directives and lots of interruptions that while offering an illusion of options make it impossible for a learner to focus on anything long enough to become good at it.

Balance teaches children that teachers are helpless pawns in a system they don’t control or cannot understand.
Balance is the absentee parent of incrementalism. As educators take “baby steps” towards what they know is right or righteous they lead a long and meandering hike after which the followers cannot remember the original destination.
“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963)


Educators are to remain neutral and seek consensus at all-costs. Balance programs us to find the silver lining in tornados. There MUST be SOMETHING good in what Bill Gates or Sal Khan or any number of a million corporations with ED or MENTUM or ACHIEVE or VATION in their names happen to be peddling.

The laws of the political universe, and education is inherently political, greet each embrace of “balance” as ten steps in a more conservative direction. There is no balance – just weakness.

I urge you to read one of my favorite passages ever written about “balance” in education. It is from a lesser-known classic, On Being a Teacher,”  by the great American educator, Jonathan Kozol. Please take a few minutes to read, “Extreme Ideas. [http://stager.tv/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Kozol-Extreme-Ideas.pdf ]”
garystager  balance  compromise  mediocrity  submission  2014  jonathankozol  resistance  hybridmodel  politics  policy  weakness  dilution  unschooling  deschooling  tcsnmy  curriculum  commoncore  phonics  rttt  nclb  mandates  directives  rules  standardization  helplessness  gradualism  teching  pedagogy  schools  education  khanacademy  socialjustice  leadership  learning 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Education in the Age of Globalization » Fatal Attraction: America’s Suicidal Quest for Educational Excellence
"That virus is the rising tide of authoritarianism in the United States. In exchange for the comfort of knowing how their children are doing academically and that their schools are being held accountable, Americans welcomed high-stakes testing into public education. Without the benefit of historical experience with these kinds of high-stakes tests, however, Americans failed to recognize those benign-looking tests as a Trojan horse—with a dangerous ghost inside. That ghost, authoritarianism, sees education as a way to instill in all students the same knowledge and skills deemed valuable by the authority.

Despite cheating scandals and stressed-out students, America doesn’t seem ready to be rid of its villain. Many Americans still believe standardized tests are needed, and that problems like widespread cheating can be fixed through superficial means. Since the cheating scandals went public, most of the attention has gone to the crimes committed by a few individuals and technical fixes that would have prevented them—everything from prescribing more severe punishments to increasing testing security and inventing better tests. Political leaders have pushed aside the call to abandon high-stakes testing altogether. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that while he was “stunned” by the Atlanta cheating scandal, the problem “is an easy one to fix, with better test security.”[5] Most parents support standardized testing and the use of test scores in teacher evaluation. Even some educators and school leaders support standardized testing. The two largest education unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, both accept standardized testing as part of American education.

Herein lies the tragedy for America—and reason for my writing this book.

The tale told by Chinese education illustrates the full range of tragic events that can happen under authoritarian rule. As one of the perfect incarnations of authoritarian education, China has produced superior test takers who have maintained a great civilization for millennia–but have failed to cultivate talents to defend against Western aggressions backed by modern technology and sciences in the 1800s. Since then China has struggled to retreat from its tradition of authoritarian education. Although China has already benefited from a gradual withdrawal from central dictation, as evidenced by its recent miraculous economic growth, authoritarianism still rules.



The Chinese people were deprived of any other means to succeed in life, both spiritually and materially. Their only option was to pass the exams dictated by the absolute authority—emperors in the past, and the government today. When people are convinced that there are no worthy options to pursue in life except the narrow path prescribed by an authoritarian government, they are forced to comply, accept indoctrination, and be homogenized. For this reason, Chinese parents have to invest generously in their children’s education and test preparation; their efforts mitigate the lack of sufficient investment from the government. When onlookers praise the efficiency of the Chinese educational system—in which minimal government investment begets huge gains in test scores—they ignore the resources Chinese parents throw into the pot.

The Chinese have also been praised for emphasizing effort and diligence instead of inherent intelligence or social conditions. Again, this is no more than a mistaken romanticization of an authoritarian ploy to deny the existence of individual differences and unequal social conditions. Emphasizing effort is a convenient way for the authority to evade responsibility for leveling the playing field for those with diverse abilities and talents. It is an excuse for not providing programs for children with disabilities or those born into extremely unfavorable social circumstances. It also serves as a seductive marketing slogan, persuading individuals to welcome homogenization."



"I wrote this book to show how China, a perfect incarnation of authoritarian education, has produced the world’s best test scores at the cost of diverse, creative, and innovative talents. I also tried to illustrate how difficult it is to move away from authoritarian thinking, by showing how China has struggled to reform its education for over a century. The book is intended to warn the United States and other Western countries about the dangerous consequences of educational authoritarianism.

Education in the West must go through transformative changes. A paradigm shift will be necessary, if we are to prepare children to live successfully in the new world. (I wrote about this shift in my previous book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students [4]). As traditional routine jobs are offshored and automated, we need more and more globally competent, creative, innovative, entrepreneurial citizens—job creators instead of employment-minded job seekers. To cultivate new talents, we need an education that enhances individual strengths, follows children’s passions, and fosters their social-emotional development. We do not need an authoritarian education that aims to fix children’s deficits according to externally prescribed standards.

If the U.S. and the West are concerned about being overtaken by China, the best solution is to avoid becoming China. The empire that led the world for over two millennia was shattered by Western technological and scientific innovations in the 1800s. Its education represents the best of the past. It worked extremely well for China’s imperial rulers for over 1,000 years, but it stopped working when the modern world emerged. The Chinese system continued to produce students who excel in a narrow range of subjects. Only 10% of its college graduates are deemed employable by multinational businesses[5], because these students lack the very qualities our new society needs.

China’s achievements over the past thirty years should be no reason for America and other Western nations to panic, as forewarned by French historian Nicolas Boulanger more than 250 years ago:
All the remains of her ancient institutions, which China now possesses, will necessarily be lost; they will disappear in the future revolutions; as what she hath already lost of them vanished in former ones; and finally, as she acquires nothing new, she will always be on the losing side. [8, p. 134].
"
education  assessment  nclb  china  yongzhao  via:taryn  competition  standardization  rttt  policy  schools  schooling  control  authoritarianism  us  homogenization  accountability  indoctrination  high-stakestesting 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Common Core Commotion
"We can assume that if Goals 2000 or NCLB or any of the other reform programs had been effective, the reformers could congratulate themselves for a job well done and go off to find another line of work. They haven’t, which brings us to the third reason that educational reform is an enterprise without end. 

It has to do with the old rule that supply creates its own demand. Over the last two generations, as the problem became unignorable and as vast freshets of money poured from governments and nonprofit foundations, an army of experts emerged to fix America’s schools. From trade unions and think tanks they came, from graduate schools of education and nonprofit foundations, from state education departments and for-profit corporations, from legislative offices and university psych labs and model schools and experimental classrooms, trailing spreadsheets and PowerPoints and grant proposals; they found work as lobbyists, statisticians, developmental psychologists, neurological researchers, education theorists, entrepreneurs, administrators, marketers, think tank fellows, textbook writers—even teachers! So great a mass of specialists cannot be kept idle. If they find themselves with nothing to do, they will find something to do. 

And so, after 40 years of signal failure, the educationists have brought us the Common Core State Standards. It is a totemic example of policy-making in the age of the well-funded expert."



"The foundation’s generosity seems indiscriminate, reflecting the milky centrism of its founder. Evidently Bill Gates doesn’t have a political bone in his body. His intellectual loyalty lies instead with the ideology of expertise. His faith is technocratic and materialist: In the end he believes the ability of highly credentialed observers to identify and solve problems through the social sciences is theoretically limitless. “Studies” and “research” unlock the human secret. This is the animating faith of most educationists, too. All human interactions can be dispassionately observed and their separate parts identified, isolated, analyzed, and quantified according to some version of the scientific method. The resulting data will yield reliable information about how and why we behave as we do, and from this process can be derived formulas that will be universally applicable and repeatable.

“One size fits all” may be a term of mockery used by people who disdain the top-down solutions of centralized power; in the technocratic vision, “one size fits all” describes the ideal.

A good illustration of the Gates technocratic approach to education reform is an initiative called “Measures of Effective Teaching” or MET. (DUH.) The effectiveness of a truly gifted teacher was once considered mysterious or ineffable, a personal transaction rooted in intuition, concern, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and professional ardor, combined in a way that defies precise description or replication. Such an old-fashioned notion is an affront to the technocratic mind, which assumes no human phenomenon can be, at bottom, mysterious; nothing is resistant to reduction and measurement. “Eff the Ineffable” is the technocrat’s motto."



"Exciting as it undoubtedly is for the educationist, MET research tells us nothing about how to improve the world that students and teachers inhabit. It is an exercise by educationists for educationists to ponder and argue over. Three hundred and thirty five million dollars can keep a lot of them busy."



"In the confusion between content and learning, the Standards often show the telltale verbal inflation that educationists use to make a simple idea complicated. The Standards for Reading offer a typical example. They come in groups of three—making a wonderful, if suspicious, symmetry. Unfortunately, many of the triplets are essentially identical. According to the rubric Key Ideas and Details, a student should “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly.” Where one standard says the student must be able to “analyze the development of central ideas,” the next standard says the student should be able to “analyze” “how ideas develop.” One “key detail” is to “learn details.” Under Craft and Structure, the student should be able to “analyze” how “portions of text” “relate to each other or the whole.” Another says he “should cite specific textual evidence” and still another that he should “summarize the key supporting details.” All of this collapses into a single unwritten standard: “Learn to read with care and to explain what you’ve read.” But no educationist would be so simple-minded.

