Sunday, April 7, 2013

UPDATE Melissa Harris-Perry: Atlanta cheating scandal calls high stakes testing into question + Tying welfare benefits to school grades teaches the wrong lesson — MSNBC

Tying welfare benefits to school grades teaches the wrong lesson — MSNBC:

Atlanta cheating scandal calls high stakes testing into question

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>>> welcome back. i'm -- the atlanta school system was rocked to its core. a former school superintendent were indicted in the largest school cheating scandal. indictments that came in part because of the investigative series cheating our children by the atlanta journal constitution. good journalism. on tuesday, the teachers, principals and administrators implicated in the scandal began turning themselves in. former atlanta public school superintendent beverly hall also turned herself in. she was able to negotiate her $7.5 million bond down to $200,000. the bond for hall and others was initially so high because they are part of a 65-count indictment. that indictment include charges of racketeering, making false statements and writings, perjury and theft by taking and influences. so yes. as a teacher, my response first is, whoa, this is bad. but i would like to broaden the conversation a bit. what i know as a teacher is when you give tests, some kids cheat. that's because tests yield grades. it's how well a student does in life. it incentivizes school systems. that can lead to cheating leading from an individual in the system as to alleged in atlanta, the entire system cheating within the system. the intensity of the states -- teachers no longer responsible to students but educators beholden of teaching to the test where the grades that students get become more important than what the students learn. at the table, laura flanders, host and founder of her show. and also linda darling hammond and co-direction toer of the school redesign network and raymond williams, principal of north babylon high school in long island, new york. so the atlanta story is horrifying but i also think, you know, you're a teacher. if you give tests, some kids writing on their armor getting it texted or on the bottom of their shoe. this is the whole system going this way. but is it because we've created an incentivized system to cheat because of the tests themselves?

>> you know, in 2000-- 2002 we passed a law called no child left behind. that law tied high stakes that is sanctions for schools to test score gains. every school has a certain amount of gain it's supposed to make every year. if it doesn't make the gain, the school goes into sanctions, can lose money, can be closed down. teachers can be fired. principals can be fired. that's been exacerbated with more recent policies that wear on. you can see how there are huge incentives in the system for people -- if the scores don't go up. currently, almost 90% of the schools in the country have failed to make what the law calls adequate yearly progress and are in danger of one kind of sanction or another.

>> we disagree on the testing and the value of it. whatever else we do agree on, teachers should be accountable to their students, right? and schools should be. does this testing make them more or less accountable to the kids themselves.

>> it makes them more accountable to the parents because very often it's the case that a parent wants to know where their child is. where is my child with respect to other children. how far are they on the trajectory to being able to read by third grade. we've allowed people to make excuses for the behavior of some individual, not just teachers. this couldn't have occurred if teachers were leading the charge. this is 100% principals leading the charge and the administration as a whole having these parties or had these parties allegedly in which they went through and changed the answers of children. we have to think about the profound impact of telling the parent that a child can do something they can't do. it's no different than a physician telling you you're healthy

>> i want to ask. what does the test tell us our kids do?

>> good point. one thing it tells us, they can tell us if they can add and auburn tract. child with right a persuasive essay. if everyone is teaching to the test, how come so many are failing.

>> we're not using the test scores to evaluate progress and teaching. we are using them to determine entire futures of school systems, of schools, of kids.

>> isn't that why they're there?

>> this is the --

>> not in other countries.

>> i don't think there's a dispute to -- it's bad to have teachers correcting the answers of kids in windowless rooms. to have teachers terrified that the school is going to lose funding. kids saying their lives are determined by one test. there's no test fair on all populations. it's already leading to not just this atlanta scandal but cheating in i think 37 states around the country.

>> that's not the point.

>> i think it's important to note that this is really atlanta issue in my opinion an ethics u issue. it's about professionals, educators, making the wrong decisionsment.

>> sure. you can't treat that in isolation. you have, for instance, students now that are reporting to classes. i'm speaking from -- we're on the ground. they're reporting to classes. when they're reporting to classes, you have in my opinion, a narrowing of the curriculum that is slowly happening. in my opinion, again, a narrowing of the curriculum. when it narrows, what's happening? here's what the assessment is going to reflect. and this is what i am going to teach again to the test.

>> let me suggest this. when a school has a choice, right? one of my concerns when we think particularly about low performing schools or poor schools, we start thinking of things that poor kids need. it's dramatically different than what well-resourced kids need. private schools have lots of resources. given an option of high stakes testing or not, schools don't -- they opt out and so at the top, this would make life bad for my teachers and students, i wonder why do impose on poor kids and communities things that we would not -- we know that the kind of cheating ha happens at the top and you know this, steve, if you're in the private school system and you have a kid not testing well, you get them a diagnosis so that they get time and a half on their testing. then you end up with -- i'm not saying that no kid deserves that. i'm saying the tools we use are still cheating tools. they're very different than --

>> the conversation around the narrowing of the curriculum is one that, again, allows us to absolve teachers from the responsibility of effectively teaching. if it was so narrow, if it's so narrow, how come we're not doing better. it's not just poor black and latino kids. that's not what it is. in as a country, the reason we're in the bottom of the world, it's not because of a couple kids failing an examination. it's because we're doing a bad job of conveying skills to children. teaching to the test. the test itself measures basic skills and when kids can't do basic skills because we as educators are not doing a good job of teaching them.

>> there's a lot of misconceptions about what goes on approximate our tests in this country versus those in other countries in the world. we're in the top half of the world in reading and science. the bottom tier in math. the tests that we use are different than the tests in high achieving countries. they have open ended essay examinations and oral examinations. kids are doing scientific examinations and research papers. teachers score those. they're part of the examination. an accountability, system. you've got kids all across the country spending most of their time bubbling in. finding one answer out of five. rather than as we've learned in the research, they're not doing science anymore in a lot of schools, not doing social studies, not doing writing. they're not doing debates or disgregss or investigations. they're not going to be competitive with others in the world because we're driving all of our effort around these high stakes tests. which are poor measures of the range of things that kids are learning elsewhere.

>> i sew appreciate you setting it in a multinational context. in part, because we think of this as a national race in terms of education. even within the u.s. context, i'm thinking you're at stanford. previously princeton. kids that end up in our chas rooms weren't doing bubbling scan trons. they were in schools where they had science labs and recreation programs and music programs and the fact is, i just feel like there's this constant sense on the one hand of this i get you, we got to know that kids can just read. yes, of course we do.

>> we actually should be giving them tests that allow them to read rather than bubbling in.

>> let's take a break. there's a lot of heat. take a break. we're coming right back on exact hi this topic. t cough. they don't?

Tying welfare benefits to school grades teaches the wrong lesson

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Lawmakers in Tennessee are pushing a bill that would take money away from the state’s poorest families if their children fail to make the grade in school.
The bill targets recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. If students performs poorly–and if their parents or caretakers fail to meet one of several requirements–then TANF payments for that family will be reduced by up to 30%. One of the lawmakers behind the bill told us his aim is to help children use education to break the cycle of poverty.
Sounds nice in theory. But that’s not what this law does in practice. In my letter this week, I’d like to let the sponsors of this bill know what it’s really about.
Dear Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield and state Rep. Vance Dennis,
It’s me, Melissa.
You’ve said your bill isn’t really placing a family burden on the shoulders of children, but instead is an incentive to hold parents accountable.
You’ve added amendments to the bill that would exempt parents who either attend parent teacher conferences, an 8-hour parenting class, arrange tutoring, or enroll their child in summer school. Certainly, every child deserves to have a parent who is an involved participant in his or her education.
But your bill is only concerned with struggling kids whose parents are poor. In fact, Sen. Campfield, you went so far as to tell us that parents who allow their kids to fail in school are guilty of child abuse. Strong words, senator.
And yet, I can’t help but wonder. If your passion for parental involvement is as profound as your choice of words, why wouldn’t you pursue legislation that would penalize all parents of children with a poor academic record?
Here I’ll help–how about a $1,500 tax penalty for middle and upper income people who shirk their parental responsibilities? The fact is this bill is just the latest in a well-worn policy practice of subjecting the choices of poor parents–and in particular, poor single mothers–to scrutiny and shame.
As you well know, TANF eligibility already requires children to attend school, and parental participation in school conferences. At the same time, those parents receiving cash assistance also must work or participate in work-related activities. All of this while stretching the $2,000 in maximum assets required to qualify for TANF.
So prodding poor parents to get even more involved is really just a callous disregard for the fact that parental involvement–while ideal–is a luxury that not all families can afford.
Poor parents are more likely than their wealthier counterparts to work multiple jobs, lack paid leave, and be unable to afford child care and transportation. And far from breaking the cycle of poverty, your legislation would only sink families even further below the line.
A single mother with two children receives $185 dollars a month in TANF cash payments. That’s roughly $46 dollars a week, less than $7 a day. Your 30% reduction would cut that payment to just under $130 a month.
Your legislation also ignores the very real educational impediments for students coming from impoverished households–like food and housing insecurity or financial and health care instability. And the truth is that poor people don’t hold the monopoly on bad parenting. Nor is a poor child who struggles in school an indicator that he or she has a parent who simply doesn’t care. For impoverished children, even the most exceptional of parents may not be enough to push them through the significant structural barriers imposed by a life in poverty. Bad parenting is not a barrier to success for the rich. Neither should it be an impediment for children of the poor.
And gentlemen–it’s your job as elected officials to encourage their achievement with policy that supports instead of shames.