recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : standardizedtesting   265

« earlier  
Why College Is So Expensive In America - YouTube
"College in the United States is expensive. The cost of higher education just keeps going up. Tuition costs at both public and private universities have doubled since the late 80s, while accounting for inflation.

"I think that it's so ingrained in your head that you have to go to college, that college is the next step after graduation," said Jarret Freeman, a college graduate with roughly $50,000 in student debt. "I think in hindsight, I see that college is not for everyone."

But a college education is becoming more and more necessary to succeed in today's economy. Georgetown University estimates that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require more than a high school degree.

Students graduate with an average of $37,172 in student loan debt. It all adds up to $1.5 trillion across the country.

Watch the video above to learn how higher education became big business, hear from former students facing mounting debt and explore why it's so important to solve the student debt crisis."
colleges  universities  tuition  studentloans  studentdebt  money  2019  education  highered  highereducation  rankings  usnewsandworldreport  wealth  inequality  tests  testing  meritocracy  data  sat  standardizedtesting  funding 
16 days ago by robertogreco
Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged in U.S. College Entry Fraud - The New York Times
[using this bookmark as a placeholder for many links on this topic:

"Varsity Blues and the Destructive Myth of Meritocracy"
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/183433523388/varsity-blues-and-the-destructive-myth-of

"Inside the audacious college scheme to get kids of the rich and famous into elite schools"
https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-college-admission-scheme-varsity-blues-20190312-story.html

"The College Bribery Scam Reveals How Rich People Use 'Charity' to Cheat
Anand Giridharadas explains how alleged payoffs to test takers and athletic coaches are part of a larger ecosystem of elite hypocrisy."
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/panw7g/the-college-bribery-scam-shows-how-rich-people-felicity-huffman-lori-loughlin-allegedly-use-charity-to-cheat

"All College Admissions Are a Pay-to-Play Scandal"
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/college-admissions-bribery-scandal-felicity-huffman-loughlin-analysis-explained.html

"One of Silicon Valley’s most prominent voices for ethical investing is implicated in a college admissions bribery scandal"
https://www.recode.net/2019/3/12/18262003/bill-mcglashan-college-admissions-scandal-tpg-stanford-usc-yale

"What the role of one Silicon Valley entrepreneur reveals about the college admissions scandal"
https://twitter.com/i/events/1105618857320865792

"The unfortunate reality behind meritocracy"
https://dellsystem.me/posts/fragments-71

"College Admission Scam Involved Photoshopping Rich Kids’ Heads Onto Athletes’ Bodies"
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/college-admissions-scandal-kids-photoshopped-as-athletes.html

"Two CEOs. A wine magnate. A doctor: The Bay Area parents charged in a college bribe scandal"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Two-CEOs-A-wine-magnate-A-doctor-The-Bay-Area-13683029.php

"Why the College-Admissions Scandal Is So Absurd: For the parents charged in a new FBI investigation, crime was a cheaper and simpler way to get their kids into elite schools than the typical advantages wealthy applicants receive."
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/college-admissions-scandal-fbi-targets-wealthy-parents/584695/

"In the college admissions game, even the legal kind, money has always mattered"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/In-the-college-admissions-game-even-the-legal-13683518.php

"Fifty charged in massive college admissions scheme"
https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/fifty-charged-in-massive-college-admissions-scheme-1456907331756

"Bribes to Get Into Yale and Stanford? What Else Is New?: A new college admissions scandal is just the latest proof of a grossly uneven playing field."
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/opinion/college-bribery-admissions.html

"Bribery ringleader said he helped 750 families in admissions scheme"
https://www.axios.com/william-singer-college-bribery-fraud-scheme-d769eb2c-dfb2-4ea0-99f3-8135241c5984.html

"College admission scandal grew out of a system that was ripe for corruption"
https://theconversation.com/college-admission-scandal-grew-out-of-a-system-that-was-ripe-for-corruption-113439

"College Admissions Scandal Exposes Moral Rot at the Heart of US Plutocracy"
https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2019/03/13/college-admissions-scandal-exposes-moral-rot-at-the-heart-of-us-plutocracy/



Additional articles and resource predating the scandal, but relevant to the topic.

[syllabus] "Reconsidering Merit(ocracy)In K-12, Higher Education, and Beyond"
https://www.nadirahfarahfoley.com/reconsidering-meritocracy

"guest post: “legacy” admissions vs familial capital and the importance of precision"
https://scatter.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/guest-post-legacy-admissions-vs-familial-capital-and-the-importance-of-precision/

"Against Meritocracy: Culture, power and myths of mobility"
https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781317496045

"The Unfulfillable Promise of Meritocracy: Three Lessons and their Implications for Justice in Education"
https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/6w9rg/

"A Radical Plan to Combat Inequality in College Admissions: It's time universities began to think of themselves as producers of value, not arbiters of merit."
https://psmag.com/education/a-radical-plan-to-combat-inequality-in-college-admissions

"Racial Literacy as a Curricular Requirement: A core curriculum must be institutionalized and mandated for all students, argues Daisy Verduzco Reyes."
https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/03/08/colleges-should-have-required-core-curriculum-racial-literacy-opinion

"'I'm Tired Of Justifying My Admissions Letter To People'"
https://www.wbur.org/edify/2019/02/25/affirmative-action-self-advocacy

"White parents are enabling school segregation — if it doesn't hurt their own kids
This is what happens when anti-racism is no longer a major goal of educational policy."
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/white-parents-are-enabling-school-segregation-if-it-doesn-t-ncna978446

"White progressive parents and the conundrum of privilege"
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-hagerman-white-parents-20180930-story.html

"How Elite Schools Stay So White"
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/opinion/affirmative-action-new-york-harvard.html ]
colleges  universities  admissions  privilege  wealth  inequality  varsityblues  scandals  legacy  legacyadmissions  race  racism  power  meritocracy  bribery  elitism  siliconvalley  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  anandgiridharadas  margarethagerman  noahberlatsky  nadirahfarahfoley  2019  education  parenting  economics  class  cheating  sats  testing  standardizedtesting  daisyverduzcoreyes  us  competitiveness  worth  value  merit  competition  motivation 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
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 
5 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
We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About the Future Of Schools
"Despite the rhetoric, modern movements to reform schools have had a devastating effect on education"



"As a full-time teacher, I don’t have a lot of time to look up from the dailiness of the job to consider something as nebulous as the “future” of education. When I do, I feel a vague unease that too many non-teachers seem to have a lot of time to do this kind of thinking.

One thing in my favor is that education reform seems to take the same basic forms, year after year. There’s the standards and accountability movement and the ongoing attempts to give it “teeth.” Then there are the tech giants peddling autonomy and self-direction in lieu of soul-crushing activities like reading The Outsiders and using protractors. And though the latter reformers are often critics of the former, the two have a lot in common.

Both represent billion-dollar industries. Both frequently co-opt a rhetoric of liberation, autonomy, and empowerment. Both can barely disguise a deep disdain for teachers and schools, especially of the “sage on the stage” variety. And both are almost exclusively headed up by white men.

These are the kind of people setting a bold agenda for the future of education.

Admittedly, us unruly American educators would have a hard time coming up with anything coherent enough to compete with the brave visions set forth by the leaders of these two industries. The very fact that such an all-encompassing solution is needed testifies to their dominance in framing the narrative around American schools. Mired in the day-to-day challenges and complexities of actually caring for and educating children, many teachers exhibit a complete failure of imagination when it comes to sweeping monolithic initiatives with pithy acronyms, eye-catching logos, and font pairings that are straight fire.

But we do need to change. Beyond the usual Alice Cooper-type critiques, we teachers have been especially complicit in the widespread marginalizing, neuroticizing, and criminalizing of our most vulnerable students. Yes, we need to stop boring future white rockstars and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. This is already well known. But, more importantly, we also need to stop harming children of color with our whitewashed curriculum, inequitable funding systems, and disparate use of punitive disciplinary measures.

Can today’s reformers help us make progress toward these goals? Or do they exacerbate, perpetuate, and contribute to the very problems we face?

Trying to pin deception, manipulation, and violence on this rag-tag bunch leaves me feeling petty and mean-spirited. After all, they’re often so upbeat and sincere, their rhetoric so humanistic and progressive. Ted Dintersmith, former venture capitalist and billionaire author of the book What School Could Be, recently teamed up with Prince Ea, who has made not one but two viral videos echoing the same message: schools must change. And on the standards and accountability side, David Coleman, “architect” of the Common Core and now CEO of the College Board, has boldly laid out a “beautiful vision” for American schools. In a field plagued by widespread mediocrity and entrenched inequities, shouldn’t we applaud any moves toward a more inspiring, inclusive future?

The problem is that, despite all the rhetoric and good intentions, both these movements have had a devastating effect on education, all while continually escaping blame for their outsized impact. Any negative outcomes are used to justify further expansion and dominance. Poor test scores and persistent achievement gaps aren’t seen as issues with the tests, but as misalignment and implicit bias on the part of teachers. Student attention deficit and boredom aren’t seen as a function of technology addiction, but rather an occasion to blast schools for their inability to fully capitalize on the promise of the digital age.

Not surprisingly, this seeming unassailable innocence reveals close links to the logics of white supremacy culture, especially the values of individualism, objectivity, and so-called meritocracy. They additionally amplify neoliberal beliefs in the absolute goods of privacy and consumer choice, thus shifting the blame away from dominant elites under the guise of “empowerment.” To borrow the central metaphor from Todd Rose’s The End of Average, they ultimately seek to style us as fighter pilots in the “cockpits of our economy,” where we must summon limitless initiative, grit, and resourcefulness just to survive.

Ultimately, their ideas are rooted in America’s original “solutions” to the problems of pluralism, wherein subtle self-effacement and silencing became stratagems for consolidating power. All of this is part of a long tradition in the United States, one that dates back to colonial times, guiding both the “Strange Compromise” of 1789 and the founding of the Common School. Although these roots may be less obvious in our day, they are arguably more powerful and moneyed than ever before."



"Ultimately, the several silences of education reform have proven a powerful gambit for privatization and profit. These industries implicitly offer themselves as neutral alternatives to our fraught political climate, much as Horace Mann’s enjoinder to “read without comment” secularized schools in a sectarian age. They also shift the onus of agency and ownership from themselves onto the student, who assumes full responsibility for finding and following their own educational path.

Whereas Mann, perhaps unconsciously, hoped to indoctrinate students into his supposedly doctrineless Unitarianism, these reformers peddle the so-called empty doctrines of individualism, personalization, objectivity, entrepreneurialism, and meritocracy—all while exacerbating inequities and deprofessionalizing teachers.

Resisting these trends starts by seeing them as two sides of the same coin. Anything that counsels and valorizes silence—before the text, the test, or even the individual student—may partake in this phenomenon. The primary effect is always to atomize: content into itemized bits, classrooms into individualized projects and timelines, and each of us into solitary individuals pursuing personalized pathways.

Among the many omissions implicit in this vision is the notion that each student has equal access to a pathway of choice. Once that false premise is established, you are truly on your own. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, find your own personal road less traveled, dive headfirst into the entrepreneurial shark tank. Unfortunately, far too many smaller-scale reform movements espouse a similar ethos, often flooding Twitter with a toxic positivity that ignores intransigent inequities and injustices."



"None of this is intended to romanticize the educational mainstays of the past: lectures, textbooks, worksheets. But we should note how these more modern trends themselves often devolve into regressive, behaviorist, sit-and-get pedagogy.

Confronted by daunting challenges like widespread budget shortfalls, inequitable funding, increasing school segregation, whitewashed curriculum, and racial injustice, it’s no wonder we would reach for solutions that appear easy, inexpensive, and ideologically empty. At a time when we most need to engage in serious deliberations about the purposes and future of schools, we instead equivocate and efface ourselves before tests and technology, leaving students to suffer or succeed within their own educational echo chamber.

As appealing as these options may seem, they are not without content or consequences. Ironically, today’s progressive educators find themselves in the strange position of having to fight reform, resisting those who would render everything—including their own intentions and impact—invisible."
arthurchiaravalli  education  edreform  reform  history  invisibility  progressive  siliconvalley  infividualism  horacemann  2018  collegeboard  individualism  personalization  commonschool  us  inequality  justice  socialjustice  injustice  race  racism  whitesupremacy  reading  hilarymoss  thomasjefferson  commoncore  davidcoleman  politics  policy  closereading  howweread  ela  johnstuartmill  louiserosenblatt  sat  standardizedtesting  standardization  tedtalks  teddintersmith  democracy  kenrobinson  willrichardson  entrepreneurship  toddrose  mikecrowley  summitschools  religion  secularism  silence  privatization  objectivity  meritocracy  capitalism  teaching  howweteach  schools  publicschools  learning  children  ideology  behaviorism  edtech  technology  society  neoliberalism 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Educator: In Finland, I realized how 'mean-spirited’ the U.S. education system really is - The Washington Post
"The public school system is free to all, for as long as they live. Compulsory education extends from age 6 to 16. After that, students can choose schools, tracks and interests. Students can track academically or vocationally, change their minds midstream, or meld the two together. Remember the goal: competency.

Though students are required to go to school only until age 16, those who leave before secondary school are considered dropouts. Programs designed to entice these youngsters — typically those who struggle academically for a variety of reasons — back into education address the national 5 percent dropout rate. We visited one of these classrooms where teachers rotated three weeks of instruction with three weeks of internships in area businesses.

We toured a secondary school with both a technical and academic wing. The teachers were experimenting with melding the two programs. In the technical wing, we visited a classroom where adults were receiving training to make a career switch. Free.

The fact that students can fail and return, or work and return, or retire and return had a palpable effect on the mood and the tone of the buildings. Surprisingly, considering their achievements, Finnish students spend less time in the classroom, have more breaks throughout the day, and benefit from receiving medical, dental, psychiatric care and healthful meals while in school. It was ... nice.

In comparison, the United States public school system (an idea we invented, by the way) seems decidedly mean-spirited.

Our students enter at around age 5 and have some 13 years to attain a high school diploma. Failure to earn a diploma is a dead end for most. In the United States, when students fail at school — or leave due to many other factors, sometimes just as resistant teenagers — we are done with you. Sure, there are outliers who are successful through luck, sweat, connections or all three, but for most, the lack of a diploma is a serious obstacle toward advancement.

Without a high school diploma, educational aspirations can be severely truncated. Students need a high school diploma to attend community colleges and many technical schools which provide access to advanced skills that impact the living standard.

With or without the needed diploma, any additional education is at the student’s expense in time or money — a further blow to financial standing.

The 13-year window of opportunity does not factor in the developmental level of students at the time of entry. Any educator knows that children do not arrive with the same readiness to learn.

There are many other differences. Unlike the Finnish competency system, ours is based on meeting a prescribed set of standards by passing tests of discrete knowledge. Our students face a gauntlet of tests, even though any standards can be woefully outdated by the time a graduate enters a quickly evolving job market. The Finns take matriculation tests (there is choice in these as well) at the end of secondary but all interviewed said the scores did not have much bearing on what students could do next.""
finland  schools  us  education  policy  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  competition  competitiveness  marytedro  valeriestrauss  politics  economics  assessment  testing  standardizedtesting  competency  vocational  schooling  2018  readiness  standardization  standards  work  labor  opportunity  dropouts  care  caring 
november 2018 by robertogreco
GRE Not Required – a running list of PhD programs that cut the cord
"This website lists PhD programs which do not require GRE scores. This is an ongoing project — I am looking for collaborators willing to take charge of building lists in the social sciences, sciences and in other fields.

This information makes it easier for more departments to move away from using GRE scores and allows applicants in some fields to avoid taking this test altogether.

Applicants should confirm this information by consulting department websites themselves. (This information is normally listed in a section of a department website dedicated to applying to the PhD program.)"
gre  gradschool  standardizedtesting  srg 
october 2018 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
lalitha vasudevan on Twitter: "Overhearing tutoring session between adult tutor & suburban hs student. I despair at the extensive focus on relatability (between student & text) as strategy for responding to comprehension questions and essay writing, where
"Overhearing tutoring session between adult tutor & suburban hs student. I despair at the extensive focus on relatability (between student & text) as strategy for responding to comprehension questions and essay writing, wherein to relate to have personally experienced.

1/

Being able to relate, in and of itself, isn't the cause of my despair. It's the over-reliance on experience to the exclusion of other ways of creating conditions for understanding that worries me. This bent away from the traps of "cultural literacy" began w/good intentions;

2/

but this response -- understandably, in resistance to the hyper-testing mania that overtook and still dominates much of the schooling landscape -- may err too far in the direction of allowing some young people to never have to stray too far from their own thoughts.

3/

I want to know what young people think, what they notice and see, how they navigate and experience the world. AND, I want their insights on what others notice, see, conclude, design, and decide; for that, too, concerns young people --

4/

not only in their immediate, local, kinship networks, but about how they perceive others' perceptions of the they things they have noticed, or not. They are civic beings, active in their citizenry, and to deny this and allow otherwise is educational malpractice.

5/

I want young people to be seen and engaged as real interlocutors, not discursive window dressing to be written into curricula and grant proposals as the "participatory" element. I don't just want to hear what they think; I want to think with them, toward new questions.

6/

So, I return to a familiar, frustrating thought: My, how standardization, answer-driven teaching, & the greedy pursuit of efficiency-driven uniformity has royally screwed over kids & schools.
And (some) big data efforts want to help do more of the same.

7/7
#smalldatabigmoments"
lalithavasudevan  education  standardizedtesting  standardization  experience  relatability  teaching  learning  schools  schooliness  kinship  perception  culturalliteracy  howweteach  howwelearn  comprehension  essays  writing  howwewrite  teachingreading  teachingwriting  noticing  civics  citizenship  democracy  democratic  malpractice  participatory  participation  unschooling  deschooling  pedagogy  uniformity  efficiency  bigdata  testing 
august 2018 by robertogreco
standardized testing: the game
[via https://twitter.com/scumbling/status/1017793272662581249 (via Allen https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/1017797863542284288 ):

I made something.

Here's a prototype for my interactive zine:

😭 STANDARDIZED TESTING: THE GAME (A NARRATIVE) (THE PROTOTYPE)

i think you'll have a feeling (at least a short one)

i hope it starts conversations about ethnicity & culture

please share!

http://goingtocollege.club/ ]
via:tealtan  education  highereducation  highered  bias  ethnicity  culture  standardizedtesting  standardization  testing  exclusion  inclusion  inclusivity  games  gaming  interactivefiction  twine 
july 2018 by robertogreco
How He's Using His Gifts | Akilah S. Richards [Episode 12]
"We explore…gifted students, twice exceptional students, educators who shift from traditional to self-directed education, civic connections, the truth about college, and giving black and brown children more access.

Anthony Galloway wasn’t willing to be another cog in the system.

He’s a smart, twenty-something year old African-American man who chose to go into the field of education. He came up through the system, and learned how to excel in it. He also knew that he wanted to be part of the change in public education that allowed children of color access to the same resources and opportunities as children in white schools or private ones.

Anthony co-founded an Agile Learning Center, now facilitated by both him and long-time educator, Julia Cordero. I think you’re gonna find this discussion interesting because Anthony’s an educator who saw the school system for what it was and is, and started his own school to create something better."
akilahrichards  anthonygalloway  schools  education  unschooling  deschooling  gifted  juliacordero  race  schooling  self-directed  self-directedlearning  lcproject  openstudioproject  children  howwelearn  learning  praise  comparison  alternative  grades  grading  curiosity  libraries  systemsthinking  progressive  reading  howweread  assessment  publicschools  elitism  accessibility  class  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  unpaidinternships  studentdebt  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  agilelearning  community  collaboration  sfsh  tcsnmy  freeschools  scrum  cv  relationships  communities  process  planning  documentation  adulting  agilelearningcenters 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Science / Fiction — Carol Black
"‘Evidence-based’ education, scientific racism, & how learning styles became a myth."



"1. The Debunkers
2. The Map and the Territory
3. The Evidence
4. The Territory Beyond the Map
5. Here Be Dragons"



"A disturbing feature of this discourse in education is the frequency with which it takes the form of male researchers and pundits telling female educators that their views on learning are cognitively childish and irrational and should therefore be disregarded. Cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham, a prominent debunker, has shared some rather patronizing speculations as to why the vast majority of (mostly female) teachers persist in thinking their students have different learning styles ("I think learning styles theory is widely accepted because the idea is so appealing. It would be so nice if it were true.") His paternal tone is especially disturbing since he makes his case by failing to mention the existence of legitimate competing views from respected scientists and education researchers."



"But despite the debunkers' undeniable passion on the topic, the fact is that there are extremely reputable scientists on both sides of this debate. In other words, as Grundmann and Stehr put it, "the basic rift in these debates is not between lay people and experts but between two alliances that advocate different courses of action based on divergent basic values and knowledge claims... we see representatives of science and the lay public on both sides."

So what are the two alliances in the case of learning styles? And what are their divergent basic values?

Luckily, you don't have to dig very deep to find out. If you review the writings of the most vocal learning styles 'debunkers,' you quickly find that they are almost always simply advocates for traditional, teacher-controlled direct instruction. They tend to favor a traditional "core knowledge" curriculum, traditional forms of discipline, and they adhere to a traditional IQ-based view of intelligence. In other words, they’re just educational conservatives. (In the UK they openly call themselves "trads" as opposed to "progs.") They trumpet any research that supports their preferences and ignore or attempt to discredit any research that leans the other way. They don't like progressive or self-directed or culturally relevant approaches to education. They don't tend to concern themselves overmuch with less tangible aspects of children's well-being like, say, "happiness" or "creativity" or "mental health." They define "what works" in education in terms of test scores.

But the reality is that you can’t say ‘what works” in education until you answer the question: works for what? As Yong Zhao explains in “What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education,” it’s reasonable to assume, in education as in medicine, that any given intervention may have negative as well as positive effects; if we want to claim to be evidence-based, we need to look at both. What raises test scores may lower creativity or intrinsic motivation, and vice versa; this study, for example, found that direct instruction hastened young children's mastery of a specific task, but lowered exploratory behavior. So “what the research supports” depends on what you value, what you care most about, what kind of life you want for your children."



"The first thing to understand about learning styles is that there is no agreed-on definition of the term. Multiple frameworks have been proposed, from the popular Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic framework, to the Concrete-Abstract framework, to the Holistic-Analytical, Impulsive-Reflective, Convergent-Divergent, Field-Dependent-Field-Independent, Cognitive-Affective-Physiological –– one literature review identified 71 different models. As Kirschner and van Merriënboer grouse, if we consider each learning style as dichotomous (e.g. visual vs. verbal) that means there are 2 to the power of 71 possible combinations of learning styles – more than the number of people alive on earth.

They say that like it’s a bad thing. But as astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson remarked recently, “In science, when human behavior enters the equation, things go nonlinear. That's why physics is easy and sociology is hard.”

Zhang and her frequent collaborators Robert Sternberg and Stephen Rayner, co-editors of The Handbook of Intellectual Styles, are not fans of the 'debunkers.' They use the term intellectual style as an "umbrella term for all style constructs," (including learning styles, cognitive styles, perceptual styles, and thinking styles) which relate to "people's preferred ways of processing information and dealing with tasks." (Notice the word "preferred" here, since that will come up later.) As these authors see it, intellectual style differences are complex, involving cognitive, affective, physiological, psychological, and sociological dimensions. Researchers Maria Kozhevnikov, Carol Evans, and Stephen Kosslyn use the term cognitive style (which includes learning style constructs), to describe "patterns of adaptation to the external world that develop through interaction with the surrounding environment on the basis of innate predispositions, the interactions among which are shaped by changing environmental demands."

The most promising style constructs, in Kozhevnikov's view, are not the narrow visual-auditory-kinesthetic (V-A-K) perceptual categories, but the richer constructs of "context-dependency vs. independency, rule-based vs. intuitive processing, internal vs. external locus of control, and integration vs. compartmentalization." These cognitive tendencies are neither set in stone nor completely malleable; they intersect with cognition at multiple levels, from perception to concept formation to higher-order cognitive processing to meta-cognitive processing.

So it's complicated. And yet despite what researchers Elena Grigorenko and Samuel Mandelman call "the very fine texture" of the "intertwined threads of intelligence and personality" that make learning styles so devilishly hard to define, in practice these differences are not at all difficult to see.

Which is probably why somewhere between 75 and 90% of teachers believe they exist.

In self-directed learning situations where children are able to follow their curiosity in their own ways, differences that might be muted or masked in a controlled instruction setting become very clearly visible. Sensory preferences intersect with social, emotional, and cognitive differences in complex and individual ways that profoundly shape how each child enters and explores and takes hold of the world. One child will spend quiet hours poring over illustrated books about science or history; another child is quickly bored by those, but gets deeply engaged in active social projects like building or filmmaking or citizen science. One child listens in on adult conversations and remembers everything she hears, absorbing knowledge like a sponge; another child creates and constructs knowledge in her own hands-on ways, writing her first book before she reads one. One child is observant and cautious, always making sure of things before venturing into unfamiliar terrain; another child is bold and intuitive, diving in head first and filling in the gaps later in a "fake it till you make it" spirit. The river moves steadily toward the sea, but it follows many divergent pathways, and the shortest distance between two points may not be a straight line.

In other words, human learning differences are complex, multi-dimensional, and difficult to definitively pin down, but this much is clear: the kids have different styles of learning. So how does something so intuitively obvious and readily observed cease to exist in the eyes of the debunkers?"



"The debunkers admit that people have fairly stable learning preferences. They also admit that people have variable abilities in visual v. auditory memory, etc. When you combine preference with ability –– e.g. "I have a good visual memory, and I prefer information presented visually" –– that’s probably what many speakers of the English language understand by the term “learning style.”

So that thing? That exists.

But here’s where the crucial elision occurs, and the claim shifts to the matching hypothesis. In a literature review of learning styles research, Pashler et al. state it this way: the theory of learning styles is only confirmed if we can successfully sort individuals into groups “for which genuine group-by-treatment interactions can be demonstrated.”

What are “group-by-treatment” interactions? Well, in this scenario the teacher diagnoses and sorts the learners into groups, applies a randomized instructional “treatment” to each group, and then administers a test to determine which “treatment” worked better –– like a drug trial.

It's important to note that the debunkers' claim is thus based almost entirely on studies of teacher-controlled direct instruction; they don't involve scenarios where learners have agency. But the problem with studying learning in teacher-controlled settings is that it may be unclear whether you're measuring something about the learning or something about the teaching. In other words, you have to be sure that "Treatment A" isn't just a better or more interesting lesson than "Treatment B."

How can you solve that problem? Simple. By excluding from the list of methodologically acceptable studies anything that involves the kind of creative activities that good teachers might come up with to address the needs of diverse learners.

From the standpoint of strict scientific method, this is, of course, correct; your experimental protocol should control every variable except the one you're testing. How can you achieve this? By further simplification, of course: by creating a lesson so lacking in complexity that it can’t possibly be interesting to anyone. Like memorizing a random list of words.

Here’s where you run … [more]
carolblack  learningstyles  evidence  2018  paulkirschner  jeroenvanmerriënboer  li-fangzhang  mariakozhevnikov  carolevans  elenagrigorenko  stephenkosslyn  robertsternberg  learning  education  data  danielwillingham  daviddidau  joanneyatvin  power  yongzhao  research  unschooling  deschooling  directinstruction  children  happiness  creativity  well-being  iq  intelligence  traditional  testing  intrinsicmotivation  mastery  behavior  howwelearn  self-directed  self-directedlearning  ignorance  franksmith  race  racism  oppression  intersectionality  coreknowledge  schooling  schooliness  homeschool  multiliteracies  differences  hierarchy  participation  participatory  democracy  leannebetasamosakesimpson  andrealandry  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  colonization  leisterman  ibramkendi  standardizedtesting  standardization  onesizefitsall  cornelpewewardy  cedarriener  yanaweinstein 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Isis Lecture (Lecture given at the Oxford Literary festival in 2003 ) - Philip Pullman
[from this page: http://www.philip-pullman.com/writings

"This was the first extended piece I wrote about education. I wanted to say what I thought had gone wrong with it, and suggest some better ways of doing things. The lecture was given during the Oxford Literary Festival in 2003."]

"I’m going to talk about culture this afternoon, in the widest sense; about education and the arts, especially literature. It’s my contention that something has gone bad, something has gone wrong in the state of education, and that we can see this very clearly in the way schools deal with books, and reading, and writing – with everything that has to do with literature, and the making of it. When more and more good teachers are leaving the profession in disillusion and disappointment; when the most able undergraduates are taking one look at a career in teaching, and deciding that it offers no scope for their talents, and turning away to do something else; when school headships are proving harder and harder to fill – then we’re doing something wrong.

I think it boils down to this: that education now is suffused with the wrong emotion. Somehow, over the past quarter of a century, ever since James Callaghan’s famous Great Debate speech, we have seen confidence leaking away, and something else slowly seeping in to take its place. What that something else is, I shall come to near the end. No doubt some of the confidence was misplaced; no doubt we needed a Great Debate. But I think the benefits that came from it have long since been exhausted. It’s time for another way of doing things.

So first of all, I’m going to look at what’s happening now, and I’m going right in to the glowing, radioactive core at the heart of the engine that drives the whole thing: the National Curriculum and the SATs. I won’t spend too long on these things, but we do need to look at the actual stuff to get a flavour of the thought behind it, and this is what the Qualifications Curriculum Authority says about the Reading part of the English tests at Key Stage 2 – that means, in human language, at age 11.

They think that reading consists of using a range of strategies to decode, selecting, retrieving, deducing, inferring, interpreting, identifying and commenting on the structure and organisation of texts, identifying and commenting on the writer’s purposes and viewpoints, relating texts to the social, cultural and historical contexts.

That’s it. That’s all. Nothing else. That’s what they want children of 11 to do when they read. They don’t seem to know that reading can also be enjoyed, because enjoyment just doesn’t feature in the list of things you have to do.

Mind you, it’s just as well that they don’t have to enjoy it, because they’re not likely to have a copy of the books anyway. In another unit of work – 46 pages, to get through in a fortnight – they are to study Narrative Structure. The work’s built around two short stories and part of a novel. It’s not expected – this is interesting – that the children will have their own copies of the complete texts, though some pages may be extracted and photocopied.

But the whole book doesn’t matter very much either, because books exist in order to be taken apart and laid out in pieces like Lego. One of the things the children have to do in this unit of work is to make a class list of “the features of a good story opening.” This is where it stops being merely tedious, and starts being mendacious as well. The teacher is asked to model the writing of an alternative first paragraph for one of the stories. The instructions say “Read through the finished writing together. Check this against the criteria for a good opening – does it fulfil all of these?”

I can’t say it clearly enough: this is not how it works. Writing doesn’t happen like this. What does happen like this is those Hollywood story-structure courses, where there are seven rules for this, and five principles of that, and eight bullet-points to check when constructing the second-act climax. You cannot write a good story by building up a list of effective openings. It is telling children a lie to say that this is the way you write stories. Apart from anything else, it’s profoundly vulgar.

Then there is the Reading Journal, which children have to keep. Among other things, they have to:

List the words and phrases used to create an atmosphere

Write a fifty word summary of a whole plot

Pick a descriptive word from the text and, using a thesaurus, write down five synonyms and antonyms for that word

And so on. What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it’s “slaves’ work, unredeemed.”

Those who design this sort of thing seem to have completely forgotten the true purpose of literature, the everyday, humble, generous intention that lies behind every book, every story, every poem: to delight or to console, to help us enjoy life or endure it. That’s the true reason we should be giving books to children. The false reason is to make them analyse, review, comment and so on.

But they have to do it – day in, day out, hour after hour, this wretched system nags and pesters and buzzes at them, like a great bluebottle laden with pestilence. And then all the children have to do a test; and that’s when things get worse."



"So said Ruskin in 1853. Again, we didn’t listen. Ruskin went on to point out that when you do trust people to act for themselves, they are free to make mistakes, to blunder and fail; but there is the possibility of majesty too. Do we want human beings teaching our children, with all their faults and follies and limitations, but with all their depth and grandeur as well? Or do we want managers, who are glib and fluent in the language of audits and targets and performance indicators and mission statements, but who are baffled by true originality, who flinch and draw back from it as if it were deadly poison?

The extraordinary thing is that they are the same people. They could all be free, if they chose. Some of the young people who come into teaching may be timid and narrow-minded, but don’t think for a moment that I think that they’re not capable of courage and curiosity. They’ve never had a chance to show it; their teachers are afraid themselves. Marilyn Mottram of the University of Central England in Birmingham, who has been studying the way the National Curriculum and the Literacy Strategy work in schools, wrote to me last month: “When I work with teachers on developing ways of using texts I’m frequently asked ‘… but are we allowed to do that?’ This sort of continuing anxiety about literacy teaching,” she goes on, “suggests that a culture of conformity has been quite securely established among our primary teachers and, like many others, I find this deeply disturbing.”

These young people are tigers born in cages, and kept caged until they think that being caged is a natural condition; and they look down at themselves, and they see their magnificent stripes, and the only way they can understand them is to think that they themselves must be made of bars: they are their own cage; they dare not move outside the little space they occupy. But they are tigers still, if only they knew."



"So here are five steps we should take, starting right now.

Do away with these incessant tests; they only tell you things you don’t need to know, and make the children do things they don’t need to do.

Abolish the league tables, which are an abomination.

Cut class sizes in every school in the country. No child should ever be in a class bigger than twenty.

Make teaching a profession that the most gifted, the most imaginative, the most well-informed people will clamour to join; and make the job so rewarding that none of them will
want to stop teaching until they drop.

Make this the golden rule, the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: Everything we ask a child to do should be something intrinsically worth doing.

If we do those five things, we will not bring about a golden age, or an earthly paradise; there are more things wrong with the world than we can cure by changing a system of schooling. But if we get education right, it would show that we were being serious about living and thinking and understanding ourselves; it would show that we were paying our children the compliment of assuming that they were serious too; and it would acknowledge that the path to true learning begins nowhere else but in delight, and the words on the signpost say: “Once upon a time …”"
philippullman  education  canon  teaching  writing  howwelearn  howweread  howweteach  howwewrite  reading  literature  management  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  policy  curriculum  culture  society  meaning  johnruskin  learning  schools  pedagogy  literacy  purpose  life  living  pleasure  via:derek  storytelling  stories  fear  intrinsicmotivation  children  self-esteem  self-confidence  language  communication  time  slow  results  accountability  measurement  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  2003 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Admit Everybody | Current Affairs
"There are two conclusions here, one of which I agree with and one of which I find objectionable. The conclusion I agree with is that the SAT may be the “least bad” of three options for competitive admissions, when compared with using grades or Mushy Holistic Factors, and that therefore eliminating the SAT alone won’t in and of itself produce greater equality and could backfire. (I even have a certain soft spot for the SAT because it enabled me, a person who didn’t know any of the weird upper-class “holistic” signals that impress colleges, to go to a good college.) But the conclusion I disagree with is that this somehow makes a “progressive case for the SAT,” or that we should “defend the SAT.” This is the same logic that causes people like Nicholas Kristof to argue that because sweatshops are supposedly better than farm labor, there is a progressive case for sweatshops and we should defend them. This is one of the differences between liberalism and leftism: liberalism argues for the least bad of several bad options, while leftism insists on having a better set of options.

It’s the talk about “powerful ways” to “distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack” that troubles me. My concern is about what happens to the rest of the pack! As my acquaintance Patrick Conner put it, the difference between meritocracy and socialism is “I don’t want everyone to have a fair shot at the 15% of non-shitty lives, I want everyone to have a decent life.” Instead of arguing for the least-unfair version of the brutally competitive war of all-against-all that is the contemporary college admissions system, the progressive case should be that we ought to have an actual fair admissions system.

In other words: just admit everybody. The whole “competitive” nature of undergraduate admissions is absurd to begin with, and the very fact that students are sorted according to “merit” is socially corrosive. Let’s face it: college isn’t like brain surgery or social work. People’s lives aren’t in your hands. Instead of finding the “top ten best people” we should be selecting “anyone who has proved they are capable of doing the expected work.” Competitive admissions are as irrational as grading curves. With a grading curve, only X percent of the class will get As on their papers, even if every single person in the class wrote an excellent paper, which forces you to start making silly and arbitrary distinctions in a contrived effort to pit the students against each other. The better way to grade is by developing a standard independently and giving students a qualification if they meet the standard. Here’s the admissions parallel: everyone who shows themselves capable of doing the work required of a Harvard undergrad is marked “qualified” for Harvard and allowed to apply. There are a limited number of places, of course, but those places will be filled by selecting a random group of students from among all of those marked “qualified.” You might still get a very low percentage of applicants admitted because space is limited, but it won’t be because those applicants have been deemed worthier, it will be because the lottery happened to favor them.

My vision of universities is as a place where anybody can come and learn, so long as they can do the work. Now, you could argue that at elite schools, the work is so hard that only a few people would be qualified to do it. That’s false, though. I have been a TF at Harvard, so I am acquainted with the level of rigor in the undergraduate curriculum, and it’s obvious that vastly more students than the 4.8% they actually admit are capable of passing the courses. In fact, possibly the majority of the applicants could do fine. We know that college admissions are a crapshoot. But let’s just make them an actual crapshoot, so that nobody would be deluded into thinking that merit was involved, beyond the merit of basic literacy and numeracy.

We might have a different system at the graduate level, where higher levels of specialized skill are required. But I think the same principle should be followed: set a clear standard for the minimum a student needs to be able to do. Make that standard public, so that everybody knows that if they can do X they will have the same shot at being admitted to a program as anybody else. Then choose at random from among those who have met the basic standard.

Alright, so you can probably come up with half a dozen criticisms of this system, the way you can criticize the idea of a randomly-selected congress or a jury trial. Colleges will raise the “basic standard” to unrealistic levels and thus recreate a highly-competitive admissions system, and Harvard will start pretending that you need to be able to do calculus in order to muddle your way to a Bachelor of Arts there. (You don’t.) As long as you still have underlying social and economic inequalities, you can’t actually have an equal system, because everything will reflect those inequalities until we get rid of them. Rich parents will always find ways to make sure their children get more than other children. This is part of Freddie’s point, and he is right: instead of fixing the admissions system you have to fix the economic system, because you can’t isolate the one from the other. It’s an important point, but it doesn’t amount to a defense of the “meritocracy” illusion or the concept of “distinguishing from the rest of the pack.” And the left’s education experts should be devising practical alternatives to meritocracy rather than slightly-less-awful versions of it.

We should always be clear on what the goal is: a world in which we don’t all have to fight each other all the time, where we can work together in solidarity rather than having to wage war against our friends for the privilege of having a good job. There is no reason why everyone shouldn’t have equal access to the highest-quality education, and in a properly organized society it would be perfectly simple to provide it. We don’t need “best” and “worst” universities, ranked from top to bottom, we just need “universities,” places where people go to explore human knowledge and acquire the skills that enable them to do things that need doing. Progressive education means an end to the illusion of meritocratic competition, an end to the SAT, and the realization of a vision of equal education for all."
sat  standardizedtesting  testing  nathanrobinson  2018  freddiedeboer  bias  elitism  inequality  meritocracy  liberalism  leftism  progressive  patrickconner  socialism  competition  selectivity  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  admissions  education  ranking  society  merit  fairness  egalitarianism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magical Cures Hide a Cold Truth - The Atlantic
"As a child I found these books fascinating, suggesting as they did a conspiracy of adults manipulating children’s every move. Now, as a mother of four, I find them even more fascinating, because it turns out that the conspiracy is real. Parents do constantly conspire with a bevy of licensed and unlicensed advisors—relatives, friends, doctors, teachers, social-media strangers, even representatives of the state. What all these people promise is what Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle provides: conformity. It’s something so unnatural that it can only happen through magic, and yet it’s what’s expected of children, then and now.

Much of this conformity is just common courtesy; no one wants to live in a world in which people don’t pick up their toys. But the conformity parents sometimes crave goes deeper than that, and the desperation of these books’ 1950s parents hasn’t gone away. My 21st-century children laugh at Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s picket-fenced planet, where Mrs. Brown does the mending while Mr. Brown smokes his pipe, and little Christopher Brown putting his elbows on the table incurs an intervention involving a trained pig (don’t ask). But the reality is that today, amid a middle-class panic about their families’ and their country’s future, there is intense demand for children’s conformity. It can be hard to see just how much conformity is required until you have a child—or two, or four—who simply won’t comply.

For large numbers of children, for instance, sitting in a cinderblock box for six hours a day is an awful way to learn. But it’s hard to appreciate just how awful it is until your child gets expelled from preschool for being unable to remain in the room. You don’t think about how many questions your children ask when you read together until they get kicked out of the library story hour; you don’t realize how eagerly they explore nature until the arboretum ejects them for failing to stay in line on the trail. When your children achieve good grades, you are delighted, until you sit through the presentations where every child recites an identical list of facts about the country they “researched” on Wikipedia, and you realize what success is. You wonder why their assignments are so uninspired, until your answer arrives in the form of paperwork about multiday standardized tests. You wonder why your child who reads five novels weekly has been flagged for poor reading skills, until you discover that said child spends all assessment time reading under the desk.

You appreciate the need for children to develop patience, mastery, tolerance for boredom. But demand piles upon demand until it becomes a kind of daily war, as if this structure were specifically designed to destroy the very things that it purports to nourish. Your children soon meet other repeat offenders who frequent the principals’ and psychologists’ offices, children who sit on exercise balls and wear weighted vests in class to better constrain them, like characters from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” dystopia. You observe as your children uncover, like video-game Easter eggs, your state’s various statutes that trigger ejection from class; soon even your kindergartner discovers that all he needs to do to leave the room is announce an urge to kill himself, a fact he then exploits at will. You don’t blame the schools for these essential interventions, but you can hardly blame your child either for wanting out, because clearly something is wrong. Your children love learning, reading, exploring, creating; at home they write books, invent board games, make up languages, build gadgets out of old coffee makers. They appear to have the makings of successful adults—they’re resourceful, independent, and interested in contributing something to the world. But the markers of success in children are in many ways the opposite of these markers of success in adulthood, and in the meantime—a long, decade-plus meantime—children are trapped in a kind of juvenile detention where success is defined by how well adults can manage them, the chief adult being you, the parent.

Through all this, the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggles proliferate. Some are relatives or trusted friends; others are professionals, teachers, therapists, doctors, all offering their chests of cures. Some of these cures actually work. But even when they work, you begin to wonder what it means for them to work, to wonder what you are not seeing when all the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggles see is a tattletale or a truant or a child covered in dirt, an aberration to be evened out, fixed, cured. This harrowing question brings you to the farthest edge of your own limitations as a parent, which is also the nearest edge of your child’s freedom. And then you understand that control is a delusion—that all you can do is what Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle never does, which is to love the people your children actually are, instead of the people you want them to be."
conformity  children  parenting  books  culture  society  manners  2018  darahorn  unschooling  deschooling  difference  compliance  fear  punishment  discipline  openstudioproject  lcproject  tcsnnmy  sfsh  success  standardization  standardizedtesting  standards  assessment  creativity  acceptance  cures  curing  freedom 
march 2018 by robertogreco
The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ - The New York Times
"It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that."
learning  learningoutcomes  outcomes  academia  assessment  evaluation  quantification  measurement  accountability  highered  highereducation  2018  mollywhorthen  criticalthinking  johndewey  metrics  inquiry  efficiency  standardization  standardizedtesting  capitalism  content  complexity  howwelearn  howwethink  knowledge  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  schools  pedagogy  teaching  skepticism  bureaucracy  corporatism  corporatization  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
New SAT, but Same Old Problems | radical eyes for equity
"New SAT, but Same Old Problems (The Greenville News)
[https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/opinion/2017/10/22/new-sat-but-same-old-problems/783799001/ ]

P.L. Thomas, professor of Education, Furman University

While South Carolina has joined several states in rejecting Common Core for public school standards and testing, one powerful legacy remains, the revised SAT.

An original architect of the Common Core, David Coleman, now heads the College Board and has championed the new SAT, partly as more aligned with the Common Core.

Paul Hyde’s recent coverage of Greenville high schools’ scores on the revised test as well as a piece on charter schools and the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities offers a prime opportunity to address a new test but the same old problems.

Many advocating the new SAT have suggested that changing the test could address the large and persistent score gaps along race, social class, and gender lines.

However, reporting in Education Week, Catherine Gewertz reveals: “The 2017 SAT scores show inequities similar to those of earlier years. Asian (1181), white (1118), and multiracial (1103) students score far above the average composite score of 1060, while Hispanic (990) and African-American (941) students score significantly below it.”

For Greenville county as we consider the newest data and our urge to rank high schools by average SAT scores, we must once again confront some important facts that simple ranking tends to mask:

•SAT average scores should never be used to rank schools, districts, or states in terms of academic quality; this caution, in fact, comes from the College Board itself.

• SAT scores remain most strongly correlated with parental income, parental levels of education, gender (average male scores are higher than female scores), race, and access to courses.

• SAT scores are designed solely to be predictive for college success (not to measure academic quality of any school or state); however, high school GPA has long been a better predictor than the test."
2018  sat  testing  standardizedtesting  education  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  rankings  schools  publicschools  learning  inequality  bias  wealth  gender  sfsh 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Children are tech addicts – and schools are the pushers | Eliane Glaser | Opinion | The Guardian
"As a culture, we are finally waking up to the dark side of new technology. “The internet is broken”, declares the current issue of Wired, the tech insiders’ bible. Last month Rick Webb, an early digital investor, posted a blog titled “My internet mea culpa”. “I was wrong,” he wrote. “We all were.” He called on the architects of the web to admit that new technology had brought more harm than good.

Yet while geeks, the public and politicians – including Theresa May – grow disenchanted, schools, and those responsible for the national curriculum, seem stuck in an earlier wide-eyed era. My instinct tells me that this innocence is perverse. As a friend memorably described it, when he gave his three-year-old his phone to play with, it was as if a worm had found its way into her head.

I flinch internally when my five-year-old tells me she plays computer games in what primary schools call “golden time” rather than enjoying some other more wholesome reward; and when my eight-year-old says that he’s learned to send an email when I sent my first email aged 20, and email has since taken over my life and that of every other adult I know.

Our kids don’t use computers at home. They watch a bit of television, but we don’t own a tablet. Their school is by no means evangelical about technology, but I nonetheless feel like it is playing the role of pusher, and I’m watching my children get hooked. When they went suspiciously quiet the other day, I found them under the kitchen table trying to explore my phone. Unfortunately for them, it’s a brick.

I’m wary of sounding sanctimonious, and corroding much-needed solidarity between busy parents with different views on screen use. But when I see an infant jabbing and swiping, I can’t help experiencing what the writer James Bridle calls in a disturbing recent essay a “Luddite twinge”; and the research suggests I should trust it.

Earlier this month the children’s commissioner for England warned that children starting secondary school were facing a social media “cliff edge” as they entered an online world of cyber-bullying and pornography. According to Public Health England, extended screen use correlates to emotional distress, anxiety and depression in children. The American College of Paediatricians associates it with sleep problems, obesity, increased aggression and low self-esteem.

And not only is screen technology harmful to children per se, there’s little evidence that it helps them to learn. A 2015 OECD report found that the impact of computers on pupil performance was “mixed, at best”, and in most cases computers were “hurting learning”. The journal Frontiers in Psychology identifies “an absence of research supporting the enthusiastic claims that iPads will ‘revolutionise education’”. Researchers at Durham University found that “technology-based interventions tend to produce just slightly lower levels of improvement” compared with other approaches. Even for the head of the e-Learning Foundation, proving technology improves results remains the “holy grail”.

Education technology is often justified on the grounds that it boosts disadvantaged children, yet research shows it widens rather than bridges socioeconomic divides. The One Laptop per Child programme, which distributed 25m low-cost computers with learning software to children in the developing world, failed to improve language or maths results.

Such evidence does not dent the faith of ed tech’s proselytisers. Children need to be prepared for the future, we are told. But companies don’t want children who learned PowerPoint aged 10, they want employees who know how to think from first principles. All those mind-numbing software programs will soon be obsolete anyway. Most coding classes only teach children to assemble pre-made building blocks. Silicon Valley executives restrict their own social media use and send their own kids to tech-free schools.

Technology does not evolve naturally; programs and devices are promoted by those with a commercial interest in selling them. Ed tech is projected to be worth £129bn by 2020. This week, the world’s biggest ed tech convention, Bett, is in London, “Creating a better future by transforming education”. Google, Microsoft and Facebook are flogging expensive kit to cash-strapped schools using buzzwords such as “engagement” and “interactivity”. The traditional teacher-pupil hierarchy must be “flipped”, they say, “empowering” pupils to direct their own learning.

In reality, children tap on tablets whose inner workings are as arcane and mystical to them as any authoritarian deity – and stare, blinds down, at the giant interactive whiteboard. Children may be temporarily gripped, but their attention spans will shrink in the long term.

Cyber-utopianism promises magic bullets for poverty and the crooked timber of humanity. But it’s old-school solutions that really work in the classroom: good teachers, plenty of fresh air and exercise, and hands-on exploration of the real, physical world. This is even what “digital natives” themselves actually want: a Canadian study of e-learning in universities revealed that students preferred “ordinary, real-life lessons” and “a smart person at the front of the room”.

I don’t want my kids fed into the sausage machine of standardised testing and the bureaucratic “information economy”. I don’t want them to become robotic competitors to the robots we are told are taking their future jobs. I can opt my children out of RE, but where technology is concerned, I feel bound by a blind determinism. Surely we have a choice, as humans, over the direction technology is taking us, and education is the perfect illustration of this capacity. Our children turn up as blank slates, and learn to design the future. It’s time for schools to join the backlash. It’s time to think again."
technology  edtech  schools  education  policy  addiction  computers  tablets  curriculum  2018  elianeglaser  standardizedtesting  standardization  digitalnatives  digital  humanism  siliconvalley 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Show your support | Educationforward
"Education has to change – to move forward – so that our schools and students can face the unprecedented challenges of the future, with confidence, capability and compassion.

We believe:

1. That schools should be judged on a much broader set of outcomes (e.g. students’ resourcefulness; their ability to engage with political, economic and ecological issues; their confidence with digital technologies; their enjoyment of reading) than they currently face;

2. That the voices of parents, families, and students should be central to process of education policy formulation;

3. That students who neither want, nor need, to go to university should not be made to feel inadequate or failures by an overly narrow and overly academic curriculum;

4. That high-stakes testing has gone too far, has caused too much stress and anxiety to teachers and students, and is a wholly inadequate means of assessing a student’s full range of talents;

5. That the way teachers teach should foster more than the ability to recall snippets of knowledge – the future will ask students not simply what they know, but what they can do with what they know, how they critically evaluate data, and what to do when they don’t know what to do ;

6. That the knowledge that will matter to students in the mid-21st century will be very different to the knowledge that is currently considered core – re-thinking a curriculum fit for the future is an urgent, widespread concern;

7. That providing evidence of learning has attempted to become ‘teacher-proof’, whilst teaching to the test has become endemic. We have to trust teacher judgements more and invest in their professional development;

8. That too many people cast the debate around education in binary terms, despite the growing numbers of schools whose students get good grades and develop confidence, capability and self-direction in their learning.We need to learn from these schools so that their practices can spread like wildfire;

9. That politicians should focus their energies less on cherry-picking evidence to support their entrenched views, and more on the fundamental purpose of education. We need to improve, and deepen, the quality of public debate around schooling;

10. That we live in times of turbulence and anxiety, where truth is a casualty of intolerance. Education has to help people strengthen their dispositions to tolerate uncertainty, to think carefully about complex issues, to understand the position of others and, where necessary, to disagree gracefully. This matters – not just for our communities and our children’s well-being, but for the future of our world."
education  change  sfsh  outcomes  resourcefulness  policy  schools  acadmemics  testing  standardizedtesting  stress  anxiety  teaching  learning  society  howweteach  howelearn  knowledge  tcsnmy  openstudioproject  lcproject  curriculum  purpose  schooling  turbulence  intolerance  truth  uncertainty  complexity  understanding  grace  disagreement  uk 
november 2017 by robertogreco
I love math, but quit teaching it because I was forced to make it boring - The Globe and Mail
"As a math teacher, there were many days I hated math more than my students did. Way more.

So I quit in 2013, happily leaving behind job security, a pension and the holy grail of teacher benefits: summers off.

Everyone thought I was crazy. I was in the early years of a divorce and had a mother and two kids to support. Almost nobody – and rightfully so, I suppose – supported my ostensibly hasty decision to abandon the education ship. There were no safety boats waiting and I was not a great swimmer. What the hell was I thinking?

In fact I was leaping off the Titanic – where actual math education is relegated to third class and was drowning along with its students.

The hardest thing to teach is mathematics. Not so much because math is hard – so is shooting three-pointers or making risotto – but because education makes it hard. Boring curriculum. Constant testing. Constant arguments over pedagogy. Lack of time. It's a Gong Show.

I found a sizable chunk of the math that I was forced to teach either a) boring; b) benign; c) banal; or d) Byzantine. The guilt of being paid to shovel this anachronistic heap of emaciated and disconnected mathematics around finally caught up with me.

I quit because I felt like a charlatan when I implicitly or explicitly told my students that what we were learning reflected the heart of mathematics or that it was the core of lifelong practicality. "When are we going to use this?" has been the No. 1 whine in math classes for a few generations. We should stop trying to sell mathematics for its usefulness. It's not why you or I should learn it.

Earlier this year, Francis Su, the outgoing president of the Mathematical Association of America, gave a speech for the ages. He referenced a prisoner named Christopher serving a long prison sentence, teaching himself mathematics. "Mathematics helps people flourish," he said. "Mathematics is for human flourishing." In a follow-up interview, Su talked about how math should involve beauty, truth, justice, love and play. Not sure about you, but my math education and Ontario teaching experience were the furthest things from these virtues. In Ontario, kids are imprisoned with criminally bland mathematics – so are the teachers.

I left teaching because my impact on math education lay beyond my classroom and my school. I felt I could contribute my passion/understanding for mathematics on a larger stage – maybe global. I was dreaming, but sometimes chasing your dreams is worth all the outside skepticism and uphill climbs. At one point, I was penniless at 50, stressed, confused and disappointed. But I wasn't unhappy. I was rescued by the light and humanity of mathematics.

Fast forward four years. I've written a book about the hidden happiness of math. I work remotely for a Canadian digital math resource company and I travel all over North America speaking about my almost gnawing passion of mathematics. I felt that I couldn't share that passion for most of my teaching career because the unchecked bureaucracy of the education system was more interested in data from standardized test scores and putting pedagogy ahead of mathematics. As such, the culture of mathematics has almost been shaded into obscurity.

So now, when I see the flood of math articles about Ontario's low math scores, I put my head in my hands and worry my eyes might just roll too far back into my head.

Every year is a contest to see who will win this year's huffing and puffing award about the province's low standardized test scores. For the past few years, arguments about old math versus new math have been running away with the trophy. Although, headlines crying Elementary Teachers Need More Math Training are often the runner-up.

As a student, I went through that "old" system. Sure, I got plenty of As and gold stars, but it took me well into my teaching career to really understand a fraction of the things I thought I knew.

Calculus? Pfff. Get rid of that thing, it belongs in university after a serious boot camp of algebra. Fractions, as with unsafe firecrackers, need to be pulled out of the hands of younger students and introduced to them in their hormonal years. Why are teachers asking students to flip and multiply fractions when you need to divide them? Anyone care to explain that to children – why fractions are doing gymnastics to arrive at the correct answer?

There are so many amazing teachers fighting the good fight. But until the real culprit – the government – gets called out for manufacturing a dog's breakfast of math education, students will continue to suffer in the classroom."
sfsh  mth  mathematics  teaching  education  testing  standardizedtesting  2017  sunilsingh  calculus  curriculum  pedagogy  cv  learning  francissu  math  beauty  truth  justice  love  play  happiness  bureaucracy  oldmath  newmath  fractions 
october 2017 by robertogreco
'Scores in reading, math fail to budge' in Minnesota: Maybe it's time to try the obvious - StarTribune.com
"As a parent, teacher and citizen, I’m concerned about persistent achievement gaps in Minnesota schools, as described once again in Tuesday’s newspaper (“Scores in reading, math fail to budge,” Aug. 8).

While we are looking for new solutions, I propose that we let go of some old obsessions that we now can say clearly have not worked.

For this parent of three kids, the big one is homework, especially the mindless yet stubborn insistence on “10 minutes per grade, per night.” That piece of silliness never was backed up by solid research, and all it has done is drive a wedge between school and home as school personnel, with good intentions at heart, preach endlessly to parents about the importance of creating a space just for homework and offering “a guide by their side.” But that, we can now see, is so much hogwash. As a parent, I would love to stop worrying about it, until my children reach the upper grades. Last year, in 10th grade, my oldest child took command of his own home study. I consider that a sign that home study has begun to do him some good.

A second questionable mantra is that a child has to be organized before he or she can learn. Given that babies are born already learning, it seems obvious that no amount of organization is needed in order to learn. We must stop holding children back from other pursuits until they can tie their shoes, or clean out their desks, or remember to bring papers home and back again (which will be less of an issue once we’ve dispensed with homework). I’m all for quiet study environments, but not all day, every day. Talent goes to waste while we wait for 30 children to stand in a neat line, sit in their squares on a carpet or produce fresh notebooks all year long because we wanted them in five designated colors back in September. Learning is messy, and we only harm ourselves by insisting that it appear neat and orderly.

And while we all know that children learn best at certain hours of the day and that they should sleep and eat according to millennia-old circadian rhythms, most of our schools continue to demand that teenagers “get up and learn” at hours of the day when they should be fast asleep. It may well be that business hours could also use some adult adjustments, but at this point we should be offering young children their intense exposure to learning environments early in the day and elementary kids a little later, and then letting teenagers rest — with proper nourishment and supervision — until midmorning.

All of these wrongheaded obsessions contribute to our achievement gaps by race, class or other divisions, because all of them require added resources at home. A family that can pay for tutors and other supporting adults can meet these obsessions and get their kids through the hoops at school; a family that struggles with multiple jobs at inadequate pay has a much harder time doing so.

The first two obsessions would be easy to drop, and we should do so sooner rather than later. The third one would require significant public investment, but maybe if we all stopped buying so many school supplies, and backpacks to haul them around in, we could afford some added paraprofessional staff members and bus drivers to meet our children’s needs for sleep, nourishment and healthy recreation."
2017  anneholzman  sfsh  schools  education  learning  parenting  children  homework  sleep  organization  howwelearn  race  class  inequality  balance  testing  standardizedtesting  achievementgap 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Radical Eyes for Equity: Why Journalists Shouldn’t Write about Education | National Education Policy Center
"Over the past couple of days, I have watched almost universal praise for Dana Goldstein’s Why Kids Can’t Write*. Since those sharing this article have tended to be people and organizations that I respect, my own response has been tempered—even though I recognize in the overview of teaching writing the same problems with edujournalism I have been confronting for many years.

Other than Jim Horn’s challenge that Goldstein takes the “blame the teachers” route, many in the writing and teaching writing community have posted and shared this article without challenge, and several have added that Goldstein does a more than adequate job covering the landscape of teaching writing.

The irony here is that this article on the failures to teach students to write is a model for both typical mainstream journalism and everything wrong with mainstream journalism: the breezy recounting of a complex field within which the journalist has no real experience or expertise and the “both sides” coverage of complex issues that treats “sides” as somehow equally credible.

The key problems in this piece can be unpacked in a few claims made by Goldstein.

Early, Goldstein asserts (without any link to evidence):
Focusing on the fundamentals of grammar is one approach to teaching writing. But it’s by no means the dominant one. Many educators are concerned less with sentence-level mechanics than with helping students draw inspiration from their own lives and from literature.

What is profoundly garbled here is a conflating of what the field of teaching writing shows through research and what teachers actually do in their classrooms.

The reality of 2017 and how students are taught writing is best reflected in a comment by former NCTE president Lou LaBrant from 1947:
A brief consideration will indicate reasons for the considerable gap between the research currently available and the utilization of that research in school programs and methods. (p. 87)

Isolated grammar instruction has been shown to have almost no transfer into student writing, and George Hillocks (among others) detailed that traditional grammar exercises could even make student writing worse.

However, I invite Goldstein and others to visit classrooms and, better yet, simply read through the Connected Community’s Teaching and Learning Forum (NCTE) where weekly English teachers voice their continued commitment to “[f]ocusing on the fundamentals of grammar.”

I want to come back to this point with another example below, but next, Goldstein wanders into the fatal flaw of edujournalism with this splash of evidence:
Three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress. And 40 percent of those who took the ACT writing exam in the high school class of 2016 lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to successfully complete a college-level English composition class, according to the company’s data.

Poor writing is nothing new, nor is concern about it. More than half of first-year students at Harvard failed an entrance exam in writing — in 1874. But the Common Core State Standards, now in use in more than two-thirds of the states, were supposed to change all this. By requiring students to learn three types of essay writing — argumentative, informational and narrative — the Core staked a claim for writing as central to the American curriculum. It represented a sea change after the era of No Child Left Behind, the 2002 federal law that largely overlooked writing in favor of reading comprehension assessed by standardized multiple-choice tests.

The relentless and uncritical faith in what standardized tests tell us is one of the great problems with edujournalism across all discussions of education, but with writing, this is particularly problematic since standardized testing of writing is universally horrible, lacking validity and itself providing the context for why the teaching of writing is in fact inadequate.

Again, Hillocks has carefully analyzed that one of the most negative influences on teaching students to write has been the high-stakes testing movement. Teachers and their students have become slaves to state-level and national tests of writing that make writing to prompts and conforming to anchor papers as well as rubrics supersede any authentic writing goals that were endorsed by important movements such as the National Writing Project (a key focus of Goldstein’s article).

As I noted earlier, the irony is that a professional journalist’s piece in the NYT fails to provide the sort of credible evidence that many would expect as essential to student writing."



"But, again, what is incredibly important about causality in Applebee and Langer’s analysis, and what is totally subsumed by Goldstein’s focus on teachers, is that the standards and high-stakes testing movement killed the path to authentic writing instruction begun by the National Writing Project in the late 1970s and early 1980s (I outline that phenomenon in a chapter on de-grading the writing classroom).

Teachers and their students are being held accountable for writing standards and high-stakes tests—and everything we know about teaching writing well be damned.

On balance, then, Goldstein fails to expose accurately why students can’t write by glossing over the field of teaching writing without the care and expertise that topic deserves and by depending on weak evidence at the exclusion of a wealth of evidence that powerfully addresses the exact problem she seeks to examine.

Writing and teaching writing are highly complex fields, but we have a great deal of research, we do know how to teach writing well, and the field of composition, like all vibrant fields, remains a living thing driving by debate and investigation.

If we need a simple statement, then, on why students can’t write, let me offer something to consider: Students can’t write well because teachers are blocked from teaching well, and thus, the wall that must be torn down so both can excel is the standards and high-stakes testing movement.

* Goldstein’s title alludes to one of the worst but also enduring works ever on literacy, Why Johnny Can’t Read. This book spurred the school-bashing movement and engrained some of the most negative attitudes about literacy still remaining in the U.S. See Revisiting Content and Direct Instruction."
education  journalism  writing  2017  reporting  danagoldstein  katewalsh  testing  standardizedtesting  reform  schoolreform  learning  teaching  howweteach  literacy  media  standardization  commoncore  data  assessment  pedagogy  lolabrant  1947  georgehillocks  ncte  nationalwritingproject  instruction  grammar  arthurapplebee  judithlanger  1970s  1980s  rudolfflesch  policy  plthomas  paulthomas  high-stakestesting 
august 2017 by robertogreco
This Just Isn’t Something Public Teachers Do — Part 1
"In 2013 I took a teaching job in a district closer to where I lived. On the surface my new school had little in common with College Success Academy; I went from teaching a 100% African American population to a student body representing over 40 countries. My first school was situated in the poorest section of a city while my new school sat in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. One focused on college prep while the other claimed a holistic, whole child approach. Despite these differences, I found myself doing exactly the same things: using state testing blueprints and multiple choice test data to map out what, when, and how students would learn. My ability to move seamlessly between the two schools had nothing to do with “best practices” and everything to do with a unified core of assumptions about teaching, learning, and schooling. I had discovered the ideological boundaries of the rational community of teachers.

The Rational Community of Teachers

According to philosopher Alphonso Lingis, a rational community is a group of individuals who submit to a common discourse through a process of continual depersonalization. The concept of the rational community provides us with a useful theoretical model for analyzing the intersections of community, identity, and behavior. Lingis explains that rational communities are a necessary component of modern life (1994, p. 110). All groupings, from occupations to national and cultural identities, form through the same mechanism of depersonalization and submission to a group identity. It’s important to note that rational communities are inherently neither positive nor negative; they’re essential to the functioning of modern life. Every rational community functions in accordance with a specific set of principles that the group both produces and is produced by. He says,
Statements can be true, and meaningful, only in the discourse of an established community that determines what could count as observations, what degrees of accuracy in recording observations are possible, how the words of common language are restricted and refined for different kinds of cognition and for practical or technological uses, and what could count as an argument” (1994, p. 135).

As an example, we as a society have come to define plumbing as the knowledge and maintenance of water, sewage, and drainage systems. In order to become a plumber one must demonstrate one’s ability to understand and maintain these systems with a certain degree of fidelity. I would not expect a plumber to critique my bathroom’s color scheme because that’s not a practice of their rational community. Similarly, if I want to be a teacher then I need to act in a way that conforms to my community and society’s definition of a teacher. This means I teach content and skills to different groups of adolescents, assessing them at some point to check for proficiency. The instructional methods and assessment strategies I may pull from are not infinite; they draw from a set of assumptions that my community produces and is produced by. So while I could spend every class period performing cartwheels up and down the hallway, I wouldn’t because it obviously doesn’t fit with what we think teachers should do. But what about if I wanted to remove all grades and tests from my class? Would my actions still align with my community? Although I would still be teaching and assessing, I would no longer be enacting the practice of A — F grades, a staple of public education since at least the 1960s (Schneider & Hutt, 2014).

My ability to transition seamlessly between two opposing school environments revealed a set of technocratic and instrumentalist assumptions about what it means to be a teacher in this moment in time. These norms cast education as a scientific instrument. Teachers wield education as a seemingly neutral tool to bring about specific and predetermined learning outcomes. In my state this means ensuring that every child knows how to do things like identify the main idea of a passage, summarize important details, and ascertain a reading passage’s organizational pattern. Children demonstrate proficiency with these skills by correctly answering multiple-choice questions on a test. While teachers can and often do provide additional methods of assessment, test-based accountability means that, at the end of the day, scores on standardized exams are what matters most."



"To stray from the community becomes an act of open rebellion. Something as simple as removing letter grades from student assignments and providing only narrative feedback goes against the core assumptions of the community. As I found out during that afternoon with the assistant principal, refusal to participate in the practices of the rational teaching community puts one’s ability to be a teacher at risk. Regardless of the rhetoric around creativity, the whole child, differentiation, and creativity, teachers are expected to function within a of specific set of instructional practices and behavioral dispositions. Plumbers use wrenches; teachers use data."

[See also
"Confronting My Critical Identity in Social Media: The Critical Ceiling, Part II"
This Just Isn’t Something Public Teachers Do — Part 2

"Confronting My Critical Identity in Social Media: The Critical Ceiling, Part II"
https://medium.com/identity-education-and-power/confronting-my-critical-identity-in-social-media-the-critical-ceiling-part-ii-7e8b6d092bf6 ]
education  pedagogy  criticalpedagogy  peteanderson  2017  teaching  howweteach  cultue  practice  sfsh  schools  schooling  resistance  rebellion  change  unschooling  deschooling  learning  standardization  standardizedtesting  testing  standards  gertbiesta  alphonsolingis  community  rationalcommunities  gregdimitriadis  marclamonthill  tests  society 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Is the U.S. Education System Producing a Society of “Smart Fools”? - Scientific American
[had me until he says more (a new kind of) testing is the answer to the problem]

"At last weekend’s annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) in Boston, Cornell University psychologist Robert Sternberg sounded an alarm about the influence of standardized tests on American society. Sternberg, who has studied intelligence and intelligence testing for decades, is well known for his “triarchic theory of intelligence,” which identifies three kinds of smarts: the analytic type reflected in IQ scores; practical intelligence, which is more relevant for real-life problem solving; and creativity. Sternberg offered his views in a lecture associated with receiving a William James Fellow Award from the APS for his lifetime contributions to psychology. He explained his concerns to Scientific American.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

In your talk, you said that IQ tests and college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT are essentially selecting and rewarding “smart fools”—people who have a certain kind of intelligence but not the kind that can help our society make progress against our biggest challenges. What are these tests getting wrong?

Tests like the SAT, ACT, the GRE—what I call the alphabet tests—are reasonably good measures of academic kinds of knowledge, plus general intelligence and related skills. They are highly correlated with IQ tests and they predict a lot of things in life: academic performance to some extent, salary, level of job you will reach to a minor extent—but they are very limited. What I suggested in my talk today is that they may actually be hurting us. Our overemphasis on narrow academic skills—the kinds that get you high grades in school—can be a bad thing for several reasons. You end up with people who are good at taking tests and fiddling with phones and computers, and those are good skills but they are not tantamount to the skills we need to make the world a better place.

What evidence do you see of this harm?

IQ rose 30 points in the 20th century around the world, and in the U.S. that increase is continuing. That’s huge; that’s two standard deviations, which is like the difference between an average IQ of 100 and a gifted IQ of 130. We should be happy about this but the question I ask is: If you look at the problems we have in the world today—climate change, income disparities in this country that probably rival or exceed those of the gilded age, pollution, violence, a political situation that many of us never could have imaged—one wonders, what about all those IQ points? Why aren’t they helping?

What I argue is that intelligence that’s not modulated and moderated by creativity, common sense and wisdom is not such a positive thing to have. What it leads to is people who are very good at advancing themselves, often at other people’s expense. We may not just be selecting the wrong people, we may be developing an incomplete set of skills—and we need to look at things that will make the world a better place.

Do we know how to cultivate wisdom?

Yes we do. A whole bunch of my colleagues and I study wisdom. Wisdom is about using your abilities and knowledge not just for your own selfish ends and for people like you. It’s about using them to help achieve a common good by balancing your own interests with other people’s and with high-order interests through the infusion of positive ethical values.

You know, it’s easy to think of smart people but it’s really hard to think of wise people. I think a reason is that we don’t try to develop wisdom in our schools. And we don’t test for it, so there’s no incentive for schools to pay attention.

Can we test for wisdom and can we teach it?

You learn wisdom through role-modeling. You can start learning that when you are six or seven. But if you start learning what our schools are teaching, which is how to prepare for the next statewide mastery tests, it crowds out of the curriculum the things that used to be essential. If you look at the old McGuffey Readers, they were as much about teaching good values and good ethics and good citizenship as about teaching reading. It’s not so much about teaching what to do but how to reason ethically; to go through an ethical problem and ask: How do I arrive at the right solution?

I don’t always think about putting ethics and reasoning together. What do you mean by that?

Basically, ethical reasoning involves eight steps: seeing that there’s a problem to deal with (say, you see your roommate cheat on an assignment); identifying it as an ethical problem; seeing it as a large enough problem to be worth your attention (it’s not like he’s just one mile over the speed limit); seeing it as personally relevant; thinking about what ethical rules apply; thinking about how to apply them; thinking what are the consequences of acting ethically—because people who act ethically usually don’t get rewarded; and, finally, acting. What I’ve argued is ethical reasoning is really hard. Most people don’t make it through all eight steps.

If ethical reasoning is inherently hard, is there really less of it and less wisdom now than in the past?

We have a guy [representative-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana] who allegedly assaulted a reporter and just got elected to the U.S. House of Representatives—and that’s after a 30-point average increase in IQ. We had violence in campaign rallies. Not only do we not encourage creativity, common sense and wisdom, I think a lot of us don’t even value them anymore. They’re so distant from what’s being taught in schools. Even in a lot of religious institutions we’ve seen a lot of ethical and legal problems arise. So if you’re not learning these skills in school or through religion or your parents, where are you going to learn them? We get people who view the world as being about people like themselves. We get this kind of tribalism.

So where do you see the possibility of pushing back?

If we start testing for these broader kinds of skills, schools will start to teach to them, because they teach to the test. My colleagues and I developed assessments for creativity, common sense and wisdom. We did this with the Rainbow Project, which was sort of experimental when I was at Yale. And then at Tufts, when I was dean of arts and sciences, we started Kaleidoscope, which has been used with tens of thousands of kids for admission to Tufts. They are still using it. But it’s very hard to get institutions to change. It’s not a quick fix. Once you have a system in place, the people who benefit from it rise to the top and then they work very hard to keep it.

Looking at the broader types of admission tests you helped implement—like Kaleidoscope at Tufts, the Rainbow Project at Yale, or Panorama at Oklahoma State, is there any evidence that kids selected for having these broader skills are in any way different from those who just score high on the SAT?

The newly selected kids were different. I think the folks in admissions would say so, at least when we started. We admitted kids who would not have gotten in under the old system—maybe they didn’t quite have the test scores or grades. When I talk about this, I give examples, such as those who wrote really creative essays.

Has there been any longitudinal follow-up of these kids?

We followed them through the first year of college. With Rainbow we doubled prediction [accuracy] for academic performance, and with Kaleidoscope we could predict the quality of extracurricular performance, which the SAT doesn’t do.

Do you think the emphasis on narrow measures like the SAT or GRE is hurting the STEM fields in particular?

I think it is. I think it’s hurting everything. We get scientists who are very good forward incrementers—they are good at doing the next step but they are not the people who change the field. They are not redirectors or reinitiators, who start a field over. And those are the people we need.

Are you hopeful about change?

If one could convince even a few universities and schools to try to follow a different direction, others might follow. If you start encouraging a creative attitude, to defy the crowd and to defy the zeitgeist, and if you teach people to think for themselves and how what they do affects others, I think it’s a no-lose proposition. And these things can be taught and they can be tested."
education  science  social  wisdom  iq  meritocracy  intelligence  2017  psychology  claudiawallis  robertsternberg  performance  creativity  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  tcsnmy  rainbowproject  power  ethics  reasoning  values  learning  selfishness  gildedage  inequality  climatechange  pollution  violence  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  sat  gre  act  knowledge  teachingtothetest 
june 2017 by robertogreco
How Rutgers University-Newark's Approach to Admissions Helps Black Students Graduate - The Atlantic
"With the national college-graduation rate for black students half that of whites, this school is changing the rules of the game—and beating the odds."



"Protests focused on entrenched racism rocked campuses around the country this year. Many top colleges enroll small numbers of black students, and the four-year college graduation rate for black students is half that of whites.

In response, many admissions officers have been scouring the country—and the globe—to attract “qualified” black and brown students, striving to meet diversity targets while avoiding students they consider “at risk” of dropping out.

But a growing group of colleges and universities think that the calculation for who is “at risk” is fundamentally wrong. They not only accept students often turned away by other four-year universities, but also aggressively recruit them, believing that their academic potential has been vastly underrated.

Rutgers University-Newark in New Jersey has a graduation rate for black students that is far above the national average. But instead of offering out-sized athletic scholarships or perks to potential out-of-state students, the university is doubling down on a bid for students who are often ignored—low-income, urban, public high-school graduates with mediocre test scores.

Rutgers offers free tuition for low- and moderate-income Newark residents and local transfer students, regardless of their GPAs and test scores. Its newly minted honors program doesn’t consider SAT scores for admissions. It has put emotional and financial supports in place. Course offerings have been enhanced.

And administrators don’t see their efforts as charity.

“We’re a land grant public institution with a commitment to our state and our city, and that’s the talent we should be cultivating,” said Nancy Cantor, who has been chancellor at Rutgers-Newark for two years. “There’s phenomenal knowledge and talent out there, and that contributes so much to the institution. We don’t have the traditional view that we’re somehow ‘letting these kids in’ to be influenced by us.”

In 2015, Rutgers-Newark’s six-year graduation rate was 64 percent for black students and 63 percent for white students, according to administrators, compared with 40 percent and 61 percent respectively at public institutions nationally.

Among public universities whose student populations are at least 5 percent black and one-quarter low-income, Rutgers-Newark had the second-highest black male graduation rate in the nation in 2013 and the fifth-highest black graduation rate overall. It also had a much higher percentage of low-income students and African American students than the four universities above it.

“These are very talented students who, for a variety of reasons, rarely having to do with their own issues, are going to get bypassed if we don’t draw them into the education system,” Cantor said."
highered  highereducation  rutgers  2017  admissions  colleges  universities  diversity  inclusivity  grades  grading  standardizedtesting  standardization  race  racism  education  testscores 
may 2017 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
Sara Wachter-Boettcher | Talk: Design for Real Life
[video: https://vimeo.com/177313497 ]

"Lots of people have weird backgrounds and diverse backgrounds. And the thing is, all of us could have made those design mistakes. Any one of us could have had a scenario where we didn’t think about it, and we made an assumption, and we built it in. Because we’re so used to thinking about our target audience as some sort of narrow, easy-to-imagine thing, somebody we can picture, right? And to be honest, if you’re white and straight and cis—speaking as somebody who is—it’s really easy to imagine that the world is full of people like you. It’s really easy to imagine that, because, like, you see people like you all the time in your social circle and on TV. And it’s really easy to forget how diverse the world really is.

So we all have these blind spots. And the only way to change that, the only way to get around that, is to do the work. And to admit it, to own up to it and say, yeah—yeah, I have bias. And it’s my job to figure that out and do the best I can to get rid of it.

Because if we don’t, and if we don’t also do the work of making our teams and our industry more diverse, more welcoming to people who are different than us, then what we’ll start to do is we’ll start to build exclusion in. An interface that doesn’t support gay people or doesn’t support people of color leads to data that doesn’t represent gay people or doesn’t represent people of color. And that has a domino effect across an entire system.

And so I think back to that example with Google images, right, with their image recognition, and I think about the machine learning that people are really excited about—and should be, because it’s amazing—and I want to remind us all: machines learn from us. They’re really good at it, actually. So we have to be really careful about what we’re teaching them. Because they’re so good at learning from us, that if we teach them bias, they’ll perform bias exceptionally well. And that’s a job that I think all of us actually play a role in, even if it seems distant at this moment."



"Design for real life

But we can do that. I think we really do our best work when we take a moment and we say, how could this be used to hurt someone? How can we plan for the worst? And that’s what I mean when I talk about designing for real life, because real life is imperfect. Real life is biased. Real life can be harmful to people.

Real life has a hell of a lot of problems.

So what I want to leave you with today is one last story that shows just how much design and content can affect people, can affect what happens in their lives.

It actually takes it back offline to standardized tests. I’m sure many of you have taken tests like this in the past with the little Scantron; you fill in the bubbles. In the United States, we take the SATs—many people take the SATs toward the end of high school as a major part of their college entrance. It plays a huge role in where you might get in.

[40:00]

They have three parts: there’s reading, there’s math and there’s writing. Reading and math are done via this multiple-choice format.

Now, for a very long time, there have been some very big disparities in those scores across race and across gender. White students outscore black students by an average of 100 points on each of those exams. And this is not new. This is about the same margin—it’s been this way for decades. And for boys and girls, you also have this as well. It’s a smaller margin, but you’ve got a little bit of a difference in reading for boys versus girls, and then about a 30-point difference in math.

And what researchers have really started to show is that one of the reasons that this gap is not narrowing—despite all of these other indicators that you would think it might, like the number of women who are going to college and all that, right—it’s not narrowing, because the test is actually biased. Because Education Testing Services, which is the people who write all the questions for the test, what they do is they pretest everything, so potential questions get pretested before they make it to an exam. What that does is it assumes in their testing process that “a ‘good’ question is one that students who score well overall tend to answer correctly, and vice versa.”

So what that means is that if a student who scores well on the current SAT, in the current system with the current disparities, if they tend to do well on this other question, then it’s a good question, and if they don’t, then it’s bad. “So if on a particular math question, girls outscore boys or blacks outscore whites, that question has almost no chance of making the final cut,” because what is happening is that process is perpetuating the disparity that already exists. It’s re-inscribing that disparity over and over again, because it’s making a test perform the same for the people it’s always performed well for, right? The people it was first made for in the ‘20s. People who went to college in the ‘20s, and ‘30s, and ‘40s, and ‘50s. Not the diversity of people who are in college now.

And I tell this story, because this is design, and this is content. What is a test like that, besides content, the questions, and an interface with which a student actually answers it, the test itself? This is what happens when we assume that our work is neutral, when we assume that the way that things have been doesn’t have bias already embedded in it. We allow the problems of the past to re-inscribe themselves over and over again.

And that’s why I think that this is us. This is our work. This is not just the work of, you know, super technical folks, who are involved with AI. This is all of us.

Because ultimately, what we put into interfaces, the way that we design them, what the UI copy says, they affect how people answer questions. They affect what people tell us. They affect how people see themselves. So whether you’re writing a set of questions that a defendant has to fill out that’s going to get them rated as a risk for criminal recidivism, or you’re just explaining how to use a form or establishing default account settings, the interface will affect the input that you get. And the input is going to affect the outcome for users. For people.

The outcomes define norms: what’s perceived as normal and average in our society, the way that we see people. Who counts.

What this means is that design has a lot of power. More power, I think, than we sometimes realize. More power than we sometimes want to believe as we’re sort of like squabbling in our companies about whether we’re being invited to the right meetings. There’s a fundamental truth that design has a lot of power.

And so the question is not whether we have power, but how we’ll use it.

Do we want to design for real people, facing real injustice and real pain? Do we want to make the world a little fairer, a little calmer, and a little safer? Or are we comfortable looking the other way?

I’m not. And so I hope you’ll join me. Thank you."

[via: "Every interface decision encodes culture into the system. So what are we encoding? Video/transcript of my new talk:"
https://twitter.com/sara_ann_marie/status/771736431106678784 ]
bias  diversity  inclusion  inclusivity  sarawachter-boettcher  2016  ui  ux  interface  design  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  sat 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Fiction or Standardized Test? ‘Multiple Choice’ Is Both - The New York Times
Zambra was born in Chile in 1975, and his entire primary education took place during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. His four works of fiction that have been translated into English before “Multiple Choice” have been lauded for exploring how the repressive forces of that era continue to haunt the country today. This new book, however, is the first to focus solely on the role that education and testing played in constricting the discussion of art and ideas during the dictatorship — and still plays, more than 25 years later in the different context of today. Just last week, my 16-year-old niece in Chile took a multiple-choice test in her literature class that asked her and her classmates to identify “the correct ­order” of events in a Borges story.

[Via
"I'ma leave this one right ... Here. [link to article]"
https://twitter.com/TheJLV/status/769588860787552256

"Read this as part of the struggle vs overtesting. Bars."
https://twitter.com/TheJLV/status/769590022534225920

See also:

"No coincidence that Milton Friedman's free market schooling ideology had its first outing in Chile."
https://twitter.com/clanghoff1/status/769591540247367680 ]
tests  testing  multiplechoice  chile  education  policy  politics  2016  books  borges  miltonfriedman  debate  conversation  control  authority  authoritarianism  standardization  standardizedtesting  idranovey  alejandrozambra 
september 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
Austin Kleon — John Holt, How Children Learn Children do not...
"After I re-read that section, I was reminded of Laurence Weschler writing about David Hockney, and how “interest-ing” for Hockney is a verb: it is the continual projection of interest. (The more you look at something, the more interesting it gets.) This was certainly the case with me after I started reading this book, and Holt in general: I, who felt like a somewhat enlightened parent, started noting all the ways I wasn’t paying attention to them, and over time, they have become more interesting to me, not because I’m doting on them more, or even spending more time with them, but because I am looking at them like little scientists, or just little people, who are worthy of interest. (It sounds so stupid: of course a parent should find their kids interesting, but think about how many parents and teachers and adults you know — maybe including yourself — who, secretly, probably don’t.)

Holt’s work has really shaken me up, blown my mind, and given me a different way of thinking about my kids. Some of my favorite bits, below."
johnholt  howchildrenlearn  education  learning  children  trust  austinkleon  lawrencewescheler  davidhockney  art  interestedness  interested  interesting  attention  payingattention  noticing  parenting  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  librarians  teachers  purpose  belonging  work  community  conversation  cv  pacing  meaningmaking  unschooling  deschooling  departmentalization  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  control  independence  anxiety  howchildrenfail  testing  assessment  reggioemilia  punk  games  play  standardizedtesting  love  2016  listening 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Politics of the Paragraph
"It wasn’t until I became an English teacher that I understood the relationship between silence and passion. My 12th graders were so quietly fired up over their persuasive essays on immigration that I had nothing to do but study the tops of their heads as they wrote and listen to raindrops ping against the classroom windows. Part of me was proud that my students had become such independent and motivated writers. The rest of me grappled with the teacher version of empty-nest syndrome: There were no hands desperately waving in the air, no side conversations, no one trying to make a 3-pointer into the garbage can across the room with a wadded-up criteria sheet.

Toward the end of class, Erica pushed her notebook aside and ran out of the room. I found her sitting in the hallway with her knees up to her chest and her face in her hands.

“What’s up, Erica?” Her alcoholic mother had recently kicked Erica and her 3-month-old baby out of the house. Life had become an incredible struggle for this young woman, who was currently living with her boyfriend’s family. I wasn’t surprised to see her check out of class.

“I’m such a crappy writer.”

“What?” It was the last thing I expected to hear. Erica was a star student and one of the best writers I had ever taught.

“You’re only supposed to have three ideas, right? How can I write a thesis statement with four or five? You’re only supposed to have three body paragraphs, so I’ll have to mush all of my ideas together, and then I won’t get a good grade because I’ll have too many sentences and too many ideas. I don’t know what to do.”

As we continued the conversation, I discovered that Erica had previously learned a five-paragraph essay structure that limited the writer to three big ideas, each of which the writer was supposed to develop in three corresponding body paragraphs of no more than five to six sentences, but only after providing a three-pronged thesis statement in the introduction to serve as a road map to the writer’s argument.

“Erica, it’s OK to add more paragraphs to the body of your essay. It’s important to develop a strong argument, no matter how many paragraphs or sentences it takes. You’re a bright girl. Trust your own ideas and your own judgment.”

“Really? I can do that?”

Seriously? How could one of the brightest and most talented kids I had ever met question her right to have more than three ideas about immigration?

Since then, countless paragraph and essay “formulas” have cropped up in my students’ work every year. In fact, the academic world teems with tricks for organizing expository paragraphs and essays, most of them conveniently packaged in the form of an easy-to-remember acronym such as TEETH (topic, example, explanation, tie to thesis, hook to the next paragraph) or TISAS (pronounced “T-sauce”—topic sentence, introduction to supporting evidence, supporting evidence, analysis, summary, transition sentence). There’s also the Jane Schaffer formula, which involves attaching two pieces of brief commentary to a concrete detail to produce a 2:1 ratio of opinions to facts, a generic recipe that reads like the literary equivalent of Bisquick. It’s a speedy and convenient “just add one or two quick thoughts and mix” approach that leaves you wondering how much better the piece could have been if the author had put in the time and effort to create the real thing.

Systems like these encourage students to produce shallow, fast-food versions of paragraphs that don’t allow much elbow room for creativity or critical thinking, yet lend themselves to speed grading by a standardized test scorer or an overworked instructor only 50 essays into a stack of 160 on a Sunday night.

I didn’t learn to write using an acronym and, perhaps for this reason, I avoided teaching formulaic writing for most of my career. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t teach essay and paragraph structure. My teachers had shown me that each paragraph of a narrative, expository, or persuasive essay exists to do a job: to provide evidence or commentary, to support a thesis, to help a reader see, hear, feel, and understand the writer’s message. Like my teachers, I gave students graphic organizers to gather their thoughts and evidence before they crafted thesis statements to provide a focus for their writing. I taught skill lessons to help them craft paragraphs that fit together to build their argument in a smooth and cohesive way.

Before they would begin writing, my students spent countless hours mining texts to “raise the bones,” as my current mentor, Linda Christensen, likes to say. Students examined articles, stories, and academic essays to figure out how they were organized, and what kinds of skills professional and excellent student writers brought to their craft. Together, students read, color-coded, and put together their own criteria for their essays, based on this examination of authentic models. As they wrote, I peppered class time with more lessons on skills that they could immediately apply to their writing. My students spent as much time discussing and sharing their writing as they did drafting their pieces; I spent as much time as I could meeting one-on-one with students for writing conferences.

The Specter of High-Stakes Writing Tests
Those times didn’t last. A few years ago, I went to a conference partly funded by the Broad Foundation in Washington, D.C., where I attended a session on the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) that we would soon be using to assess students’ progress toward the Common Core standards. The tests were still in development but already seemed bewilderingly difficult, especially the writing test. Students would be expected to examine various texts on a preselected topic and then write an analytical essay that took a position and supported it using evidence from the models. The writing task was not unlike those my students were already used to; however, in order to graduate, students had to complete the essays with no help or scaffolding from the teacher.

At the diverse, high-poverty high school where I teach, we were worried. Many of our students arrived in 9th grade with minimal literacy skills. We had kids coping with poverty, parental job loss, successive moves, and fractured families, as well as kids who grew up in refugee camps in Kenya or Tanzania and came to us with no formal education or literacy in any of the languages they spoke. Nevertheless, they were hardworking students who, in the hands of a talented and inspired staff, made impressive progress by the time they graduated.

Like most high school staff members across the state, we expected the majority of our students to fail the SBAC. We knew that student scores would be reported to a public that was being increasingly turned against the public education system, teacher unions, and teachers themselves by conservative political voices in the media. Each one of us was aware that our students’ scores on an assessment developed by a private for-profit business were going to be reflected in our evaluations and perhaps our salaries. There was pressure on everyone to come up with a fix, to find a shared method that would get our students through the mad scramble that had become the path to graduation for all students across the state.

We Invent Our Own Acronym Formula
It wasn’t surprising when teachers at my school proposed developing shared language for writing analytical paragraphs that we could use across grade levels and content areas. It sounded like a great idea to me. Little by little, the shared language morphed into an acronym that went through several iterations before it wound up as PEAS (point, evidence, analysis, so what?). It was short, it was cute. Kids joked about “peeing” on their papers. Our literacy coach had posters made with a color code for each element of PEAS. They hung in almost every classroom at the school. It made things easier for teachers outside of English and social studies to teach writing. Some teachers went a step further and added sentence frames to the PEAS formula, hoping to help struggling writers show more evidence of deep analytical thought in the body paragraphs of their essays.

Even though I certainly believed that argumentative essays should contain points, evidence, and commentary, I was suspicious of mandating all of those elements in each body paragraph of an essay in the way that some teachers were doing. Nevertheless, I went along with it because I was worried—worried about test results, worried that my students might never graduate, worried about what the media would say when our writing test scores tanked, worried that my colleagues would complain that my 9th graders were the only students who arrived in 10th grade unable to produce tidy paragraphs. So I taught PEAS.

The first difficulty I ran into was finding authentic PEAS models for my students to read. I was used to giving my students the best nonfiction writing I could find from newspapers or magazines like The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly. The problem was that not many writers in these publications applied the PEAS formula to their paragraphs. A lot of the pros wrote entire paragraphs with nothing but analysis; some adopted a narrative approach to develop their arguments; very few had classic topic sentences at the beginning of a paragraph. Some paragraphs were only a few words long. With few authentic examples of PEAS available, I ended up writing my own model essays for my students and then switched over to models written by students who had mastered the format.

Formulaic Writing Is Not Engaged Writing
There were undeniable benefits to adopting PEAS as a schoolwide writing approach, especially at the 9th-grade level. Many teachers across subject areas—English, social studies, math, biology, and special education—embraced PEAS. Many students appreciated the shared language and expectations for their writing assignments, especially those working on basic literacy skills. … [more]
writing  schools  testing  standardizedtesting  howwewrite  teaching  teachinwriting  michellekenney  2016  howeteach  fiveparagraphessays 
june 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
Teacher Tom: Revolution
"We need a revolution in how we perceive children. They are not incomplete adults or empty vessels or anything less than full-fledged human beings with rights, including the right to be respected, heard, and responded to as fellow human beings and not inferior ones to be bossed around.

We need a revolution in how we view learning. It's not the job of adults to decide what and when children learn. That is the children's job. Our responsibility as adults is to role model our values in day to day life, strive to be the person we want our kids to grow up to be, take a genuine interest in what our children are excited about, and know that childhood exists, first and foremost, for play.

We need a revolution in how we view "stuff." I recently returned from China. In the US, we tend to think of "communist" China, but that somehow hasn't been an impediment to their decision-makers deciding that the nation should move toward a "consumer economy" more like those found in western societies. The thing is, the Chinese people apparently haven't been particularly accommodating. They don't seem overly interested in more stuff, they've learned to love what they already have, and it is putting the skids on their central plan. Yes, I'm sure part of that is generations of official education emphasizing that consumerism is an evil of the west, but it is noteworthy nevertheless. Many of the barriers to improving our educational system have to do with our consumption of stuff, the cars and houses and electronics and space we think we need. It makes us need two incomes and long work days. None of it is necessary, and probably detrimental, to a satisfying life.

We need a revolution against authoritarianism. Yes, I'm talking about politics, but also about day to day life. We must rise up against the entire concept of obedience. As Utah Phillips sang, "I will not obey." And then he sang, "But I'm always ready to agree." That is, at its heart, is what this revolution is about.

All of it is scary. Our revolution requires upending at least four sacred cows. All of it is daunting. This revolution requires generations of work. I used to be uncomfortable using the word revolution, but I've come to realize that human history is one of continual revolution, we're all a part of every one of them by either our actions or inactions. Revolution is the engine of progress and we are it's fuel. We either choose our revolution or it chooses us.

Of course, I hear you: all of this is well and good for some ivory tower blogger, but what about my kid, right now? This is where idealism meets reality. Public schools are looking increasingly like test score coal mines, private education is too much of a financial stretch for most of us, we love our kids with every ounce of our beings, and we want what's best for them. Something's got to give. Given reality, given our fears, given how daunting it is, what do we do? At bottom it's a question each of us can only answer for ourselves, but I think we make a mistake when we don't err on the side of revolution because in that direction lies the better future we want for those we love.

We must be firm, I think, in our defiance of standardization in our schools and specifically I'm talking about opting our children out of high stakes testing and home work. Be assured, high stakes testing and home work are not evidence-based aides to learning: indeed the evidence points to testing and homework mostly succeeding in making our children hate school even more. Your child is objectively more likely to grow into an avid, life-long learner if he is not subjected to high stakes testing and homework. The more of us who stand up for this, the more revolutionary it will be.

The second thing you can do for your child right now is talk to your friends and family. Talk to them about their own childhoods, ask them about their memories, revel in their stories about playing outdoors, unsupervised, with their friends and few toys. Share your own stories along with your concerns about today's children missing out on that. Revolutions must speak to the souls of every day people and I've found that there is no more direct way to get there than through connecting folks with their own childhoods.

Thirdly, we can all work on how we speak with the children in our lives, striving to avoid the directives of obedience, those commands like, "Come here" or "Sit down" or "Eat this" or "Stop it!" Better is to practice replacing those commands with informative statements, like "It's time to go" or "The people behind you can't see if you stand up" or "I don't want you to do that." Yes, it takes more words, but it is trading out commands for the space of simple truth in which children can practice thinking for themselves. A revolution will not be told what to do.

And finally, perhaps most difficult, and definitely most important is coming to appreciate the beauty of living with less. This would be the greatest revolution of all. The time it would give us as parents would set our children free.

The only thing we can do is to try. Just try. I give all my respect to each one of you who does. And ultimately this is the only way to guarantee that you will be doing the best you can to make a better future for your child. A revolution will never be a result of what you do, but it will always be a result of what we do. Everything is daunting if you feel you're going it on your own. If we all try at the same time, we cannot be stopped.

Our children love freedom and so do we."
tomhobson  children  youth  rights  2016  ageism  authoritarianism  politics  schooling  policy  china  us  consumerism  consumption  childhood  play  learning  unschooling  deschooling  education  standardization  testing  standardizedtesting  freedom  sfsh  high-stakestesting 
may 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
Readers Respond to Redesigned, and Wordier, SAT - The New York Times
"A commenter under the handle R-son from Glen Allen, Va., said his stepson, who is better in math than reading, would soon be taking the test. “The new SAT will be hard for him, but he has an advantage over other students — an $800 Kaplan prep course. So it boils down to this — he’ll score better on the SAT than a lower-income student with the same abilities whose family can’t afford to fork out close to 1K to prep for and take this test. So how is this test, in any form, fair?”

Another reader cautioned against assuming only immigrant and lower-income students would find the test harder. “The biggest enemy of reading proficiency among even privileged children and adolescents today is technology, particularly the iPhone,” said Katonah from New York. “That phone is always in hand, beckoning — an addictive drug that demands little of its user. … I have seen the effects of this drug on my own (privileged) adolescent children. My attempted solutions have been only partially, intermittently helpful. It’s obvious to me that none of my children will grow up to be anywhere near as well-read as I am.”

Several commenters raised broader questions on why the SAT needed revamping. A commenter named Vince, who said he worked in the international admissions office of a New York state college, cited an “exponential increase in the number of international applicants” to American universities in recent years. “It has become increasingly difficult to evaluate these candidates and verify their test scores,” he wrote. “If we were to consider mainland Chinese applicants — who travel by the thousands to Hong Kong to take the SAT in convention-hall-sized test centers and support an entire industry of tutoring centers that specialize in teaching students how to deduce answers from a handful of question formats — this could be viewed as a defensive move by the College Board to crack down on inflated international student SAT scores.”

A few commenters critiqued the sample of five math SAT questions that accompanied the article. Ninety-three percent of readers answered the first question in the quiz correctly; 57 percent answered the fourth question correctly. Of an algebra problem about a phone repair technician, a reader using the name Kathy, WastingTime in DC wondered, “Who gets a phone fixed these days?”

One reader, who admitted she answered only one of the five problems correctly, pointed to a question about a pear tree. Gabrielle from Los Angeles wrote: “I am a horticultural therapist who designed and built a therapeutic garden. Here’s the answer to figure out which pear tree to buy: use your relationships. Ask your friends what they’ve had success with. Call me crazy but after I left high school, I never took another math class, and it’s never held me back.”"
2016  sat  testing  standardizedtesting  math  mathematics  education 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Standards, Grades And Tests Are Wildly Outdated, Argues 'End Of Average' : NPR Ed : NPR
"Todd Rose dropped out of high school with D- grades. At 21, he was trying to support a wife and two sons on welfare and minimum wage jobs.

Today he teaches educational neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He's also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a new organization devoted to "the science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society."

In other words, Todd Rose is not your average guy. But neither are you.

In fact, he argues, absolutely no one is precisely average. And that's a big problem, he tells NPR Ed: "We've come to embrace a way of thinking about ourselves as people that was intentionally designed to ignore all individuality and force everything in reference to an average person."

Admissions offices, HR departments, banks and doctors make life-changing decisions based on averages. Rose says that "works really well to understand the system or the group, but it fails miserably when you need to understand the individual, which is what we need to do."

Rose talked with us about his new book: The End Of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness.

Q: The opening example you use in the book is that in the 1940s, when the Air Force designed cockpits based on the average measurements of the pilots, there were an unacceptable number of crashes. But when they went back and measured thousands of pilots, across 10 body dimensions, they found that zero of them even came close to the "average" on all 10. So they concluded that they had to redesign the seats and so forth to be adjustable to each person.

A: Body size is a very concrete example of what I call jaggedness. There is no average pilot. No medium-sized people. When you think of someone's size you think of large, medium, small. Our mass-produced approach to clothing reinforces that. But if that were true you wouldn't need dressing rooms.

Q: So dimensions like height and weight and arm length and waist circumference ...

A: Yes, they're not nearly as correlated as you would think. Height is one-dimensional, but size isn't. People are jagged in size, in intelligence, everything we measure shows the same thing.

Q: I'm going to quote a line from the book, said to psychologist Paul Molenaar, who is arguing for a greater focus on individual difference: "What you are proposing is anarchy!" How do you make decisions about people if you can't use statistics and cutoff scores and compare them to averages?

A: People feel like if you focus on individuality, everyone's a snowflake, and you can't build a science on snowflakes. But the opposite has been true.

It's not that you can't use statistics, it's just that you don't use group statistics. If I want to know something about my daily spending habits, one straightforward way would be to collect records of what I spend every day. To take an average for myself would be perfectly fine.

Q: So you can generalize across time, but not across people?

A: We've got to let go of putting a group into a study and taking an average and thinking that's going to be close enough to universal insight.

Now we have something better. We have a natural science of individuality that gives us a surer foundation. We've gotten breakthrough insights in a whole range of research, from cancer to child development.

Q: How does what you term "Averagerianism" impact our school system both historically and today?

A: It's so ubiquitous that it's hard to see.

We design textbooks to be age-appropriate, but that means, what does the average kid of this age know and can do? Textbooks that are designed for the average will be a pretty bad fit for most kids.

Then you think of things like the lockstep, grade-based organization of kids, and you end up sitting in a class for a fixed amount of time and get a one-dimensional rating in the form of a grade, and a one-dimensional standardized assessment. It's everything about the way we test and move kids forward.

Q: With standardized tests, I often hear teachers talking about students being two months behind or ahead, as if there's a very fixed timeline for progress that all human beings should fit.

A: It feels comforting. But if you take the basic idea of jaggedness, if all kids are multidimensional in their talent, their aptitude, you can't reduce them to a single score. It gives us a false sense of precision and gives up on pretending to know anything about these kids.

Q: So alongside jaggedness, two other principles of individual variation you look at are "context-dependence" and "pathways." Talk about those.

A: It's meaningless to talk about behavior and performance without context. Let's take assessment. Carnegie Mellon [University] had this work showing that changing the way a question is asked can fundamentally alter how a kid performs. So if the [math] problem is about football players instead of ballerinas, you can't standardize on the item. That systematically affects the kids' ability to demonstrate what they know.

But at a macro level, I think [context] introduces an attention to things like the impact of stress and trauma.

Q: And what about pathways? This sounds a lot like the talk around personalizing learning using technology and allowing each student to learn at his or her own pace.

A: I think people who care about personalized learning talk about it as: If we just collect more data, we're going to have this personalization. And that's not clear to me at all.

I think when you look at the idea of pace, we are so convinced that slow means dumb and fast means smart. We feel justified in pegging the time to how fast the average person takes to finish.

But this is where, with a better understanding of this and realizing, "Oh, pace really has nothing to do with ability, people are fast at some things and slow with others," you would build a very different system than the one we have.

Q: Do you think the school system acknowledges the need to treat students as individuals?

A: Two years ago I would have said no. But my colleague Paul Reville, who used to be secretary of education in Massachusetts, he's rethinking the architecture of school systems. In most states, people have put on the books goals about meeting every kid where they're at. Even the "Every Student Succeeds" [ESSA, the new federal law] approach is based on the assumption that we're meeting each kid where they're at, to give them what they need to be successful.

But we haven't thought through the system design that needs to be in place to do that.

We're trying to have a system to do what it was never designed to do.

Q: What about in higher education?

A: In higher ed we have a brutally standardized system. It doesn't matter what your interests are, what job you want, everyone takes the same courses in roughly the same time and at the end of the course you get ranked.

This is personal for me. I have two kids in college. The idea that someone is going to click a stopwatch, compare you to other kids in your class, and the kids with the best grades can get the best jobs, that's not a good deal. I want my two boys to figure out what they love and what they're good at and be exposed to things and be able to turn that into a job.

Q: You talk about innovations that are starting to catch on, like competency-based education and credentialing — basically, accommodating different pathways and different balances of strengths and weakness.

A: There's plenty of ways we're making smaller units of learning to combine in ways that are useful to you. To me, competency based education is nonnegotiable. I don't think you can have fixed-time, grade-based learning anymore. I don't see how you justify diplomas.

It doesn't mean students can take forever, but allowing some flexibility in pace and only caring whether they master the material or not is a sound foundation for a higher ed system.

There are so many examples of a lot of really interesting universities trying these things.

Q: Yes, reading this book it struck me that in some quarters, it seems like we've already moved forward to a focus on individuality, innovation, creativity. You talk about how companies like Google are finding that GPA or school prestige or even ranking employees against each other is not useful, and instead they need to create, essentially, performance-based assessments for doing tasks in context.

A: There are bright spots where you can see the principles of individuality at work.

So for me it comes back to, well, wait a minute. So why is that not the mainstream?

What I think my contribution is, is to say: Our institutions are based on assumptions about human beings. Our education system is based on a 19th century idea of an average person and using 20th century statistics.

As long as people think you can understand people based on averages, or how they deviate from averages, it seems reasonable. It looks like accountability and fairness rather than absurdity.

Q: And you're trying to show that there's an alternative?

A: If we don't get rid of this way of thinking about ourselves and the people around us, it's hard to get the public demand to create sustainable change. That's the role that I and my organization want to play. We're making a really big bet."
anyakamenetz  toddrose  standards  grades  grading  averages  education  howweteach  schools  admissions  tests  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  sameness  paulmolenaar  textbooks  behavior  performance  individuality 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Ranking countries by the worst students - The Hechinger Report
"But recently the OECD decided to analyze the past decade of test scores in a new way, to see which nations do the best job of educating their struggling students, and what lessons could be learned. This is important because low-performing students are more likely to drop out of school, and less likely to obtain good jobs as adults. Ultimately, they put more strains on social welfare systems and brakes on economic growth. The results were released on February 10, 2016 in an OECD report, “Low-Performing Students: Why They Fall Behind and How To Help Them Succeed.”

It turns out that many of the top performing nations or regions also have the smallest numbers of low-performing students. Fewer than 5 percent of 15-year-olds in Shanghai (China), Hong Kong (China), South Korea, Estonia and Vietnam scored at the lowest levels on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests in math, reading and science.

In the United States, by contrast, 29 percent of students scored below a basic baseline level in at least one subject, and 12 percent students score below a basic baseline level on all three tests — math, reading and science. The latter number amounts to half a million 15-year-olds who can’t do the basics in any subject. The worst is math. More than a million U.S. 15-year-olds can’t reach the baseline here. The OECD calculated that if all American 15-year-olds reached a baseline level of performance, then the size of the U.S. economy could gain an additional $27 trillion over the working life of these students.

Of course, the United States has relatively higher poverty rates than many nations in this 64-country analysis. One might expect more low performers given that our number of disadvantaged students in public schools surpasses 50 percent. But the interesting thing is that there wasn’t as tight a connection between low performance and poverty as we might expect. Some countries contend with higher poverty levels, but do better — Vietnam, for example, where only 4 percent of students were low performers in all subjects. Meanwhile, some other countries with lower poverty rates nonetheless have a bigger problem of low performers. For example, France, Luxembourg and Sweden all had higher percentages of low-performing students than the United States did.

Poor children around the world, on average, are between four and five times more likely to become low performers in school than children who grew up in a wealthier homes among more educated parents. But in the United States, poverty seems to seal your educational fate more. A socioeconomically disadvantaged American student is six times more likely to be a low performer than his or her socioeconomically advantaged peer. Here’s a stark figure: 41 percent of disadvantaged students in the United States were low performers in mathematics in 2012, while only 9 percent of advantaged students were.

In South Korea, by contrast, only 14 percent of disadvantaged students were low performers in math. In neighboring Canada, it was only 22 percent of the poorest students who scored the worst.

The report highlighted countries that had significantly reduced their share of low performers in math between 2003 and 2012. They were Brazil, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Tunisia and Turkey.

“What do these countries have in common? Not very much,” admitted Andreas Schleicher, director of the education division at the OECD. “They are about as socioeconomically and culturally diverse as can be.”

Also, each country had embarked upon different reforms to improve educational outcomes at the bottom. But Schleicher sees hope in the fact that these countries succeeded at all, proving that poverty isn’t destiny and that schools can make a difference. “All countries can improve their students’ performance, given the right policies and the will to implement them,” Schleicher said."
education  schools  rankings  2016  pisa  standardizedtesting  testing  jillbarshay  poverty  us  southkorea  estonia  vietnam  hongkong  china  shanghai  france  luxembourg  sweden  brazil  brasil  germany  italy  poland  portugal  tunisia  turkey  diversity 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Why do we trust exam results? | Education | The Guardian
"When I was in high school I took the ACT, a college aptitude exam used as an admissions criterion by most American universities. My score was in the lowest third of all students. That was painful enough but, adding insult to injury, the ACT score report informed me that, based on my score, my expected probability of succeeding at my hometown college, the University of Utah, was around 15%. As I remember it, my chance of success at my dream school of Harvard University was less than 3%.

I felt pretty hopeless about my future. After all, these stark percentages were endowed with the sober authority of mathematics. Before I took the exam, I had thought that one day I might become a scientist or neurologist, but no – what a silly fantasy that was.

Standardised tests of aptitude, talent and intelligence have become more widespread than ever. Key Stage tests, GCSEs and A levels size up whether someone has what it takes to succeed in school, university or work. Though we might feel intuitively that something is wrong with using our results on a single day of testing to measure our potential, we reluctantly endure it because exams have the imprimatur of objective fact. After all, testing has been endorsed by more than a century’s worth of psychologists and psychometricians. But what if the mathematics serving for aptitude tests was profoundly flawed?

It is, and we know this because of a burgeoning new interdisciplinary science. “The science of the individual” is revolutionising the methods of many fields including medicine, biology, neuroscience, genetics and the social sciences. For example, oncologists have switched their emphasis from standardised treatments to personalised ones that target individual cancers. Neuroscientists have begun to abandon their reliance on measuring how individual brains deviate from average brain maps. Nutritionists are moving from universal dietary recommendations to personal diets.

Two principles explain why it is never permissible to use a single test result to judge someone’s potential. The jaggedness principle holds that all mental qualities we care about – intelligence, character, talent, performance – are multi-dimensional. Whenever we try to reduce the true complexity of someone’s abilities into a simple number, we lose everything important about the individual.

Secondly, the context principle asserts that performance always depends on the interaction of a specific individual and situation; it is meaningless to evaluate any performance without reference to the particular environment in which the individual performs. Multiple-choice tests will not evaluate someone’s ability to drive a car on the road.

Decisions made from a single test result are questionable or even meaningless. This is not an article of faith, but a mathematical fact. It is a conclusion of 21st-century mathematics, rather than outmoded 19th-century statistics. That’s why major companies such as Google and Deloitte have abandoned them.

Nevertheless, far too many schools, universities and businesses continue to apply obsolete tests. This prevents the institutions from getting a clear portrait of individual talent. It compels students to accept a false notion of their own promise.

Even though I was crushed by my own embarrassing exam result and spent years feeling inferior, eventually I decided there was more to me than a percentile. I pursued my dreams of a science career – and today I teach at Harvard."
education  testing  standardizedtesting  2016  toddrose  highered  highereducation  act  sat  interdisciplinary 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Most Likely to Succeed | American RadioWorks |
"In most modern work places employees are expected to be self-directed and also work collaboratively. But do conventional public schools do enough to encourage creative and critical thinking?

We’ll hear from Ted Dintersmith, executive producer of “Most Likely to Succeed,” a film that takes a look at how traditional high schools need to change in order to prepare students for the innovations of tomorrow. Dintersmith wasn’t always a film producer. For 25 years he was a successful venture capitalist. He says he noticed that many of the people he hired looked really good on paper – they’d done well in large, structured corporate environments. But they didn’t seem to thrive in smaller, more innovative environments. At home, Dintersmith also noticed that his children’s homework assignments focused on getting students ready for standardized tests, rather than getting them to think creatively. Ted Dintersmith recently spoke to American RadioWorks associate producer Suzanne Pekow."
mostlikeltosucceed  hightechhigh  teddintersmith  2015  sandiego  education  learning  schools  kipp  colleges  universities  collegeadmissions  standardizedtesting  standardization  problemsolving  meaning  purpose  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  edg 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Big Picture Program Focuses on Real-World Skills and Projects to Help Teenagers Who Struggle in Traditional Classrooms - The Atlantic
"Nothing in particular stands out about the two adjoining rooms at South Burlington High School, one littered with desks, the other lined with simple grey cubicles. Yet the 30 students working inside are taking part in a uniquely personalized curriculum unlike anything their peers—or most U.S. high-school students—ever get to experience.

Big Picture, a program with a chapter at South Burlington, bucks the traditional model of high-school learning. There are no tests, no grades, and, for some students, no traditional classes to sit through.

That’s because the program is centered around the concept and execution of self-directed learning. With input from advisors, working professionals, parents, and peers, each teen participant creates his or her own curriculum, tailored to fit personal interests.

Big Picture’s model is now used in more than 60 schools across the U.S. And in Vermont, it’s also a precursor to a new statewide mandate meant to take effect over the next three years: Public-school students in grades seven through 12 will soon be required to create their own personalized learning plans.

Within South Burlington’s larger student population of around 900, Big Picture accounts for just a small portion of students. The program is broken into two sections: Big Picture 101 for new participants, and a 201 level for upperclassmen and experienced participants. Students aren’t required to take classes like English or biology—though they can if they so choose.

Each Big Picture student comes up with a big idea, or hypothesis, for their year-long independent project, such as 17-year-old Joey Mount’s plan to design a clothing line and launch an accompanying website. Teens tap into their pre-existing interests, then come up with creative ways for the topic to be reimagined to gain proficiency in subject areas like science and math.

The goal is for students to stay motivated and learn while gaining real-world experiences—and honing the tricky art of time management. Four staff members help guide, coach, and hold students accountable: two advisors, one Americorps Vista volunteer, and one program director.

“Most students who find us, find us for a reason: School isn’t working for them.”
Over the course of each semester, projects are carefully vetted and executed according to reporting standards, which are also predetermined by students. It’s a process that the advisor Jim Shields said evolved over the program’s seven years at South Burlington.

“Most students who find us, find us for a reason: School isn’t working for them,” Shields said. “If you think of high school as having a ceiling and a floor, there’s the students who are struggling because they’re falling through the cracks in the floor. Then there’s the students who just wanna take the roof off, who are held back by high school.”

This year’s crop of Big Picture projects covers a diverse range of topics. Shields’s students are gaining the academic proficiencies required for them to graduate by studying artistic endeavors like blacksmithing, clothing design, e-games, and pinhole photography. One is conceptualizing and designing a card game meant to increase face-to-face interaction among participants; another is producing a film examining how depression and anxiety manifest in high-school environments.

To earn their proficiency-based diploma, which results in a non-traditional transcript, the program requires that students achieve “a minimum level of proficiency and competence when it comes to mastering the essential knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, work, and life.” At South Burlington, those lofty concepts are measured with the help of a rubric.

Kids are also required to seek out mentors related to their topic of study—a professional photographer for a project exploring pinhole photography, or perhaps a coder for another tackling e-game design. Second-year students also spend two full days a week working at internships, putting in 80 hours each 12-week semester.

Furthering that community involvement, the introductory students are also immersed in planning a group project, which the entire Big Picture group executes together. This year, they’re trying to open a café in South Burlington.

Although Big Picture is self-selective and small by design, Shields said he doesn’t turn many interested students away. “We look at a lot of things,” he said, “grades being an indicator but not the most important indicator. They may have no good grades, but started their own rock band, and they tour.”

After filling out a paper application, potential program participants are invited in to interview. The applicants and their parents are both required to submit essays, in which they explain why they think the program will work for the student. The process culminates in a test of sorts. Applicants are given a choice of two prompts to answer, both of which require the teen to consider how, exactly, they might complete a structured project over the course of the semester.

Sam Caron, 16, said he had trouble staying focused in a traditional classroom. He’s a first-year participant, and this year, his project is the creation of a cider press.

Comparing a traditional high-school schedule with a self-designed Big Picture curriculum is like comparing “apples and oranges,” Caron said. “Here, what I put into it is what I get out of it. It’s just that with this, I want to be putting more into it, because it’s stuff that I’m interested in.”

So how does making a cider press earn the equivalent of an A in, say, chemistry or world history?

To fulfill science proficiency requirements, each participant enters Vermont’s annual state science fair. Their entry has to have an angle related to their independent project, forcing them to think creatively in order to come up with a scientific hypothesis that can be executed and tested.

Caron will be testing and designing a contraption to demonstrate how best to extract the most juice from a single apple for this year’s science fair.

A panel of judges consisting of scientists and science teachers review each experiment according to a rubric. For other students, science fair feedback is just constructive criticism. For the Big Picture kids, it effectively replaces their grades, proving or disproving their science proficiency.

Shields said Caron’s cider press project would fall under the Big Picture “reasoning and problem solving domain.” The 16-year-old will learn through research, gaining hands-on experience while using the scientific method.

Throughout the year, students assesses their own work to measure what they’ve learned and to make sure they’ve identified, mapped out, and realized plans toward achievable goals. They also participate in exercises like weekly “Socratics,” where they read, analyze, and discuss a news article or piece of literature chosen by advisors or peers. Reflection and self-assessment are key.

At the end of the semester, instead of grades, feedback for each independent project comes after an “exhibition of learning.” Students give presentations to their peers, parents, and the public on their topics.

On a recent Monday, Shields stood in the Big Picture 101 room, moving from teen to teen as they worked through the day’s plans on laptops. As the bell sounded marking the end of the two o’clock session, his seven students put on their jackets, grabbed clipboards, and walked outside into the crisp Vermont air.

Their destination? Three local supermarkets two miles up the road: Hannaford’s, a New England chain; Trader Joe’s; and Healthy Living, a pricier health-food store. The students were on a fact-finding mission to help build toward opening their café, the program’s collective community project. On this particular outing, their goal was to figure out which menu items would be the most affordable.

As the group distanced itself from the old brick school, Shields walked along the sidewalk, in the middle of the pack.

The teens led the way."
curriclulum  education  schools  lcproject  openstudioproject  2015  erinsiegalmcintyre  southburlingtonhighschool  projectbasedlearning  teaching  pedagogy  agency  unschooling  deschooling  curriculum  tcsnmy  bigpictureschools  testing  tests  standardizedtesting  grading  grades 
november 2015 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
What one college discovered when it stopped accepting SAT/ACT scores - The Washington Post
"Hampshire College is a liberal arts school in Massachusetts that has decided not to accept SAT/ACT scores from applicants. That’s right — the college won’t accept them, a step beyond the hundreds of “test-optional” schools that leave it up to the applicant to decide whether to include them in their applications. So what has happened as a result of the decision?

For one thing, U.S. News & World report has refused to include Hampshire in its annual rankings. For another, Hampshire officials say, this year’s freshman class, the first chosen under the new rules, is more qualified by other measures than earlier classes.

Hampshire College was founded in 1970 as an alternative private liberal arts college that experiments with curriculum and relies on portfolios of work and narrative evaluations rather than distribution requirements and grades. It is one of the top colleges in the nation in terms of the proportion of its graduates who go on to graduate school.

Here’s an explanation of what the college did regarding SAT/ACT scores and why, from President Jonathan Lash, who is also a director of the World Resources Institute, a D.C.-based environmental think tank, where he previously served as president. He chaired former President Bill Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development and was Vermont’s environmental secretary and commissioner. He holds a law degree and master’s degree in education from Catholic University of America and a bachelor’s from Harvard College.

By Jonathan Lash:

You won’t find our college in the U.S. News & Word Report “Best Colleges” rankings released this month. Last year Hampshire College decided not to accept SAT/ACT test scores from high school applicants seeking admission. That got us kicked off the rankings, disqualified us, per U.S. News rankings criteria. That’s OK with us.

We completely dropped standardized tests from our application as part of our new mission-driven admissions strategy, distinct from the “test-optional” policy that hundreds of colleges now follow. If we reduce education to the outcomes of a test, the only incentive for schools and students to innovate is in the form of improving test-taking and scores. Teaching to a test becomes stifling for teachers and students, far from the inspiring, adaptive education which most benefits students. Our greatly accelerating world needs graduates who are trained to address tough situations with innovation, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and a capacity for mobilizing collaboration and cooperation.

We weighed other factors in our decision:

• Standardized test scores do not predict a student’s success at our college.

• SATs/ACTs are strongly biased against low-income students and students of color, at a time when diversity is critical to our mission.

• We surveyed our students and learned not one of them had considered rankings when choosing to apply to colleges; instead they most cared about a college’s mission.

• Some good students are bad test takers, particularly under stress, such as when a test may grant or deny college entry. Multiple-choice tests don’t reveal much about a student.

• We’ve developed much better, fairer ways to assess students who will thrive at our college.

In our admissions, we review an applicant’s whole academic and lived experience. We consider an applicant’s ability to present themselves in essays and interviews, review their recommendations from mentors, and assess factors such as their community engagement and entrepreneurism. And yes, we look closely at high school academic records, though in an unconventional manner. We look for an overarching narrative that shows motivation, discipline, and the capacity for self-reflection. We look at grade point average (GPA) as a measure of performance over a range of courses and time, distinct from a one-test-on-one-day SAT/ACT score. A student’s consistent “A” grades may be coupled with evidence of curiosity and learning across disciplines, as well as leadership in civic or social causes. Another student may have overcome obstacles through determination, demonstrating promise of success in a demanding program. Strong high school graduates demonstrate purpose, a passion for authenticity, and commitment to positive change.

We’re seeing remarkable admissions results since disregarding standardized test scores:

• Our yield, the percentage of students who accepted our invitation to enroll, rose in a single year from 18% to 26%, an amazing turnaround.

• The quantity of applications went down, but the quality went up, likely because we made it harder to apply, asking for more essays. Our applicants collectively were more motivated, mature, disciplined and consistent in their high school years than past applicants.

• Class diversity increased to 31% students of color, the most diverse in our history, up from 21% two years ago.

• The percentage of students who are the first-generation from their family to attend college rose from 10% to 18% in this year’s class.

Our “No SAT/ACT policy” has also changed us in ways deeper than data and demographics: Not once did we sit in an Admissions committee meeting and “wish we had a test score.” Without the scores, every other detail of the student’s application became more vivid. Their academic record over four years, letters of recommendation, essays, in-person interviews, and the optional creative supplements gave us a more complete portrait than we had seen before. Applicants gave more attention to their applications, including the optional components, putting us in a much better position to predict their likelihood of success here.

This move away from test scores and disqualification from the U.S. News rankings has allowed us to innovate in ways we could not before. In other words, we are free to innovate rather than compromise our mission to satisfy rankings criteria:

• We no longer chase volumes of applications to superficially inflate our “selectivity” and game the U.S. News rankings. We no longer have to worry that any applicant will “lower our average SAT/ACT scores” and thus lower our U.S. News ranking. Instead we choose quality over quantity and focus attention and resources on each applicant and their full portfolio.

• At college fairs and information sessions, we don’t spend time answering high school families’ questions about our ranking and test score “cut-offs.” Instead we have conversations about the things that matter: What does our unique academic program look like, and what qualities does a student need to be successful at it?

• An unexpected benefit: This shift has saved us significant time and operational expense. Having a smaller but more targeted, engaged, passionate, and robust applicant pool, we are able to streamline our resources.

How can U.S. News rankings reliably measure college quality when their data-points focus primarily on the high school performance of the incoming class in such terms as GPA, SAT/ACT, class rank, and selectivity? These measures have nothing to do with the college’s results, except perhaps in the college’s aptitude for marketing and recruiting. Tests and rankings incentivize schools to conform to test performance and rankings criteria, at the expense of mission and innovation.

Our shift to a mission-driven approach to admissions is right for Hampshire College and the right thing to do. We fail students if we reduce them to a standardized test number tied more to their financial status than achievement. We fail students by perpetuating the myth that high standardized test scores signal “better” students. We are in the top one percent of colleges nationwide in the percentage of our undergraduate alumni who go on to earn advanced degrees – this on the strength of an education where we assess their capabilities narratively, and where we never, not once, subject them to a numerical or letter grade on a test or course.

At Hampshire College, we face the same financial challenges as many colleges. But these challenges provide an opportunity to think about who we are and what matters to us. We can not lose sight of our mission while seeking revenues or chasing rankings. We are committed to remaining disqualified from the U.S. News rankings. We’re done with standardized testing, the SAT, and ACT."
hampshirecollege  colleges  universities  admissions  sat  act  education  grading  teaching  rankings  diversity  jonathanlash  standardizedtesting  tests  class  race  selectivity  fit  srg  edg 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Cheerful to a Fault: “Positive” Practices with Negative Implications - Alfie Kohn
"We live in a smiley-face, keep-your-chin-up, look-on-the-bright-side culture. At the risk of being labeled a professional party pooper, I’d like to suggest that accentuating the positive isn’t always a wise course of action where children are concerned. I say that not because I’ve joined the conservative chorus whose refrain is that kids today have it too damn easy and ought to be made to experience more failure (and show more “grit”).[1] Rather, my point is that some things that sound positive and upbeat turn out not to be particularly constructive.

1. Praise. The most salient feature of a positive judgment is not that it’s positive but that it’s a judgment. And in the long run, people rarely thrive as a result of being judged. Praise is the mirror image of criticism, not its opposite. Both are ways of doing things to kids as opposed to working with them. Verbal rewards are often more about manipulating than encouraging — a form of sugar-coated control. The main practical effect of offering a reward, whether it’s tangible, symbolic, or verbal, is to provide a source of extrinsic motivation (for example, trying to please the rewarder), and this, according to a considerable body of research, tends to undermine intrinsic motivation (a commitment to the activity or value itself).

While “Good job!” may seem like a supportive thing to say, that support is actually made conditional on the child’s doing what we ask or impressing us. What kids most need from adults, apart from nonjudgmental feedback and guidance, is unconditional support: the antithesis of a patronizing pat on the head for having jumped through our hoops. The solution, therefore, isn’t as simple as praising children’s effort instead of their ability, because the problem isn’t a function of what’s being praised — or, for that matter, how often praise is offered — but of praise itself.[2]

2. Automatic reassurance. Deborah Meier once remarked that if a child says one of her classmates doesn’t like her,
we need to resist reassuring her that it’s not true and getting the classmate to confirm it; then we must ask ourselves what has led to this idea. Probably there is truth to the cry for help, and our refusal to admit it may simply lead the child to hide her hurt more deeply. Do we do too much reassuring – ‘It doesn’t hurt,’ ‘It’ll be okay’ – and not enough exploring, joining with the child’s queries, fears, thoughts?[3]

A reflexive tendency to say soothing things to children in distress may simply communicate that we’re not really listening to them. Perhaps we’re offering reassurance more because that’s what we need to say than because it’s what they need to hear.

3. Happiness as the primary goal. How can we help children grow up to be happy? That’s an important question, but here’s another one: How can we help children grow up to be concerned about whether other people are happy? We don’t want our kids to end up as perpetually miserable social activists, but neither should we root for them to become so focused on their own well-being that they’re indifferent to other people’s suffering. Happiness isn’t a good thing if it’s purchased at the price of being unreflective, complacent, or self-absorbed.

Moreover, as the psychologist Ed Deci reminds us, anger and sadness are sometimes appropriate responses to things that happen to us (and around us). “When people want only happiness, they can actually undermine their own development,” he said, “because the quest for happiness can lead them to suppress other aspects of their experience. . . .The true meaning of being alive is not just to feel happy, but to experience the full range of human emotions.”[4]

*

And here are four specific cheerful-sounding utterances or slogans that I believe also merit our skepticism:

4. “High(er) expectations.” This phrase, typically heard in discussions about educating low-income or minority students, issues from policy makers with all the thoughtfulness of a sneeze. It derives most of its appeal from a simplistic contrast with low expectations, which obviously no one prefers. But we need to ask some basic questions: Are expectations being raised to the point that students are more demoralized than empowered? Are these expectations being imposed on students rather than developed with them? And most fundamentally: High expectations to do what, exactly? Produce impressive scores on unimpressive tests?

The school reform movement driven by slogans such as “tougher standards,” “accountability,” and “raising the bar” arguably lowers meaningful expectations insofar as it relies on dubious indicators of progress — thereby perpetuating a “bunch o’ facts” model of learning. Expecting poor children to fill in worksheets more accurately just causes them to fall farther behind affluent kids who are offered a more thoughtful curriculum. Indeed, as one study found, such traditional instruction may be associated with lower expectations on the part of their teachers.[5]

5. “Ooh, you’re so close!” (in response to a student’s incorrect answer). My objection here is not, as traditionalists might complain, that we’re failing to demand absolute accuracy. Quite the contrary. The problem is that we’re more focused on getting students to produce right answers than on their understanding of what they’re doing. Even in math, one student’s right answer may not signify the same thing as another’s. The same is true of two wrong answers. A student’s response may have been only one digit off from the correct one, but she may have gotten there by luck (in which case she wasn’t really “close” in a way that matters). Conversely, a student who’s off by an order of magnitude may grasp the underlying principle but have made a simple calculation error.

6. “If you work hard, I’m sure you’ll get a better grade next time.” Again, we may have intended to be encouraging, but the actual message is that what matters in this classroom isn’t learning but performance. It’s not about what kids are doing but how well they’re doing it. Decades’ worth of research has shown that these two emphases tend to pull in opposite directions. Thus, the relevant distinction isn’t between a good grade and a bad grade; it’s leading kids to focus on grades versus inviting them to engage with ideas.

Similarly, if we become preoccupied with effort as opposed to ability as the primary determinant of high marks, we miss the crucial fact that marks are inherently destructive. Like demands to “raise expectations,” a growth mindset isn’t a magic wand. In fact, it can distract us from the harmfulness of certain goals — and of certain ways of teaching and assessing — by suggesting that more effort, like more rigor, is all that’s really needed. Not only is it not sufficient; when the outcome is misconceived, it isn’t even always desirable.[6]

7. “Only Positive Attitudes Allowed Beyond This Point.” I’ve come across this poster slogan in a number of schools, and each time I see it, my heart sinks. Its effect isn’t to create a positive atmosphere but to serve notice that the expression of negative feelings is prohibited: “Have a nice day . . . or else.” It’s a sentiment that’s informative mostly for what it tells us about the needs of the person who put up the poster. It might as well say “My Mental Health Is So Precarious That I Need All of You to Pretend You’re Happy.”

Kids don’t require a classroom that’s relentlessly upbeat; they require a place where it’s safe to express whatever they’re feeling, even if at the moment that happens to be sadness or fear or anger. Bad feelings don’t vanish in an environment of mandatory cheer — they just get swept under the rug where people end up tripping over them, so to speak. Furthermore, students’ “negativity” may be an entirely apt response to an unfair rule, an authoritarian environment, or a series of tasks that seem pointless. To focus on students’ emotions in order to manufacture a positive climate (or in the name of promoting “self-regulation” skills) is to pretend that the problem lies exclusively with their responses rather than with what we may have done that elicited them.[7]"

[Also posted here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/14/things-we-say-to-kids-that-sound-positive-but-can-be-detrimental/ ]
alfiekohn  education  listening  howweteach  teaching  pedagogy  praise  reassurance  happiness  reflection  expectations  grades  grading  effort  attitudes  positivity  behavior  manipulation  criticism  judgement  feedback  constructivecriticism  support  schools  selflessness  kindness  tests  testing  standardizedtesting  accuracy  deborahmeier 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Sights Unseen: On Willful Blindness to Education’s Higher Purpose | EdConteXts
"As an educator, parent, and citizen, I fear that we as a society or even collection of societies put ourselves at risk if we fail to question and put a halt to this instrumentalist type of reasoning with regards to education. The rhetoric of brutal global competition is eroding our capacity to focus on asking what truly matters in providing our children and grandchildren with what they will need for their futures besides jobs and income. In all of our lip service to “21st Century Skills” we still pay more homage to the holy grail of what our offspring may earn rather than to how well equipped they will be to avert environmental, financial and/or social disaster by adopting and practicing those skills. We say that we want them to be critical thinkers and adept problem solvers while assuming, consciously or not, that their greatest challenge will likely be finding a job that pays well enough to free them from thousands of dollars of crushing student debt. “To get a good job” would appear to be our society’s best answer to the question “why school?” if we ever dared to pose it."



"I agree. Our schools need a higher purpose than merely feeding the global economic machine. Without questioning the prevailing ethos of competition, of celebrating winners while blaming the losers, our schools will not improve. Our schools will not become nourishing places for children until our societies decide that children are more than future members of the workforce. Our societies will not prosper unless we educate our children to understand and appreciate that nations constitute much more than their gross domestic product.

Author Peter Block captures best what I would wish for in reinventing education systems which nurture and sustain us as a society rather than squeeze us for a designated output. Speaking about the ways in which our thinking in terms of the exclusively practical and doable ( the how?) tends to hamper our willingness to engage on questions of larger purpose and general well-being, he writes:
Whatever our destination, it is letting go of the practical imperative that is most likely to guide us to a larger sense of where we want to go and what values we want to embody in getting there. What matters is the experience of being human and all that this entails. What will matter most to us, upon deeper reflection, is the quality of the experience we create in the world, not the quantity.

(bold: Block’s) Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes. Berret-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2002, p. 37.)

As members of results-driven societies, we appreciate the certitude that quantification appears to provide. As humans, however, we search doggedly for precisely those qualities of life which defy objective measurement: meaning, belonging, purpose, autonomy, happiness, to name a few possibilities. That our education systems strive to become more human rather than less rings true both as my deepest wish and our mounting challenge."
sherrispelic  education  competition  purpose  2015  capitalism  neoliberalism  humanity  humanism  inequality  danhaesler  testing  standardizedtesting  rankings  dianeravitch  loisweiner  wendybrown  hansrollman  peterblock  deschooling  unschooling  schools 
june 2015 by robertogreco
A sentimental education: inside the school that Tilda built | Film | The Guardian
"Late last year, Drumduan Upper School received its first government inspection. In an era of merciless performance targets and obsessive testing, any school administrator would naturally feel apprehensive. Drumduan’s head teacher, Krzysztof Zajaczkowski, a working-class son of Polish immigrants who has an instinctive distrust of authority, expected to be shut down. He had not forgotten his last school inspection, 10 years earlier, which he compares to a visit from the Gestapo, and he worried that Drumduan’s radical ideals – no exams, no tests, no hierarchies, no sitting at desks whenever possible – would count against the school.

That is not what happened: the inspectors sat in the classes and watched the students. And if you watch the students at Drumduan, you soon notice they are confident, articulate, highly motivated and respectful. These are, in fact, the words used by the inspectors in their subsequent report. You might even believe the students at Drumduan wanted to be there. The inspectors clearly felt so, but it was when they had retired to an office to confer that Krzysztof, a master of the spontaneous gesture, delivered the coup de grace. He sang to them.

Music is something of a hallmark at Drumduan, where children participate in regular workshops – often on instruments like a wheelie bin – and start each day singing in four-part harmonies. “We were rehearsing in another room, and I said: ‘This song is terrific, we have to show these inspectors,’” Krzysztof recalls. “So we burst into their office – they were a bit alarmed – and I said: ‘I’m sorry, we’ve just got to sing this song to you.’” The song was “Media Vita”, a medieval score of haunting beauty that reduced the inspectors to tears, according to Krzysztof. Bowled over by their praise – he is a man whose emotions are close to the surface – Krzysztof asked if he could give them a hug, probably a first for all of them.

I first heard about Drumduan from the actor Tilda Swinton, who cofounded the school in 2013 with Ian Sutherland McCook, a fellow parent at the Moray Steiner School, where their children were in the same class. The two sought to persuade the trustees there to take on the project of creating an upper school, as students at Moray Steiner must graduate at 14. When that failed, they decided to go it alone.

“There’s no grading, no testing at all,” Tilda had explained to me earlier. “My children are now 17, and they will go through this school without any tests at any time, so it’s incredibly art-based, practical learning. For example, they learn their science by building a Canadian canoe, or making a knife, or caramelising onions. And they’re all happy 17-year-olds. I can’t believe it – happy and inspired.”

It was this image of “happy and inspired students,” so foreign to the popular conception of school, that brought me to Drumduan. I wanted to see for myself this miracle of happy, boat-building, onion-caramelising teenagers. Tilda suggested I join them on a school trip to the tiny island of Colonsay (population: 120) where, deprived of their mobile phones, the students would be at the mercy of their own initiative. Some activities were planned, including a day studying the island’s protected black bee colony, but the week was left relatively unstructured. Tilda felt it was important for children to have the freedom to be bored. As the only award I ever won at school was for my services as secretary to the beekeeping club, I felt uniquely qualified to join the expedition."



"“We’re just doing a little chillaxing,” Tilda says one evening as everyone sits around eating wild garlic and nettle soup, the ingredients foraged earlier that day. Chillaxing is, in its way, the purpose of the trip – an opportunity for the students to find a measure of stillness. “We wanted Colonsay and Oronsay to be a settling of all that has happened, a distilling and digesting of the events and the hard work of the year,” Krzysztof explains.

This is the reason for the ban on new technologies and the emphasis on old – the group games, the sing-a-longs, the campfires. Tilda has brought a poem called “Happiness”, by the Gaelic-speaking poet, Meg Bateman. It describes two old friends, crofters “who after a brief murmured greeting, will stand wordlessly together, side by side, not facing each other, and look out on the land, whose ways and memories unite them.” The poem’s sentiment speaks to a hope and expectation that here, away from the mainland, the students will discover the power of silence, not in place of tumult and noise, but as a balance to it.

Of course for teenagers who have learned to make longbows, knives and canoes, a rocky, mossy, grassy island like this is paradise. There is a lot of room to run wild, and they do. Watching the lean, feral boys somersaulting off the dunes one evening, I imagine William Golding, somewhere, rubbing his hands in delight. But he based Lord of the Flies on Marlborough College, his alma mater, where children were bred and bullied to become the repressed defenders of Empire. The students of Drumduan are not they. On their first night in the backpackers’ lodge, overlooked by a giant bison’s head, they drink tea and sing “Media Vita”, while Tilda butters doorstop sandwiches for the next day. At night we listen to the corncrakes in the dark."



"We get to see the island’s famous bees on a rare, sunny day, with the island shimmering in the morning light. Andrew Abrahams is a local hero, having succeeded after many years in securing the Scottish government’s backing to have Colonsay and Oronsay declared a sanctuary for his beloved black bee, genetically pure and free of the Varroa mite. When the students hear him talk about the bee’s sad plight, the subsequent debate among them is lucid, smart and illuminating. They dissect capitalism and market economics; they talk about the challenge – and necessity – of creating altruistic societies, and occasionally they come up with a really great idea. Like creating a super bee, which Eliot, the impish daredevil of the group, is sure must already be under way in America. Tilda leans over later, and says: “Don’t you think the world would be a better place if we had a government of teenagers like these?”

Drumduan is still a very small school, just 17 students, so it doesn’t take long to develop an easy familiarity with everyone – which must also be characteristic of attending the school. (Students are encouraged to develop social lives outside.)

I’d suggested to Arran one afternoon that the conundrum with model enterprises like Drumduan was finding a way to grow them without diluting them, to which he shrugged and said, “Why grow them?” Abrahams had told us how bee colonies divide and separate when they get too big, the catalyst for swarms. “I don’t think these things can work worldwide,” Arran says."



"For eight hours they walk the island in the company of RSPB wardens, yet another lesson in the delicate equilibrium of the planet, and then Krzysztof sets them all a novel challenge: go and find a place, alone, no more than five paces in diameter, and stay there for an hour. An island on an island. Later, I call Angus in Forres, and ask: “How did you manage?” It was boring at first, he replies. “But you had to adjust to a different setting. You had to look at it in a different way.”

Imagine teenagers, taking an hour to be with themselves, no modern distractions, just the beat of their heart, the tick of their brain, the sweep of the sea. The students are asked not to talk about how they spend the hour, but I’m curious, and ask Angus to describe his time. He says he found a space on the sand, and set himself down to watch the waves. “At first, I thought, What am I doing here, but as I sat there, I started to think about lots of different things, like life, relationships, dreams that I’d had, family – I felt homesick at one point, I welled up a little bit, it was quite emotional.” When it was time to return to the group, he found it hard to believe that an hour could be so brief.

Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian founder of the Steiner schools movement, wrote: “To be free is to be capable of thinking one’s own thoughts – not the thoughts merely of the body, or of society, but thoughts generated by one’s deepest, most original, most essential and spiritual self, one’s individuality.”

We live in an age when people talk endlessly about individuality, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen it as clearly delineated as in the contrast between the students of Drumduan with those of more typical schools, like the one where Angus had been enrolled for so long. I remembered his mother’s observation that the pupils there, even on the coldest day, would remove their coats “two miles before getting to school” because someone had determined it wasn’t cool. “There’s so much of a horrible clique to what happens in mainstream education, whereas it’s a safe space at Drumduan to say, ‘I’m into this sport,’ or whatever, and it doesn’t matter that nobody else is doing it.”"
education  schools  lcproject  openstudioproject  waldorfschools  tildaswinton  scotland  2015  parenting  aaronhicklin  drumduanupperschool  krzysztofzajaczkowski  colonsay  tcsnmy  statism  anarchism  howwelearn  testing  standardizedtesting  cv  rudolfsteiner  individuality  individualism  technology  freedom  criticalthinking  howweteach  deschooling  unschooling  small  smallschools  intimacy  slow  iansutherlandmccook 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: Some Post-Reform Education Theses
"The last 15 years have destroyed the intellectual foundation of American education
My favorite example is the argument in favor of teaching science and history for the purpose of improving "literacy." We don't have any working definitions of the core academic disciplines. Or a working definition of a "discipline" or its role in education. The basic definition of education has been hijacked as "college and career readiness," etc., etc. After Vietnam, the US military went back to Clausewitz to try to figure its role out again from first principles. We need to start over with Dewey.

Half-assed technocrats don't cut it.
Educational administrators are always going to tend toward technocracy, but right now we have a generation of terrible, uninterested, uneducated, ideological technocrats. It is the worst case scenario.

The international educational status quo is a decent starting point.
Every system has its strengths and weaknesses, but we don't have to act like we're solving a novel problem, as we have been, even as people go on and on about "international benchmarking."

Be realistic about where we are actually putting in real effort today.
For example, the current conversation about the difficulty of building social capital in low-income neighborhoods. This isn't something we're trying to do and failing. We are barely trying at all. We're not even adequately funding the existing public institutions (libraries, community centers, parks and rec., etc.) in low-income neighborhoods. Why don't we try that first before starting the handwringing?

Fund schools from general funds, not grants, especially private ones.
Some districts will waste their money. Get over it.

The ed-tech market does not work.
Actually the whole educational publishing market doesn't work either.

Enough with the standardized tests.
Professional teachers can evaluate their students. It is their job. They do it all over the world.

AP is a product, not a proxy for quality.
Increased AP enrollment just means the school is moving more product.

It is easy to mislead people about what "we" believed and did just a few years ago.
The memory hole is voracious.

Education can't be the most important problem in the world -- that we can only attempt to fix without spending more money.
Well, it is ok to give money to consultants, charter administration, and real estate scams."
education  policy  us  edreform  schools  teaching  learning  ap  testing  standardizedtesting  johndewey  assessment  funding  money  memory  socialcapital  poverty  ideology  2015  tomhoffman 
june 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
Education Needs a Collaboration (Non-Competitive) Pact | the becoming radical
"“The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.” —Huxley, Aldous. The Olive Tree. 1936.

While watching a documentary on schools recently, I felt that same uncomfortable feeling I do whenever I watch or read about this or that school “excelling”—notably the principal, but teachers as well, expressing how they have something different that is driving the school’s success.

Of course that claim caries the implication that other schools, teachers, and students are not doing that something different (hint: trying hard enough, demanding enough).

In this particular documentary, that something different included publicly identifying, labeling, and displaying students by test scores.

And while I have a great deal of compassion and collegial support for educators fighting the standardized testing craze corrupting U.S. public education, I feel compelled to note that many of those same educators turn right around and practice the same sort of tyranny with students—or quickly wave the testing data flag when their school seems to look good (although these claims of “miracles” are almost always mirages).

So here is a test we should all take.

Check all that apply: As a teacher or administrator in a school, do you …

[ ] use test scores to rank, compare, motivate, and/or shame students into working “harder”?

[ ] use test scores to rank, compare, motivate, and/or shame teachers within a department, grade level, or school into working “harder”?

[ ] use test scores to brag about your department, grade level, or school to parents or the media?

If any of these are checked, you have a decision: either stop complaining about high-stakes uses of test scores or stop doing all of the above.

If test scores are a flawed way to evaluate teachers and schools, they are a flawed way to evaluate teachers, schools, and students—and even when they work in your favor.

Thus, I recommend the latter choice above because education needs a collaboration (non-competitive) pact if we are to save the soul of our profession."
plthomas  2015  collaboration  competition  education  excellence  elitism  schools  publiceducation  standardizedtesting  high-stakestesting  non-competetitive  comparison  motivation  shaming  ranking  rankings  teaching  howweteach  evaluation  assessment  aldoushuxley  paulthomas 
april 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
Opting Out of Everything | The Jose Vilson
"Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking at Organize 2.0’s annual conference, a gathering of some of the country’s most influential organizers to speak about thought leadership as a classroom teacher. I had far too much to say over a 20 minute period, so I read a portion of my book and spoke about our current education reform issues. I got plenty of applause for hounding Andrew Cuomo and speaking up about racism, sexism, and homophobia in our communities. I also had an opportunity to shout out a group like Change the Stakes because a) they’re in NYC b) they have materials in Spanish and c) they’re in my neighborhood. Needless to say, I believe in parents opting their students out of the standardized tests, especially if they can meet the requirements for grade advancement. (Actually, even if they can’t, but that’s another post.)

Radical.

During the Q&A period, a concerned parent asked, “But what if my kid needs to use those test scores in order to get into a better school?” These are the types of questions meant to stymie speakers, as if I hadn’t seen it already. People who asks these questions presume that the speaker isn’t a parent themselves, and that there isn’t a negotiation between “parent as expert” and “for the public good” that society has to find ways to balance all the time. I replied that we first need to define what a bad school and a good school are. Secondly, that there are multiple ways to demonstrate that a student has learned something, and I can’t see too many principals who would reject a student who has a strong portfolio of work.

Eventually, I find out from other attendees that the “parent” also works somewhere that should work at the behest of teachers, students, and parents, but that’s another matter completely. This idea that the standardized test is the ultimate way to ensure passage to the next level sounds like pseudo-meritocratic drivel.

After leaving the conference, my blood only boiled hotter after hearing a commercial in Spanish telling Latino parents that the upcoming state tests are designed to improve students’ cognitive skills, so they should be encouraged to take them. Excuse me? Whoever paid for that spot (my bet: StudentsFirst) forgot to mention that tests don’t explicitly teach anything. Teachers do. Tests don’t go up or down magically or because of raised standards, but because of what happens on a daily basis in schools.

I wanted to listen to the whole commercial, but, instead I hurried up, paid for my groceries, and got the hell out. You guessed it: I opted out.

In fact, I wish I had a refusal letter handy for a bunch of different things I need to opt out of. In no particular order, I’d like to opt out of giving the exams, of being rated on standardized tests, of arguments that say “students need these tests to learn”, of educators not openly supporting other educators when they decide to do something about the testing regime we’re still beholden to, of contentions that these tests are similar to the SAT / ACT when colleges are paying less attention to those things, of folks on all sides silencing voices of color opting their students out by saying opting out is a mostly white suburban moms issue, of giving America’s public monies to private testing corporations for the express purpose of perpetuating testing, and of any mandates that shutter schools on the sole basis of achievement on these tests.

I’d like to opt in to more resources and redistribution of said resources so that the more students need, the more we give. I’d also like to opt our kids in to demonstrating their learning through multiple factors. I’d opt into professional development that would make me a better facilitator for students showing their own learning, too. It’s the right thing to do.

The largest question about the opt out movement for folks is color is whether these tests help highlight our educational inequities via numbers. Opting out students stands as a powerful rebuke of the idea that standardized tests should be the primary determinant as to whether a school stays open or not. So if opting out is an option for you, please do."
education  testing  standardizedtesting  resistance  optingout  2015  activism  teaching  tests  sat  schools  policy  protest  josévilson 
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
Ideas About Education Reform: 22 Things We Do As Educators That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years by Terry Heick
"22 Things We Do As Educators That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years
by Terry Heick

Saw a picture today from the 1970s of a mother driving her car with her newborn baby in the passenger seat (no car seat). This, of course, got me thinking about education. What do we do now that in 25 years we’ll look back on and shake our heads? What are our “doctors smoking cigarettes while giving check ups” moments? I have a feeling we’re going to look back and be really confused by quite a bit. There’s probably a lot more than this, but I had to stop somewhere.

22 Things Education Does That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years

1. We separated literacy from content.
And were confused when we couldn’t properly untangle them.

2. Meter progress by grade levels.
Right now, progress through academia is incremental, like inches on a ruler. These increments are marked by “grade levels,” which really has no meaning other than the artificial one schools have given it in the most self-justifying, circular argument ever.

3. We frowned upon crowdsourced content (e.g., Wikipedia)
Even though it has more updates and cross-checks than more traditional sources of info. It’s not perfect, but it’s the future. Err, present.

4. We gave vacations.
Why do we feel the need to provide months off at a time from learning to read, write, and think? We made school so bad that students couldn’t stand to do it without “vacations”? We cleaved it so cleanly from their daily lives that they “stopped” learning for months at a time?

5. We closed off schools from communities.
Which was the first (of many) errors. Then we let the media report on school progress under terms so artificially binary that we ended up dancing to the drum of newspaper headlines and political pressure.

6. We made it clumsy and awkward for teachers to share curriculum.
Seriously. How is there no seamless, elegant, and mobile way to do this?

7. We turned content into standards.
This makes sense until you realize that, by design, the absolute best this system will yield is students that know content.

8. We were blinded by data, research, and strategies….
..so we couldn’t see the communities, emotions, and habits that really drive learning.

9. We measured mastery once.
At the end of the year in marathon testing. And somehow this made sense? And performance on these tests gave us data that informed the very structures our schools were iterated with over time? Seriously? And we wonder why we chased our tails?

10. We spent huge sums of money on professional development.
While countless free resources floated around us in the digital ether. Silly administrators.

11. We reported progress with report cards.
Hey, I’ve tried other ways and parents get confused and downright feisty. We did a poor job helping parents understand what
grades really meant, and so they insisted on the formats they grew up with.

12. We banned early mobile technology (in this case, smartphones).
And did so for entirely non-academic reasons.

13. We shoehorned technology into dated learning models.
Like adding rockets to a tractor. Why did we not replace the tractor first?

14. We measured mastery with endless writing prompts and multiple-choice tests.
Which, while effective in spots, totally missed the brilliant students who, for whatever reason, never could shine on them.

15. We had parent conferences twice a year.
What? And still only had 15% of parents show up? And we didn’t completely freak out? We must’ve been really sleepy.

16. We ignored apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship is a powerful form of personalized learning that completely marries “content,” performance, craft, and
communities. But try having a 900 apprentices in a school. So much for that.

17. We claimed to “teach students to think for themselves.”
LOL

18. We often put 1000 or more students in the same school.
And couldn’t see how the learning could possibly become industrialized.

19. We frowned on lectures.
Even though that’s essentially what TED Talks are. Instead of making them engaging and interactive multimedia performances led by adults that love their content, we turned passionate teachers into clinical managers of systems and data.

20. We ignored social learning.
And got learning that was neither personal nor social. Curious.

21. We tacked on digital citizenship.
The definition of digital citizenship is “the quality of actions, habits, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.” This is artificial to teach outside of the way students use these tools and places on a daily basis–which makes hanging a “digital citizenship” poster or teaching a “digital citizenship” lesson insufficient.
Like literacy, it needs to be fully integrated into the learning experiences of students.

22. We turned to curriculum that was scripted and written by people thousands of miles away.
We panicked, and it was fool’s gold.

Bonus 23. We chewed teachers up and spit them out
We made teachers entirely responsible for planning, measuring, managing, and responding to both mastery and deficiency. And through peer pressure, a little brainwashing, and appealing to their pride, somehow convinced them they really were."
education  schools  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  terryheick  literacy  content  curriculum  gradelevels  agesegregation  crowdsourcing  wikipedia  community  vacations  standards  standardization  preofessionaldevelopment  money  waste  bureaucracy  technology  edtech  mobile  phones  smartphones  criticalthinking  socialemotional  civics  citizenship  digitalcitizenship  social  learning  lectures  data  bigdata  quantification  apprenticeships  testing  standardizedtesting  assessment  fail  sharing  socialemotionallearning 
march 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
How Common Core serves white folks a sliver of the black experience - The Hechinger Report
"The sky hasn’t fallen and the Constitution is still in place, even though most children are taking Common Core tests.

But it’s not a moment to celebrate either.

In Louisiana, administering the first phase of tests aligned with the new state standards to 99 percent of eligible students isn’t exactly like the Freedmen’s Bureau coming to save formerly enslaved blacks. It’s not even saving students from the Tea Party (they’re still complaining about the tests).

Relax. Take it from black and brown children who are used to being tested. Students will overcome. However, privileged adults who aren’t used to being tested may never stop crying.

This curriculum debate will soon taper off, chiefly because Common Core isn’t what’s failing students or teachers. Standards do not threaten the Constitution. However, something radical is happening. Common Core is serving white folks a sliver of the black experience.

I simply can’t manufacture the passion for or against curricula reboots or changes that eventually must happen. I’m sure there’s someone still lobbying for Home Economics as a required course, but gladly most have progressed. The researcher in me can’t argue against wanting a better means to measure educational performance nationwide. However, having the ability to compare performances among groups hasn’t brought educational justice to black and brown students. Still, I know that kids overcome.

I didn’t like how the usual suspects profited politically and financially from the development of the tests – someone other than poor folk usually do. I got a bigger chuckle from ideas of a federal overreach than money-grab claims – but only slightly bigger. I’m trying to remember a time when a cabal of individuals and companies didn’t profit from education reform.



"Black, brown and poor people take tests every single day. Confrontations with police, hunger, unemployment and biased teachers overshadow the feelings of taking computerized tests. Low expectations, a lack of inclusion, a leaky teacher pipeline for communities of color, and punishing disciplinary policies all threaten authentic learning and teaching more than PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests ever will.

For good reason, people in the ’hood have always been more worried with how test results are used.

Consequently, the battle around accountability is real and extremely complex. But it’s easier to shout down Common Core than battle for a viable solution to our accountability problem.
As Sen. Lamar Alexander-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. rewrite No Child Left Behind, they must consider giving teachers the freedom to teach while providing consequences to those districts and schools that don’t provide the education all students deserve.

Hopefully, Sens. Alexander and Murray can wipe away privilege from the bill the way Common Core did."
commoncore  2015  andreperry  testing  assessment  standardizedtesting  edreform  curriculum  us  constitution  policy  parcc  testresults  school  race  accountability 
march 2015 by robertogreco
No profit left behind - Stephanie Simon - POLITICO
"In the high-stakes world of American education, Pearson makes money even when its results don’t measure up."
2015  pearson  stephaniesimon  education  schools  politics  policy  testing  curriculum  us  standardizedtesting  textbooks  commoncore 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Make School a Democracy - NYTimes.com
"ARMENIA, Colombia — IN a one-room rural schoolhouse an hour’s drive from this city in a coffee-growing region of Colombia, 30 youngsters ages 5 to 13 are engrossed in study. In most schools, students sit in rows facing the teacher, who does most of the talking. But these students are grouped at tables, each corresponding to a grade level. The hum of conversation fills the room. After tackling an assignment on their own, the students review one another’s work. If a child is struggling, the others pitch in to help.

During my visit to one of these schools, second graders were writing short stories, and fifth graders were testing whether the color of light affects its brightness when seen through water. The teacher moved among the groups, leaning over shoulders, reading and commenting on their work. In one corner of the classroom were items, brought to school by the kids, that will be incorporated in their lessons. The students have planted a sizable garden, and the vegetables and fruits they raise are used as staples at mealtime, often prepared according to their parents’ recipes.

During the past four decades, this school — and thousands like it — have adopted what’s called the Escuela Nueva (New School) model.

A 1992 World Bank evaluation of Colombia’s schools concluded that poor youngsters educated this way — learning by doing, rather than being endlessly drilled for national exams — generally outperformed their better-off peers in traditional schools. A 2000 Unesco study found that, next to Cuba, Colombia did the best job in Latin America of educating children in rural areas, where most of the schools operate with this model. It was also the only country in which rural schools generally outperformed urban schools. Poor children in developing nations often drop out after a year or two because their families don’t see the relevance of the education they’re getting. These youngsters are more likely to stay in school than their counterparts in conventional schools.

Escuela Nueva is almost unknown in the United States, even though it has won numerous international awards — the hyper-energetic Vicky Colbert, who founded the program in 1975 and still runs it, received the first Clinton Global Citizenship prize. That should change, for this is how children — not just poor children — ought to be educated.

It’s boilerplate economics that universal education is the path to prosperity for developing nations; the Nobel-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz calls it “the global public good.” But while the number of primary school-age children not in class worldwide fell to 57.2 million in 2012 from 99.8 million in 2000, the quality of their education is another matter. Escuela Nueva offers a widely adaptable model, as Unesco has described it.

“Unesco reported the successful diffusion of Escuela Nueva in 20,000 Colombian schools with poorly trained teachers,” Ernesto Schiefelbein, rector of the Autonomous University of Chile, who has evaluated the program, told me. “As far as I know, there is no other example of massive educational improvement in a democratic developing country.”

Another Nobel-winning economist, Amartya Sen, posits that political repression impedes economic growth — that prosperity requires that social and economic well-being be tethered to democratic values. Escuela Nueva turns the schoolhouse into a laboratory for democracy. Rather than being run as a mini-dictatorship, with the principal as its unquestioned leader, the school operates as a self-governing community, where teachers, parents and students have a real say in how it is run. When teachers unfamiliar with this approach are assigned to these schools, it’s often the students themselves who teach them how to apply the method. “In these schools, citizenship isn’t abstract theory,” Ms. Colbert told me. “It’s daily practice.”

In the schools, students elected by their peers shoulder a host of responsibilities. In a school I visited in a poor neighborhood here in the city of Armenia, the student council meticulously planned a day set aside to promote peace; operated a radio station; and turned an empty classroom into a quiet space for reading and recharging. I was there last Halloween, when students put on a costume contest for their pets.

PARENTS become involved in the day-to-day life of these schools, and the educational philosophy influences their out-of-school lives. Research shows that the parents of Escuela Nueva students are less prone to use corporal punishment; more likely to let their youngsters spend time at play or on homework, rather than making them work when they’re not in school; and more likely, along with their children, to become engaged in their communities.

Decades ago, John Dewey, America’s foremost education philosopher, asserted that students learned best through experience and that democracy “cannot go forward unless the intelligence of the mass of people is educated to understand the social realities of their own time.” Escuela Nueva puts that belief into practice. I’ve witnessed the demise of many ballyhooed attempts to reform education on a mass scale. But I’ve tabled my jaded skepticism after visiting Escuela Nueva schools, reviewing the research and marveling at the sheer number of youngsters who, over 40 years, have been educated this way.

I’m convinced that the model can have a global impact on the lives of tens of millions of children — not just in the developing world but in the United States as well.

There’s solid evidence that American students do well when they are encouraged to think for themselves and expected to collaborate with one another. In a report last year, the American Institutes for Research concluded that students who attended so-called deeper learning high schools — which emphasize understanding, not just memorizing, academic content; applying that understanding to novel problems and situations; and developing interpersonal skills and self-control — recorded higher test scores, were more likely to enroll in college and were more adept at collaboration than their peers in conventional schools.

But these schools are far from the mainstream. “It’s really different and quite impressive,” David K. Cohen, an education professor at the University of Michigan, told me. “I know of no similar system in the U.S.”

Rachel Lotan, a professor emeritus at Stanford, added, “Doing well on the high-stakes test scores is what drives the public schools, and administrators fear that giving students more control of their own education will bring down those scores.” Officials, and those who set the policies they follow, would do well to visit Colombia, where Escuela Nueva has much to teach us about how best to educate our children."

[Update: a response post from Josie Holford:
http://www.josieholford.com/surprise/ ]
education  democracy  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  democraticeducation  colombia  2015  johndewey  testing  standardizedtesting  escuelanueva  davidkirp  vickycolbert  schools  ernestoschiefelbein  amartyasen  oppression  authority  autonomy  self-determination  economics  citizenship  josephstiglitz  josieholford 
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
▶ Calls to Action: Noam Chomsky on the dangers of standardized testing - YouTube
"“The assessment itself is completely artificial," Chomsky asserts. "It’s not ranking teachers in accordance with their ability to help develop children who will reach their potential . . . It’s turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank.""

[via: http://willrichardson.com/post/110534364640/doesnt-need-any-additional-commentary ]
measuement  ranking  noamchomsky  2015  schools  policy  testing  assessment  evaluation  standardizedtesting  teaching  propaganda  economics  power  capitalism  control  behavior  children  money  markets  consumerism  psychology  marketing  nagging  rank  culture  society  status  wealth  labeling  class  unschooling  deschooling 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Great Equity Test | EduShyster
"Xian Franzinger Barrett argues that accountability without equity means more inequity…

EduShyster: OK—I need you to set me straight here. Is ensuring that we continue to test kids in high-needs schools the civil rights issue of our time? Or is striking a blow against too much testing in high needs schools the civil rights issue of our time? Or is civil rights actually the civil rights issue of our time?

Xian Franzinger Barrett: The people who are talking about this genuinely on both sides are talking about the same thing, it’s just that the problem they’re trying to address is pervasive and terrible. This idea that we’re unseen and unheard unless we’re measured has a basis in history and reality, so I think it’s important that we don’t lose that. But anyone who says *you’re not going to be acknowledged unless you’re tested* is either too pessimistic or they’re racist. We also have to acknowledge that the very fact that people aren’t being supported or treated equitably unless they’re measured is racism. No one would ever say: *the rich kids in this private school—we don’t have a good measurement of them so we’re just not going to give them an education.* That’s just ridiculous.

EduShyster: That was only my first question and I’m pretty sure that already you have caused a number of heads to explode. So let’s keep going. You argue that accountability without equity actually ends up deepening inequity. Explain.

Franzinger Barrett: You think of that old expression about how when one person gets a cold, the other folks get pneumonia. If you mandate testing, it’s going to cause a mild disruption in most privileged communities, and it’s going to utterly decimate education in high-needs communities—unless, of course, there is some kind of intervention to stop that from happening. So when people say: *to acknowledge these communities, we have to do testing,* we need to ask why the communities aren’t acknowledged—and how are we going to make sure that this doesn’t become another inequitable thing stacked on top of people who are already burdened by inequity. You have the folks who argue that we need data on everything, everywhere saying that *if no one is watching what’s happening to the highest needs kids they’re not going to be supported.* But the flip side of that is that if there’s no filter for equity, you end up creating impossible burdens on the students, the parents and the teachers.

Xian2EduShyster: Well, I can tell you that you’re wrong because it says so right here in this internal messaging guide *How to Talk About Testing.* And one of the first thing it says is that if a parent or teacher tells you that there is too much testing, explain slowly and in simple language that they are wrong.

Franzinger Barrett: The burden of testing is inequitable. I’ll tell you what it means in the kind of environment that I’ve taught in. I happen to have a progressive principal now who advocates for our students and our building. But I’ve had 10 principals in 9 years in the Chicago Public Schools, and most have pushed the central office line on test at the staff and students of the community. So you’ve got a principal who spends most of her time outside of the building being harassed by higher ups about low test scores. She then comes back to the building and says *we’ve got a new plan and all of our resources are going to go to support test prep,* which means no field trips this year. Usually the plan isn’t based on any real research. The plan gets passed down, which means that every teacher is forced to ask themselves in an individual context: how do I weigh what I know is best for young people against my job? Teaching engaging lessons with culturally relevant curriculum is a hard thing to do even when you’re fully supported. But it becomes almost impossible when you’re basically being asked to risk your career in order to do that. What I need to do to really teach the highest needs students well automatically puts me at odds with higher ups in a district that’s focused on testing.

EduShyster: I follow you on Twitter, where you are a master of, among other things, the 140 character history lesson, especially when it comes to reminding people that inequity didn’t exactly arise with the advent of standardized testing.

Franzinger Barrett: I think it’s important that we don’t frame testing and the resulting narrowing of the curriculum as a new thing that has created inequity. While testing has created more inequity, high needs minorities communities have always been subjected to compliance-focused education—with one important exception: when these communities have run their own educations. Jean Anyon has written about the hidden curriculum of schools and how schools have been set up to teach empowerment and creativity and agency to affluent kids, but to teach working class kids to be compliant and follow orders. What’s interesting is that these sort of *improve everything* charter schools tend to fall into the second category. We can look back before Brown vs. Board of Education and say education was a catastrophe because of under-resourcing. When we look at the actual agency that African-American teachers had teaching African-American students, an argument can be made that it was better.

Ice CreamEduShyster: Since this interview is about race and equity, I have to ask you about racial tensions within the pro-public education movement. You’re a leader of that movement but you’ve also been a sharp critic of it for being overly white and frankly out-of-touch when it comes to issues of race.

Franzinger Barrett: So much of it has to do with organizing strategies and our core beliefs about what a pathway to freedom or a march to freedom looks like. We need to face the fact that it’s not possible for the privileged to lead a movement for educational justice on behalf of high-needs communities—and I would place myself in that privileged group here. Whether it’s our stance on testing or a just and empowering curriculum or teacher evaluation, we would all do better if we sat down and listened to the communities we work in and the students we serve. And we need to be prepared to hear some very harsh realities. I’m very interested, by the way, to see what happens this spring with our Network for Public Education (which I’m on the governing board of) conference in Chicago because you have a lot of great people with awesome motives who have worked their butts off for justice who are scratching their heads and asking *why are we so white?* I don’t think this is about shaming that. We have to address it head on and ask: *What is our long term plan to ensure that our movement is led by those most affected by policy?*

EduShyster: That idea that teachers need to listen to their students and the communities they’re from is a big part of the vision of CORE, the Chicago Teachers Union’s Caucus of Rank and File Educators, that you’re part of. Give us an example of what you hear.

Franzinger Barrett: In my 9th year of teaching in Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood, I did peace circles with my students, which are safe spaces where participants can share their experiences without judgment. It was like being a first-year teacher again. I had assumed for all of those years that the honors kids liked the way they were learning at the school and the highest-needs kids, who I spent my time with, didn’t. But what I found out was that all of those kids who were doing great on tests hated the general school culture too. It was just that they’d learned along the way that there was some compensation for towing the line. And that was really hard. It was hard as an educator to stand there and hear that, as good as your motives are, you’re still part of the team that’s trapping us in this oppressive place. I was really thankful that they were willing to tell me that. That led to a lot of effective activism to make our school a more affirming, welcoming place. It was a tough moment but something beautiful came out of it.

EduShyster: One of the things I love about you is that you talk about *peace circles,* and say things like *march to freedom.* No one talks like that! Other than listening to Xian Franzinger Barrett, who else should we be paying more attention to in the debate over the future of public education?

Franzinger Barrett: Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) did opt-out work that wasn’t covered much. The first thing they did was hold protests and press conferences to try to get the right to take the ACT—because many students had been declared ineligible in order to raise test scores. Then not long after they led a walk out from the ACT Workkeys test because they said that it was more likely to steer them towards non-professional jobs as youth of color. Some of the reporters found this very confusing and wanted to know how students could be demanding to take the tests one week and refusing to take them the next, but to VOYCE that was the whole point. They wanted a choice and a say. I just want to point out though that there tends to be a lot of overlap between groups that are doing great work around high-stakes testing with other community groups, because the issues all intersect. So it’s hard to be in community and care about testing and not also work on the school to prison pipeline or curriculum justice. So I’d point to folks like the Schools LA Students Deserve, Project NIA, the Black Youth Project, the Algebra Project, the student unions in Providence and Philly. Those are some of the groups I’m looking to learn from."
xianfranzingerbarrett  xianbarrett  2015  jenniferberkshire  teaching  howweteach  socialjustice  schools  publicschools  inequality  education  policy  measurement  oppression  control  power  learning  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  brownvsboardofeducation  integration  segregation  class  chicago  race  equity  justice  legibility  leadership  privilege  inequity  empowerment  agency  activism  curriculum  voyce  canon 
february 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
The Future of Big-Box Schooling
"The fundamental flaw which is structurally embedded in our education system is the fallacy of social engineering – the false belief that it is possible to institute a top-down, mechanical structure, impose it on a complex living system, and expect predictable results. The entire superstructure of goals, objectives, state standards, curricula, and tests is fundamentally built on the assumption that learning is a mechanical process, in which the proper ingredients can be fed into the pipeline and the proper product will emerge at the other end. (Of course, the fact that this persistently does not happen, John Taylor Gatto argues, is no accident, but reflects the fact that it is not actually in the interests of the existing power structure to have a large population capable of exercising independent critical intelligence.)"



"Every culture is different, and as anthropologist Meredith Small points out, every culture makes trade-offs: it would be romantic to assume that there is some perfect balance to be found. But because a traditional culture embodies learning which takes place over many generations, in which thousands of years of observation and trial-and-error allow for a multi-generational wisdom about human nature to evolve, it is possible that nuanced and workable ways of relating to children may exist in traditional cultures from which modern societies can learn and benefit.

Aspects of learning in many (not all) traditional cultures include:

• Immersing young people in adult activity rather than segregating them by age.
• Immersing children in multi-age groups where they can learn from older children.
• Immersing young people in nature rather than confining them indoors for most of the day.
• A blurring of the boundaries between work and play.
• Allowing for physical movement and engagement with new tasks or knowledge rather than requiring a sedentary existence as the condition for learning.
• Allowing the time for freedom, experimentation, choice, fluidity, play.
• Learning through deeper personal relationships, mentorships, apprenticeships, rather than from teachers who are not known on a personal level.
• Control over the timing, form and content of learning which resides in the child and/or in adults who know the child as an individual, rather than control being located in distant “experts” and one-size-fits-all “standards.”
• Allowing for extended transformative experiences in which young people make independent choices to discover their unique gifts, rather than step-by-step controlled sequences which attempt to dictate the process as well as the outcome of learning.

These strategies can work for learning to identify medicinal plants in a rainforest, for learning to anticipate and respond to the moods and movements of wild caribou, for learning to build a sustainable house out of mud brick, and they can work for learning how to design software applications or conduct a biological field study or write an elegant and compelling essay.

So if modernized societies are beginning to discuss moving from 20th century “big-box” schooling to a more 21st century networked model of learning, one possibility is that we may see a convergence of learning styles between ancient and modern cultures. As Sugata Mitra has discovered, unlettered street children can teach themselves how to use computers when given free access to the technology. So does it make sense to remove indigenous children from their traditional cultures and put them into outdated factory-style schools? Or should traditional people consider skipping that step, and deciding for themselves how they may want to use, ignore, adapt, blend, or hybridize new technologies and information in an open-network self-regulating manner?

When a new form of knowledge is truly vital and desired by a population, and access to the necessary resources is available, there is no question of needing to make education compulsory — you couldn’t stop the spread of knowledge if you tried. Look at how computer technology and expertise spread through the developed world. Personal computers were not invented by people in schools, and the vast majority of the population did not learn how to use them in schools. It was an open-access / open-source process – an organically expanding, networking, self-correcting, self-regulating and incredibly effective process – just like the early spread of literacy in many parts of Europe before the institution of widespread schooling.

Whether this is always good, of course, is another question. New technologies always change our lives, and not always for the better. Television has burned a wide swath through many cultures, including our own, leaving obesity, isolation, and advertising-driven insecurity and depression in its wake. I’m uneasy about the aggressive marketing of cell phones and technology to remote areas like Ladakh: once people from a sustainable culture suddenly require cash to feed a technology habit, many negative consequences ensue. But ultimately, it’s still better to be in control of what you adopt and what you choose not to adopt –– to be able to take what you need and leave the rest, absorb new things at a rate of your own choosing, than to be forced into an obsolete model of schooling just as the developed world begins to seriously discuss moving beyond it."
carolblack  ellwoodcubberly  johntaylorgatto  kenrobinson  meredithsmall  culture  knowledge  diversity  local  education  learning  children  parenting  sugatamitra  society  indigeneity  indigenous  howweteach  howwelearn  pedagogy  unschooling  deschooling  colonization  standardization  standardizedtesting  standards  relationships  mentoring  apprenticeships  internships  agesegregation  work  play  control  authority  hierarchy  colonialism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Nearly 500,000 Fewer Americans Will Pass the GED in 2014 After a Major Overhaul to the Test. Why? And Who's Left Behind? | Features | Cleveland Scene
"The numbers are shocking: In the United States, according to the GED Testing Service, 401,388 people earned a GED in 2012, and about 540,000 in 2013. This year, according to the latest numbers obtained by Scene, only about 55,000 have passed nationally. That is a 90-percent drop off from last year."



"But there is another reason for the small number of people passing the GED test in 2014: Hardly anyone is taking it this year. And that has as much to do with how the test is administered as the content. The previous test was administered with pen and paper, but this version can only be taken on a computer. And here's the kicker: More than half the people in the U.S. who do not have a high school diploma do not have a laptop or desktop computer at home. The same number, not surprisingly, have no Internet access either.

Those making less than $25,000 clock in at similar rates regardless of their educational background. So many of those who need a GED most — those without a high school diploma and with a poverty-rate income — do not have a computer or Internet access, which puts them far, far behind from the very start for two reasons: It's hard to build keyboard and mouse skills for a timed test without practice, and GED Testing Service (the company that administers the test) makes it maddeningly hard even to print sample questions to study at home.

To get sample tests, students must have access to the Internet to take them, pay $6 for each sample test section with a credit card (if their tutoring program won't buy it for them, and most don't), and have an active email account. All of that makes having a computer and Internet access paramount to passage.

"We are just finding that students without a computer or credit cards are not able to keep up as well, and in studying for a test like this, it is easy to find reasons to quit," Bivins says. "The way this test has been set up has put barriers in front of people, when we should be doing a test where keeping the goals in front of them is what they see instead of more reasons to quit.

While a certain lack of access makes studying for the GED harder, the content itself makes it even more difficult.

And that raises the question that has dogged the GED test since its inception after World War II: Is the primary purpose of the test to measure a student's college preparedness? Or is it a measure of a dropout's willingness to achieve a goal that makes them more attractive to employers?

In other words, is the GED designed to measure whether a student can handle Jane Austen novels and polynomial equations, or whether that person has the wherewithal to stock shelves at Walmart or hang drywall? The current test suggests it is the former that seems to be more important. And while the old test seemed to have some "just showing up" success rate measurement attached, which in some eyes was a practical way to administer the GED, the new one seems to have none of that.

To put it another way, we all would agree that high school students need to know more before entering college and that sound math and language skills are part of that. But are we going to ace out a whole group of people from getting a GED because some college administrators don't think their incoming students know enough algebra?

"What I've noticed more than anything is that the participation rates are shockingly low this year over previous years, so the word has gotten out that it is extremely hard," says Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, a non-profit based in Indianapolis that works with states to get more of the poor and disadvantaged into college.

"The way I see it, they have effectively gutted the GED program by these changes they have made," Jones says. "Adult students who have been out of high school for a while aren't passing this test. There needs to be a viable option for older adults to get into college and move up in the job market, and the changes made this year have greatly diminished the GED as a pathway to get to that goal.""
2014  education  via:audreywatters  policy  ged  highschool  assessment  testing  standardizedtesting  digitaldivide  inequality  employment  technology  edtech 
december 2014 by robertogreco
We will all be illiterate soon — Medium
"It all seems fairly intuitive: test the kids, measure their performances, find the pass rates for your teachers at each grade-level and school. A sixth-grader, after all, ought to do well on a sixth grade test.

But here’s the catch. At least in reading, schools and testing companies have been changing what it means to be on-grade-level from year to year. But how?

First, we must understand that schools’ tests are produced and marketed by commercial firms. Private companies like Pearson and Scholastic wield unconscionable powers of vendor lock-in, in public education. It’s not uncommon for school systems to buy products like leveled reading books, so-called “interventions,” curricula, electronic gradebooks, and student information management systems from the very companies that sell them tests. The resultant interoperability of these systems helps drive the sorting of our kids. Our kids’ test results drive the market for more Pearson and Scholastic products. We have legislated and acculturated ourselves to consumerist purchasing and sorting practices.

Next, it’s important to remember that reading levels are fairly arbitrary things. They’re social inventions. We didn’t have them once upon a time. They generally don’t account for growth without more context.

Most importantly, all of our tests reward privilege — and privileged kids generally don’t have much trouble scoring at or above grade level. Schools use tests to answer questions that inherently favor the privileged, like this: ‘Based on what we know about already successful readers, how should we judge the struggling ones?’ A better, more ethically sound question goes something like this: ‘How do make tests and schools that help all kids access everything we do (including reading), regardless of how well they read or perform on tests right now?’

And although we should know that reading levels are arbitrary and favor the privileged, we codify and enshrine them every chance we get."



Finally — and most insidiously — the SOL can be rewritten each year, changing the complexity of the tests. This lets us — or the interests we are beholden to — manufacture success and failure. Sometimes we do it for more ‘rigor.’ Sometimes we do it so that companies can field-test new products and technologies on our kids through tests we purchase from them. And I really can’t tell you more. I can’t even discuss a student’s performance with her parents in any meaningful way. If I look at a test item while a student is taking the test, I could lose my license. If I talk about the test with anyone, I could lose my license, too. I sign a paper that says I understand all of this weeks before I actually give any tests.

I cannot be clearer: these tests are designed to disempower schools and to convince us that we see and do during the school year is not what we have seen and done. It’s not a bad thing to want to make sure no child is “left behind” at school, but that is not what these tests do, despite all the double-speak we’ve heard about public education throughout its history in our nation.

Buy why does this really matter? Life goes on. School goes on. The kids on kid shows and the teens in teen movies go to school again and again and again. You can Netflix it.

It matters because schools are destroying literacy and imperiling our society more and more each day.

At the start of the 2012–2013 school year, my middle school English department colleagues and I got new Lexile cut-off scores that (we were told) our kids would have to reach, in order to stand a chance of passing their next SOL tests. When we looked at the scores, we saw that the new middle-school cut-off matched what had been defined, the year before, a 10th-grade reading level. Yes, we were told, that’s right, but the 8th grade reading test is now more rigorous because it’s written at a 10th grade Lexile.



"We have created a public education system designed to assess our students and teachers on measures we perpetually keep just out of reach, so that the most successful students, teachers, and schools have nothing to worry about while the least successful among us must worry constantly about whether we’re smart or not, under review or not, employed or not — worth something or not. We demand that the people we fail define self-worth as judged by us. Other kinds of literacy (or even last year’s literacy) simply need not apply.

With reading tests like this that at once erase meaningful, sustainable definitions of literacy and assure the privileged that they are the literate ones (whatever that may mean), we are creating a society that has no idea, generally, how people really learn or how we can learn despite our reading levels. We fetishize and gate-keep reading and writing, and behind the visible gates we’re building invisible ones. In the meantime, the privileged ‘literate,’ assured of their success, fail to see that they, too, are being cut off in the middle. On one side, the powerful keep them sated, at bay, entertained and provoked to look down on their fellows. On the other side, the disadvantaged, whose life experiences might help the broad middle question the ‘experts’ who run their lives, are held back by social structures like school as we have conceived it, and by the institutional prejudices those places breed. The institution here is not just school itself, but the white, middle class that has become its benchmark.

We are reinforcing a society in which the distant, powerful, and moneyed call the shots, in which the privileged middle classes believe they have power without knowing how, why, or what power is, and in which the disadvantaged, who understand all of this best of all, are cut off from the rest of society by tests — formal and informal — that say no matter what you’ve accomplished, you are not us. It’s gates and moving goalposts all the way down.

Those of us in schools, who live and work between the powerful and disadvantaged, have a special responsibility to cooperate in building communities instead of walls, to resist sorting mechanisms, and to teach the world as it is rather than as it’s portrayed in school media — both the materials we’re told to use in schools and the messages TV and cinema send about schools.

Otherwise, we will all be illiterate soon. We’ll continue building a system that assigns us our illiteracies at birth and reinforces them throughout our educations, careers, and civic lives, all in order to maintain the status quo."



"When people say we would have better schools if teachers did a better job, they miss the point. Teachers do an excellent job of doing what the system asks them to do. If we assessed teachers on how well they teach their assigned lessons, using their assigned texts, towards the taking of their assigned tests, we’d have to agree that our teachers do a wonderful job. That they do all of this and still don’t have the moving-goalpost test scores a politically-motivated, federal law from the 1990s tells us they should have is not a teacher problem. That they don’t have passion for a dispassionate machine isn’t a teacher problem. It is a system problem. It is a societal problem. It is an us problem. Only we don’t know it because, again, we will all be illiterate soon."



"When I think about the far future, I think about caring for others in the face of dying planets and suns, and about the kinds of wordless understandings and cooperation that we’ll have to maintain to partner with one another across incomprehensible distances, using technologies opaque to us and effortlessly transparent to our cosmic babies. I think that our present conception of literacy, for all the best reasons, will ultimately and rightfully be an impoverished one — or the root of a great and branching tree.

And though it seems at once a big thing for schooling to let go of power — to loosen its grip on a narrowly-defined literacy and a people being squeezed of life and meaning — it also seems like such a cosmically little thing to me, as just one teacher, that I wish I could give away so much more. Culpability and responsibility are only difficult to own so long as we insist on staying blind to the gifts they offer us — to readers’ inexhaustible capacity for change."
chadsansing  2014  testing  education  policy  privilege  literacy  corruption  sorting  grading  standardizedtesting  capitalism  lexilescores  publicschools  teaching  learning  schools  howweteach  howelearn  measurement 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Standardizing Human Ability | DMLcentral
"Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s try to imagine a society (there were lots of them before modernity) where there is no interest in measuring educational success. Let’s imagine a society where the only goal of teaching (it’s a high bar) is to help every child master what they need in order to lead the most fulfilling life they are capable of leading—productive, creative, responsible, contributing to their own well-being and that of their society. No grades. No tests. Just an educational system based on helping each child to find her or his potential for leading the best (Socrates would call it “happiest”) life possible. In such a world, do learning disabilities exist?"



"Here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of the changes in U.S. education, from kindergarten to professional school, either invented or finalized in the Taylorist era (the same era that produced the assembly line, statistics, standard deviation, spreadsheets, blueprints, punch clocks):  mandatory public secondary schooling, research universities, majors, minors, divisions, certification, graduate school, collegiate law school, nursing school, graduate school of education, collegiate business school, degree requirements, grades, required courses, electives, distribution requirements, IQ tests, multiple choice tests, item response college entrance exams (SAT), school rankings, class rankings. And learning disabilities.

There are some great things in that list. My point in this open-ended meditation, though, is that these are invented things.  Like all inventions, they are historically situated, created for a specific time and place, to solve problems of an era and address the possibilities afforded by the society, institutions, wealth, ambitions, and technologies of that time and place.  Like statistics and the assembly line, the system of education we have inherited is not “timeless.”  It is an industrial age invention.  So is the practice of ranking students from best to worst (“one best way”), using standardized forms of testing (extending Galton’s questionnaire form to the one-best-answer or item-response test).

We invented these standardized, regulatory, categorizing, statistical, practices for determining educational success or failure for the Fordist era of the assembly line. We can invent better ones for our own era."
cathdavidson  2014  taylorism  assessment  standardization  ability  accessibilities  ableism  testing  standardizedtesting  standards  success  disability  rankings  highered  highereducation  education  learning  teaching  howweteach  schools  schooliness  schooling  certification  disabilities 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Beautiful Bytes of Data | The Jose Vilson
"The word data slides easily off the tongue but has no personality and sounds as dry as a funeral drum. School administrators try to grace the word by telling parents that “data-driven school districts” will radically change public education, hoping that a staccato of words and a flare of alliteration will impress a captive audience. Some disingenuous school officials assert that “data-driven” is an essential tool for effectively managing a business, so why not a school system?

But it’s all a ruse. The sum of all the rhetoric about the importance of designing data-driven school districts is a shell game, a slight of hand practiced by illusionists to distract trusting parents who believe school administrators know what is best for their children. Anything “data-driven” must be beneficial for schools, parents are told, because data is information, and information is necessary to make sound decisions about curriculum, instruction and learning. And since even the best used car salesperson can no longer sell the faux elixir of Common Core now that this failed one-size-fits-all education policy has been exposed, school administrators need a new mantra to mystify parents.

Data has an ugly side, a face that frequently emerges when it is misinterpreted or convoluted to justify a faulty assumption or bad decision. The countless financial manipulations practiced by Wall Street brokers and bankers have repeatedly proven that data can be exploited and cause financial ruin for millions of people. Data may be defined as a set of values of quantitative and qualitative variables, and business savors at the trough of data, but schools should be people-driven rather than data-driven institutions.

The young man who stepped in front of the train was a beautiful byte of data, but he was more than the sum of the quantitative information collected by a data-driven school district. His social and emotional data fills less space on his school district’s list of quantifiable student data than math and science scores, and that is the shame of the present state of American public education.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24, and more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease … combined. Need quantitative data? Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,400 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12, and four out of five teens who have attempted suicide give clear warning signs. Maybe its time to take off the blinders of a data-driven school district to see clearly that our students are suffering.

Data is not our generation’s penicillin. It is an ugly word used by school administrators, policy makers, and government officials to demean the greatest social institution ever designed by human hands – a public school. Data is being used to compare the United States with countries such as Finland because the Finns score higher on international math and science tests, but can someone – anyone – tell me what Finland produces with their wealth of science and math knowledge?

[crickets]
The United States may score lower on international math and science tests, but somehow we instill creativity in our students and produce amazing technologies.

I taught and helped mentor the young man who stepped in front of the train. I helped him get a scholarship to a vocational school after he earned a high school diploma. He wanted to be an electrician, but I also knew about the many demons that tormented his gentle soul. He endured a miserable childhood, never knew his father, drank too much, and could not leash his black dog of depression. I tried to place him on a road that could lead him to a better place, believing that terra firma would make him feel a clearer path to success and salvation, but he could not see nor feel the ground beneath his feet. I failed.

I believe the vast majority of classroom teachers are not opposed to collecting data that may enhance instructional strategies or improve learning, but do object to a school system trying to emulate a business model designed to increase production and profits rather than enhance social and emotional growth. The social and emotional learning needs of children are too often omitted when describing the purpose of a “data-driven school district” and this is a flawed education philosophy.

The young man was a beautiful byte of data. Now he is a cold dead statistic."
2014  data  depression  metrics  schools  publischools  comparison  standardization  standardizedtesting  politics  policy  pisa  finland  us  testing  commoncore  josévilson 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Rox and Roll: Parents: let Harvard go
"I want to tell every parent reading this post that you need to assume, right now, that your child is not getting into Harvard no matter what he or she does. (And no, he's not getting into Stanford either, or Yale, or Dartmouth, or MIT. Probably not UC Berkeley either. No, I'm not kidding.) Your kid isn't getting into the college you think he is.

What? So-and-so's child is at Princeton right now? and got what on his SATs? and did those activities? Hmmm. Interesting. Sure, you can prove me wrong with some examples. And I can prove myself right with a hundred more. Stanford's rate of admission was below 5% last year. Do the math.

In the spirit of "I want to do something," I offer below some Q & A that I hope y'all read and take to heart. These are real questions asked by real parents of real kids I know within the past year. I didn't answer these questions at the time exactly like I did below, but I answer them here and now based on a combination of my expertise in admissions (noting that nothing I say here should be construed as official advice or information given on behalf of any school) as well as my experience as a community leader and parent.

And be forewarned: I'm going to be a bit of a wise-ass, 'cause we all need to calm down like Martha says, which also means "lighten up" in my book.

But also, I promise a reward at the end: questions that I wish people would ask me instead. And I think -- I hope -- it's some valuable stuff."



"Post-publication note: This posts seems to have reached a lot of people who have a lot of strong reactions to it. I think the comment that reached me most on another person's Facebook page is one from a parent who thinks I am encouraging mediocrity. The snarky part of me wants to tell the dude he's right, that I tell my kids "aim low." But the truth is, this post is far from encouraging mediocrity or "settling" for anything less than a child can feel good about achieving. As a Palo Alto parent, I am tired of our culture of 'achievement' as defined by grades, scores, college admissions, and the like. And I am unapologetic about that. I have worked with our community's teens as a coach, as a youth minister, as a mentor, and as a parent, and I encourage every kid to be their best self. That means being proud of their work, whether in the classroom, on the playing field, and/or in the world. Do I think they need to engage in competition for one of those 15 slots at Stanford (there is no fixed number, and I wouldn't know it if there were) by trying to outwit, outplay, and outlast (to borrow "Survivor" lingo)? Nope. And beyond that, there are going to be times when our kids just don't want to work hard because they're kids and continue to push boundaries. They're going to blow off studying for a test. They're going to fail something. Good. That's right -- I said good. Their mistakes teach them that actions have consequences and that their effort ties to their outcomes. We can't give them that with carrots or with sticks. They'll figure it out. They want to do well -- as they define it. (They know what's up with college admissions without us even getting involved, parents.) And the more they figure out for themselves, with no message from us other than "we take you as you are and want you to be healthy and fulfilled," the healthier our kids are going to be. I want nothing but the best for our village's kids -- for any kids-- and I stuck my neck out there with the post because I refuse to define the "best" as it has been anymore. The best for our kids is no more of them self-harming in any way, and I feel like we can alleviate some of that by changing our tone."
colleges  universityis  admissions  parenting  2014  via:willrichardson  stress  pressure  anxiety  aps  ivyleague  motivation  harvard  collegeadmissions  testing  standardizedtesting  success  achievement  mediocrity  grades  grading  standards  sleep  teens  adolescence  highschool  schools  education  competition  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  apclasses 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Speed Kills: Fast is never fast enough - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"In the past 50 years, two economies that operate at two different speeds have emerged. In one, wealth is created by selling labor or stuff; in the other, by trading signs that are signs of other signs. The virtual assets scale at a speed much greater than the real assets. A worker can produce only so many motorcycles, a teacher can teach only so many students, and a doctor can see only so many patients a day. In high-speed markets, by contrast, billions of dollars are won or lost in billionths of a second. In this new world, wealth begets wealth at an unprecedented rate. No matter how many new jobs are created in the real economy, the wealth gap created by the speed gap will never be closed. It will continue to widen at an ever-faster rate until there is a fundamental change in values.

One of the most basic values that must be rethought is growth, which has not always been the standard by which economic success is measured. The use of the gross national product and gross domestic product to evaluate relative economic performance is largely the product of the Cold War. As the battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union expanded to include the economy, the question became whether capitalism or communism could deliver more goods faster."



"The problem is not only, as Michael Lewis argues in Flash Boys, finding a technological fix for markets that are rigged; the problem is that the entire system rests on values that have become distorted: individualism, utility, efficiency, productivity, competition, consumption, and speed. Furthermore, this regime has repressed values that now need to be cultivated: sustainability, community, cooperation, generosity, patience, subtlety, deliberation, reflection, and slowness. If psychological, social, economic, and ecological meltdowns are to be avoided, we need what Nietzsche aptly labeled a "transvaluation of values."



"The growing concern about the effectiveness of primary, secondary, and postsecondary education has led to a preoccupation with the evaluation of students and teachers. For harried administrators, the fastest and most efficient way to make these assessments is to adopt quantitative methods that have proved most effective in the business world. Measuring inputs, outputs, and throughputs has become the accepted way to calculate educational costs and benefits. While quantitative assessment is effective for some activities and subjects, many of the most important aspects of education cannot be quantified. When people believe that what cannot be measured is not real, education and, by extension society, loses its soul.

Today’s young people are not merely distracted—the Internet and video games are actually rewiring their brains. Neuroscientists have found significant differences in the brains of "addicted" adolescents and "healthy" users. The next edition of the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will very likely specify Internet addiction as an area for further research. The epidemic of ADHD provides additional evidence of the deleterious effects of the excessive use of digital media. Physicians concerned about the inability of their patients to concentrate freely prescribe Ritalin, which is speed, while students staying up all night to study take Ritalin to give them a competitive advantage.

Rather than resisting these pressures, anxious parents exacerbate them by programming their kids for what they believe will be success from the time they are in prekindergarten. But the knowledge that matters cannot be programmed, and creativity cannot be rushed but must be cultivated slowly and patiently. As leading scientists, writers, and artists have long insisted, the most imaginative ideas often emerge in moments of idleness.

Many people lament the fact that young people do not read or write as much as they once did. But that is wrong—the issue is not how much they are reading and writing; indeed they are, arguably, reading and writing more than ever before. The problem is how they are reading and what they are writing. There is a growing body of evidence that people read and write differently online. Once again the crucial variable is speed. The claim that faster is always better is nowhere more questionable than when reading, writing, and thinking.

All too often, online reading resembles rapid information processing rather than slow, careful, deliberate reflection. Researchers have discovered what they describe as an "F-shaped pattern" for reading web content, in which as people read down a page, they scan fewer and fewer words in a line. When speed is essential, the shorter, the better; complexity gives way to simplicity, and depth of meaning is dissipated in surfaces over which fickle eyes surf. Fragmentary emails, flashy websites, tweets in 140 characters or less, unedited blogs filled with mistakes. Obscurity, ambiguity, and uncertainty, which are the lifeblood of art, literature, and philosophy, become decoding problems to be resolved by the reductive either/or of digital logic.

Finally, vocationalization. With the skyrocketing cost of college, parents, students, and politicians have become understandably concerned about the utility of higher education. Will college prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace? Which major will help get a job? Administrators and admission officers defend the value of higher education in economic terms by citing the increased lifetime earning potential for college graduates. While financial matters are not unimportant, value cannot be measured in economic terms alone. The preoccupation with what seems to be practical and useful in the marketplace has led to a decline in the perceived value of the arts and humanities, which many people now regard as impractical luxuries.

That development reflects a serious misunderstanding of what is practical and impractical, as well as the confusion between the practical and the vocational. As the American Academy of Arts and Sciences report on the humanities and social sciences, "The Heart of the Matter," insists, the humanities and liberal arts have never been more important than in today’s globalized world. Education focused on STEM disciplines is not enough—to survive and perhaps even thrive in the 21st century, students need to study religion, philosophy, art, languages, literature, and history. Young people must learn that memory cannot be outsourced to machines, and short-term solutions to long-term problems are never enough. Above all, educators are responsible for teaching students how to think critically and creatively about the values that guide their lives and inform society as a whole.

That cannot be done quickly—it will take the time that too many people think they do not have.

Acceleration is unsustainable. Eventually, speed kills. The slowing down required to delay or even avoid the implosion of interrelated systems that sustain our lives does not merely involve pausing to smell the roses or taking more time with one’s family, though those are important.

Within the long arc of history, it becomes clear that the obsession with speed is a recent development that reflects values that have become destructive. Not all reality is virtual, and the quick might not inherit the earth. Complex systems are not infinitely adaptive, and when they collapse, it happens suddenly and usually unexpectedly. Time is quickly running out."
speed  health  life  trends  2014  via:anne  marktaylor  filippomarinetti  futurists  futuristmanifesto  modernism  modernity  charliechaplin  efficiency  living  slow  thorsteinveblen  wealth  inequality  values  us  growth  economics  writing  finance  education  highered  highereducation  communication  internet  web  online  complexity  systemsthinking  systems  humanities  liberalarts  stem  criticalthinking  creativity  reflection  productivity  reading  howweread  howwewrite  thinking  schools  schooling  evaluation  assessment  quantification  standardization  standardizedtesting  society  interdisciplinary  professionalization  specialization  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  learning  howwelearn  howwethink  neuroscience  slowness  deliberation  patience  generosity  consumption  competition  competitiveness  subtlety  sustainability  community  cooperation  nietzsche  capitalism  latecapitalism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
A level playing field at school can't make up for a broken democracy - LA Times
"No matter how dedicated, teachers alone cannot change conditions that will take nothing short of a revolution to change. I didn't have to teach for a year in a “high-performing” rural high school to recognize the obscenity of using “failing schools” to ignore the implications of a broken democracy. Or to recognize the moral futility of being charged with the task of creating “a level playing field” so that society can sort its winners and losers with a clearer conscience and a colder eye.

Of course, I can bear witness to the impressive academic achievements of students from impoverished backgrounds. So can many other teachers, and they should. To withhold one's applause for the sake of advocating broader social progress is to insult those students and their struggles. It is also to forfeit what may be our best challenge to a society of mounting inequality.

After all, if food-insecure 16-year-olds can master a prescribed curriculum, then what is the excuse of the richest nation in the world for failing to master the common core of a livable wage, a color-blind legal system and a society in which the word “class” refers to a course you take and not to chances you never had?"
garretkeizer  povertu  us  economics  schools  policy  2014  thecomingrevolution  testing  standardizedtesting  teaching  education 
september 2014 by robertogreco
‘Building a Better Teacher’ and ‘Getting Schooled’ - NYTimes.com
"Similarly, each of Lampert’s lessons centered on problems that were “rich,” “open” and “productive.” She would then ask her students to “confer,” “conjecture” and “prove.” She took “calculated” gambles when calling on her students, and like Ball, she didn’t immediately correct them. “The students had to look to themselves for the correct answer,” one of her colleagues marveled. “They couldn’t just say, ‘Oh, it’s the right answer because the teacher said so.’ ”

This kind of teaching can look like . . . nothing at all. So can working on just one problem per class, as though the teacher is just watching the clock while students chase a false supposition down a rabbit hole. In fact, those rabbit holes are where we learn; we begin to understand through trial and error, dead ends and towers of reasoning that collapse because of their faulty assumptions. Allowing students to make these errors, then identify and correct them, is one of the best things a teacher can do."



"It wouldn’t hurt if we had another million Garret Keizers. In “Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher,” Keizer has returned to the classroom after a 14-year hiatus “mainly because my wife and I needed the health insurance.” A contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and the author of more than a half-dozen books (including “No Place but Here: A Teacher’s Vocation in a Rural Community,” which he wrote while on ­sabbatical during his first, 15-year stint at Lake Region Union High), Keizer — who once imagined for himself the oh-so-Vermont bumper sticker “I’m a homeschoolin’ gun-totin’ Bible-bangin’ . . . SOCIALIST” — is an irascible idealist. He’s just the kind of teacher Green celebrates: one who challenges his students and teaches them that learning can be an exciting endeavor rather than a demoralizing slog. His beautiful book holds much insight into the joys and frustrations of teaching.

Keizer’s industry is astounding. He’s up at 4 a.m. for a few hours of work before school, and he often works late. His industry nearly kills him, when he loses a month of teaching to pneumonia (but emails his lesson plans to the school every day). Standardized testing doesn’t surprise him, but he’s dismayed that in the name of accountability, he is asked to devote “more time to the generation and recording of data and less time to the educational substance of what the data is supposed to measure.” Keizer sees the ­requirement to fill out daily electronic attendance and grade sheets “as part and parcel of the way in which ‘the school of the 21st century’ is continually trying to mask the ambiguities of evaluating student performance by a pretense of ­rigorous objectivity.”

The reward of Keizer’s experience and perspective is a prognosticatory modesty: “I’d as soon predict the weather on a day 30 years from now as predict the achievements of any student walking into his 10-year class reunion.” Furthermore, “anything you do is bound to be, on some level and for some kid, wrong.”

That is, while there are such things as “best practices” for teaching, there is no practice that is 100 percent effective, no practice that generates deep learning as well as perfect test scores. Students aren’t widgets; neither are their teachers. We should stop pretending they are."
teaching  howweteach  learning  2014  math  mathematics  magdalenelampert  deborahball  garretkeizer  schools  bestpractices  pedagogy  inquiry  problemsolving  objectivity  standardizedtesting  accountability  data  elizabethgreen  charterschools 
august 2014 by robertogreco