There are standards only an educationist could love, or understand. It took me a while to realize that “scaffolding” is an ed-school term for “help.” Associate is another recurring term of art with a flexible meaning, from spell to match, as when third graders are expected to “associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.” This seems like students are being asked to spell vowels, but that can’t be right, can it? And when state and local teachers have to embody such confusing standards in classroom exercises, you’re likely to wind up with more confusion."



"THE RISE OF THE RIGHT

Most of the criticism of the Standards has come from the populist right, and the revolt of conservative parents against the pet project of a national educationist elite is genuine, spontaneous, and probably inevitable. But if you move beyond the clouds of jargon, and the compulsory gestures toward “critical thinking” and “metacognitive skills,” you will begin to spy something more interesting. There’s much in the Standards to reassure an educational traditionalist—a vein of subversion. At several points, Common Core is clearly intended as a stay against the runaway enthusiasms of educationist dogma.

The Standards insist schools’ (unspecified) curriculums be “content-rich”—meaning that they should teach something rather than nothing. They even go so far as to require students to read Shakespeare, the Preamble and First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and works of Greek mythology. Phonics is the chief means of teaching reading in Common Core, rejecting the notorious “whole language” method first taken up in the 1970s and—research shows!—a likely culprit in the decline in reading scores. The Standards discourage the use of calculators, particularly in early grades where it has become a popular substitute for acquiring basic math. The Standards require memorization of multiplication tables as an important step in learning arithmetic, striking a blow against “fuzzy math.” Faddish notions like “visual literacy” are nowhere to be found.

Perhaps most impressively, at least in language arts, the Standards require students to read and write ever larger amounts of nonfiction as they move toward their high school diploma. Anyone familiar with the soupy “young adult” novels fed to middle- and high-school students should be delighted. Writing assignments, in tandem with more rigorous reading, move away from mere self-expression—commonly the focus of writing all the way through high school—to the accumulation of evidence and detail in the service of arguments. The architect of the Language Arts Standards, an educationist called David Coleman, explained this shift in a speech in 2011. He lamented that the most common form of writing in high school these days is “personal writing.”

It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

Now, it is hard to imagine a more traditionalist sentiment than that. Yet conservative Common Core activists single out Coleman as a particularly sinister adversary, perhaps for his potty mouth. The populist campaign against the Standards has been scattershot: Sometimes they are criticized for being unrealistically demanding, at other times for being too soft. Even Common Core’s insistence on making the Constitution part of any sound curriculum has been attacked as insidious. Recall that students will be required to read only the Preamble and the First Amendment. That is, they will stop reading before they reach the Second Amendment and the guarantee of gun rights.

Coincidence? Many activists think not. "



"Conservative hostility to the Common Core is also entangled with hostility to President Obama and his administration. Joy Pullman, an editor and writer who is perhaps the most eloquent and responsible public critic of Common Core, wrote recently in thefederalist.com: “I wager that 90 percent of the debate over Common Core would instantly dissipate if states adopted the top-rated standards from, say, Massachusetts or Indiana and dropped the Obama administration tests.”

While the personal hostility to Obama might be overwrought, the administration’s campaign on behalf of the Standards has borne all the marks of the president’s other efforts at national persuasion."



"THUNDER ON THE LEFT

The administration’s bullying and dishonesty might be reason enough to reject the Standards. The campaign has even begun to worry its natural allies, who are losing trust in assurances that the Common Core is an advance for progressive education. Educationists on the leftward edge point to its insistence that teachers be judged on how much their students learn. This bears an unappealing resemblance to NCLB requirements, and they worry it will inject high-pressure competition into the collegial environment that most educationists prefer. Worse, it could be a Trojan horse for a reactionary agenda, a return to the long-ago era when students really had to, you know, learn stuff.

“The purpose of education,” says … [more]
education  reform  edreform  anationatrisk  nclb  georgewbush  georgehwbush  ronaldreagan  barackobama  jimmycarter  money  policy  experts  commoncore  curriclum  2014  andrewferguson  via:ayjay  1990  2000  1979  departmentofeducation  edwardkennedy  tedkennedy  goals2000  1983  gatesfoundation  billgates  arneduncan  bureaucracy  markets  aft  nonprofits  centralization  standards  schools  publicschools  us  ideology  politics  technocracy  credentialism  teaching  howweteach  measurement  rankings  testing  standardizedtesting  abstraction  nonprofit 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Education Reform: A National Delusion | Steve Nelson
"As I watch the education "debate" in America I wonder if we have simply lost our minds. In the cacophony of reform chatter -- online programs, charter schools, vouchers, testing, more testing, accountability, Common Core, value-added assessments, blaming teachers, blaming tenure, blaming unions, blaming parents -- one can barely hear the children crying out: "Pay attention to us!"

None of the things on the partial list above will have the slightest effect on the so-called achievement gap or the supposed decline in America's international education rankings. Every bit of education reform -- every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things -- is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.

As Pogo wisely noted, "We have met the enemy and he is us." We did this to our children and our schools.

We did this by choosing to see schools as instructional factories, beginning in the early 20th century.

We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.

We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending America is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism.

We did this by believing that children are widgets and economy of scale is both possible and desirable.

We did this by acting as though reality and the digital representation of reality are the same thing.

We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.

We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.

We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them.

We did this by allowing school buildings to deteriorate, by removing the most enlivening parts of the school day, by feeding our children junk food.

We did this by failing to properly fund schools, making them dependent on shrinking property taxes and by shifting the costs of federal mandates to resource-strapped states and local communities.

We did this by handcuffing teachers with idiotic policies, constant test preparation and professional insecurity.

America's children need our attention, not Pearson's lousy tests or charter schools' colorful banners and cute little uniforms that make kids look like management trainees.

America's teachers need our support, our admiration, and the freedom to teach and love children.

The truth is that our children need our attention, not political platitudes and more TED talks.

The deterioration began in earnest with the dangerously affable Ronald Reagan, whose "aw shucks" dismantling of the social contract has triggered 30 years of social decline, except for the most privileged among us. The verdict is in. The consequence of trickle down economics has been tens of millions of American families having some pretty nasty stuff dripping on them.

Education was already in trouble and then, beginning in 2001 with the ironically named No Child Left Behind Act (which has left almost all children behind), the decline accelerated. When a bad policy fails, just rename it. In a nation where "branding" reigns supreme, you get Race to the Top. It's changing the paint color on a Yugo and expecting it to drive like a Lamborghini.

In the 13 years since NCLB there has been no -- zero, nada -- progress in education. Most claims of improvement can be attributed to changing the standards or shifting kids from one place to another -- educational gerrymandering. We've reduced education to dull test-prep and we can't even get improved results on the tests we prep for! That is a remarkable failure.

Doing meaningful education with the most advantaged kids and ample resources is challenging enough with classes of 20. Doing meaningful work with children in communities we have decimated through greed and neglect might require classes of 10 or fewer. When will Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton Family, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and other education reformers recommend that?

No, that's not forthcoming. Their solution is more iPads and trying to fatten up little Hansel and Gretel by weighing them more often. Pearson will make the scales.

Only in contemporary America can a humanitarian crisis be just another way to make a buck."
2014  stevenelson  education  publicschools  nclb  rttt  arneduncan  edreform  gatesfoundation  broadfoundation  elibroad  commoncore  poverty  billgates  michellerhee  attention  parenting  teaching  learning  politics  policy  pearson  classsize  charterschools 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Everything you need to know about Common Core — Ravitch
"These two federal programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, has produced a massive demoralization of educators; an unprecedented exodus of experienced educators, who were replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of many public schools, especially in poor and minority districts; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; an increase in low-quality for-profit charter schools and low-quality online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers' due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations, charter chains, and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market. Hedge funds, entrepreneurs, and real estate investment corporations invest enthusiastically in this emerging market, encouraged by federal tax credits, lavish fees, and the prospect of huge profits from taxpayer dollars. Celebrities, tennis stars, basketball stars, and football stars are opening their own name-brand schools with public dollars, even though they know nothing about education.

No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do. Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Education wants every state and every district to do it. Because of these federal programs, our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools.

The Pearson Corporation has become the ultimate arbiter of the fate of students, teachers, and schools.

This is the policy context in which the Common Core standards were developed. "



"Early childhood educators are nearly unanimous in saying that no one who wrote the standards had any expertise in the education of very young children. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a join statement complaining that the standards were developmentally inappropriate for children in the early grades. The standards, they said, emphasized academic skills and leave inadequate time for imaginative play. They also objected to the likelihood that young children would be subjected to standardized testing. And yet the proponents of the Common Core insist that children as young as 5 or 6 or 7 should be on track to be college-and-carer ready, even though children this age are not likely to think about college, and most think of careers as cowboys, astronauts, or firefighters."



"I fear that the Common Core plan of standards and testing will establish a test-based meritocracy that will harm our democracy by parceling out opportunity, by ranking and rating every student in relation to their test scores.

We cannot have a decent democracy unless we begin with the supposition that every human life is of equal value. Our society already has far too much inequality of wealth and income. We should do nothing to stigmatize those who already get the least of society's advantages. We should bend our efforts to change our society so that each and every one of us has the opportunity to learn, the resources needed to learn, and the chance to have a good and decent life, regardless of one's test scores."

[See also: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/everything-you-need-to-know-about.html ]
dianeravitch  commoncore  2014  government  policy  education  democracy  us  standards  nationalstandards  meritocracy  testing  standardizedtesting  society  arneduncan  rttt  nclb  schools  publicschools  pearson  michellerhee  joelklein  billgates  jebbush 
february 2014 by robertogreco
The misguided effort to teach ‘character’
"There is some confusion as to what to call qualities like perseverance or self-control. Some refer to them as personality traits, which in psychology refers to a set of relatively stable characteristics. Yet a quality like perseverance might change with setting, age, and task. I am dogged in writing an essay like this but become pretty squirrelly with tax forms or figuring out electronic devices.

