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Friday, May 27, 2016

If NAEP “Proficient” Means “Grade Level Proficiency,” Then America’s Private Schools Are in Trouble | deutsch29

If NAEP “Proficient” Means “Grade Level Proficiency,” Then America’s Private Schools Are in Trouble | deutsch29:

If NAEP “Proficient” Means “Grade Level Proficiency,” Then America’s Private Schools Are in Trouble

Former TV anchor and current, privatizing reform conduit Campbell Brown believes that a student’s achieving the level “proficient” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) equates with that student being “at grade level” or (more precisely, according to her) having achieved “grade level proficiency.”
In a May 16, 2016, Slate interview, Brown said the following:
Two out of three eighth graders in this country cannot read or do math at grade level. We are not preparing our kids for what the future holds.
As she introduces an article written by Carol Burris, Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss sums up the social media upheaval that ensued over Brown’s equating NAEP “proficient” with being “at grade level”:
Another day, another fight in the education world. This one is worth delving into because it is really not about who said what but about fundamental understandings — and misunderstandings — of standardized testing data and how it drives policy.
This one started when education activist Campbell Brown said that two-thirds of U.S. eighth graders are below grade level in reading and math. Tom Loveless, a former Harvard professor and teacher who researches student achievement, then tweeted that he has never seen data showing that, and asked Brown to explain her sourcing. She said that she was referring to proficiency rates on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
NAEP, as the test is known, is sometimes referred to as “the nation’s report card” because it is seen as the most consistent measure of U.S. student achievement since the 1990s. It is administered every two years to groups of U.S. students in the fourth and eighth grades, and less frequently to high school students. When Loveless told her that NAEP proficiency scores do not refer to grade level, a social media fight ensued between Campbell and her critics.
In this post, Carol Burris, a former award-winning high school principal who got involved in the Twitter exchange, explains why the substance of this debate matters.
I asked Brown to comment about her statement that two out of three eighth graders cannot read or do math at grade level and why she thinks NAEP proficiency means grade level. She said in an emailed response, which you can see in full below, that “if I were trying to be completely and utterly precise then I would have specified ‘grade-level proficiency,’ instead of ‘grade level’ in the context of NAEP score,” and that “any reasonable person or parent” would understand what she meant.
The achievement level preceding “proficient” is “basic,” and it is “at or above basic” that the bulk of students’ scores tend to fall.
What Brown erroneously proposes is that NAEP “proficient” equals “grade level proficiency” and that not achieving NAEP “proficient”  equals “not at grade-level proficiency.”
If the above were true, then it is not only America’s public schools that one must If NAEP “Proficient” Means “Grade Level Proficiency,” Then America’s Private Schools Are in Trouble | deutsch29:

Will Democrats Sacrifice Public Education for the Sake of Party Unity? - Living in Dialogue

Will Democrats Sacrifice Public Education for the Sake of Party Unity? - Living in Dialogue:

Will Democrats Sacrifice Public Education for the Sake of Party Unity?

By Anthony Cody.
I noticed an interesting phenomenon on some progressive web sites over the past week or two. Even with the California and New Jersey primaries still looming a couple of weeks from now, the focus has shifted to supporting Clinton, and news of Sanders has been put on the back burner. A look at the front page of Crooks and Liars reveals a dozen stories about Trump, and a couple favorable to Clinton, including this breathless report of Bill Clinton “debating” a young Sanders supporter for thirty minutes. But no major stories about Sanders — not even the news of a possible Trump/Sanders debate. This web site has apparently decided that the election will be between Clinton and Trump, and no further coverage of the Sanders campaign is needed.
Politics is a team sport, and some have decided the time has come for the team to unite behind Clinton. So Sanders is not to be mentioned. Instead we focus on the issues both “teams” can all agree to disagree about. Transgender bathrooms. Guns. Gay marriage. Abortion. Voting rights. Immigration reform. Bashing Trump. These are ON the table for debate.
But what other issues are off the table because the Democratic Party “team” does not have a unified stance?
One of the things I have appreciated about the Sanders campaign has been the space it has opened up to question some “progressive” orthodoxies. We have seen moving videos of Berta Caceresmade prior to her tragic assassination, calling out Clinton’s support of a military coup in Honduras. In my view “progressives” should not support military coups in Latin America – but this issue will not be mentioned if Clinton becomes the nominee. We have heard questions raised about uncritical support for Israel – again, this will be off the table. Even the fracking that is destroying groundwater across the country and the world will be swept under the rug.
Of course the hallmark of the Sanders campaign has been his calling out Wall Street financiers and hedge funders, and if we get down to a Clinton/Trump race that will be greatly muted as well. The progressive focus will be on how scared we all should be of a Trump presidency.
This “progressive” team unity has left some other huge issues off the table. As I wrote last year, K-12 education has been largely ignored by progressives – even “bold” ones. Republicans regularly assail public Will Democrats Sacrifice Public Education for the Sake of Party Unity? - Living in Dialogue:

Reformers Now Attack Reformers with the Same Venom They Used on Teachers

Reformers Now Attack Reformers with the Same Venom They Used on Teachers:

Reformers Now Attack Reformers with the Same Venom They Used on Teachers

I’ve enjoyed the last months where I pushed away from the computer when tempted to blog on the education reform dispute of the day and focused on coalition-building in Oklahoma City, as well as big picture analyses such as Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal. But the open conflict among reformers prompted by Robert Pondiscio is too valuable to waste.
I’ve communicated with enough reformers to know that their coalition is fraying. They’ve pushed an edu-politics of destruction based on the punitive use of test results in order to keep score in their competition-driven movement. Now, it is obvious that value-added teacher evaluations and their one-size-fits-all micromanaging have failed. Many or most, however, are still committed to high-stakes testing in order to speed up their rushed effort to close schools in mass.
Other corporate reformers seem to believe they can use their (admittedly brilliant) high-dollar public relations campaigns to drive the expansion of charters. They’ve finally realized that parents are preoccupied with what’s best for their own children, not education policy. They are marketing to parents who can’t stop the damage that the extreme proliferation of choice does to children left behind in weakened neighborhood schools, but who ignore test scores and seek safe and orderly schools for their own kids.
(By the way, teachers have been forced to do the same thing. Reform imposed an irresolvable dilemma. We can’t just refuse to commit education malpractice and simply place our education values over the needs of our students to pass primitive high-stakes tests in order to graduate. So, to greater or lesser extents, we give into demands for nonstop remediation and try to minimize the amount of soul-killing, bubble-in malpractice that is required to keep our kids from ending up on the streets without a diploma.)
Being a classroom teacher, I always appreciated the way that my job forced me to make an extra effort to not judge patrons and other stakeholders who have different beliefs about education policy and other issues. Being a liberal in a conservative state, I’ve always sought compromise and incrementalism. And, that explains much of the reason why I feel more comfortable around conservative reformers as opposed to liberal and neo-liberal corporate reformers who demand that we progressives must all be “on the same page” in pushing “transformative” reform.
What I can’t grasp, however, is liberals who assail other liberals because we won’t use the stress of high stakes testing to overcome the stress produced by generational poverty. I still can’t understand civil rights advocates who condemn other civil rights advocates because we oppose school segregation as a means of reversing the legacies of segregation.
Had the technocrats spent more time in the inner city classroom, and in the homes, hospital rooms, the streets and, yes, the funerals of our kids, they’d have known we needed more “disruptive” innovation like we need another gang war. Had they shared the joy of teaching and learning for mastery that builds on the strengths of our kids, they would not have dumped reductionist behaviorism on children. But, because teachers saw things differently, we were condemned as the “status quo,” which accepted “Excuses!,” and renounced “High Expectations!”
School reform has always been as anger-driven as it has been output-driven and market-driven. Even so, Pondiscio’s hate-filled response to his erstwhile allies was shocking. It prompted a reply by Justin Cohen, who I believe has supported egregious policy errors, but who has belatedly acknowledged the nature of the Reformers Now Attack Reformers with the Same Venom They Used on Teachers:

BREAKING NEWS - Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure - Wait What?

BREAKING NEWS - Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure - Wait What?:

BREAKING NEWS – Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure

Stunning assessment of the data reveals Common Core test not a successful predictor of college success.
What does this mean for Connecticut and other SBAC states?
Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure – By Wendy Lecker and Jonathan Pelto
The entire premise behind the Common Core and the related Common Core PARCC and SBAC testing programs was that it would provide a clear cut assessment of whether children were “college and career ready.”
In the most significant academic study to date, the answer appears to be that the PARCC version the massive and expensive test is that it is an utter failure.
William Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center and member of the Vermont State Board of Education, has just published an astonishing piece in the Washington Post. (Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? In it, Mathis demonstrates that the PARCC test, one of two national common core tests (the other being the SBAC), cannot predict college readiness; and that a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education demonstrated the PARCC’s lack of validity.
This revelation is huge and needs to be repeated. PARCC, the common core standardized test sold as predicting college-readiness, cannot predict college readiness. The foundation upon which the Common Core and its standardized tests were imposed on this nation has just been revealed to be an artifice.
As Mathis wrote, the Massachusetts study found the following: the correlations between PARCC ELA tests and freshman GPA ranges from 0.13-0.26, and for PARCC Math tests, the range is between 0.37 and 0.40. Mathis explains that the correlation coefficients “run from zero (no relationship) to 1.0 (perfect relationship). How much one measure predicts another is the square of the correlation coefficient. For instance, taking the highest coefficient (0.40), and squaring it gives us .16. “
This means the variance in PARCC test scores, at their best, predicts only 16% of the BREAKING NEWS - Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure - Wait What?:

ESSA Accountability Proposal a Departure From Punitive Past, Secretary King Says - Politics K-12 - Education Week

ESSA Accountability Proposal a Departure From Punitive Past, Secretary King Says - Politics K-12 - Education Week:

ESSA Accountability Proposal a Departure From Punitive Past, Secretary King Says

Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said Thursday that the department's proposedaccountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act represent an attempt to move away from the "overprescriptive and to some extent punitive" approach to accountability that proliferated under ESSA's predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act. 
KingPic.PNGDuring a visit to the J.C. Nalle Elementary School, King visited a classroom here and discussed the new rules with reporters. He emphasized that the new regulations were based on "a lot of listening" by department staffers to a variety of groups.  
King also participated in a roundtable discussion  at J.C. Nalle with education advocates, teachers, and others in a bid to  highlight how ESSA and the draft rules the department released on it Wednesday try to broaden the definition of student success and give schools new ways to excel.
"We've tried to balance state and local flexibility with strong civil rights guardrails," King told reporters.
The much-anticipated rules deal with a number of complicated and often controversial topics such as school ratings, test participation, school turnaround reuqirements.
Among other hot-button issues: The rules don't require states to give indicators like test scores a specific weight. But they are required to give academic factors more weight. And when it comes to identifying schools for turnarounds, academic indicators would essentially carry more weight.
Schools would also have to publish comprehensive, summative ratings for schools. And states would have to choose from a menu of options of what to do about low test-participation rates in schools, or come up with their own strategies. In early reactions to the rules, there have been concerns about how states would have to address low participation in state exams, and how exactly states would and would not have to define "consistently underperforming" groups of students for school improvement purposes. 
Once the draft rules are published in the Federal Register (slated to occur May 31), the public will have 60 days to provide comments on them. The public-comment window will close Aug. 1.

Broad Issues Discussed

While ESSA itself was the product of consensus and bipartisan compromise, when it comes to the law and the proposed rules, "Our purpose here is to make sure that we are doing our best for every single student at every single school," said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, who was also at the discussion.
The panel included a discussion of issues such as dual-language instruction, equitable funding for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and access to advanced coursework. These are all issues that King and the Education Department have emphasized when discussing ESSA and education more broadly in recent months. 
Laurent Rigal, a physics teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Washington, recalled that when he taught at a different school, there was no instruction in physics and 900 students were graduating without having taken any classes in the subject. Initially, he had been asked to teach biology, even though he had been trained as a physics teacher. He built up Advanced Placement physics instruction at his previous school, but when he left, that instruction came to a halt, he recalled. (Students taking and successfuly completing advanced coursework is one way schools could satisfy the requirement to have a school quality or student success accountability indicator under ESSA.) 
"No one there was able to teach the class," Rigal said of his former school when he left. 
And Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, noted that schools have played an important role historically as a "leveler of societal injustices." Among other things, he wants teachers with the most training to teach the disadvantaged students who need such quality instruction the most. He said he hopes that under ESSA, "Teachers and students are matched better." 
But Kristen Amundson, the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, did register one concern she had with the draft rules: the requirement for each school to have a single, summative rating under ESSA. But she didn't get into details about why she was worried. 
Photo: Education Secretary John B. King Jr., third from left, listen to a panel of educators, civil rights activists, and others during a discussion of the Every Student Succeeds Act at J.C. Nalle Elementary School in Washington, D.C. ESSA Accountability Proposal a Departure From Punitive Past, Secretary King Says - Politics K-12 - Education Week:

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Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? - The Washington Post

Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? - The Washington Post:

Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid?

The Massachusetts state Education Department last year commissioned Mathematica Policy Research to do a validity study comparing the Common Core test known as PARCC, created by a federally funded consortium of states, and the MCAS, or the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, which has been in use for years and is also aligned to the Common Core standards. At the time, state officials were considering whether to adopt the PARCC assessments or to keep using the MCAS, and allowed districts to choose which test to give to students for “accountability” purposes. The study was released in the fall, and shortly after that state education authorities voted to create a hybrid test that would incorporate elements of PARCC into the MCAS.
The study is titled “Predictive Validity of MCAS and PARCC: Comparing 10th Grade MCAS Tests to PARCC Integrated Math II, Algebra II, and 10th Grade English Language Arts Tests,” and the authors discussed their work in an article in the newest edition of the Education Nextjournal. The article says:
Ultimately, we found that the PARCC and MCAS 10th-grade exams do equally well at predicting students’ college success, as measured by first-year grades and by the probability that a student needs remediation after entering college. Scores on both tests, in both math and English language arts (ELA), are positively correlated with students’ college outcomes, and the differences between the predictive validity of PARCC and MCAS scores are modest. However, we found one important difference between the two exams: PARCC’s cutoff scores for college-and career-readiness in math are set at a higher level than the MCAS proficiency cutoff and are better aligned with what it takes to earn “B” grades in college math. That is, while more students fail to meet the PARCC cutoff, those who do meet PARCC’s college-readiness standard have better college grades than students who meet the MCAS proficiency standard.
Here’s a post challenging the results of the study, by William J. Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, a member of the Vermont Board of Education and a former Vermont superintendent. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the views of any group with which he is associated. Following the post is a response from Mathematica.
By William J. Mathis
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” — “Through the Looking Glass,” by Lewis Carroll
The PARCC tests have been criticized for being administered in high-stakes circumstancesbefore they were validated. PARCC’s rejoinder is they had content validity, meaning that the test was built according to their committee reviewed specifications. But what is missing isAlice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? - The Washington Post:

Special Issue of “Educational Researcher” (Paper #9 of 9): Amidst the “Blooming Buzzing Confusion” | VAMboozled!

Special Issue of “Educational Researcher” (Paper #9 of 9): Amidst the “Blooming Buzzing Confusion” | VAMboozled!:

Special Issue of “Educational Researcher” (Paper #9 of 9): Amidst the “Blooming Buzzing Confusion”


Recall that the peer-reviewed journal Educational Researcher (ER) – published a “Special Issue” including nine articles examining value-added measures (VAMs). I have reviewed the last of nine articles (#9 of 9), which is actually a commentary titled “Value Added: A Case Study in the Mismatch Between Education Research and Policy.” This commentary is authored by Stephen Raudenbush – Professor of Sociology and Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago.
Like with the last two commentaries reviewed here and here, Raudenbush writes of the “Special Issue” that, in this topical area, “[r]esearchers want their work to be used, so we flirt with the idea that value-added research tells us how to improve schooling…[Luckily, perhaps] this volume has some potential to subdue this flirtation” (p. 138).
Raudenbush positions the research covered in this “Special Issue,” as well as the research on teacher evaluation and education in general, as being conducted amidst the “blooming buzzing confusion” (p. 138) surrounding the messy world through which we negotiate life. This is why “specific studies don’t tell us what to do, even if they sometimes have large potential for informing expert judgment” (p. 138).
With that being said, “[t]he hard question is how to integrate the new research on teachers with other important strands of research [e.g., effective schools research] in order to inform rather than distort practical judgment” (p. 138). Echoing Susan Moore Johnson’s sentiments, reviewed as article #6 here, this is appropriately hard if we are to augment versus undermine “our capacity to mobilize the “social capital” of the school to strengthen the human capital of the teacher” (p. 138).
On this note, and “[i]n sum, recent research on value added tells us that, by using data from student perceptions, classroom observations, and test score growth, we can obtain credible evidence [albeit weakly related evidence, referring to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s MET studies] of the relative effectiveness of a set of teachers who teach Special Issue of “Educational Researcher” (Paper #9 of 9): Amidst the “Blooming Buzzing Confusion” | VAMboozled!:

Fifty school committees come out against charter school expansion - The Boston Globe

Fifty school committees come out against charter school expansion - The Boston Globe:

Fifty school committees come out against charter school expansion

There is a rumbling in the hinterland.
At least 50 local school committees have come out against a push to allow more charter schools in Massachusetts, according to a tally from the Massachusetts Teachers Association union.
Officials from Revere to Worcester to Greenfield have penned letters to legislators and newspaper editors, or passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on opening new charters.
Among the concerns: Charters drain money from traditional public schools and aren’t required to hire licensed teachers.
A letter from Revere school committee members warned of “slyly crafted language” in charters’ recruitment plans that allow them to exclude the toughest-to-educate students.
And a Wareham school committee member called charters “blood-sucking,” the Wareham Courier reported, before voting for a resolution opposing a proposed ballot question to lift a state-imposed cap on charters.
“Educators are enraged,” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, summing up the general sentiment among traditional public schools types.
Koocher, though, said his association and individual school committees are barred from spending money in the fall ballot fight.
In a campaign expected to draw millions in spending, then, it’s unclear if voters will hear the school committee rumblings.
David Scharfenberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Please feel free to skip this rant about advanced learning

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Please feel free to skip this rant about advanced learning:

Please feel free to skip this rant about advanced learning

It's been a while, but I've been feeling an Advanced Learning rant building in me. It got pushed over the edge today when I got thinking about the District's inability to implement MTSS.

For those who prefer to skip rants - and especially rants on this topic - please do skip it.

Seattle Public Schools does a fair job of delivering highly capable services in grades 1-8. The Highly Capable Cohort is a system that should allow students who need to be taught in a different way to get that different kind of instruction. It isn’t working because the District has failed to try. Rather than teaching differently, the District has chosen to grade-skip HC students but to do it with a cohort to avoid the negative social consequences of grade-skipping. The students don’t get lessons designed for them but for general education students two grades ahead of them. When the “two grades ahead” language was first coined, the District staff protested that it was an over-simplification. A couple years later the District staff were saying that’s all there was to the program.

It would be better to teach the students in a way tailored to their needs and abilities rather than simply providing the standard instruction delivered two years early. So far, no one in Seattle Public Schools has shown any interest in even having this discussion, let alone developing a curriculum (as promised) for HC students. The saving grace is that should any such curriculum ever be developed, a delivery model is in place to implement it, the Highly Capable Cohort.

Instruction for HC students must be designed (I would say “re-designed” but it has yet to be designed a first time) from the ground up, with the needs and abilities of the students in mind. Until that is done – or at least until the District decides to do it – there is no point in debating program sites, professional development, eligibility criteria, or anything else. It doesn’t matter who sits in the car, who drives it, or where we want to go when the car has no engine.

After underserving HC students in grades 1-8, Seattle Public Schools abandons them completely at grade 9 and offers them nothing at all in high school. The opportunity to see former classmates in classes and hallways is hardly a cohort. There is no high school instruction made for them. Access to AP classes is neither HC service nor a substitute for HC service. It is, again, at best, grade-skipping with a cohort of grade-skippers. The cohort Seattle Schools Community Forum: Please feel free to skip this rant about advanced learning:

Testing and Ethics | The Patiently Impatient Teacher

Testing and Ethics | The Patiently Impatient Teacher:

Testing and Ethics

Well folks, testing season is upon us. As I dutifully read hundreds of pages of required testing manuals, I have found something that is very interesting. All NC teachers are bound by the NC Testing Code of Ethics. This Code was enshrined into law by state general statues in 1997 and has not been revised since 2000. The Code clearly states:
Unethical testing practices include, but are not limited to, the following practices: 
(1) encouraging students to be absent the day of testing; 
(2) encouraging students not to do their best because of the purposes of the test; and
(7) not testing all eligible students;
And if educators violate these provisions:
In the event of a violation of this Rule, the SBE may, in accordance with the contested case provisions of Chapter 150B of the General Statutes, impose any one or more of the following sanctions: 
(1) withhold ABCs incentive awards from individuals or from all eligible staff in a school;(*note, these bonuses were eliminated years ago)
(2) file a civil action against the person or persons responsible for the violation for copyright infringement or for any other available cause of action; 
(3) seek criminal prosecution of the person or persons responsible for the violation; and
(4) in accordance with the provisions of 16 NCAC 6C .0312, suspend or revoke the professional license of the person or persons responsible for the violation
Most teachers have interpreted these statements to mean that according to state law, Testing and Ethics | The Patiently Impatient Teacher:

Matthew Valenti’s Year 2 Letter to Connecticut Teachers - Wait What?

Matthew Valenti’s Year 2 Letter to Connecticut Teachers - Wait What?:

Matthew Valenti’s Year 2 Letter to Connecticut Teachers

These are dark time for our students, parents, teachers and public schools, as well as our entire country.
Connecticut continues to  historically underfund its school funding formula.  The crisis is now being exacerbated by Governor Malloy and the Democratic legislature’s decision to implement the deepest education budget cuts in state history.
At the same time, the legislature completed its 2016 session without addressing the fundamental problems associated with the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme, nor did it step forward and require that the Malloy administration develop a teacher evaluation system that is not reliant on the scores of this failed and disastrous testing program.
People should be outraged and should be demanding that elected officials be held accountable for their actions.
In this guest commentary piece, Connecticut educator Matthew Valenti puts into words what many are thinking.
Valenti is not only a retired school teacher and champion on behalf of public education, he is one of the most outspoken advocates for teachers and the teaching profession.
Exactly one year ago, Matt Valenti wrote an open letter to Connecticut teachers that first appeared here in Wait, What.  It was entitled, An Open Letter To Every Teacher in the State of Connecticut (By Matthew Valenti).  Now, a year later, Matt returns to reflect on the state of the state when it comes to Connecticut’s teachers and public education.
Matt Valenti writes;
Last year, I wrote an open letter to all teachers in Connecticut and what a sad day it was for them.  My letter dealt with the ineffectiveness of the newly elected second term Connecticut Education Association officers and how they ever could have been re-elected after their second term endorsement for a governor who slaps public school 
Matthew Valenti’s Year 2 Letter to Connecticut Teachers - Wait What?:

Strangers in Academia: Teaching and Scholarship at the Margins – the becoming radical

Strangers in Academia: Teaching and Scholarship at the Margins – the becoming radical:

Strangers in Academia: Teaching and Scholarship at the Margins

No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what nights in prison are like.
Meursault, The Stranger, Albert Camus
I left public education after an 18-year career as a high school English teacher and coach. The exit had its symbolism because at that time I was wearing a wrist brace on my right hand from overuse after almost two decades of responding to about 4000 essays and 6000 journal entries per year; in other words, I left public education broken.
A former student of mine on the cusp of becoming a first-year English teacher asked me recently what my first years were like, and I had to confess that from day one, my career as an educator has always been at the margins, a stranger at all levels of formal schooling and academia.
Yes, my hand was exhausted from marking essays, but I was broken as a public school teacher by administrators and in a bit of not so hyperbolic science fiction, The System.
Every single day of my life as a public school teacher, I worked against the system—but I did so with my door open because I believed (and still believe) my defiance was for The Cause.
I was never defiant for my own benefit, but resistant to the structures, policies, and practices that I believed dehumanized teachers and students, that worked against formal education as liberation.
I didn’t punish students for being a few seconds late to class, for asking to go to the restroom. I didn’t stand guard at the doorway or in the hallways as if we were surveilling a criminal population of teens.
We laughed and moved around in my room, played music and even danced during breaks. Students ate candy, food, sneaking in drinks occasionally.
And to a fault, I was friendly with my students—a friend to my students. In the perfect sort of irony or symmetry, many of those students are today my friends on Facebook.
But toward the end, after year upon year of wrestling with administration and finding little Strangers in Academia: Teaching and Scholarship at the Margins – the becoming radical:

CURMUDGUCATION: Ed Debate Political Fault Lines

CURMUDGUCATION: Ed Debate Political Fault Lines:

Ed Debate Political Fault Lines

Even a casual stroll through the Garden of Reformy Delights reveals some flora and fauna that do not ordinarily grow together. Here are some small government types clamoring for education standards imposed on the federal level. There are some nominal liberals complaining about the evils of teacher unions. Support for charter schools runs across the entire political range.

And it's no different in the Greenhouse of Reform Resistance. The push against Common Core united Bible-thumping conservatives with godless heathen liberals. The lawmakers in Oklahoma who just rejected test-and-wonky-math-driven evaluation for teachers were not Democrats standing up for teachers' unions, but Republicans standing up for local control.

The Ed Reform Debates have been marked by wholesale traffic in Strange Bedfellows, and that tends to create some stress and strain within some alliances.

At the Fordham blog, Robert Pondiscio is concerned that schisms within the reform camp are creating problems for conservatives. Specifically, he sees the "liberal" wing of reform, the social justice warriors, pushing out the conservatives, the fans of unleashing free market forces, a conflict that Pondiscio says he's been seeing unfold at various reformy gatherings.

One veteran conservative education reformer describes himself as “furious and frustrated” by the increasing dominance of social justice warriors in education reform and the marginalization of dissenting views. “It's an existential threat,” he notes. “Any group that only associates with likeminded people is susceptible to becoming extreme, inflexible, self-righteous, and losing its ability to see its own weaknesses.” This opinion was echoed in a series of interviews with other 
CURMUDGUCATION: Ed Debate Political Fault Lines:

Teachers Still Haven’t Forgiven Michelle Rhee -- NYMag

Teachers Still Haven’t Forgiven Michelle Rhee -- NYMag:

Teacher Unions Still Haven’t Forgiven Michelle Rhee, Don’t Care How Well Her Policies Work

In 2007, Michelle Rhee took over as chancellor of the board of education in Washington, D.C. In part because her policies were radical, and in part because she expressed her views in an abrasive fashion, and in part because she worked in a major media center, Rhee became the face of education reform, and, consequently, the number-one enemy of teacher unions. Rhee imposed sweeping reforms to introduce measurement and accountability into the schools, including a controversial new teaching contract, which gave every teacher a 20 percent raise, and allowed them to become eligible for large performance bonuses if they gave up the tenure protections that made it difficult to fire them.

For teacher unions and their supporters, Rhee remains the premier antagonist, where her name remains a curse word. Erik Loomis laments that the Obama administration still “believes in Rheeism.Casey Quinlan, writing for ThinkProgress, castigates the Obama administration for citing D.C. reforms as a model. Bruce Vailhas a whole article for In These Times lamenting the fact that Rhee’s successor, Kaya Henderson, has continued her policies (quotes from union sources: “[Rhee] is still here, but in the form of Kaya Henderson”; “It’s Rheeism without Rhee,” etc.)
But here is an odd thing that none of these sources mention: Rhee’s policies have worked. Studies have found that Rhee’s teacher-evaluation system has indeed increased student learning. What’s more, the overall performance of D.C. public school students on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) has risen dramatically and outpaced the rest of the country. And if you suspect cheating or “teaching to the test” is the cause, bear in mind NAEP tests are not the ones used in teacher evaluations; it’s a test used to assess national trends, with no incentive to cheat. (My wife works for a D.C. charter school.)
Some critics have suggested that perhaps the changing demographics in Washington (which has grown whiter and more affluent) account for the improvement. Kristin Blagg and Matthew Chingos at the Urban Institute dig into the data, and the answer is: Nope, that’s not it. The amount of improvement that would be expected by demographic change alone (the blue bars) is exceeded by the actual improvement (the gray bars):

This is important because Hillary Clinton is facing intense pressure to back away from the Obama administration’s pro-reform agenda. That pressure is coming from sources that regard the actual outcome of education policy for students to be a trivial question unworthy of consideration — both ThinkProgress and In These Times treat the position of teacher unions as ipso facto correct, and education policy solely as a question of labor rights for employees rather than as a vital component of an economic-mobility strategy. They don't claim Rhee's policies failed to improve student outcomes. They simply ignore the question. Loomis does assert, “alleviating poverty is far and away the most important piece of the solution to school inequality,” — a common aphorism among left-wing critics, which conveniently allows him to avoid mentioning the actual, Teachers Still Haven’t Forgiven Michelle Rhee -- NYMag: