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The immorality of college admissions - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
""We admit students without any regard for financial need - a policy we call 'need-blind admission'," Harvard's website proudly proclaims. Harvard charges $54,496 per year for tuition, room and board, but waives the fees for families making less than $60,000 per year.

This would be a laudable policy were Harvard admitting low-income students in any significant numbers, but they are not. Instead, they fill their ranks with the children of the elite portrayed in Miller's article - elites who drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on private schools, exorbitant "enrichment" activities, and personal tutors that almost no Americans can afford.

Harvard's admission is "need-blind" only in that it turns a blind eye to actual need. Like many universities, it increases its number of aid recipients by inflating its price tag. With tuition higher than the median US household income, students from families making $200,000 are now deemed poor enough to qualify for financial aid.

"You can afford Harvard," the admissions site boasts, noting that 70 percent of students receive assistance. They neglect to mention that this 70 percent represents some of the wealthiest people in the country.

This is not to say that a family making $100,000 or even $200,000 does not merit financial aid to attend Harvard. They do, but only because Harvard charges obscenely high tuition, despite having an endowment of over $30 billion. Their price tag functions as a social signifier and a "go away" sign, a sticker designed to shock - and deter.

Harvard is but one of many US universities whose admissions policies ensure that the entering class is comprised of the ruling class. Studies by the New America Foundation note that most merit aid goes to wealthy families, and that "merit aid policy is associated with a decrease in the percentage of low-income and black students, particularly at the more selective institutions."

While universities like Harvard keep out the poor by redefining wealth as poverty, others practice more blatant discrimination. At George Washington University, students who cannot pay full tuition are put on a waitlist while wealthier students are let in. In 2012, less than 1 percent of waitlisted students were admitted.

Like Harvard, George Washington had advertised itself as "need-blind" until revelations of its admissions process came to light. It now defines itself as "need-aware" - a phrase which implies they are aware of need, but seemingly unconcerned with fulfilling it."

"Students whose parents pay tens of thousands for SAT tutors to help their child take the test over and over compete against students who struggle to pay the fee to take the test once. Students who spend afternoons on "enrichment" activities compete against students working service jobs to pay bills - jobs which don't "count" in the admissions process. Students who shell out for exotic volunteer trips abroad compete with students of what C Z Nnaemeka termed "the un-exotic underclass" - the poor who have "the misfortune of being insufficiently interesting", the poor who make up most of the US today.

For upper class parents, the college admissions process has become a test of loyalty: What will you spend, what values will you compromise, for your child to be accepted? For lower class parents, admissions is a test failed at birth: An absence of wealth guised as a deficiency of merit. In the middle are the students, stranded players in a rigged game."

"A higher education system that once promoted social mobility now serves to solidify class barriers. Desperate parents compromise their principles in order to spare their children rejection. But it is the system itself that must be rejected. True merit cannot be bought - and admission should not be either."
class  colleges  universities  2013  sarahkendzior  harvard  collegeadmissions  inequality  admissions  economics  meritocracy  testprep 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Rigor Redefined
"Today’s students need to master seven survival skills to thrive in the new world of work. And these skills are the same ones that will enable students to become productive citizens who contribute to solving some of the most pressing issues we face in the 21st century.

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving…

2. Collaboration and Leadership…

3. Agility and Adaptability…

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism…

5. Effective Oral and Written Communication…

6. Accessing and Analyzing Information…

7. Curiosity and Imagination…

Across the United States, I see schools that are succeeding at making adequate yearly progress but failing our students. Increasingly, there is only one curriculum: test prep. Of the hundreds of classes that I’ve observed in recent years, fewer than 1 in 20 were engaged in instruction designed to teach students to think instead of merely drilling for the test.

To teach and test the skills that our students need, we must first redefine excellent instruction. It is not a checklist of teacher behaviors and a model lesson that covers content standards. It is working with colleagues to ensure that all students master the skills they need to succeed as lifelong learners, workers, and citizens. I have yet to talk to a recent graduate, college teacher, community leader, or business leader who said that not knowing enough academic content was a problem. In my interviews, everyone stressed the importance of critical thinking, communication skills, and collaboration.

We need to use academic content to teach the seven survival skills every day, at every grade level, and in every class. And we need to insist on a combination of locally developed assessments and new nationally normed, online tests—such as the College and Work Readiness Assessment (—that measure students’ analytic-reasoning, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills.

It’s time to hold ourselves and all of our students to a new and higher standard of rigor, defined according to 21st-century criteria. It’s time for our profession to advocate for accountability systems that will enable us to teach and test the skills that matter most. Our students’ futures are at stake."
tonywagner  rigor  education  testprep  testing  standardizedtesting  schools  teaching  learning  criticalthinking  problemsolving  collaboration  leadership  agility  adaptability  initiative  entrepreneurialism  communication  writing  speaking  information  curiosity  imagination 
december 2013 by robertogreco
In 'The Spirit of Liberty' - Bridging Differences - Education Week
[in response to: ]

"It's probably easier to teach about liberty than democracy. The former is perhaps "natural" to the human species. Even little tots object when their liberty is infringed upon. It is within the context of democracy—or so people like me believe—that one's liberty is best protected, but also where one's liberty is best restricted. Only kings of yore believed they had unrestricted freedom. But where to draw the line? That's where democracy comes in.

I'm not for defining democracy once and for all, or liberty. These are ideas that have evolved and are still evolving. The "struggle" to define them is ongoing. Schooling ideally prepares us to join in that struggle. It's what politics is about—drawing the line. Like justice, which is represented by a scale that always needs some readjusting.

That's where we get back to my claim that democracy is not "natural" or intuitive. It's a means, not an end. No two nations, states, or organizations that may rightly call themselves democratic have the same bylaws, etc.

Democracy hopefully is precisely what protects other rights, such as fairness, liberty, equality, privacy, even "happiness." And the "common good." Different contexts and histories have led to different ways of organizing the power of the people, including deciding who "the people" are. The idea that the right to vote should be universal is new—and still shaky. In 1789, most of those living within our borders could not vote: women, slaves, Native Americans, and, in most states, men without property.

We agree: Most of the dialogue about power is conducted in a language unfamiliar to many citizens. Meanwhile, our fellow citizens—those who seem to lack the proper language for understanding "us"—may well be speaking with equal depth and understanding but in a form that "we" do not understand. Maybe those with more power have an obligation to better understand their fellow citizens, not just vice-versa. Expanding the world that "belongs to us all" is something schools could do if ... rich and poor, black and white attended "common schools" devoted to such a task.

Do we really have to "teach" a common core to promote thinking—or do we mean "thinking like us"? I have friends from abroad who think quite well, but share a different set of "common" and "uncommon" knowledge. I find our discourses even more interesting for that fact.

I never found that my students, even at 5, were less interesting because their "home language," dialect, or vocabulary were different than mine. In fact, it was these differences that drew me into becoming a teacher. Sometimes because of their age, but also because of their own situations and histories, they aroused my curiosity and added to my knowledge. It is often a handicap to good thinking when we share too much "common sense" knowledge and vocabulary, or pretend to. "You know what I mean."

Whether we're creating essay, short-answer, or multiple-choice tests, we have a "bias." There's no way not to. As I recognized in my college courses, it was easier to get an A on an essay question where I agreed with my professors than when I didn't. We naturally think that those who say what we believe have more sense than those who don't. Ditto for multiple-choice tests.

The solution? I'd like to use those 12-plus years of school to come closer to "getting it"—who we are. There's a huge body of knowledge that such a course of study could uncover, and a lot that would remain uncovered. My hope? That the "test prepping" prepared our students to demonstrate strong intellectual habits in a range of academic and nonacademic domains, on topics of their choice—subject to the judgment of a committee of faculty, family, and external public experts. Over and over. Until it truly becomes habitual. Like good driving.

I'd hope that all publicly funded schools have the freedom to develop their own assessment tools (or even choose a pre-existing standardized one). But I hope that they also would be required to articulate the connection between the idea of democracy (and liberty) and whatever curriculum and assessment system they have chosen.

I'd also ask the schools to "show me" the connection between their purposes and the structure of the classroom and school as a whole. What do kids learn about democracy and liberty from the school's adult world? Who are the school's citizens? What are their liberties? Do parents or those whose taxes the schools rest upon have citizenship rights? Whose expertise trumps whose? And where do children of different ages fit into this web of cross-cutting citizenships?

Given the fragile state of our democracy (about which we agree), we must sometimes sacrifice some other more strictly private purposes (being more successful than others, having more money, or—god forbid—even pursuing a private hobby of pleasure only to a few). Public schools funded and controlled by the priorities of their citizens will each draw the lines differently. But without considerable locally based control we will flit from one all-size-fits-all fad to another.

Local communities, operating within the law, may even figure out forms of choice that enable people to make some decisions collectively and others more selectively, while agreeing not to substantially injure the available choices of others. They will swing back and forth between the party of order and the party of flexibility. A diversity of knowledge claims is essential for democracy and liberty, as well as for the arts, sciences, technology, etc. When one "best practice" rules, it undermines liberty, democracy, and progress, in general. We need collaborators and resisters, collegiality and ornery individualists.

I do not want to specify for others which of all the wars Americans have fought they most need to understand. Reality tells me that there is NO WAY they seriously understand even one if obliged to cover all. But ... let others try. Ditto for the sciences. And for math. Mastery of basic probability and statistics, however, would surely serve democracy better than calculus.

Central Park East, Central Park East Secondary School, and Mission Hill— schools where I've had a direct influence—each approached curriculum differently, although all three built their studies around "habits of mind." I've learned from each, and I am very aware that each made some painful trade-offs. Still, talking with graduates of each reassures me that what right-wing blogger Danette Clark calls "the Marxist-Communist political, amoral, and social ideology behind Theodore Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools" flourished in all of them.

There are some things effectively mandated centrally, but not as many as even "my team" acknowledges. Democracy and liberty both are safer when we all see ourselves as more or less in the same boat together, where my liberty and yours rise or fall together. We're a long way from achieving that spirit of liberty in our schools. "
education  deborahmeier  democracy  liberty  testing  standards  standardization  2013  tedsizer  commoncore  power  curriculum  publicschools  teaching  learning  testprep  assessment  local  bias  knowledge  robertpondiscio  citizenship  civics  missionhillschool  coalitionofessentialschools 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Cobble Hill Think Tank
"Our philosophy and approach is student-centered. We believe that if we develop self-confident and self-motivated students, everything else will fall into place.

Our priorities:
student confidence
a solid understanding of the academic material
providing tools with which student will thrive and grow
We have assembled a diverse team of specialists in a wide variety of subjects and skills. All of our staff has passed a Dept of Education background check, as well as regular in-house training."
workshops  tutoring  testprep  lcproject  nyc  brooklyn  education 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Education Week: When Test Scores Become a Commodity
"…when we speak about value-added evaluations, let’s be clear…It is a system that turns student scores into a market &, as such, creates cheating, disreputable practices, & dislocations…let’s also talk straight about the cheaters. Like dishonest or corrupt traders, the educators are not the victims, but rather sophisticated, savvy players. Many will get away with it & be honored for their work, as some cheating administrators & teachers were before they were caught. & many teachers & administrators who don’t technically cheat, but find ways to game the market “legally” will also be duly honored. Where could this lead? Schools could become little more than test-preparation institutes, ignoring subjects & skills that are not assessed, with faculty members who resent & distrust one another. Meanwhile, many honest & dutiful teachers will go down in flames.

If this is the kind of public school system the American people want, then fine. Let’s just be honest about it."

[via: ]
jonathankeiler  testing  education  educationindustrialcomplex  gamingthesystem  thegameofschool  teaching  learning  economics  behavior  valueadded  systemsgaming  testprep  standardizedtesting  dishonesty  cheating  2011  evaluation  corruption  misguidedenergy  policy  schools  schooling  schooliness  us 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Cramming For College At Beijing's Second High | Fast Company
"An intimate look at a group of elite Beijing high-school students reveals how China's schooling system is one of the resurgent nation's greatest strengths--and biggest weaknesses."