A further, and I think major, problem with terminology and definition has to do with the widespread tendency to refer to these qualities as “noncognitive” traits or skills. To understand the problem here, consider the definition of cognition and the way it’s been distorted in our recent educational history.

Cognition traditionally refers to a wide and rich range of mental processes, from memory and attention, to comprehending and using language, to solving a difficult problem in physics or choreography or sharing an office with someone. But over the last few decades cognition has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. Under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, cognition in education policy has increasingly come to be defined by the skills measured by standardized tests of reading and mathematics. And as economists have gotten more involved in education, they’ve needed quantitative measures of cognitive ability and academic achievement for their analytical models, so they’ve used I.Q. or other standardized test scores (like the Armed Forces Qualification Test or AFQT) as a proxy for intelligence or achievement. From the Latin cognoscere, to come to know, or cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, we’ve devolved to a few digits on the AFQT.

Many of those who advocate character education believe that our nation’s educational focus on cognition has been misguided. Rather than focusing our energies on the academic curriculum—or on academic intervention programs for the poor—we need to turn our attention to the development of qualities of character, for as much or more than cognition, it is these qualities that account for success in school and life.

It is healthy to be reminded about the fuller scope of education in our test- and grade-obsessed culture, but what concerns me is that the advocates for character accept without question the reductive notion of cognition that runs through our education policies, and by accepting it, further affirm it. The problem is exacerbated by the aforementioned way economists carve up and define mental activity. If cognition is represented by scores on ability or achievement tests, then anything not captured in those scores—like the desired qualities of character—is, de facto, noncognitive. We’re now left with a skimpy notion of cognition and a reductive dichotomy to boot. This downplaying of the cognitive and the construction of the cognitive/noncognitive binary will have some troubling implications for education, especially for the education of the children of the poor."



"We have a long-standing shameful tendency in America to attribute all sorts of pathologies to the poor. Writing in the mid-nineteenth century, the authors of a report from the Boston School Committee bemoaned the “undisciplined, uninstructed…inveterate forwardness and obstinacy” of their working-class and immigrant students. There was much talk in the Boston Report and elsewhere about teaching the poor “self-control,” “discipline,” “earnestness” and “planning for the future.” This language is way too familiar.

Some poor families are devastated by violence, uprooting, and substance abuse, and children are terribly affected. But some families hold together with iron-willed determination and instill values and habits of mind that middle-class families strive for. There’s as much variability among the poor as in any group, and we have to keep that fact squarely in our sights, for we easily slip into one-dimensional generalities about them.

Given a political climate that is antagonistic toward the welfare state and has further shredded our already compromised safety net, psychosocial intervention may be the only viable political response to poverty available. But can you imagine the outcry if, let’s say, an old toxic dump were discovered near Scarsdale or Beverly Hills and the National Institutes of Health undertook a program to teach kids strategies to lessen the effects of the toxins but didn’t do anything to address the dump itself?

We seem willing to accept remedies for the poor that we are not willing to accept for anyone else. We should use our science to figure out why that is so—and then develop the character and courage to fully address poverty when it is an unpopular cause."
education  cognition  character  charactereducation  pverty  mikerose  2014  grit  discipline  rttt  nclb  policy  economics  testing  standardizedtesting  inequality  afqt  psychology  personality  measurement  edreform  politics  pathlogizingthepoor  self-control 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Are Progressive Critics of Common Core "Getting Played" By Enemies of Public Education? - Living in Dialogue - Education Week Teacher
"But blaming progressive critics of Common Core for the rise of this conservative movement turns reality on its head. The people who have let down our public schools are those who are willing to embrace standardization and high stakes tests as some sort of "progressive" guarantor of equity. We have been down this path with No Child Left Behind, which was sold to us by an alliance of liberal and neo-conservative politicians. We were told children in poverty would get more attention and resources once standardized tests "shed light" on just how far behind they were. We got teacher 'evaluation' schemes built around faulty VAM metrics, leading to mass demoralization and too-many losses of strong educators, simultaneous with a hypocritical push to replace seasoned teachers with Teach for America novices. The result? Intense pressure to raise test scores, narrowed curriculum, and school closings by the hundreds - all with the mantle of approval by our "liberal" leaders. Who really got played here?

Then Common Core came along in 2009. Everyone was weary of NCLB, and ready for change. But some of us could read the writing on the wall. The fancy words about critical thinking and "moving beyond the bubble tests" sounded nice, but a closer look revealed standards that were originally written with little to no participation by K12 teachers. The promises to get rid of bubble tests only meant that the tests would be taken on expensive computers. The promise to escape the narrowing of curriculum only meant we would be testing more often, in more subjects.

So many of us started raising concerns. The basic premise of Common Core was similar to NCLB - our schools are failing, and we must respond with "higher standards," and more difficult tests. But the indictment of public education has been wrong from the start, and we should not lend it credence by supporting phony solutions."



"It is not progressive opponents of Common Core who have set our public schools and unions up for this. It is the corporate reformers, and those willing to promote their grandiose Common Core project.

There are some attempts under way to separate Common Core from high stakes tests, most notably in California, as described in today's letter from Bill Honig. This is the ONLY condition under which these standards ought to be even considered."

[Bill Honig's letter: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/07/bill-honig-why-california-likes-the-common-core-standards/
via: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/07/anthony-cody-who-are-the-critics-of-common-core/ ]
commoncore  2014  policy  education  nclb  rttt  standards  testing  criticalthinking  standardizedtestinganthonycody  billhonig 
january 2014 by robertogreco
“A Question of Silence”: Why We Don’t Read Or Write About Education
"The lack of imagination evident in these narratives reflects the lack of real-world alternatives. In the real-world fantasylands of schooling (e.g., Finland, Cuba, Massachusetts) education looks more or less the same as it does everywhere else. In short, the system is missing—or ignores—its real antithesis, its own real death. Without that counter-argument, educational writing loses focus. Educationalists present schooling as being in a constant state of crisis. Ignoring for a second the obvious fact that without a crisis most educationalists would be out of a job—i.e., closing our eyes to their vested interest in the problem’s persistence—what does this crisis consist of? Apparently, the failure of schools to do what they are supposed to do. But what are they supposed to do? What is their purpose? And why should we stand behind their purpose? This is the line of inquiry that—can you believe it—is ignored.

Of all the civic institutions that reproduce social relations, said Louis Althusser, “one… certainly has the dominant role, although hardly anyone lends an ear to its music: it is so silent! This is the School.” That statement was made in 1970, by which time school buses zigzagged the cities every working morning and afternoon, school bells rang across city and countryside, the words “dropout” and “failure” had become synonymous, education schools were in full swing, and school reform had gained its permanent nook on the prayer-wheel of electoral campaigns. In other words: what silence?

Althusser, of course, was referring to the absence of schooling as a topic in critical discourse. In this regard he was, and continues to be, accurate. The few paragraphs that he appended to the above-quoted statement may well be the only coherent critique of schooling in the upper echelons of critical theory. Critical theory, which has written volumes on Hollywood, television, the arts, madhouses, social science, the state, the novel, speech, space, and every other bulwark of control or resistance, has consistently avoided a direct gaze at schooling (see footnote). ((Here follows a cursory tally of what critical theorists (using the term very loosely to include some old favorite cultural critics) have written on education. I won’t be sad if readers find fault with it:

Horkheimer is silent. Barthes and Brecht, the same. Adorno has one essay and one lecture. Marcuse delivered a few perfunctory lectures on the role of university students in politics—but he makes it clear that you can’t build on them (university politics as well as the lectures, sadly). Derrida has some tantalizing pronouncements, particularly in Glas (“What is education? The death of the parents…”), but they are scattered and more relevant to the family setting than the school. Something similar, unfortunately, could be said of Bachelard—why was he not nostalgic about his education? Baudrillard, Lefebvre, and Foucault all seem interested in the question, if we judge by their interviews and lectures—and wouldn’t it be lovely to hear from them—but they never go into any depth. Even Althusser’s essay, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, which contains the above quote, quickly shies away from the topic: instead, he concentrates on the Church. In short, professional critical philosophy might have produced a more interesting study of Kung Fu Panda (see Žižek, who is also silent) than of the whole business of education. The one exception would be Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, which I will discuss.)) Even Foucault, champion of enclosures, keeps out of the schoolhouse. ((Part III of Discipline and Punish includes a discussion, but his analysis there is mixed with all the other institutions that exercise punishment. The only direct references are in two lecture-discussions with students, both from 1971.)) The silence is particularly striking if we see radical philosophy itself as an educational endeavor, an enterprise concerned with ways of seeing and doing.

It’s not that there are no critical conversations within education—there are, and I will discuss them soon. But I think the silence of radical philosophers is emblematic of some special problems in the relationship between education and society."



"Progressive educators, who as a rule crave resources and ideas from outside their field, nonetheless did not seem bothered by the new seclusion. They even welcomed it. Today, every schoolteacher, admin, or researcher learns as part of her training to show open disdain for any opinion on education that doesn’t come from inside the field (“but has she taught?”). In American education schools, it’s possible to get a doctorate without having been assigned a single book from outside your field. Education is such an intensely social process (think of any classroom vignette, all the forces at play) that this intellectual swamp could only survive by a sheer will to isolation. Educationalists need this privacy partly because it allows them to ignore the core contradictions of their practice. The most important of these contradictions is that they have to uphold public schooling as a social good, and at the same time face up to the fact that schooling is one of the most oppressive institutions humanity has constructed. It has to be built up as much as it needs to be torn down brick by brick.

