The Testing Games: Know Your Odds, Know Your Options. #BeATribute – I Volunteer, Sir
Here in Florida, our public school students are engaged in what I like to refer to as The Testing Games. Based upon the recent blockbuster, The Hunger Games, I have taken to making comparisons between the battlefield in the movie and the school environment that we have established for our students. The similarities are uncanny.
The obvious comparison is the idea that education is some form of competition. We know this concept is a popular one, just based upon the fact that our own US President named his education reform, The Race to the Top. In this race, states are encouraged to create education policies based on test scores. Student promotion, teacher evaluations, and school grades are all based on test scores. Funding is then tied to the student achievement. In simple terms, how well the students race decides how much money the schools get in funding.
Talk about pressure on children. Walking into school on these test days is eerily as overwhelming to students as the anxiety felt by the young warriors headed out to fight inThe Hunger Games.While our students “test for funding”, the warriors in the film had to fight to win food for their district. Just as our students know low test scores can cause them to be retained or to drop out, often ending their academic lives, the young warriors in the movie knew they were also in a fight for their lives.
And, let’s not forget, in our twisted reality, The Testing Games, children are forced into this competitive arena of multiple choice tests as early as kindergarten.
I say, enough is enough. So, here is my request to our President:
In The Hunger Games, the main character, Katniss, volunteered to fight in the place of her little sister. She knew her sister was too young and the consequences were too dire. So, in a selfless act of courage, she volunteered herself. Even in this horrible, dystopian world, the characters were Testing Games:
Why so many teachers feel so bad so much of the time
It’s no secret that most teachers today feel demoralized — poll after survey tells us so, and it’s no wonder, given that they feel school reformers have put targets on their backs with teacher evaluation systems they feel are unfair and support for programs that they believe belittle their profession. In this post an educator explains why she thinks so many teachers feel so awful so much of the time. The author is Ellie Herman, who took a rather unorthodox path to the world of education.
For two decades she was a writer/producer for television shows including “The Riches,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Chicago Hope” and “Newhart.” She wrote fiction that appeared in literary journals, among them The Massachusetts Review, The Missouri Review and the O.Henry Awards Collection. Then, in 2007, she decided “on an impulse” to become an English teacher. She got a job at a South Los Angeles charter school that was 97 percent Latino and where 96 percent of the students lived below the poverty line. She taught drama, creative writing, English 11 and ninth-grade Composition until 2013, when she decided to stop teaching and spend a year visiting classrooms and learning from other teachers.
Herman chronicled the lessons she learned on her blog, Gatsby in L.A., where a version of the following post appeared. Herman, who gave me permission to publish this piece, was awarded first and third place prizes in the 2014 SoCal Journalist Awards given by the Los Angeles Press Club for pieces on her blog. Now she teaches reading and writing at an after-school enrichment program for students from low-income families, visits the classrooms of great teachers, and works with writers, artists and other creative people.
Every day people click on a post I wrote a while ago called “Are you a bad teacher?” On some days it seems as if an infection of self-doubt has burst across the profession, evidenced by the search terms they use, which include terms such as “I’m a horrible teacher” and “I’m a rubbish teacher” and “Why am I a terrible teacher?” So why are so many teachers agonizing over the possibility that they might be bad?
Is this agonized self-doubt found across most professions? Is there a dentist blogging out there whose most popular post is “Are You A Bad Dentist?” Are there neurosurgeons out there agonizing that they might be rubbish neurosurgeons? Do accountants lie sleepless at 2 a.m. worrying that they are horrible accountants?
Maybe. (And in the case of some dentists, like the one I had when I was a child, they probably should start.) But I doubt it. I suspect that teachers’ obsession with whether they might be horrible or terrible or rubbish might have to do with a variety of external factors, and these factors are Why so many teachers feel so bad so much of the time - The Washington Post:
With millions in federal money and jobs at stake, has No Child Left Behind created an incentive for teachers to cheat on standardized tests?
The high-stakes testing required by NCLB has been one of the most controversial elements of the federal law, passed in 2001. Those tests are meant to measure students’ academic growth, but, increasingly, they’ve been used as a yardstick for teachers and administrators.
WRONG ANSWER: No Child Left Behind’s high-stakes testing tempts educators to cheat.
Some opponents of the high-stakes testing argue it has created a toxic culture that incentivizes cheating, deception and fraud.
“As in any profession, when the pressure is high enough, some people cross the ethical line,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
“When jobs and self-esteem depend solely on getting test scores up by any means necessary, cheating is one type of negative fallout that occurs.”
FairTest is working to overhaul NCLB, along with state and local policies and what Schaeffer calls the “gross overkill” of administering more than 100 standardized tests over the course of a pupil’s academic career.
“That’s way over the top,” he said. “And it has produced a number of negative side effects, including cheating.”
Among the most explosive arguments against NCLB is it turns American schools into factories of felons. FairTest published a fact sheet in 2010 stating high-stakes testing dulls the curriculum, drives students to drop out and puts them on the street, where they are “much more likely to end up in trouble or in prison.”
But now it’s the teachers being led away in cuffs.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane recently announced the eighth arrest in an ongoing investigation into widespread cheating in Philadelphia public schools. Lolamarie Davis-O’Rourke was the fourth principal pinched in a probe of more than 50 schools. Davis-O’Rourke is accused of changing Pennsylvania System of School Assessment answers in an effort to achieve higher marks at Alain Locke Elementary school.
In the past five years, cheating cases have been documented in 40 states.
In Atlanta, 178 principals and teachers were accused in 2011 of cheating on standardized tests. Prosecutors charge they formed a conspiracy to protect their jobs and win bonuses, while federal funds earmarked for failing students went elsewhere because it appeared the students in those schools were scoring so well.
Borne of the poverty-fighting Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, NCLB was designed in 2001 to fund schools in poor pockets of the country. Underachieving districts qualify for federal money to help shore up test proficiency but also are subject to government intervention if progress is not seen in standardized test Does No Child Left Behind nurture a culture of cheating? « Watchdog.org:
School reforms: OECD calls for evidence on what works
By Sean CoughlanEducation correspondent, BBC News
Trillions of dollars are spent on education reforms around the world without any effective evaluation to see if changes have worked, says the OECD.
The economic think-tank is warning there is too much political investment in announcing new policies, rather than checking on what they achieve.
Only about one in 10 education reforms launched since 2006 have been assessed for their impact, the OECD says.
The report is being launched at the Education World Forum in London.
This international conference of education ministers and experts is being told that schools policy needs more emphasis on long-term evidence rather than short-term, politically driven changes of direction.
Time to work
"Too many education reforms are failing to measure success or failure in the classroom," said Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's director for education and skills.
"While it is encouraging to see a greater focus on outcomes, rather than simply increasing spending, it's crucial that reforms are given the time to work and their impact is analysed."
Only about a tenth of education reforms are ever evaluated, says the OECD
Education is one of the biggest areas of public spending - and across the OECD it represents more than $2.5 trillion in annual expenditure.
Pressure to raise standards has prompted 450 different programmes of reform in the past eight years, says the OECD.
But only about a tenth of these reform programmes have ever been tested for their effectiveness since they were launched, says the think-tank's report.
Implementation of education reforms can take 10 to 15 years, says Mr Schleicher, much longer than is demanded by the political cycle.
It can mean that incoming ministers are under pressure to announce new policies without any clear assessment of the half-completed previous policies they are replacing.
"This valuable investment must be deployed in the most effective way. Reforms on paper need to translate into better education in our schools and classrooms," says Mr Schleicher.
Updated January 19, 2015 6:01 AM By MICHAEL J. HYNES
I love and believe in public education. As a school superintendent, I am fortunate to work with children, parents, teachers, administrators, staff and community members.
Unfortunately, public education is under assault -- by an overemphasis on testing students and the "command and control" mentality of the state Education Department and the U.S. Department of Education -- and we are on a road that will lead to a hard crash. That's because the departments are paving the road just as we drive on it. We have no say about the road conditions, how fast we must move or what our destination is.
When we do crash, what will happen to our children?
In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education crafted a report titled "A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform" at the behest of the federal government. As I read it recently, I asked myself: If our nation was at risk years ago, are we in a better place now? To my surprise, when I finished and compared the report's recommendations to our reality in New York and the United States, they seem like a better alternative.
I found these items absent from that report:
Test children into oblivion.
Use children's test results to grade and assess teachers and principals.
Do not trust anyone at the local level.
Ensure government has significant influence over teacher accountability systems and assessments. It should decide what is best for children.
Guarantee corporations will make billions of dollars in the age of compliance and testing.
The recommendations by the commission -- which included college and university presidents and other education experts -- were meant for us to consider and possibly act on in an effort to make education more effective. I found the following report recommendations enlightening:
Focus on scholarly literature and on the quality of learning and teaching. Best practices dictate that teachers need time to collaborate with each other and students need to be inspired by their teachers and encouraged to take risks. That's almost impossible in this climate.
Examine, compare and contrast curricula, standards and expectations of several advanced countries. The federal and state education departments did not listen to this recommendation. If you look at top-performing countries, you won't find an overreliance on standardizing and testing. They don't reduce people by ranking and sorting. They have curricula focused on critical thinking, problem solving and project-based learning.
Hold hearings to receive testimony and expert advice to foster higher levels of quality and academic excellence in schools, colleges and universities. I don't recall hearing any testimony from experts when the new standards or tests were developed. But I think billionaire businessman Bill Gates and publishing giant Pearson Education were contacted. In my opinion, big business prevailed.
Ironically, we can learn from "A Nation at Risk." As education historian Diane Ravitch wrote in her book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," the "Nation at Risk" report "did not refer to market-based competition and choice among schools; it did not suggest restructuring schools or school systems. It said nothing about closing schools, privatization or other heavy handed forms of accountability."
What's the alternative? We need to trust the local control of our schools. I believe in the capacity of our teachers and administrators individually and collectively. Our focus must be on districts collaborating, teachers taking risks in the classroom and principals focusing on building more meaningful Education reform worth stopping - MICHAEL J. HYNES - Newsday:
Kenyan police fired tear gas into a crowd of Nairobi school children on Monday as the youngsters and adults protested against what they call an illegal confiscation of a playground.
A police spokesman said authorities were investigating the incident and planned to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the officers involved.
“Apparently a level of force which is not commensurate to the persons involved was used,” said Masoud Mwinyi, adding that four adults had also been arrested.
Police were seen firing at least three canisters of tear gas just outside the Langata Primary School as several hundred students attempted to knock down a wall surrounding the playground.
They were protesting what they called an illegal “land grab”, and a plan to turn the space into a car park.
Children wearing bright green school uniforms dashed away from the scene, some coughing and choking and covering their faces with bits of clothing. Activists said they believed eight children were hospitalized for exposure to tear gas and other injuries.
“They were trying to access that playground, and it’s actually their playground,” said activist Boniface Mwangi, who took part in the protest. “We are very happy that the kids were brave enough to bring down the wall.”
A jubilant crowd of children eventually made their way onto the land, where they danced and began an impromptu football match.
'King saw the goal of education as more than performance on high-stakes tests or the acquisition of job skills or career competencies. He saw it as the cornerstone of free thought and the use of knowledge in the public interest.' (Photo: Archive)
This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in US history. It also has marked a renewed push by the proponents of corporate education reform to dismantle public education in what they persist in referring to as the great “civil rights issue of our time.” The leaders of this effort, including US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are fond of appropriating the language of the civil rights movement to justify their anti-union, anti-teacher, pro-testing privatization agenda. But they are not social justice advocates. And Arne Duncan is no Reverend King.
In a 2010 speech observing the forty-fifth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, Duncan boldly invoked the words of John Kennedy: “Simple justice requires that public funds . . . not be spent in any fashion which encourages, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination.” Duncan enjoined those in attendance, “Let me repeat that, President Kennedy said that no taxpayer dollars should be spent if they subsidize or result in racial discrimination.” Yet Duncan and the Obama Administration—through Race to the Top, a program similar to the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind—have pursued policies that exacerbate segregation and racial inequality.
In a 2010 interview with then-chancellor of the New York City Department of Education Joel Klein, Duncan went even further, invoking the name of Martin Luther King to justify attacks on public schools. Dr. King “explained in his powerful Letter from Birmingham Jail why the civil rights movement could not wait,” said Duncan. “America today cannot wait to transform education. We’ve been far too complacent and too passive. We have perpetuated poverty and social failure for far too long. The need is urgent and the time for change is now.”
But there is plenty of evidence that King would never have endorsed corporate education reform or privatization. Consider how King defined the role of education.
While still an undergraduate at Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1947, King said: “I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education.” They “think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses.” He continued: “Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.”
Here, King plainly laid out two visions of education that continue to war against each other. While he acknowledged the importance of an education in preparing persons for the workforce, enabling “man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life,” he also saw a much deeper purpose.