""The gaokao rewards a special type of student: very strong memory; very strong logical and analytical ability; little imagination; little desire to question authority," says Jiang Xueqin, a Yale-educated school administrator in Beijing. "That person does well on the gaokao--as well as on the SAT, by the way.""

"A few prominent Chinese have become icons for those who argue that the gaokao should not be the sole route to success. Writer and businessman Luo Yonghao never took it; ironically, he later made his fortune on a chain of TOEFL and GRE test-prep centers. Perhaps the most famous example is Han Han, a high-school dropout who is the modern paragon of the Chinese renaissance man--a race-car driver, novelist, singer, and the most widely read blogger in the world."
2011  education  china  beijing  learning  testing  sat  standardizedtesting  gaokao  dropouts  imagination  entrepreneurship  authority  conformism  conformity  meritocracy  testprep  memorization  rote  memory  rotelearning 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Cradles of Eminence?
"If you really learn more about the childhoods of men and women who would late  become eminent, the common factors were more that they were allowed to do what they wanted to do and immerse themselves in whatever interesting subject or idea struck them at the time. It looks very different from this scheduled routine of Junior Kumon, karate classes, and after preschool tutoring all before the age of 7. "
learning  motivation  eminence  flowtheory  neurolearning  deirdrelovecky  education  unschooling  deschooling  tcsnmy  lcproject  freedom  independence  freetime  self-directedlearning  interestdriven  kumon  testing  testprep  math  mathematics  rote  rotelearning  non-traditional  alternative  experience  parenting  generalists  2011 
may 2011 by robertogreco
‘I am a bad teacher’ - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post [via: ]
"Last Friday I actually told a child who had left three questions unbubbled on a district periodic math assessment to go ahead and fill something into those circles. He looked up at me nonplussed, “But Ms. B, I don’t know how to do those problems.” And I found myself about to launch into a discourse about how some tests penalize you for guessing and others don’t and this is one of the ones that doesn’t so…

Then I saw his 9-year-old face.

One summer in the 1980s, I earned money by preparing undergrads test for the LSAT, the law school entrance exam. The field of test prep was brand new back then, and its one or two companies paid a princely rate of $30/hr. The class I taught was not about content and knowledge, but rather about how to game the system: how to analyze questions, answers, negations, distractors, etc. We were in our early twenties and gaming the system seemed pretty cool.

Now it’s 25 years later, and I can’t believe I’m teaching this stuff to little kids…"
standardizedtestingt  testing  testprep  2011  sujatabhatt  gamingthesystem  education  policy  reform  valueadded  quanitifcation  accountability  data  teaching  learning  children  corporations  datadrivenmismanagement 
april 2011 by robertogreco
On Education - Equity of Test Is Debated as Children Compete for Gifted Kindergarten -
"That approach [decentralized admissions process] was criticized as vulnerable to political manipulation & racial favoritism, since districts could take into account increasing diversity in making selections.

“The process was fractured & inconsistent, & programs were too often gifted in name only,” the city education chancellor, Joel I. Klein, said in an e-mail message.

In 2008, Mr. Klein made the score on a citywide standardized test the sole criteria for admission. Mr. Klein is a leading testing proponent for everything from grading schools to rating teachers, & he predicted that a citywide test would be a more equitable solution.
Since then, there have been two major developments, neither looking much more equitable than the old system. Blacks & Hispanics in gifted kindergarten programs dropped to 27% this year under test-only system, from 46% under the old system (66% of city kindergartners are black or Hispanic).

And a test-prep industry for 4-year-olds has burgeoned."
testing  education  learning  kindergarten  diversity  race  standardizedtesting  gifted  testprep  money  class  influence  nyc  schools  sorting  tracking  favoritism  assessment  evaluation  equity  havesandhavenots 
august 2010 by robertogreco

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