This dilemma bedevils the majority of writing by the most active educationalists. The redoubtable Deborah Meier is a good example—good, because she really is. Meier is the godmother of the small school movement in the United States. She has dedicated her life to making schools more humane and works with more energy than entire schools of education put together. Her philosophical base is one of Dewey’s pragmatism and American-style anarchism. She is also in a unique position to understand the contradictions of schooling, because she has built alternative schools and then watched them lose their momentum and revert to traditional models. What’s more, Meier can write. But when she writes, her books take titles like Keeping School and In Schools We Trust. In which schools, exactly? Not the same ones through which most of us suffered, I assume; rather, the progressive, semi-democratic ones on the fringes of the public system. The problem, apparently, is not schooling itself. It’s just that, inexplicably, the vast majority of schools fail to get it right. The “reformed school” is a sort of sublime object: something that does not quite exist, but whose potential existence justifies the continuation of what is actually there.

We are all familiar with this type of “we oppose the war but support the troops” liberal double-talk, a pernicious language game that divests all ground agents of responsibility—as if there could be a war without soldiers (though we seem to be moving that way) or bad classrooms without teachers. Now, it wouldn’t be fair to place the blame squarely on the teachers’ shoulders—considering the poor education they themselves receive in the first place—but we must also expose this kind of double-talk for what it really is: an easy out. And it is an easy out that abandons the oppressed: in this case, those students who actively resist teachers, those last few who have not been browbeaten or co-opted into submission. ((When Michelle Rhee, the (former) chancellor of public schools in Washington D.C., began shutting down schools, liberals tore their shirts and pulled their hair and finally ousted her. Very few people mentioned that those schools—a veritable prison system—should have been shut down. The problem was not the closures—the problem was that Rhee, like other Republican spawns of her generation, is a loudmouth opportunist who offered no plan beyond her PR campaign. What’s striking is that Rhee was using the exact same language of “crisis” and “reform” as progressives, and nothing in the language itself made her sound ridiculous. Since then, progressives have eased up a little on the crisis talk.))

Because the phenomenon of student resistance to education so blatantly flies in the face of the prevailing liberal mythology of schooling, it is a topic that continues to attract some genuine theorization. ((For a review of literature and some original thoughts, see Henry Giroux’s Resistance and Theory in Education (1983). For a more readable discussion of the same, see Herbert Kohl’s I Won’t Learn From You (1991).)) It’s also a topic that is closely tied to another intractable bugaboo of the discussion: the staggering dropout rate, in the US at least, among working class and immigrant students, and particularly among blacks and Latinos. Education is the civil rights issue of our time—Obama and Arne Duncan’s favorite slogan—was originally a rallying cry among black educationalists. ((The latter, in case you don’t know, is Obama’s Secretary of Education. A (very thin) volume could be written on the absolute lack of political and intellectual gumption that he epitomizes. To the Bush-era, bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act (a severe and ineffective set of testing requirements), Duncan added the Race to the Top initiative, thus bringing much unintentional clarity to the discourse: education reform is a race in which no one’s left behind.)) But if we understand a “civil rights struggle” to be, fundamentally, the story of the disenfranchised and the marginalized classes’ resistance to structural oppression, then this seemingly simple phrase is haunted by a kind of dramatic irony—since a great deal of research shows that what many black and working class students actively resist is schooling itself. Further studies showed that even those underserved students who succeed in schools persevere by dividing their identities; by cordoning off their critical impulses; by maintaining their disaffection even while they keep it well out of the teacher’s sight."



"A fundamental problem is that education demands a scientific foothold … [more]
education  unschooling  canon  houmanharouni  2013  criticaleducation  theory  eleanorduckworth  deborahmeier  jeanpiaget  paulofreire  ivanillich  karlmarx  society  schooling  oppression  class  liberals  progressive  progressives  theleft  paulgoodman  sartre  theodoreadorno  michellerhee  reform  edreform  nclb  rttt  radicalism  revolution  1968  herbertmarcuse  power  policy  politics  teaching  learning  jaquesrancière  arneduncan  foucault  louisalthusser  deschooling  frantzfanon  samuelbowles  herbertgintis  jenshoyrup  josephjacotot  praxis  johndewey  philosophy  criticaltheory  henrygiroux  herbertkohl  jeananyon  work  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  liberalism  progressiveeducation  school  schooliness  crisis  democracy  untouchables  mythology  specialization  isolation  seclusion  piaget  michelfoucault  althusser  jean-paulsartre 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Creativity is rejected: Teachers and bosses don’t value out-of-the-box thinking.
"“Everybody hates it when something’s really great,” says essayist and art critic Dave Hickey. He is famous for his scathing critiques against the art world, particularly against art education, which he believes institutionalizes mediocrity through its systematic rejection of good ideas. Art is going through what Hickey calls a “stupid phase.”

In fact, everyone I spoke with agreed on one thing—unexceptional ideas are far more likely to be accepted than wonderful ones.

Staw was asked to contribute to a 1995 book about creativity in the corporate world. Fed up with the hypocrisy he saw, he called his chapter “Why No One Really Wants Creativity.” The piece was an indictment of the way our culture deals with new ideas and creative people”
In terms of decision style, most people fall short of the creative ideal … unless they are held accountable for their decision-making strategies, they tend to find the easy way out—either by not engaging in very careful thinking or by modeling the choices on the preferences of those who will be evaluating them.


Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.

Even if children are lucky enough to have a teacher receptive to their ideas, standardized testing and other programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top (a program whose very designation is opposed to nonlinear creative thinking) make sure children’s minds are not on the “wrong” path, even though adults’ accomplishments are linked far more strongly to their creativity than their IQ. It’s ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the world’s most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched.

All of this negativity isn’t easy to digest, and social rejection can be painful in some of the same ways physical pain hurts. But there is a glimmer of hope in all of this rejection. A Cornell study makes the case that social rejection is not actually bad for the creative process—and can even facilitate it. The study shows that if you have the sneaking suspicion you might not belong, the act of being rejected confirms your interpretation. The effect can liberate creative people from the need to fit in and allow them to pursue their interests."



"Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”

To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself."
business  creativity  education  psychology  jessicaolien  teachers  teaching  schools  schooliness  2013  bias  lcproject  tcsnmy  openstudioproject  mediocrity  davehickey  art  design  barrystraw  annawintour  gracecoddington  nclb  rttt  resilience  happiness  fulfillment  glvo  rejection  control 
december 2013 by robertogreco
6 ways neoliberal education reform is destroying our college system - Salon.com
Here are six ways neoliberal education reform is creeping onto the college landscape.

1) Misdiagnosing the root problems... Mismanagement and poor teaching do exist, but the performance of US students is less a function of poor schools than unprecedented poverty. Analyses of international test data show that the one-in-five American students raised in poverty depress our otherwise admirable test scores. The OECD’s most recent report noted, “Socio-economic disadvantage translates more directly into poor educational performance in the United States than in other countries.” The fault lines of inequality and poverty define the landscape of educational achievement.

2) Pushing accountability through perks and penalties... Test-based teacher-evaluation has so far eluded any empirical justification. Researchers with the Educational Policy Institute conclude, “There is broad agreement among statisticians, psychometricians, and economists that student test scores alone are not sufficiently reliable and valid indicators of teacher effectiveness.” Multiple studies found that New York’s evaluation pilot program showed “little impact on student proficiency or school environment.”

Obama’s college ratings initiative doesn’t have standardized tests to lean on, so the president offered other guideposts: graduation rates, tuition costs, post-college earnings, number of Pell grant recipients enrolled. According to these measures, “students attending high-performing colleges could receive larger Pell Grants and more affordable student loans.”

3) Gaming the ratings... it’s easier to change numbers than people. This came to be known as Campbell’s Law, by now a well-worn chestnut. When No Child Left Behind went into effect in 2001, states began dumbing downtheir standardized tests in order to dodge the fell blade of Adequate Yearly Progress. Much-touted gains made in New York under Mayor Bloomberg, inflated by depressed standards, shrunk from 86.4 percent to 61 percent when those standards were realigned. They plummeted to 26 percent when Common Core-aligned tests were introduced this year. In Washington, D.C., much-ballyhooed achievement gains turned out to be the result of officials quietly fiddling with the achievement benchmarks.

4) “Saving” schools by sacrificing students.

Data-driven measures can distort school systems in more insidious ways, though. If the leading indicator for colleges is graduation rate, it’s likely some fudging and manipulation will result. Low-income students and students of color, who historically graduate at lower rates than their white and more affluent peers, will likely see fewer acceptance letters every spring.... Colleges that enroll the hardest-to-graduate students could be penalized for their students’ demographics... Given the choice between graduating high proportions of low-income students and screening out needier applicants, colleges will be tempted to pursue the latter.

5) Privileging “value” in the university.

Obama used the word “value” eight times in his speech to convey his idea of what students ought to demand of higher education—value not in the sense of a moral disposition, but in the “Value Meal” sense. The ratings plan will “help students compare the value offered by colleges and encourage colleges to improve.” But the president disregarded the staggering number of university classes taught not by tenured, tweed-clad professors but grad students and adjuncts in second-hand cardigans. A prevailing obsession with “value” in higher education would presumably hone in on instructor quality, but unlike RTTT, the administration’s new plan wastes no ink distinguishing between effective and ineffective instructors... No more reassuring for college instructors, adjunct and tenured alike, are the new initiative’s endorsements of MOOCs, or massive open online courses.

6) No College Left Behind. The foundation’s other forays into higher education—an accountability challenge, numerous nationalcollege completion initiatives, and a series of research paperswith consulting firm HCM Strategists made Gates “one of the strongest voices for accountability measures in higher education.” Gates’s $472 million in higher-ed munificence aims “to set an agenda, to help clarify an agenda and rally momentum around an agenda.” That momentum has brought the agenda all the way to the President’s pen.

Those who’ve followed K-12 reforms see the writing on the wall for higher education. The agenda is already set.

For some, however, that agenda’s familial resemblance to Race to the Top and reform patriarch No Child Left Behind is cause for concern. The president of the American Association of University Professors calls it “little more than a version of the failed policy of ‘No Child Left Behind’ brought to higher education.”
education  neoliberalism  MOOCs  testing  quantification  nclb  rttt  2013  ratings  via:shannon_mattern  mooc 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Common Core Assessment Myths and Realities: Moratorium Needed From More Tests, Costs, Stress | FairTest
"Myth: Common Core tests will be much better than current exams, with many items measuring higher-order skills.
Reality: New tests will largely consist of the same old, multiple-choice questions. …

Myth: Adoption of Common Core exams will end NCLB testing overkill.
Reality: Under Common Core, there will be many more tests and the same misuses. …

Myth: New multi-state assessments will save taxpayers money.
Reality: Test costs will increase for most states. Schools will spend even more for computer infrastructure upgrades. …

Myth: New assessment consortia will replace error-prone test manufacturers.
Reality: The same, incompetent, profit-driven companies will make new exams and prep materials. …

Myth: More rigor means more, or better, learning.
Reality: Harder tests do not make kids smarter. …

Myth: Common Core assessments are designed to meet the needs of all students.
Reality: The new tests put students with disabilities and English language learners at risk. …

Myth: Common Core "proficiency" is an objective measure of college- and career-readiness.
Reality: Proficiency levels on Common Core tests are subjective, like all performance levels. …

Myth: States have to implement the Common Core assessments; they have no other choice.
Reality: Yes they do. Activists should call for an indefinite moratorium on Common Core tests to allow time for implementation of truly better assessments. …"
commoncore  education  testing  assessment  2013  debunking  standardizedtesting  nclb  educationindustrialcomplex 
september 2013 by robertogreco
Editorial: The Trouble with the Common Core
"We'd like to believe these claims and efforts can trump the more political uses of the Common Core project. But we can't.

For starters, the misnamed “Common Core State Standards” are not state standards. They're national standards, created by Gates-funded consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA). They were designed, in part, to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum, hence the insertion of the word “state” in the brand name. States were coerced into adopting the Common Core by requirements attached to the federal Race to the Top grants and, later, the No Child Left Behind waivers. (This is one reason many conservative groups opposed to any federal role in education policy oppose the Common Core.)

Written mostly by academics and assessment experts—many with ties to testing companies—the Common Core standards have never been fully implemented and tested in real schools anywhere. Of the 135 members on the official Common Core review panels convened by Achieve Inc., the consulting firm that has directed the Common Core project for the NGA, few were classroom teachers or current administrators. Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results.

The standards are tied to assessments that are still in development and that must be given on computers many schools don't have. So far, there is no research or experience to justify the extravagant claims being made for the ability of these standards to ensure that every child will graduate from high school “college and career ready.” By all accounts, the new Common Core tests will be considerably harder than current state assessments, leading to sharp drops in scores and proficiency rates.

We have seen this show before. The entire country just finished a decade-long experiment in standards-based, test-driven school reform called No Child Left Behind. NCLB required states to adopt “rigorous” curriculum standards and test students annually to gauge progress towards reaching them. Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year in every grade from 3–8 and again in high school. (Before NCLB, only 19 states tested all kids every year, after NCLB all 50 did.)

By any measure, NCLB was a dismal failure in both raising academic performance and narrowing gaps in opportunity and outcomes. But by very publicly measuring the test results against benchmarks no real schools have ever met, NCLB did succeed in creating a narrative of failure that shaped a decade of attempts to “fix” schools while blaming those who work in them. By the time the first decade of NCLB was over, more than half the schools in the nation were on the lists of “failing schools” and the rest were poised to follow.

In reality, NCLB's test scores reflected the inequality that exists all around our schools. The disaggregated scores put the spotlight on longstanding gaps in outcomes and opportunity among student subgroups. But NCLB used these gaps to label schools as failures without providing the resources or support needed to eliminate them."



"Rethinking Schools has always been skeptical of standards imposed from above. Too many standards projects have been efforts to move decisions about teaching and learning away from classrooms, educators, and school communities, only to put them in the hands of distant bureaucracies. Standards have often codified sanitized versions of history, politics, and culture that reinforce official myths while leaving out the voices, concerns, and realities of our students and communities. Whatever positive role standards might play in truly collaborative conversations about what our schools should teach and children should learn has been repeatedly undermined by bad process, suspect political agendas, and commercial interests.

Unfortunately there's been too little honest conversation and too little democracy in the development of the Common Core. We see consultants and corporate entrepreneurs where there should be parents and teachers, and more high-stakes testing where there should be none. Until that changes, it will be hard to distinguish the “next big thing” from the last one."
assessment  standards  commoncore  inequality  nclb  rttt  2013  education  schools  us  policy  democracy 
august 2013 by robertogreco
The Exhaustion of the American Teacher
"Truth is, the problem with the American student is the American adult. Deadbeat dads, pushover moms, vulgar celebrities, self-interested politicians, depraved ministers, tax-sheltering CEOs, steroid-injecting athletes, benefit-collecting retirees who vote down school taxes, & yes, incompetent teachers—all take their turns conspiring to neglect the needs of the young in favor of the wants of the old. The line of malefactors stretches out before our children; they take turns dealing them drugs, unhealthy foods, skewed values messages, consumerist pap, emotional & physical & sexual traumas, racist messages of aspersion for their cultures, & countless other strains of vicious disregard. Nevertheless, many pundits & politicians are happy to train their rhetorical fire uniquely on the teachers, & the damnable hive-feast on the souls of our young continues unabated. We’re told not to worry because good teachers will simply overcome this American psychic cannibalism and drag our hurting…"
exhaustion  socialjustice  politics  nclb  rttt  policy  schools  learning  parenting  scapegoating  education  teachers  teaching  2012  johnkuhn 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Harvard Education Letter: Opt-Out Movement Gains Steam
"The forces opposed to high-stakes assessment tests have their Montgomery, and it’s Snohomish.

When more than 550 sets of parents—about one out of 10—in this small town west of Seattle refused to let their children take the Washington State Measurements of Student Progress exam in April, they moved the anti-testing movement to a new phase of civil disobedience.

From two at an elementary school in Portland, Maine, to 550 in Snohomish, to 1,427 in Colorado, frustrated families that oppose the high-stakes tests required by the 11-year-old No Child Left Behind law are deploying a new weapon: keeping their kids from taking them."

"The proportion of Americans who say there’s too much emphasis on testing has nearly doubled, from 20 percent in 1997 to 37 percent today, according to a Gallup Poll conducted for Phi Delta Kappa International."
criticalmass  maine  colorado  washingtonstate  snohomish  2012  parenting  optingout  standardizedtesting  nclb  testing 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Everything You've Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong
"Overall, the last 10 years have revealed that while Big Data can make our questions more sophisticated, it doesn't necessarily lead to Big Answers. The push to improve scores has left behind traditional assessments that, research indicates, work better to gauge performance…

Even the godfather of standardized testing, the cognitive psychologist Robert Glaser [26], warned in 1987 about the dangers of placing too much emphasis on test scores. He called them "fallible and partial indicators of academic achievement" and warned that standardized tests would find it "extremely difficult to assess" the key skills people should gain from a good education: "resilience and courage in the face of stress, a sense of craft in our work, a commitment to justice and caring in our social relationships, a dedication to advancing the public good.""

"A look at Maria's schoolwork, on the other hand, is a glimpse at a learner's progress. …"
standardization  standards  commoncore  publicschools  history  tfa  wendykopp  billgates  michellerhee  latinos  immigration  learning  sanfrancisco  missionhigh  bigdata  education  policy  robertglaser  assessment  standardizedtesting  rttt  nclb  kristinarizga  2012  teachforamerica 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Are More Stringent NCLB State Accountability Systems Associated With Better Student Outcomes? An Analysis of NAEP Results Across States
This study developed a comprehensive measure of the stringency level of NCLB states’ accountability systems, including the strength of their annual measurable objectives, confidence intervals, performance indexing, retesting, minimum subgroup size, and the difficulty levels of proficiency standards. This study related accountability stringency in 2003 to student achievement and achievement gaps on NAEP math and reading tests from 2003 and 2005. The results were inconsistent across grades, subjects, and ethnic groups. An increase in accountability stringency, such as requiring faster progress, not allowing for retesting, and allowing a smaller minimum subgroup size were related to improved math achievement for fourth-grade Hispanic students. Not using confidence intervals was related to higher math and reading achievement for White and Hispanic students. However, accountability stringency did not have any positive effects and even negative effects on eighth-grade Black students.
NCLB  quantification  education_policy  via:lukeneff 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Teach the Books, Touch the Heart - NYTimes.com
By “using data to inform instruction,” as the Department of Education insists we do, we are sorting lower-achieving students into classes that provide less cultural capital than their already more successful peers receive in their more literary classes
reading_course  reading  NCLB  data  juking_the_stats  via:lukeneff 
april 2012 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: If you say "scale up," you don't understand humanity
"The trick to sharing "best practices" is to stop doing that. Instead, share "our practices" and let ideas meet, collide, mix, and take root differently in each place. The trick to "scaling up" is the same - stop trying. If BMW has to "Americanize" their cars in order to sell them in the United States (adding cup holders, etc), what makes people like Intel or the KIPP or TFA foundations so arrogant as to imagine that they can replicate themselves among vastly different communities?

Instead we imagine, attempt, describe, converse. We pass along concepts, not plans. We share observations, not blueprints. We accept that whether it is a child or a school, we can not evaluate anything with a checklist or a score, but only with very human description.

That's a less rational world which requires more humane effort, and it contains troubling mountains and deep valleys because it is not flat. But it is the world in which we actually live."
heartofdarkness  wine  diversity  differences  norming  norms  standardization  rttt  nclb  arneduncan  benjamindistraeli  williamgladstone  cottonmather  hybridization  worldisflat  universaldesign  scalingup  scalingacross  germany  france  uk  us  americanization  localism  local  teaching  learning  unschooling  deschooling  comparativeeducation  blueprints  society  americanexceptionalism  exceptionalism  reform  britisshemprire  thomasfriedman  assimiliation  cooexistence  frenchcolonialism  terroir  deborahfrieze  margaretwheatley  anglocentrism  decolonization  colonization  humanscale  human  scaling  scale  education  schools  2012  irasocol 
february 2012 by robertogreco
An Introverted Boy Against An Army of Label Makers | A.T. | Cleveland
"I certainly still lie awake some nights worrying that I am in denial, that Simon has some gross deficiency not yet identified, and I am did him great a disservice. I worry constantly that I should limit his reading and solitary time and push him into sports and classes and social activities. But just when I am about to write that check for ice hockey classes I touch base with my instinctive sense of my son, this imaginative, overly verbose happy creature, and decide not to risk ironing out his uniqueness.  Until we can figure out more creative ways to educate and encourage introspective boys who are neither high achievers nor troublemakers—boys “in the middle,” like Simon–I will keep holding my ground, my breath and my tongue, and shoo away the well-intentioned label makers who cross our path."
males  boys  academics  introspection  nclb  productivity  howwelearn  unstructured  creativity  specialized  learningdisabilities  slowprocessing  add  dysgraphia  dyslexia  adhd  overdiagnosis  autism  schooliness  schools  learningdifferences  learning  parenting  education  teaching  introverts  susancain  2012  annetrubek  shrequest1 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Better Test Scores Lead to Better Lives and Strong Economy: Fact or Hunch? | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
"To say “tread carefully” and “proceed with care” after three decades of steel-toed boots stomping of public schools, not to mention, the transfer of an audit culture soaked in high tech from the corporate sector to national educational policy is, well, almost funny. It is, at the least,  a disappointing end to  such a clear laying out of the assumptions embedded in the reigning “tough love” reform ideology in which Mike Petrilli has been a card-carrying member."
via:tom.hoffman  ideology  policy  education  schools  us  publicschools  testing  standardizedtesting  commoncore  nclb  rttt  mikepetrilli  2012 
february 2012 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: The art of seeing
"we must stop being blinded by our incredibly limited view of "science." Rather, we must learn to see again, to see widely & complexly. To build our own deep maps of the people, places, & experiences before us. You cannot describe the experience of a middle school English class w/out knowing what happened in the corridor before class began, or what happened the night before at home. You cannot describe the work coming out of a 10th grade math class w/out understanding the full experience of students and their parents with mathematics to that point…And you cannot tell me about the "performance" of any school if you have not deep-mapped it to include a million data points—most of which cannot be charted or averaged or statistically normed.

Human observation & deep mapping are hard, but hardly impossible. These are skills which we all had before school began, and which we must recapture. We'll start by putting down our checklists…& in the next post, we will start to practice…"
seeing  observation  observing  deepmapping  learning  education  unschooling  deschooling  science  progressive  administration  management  tcsnmy  lcproject  schools  irasocol  nclb  billgates  gatesfoundation  arneduncan  rttt  checklists  adhd  adhdvision  pammoran  salkhan  jebbush  matthewkugn  robertmarzano  instruction  training  gamechanging  salmankhan 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Borderland › Areas of Smoke
[Wayback for broken link: http://web.archive.org/web/20110803102152/http://borderland.northernattitude.org/2011/06/02/areas-of-smoke/ ]

"One thing for sure, I’m done caring at all about whether anyone passes or not. I won’t even look at test scores anymore. We’re fucked no matter what, since working hard to pass the damn things means taking all the joy out of learning stuff.

Until this year, I thought that the tests themselves weren’t so bad, and that the damage came from the uses they were put to. But I see things a little differently now, after going through some practice items with my students this year. I overheard one of my students with limited language skills say to himself, “I’m so stupid!” Ouch! Test prep is more educational for me than for them. Some changes are due. I’m going to kick my evil plan up a notch or two next year. More on that later."
dougnoon  testing  reform  rttt  nclb  arneduncan  standardizedtesting  learning  education  schools  schoolreform  2011  fuckitmoments  reading  teaching 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Borderland › Hearts and Minds
"I am done caring about reformist nonsense. At staff meeting…discussing AimsWeb Data…how many students in each grade are below proficient, at risk, proficient based on how well they handled oral 1-minute timed reading…disgusting display of a brain-dead method…We were asked to say what we planned to do…When it was my turn, I said I’d be going with the happiness plan. What’s that? It’s getting the kids to enjoy reading so that they do it on their own. How does it work? Easy. Give them choices & time to read every day, & then celebrate their accomplishments. I got a round of applause. Kind of sad, really, when I think about what that might mean."<br />
<br />
"I’ve seen enough “data”. Next year my classroom is going to be about creativity, projects, & having fun w/ ideas. The way I look at it now, every year may be my last, & I don’t want to go out playing a numbers game that was rigged against me & my students from the start. Rigidly applied standards will fail the kids; that’s not my job."
dougnoon  teaching  reading  creativity  well-being  resistance  pedagogy  2011  data  testing  standardizedtesting  poverty  theprivateeye  standards  standardization  numbersgame  statistics  schools  policy  reform  schoolreform  arneduncan  barackobama  rttt  nclb 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Things May Not Get Better! : Stager-to-Go
"I clung romantically to fantasies that Americans embraced democratic principles, the common good & loved children. Learning otherwise is a somber realization, especially on Easter Sunday…

"If you wanted to destroy or privatize (a semantic difference w/out distinction) public education, you needed to find a way to erode public confidence in the each & every public school. But how to do that? [Explains how GW Bush et al. did]"

"Please! watch this video clip from Rachel Maddow show, share it w/ friends & then try to restrain your violent impulses or find strength to carry-on for another day…The message is really important & stunning.

This is the tale of how two generations of severely at-risk young people are having their chances for a productive life and slice of the American dream sacrificed on the alter of capitalist greed, authoritarian impulses & callous disregard for the vulnerable."
education  deschooling  criticaleducation  garystager  unschooling  democracy  georgewbush  policy  privatization  pubicschools  society  2011  michigan  detroit  catherineferguson  schools  activism  neoliberalism  corporations  greed  corporatism  lcproject  government  us  arneduncan  newtgingrich  schoolreform  reform  alsharpton  michellerhee  barackobama  oprah  nclb  rttt  money  rachelmaddow  politics  charterschools 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Chris Hedges: Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig
"A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs…"

[Printable: http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/why_the_united_states_is_destroying_her_education_system_20110410/ ]
education  politics  reform  us  corruption  class  money  policy  rttt  nclb  testing  standardizedtesting  billgates  michaelbloomberg  schools  schooling  chrishedges  socrates  hannaharendt  civilization  civics  morality  authority  obedience  consciousness  self-awareness  skepticism  thinking  criticalthinking  lcproject  tcsnmy  greed 
april 2011 by robertogreco
The Case Against Standardized Testing
"high scores often signify relatively superficial thinking

many of the leading tests were never intended to measure teaching or learning

a school that improves its test results may well have lowered its standards to do so

far from helping to "close the gap," the use of standardized testing is most damaging for low-income and minority students

as much as 90 percent of the variations in test scores among schools or states have nothing to do with the quality of instruction

far more meaningful measures of student learning - or school quality - are available."
nclb  alfiekohn  testing  testscores  standardizedtesting  criticalthinking  meaning  measurement  learning  teaching  tcsnmy  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  achievementgap 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Obama's Policies Under Fire: Department of Ed Responds - Living in Dialogue - Education Week Teacher
"On Monday night I posted a blog pointing out that President Obama's remarks at a town hall meeting seemed to undermine Department of Education policies. I received a request for a correction to my post from Justin Hamilton, Press Secretary to Secretary Duncan. He agreed to answer some questions for me, which I posted earlier today. Note that in my questions, I included President Obama's remarks. Mr. Hamilton has removed those quotes in his reply."
education  testing  standardizedtesting  barackobama  2011  arneduncan  justinhamilton  policy  rttt  nclb  learning  schools  performance  assessment  accountability 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Yong Zhao » A True Wake-up Call for Arne Duncan: The Real Reason Behind Chinese Students Top PISA Performance
"Interestingly, this has not become big news in China, a country that loves to celebrate its international achievement. I had thought for sure China’s major media outlets would be all over the story. But to my surprise, I have not found the story covered in big newspapers or other mainstream media outlets. I have been diligently reading xinhuanet.com, the official web portal for Xinhua News Agency, China’s state-controlled media organization, but have yet found the story on the front page or on its education columns. Instead, I found a story that has caught the attention of many readers (in Chinese) that provides the real reason behind Chinese students’ top performance.

The story, entitled A Helpless Mother Complains about Extra Classes Online, Students Say They Have Become Stupid Before Graduation, follows a mother’s online posting complaining about how her child’s school’s excessive academic load have caused serious physical and psychological damages:"
education  china  pisa  testing  standardizedtesting  policy  arneduncan  2010  yongzhao  assessment  politics  international  well-being  singapore  korea  japan  hongkong  tcsnmy  schools  teaching  learning  rttt  nclb 
march 2011 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: The Big Lies (Part One)
"standardized testing measures compliance…

In order to have a standardized test, you must have a single view of what something means…Not only that, you must have a single idea of what human development means at a fixed point.

What standardized testing measures is how a student complies with a fictional human "average" built according to the expectations of a societal elite…

This sounds nice, a single standard, that "high expectations for all" newspeak phrase. But what it means is that your children - not born rich to two parents with doctorates from Ivy League schools, raised with multigenerational support and in small-class-size private schools - will never be able to catch up or keep up.

Measuring human growth & development is not like measuring the reproduction of a single prototype on an assembly line. It is a complex system of helping to figure out where a student is, and how to help them get where they are going."
innovation  assessment  competition  edreform  reform  education  policy  rttt  nclb  standardizedtesting  testing  standards  standardization  2011  publicschools  humandevelopment  irasocol  learning  measurement  compliance  unschooling  deschooling  schools 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Daily Kos: I Don't Want to be a Teacher Any More
"Maybe it’s that for the first time, our school didn’t meet AYP…

When I heard this, I instantly thought of the 2 ELL in my class who hadn’t passed their reading tests last year & how unfair I thought it was that they even counted on our test scores when they came to our school in January & were absent at least twice a week from that point on. I was wondering how I could possibly have gotten them to benchmark level in 3 days a week for 3 months. I was thinking how if only those two students hadn’t counted on our scores, we would’ve met AYP as a school. When I mentioned it to my principal, she just said there are no excuses. We aren’t allowed to have any excuses… I thought of the little boy I had with an IQ of 87 who could barely read. I thought of the little girl in a wheelchair who’d had 23 operations on tumors on her body in her 11 years, & the girl who moved from Mexico straight into my class & learned to speak English before my eyes, but couldn’t pass the state test…"
teaching  education  us  policy  rttt  nclb  frustration  unions  oregon  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  teachingtothetest  respect  2011 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Think Again: Education - By Ben Wildavsky | Foreign Policy [""Relax, America. Chinese math whizzes and Indian engineers aren't stealing your kids' future."]
"American students' performance is only cause for outright panic if you buy into the assumption that scholastic achievement is a zero-sum competition between nations, an intellectual arms race in which other countries' gain is necessarily the United States' loss."

"If Americans' ahistorical sense of their global decline prompts educators to come up with innovative new ideas, that's all to the good. But don't expect any of them to bring the country back to its educational golden age -- there wasn't one."

"In this coming era of globalized education, there is little place for the Sputnik alarms of the Cold War, the Shanghai panic of today, and the inevitable sequels lurking on the horizon. The international education race worth winning is the one to develop the intellectual capacity the United States and everyone else needs to meet the formidable challenges of the 21st century -- and who gets there first won't matter as much as we once feared."
us  policy  education  china  india  competiveness  spacerace  sputnik  arneduncan  rttt  nclb  shanghai  pisa  anationatrisk  learning  schools  propaganda  fear  standardizedtesting  highereducation  highered  colleges  universities 
february 2011 by robertogreco
NYC Public School Parents: What Finland and Asia tell us about real education reform
"And yet what lesson have the Obama administration and its allies in the DC think thanks and corporate and foundation world taken from the PISA results? That there needs to be even more high-stakes testing, based on uniform core standards, that teachers should be evaluated and laid off primarily on the basis of their student test scores, and that it's fine if class sizes are increased.

In a speech, Duncan recently said that "Many high-performing education systems, especially in Asia," Duncan says, "have substantially larger classes than the United States."

What he did not mention is that Finland based its success largely upon smaller class sizes; nor the way in which many experts in Asian education recognize the heavy costs of their test-based accountability systems, and the way in which their schools undermine the ability ofstudents to develop as creative and innovate thinkers -- which their future economic growth will depend upon."
research  asia  finland  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  teaching  learning  policy  nclb  schools  schooling  us  china  pisa  comparison  korea  arneduncan  2011  barackobama  georgewill  business  democracy  rttt  classsize  pasisahlberg  politics  economics  money  misguidedenergy  respect  training  salaries 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Yong Zhao » “It makes no sense”: Puzzling over Obama’s State of the Union Speech
"Obama also said in his speech:

"Remember-–for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. No workers—no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors & entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges & universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth."

So who has made America “the largest, most prosperous economy in the world?” Who are these most productive workers? Where did the people who created the successful companies come from? & who are these inventors that received the most patents in the world?

It has to be the same Americans who ranked bottom on the international tests… [STATS]…Apparently they have not driven the US into oblivion and ruined the country’s innovation record."
education  rttt  obama  2011  policy  schools  innovation  china  india  children  learning  creativity  economics  teaching  publicschools  yongzhao  us  stem  moreofthesame  moreisnotbetter  competition  competitiveness  curriculum  pisa  comparison  history  future  nclb  arneduncan  reform  science 
january 2011 by robertogreco
The truth about failure in US schools | Paul Thomas | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
"Progress is impossible as long as debate about educational underachievement glosses over basic social facts like poverty"

"Throughout the world, the full picture of any nation's schools reflects the social realities of that country; when schools appear to be failures, the facts show that social failures (the conditions of children's lives outside of school) are driving the educational data. And we will certainly never address these social failures – and the truth about our schools – if political leaders and media voices refuse even to say the word 'poverty', while promoting simplistic manipulation of data."
assessment  failure  education  sociology  nclb  rttt  policy  us  poverty  society  schools  publicschools 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Rick Ayers: An Inconvenient Superman: Davis Guggenheim's New Film Hijacks School Reform
"Waiting for Superman is a slick marketing piece full of half-truths & distortions…suggests problems in education are fault of teachers & unions alone, & it asserts that the solution…is greater focus on top-down instruction driven by test scores…I'm not categorically opposed to charter schools; they can & often do allow a group of creative & innovative teachers, parents, & communities to build schools that work for their kids & are free of deadening bureaucracy of most districts…can be catalysts for even larger changes. But there are really 2 main opposing positions in "charter movement" -- not really a movement…but rather diverse range of different projects. On one side are those who hope to use charter option to operate effective small schools that are autonomous from districts. On other side are corporate powerhouses & ideological opponents of all things public who see this as a chance to break teacher's unions & to privatize education. Superman is a shill for the latter."
waitingforsuperman  corporatism  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  money  politics  pilcy  influence  privatization  rickayers  uniformity  specialinterests  documentary  2010  reform  education  publicschools  schools  funding  nclb  rttt  charterschools 
september 2010 by robertogreco
The Indypendent » Learning the 3C’s: Competition, Corruption & Cheating
"most common complaints I hear from other uni-level teachers…students don’t read & can’t write. Having grown up w/ internet, they tend to skim readings as onscreen PDFs but have difficulty finding central argument or supporting evidence of an essay.

The writing students do is almost universally formulaic…students are uncomfortable breaking out of generalizing & banal template they’ve been taught. Schools are embracing digital learning tools, but now students assume everything they need to know can be Googled. They learn how to write w/out a voice. This reflects lack of deep thinking. But I don’t blame the students…systemic problem…stop teaching how to pass test & begin teaching…how to think.

The effect of testing regime can also be found in…“What do I have to do to get an A?”…demonstrates commitment to achieving certain mark but no engagement w/ thinking…leads many students to challenge final grades, displaying strong sense of entitlement as if they were customers."

[via: http://www.tuttlesvc.org/2010/09/exactly-this-and-no-more.html ]
testing  nclb  rttt  criticalthinking  tcsnmy  writing  reading  standardizedtesting  entitlement  engagement  grades  grading  education  schools  schooling  schooliness  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Alfie Kohn: What Passes for School Reform: "Value-Added" Teacher Evaluation and Other Absurdities
"Of course people disagree about good education, just as they may not see eye to eye about which movies or restaurants are good. We may never change each other's minds, but we ought to have the chance to try, to discuss our criteria and reflect on how we arrived at them. As Deborah Meier likes to point out, disagreement is both valuable and inevitable in a democratic society. Undemocratic societies attempt to conceal the disagreement, imposing a single, simple standard from above -- and, worse, use that standard to make decisions that can ruin people's lives: which teachers will be humiliated or even fired, which kids will be denied a diploma or forced to repeat a grade, which schools will be shut down. A productive discussion about who's a good teacher (and why) is less likely to take place when the people with the power get to enforce what becomes the definition of quality by default: high scores on bad tests."
alfiekohn  nclb  rttt  education  standards  standardizedtesting  standardization  teachning  learning  policy  tcsnmy  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  arneduncan  joelklein  billgates  2010  latimes  valueadded  meritpay  schools  uniformity  reform  charterschools 
september 2010 by robertogreco
New Designs for Learning: A Conversation with IDEO Founder David Kelley | LFA: Join The Conversation - Public School Insights
"Analytical thinking is great. It’s the way you learned to be step-by-step—to collect data, analyze it & come up w/ a conclusion, like you did in science class. It is really useful, & I hope people keep doing it. It's very important. Design thinking is more experimental & less step-by-step. It's fuzzier. It's intuitive. It's empathic. We often say that it’s integrative thinking, where you put together ideas from different sources—it’s synthesis. This is a way of thinking that is not quite so linear, but you can build confidence in it if you do it over & over again…the basic premise of design thinking revolves around empathy, being understanding of what other people want, & how the world is put together from a social & emotional point of view…wouldn’t you have multiple faculty members with different points of view in the same classroom, so that the kids are not biased"

[via: http://stevemiranda.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/david-kelley-on-design-thinking-from-the-archives/ ]
analysis  synthesis  d.school  creativity  design  education  learningspaces  emergent  tcsnmy  schools  lcproject  designthinking  empathy  intuition  criticalthinking  21stcenturyskills  socialemotionallearning  bias  k12lab  prototyping  toshare  topost  nclb  making  doing  realworld  storytelling  generalists  scaling  davidkelley  socialemotional 
september 2010 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: What I wish Bill Gates had learned about education from Microsoft
"What most frustrates me is that Gates doesn't even seem to have learned the lessons which his company could have taught him. It is a classic case of a smart person letting what he doesn't know overwhelm what he does, which is turning out sad for all of us....

What are the Microsoft Lessons for Education? 1. Finding trumps knowing ... 2. Learning doesn't take place via lessons ... 3. There are loads of ways to do things... 4. People fall behind and they race ahead, where you are at any moment really doesn't matter... 5. The blank sheet is better... 6. It takes educators to let learners use the tools in front of them."
billgates  education  technology  microsoft  tcsnmy  lcproject  policy  influence  understanding  learning  experience  rttt  nclb  gatesfoundation  money  power  ignorance  tracking  standardization  agesegregation  standards  accountability  2010  open  cheating  choice  individualized  business  elitism  irasocol 
july 2010 by robertogreco
The Answer Sheet - Primer for ed reformers (or, it’s the curriculum, stupid!)
"*Learning, real learning—trying to make more sense of what’s happening—is as natural & satisfying as breathing. If your big reform idea requires laws, mandates, penalties, bribes, or other kinds of external pressure to make it work, it won’t. You can lead the horse to water, & you can force it to look like it’s drinking, but you can’t make it drink."

[via: http://stevemiranda.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/the-most-comprehensive-awesome-189-words-ever-written-about-school/ ]
curriculum  reform  criticalthinking  policy  education  learning  tcsnmy  progressive  standards  standardizedtesting  testing  rttt  nclb  motivation  elibroad  billgates  malcolmgladwell  wealth  influence  money  collaboration  understanding  humans  lcproject  deschooling  unschooling  teaching  commoncore  accountability  autonomy  righthererightnow  hereandnow  sensemaking  bighere  longnow  toshare  topost  interdisciplinary  marionbrady 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Hold Schools Accountable, but Don't Standardize Learning - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com
"But will national standards rekindle student progress, or prove to be an illiberal reform from a progressive president? Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary, points to Germany and Japan, where centralized standards and national tests coincide with strong student performance. Yet correlation does not prove causality. And these societies are eager to undo rote learning and nurture greater inventiveness among their graduates – a key driver of technological advances and value-added returns to the national economy.

The strange thing in all this is that the political left is now preaching the virtues of systems, uniformity and sacred knowledge. Lost are the virtues of liberal learning, going back to the Enlightenment when progressives first nudged educators to nurture in children a sense of curiosity and how to question dominant doctrine persuasively."
education  standards  standardization  policy  us  japan  germany  creativity  curiosity  learning  schools  tcsnmy  innovation  progressive  criticalthinking  conformity  authoritarianism  arneduncan  2010  rttt  nclb  invention 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Uniform National Standards Are Not Equal - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com
"The top-down, test-driven, corporate-styled “accountability” movement -- featuring prescriptive state standards -- has already done incalculable damage to our children’s classrooms, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. Just ask a teacher. It’s no coincidence that the most enthusiastic proponents of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, etc., tend to be those who know the least about how kids learn. And now they’re telling us that a single group of people should shape the goals and curriculum of every public school in the country.

What they don’t understand is that uniformity isn’t the same thing as excellence; high standards don’t require common standards. And neither does uniformity promote equity. One-size-fits-all instructional demands actually offer the illusion of fairness, setting back the cause of genuine equity."

[It's not long. Read the rest.]
alfiekohn  education  learning  national  standards  us  rttt  nclb  policy  schools  politics  competitiveness  equity  testing  accountability  standardization  standardizedtesting  tcsnmy  uniformity  commoncore  onesizefitsall  fairness 
july 2010 by robertogreco
This Little Blog: A Place to Respond: Tom Vander Ark's List of Race to the Top Edu-Entrepreneurial Opportunities
"Tom Vander Ark was the first Executive Director for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is now partner in Vander Ark/Ratcliff, an eduction public affairs firm, and a partner in a private equity fund focused on "innovative" learning tools.
forprofit  tomvanderark  education  rttt  nclb  investing  money  policy  schools  standards  standardization  publicschools  ripeforcorruption  privateequityfunds  socalledreform  reform  entrepreneurship  charterschools 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: Job Outlook for Veteran Social Studies Teachers at Charter Schools
"My conclusion from all this is that charter schools just don't feel they can spend their personnel budget on high experience and salary history/social studies teachers. They have to save their money for tested subjects, then science, then realistically a lot of them would probably even prioritize arts above social studies. Given the current system, this is completely rational. Most charters cannot afford all experienced teachers, so they have to pick and choose."
education  schools  tomhoffman  experience  socialstudies  balance  money  arts  science  testing  standardizedtesting  policy  howarneduncanisbreakingthings  nclb  rttt  charterschools 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Why I Changed My Mind | The Nation
"None of the policies that involve testing and accountability—vouchers and charters, merit pay and closing schools—will give us the quantum improvement that we want for public education. They may even make matters worse...

...And we must attend to the conditions in which children live, because their ability to attend school and to learn is directly influenced by their health and the well-being of their families."
dianeravitch  education  society  poverty  health  economics  mindchanges  policy  nclb  rttt  politics  accountability  2010  mindchanging 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Education Policies One Reason for the "Enthusiasm Gap" - Living in Dialogue - Education Week Teacher
"Someone recently told me I would be even less happy with what a President Palin might do with No Child Left Behind, so I should be a bit less critical and get with the program. I imagine President Palin might do worse, but honestly I am not sure how. And at least I would not feel as if I were administering the punishment to myself." [via: http://www.tuttlesvc.org/2010/06/ill-take-palin.html]
education  sarahpalin  barackobama  policy  politics  us  disappointment  arneduncan  nclb  rttt 
june 2010 by robertogreco
Book Review - The Death and Life of the Great American School System - By Diane Ravitch - NYTimes.com
"I have always relied on Ravitch’s intellectual honesty when battles become intense. And her voice is especially important now. President Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, seem determined to promote reforms relying on testing and choice, despite fresh data calling their benefits into question. I wish we could all share Ravitch’s open-mindedness in seeing what the data really tells us. Somehow, I doubt that’s what will carry the day."
nclb  standards  testing  education  choice  change  reform  dianeravitch  rttt  tcsnmy  arneduncan  policy  politics  2010 
may 2010 by robertogreco
One size doesn’t fit all - The Boston Globe
"The No Child Left Behind Act, with its high-stakes testing beginning in 3rd grade, has led many schools, especially in poor communities, to start the drill and testing regime in kindergarten. This shift, even before the release of the new standards, has eroded the foundation young children need for school success. We won’t make genuine progress in closing the achievement gap in our nation’s schools until we address the underlying inequities that are its root cause. Imposing more standards and tests is a misplaced, misleading, even harmful approach. If these standards are imposed, we will see a continuing achievement gap and new levels of stress and failure among young children. Worst of all, we will have missed an opportunity to give our nation’s children the best possible education, the one they deserve and the one our future depends on."
standards  rotelearning  education  play  schools  experientiallearning  kindergarten  tcsnmy  unschooling  deschooling  schooling  learning  assessment  achievementgap  reading  loveoflearning  children  directinstruction  rttt  nclb  policy  rote 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Standardized Testing: Separating Wheat Children from Chaff Children"
"Suppose next year almost all the students in your state met the standards & passed the tests. What do you suppose would be the reaction from politicians, businesspeople, & newspaper editorialists? Would these folks shake their heads in frank admiration & say, “Damn, those teachers are good”? That possibility, of course, is improbable to the point of hilarity. Every time I’ve laid out this hypothetical scenario, audiences tell me that across-the-board student success would immediately be taken as evidence that the tests were too easy.
alfiekohn  nclb  standardizedtesting  sorting  society  education  schools  standardization  politics  standards  accountability 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Letter to NYT Magazine
"Notice that this kind of instruction does nothing to help children think critically, understand ideas, or (heaven knows) become excited about learning. Notice, too, that it’s an approach mostly applied to poor kids of color. As Jonathan Kozol has observed, “Children of the suburbs learn to interrogate reality,” while “inner-city kids are trained for nonreflective acquiescence.” What we’re being asked to celebrate here are 49 techniques for enforcing that acquiescence. So why is Lemov’s recipe described in breathless terms and billed as a better way to educate? Because success these days – everywhere, but particularly in the inner city – has nothing to do with thinking and everything to do with high scores on fill-in-the-bubble tests. As long as the objective is to pump up those scores, techniques for tightly controlling children will continue to seem impressive."
alfiekohn  schools  education  standardizedtesting  assessment  schooling  lemov  teaching  criticism  criticalthinking  rttt  nclb  instruction  learning  tcsnmy 
march 2010 by robertogreco
'The Death and Life of the Great American School System' by Diane Ravitch - latimes.com
"Diane Ravitch, probably this nation's most respected historian of education and long one of our most thoughtful educational conservatives, has changed her mind -- and changed it big time. Ravitch's critical guns are still firing, but now they're aimed at the forces of testing, accountability and educational markets, forces for which she was once a leading proponent and strategist. As President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, embrace charter schools and testing, picking up just where, in her opinion, the George W. Bush administration left off, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" may yet inspire a lot of high-level rethinking. The book, titled to echo Jane Jacobs' 1961 demolition of grandiose urban planning schemes, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," has similarly dark warnings and equally grand ambitions."
dianeravitch  books  education  policy  testing  accountability  us  reform  nclb 
march 2010 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: Multiple Measures of the Same Data
"I still have trouble believing that I live in a world where decisions to close schools would be made without even bothering to move your finger over one more column on the NECAP report to look at the writing scores. Hey! You already paid for them! They're right there. See?
data  rhodeisland  schools  policy  education  testing  tomhoffman  publicschools  nclb  standardizedtesting  tunnelvision 
february 2010 by robertogreco
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