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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Frustrates This Educator about Rick Hess – Cloaking Inequity

What Frustrates This Educator about Rick Hess – Cloaking Inequity:

What Frustrates This Educator about Rick Hess

 As a former high school English teacher in two large, urban school districts, I completely understand how educators, parents and policymakers who are wrestling each day with the most pressing issues facing public education — standardized testing, the effects of poverty on learning, opportunity gaps — might be a bit impatient with educational theory and research. Is this new theory about the intersection of culture, politics, and digital media going to give me the answers about how to help my most struggling students today? If not, it can wait. My students need me right now.

So, I can chuckle for a moment along with Dr. Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, when hepokes fun at some of the paper titles that were presented earlier this month at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the largest professional organization of education researchers in North America. The titles he singles out are often extremely lengthy, contain more than their fair share of colons and million-dollar vocabulary words, and generally seem far away from classroom life.
I am now an educational researcher and freely admit that I have been guilty of these crimes against clarity and precision in my writing. Too often, academic writing that hopes to offer information to address the most pressing problems facing practitioners uses language that serves to alienate the very people researchers are trying to help — an issue that Dr. Mike Rose of UCLA just implored researchers to address at the AERA conference. The community of academia, like many other specialized communities, can get wrapped up in its own jargon to the detriment of its larger mission.
I can even give Dr. Hess a pass when he declares during a session on public scholarship at the AERA conference that Twitter is a social media site that does not lend itself to substantive public conversations. Perhaps he has seen too many snarky tweets and missed out on the amazing dialogues created by #FergusonSyllabus or #SlaverywithaSmile.
Yet, shortcomings in the communication of research, whether online or at conferences, do not mean that educational research is not crucial to informing and improving educational practice. In my courses for pre-service and in-service teachers, I remind my students that theory and research are inextricably linked to practice — that all decisions made in public education, from how we organize our lessons and assess student learning to how we structure school financing and school choice, flow from theories we have about the purpose of public education, the abilities of our students, and the kind of society we want to create. Naming these theories produces productive debate about the future directions of What Frustrates This Educator about Rick Hess – Cloaking Inequity:

Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State and the Nuisance of Democracy | Alternet

Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State and the Nuisance of Democracy | Alternet:

Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State and the Nuisance of Democracy

Today’s multi-billionaires are a different species of philanthropist; they keep tight control over their foundations while also operating as major political funders.

This article was first published in the Nonprofit Quarterly (spring 2016; vol. 23, no. 1).
Once upon a time, the super-wealthy endowed their tax-exempt charitable foundations and then turned them over to boards of trustees to run. The trustees would spend the earnings of the endowment to pursue a typically grand but wide-open mission written into the foundation’s charter—like The Rockefeller Foundation’s 1913 mission “to promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world.” Today’s multi-billionaires are a different species of philanthropist; they keep tight control over their foundations while also operating as major political funders—think Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, or Walmart heiress Alice Walton. They aim to do good in the world, but each defines “good” idiosyncratically in terms of specific public policies and political goals. They translate their wealth, the work of their foundations, and their celebrity as doers-of-good into influence in the public sphere—much more influence than most citizens have.
Call it charitable plutocracy—a peculiarly American phenomenon, increasingly problematic and in need of greater scrutiny. Like all forms of plutocracy, this one conflicts with democracy, and exactly how these philanthropists coordinate tax-exempt grantmaking with political funding for maximum effect remains largely obscure. What follows is a case study of the way charitable plutocracy operates on the ground. It’s a textbook example of the tug-of-war between government by the people and uber-philanthropists as social engineers.
The Case of Bill Gates and Washington State
This story begins in 1995, when the Washington State House of Representatives first considered legislation that would enable private individuals and organizations to obtain charters to create their own K–12 schools. These were to be taxpayer-funded schools, but privately run and exempt from many of the regulations governing district (regular) public schools. The funding would come from the resources of regular public schools: each student would “carry” his or her per-child funding out of the district system to a charter school.
The bill died in the state senate, so supporters went directly to voters with a ballot initiative to enable charter schools. The campaign attracted little money on either side, but turnout was high because the vote took place on the same day as the 1996 presidential election. Washingtonians rejected charter schools decisively: 64.4 percent against, 35.6 percent in favor.1
State representatives kept trying. They proposed new bills in 1997, 1998, and 1999, but got the same results: success in the lower chamber, failure in the Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State and the Nuisance of Democracy | Alternet:

Troy LaRaviere Learns about Free Speech in Rahmistan

Lakeview - Troy LaRaviere Accused By CPS Of Misusing Equipment, Accounting Missteps - Neighborhood News - DNAinfo Chicago:
Troy LaRaviere Learns about Free Speech in Rahmistan

 LAKEVIEW — Ousted Blaine Elementary Principal Troy LaRaviere faces a dozen charges — ranging from mishandling school equipment to insubordination — that could lead to the dismissal of the outspoken critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, officials said Monday night in addressing the reasons for his removal.

The contentious news was met with boos from a crowd gathered at the school Monday night, as Blaine parents demanded to know specifics behind the sudden removal of a popular and seemingly successful principal.
"I think you can be high-performing and still break the rules," said Janice Jackson, chief education officer of Chicago Public Schools. "Over the past month, there have been so many acts that made it clear we were not able to redirect [LaRaviere's] behavior."
Although the district legally cannot discuss specific charges against personnel, Jackson said LaRaviere is free to share the list of charges with the community.
Jackson spoke broadly about the dozen allegations of misconduct, accusing LaRaviere of "dereliction of duty, violations of state and CPS ethical policies and insubordination."
Among violations were charges that LaRaviere disregarded teacher assessment guidelines, misused district equipment and broke rules governing how schools manage internal accounting.
Such infractions, however, can be for minor issues like mistakes in submitting cash receipts and purchasing information or failing to file a financial report.
While the local school council appoints principals, disciplining school administrators is left to CPS, Jackson said.
The insubordination charges are largely tied to a warning resolution the Chicago Board of Education issued to LaRaviere in August, lambasting him for insubordination and defying district directives related to Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, better known as PARC testing.
A written reprimand in December warned that ignoring CPS directives and continuing to speak out against the school district "could result in dismissal," Jackson said.
"As an administrator, you do have loyalties to the district that are expected," Lakeview - Troy LaRaviere Accused By CPS Of Misusing Equipment, Accounting Missteps - Neighborhood News - DNAinfo Chicago:

Most high school seniors aren't college or career ready, says 'Nation's Report Card' | 89.3 KPCC

Most high school seniors aren't college or career ready, says 'Nation's Report Card' | 89.3 KPCC:

Most high school seniors aren't college or career ready, says 'Nation's Report Card'

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U.S. college readiness scores are down according to the standardized test known as the Nation's Report Card. LA JOHNSON/NPR

 The latest results of the test known as the Nation's Report Card are in. They cover high school seniors, who took the test in math and reading last year. The numbers are unlikely to give fodder either to educational cheerleaders or alarmists: The average score in both subjects was just one point lower in 2015 compared with the last time the test was given, in 2013. This tiny downtick was statistically significant in mathematics, but not for the reading test.

But even though the changes are small, chances are you're going to be hearing about them in a lot of places.
Why is this test so widely reported on, widely cited and widely debated? And how does it line up with common-sense yardsticks of how students are doing? Let's take a closer look.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, has become a standardized test that even some critics of standardized tests rely upon. One big reason: It's a research project conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, not a state accountability test.
Unlike state tests, which have been shifting year by year with the adoption of the Common Core, NAEP scores are comparable across decades — back to 2005 for math and all the way back to 1993 for reading.
"In our era of incredibly volatile state and local testing practices, it is our North Star," says Andrew Ho, a measurement expert at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who sits on NAEP's bipartisan governing board.
A large sample of high school seniors nationwide, in both public and private schools, took the tests last year — 18,700 students in reading and 13,200 in mathematics. This allows direct comparisons across states and cities.
And the absence of consequences for schools or teachers means students are not typically prepped or drilled to take the test, which potentially makes it a more useful measurement of student achievement than some state tests.
But what do NAEP scores mean? On the 12th-grade test in particular, Ho says, research shows that NAEP maps well with estimates of college and career readiness from Common Core-aligned tests, the SAT and the ACT.
According to research by Ho and others, just under 40 percent of students score at college and career ready levels on NAEP.
"College and career ready" means these scores strongly predict that students will be able to succeed doing college-level academics, or with on-the-job training in a position requiring only a high school diploma.
That seems clear enough.
Except when you realize a couple of things.
One is that in 2015 the nationwide high school graduation rate was 82 percent, not 40 percent. That leaves a potentially large group of kids who got diplomas but who weren't ready to succeed in college.
Who is right: their high schools or NAEP?
"I think the charitable view is that graduation is not just reading and math," says Ho, meaning that high school diplomas also include things like "social studies, Most high school seniors aren't college or career ready, says 'Nation's Report Card' | 89.3 KPCC:
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Learn more ...
Read An Overview of NAEP
An Overview of NAEP
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Can AI fix education? We asked Bill Gates | The Verge

Can AI fix education? We asked Bill Gates | The Verge:
Can AI fix education? We asked Bill Gates
How personalized learning is changing schools

The rise of smartphones has transformed the way students communicate and entertain themselves. But the classrooms they spend so much of their time in remain stubbornly resistant to transformation. On one hand, technology has long had a home in classrooms — I learned to type on an Apple IIe in the late 1980s. But for most schools, the approach to teaching remains stubbornly one-size-fits-all: a single teacher delivering the same message to a group of about 30 students, regardless of their individual progress.
Bill Gates is working to change all that. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft’s co-founder and chairman has invested more than $240 million to date in a developing field known as "personalized learning." It’s a diffuse set of initiatives, led mostly by private companies, to develop software that creates individual lesson plans for students based on their performance, coaching them through trouble spots until they have mastered the subject at hand. Teachers still play a central role in the classroom, but they do less lecturing and more one-on-one coaching.
The effort is led by a dizzying array of startups with terrible names — think "Learnosity" — but big companies are starting to pay attention. In 2014 Google launched Classroom, which lets teachers post class announcements, assign work to students, and collect and grade their assignments. And last year Facebook announced a partnership with Summit Public Schools, in which the Gates Foundation is an investor, to create personalized learning software and make it freely available.
This week Gates spoke at the ASU GSV Summit, an education technology conference in San Diego. In a standing-room-only speech, he laid out the foundation’s vision for accelerating the adoption of personalized learning around the world. Gates asked investors to take a longer view in education than other fields, because of epic school district purchasing cycles. He asked school districts to speed up those cycles by using more pilot programs, and by supporting data standards that make it easy to compare the efficacy of different products. And Gates told entrepreneurs to invest in research around the efficacy of their products, producing data that will encourage other schools to adopt personalized approaches.
Last year I wrote about Facebook’s efforts around personalized learning, and afterward Gates’ people invited me to speak with him about his evolving thinking about education. A few hours after his speech, Gates bounded into a hotel room on the 38th floor of the Manchester Grand Hyatt and sat in a chair by the window. We were joined by a Gates Foundation spokeswoman and, on the other side of the window, a lone seagull who observed our interview with great interest.
"It’s still early stages," Gates said about personalized learning. "In five years, 10 years from now, will it be highly penetrated? That’s not absolutely clear."
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Casey Newton: I think it’s fair to say that even people who love tech don’t always pay close attention to the ways it’s transforming education. So at a high level, what is personalized learning doing for students at the schools where it’s being tried? And what opportunities do you see it creating over time?
Bill Gates: Well the term "personalized learning" doesn’t have an exact definition. In general, the idea is that people progress at a different rate. If you’re ahead of what’s being taught in the class, that’s not good, you get bored. If you’re behind, then they’re using terms and concepts that create a general impression of "Hey, I’m not good at this." And science and math in particular — if they’re talking about something you haven’t had the explanation on, you just really give up in that area. And there is no way that you are brought back into it.
For me, one of the most interesting areas you’re focusing on is remedial education in community colleges. Kids are asked to spend lots of money on these classes, which don’t earn them any credit, and so they never get their degrees as a result. In your speech, you say institutions that use personalized learning software for remedial education see their completion rates double. How does this work? Why is this a problem that software has been better at solving than traditional methods?
There’s a boundary between high school and college where the all-access colleges make you take an exam as you come in. And depending on what your math score or your reading or writing score is, if it’s low enough, then you get placed in the remedial class, and they re-teach you everything. They don’t tweak the results you got and say, "OK, you’re missing this part or this part." It’s just a binary "You’re OK, go ahead" or "You have to get in the class." And so that’s one of the reasons we have such high dropout rates in higher ed. If you use a personalized tool, you’d sit down and it would sort of figure out, Can AI fix education? We asked Bill Gates | The Verge:

The toxic environment of standardized testing

The toxic environment of standardized testing:
The toxic environment of standardized testing

High-quality tests that accurately assess student learning and help teachers understand how to improve instruction are an essential part of an excellent education. But in some states and districts today, large-scale standardized testing has gotten out of hand, with students taking as many as 20 standardized tests per year.
This was the situation in Michigan not too long ago. Teachers, parents, and students felt powerless when it came to government-mandated standardized tests such as the Michigan Student Test for Educational Progress (M-STEP).
It was difficult for us to understand if the amount of time spent on standardized testing was actually beneficial to students. Hours were taken away from teaching and learning time last school year in order to administer the M-STEP. This was a problem.
Many teachers thought standardized tests were an unreliable and inaccurate measure of student growth. Educators argued standardized tests should not be on the cutting edge of education because it promotes teaching to the test, which can impede, rather than promote, learning. Frustrated teachers and parents of Michigan finally came together and demanded less time for standardized testing and more time for learning. They had enough.
After listening to public opinions, complaints, and feedback, the Michigan Department of Education shortened the length of the M-STEP. This change shows the importance of teachers’ voices in education policy.
Teachers need to be as respected as other professionals. They need to have a say in education reform efforts. Michigan lawmakers seem to have accepted the importance of teacher input when developing education policies.
But one thing our state’s elected leaders can’t continue to do is place such an emphasis on standardized testing. Instead, we must focus our energy on The toxic environment of standardized testing: