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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

School Reform Fails the Test - Mike Rose The American Scholar:

The American Scholar: School Reform Fails the Test - Mike Rose:

School Reform Fails the Test


How can our schools get better when we’ve made our teachers the problem and not the solution?

By Mike Rose

DECEMBER 10, 2014

During the first wave of what would become the 30-year school reform movement that shapes education policy to this day, I visited good public school classrooms across the United States, wanting to compare the rhetoric of reform, which tended to be abstract and focused on crisis, with the daily efforts of teachers and students who were making public education work.
I identified teachers, principals, and superintendents who knew about local schools; college professors who taught teachers; parents and community activists who were involved in education. What’s going on in your area that seems promising? I asked. What are teachers talking about? Who do parents hold in esteem? In all, I interviewed and often observed in action more than 60 teachers and 25 administrators in 30-some schools. I also met many students and parents from the communities I visited. What soon became evident—and is still true today—was an intellectual and social richness that was rarely discussed in the public sphere or in the media. I tried to capture this travelogue of educational achievement in a book published in 1995 called Possible Lives: The Promise of Education in America.Twenty years later, I want to consider school reform in light of the lessons learned during that journey, and relearned in later conversations with some of these same teachers.

For all of the features that schools share, life inside a classroom is profoundly affected by the immediate life outside it, by the particular communities in which a school is embedded. Visiting a one-room schoolhouse in rural Montana or a crowded high school in Chicago, you will find much in the routines and the curriculum that holds steady—the grammar of schooling, as historians David Tyack and Larry Cuban called it in Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform (1995). Yet within that grammar lie differences: in topics of discussion, in the illustrations that teachers use, in how the language sounds, and in the worries of the day pressing in from the neighborhood. These differences, the differences of place, make each school distinct from every other.
During my travels, I watched as third-graders in Calexico, a California-Mexico border town, gave reports on current events in Spanish and in English. They followed the journalist’s central questions—who, what, why, when, where, and how—exploring the significance of the depleted ozone layer, of smog in nearby industrial Mexicali, of changes in the local school board.
In Chicago, 12th-graders discussed Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, trying to make sense of the characters’ different perspectives, offering provisional explanations of important occurrences in the novel. They were gaining a sense of the power of speculation, of moving an inquiry forward by wading into uncertain waters.
On Baltimore’s West Side, first-graders combined literature and science by reading a fanciful story about hermit crabs and then conducting an experiment—resulting from a student’s question—to understand the environment in which the crabs thrive.
In small towns in the Mississippi Delta, middle school children played games with physical representations of algebraic operations, part of civil rights activist Bob The American Scholar: School Reform Fails the Test - Mike Rose:

Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools | Yohuru Williams

Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools | Yohuru Williams:

Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools


In the broad constellation of professionals who make up public schools, it is important to pause and acknowledge the forgotten education professionals who aide and support teachers. These include the librarians, nurses, social workers, learning specialists, and guidance counselors. They contribute to the growth and development of our young people but often find themselves left out of broader discussions about the preservation of public education. They provide a range of critical support and intervention frequently invisible to us. Most certainly, their value has escaped the notice of so-called education reformers and politicians. All too often, these champions of a "new order" have taken aim at the forgotten teachers in their ever-expanding quest to cut public school funding.
To be clear, budget and personnel cuts have hurt the profession across the board. However, professionals in these areas bear greater risk, given widespread misperceptions about the essential services they provide that remain vital to public schools. As a youngster, for instance, I benefitted from the expertise of a speech pathologist in helping me overcome a minor speech impediment. Having the problem addressed early in my education boosted my self-esteem and ended years of torment at the hands of insensitive friends and classmates. I would not have understood this as a significant moment of formation in my academic and personal growth if not for countless recent news stories about proposed cuts to these position in school districts across the country.
Another equally hard hit position is that of the school librarian. Fifty years ago, it was inconceivable to imagine schools without appropriate library resources and the personnel to staff them. The disparity in library facilities, for instance, helped civil rights attorneys demonstrate the inherent inequality in segregated schools. With the advent of the internet and digital resources in particular, the flawed assumption surfaced that these positions are no longer necessary. Librarians remain important conduits for student support in ways that many might be surprised to learn. Contrary to popular perception, librarians do more than curate collections of dusty books; they teach critical research skills and often serve as the first destination for young people Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools | Yohuru Williams:

What Schools Could Use Instead Of Standardized Tests : NPR Ed : NPR

What Schools Could Use Instead Of Standardized Tests : NPR Ed : NPR:

What Schools Could Use Instead Of Standardized Tests

Am I failing... or is it the test?

Close your eyes for a minute and daydream about a world without bubble tests.
Education Week recently reported that some Republican Senate aides are doing more than dreaming — they're drafting a bill that would eliminate the federal mandate on standardized testing.
Annual tests for every child in reading and math in grades 3 through 8, plus one in high school, have been a centerpiece of federal education law since 2002. No Child Left Behind, the current incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, requires them.
But this law has been overdue for reauthorization since before President Obama took office. The Senate plans to take the matter up early this year.
Discussions about cutting back on these requirements comes at a time of growing concern about the number of tests kids take and the time they spend taking them. Parents in some communities have formed "opt-out" groups and removed their children not only from federally mandated tests, but also the legions of state and district-required tests that have followed in their wake.
The Council of Chief State School Officers and the country's largest school districts have spoken out in favor of reducing the number of standardized tests students take. The national teachers' unions and other traditionally Democratic groups are on board with the idea too.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he's concerned about testing too, but he's written he "strongly believes" in annual tests as an educational tool.
Missing from this debate, however, is a sense of what could replace annual tests. What would the nation do to monitor learning and ensure equity and accountability if states didn't have to test every child every year?
Here are four possible answers. They're not necessarily exclusive of each other. In fact, they could all happen at the same time, as different states and districts make different decisions.
1) Sampling. A simple approach. The same tests, just fewer of 'em. Accountability could be achieved at the district level by administering traditional standardized tests to a statistically representative sampling of students, rather than to every student every year.
That's how the "Nation's Report Card" works. Formally known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, it's one of the longest-running and most-trusted tests in the U.S. education arsenal, even though it's not attached to high stakes. It's given to a different sample of students each year, in grades 4, 8, and 12. The widely respected international test, PISA, is given to a sample of students too.
2) Stealth assessment. Similar math and reading data, but collected differently.
The major textbook publishers, plus companies like Dreambox, Scholastic and the nonprofit Khan Academy, all sell software for students to practice math and English. These programs register every single answer a student gives.
The companies that develop this software argue that it presents the opportunity to eliminate the time, cost and anxiety of "stop and test" in favor of passively collecting data on student's knowledge over a semester, year or an entire school career. Valerie Shute, a professor at Florida State University and former principal research scientist at ETS, coined the term "stealth assessment" to describe this approach.
Stealth assessment doesn't just show what skills a student has mastered at a given What Schools Could Use Instead Of Standardized Tests : NPR Ed : NPR:

An educator challenges the Gates Foundation - The Washington Post

An educator challenges the Gates Foundation - The Washington Post:

An educator challenges the Gates Foundation

Anybody paying attention to school reform in recent years knows the power that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has wielded with its ability to play a leading role in driving the reform agenda by distributing mountains of cash to every sector of the education world. Veteran educator Anthony Cody has been questioning the role of the foundation on a blog,Living in Dialogue, that he wrote for some time on Education Week, and now as an independent Web site. He even engaged in a discussion with the foundation about its role in school reform. Now Cody has written a booktitled, “The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges Bill Gates,” in which he explores the foundation’s influence on education issues and whether that has been good or bad for the public school system.
Cody taught in high-poverty schools in Oakland, Calif., for 24 years, 18 of them as a middle school science teacher. He is the treasurer and a founding member of the nonprofit Network for Public Education.
Here’s a Q&A I did with Cody (over e-mail) about his new book:
Valerie Strauss: The title of your new book is intriguing, “The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation.”  What is the challenge?
Anthony Cody: In my book, I share a series of challenges that I posed to the Gates Foundation, and to Bill Gates himself. The real challenge we face is that which the Gates Foundation states it has taken on — how to make our society, and our education system, more equitable. However, when I look at the approach they have taken, I see some basic problems. Their approach has been to pursue standardization and the metrics of test scores in order to put market forces in the driver’s seat in education. This has had very bad effects on students, who are not at all standard, and on teachers, as well. I challenge them with the understanding I gained in my 24 years working in Oakland, where I came to understand the sort of collaborative environment we need to foster growth among teachers.
One of the problems with the Gates Foundation is that they have had an almost unlimited source of funding over the past decade. And they are conducting a large-scale experiment with the children of the nation. Nobody voted for them to do this. They use the power of their money to pay for research, to pay organizations to support their agenda, and this undermines democratic decision-making, especially in communities that, due to poverty, lack effective political power.
I have no great wealth, no real access to political power. I am a retired science teacher with a blog. I saw the effects their agenda had on the An educator challenges the Gates Foundation - The Washington Post:

On Amazon: The Educator And The Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges The Gates Foundation Paperback 

From the Common Core to test-based teacher evaluation systems cropping up around the country, to the rapid expansion of semi-private charter schools, the Gates Foundation has had a huge, largely invisible influence on public education in 21st century America.
Can a teacher challenge the wealthiest man in the world? Anthony Cody, who spent 24 years working in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, has done so here. Education reform is the top domestic priority for the Gates Foundation, and this philanthropic organization has poured billions of dollars into reshaping American schools. This money has paid for research, advocacy, and a whole non-profit industry aligned with the Gates agenda. According to Cody, their chosen path of data-driven reform, centered on high stakes tests, educational technology and market-based competition between schools, threatens great harm to public education.
The Gates agenda has largely become the guiding policy for the Obama administration’s Department of Education. Gates-sponsored projects like the Common Core have support of major corporations, the Chamber of Commerce, and Republican leaders like Jeb Bush as well. In this book, that agenda is subjected to a detailed critique.
In part one, Cody describes what he calls “the assault on public education” waged by Gates and his foundation. In part two, we find Cody in direct conversation with representatives of the Gates Foundation, describing in detail the flaws in their approach, and offering constructive alternatives. Part three explores the dystopian future Gatesian reforms are bringing into our schools. In the closing section, Cody turns the tables on Gates, holding him and his foundation accountable for the impact they have had on our children and schools. In doing so, he raises disturbing questions about the growing role corporate philanthropies such as the Gates Foundation are playing in public policy, and the dangers we face when market forces are made central to our educational system.

On Facebook: The Educator and the Oligarch

The Inconvenient “Lost Standards” of NYS: Why Deformers Prefer Common Core for Evaluating Teachers | Critical Classrooms, Critical Kids

The Inconvenient “Lost Standards” of NYS: Why Deformers Prefer Common Core for Evaluating Teachers | Critical Classrooms, Critical Kids:

The Inconvenient “Lost Standards” of NYS: Why Deformers Prefer Common Core for Evaluating Teachers

 Among the nauseating ed tech solicitations sent to my New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) email account over the holiday was this message from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and family:

We send you our sincere gratitude for your service to 
the people of the City of New York, 

and our very best wishes to you and your family for 

a New Year full of love, peace and happiness. 

Bill, Chirlane, Chiara and Dante
Love, peace and happiness.  I sometimes feel these emotions at school, but they are fleeting and occur only behind “closed doors,” in the presence of 25 six and seven-years-olds.  I’m certainly not feeling any love or “sincere gratitude” from the NYCDOE administration, including the district in which I teach. But thank you, Bill, for the gesture.  If ever you want to consult with working teachers and administrators who will tell you what our schools REALLY need in order to thrive, please reach out. Unfortunately, our prescription for education reform does not go along with the state and federal governments’ agendas, which, as it’s becoming increasingly evident, center on using teachers as scapegoats for the educational ills in our country.
I begin this new year with mixed emotions.  I’m excited to resume the creative, inspiring work I do with my energetic first graders – we are a family – but I’m also weighed down with new feelings of self-doubt, indignation and increasing despair. Recent observations of my teaching practice, which are not holistic, have felt punitive. Charlotte Danielson’sFramework for Teaching – a rubric that addresses the so-called instructional shifts of the Common Core - is used as a checklist for these brief and infrequent snapshots of the work being done in my classroom.  During this time, if administrators do not see evidence of what they are looking for – such as an assessment tied to an art project they are observing me teach – then I am at risk for a developing or ineffective rating for that component of the domain.
Additionally, New York’s use of valued-added modeling (VAM) to rate teachers, a tool widely considered to be junk science, is further demoralizing. Last year, I was rated “developing” on the local and state measures of New York’s fledgling teacher evaluation system; I still don’t know what standardized tests these ratings were based on since my English-language learners (ELLs) made progress on the 2014 NYS English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT). These Tweets from January 3, 2015 show that draconian teacher evaluation plans are not unique to New York.  They make me want to cry.
FullSizeRender (2)
On the first day of 2015, Carol Burris, principal of Long Island’s South Side High School, reported in The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet on the latest developments of New York’s teacher evaluation system. New York Board of Regents chancellor, Merryl Tisch,The Inconvenient “Lost Standards” of NYS: Why Deformers Prefer Common Core for Evaluating Teachers | Critical Classrooms, Critical Kids:

A Call for Social Media Solidarity: “This Is Our House” | the becoming radical

A Call for Social Media Solidarity: “This Is Our House” | the becoming radical:


Let me start with an image.
Whether you have witnessed this in person or on TV, picture a college football stadium during a special event game when the fans organize a “white out” (or other appropriate color). The effect is impressive with the stadium almost entirely one color, a statement by the fans that “this is our house.”
Now, let me make a case about creating that same sort of solidarity among educators and public education advocates through social media.
Historically and significantly during the last three decades, U.S. public education policy and public discourse have been dominated by politicians, political appointees, billionaire hobbyists, pundits, and self-appointed entrepreneurs—most of whom having no or little experience or expertise in the field of education or education scholarship.
In fact, the “white out” in the media is inversely proportional to the expertise in the field:
Across MSNBC, CNN, And Fox, Only 9 Percent Of Guests In Education Segments Were Educators. On segments in which there was a substantial discussion of domestic education policy between January 1, 2014, and October 31, 2014, there were 185 guests total on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, only 16 of whom were educators, or 9 percent. Media Matters
Next, allow me to chase what may appear to be a brief tangent.
While teaching high school English in rural SC for 18 years, I always enjoyed my U.S. literature unit on Arthur Miller’sThe Crucible. One of the lines from the play was particularly enjoyable—when Tituba exclaims, “No, no, sir, I don’t truck with no Devil!”
Having grown up in the 1960s and 1970s, my mind always goes to this [1]:
Art and property of Robert Crumb.
But students often found the phrasing odd, despite my affinity for the metaphor and power of Tituba’s language.
To this day, I am apt to adopt Tituba’s stance when expressing my allegiances, and that brings me back to the point of this call for social media solidarity among educators and public education advocates.
Over about two years of blogging at my own site and engaging regularly on Twitter and other social media platforms, I have gradually adopted a stance that I do not truck with those who are disproportionately dominating the field of and public discourse about education.
Yes, I have done my share of calling out, discrediting, and arguing with, but except on rare occasions, I am done with A Call for Social Media Solidarity: “This Is Our House” | the becoming radical: