Archive for the ‘Education advocacy’ Category

I DO NOT #SupportTheCore

In Common Core, Education advocacy, School Deform, School reform on Thursday, 2 October 2014 at 05:20

#SupportTheCore: How Not To Do a Social Media Campaign.


vam needs to go vamoose!

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 06:32


as you can see  from the article (and, there are MANY more studies and research) show that vam DOES NOT WORK:

“VAMs should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed to individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools. Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the SYSTEM-LEVEL conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.”


this is from the amazing diane ravitch, a true warrior against anything that HURTS our children and is unnecessary of downright wrong.  i respect and admire her so very much.

from arne-white suburban moms-duncan, who”told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were” (retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/16/arne-duncan-white-surburban-moms-upset-that-common-core-shows-their-kids-arent-brilliant/).  funny, because diane ravitch is not a white suburban mom, jonathan kozol is not a white suburban mom, richard woods (running for state school superintendent in my good old state of geaoria, is not a white suburban mom (richard,] is the ONLY georgia candidate for superintendent who is wholly against common core (see: http://woodsforsuper.com/teachereval-testing-standards.html)

AND…I am NOT a white suburban mom (my kids are furry and have four legs and, thankfully, no opposing thumbs for which to bubble in answer sheets).  additionally, i already know my kids are JUST as brilliant as i think they are!  arne would not convince me otherwise…even if they could take tests! 

let us go back to arne for a moment and his reaction to the ACTUAL quantitative research about vam.  in another brilliant diane ravitch article (see: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/19/strauss-what-does-arne-think-of-new-vam-studies/), diane writes about valerie strauss calling the u.s. department of education to ask if arne was aware of the MULTITUDE of research (even a GATES funded study) proving vam was not an accurate and, as one study put it,  “VAM ratings had about the same relationship to reading and math scores as to changes in a student’s height”: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/05/13/32value-add.h33.html).  and she received the following response:  “Strauss called the U.S. Department of Education to ask whether Secretary Duncan was aware of the research and whether it had changed his views. The answers: yes, he was aware of the research; no, it had not changed his views.”

huh?!?!?!  maybe arne was playing basketball during his statistics class.

ravitch-everything you need to know about common core.

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, School Deform, School reform, Uncategorized on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 04:10


blog to watch

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Deform on Wednesday, 5 February 2014 at 07:42

this is francesco portelo’s page.  he is one of the many in the ‘famous’ rubber rooms.  so, so many have been through the manipulations and lies of the ny doe.  francesco’s story is just one in many.  sad, but true.


you might also be interested in another case called “david versus goliath.”  david pakter fought and refused to back down.  he is a true hero in education and i am extremely proud to know him and be able to call him “friend.”  here is one link to his amazing story (ironically written by francesco portelos):


one more:


just know that these are only TWO stories in thousands.  many did not fight.  many tried to fight.  many sit in rubber rooms waiting to hear their “fate.”  it’s just not right.  when will this inane war on teachers STOP?  we have teachers who jump in front of bullets to save children, teachers who stay at work for DAYS with stranded students during a snowstorm instead of going home to their own families, as well as teachers who do remarkable things each and every day out of a true care for their students.  unfortunately, trying to save childrens’ lives or comforting them while they are stuck at school for two days are NOT part of the common core.  there are no tests to bubble in, so these things teachers did to protect their students and out of love don’t count.  there is no test to bubble in; nothing to show the things that go above and beyond.  instead, test scores determine their pay and could be a cause for termination. should student surveys and test scores determine a “good” teacher???  teachers are our everyday heroes.  please thank a teacher today.

a common core roadmap

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Deform on Wednesday, 5 February 2014 at 07:21



THIS is the reality of the public schools…

In Education, Education advocacy, Education Law, School Deform, School reform on Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 16:30

this is a must-read!


new york and the common core…a parody (kind of)

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Deform, School reform on Thursday, 19 September 2013 at 05:51


“igniting purpose” download

In Education, Education advocacy, School Deform, School reform on Sunday, 15 September 2013 at 17:19

i have just downloaded.  sounds interesting.  i hope to read it soon.

from a post i saw:

Igniting Purpose is still available for free online athttp://www.ignitepurposenow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Igniting-Purpose-Book1.pdf this book is a great resource for anyone looking for guidance on how to strengthen the relationship between adults and children/teenagers both at home and at school. The book discusses a philosophy that helps are children/teenagers become better people instead of better test takers. It is a philosophy that creates a home/school environment that is more nurturing and inspires young people to find their purpose in life and use their gifts in the service of others.


In Education, Education advocacy, School Deform, School reform on Friday, 13 September 2013 at 07:07

but why pay attention to the research???


capitalism and education…

In Education, Education advocacy, School Deform, School reform on Friday, 13 September 2013 at 06:54



The Secret Thoughts of a Florida Teacher: “Get Out of My Room and Leave Me Alone!”

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 at 04:49

The Secret Thoughts of a Florida Teacher: “Get Out of My Room and Leave Me Alone!”.

education…a poem.

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Friday, 6 September 2013 at 07:02
September 5, 2013

When public education was real.

Learning became a thrill.

Students learned to love to read,
And reading helped them to succeed.

School was fun each and every day.
And each student learned in a different way.

The love of school, the love of reading,
Had the students fully succeeding,

Now, testing and teaching to the test is everything,
No enrichment or review, no art and no time to sing.

Now we are producing a dumber generation,
And they are the ones supposed to lead the nation.

They can’t lead, so follow is what they will do,
For using their thinking skills will be something new.

What a mess they have made of our schools,
Treating all the teachers like worthless fools.

Public education is declining and going away,
And none of the veteran teachers want to stay.

So here we are in terrible situation,
Public education is ruined in our nation.


a leader by example…what a novel idea!

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Friday, 6 September 2013 at 06:54


a recommendation from diane ravitch

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 1 July 2013 at 07:39


Thanks, teachers, but shut your traps

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Saturday, 29 June 2013 at 07:37

Thanks, teachers, but shut your traps

Shawn Vestal The Spokesman-Review

June 28, 2013 in City

Once again, the mask of “educational reform” has slipped to reveal its real face: anger toward teachers.

Anger toward teachers – always prefaced, conditioned, softened and front-loaded with B.S. – is perhaps the single biggest factor motivating those who don’t want to pay for schools. Every now and then, this might slip our minds as we listen to the rhetoric of “reformers” – who talk about bringing technology into the classrooms, empowering principals, disempowering unions, grading and punishing schools, raising standards, setting priorities, etc.

At bottom, it’s simply anger toward teachers. Summers off! Health benefits! Paid vacations! Who do they think they are, these teachers? At bottom, it’s conviction that the real problem with education is that teachers are too well-paid, too lavishly rewarded for doing such a lousy job, and, even worse, that they don’t really care about children.

They are selfish, these teachers.

Rep. Liz Pike, a Camas Republican, is the latest to let her sneering anger show through the mask. Pike posted a Facebook rant that quickly made the online rounds this week in which she nastily and sarcastically insulted teachers who want a cost-of-living raise. I don’t know if there’s room in the budget for this raise, but it’s surely unsurprising that the teachers themselves would want one.

Still, you get the sense that Liz Pike is a teensy bit sick of it.

“I spent the morning answering emails from constituents,” her Facebook post begins. “I receive a lot of emails from teachers complaining about their cost of living increases being suspended.

“Here’s an open letter to public educators!

“Congratulations on enjoying your last day of the school year. If I had the opportunity to choose my career all over, I would have opted to get the necessary degree and teaching certificate so that I too could enjoy summertime off with my children, spring break vacations, Christmas break vacations, paid holidays, a generous pension and health insurance benefits.

“Instead, I chose to work a career in private sector business so that I could be one of those tax payers who funds your salaries and benefits as a state employee in a local school district.”

One gets the sense that Pike feels insufficiently thanked for being a business owner. Insufficiently lauded.

She continued:

“First, let me be clear, thank you for your service to our schools. I hope you are one of the excellent instructors who is inspiring our children to reach their full intellectual potential and learn the value of true leadership in our community. I hope you are one of the brightest and best in your teaching profession who is willing to raise the bar in our public education system that unfortunately continues to plummet when compared to worldwide education standards. The big difference between the U.S. public education system and others in the world is that we have unions that only care about the adults in the system. Since the rise of teachers’ unions in this nation, our public education system has deteriorated.

“I always encourage folks to choose a job they love! If you are uninspired because of the lack of a cost of living increase, I encourage you to speak with your neighbors who work in the private sector. Ask them when was the last time they were guaranteed pay increases that were not based on performance standards. Furthermore, teachers who are dissatisfied with their pay and benefits should look for work elsewhere so that someone who is inspired to greatness can take their place in the classroom. Our children deserve an exceptional and inspired teacher in every classroom. Don’t you agree? …

“To every excellent teacher in Clark County. Thank you for the great work you are doing in our classrooms. Enjoy your summer!”

Pike seems to have a foggy grasp on the questions surrounding the unionization of teachers in other countries, but hey – there’s some excellent advice in there among the misinformed anger against teachers. Choose a job you love. Choose a job you love – and abandon any expectation that your pay might keep up with inflation. Choose a job you love – and never dare to question the wisdom of those who set your pay. Choose a job you love – and shut the hell up.

Unless, I suppose, you’re a business owner. Then you should go around begging for breaks from the state and whining about your burden, every day, all day.

Pike owns an advertising firm and an organic farm, which sells eggs and produce. Farms enjoy – and perhaps deserve – a wide range of tax breaks under our state tax system, for everything from bull semen to chicken bedding. This last one is meaningful to Pike – those who raise chickens pay no sales taxes for wood-shavings or for the propane used to heat chicken houses.

Upon taking office as a lawmaker last fall, she instantly sought to extend the propane tax break to greenhouses. First things first. The owners of greenhouses apparently do not love their job enough – do not find themselves sufficiently inspired to greatness – that they don’t want a little boost in their pocketbook.

She urges her constituents to support – and hug! – local farmers. She noted in a legislative update: “They are forced to compete with cheap imported produce from other parts of the world.”

Forced to compete! If only they could have chosen a job that they loved.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@spokesman.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.

Retrieved from: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/jun/28/thanks-teachers-but-shut-your-traps/

Education Chief Lets States Delay Use of Tests in Decisions About Teachers’ Jobs

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, Special Education on Thursday, 20 June 2013 at 12:23

Education Chief Lets States Delay Use of Tests in Decisions About Teachers’ Jobs


Published: June 18, 2013

Acknowledging that the nation’s educators face large challenges in preparing students for more rigorous academic standards and tests, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, told state education officials on Tuesday that they could postpone making career decisions about teachers based on performance evaluations tied to new tests.

Rick West/Daily Herald, via Associated Press

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said “the rollout of new, higher, state-selected standards will continue on pace.”

Mr. Duncan wrote in a letter to state education officers that they could delay using teacher evaluations that incorporate test results for “personnel determinations” by another year, until 2016-17. The postponement was in response to growing complaints from teachers’ unions and school administrators that they were being held accountable for results on tests before they had time to adjust to new curriculum standards.

Over the past 18 months, states have agreed to adopt new “college and career ready” standards for mathematics and reading and to tether teacher performance ratings partly to student achievement on standardized tests based on those new standards. These changes are part of an agreement with the Department of Education that allowed states to qualify for waivers from No Child Left Behind, the signature Bush-era federal education law.

Most states were at risk of violating the most onerous provisions of that law, which required that all children be proficient in math and reading by 2014. The waivers relaxed that requirement in exchange for agreement by the states on a timeline for instituting the new standards and teacher evaluations.

As states have scrambled to revise their public school curriculums and develop the new performance ratings, teachers have complained that they have not had time to learn how to bring the new standards into their classrooms before being subjected to new tests. They have also protested that they are in effect forced to teach one curriculum in the morning and another in the afternoon, because some states are still administering old tests while introducing new standards.

Teachers’ unions have fought with education officials and lawmakers over the proper role of standardized tests in public schools and, most controversially, in individual ratings of teachers. A backlash against high-stakes testing has also been building in several states, including New York, Texas and Washington. And legislators and Tea Party critics in states including Indiana and Michigan have said that the federal Education Department has pushed the new standards on states without consulting teachers or parents.

In April, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, warned that the new standards could be consigned to the “dustbin of history” and proposed that teachers be given a year to master the new curriculums before test results counted in tenure or other personnel decisions, including possible firings.

In his letter to state education chiefs, Mr. Duncan wrote that he appreciated “both the courage to tackle so many challenges at once and the burdens this imposes on frontline educators.”

The department will now allow states to apply, in effect, for waivers from their waivers. States that are introducing new tests will also be relieved of having to give both new and old tests in the same school year.

“This decision ensures that the rollout of new, higher, state-selected standards will continue on pace,” Mr. Duncan said in a statement, “but that states that need it will have some flexibility in when they begin using student growth data for high-stakes decisions.”

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. Duncan insisted that Tuesday’s announcement did not amount to a “pause or moratorium” in introducing new standards, tests or performance evaluations.

Some education policy groups expressed disappointment. Daria Hall, K-12 policy director at the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for racial minority students and low-income children, said the evaluations would be introduced without any teeth. “So you’re saying set up a system that tells us we have teachers who aren’t up to it, but don’t do anything about it for another year,” she said.

In an interview, Ms. Weingarten said she welcomed the flexibility. “It’s a big recognition that you have to actually prepare people to do the work that they need to do when you’ve asked them to do something fundamentally different,” she said, adding, “You can’t lead with measurement and testing.”

Some states have already put teacher evaluation systems in place and may begin using them to make decisions about raises, tenure or staff changes earlier. New York, for example, already rolled out new tests based on the more rigorous standards this year and has begun carrying out teacher evaluations in most of the state. Mitchell D. Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary education in Massachusetts and the president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said he hoped the secretary would guard against further extensions. “Inertia is a powerful force you can’t overestimate,” Mr. Chester said. “So I do worry that any signals on delays really do allow folks to hope that new evaluation programs are not implemented.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 19, 2013, on page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: Education Chief Lets States Delay Use of Tests in Decisions About Teachers’ Jobs.

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/education/us-lets-states-delay-using-tests-to-rate-teachers.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

superman is a fictional character…apparently, so is true pedagogy.

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 20 May 2013 at 17:22


Time to Stop Waiting for Superman

Jason Stanford

At some point, we need to stop believing in miracles, at least in education. While we’re still getting over the RICO indictments handed down in the Atlanta cheating scandal, here comes the revelation that the success Michelle Rhee achieved as the “no excuses” superintendent of Washington, D.C.’s public schools was the product of massive cheating.Those asking why Rhee isn’t under indictment just like her former colleague in Atlanta are missing the bigger question: If she’s an example of its success, is the theory behind market-driven education reform valid?

Rhee attracted a lot of attention before getting the top spot in DC. When Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed her superintendent, she went from managing an education nonprofit with 120 employees to running a school system with 55,000 students, 11,500 employees and a budget of $200 million. She’d never even been a principal before, and her only classroom experience was Teach for America.

She did not seem daunted by the stage. She bragged that she only answered to the mayor and put principals on notice to get those test scores up. Rhee fired more than 1,000 teachers and 36 principals who failed to raise test scores and gave $276,265 in bonuses to employees who performed well.

Passing rates rose, and she became the “it girl” for education reform. TIME and Newsweekput her on the cover. Oprah put her on the couch and called her “a warrior woman.” In a 2008 debate, Barack Obama called Rhee “a wonderful new superintendent”, promptingspeculation that she was being considered for Education Secretary, and when Fenty lost reelection, Sec. Arne Duncan intervened in an attempt to keep her on the job because her reforms “absolutely have to continue.” When Rhee quit instead, he issued a press release so laudatory it almost included pom-poms.

“Michelle Rhee has been a pivotal leader in the school reform movement and we expect she will continue to be a force for change wherever she goes,” said Duncan.

Her star rose even further when she went back on Oprah to announce she was creating an education reform project called Students First to spread her reforms to other communities. “I am going to start a revolution. I’m going to start a movement in this country on behalf of the nation’s children,” Rhee told Oprah. Rhee neglected to disclose that her fundersincluded foundations supporting charter school expansion and “parent-trigger” laws.

Meanwhile, the Democratic establishment got over her shabby treatment of teachers. When the documentary Waiting for Superman featured Rhee in a starring role, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke before a screening at the 2012 Democratic convention, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker headlined a cocktail reception afterward.

All the while some questioned whether her success was illusory. In 2011, USA Todayidentified abnormally high rates of wrong-to-right erasures that coincided with big jumps in test scores in more than half of all DC schools. The resulting federal Department of Education investigation looked less than diligent when Sec. Duncan appeared on a panelwith Rhee.

According to an internal DCPS memo released late last week, it was worse than suspected with evidence of systemic cheating at “191 teachers representing 70 schools.” A DC school official said another investigation into the matter would be “impractical.”

Cheating is nothing new in high-stakes testing. Between 2008-2012, test-cheating scandals have occurred in 37 states and in the District of Columbia, but the cult of Rhee’s success has driven similar reforms in 25 states according to Students First. If Rhee’s success was fake, is there any evidence that high-stakes testing works?

It’s possible that high-stakes testing is best understood as a massive experiment proving theHeisenberg Uncertainty Principle that describes how observing a process can change the process. When it comes to testing, educators have long known that “You don’t get better pork by weighing your pig every day,” as a Texas superintendent said last year. Testing our kids didn’t make them smarter, but it may have changed them.

A new study from The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education out Thursday (grab the summary here) discredits the fundamental assumption that market-based reforms produce results in education. The study, coauthored by a former program manager for Pearson Education, examined the claims of progress in DC and found that test scores regressed and achievement gaps grew in DC relative to other urban school districts.

Where Rhee claimed success, the report found that National Assessment of Education Progress “scores showed minimal-to-no improvement for low-income and minority students, and some losses. Moreover, higher scores were due in most cases not to actual improvements for any age group, but to an influx of wealthier students.”

There was no DC miracle. Browbeating students and teachers into raising scores on state tests only makes them better at taking state tests, and reforming our schools in hopes of replicating an illusion is a petty crime against humanity.  Even George W. Bush was forced to admit there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and we’ve long since gotten over the shock that Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire were juiced more than a Florida orange grove. We believe lies at our own peril. It’s time to stop waiting for Superman and focus on the hard work of teaching our children the way we know works.

Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-stanford/time-to-stop-waiting_b_3306637.html

common core…the end-all-be all? i think not…

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 13 May 2013 at 06:03

Two Moms vs. Common Core

How an eight-year-old’s homework assignment led to a political upheaval

By  Maggie Gallagher

Indiana has become the first state to retreat from the Common Core standards, as Governor Mike Pence has just signed a bill suspending their implementation.

A great deal has been written and spoken about Common Core, but it is worth rehearsing the outlines again. Common Core is a set of math and English standards developed largely with Gates Foundation money and pushed by the Obama administration and the National Governors Association. The standards define what every schoolchild should learn each year, from first grade through twelfth, and the package includes teacher evaluations tied to federally funded tests designed to ensure that schools teach to Common Core.

Over 40 states hurriedly adopted Common Core, some before the standards were even written, in response to the Obama administration’s making more than $4 billion in federal grants conditional on their doing so. Only Texas, Alaska, Virginia, and Nebraska declined. (Minnesota adopted the English but not the math standards.)

Here is my prediction: Indiana is the start of something big.

Just a year ago Common Core was untouchable in Indiana, as in most other places. Common Core had been promoted by conservative governor Mitch Daniels, and the state superintendent of public schools, Tony Bennett, was a rising GOP education star.

How did the bipartisan Common Core “consensus” collapse?

It collapsed because some parents saw that Common Core was actually lowering standards in their children’s schools. And because advocates for Common Core could not answer the questions these parents raised.

In Indiana, the story starts with two Indianapolis moms, Heather Crossin and her friend Erin Tuttle.

In September 2011, Heather suddenly noticed a sharp decline in the math homework her eight-year-old daughter was bringing home from Catholic school.

“Instead of many arithmetic problems, the homework would contain only three or four questions, and two of those would be ‘explain your answer,’” Heather told me. “Like, ‘One bridge is 412 feet long and the other bridge is 206 feet long. Which bridge is longer? How do you know?’”

She found she could not help her daughter answer the latter question: The “right” answer involved heavy quotation from Common Core language. A program designed to encourage thought had ended up encouraging rote memorization not of math but of scripts about math.

Heather was noticing on the ground some of the same things that caused Stanford mathematics professor R. James Milgram to withhold his approval from the Common Core math standards.

Professor Milgram was the only math content expert on the Validation Committee reviewing the standards, and he concluded that the Common Core standards are, as he told the Texas state legislature, “in large measure a political document that . . . is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high-achieving countries give dramatically better results.”

The Common Core math standards deemphasize performing procedures (solving many similar problems) in favor of attempting to push a deeper cognitive understanding — e.g., asking questions like “How do you know?”

In fact, according to a scholarly 2011 content analysis published in Education Researcher by Andrew Porter and colleagues, the Common Core math standards bear little resemblance to the national curriculum standards in countries with high-achieving math students: “Top-achieving countries for which we had content standards,” these scholars note, “put a greater emphasis on [the category] ‘perform procedures’ than do the U.S. Common Core standards.”

So why was this new, unvalidated math approach suddenly appearing in Heather’s little corner of the world, and at a Catholic school?

Heather was not alone in questioning the new approach. So many parents at the school complained that the principal convened a meeting. He brought in the saleswoman from the Pearson textbook company to sell the parents. “She told us we were all so very, very lucky, because our children were using one of the very first Common Core–aligned textbooks in the country,” says Heather.

But the parents weren’t buying what the Pearson lady was selling.

“Eventually,” Heather recalled, “our principal just threw his hands up in the air and said, ‘I know parents don’t like this type of math but we have to teach it that way, because the new state assessment tests are going to use these standards.’”

That’s the first time Heather had heard that Indiana had replaced its well-regarded state tests, ISTEP (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress–Plus) in favor of a brand-new federally funded set of assessments keyed to Common Core. “I thought I was a fairly informed person, and I was shocked that a big shift in control had happened and I hadn’t the slightest idea,” she says.

Erin Tuttle says she noticed the change in the math homework at about the same time as Heather, and she also noticed that her child was bringing home a lot fewer novels and more “Time magazine for kids” — a reflection of the English standards’ emphasis on “informational texts” rather than literature.

These standards are designed not to produce well-educated citizens but to prepare students to enter community colleges and lower-level jobs. All students, not just non-college-material students, are going to be taught to this lower standard.

I want to pause and highlight the significance of Heather and Erin’s testimony. Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle did not get involved in opposing Common Core because of anything Michelle Malkin or Glenn Beck said to rile them up, but because of what they saw happening in their own children’s Catholic school. When experts or politicians said that Common Core would not lead to a surrender of local control over curriculum, Heather and Erin knew better. (Ironically, the leverage in Indiana was Tony Bennett’s school-choice program, which made state vouchers available to religious schools, but only if they adopted state tests — which were later quietly switched from ISTEP to the untried Common Core assessments.)

At first Heather thought maybe her ignorance of Common Core was her fault. Maybe, with her kids (as she imagined) safely ensconced in good Catholic schools, she hadn’t paid attention.

That’s when she and Erin started contacting people — “and we found out something more shocking: Nobody had any idea,” Heather told me.

A friend of Heather’s who is a former reporter for a state newspaper and now a teacher didn’t know. Nor did her state senator, Scott Schneider, even though he sat on the state senate’s Education Committee. (In Indiana, as in most states, Common Core was adopted by the Board of Education without consulting the legislature.) Nor, evidently, did the state’s education reporters — Heather could find literally no press coverage of the key moment when Indiana’s Board of Education abandoned its fine state standards and well-regarded state tests in favor of Common Core.

“They brought in David Coleman, the architect of the standards, to give a presentation, they asked a few questions, there was no debate, no cost analysis, just a sales job, and everybody rubber-stamped it,” Heather said.

So began an 18-month journey in which these two mothers probably changed education history.

One reason the media ignored the implementation of Common Core is that the Indiana education debate was dominated by Governor Daniels’s high-profile effort to expand school choice. But as my colleague at the American Principles Project (APP) Emmett McGroarty pointed out to me, nationalizing curriculum standards quietly knifes the school-choice movement in the back. As McGroarty puts it, “What difference does it make if you fund different schools if they all teach the same basic curriculum the same basic way?”

Common Core advocates continue to insist that Common Core does not usurp local control of curriculum, but in practice high-stakes tests keyed to the Common Core standards ensure that curriculum will follow.

Emmett McGroarty turns out to have been a very important person in the journey that Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle made to take down Common Core.

Heather and Erin were helped by many people and groups along the way, including the Pioneer Institute’s Jamie Gass, the Hoover Institution’s Bill Evers, and the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke. Many Indiana organizations played key roles, beginning with the indispensable leadership of the Indiana Tea Party. Other natural allies Heather and Erin contacted and educated in order to build the movement include the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Indiana Family Institute, and the Indiana Association of Home Educators.

But Heather told me that what McGroarty and his colleague Jane Robbins at the American Principles Project did was unique. “I call him the General of this movement,” Heather says. “He strategizes with people in every state. Day or night, Saturday or Sunday, Emmett’s there if you need him.”

The 2012 white paper, co-sponsored by the American Principles Project and the Pioneer Institute, that urged the American Legislative Exchange Council to oppose Common Core became Heather and Erin’s bible. “That white paper is the most important summary; we gave copies to people and said, ‘Read this. If you can’t read the whole thing, read the executive summary.’ Because it covered all the bases, from the quality of the standards to the illegitimate federal data collection to the federal government’s involvement in promoting Common Core,” Heather told me.

But even more influential than its message development was APP’s willingness to give in-depth, hands-on, intensive help whenever Heather and Erin requested it. “Usually you call up a national organization, and they are really nice, they say they are with you, and they send you some helpful research and say, ‘Good luck with that,’” Heather explained. But APP did much more. “All along the way APP has been the greatest source of support mentally, emotionally, and with research that a grassroots organization could have had.”

A big break came in June 2012, when the local tea-party council asked Heather and Erin to develop a flyer that it could use to spread the word to tea-party meetings all across the state; the two women turned to Emmett and Jane to help draft it. The first time Heather and Erin were asked to appear on a local radio show (something they had never done before), they asked Emmett if he would fly in and do the show with them. APP staff would fly out to attend rallies, do local radio shows with Heather and Erin, help them prepare to meet with editorial boards, and act as sounding boards and strategists each step of the way as the grassroots movement grew.

In 2012, it looked as if Heather and Erin had failed: Prodded by Governor Daniels, the Indiana legislature voted down a bill to withdraw from Common Core.

Heather was ready to give up. Without hands-on support, she told me, “For sure, I would have given up. But Emmett told me this was just the beginning.”

So Senator Schneider agreed to introduce the bill again, and Heather and Erin went to work crisscrossing the state that summer for rallies and meetings that drew large crowds. The media reluctantly began to take notice.

And then something magical intervened: an election.

Tony Bennett’s reelection as state superintendent of public schools was supposed to be a slam dunk. His opponent, Glenda Ritz, was a Democrat in a deeply Republican state, and she had no name recognition and almost no money; she ended up being outspent by more than 5 to 1 as Bennett’s war chest swelled to $1.5 million with major gifts from Michael Bloomberg’s PAC, Walmart heiress Alice Walton, and other national players.

But Bennett was also the highest-profile public defender of Common Core, while Ritz was raising concerns about it.

When the dust had settled on election day, Bennett had lost, badly. It was the upset of the year.

When Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (which backs Common Core), found out late on election night that Bennett had been unseated by the unknown, underfunded underdog Glenda Ritz, he wasn’t happy: “Tony Bennett! Sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t,” Petrilli told Huffington Post writer Joy Resmovits. “You can quote me on that.”

Well, something had clearly hit the fan.

Bennett’s defeat marked a decisive turning point, making every Indiana politician aware how deep voter discontent over Common Core was.

In Indiana, as elsewhere, Common Core proponents have responded to public criticism by accusing the parents of being stupid and uninformed or possibly lying. Common Core, they say, is not a curriculum; it is not being driven by the federal government; it will not interfere with local control of schools.

A few days before Senator Schneider’s anti–Common Core bill passed, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce (which had spent more than $100,000 in ads opposing the bill) lashed out in frustration at the outsized effect Heather and Erin had had on the legislature: “Two moms from Indianapolis, a handful of their friends and a couple dozen small but vocal Tea Party groups. That’s the entire Indiana movement that is advocating for a halt to the Common Core State Standards,” the Chamber of Commerce fumed.

This is not accurate, given the opposition by many education experts, including Professor Milgram, Professor Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas, Professor Diane Ravitch of New York University, Professor Chris Tienken of Seton Hall, and former assistant education secretary Williamson Evers at Hoover.

But never underestimate the power of a mother, especially one who is defending her own child’s future.

What started in Indiana is not staying in Indiana.

Legislation opposing Common Core has been introduced in at least seven other states, and large crowds are turning out at public panels and rallies in states from Tennessee to Idaho. Last month the Michigan state house voted to withhold implementation funding, despite Republican governor Rick Snyder’s support for Common Core; the Missouri senate this week approved a bill calling for statewide hearings on Common Core.

In April the RNC passed a resolution opposing Common Core as “inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children.”

On April 20, Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R., Mo.) sent a letter — co-signed by 33 other congressmen — to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, asking for a detailed accounting of changes in student-privacy policies associated with the new national database the Obama administration is building as part of its Common Core support. The letter pointed out that the Education Department had already made regulatory changes — without consulting Congress — that appear to circumvent the 1974 law that limits the disclosure to third parties of any data collected on students.

“The Common Core places inappropriate limitations on the influence of states and localities, while burdening them with additional, unfunded expenses,” Representative Luetkemeyer told me via e-mail.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is taking the lead nationally in shining light on the Obama administration’s key role in promoting Common Core. On April 16, Grassley was joined by seven other GOP senators (including major presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Rand Paul), who signed a letter calling on their colleagues to stop funding the implementation of Common Core, which, they point out, appears to violate federal laws that explicitly forbid the Education Department to influence curriculum or assemble a national database. “I voted against the Economic Stimulus Bill that essentially gave the Department of Education a blank check that was used for Race to the Top, and I have been very critical of how the Department of Education used those funds to push a specific education policy agenda from Washington on the states without specific input from Congress,” Senator Grassley told me via e-mail.

The recent announcement by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, that the AFT wants to delay implementation of the Common Core tests in New York put a bipartisan nail in the coffin of consensus.

And more moms are following the trail Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle blazed.

One major objection to the Common Core standards is that they are not evidence-based. Their effect on academic achievement is simply unknown, because they have not been field-tested anywhere in the world.

But moms have a more elemental objection: The whole operation is a federal power grab over their children’s education. Once a state adopts Common Core, its curriculum goals and assessments are effectively nationalized. And the national standards are effectively privatized, because they are written, owned, and copyrighted by two private trade organizations.

“Legislators are incredulous when they learn the standards and assessments are written by two private trade organizations — the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This creates concern why public education is now controlled by two private organizations,” says Gretchen Logue, a Missouri education activist and one of the co-founders of Truth in American Education, a network of activists and organizations opposing Common Core. “They also don’t like that the standards and assessments are copyrighted and cannot be changed or modified by the states.”

So why are so many good conservatives, from Jeb Bush to Rick Snyder, supporting Common Core? Many conservatives signed on to a clever strategy that asked them to endorse, not the specific standards, but the idea of high “internationally benchmarked” national standards. It is a principle of psychological persuasion that, once you act, in however small a manner, you will feel cognitively compelled to justify your action. Many business leaders with no experience or expertise in education reform have come on board.

This is as good an explanation as any for why so many conservatives are aggressively promoting a set of national standards about which we know, for sure, four things:

a) They are not internationally benchmarked. In fact, for math in particular, they are exactly contrary to the kind of national standards used in high-performing countries.

b) The two major experts on content who were on the Validation Committee reviewing the standards backed out and repudiated them when they saw what the standards actually are.

c) State legislatures and parents were cut out of the loop in evaluating the standards themselves or the cost of implementing them.

d) The Common Core standards are owned by private trade organizations, which parents cannot influence.

These objections, among others, led Diane Ravitch to call on her blog for backing out of Common Core, as the standards were “flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.”

Ravitch went on: “The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of the nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.”

I asked Heather how she felt on that historic day she saw the very first anti–Common Core bill in the nation pass. “I was elated!” she told me. “We were up against so many powerful groups with so much money. We fought against all odds, tons of money, a slew of paid lobbyists. All we had was the truth, the facts, and a passion to protect the future of our children. Our victory is proof that our American system of government still works.”

— Maggie Gallagher is a fellow at the American Principles Project. Her work can be read at MaggieGallagher.com.

Retrieved from: http://www.nationalreview.com/node/347973/print

exhaustion and the american teacher…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Sunday, 5 May 2013 at 08:55


what first amendment?!?!

In Education, Education advocacy, Education Law, Pedagogy, School reform on Sunday, 5 May 2013 at 08:51


pay now or pay later…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Friday, 3 May 2013 at 06:29

The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries



WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.

We have a rare chance now, with many teachers near retirement, to prove we’re serious about education. The first step is to make the teaching profession more attractive to college graduates. This will take some doing.

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.

So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. For Erik Benner, an award-winning history teacher in Keller, Tex., money has been a constant struggle. He has two children, and for 15 years has been unable to support them on his salary. Every weekday, he goes directly from Trinity Springs Middle School to drive a forklift at Floor and Décor. He works until 11 every night, then gets up and starts all over again. Does this look like “A Plan,” either on the state or federal level?

We’ve been working with public school teachers for 10 years; every spring, we see many of the best teachers leave the profession. They’re mowed down by the long hours, low pay, the lack of support and respect.

Imagine a novice teacher, thrown into an urban school, told to teach five classes a day, with up to 40 students each. At the year’s end, if test scores haven’t risen enough, he or she is called a bad teacher. For college graduates who have other options, this kind of pressure, for such low pay, doesn’t make much sense. So every year 20 percent of teachers in urban districts quit. Nationwide, 46 percent of teachers quit before their fifth year. The turnover costs the United States $7.34 billion yearly. The effect within schools — especially those in urban communities where turnover is highest — is devastating.

But we can reverse course. In the next 10 years, over half of the nation’s nearly 3.2 million public school teachers will become eligible for retirement. Who will replace them? How do we attract and keep the best minds in the profession?

People talk about accountability, measurements, tenure, test scores and pay for performance. These questions are worthy of debate, but are secondary to recruiting and training teachers and treating them fairly. There is no silver bullet that will fix every last school in America, but until we solve the problem of teacher turnover, we don’t have a chance.

Can we do better? Can we generate “A Plan”? Of course.

The consulting firm McKinsey recently examined how we might attract and retain a talented teaching force. The study compared the treatment of teachers here and in the three countries that perform best on standardized tests: Finland, Singapore and South Korea.

Turns out these countries have an entirely different approach to the profession. First, the governments in these countries recruit top graduates to the profession. (We don’t.) In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don’t.) In terms of purchasing power, South Korea pays teachers on average 250 percent of what we do.

And most of all, they trust their teachers. They are rightly seen as the solution, not the problem, and when improvement is needed, the school receives support and development, not punishment. Accordingly, turnover in these countries is startlingly low: In South Korea, it’s 1 percent per year. In Finland, it’s 2 percent. In Singapore, 3 percent.

McKinsey polled 900 top-tier American college students and found that 68 percent would consider teaching if salaries started at $65,000 and rose to a minimum of $150,000. Could we do this? If we’re committed to “winning the future,” we should. If any administration is capable of tackling this, it’s the current one. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan understand the centrality of teachers and have said that improving our education system begins and ends with great teachers. But world-class education costs money.

For those who say, “How do we pay for this?” — well, how are we paying for three concurrent wars? How did we pay for the interstate highway system? Or the bailout of the savings and loans in 1989 and that of the investment banks in 2008? How did we pay for the equally ambitious project of sending Americans to the moon? We had the vision and we had the will and we found a way.

Dave Eggers and Nínive Clements Calegari are founders of the 826 National tutoring centers and producers of the documentary “American Teacher.”

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/opinion/01eggers.html?_r=1&



letter of retirement from a veteran teacher

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Thursday, 11 April 2013 at 14:36

Gerald Conti’s Retirement Letter

 *italics added by me for emphasis.  not in the original posting.

Mr. Casey Barduhn, Superintendent Westhill Central School District 400 Walberta Park Road Syracuse, New York 13219

Dear Mr. Barduhn and Board of Education Members:

It is with the deepest regret that I must retire at the close of this school year, ending my more than twenty-seven years of service at Westhill on June 30, under the provisions of the 2012-15 contract. I assume that I will be eligible for any local or state incentives that may be offered prior to my date of actual retirement and I trust that I may return to the high school at some point as a substitute teacher.

As with Lincoln and Springfield, I have grown from a young to an old man here; my brother died while we were both employed here; my daughter was educated here, and I have been touched by and hope that I have touched hundreds of lives in my time here. I know that I have been fortunate to work with a small core of some of the finest students and educators on the planet.

I came to teaching forty years ago this month and have been lucky enough to work at a small liberal arts college, a major university and this superior secondary school. To me, history has been so very much more than a mere job, it has truly been my life, always driving my travel, guiding all of my reading and even dictating my television and movie viewing. Rarely have I engaged in any of these activities without an eye to my classroom and what I might employ in a lesson, a lecture or a presentation. With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill.

A long train of failures has brought us to this unfortunate pass. In their pursuit of Federal tax dollars, our legislators have failed us by selling children out to private industries such as Pearson Education. The New York State United Teachers union has let down its membership by failing to mount a much more effective and vigorous campaign against this same costly and dangerous debacle. Finally, it is with sad reluctance that I say our own administration has been both uncommunicative and unresponsive to the concerns and needs of our staff and students by establishing testing and evaluation systems that are Byzantine at best and at worst, draconian. This situation has been exacerbated by other actions of the administration, in either refusing to call open forum meetings to discuss these pressing issues, or by so constraining the time limits of such meetings that little more than a conveying of information could take place. This lack of leadership at every level has only served to produce confusion, a loss of confidence and a dramatic and rapid decaying of morale. The repercussions of these ill-conceived policies will be telling and shall resound to the detriment of education for years to come. The analogy that this process is like building the airplane while we are flying would strike terror in the heart of anyone should it be applied to an actual airplane flight, a medical procedure, or even a home repair.

Why should it be acceptable in our careers and in the education of our children? My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom. Teacher planning time has also now been so greatly eroded by a constant need to “prove up” our worth to the tyranny of APPR (through the submission of plans, materials and “artifacts” from our teaching) that there is little time for us to carefully critique student work, engage in informal intellectual discussions with our students and colleagues, or conduct research and seek personal improvement through independent study. We have become increasingly evaluation and not knowledge driven.

Process has become our most important product, to twist a phrase from corporate America, which seems doubly appropriate to this case.

After writing all of this I realize that I am not leaving my profession, in truth, it has left me. It no longer exists. I feel as though I have played some game halfway through its fourth quarter, a timeout has been called, my teammates’ hands have all been tied, the goal posts moved, all previously scored points and honors expunged and all of the rules altered.

For the last decade or so, I have had two signs hanging above the blackboard at the front of my classroom, they read, “Words Matter” and “Ideas Matter”. While I still believe these simple statements to be true, I don’t feel that those currently driving public education have any inkling of what they mean.

Sincerely and with regret,

Gerald J. Conti Social Studies Department Leader Cc: Doreen Bronchetti, Lee Roscoe


is the teaching profession becoming obsolete?

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Thursday, 11 April 2013 at 14:20

is the true art, and believe me, it is an art of teaching  (i’ve had the pleasure and honor to work with MANY fine teachers) becoming obsolete?


Why The Business Model Is Not Right for Children

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Politics, School reform on Tuesday, 9 April 2013 at 09:25

one of my schools is looking at outsourcing to a “business model” in which students who would traditionally be sent to the alternative education program because of discipline issues would now be “outsourced” to a company that has their ‘business centers’ in strip malls in which kids sit in front of computers for 4-5 hours a day while supervised by a teacher who also acts as school nurse, receptionist, custodian, etc.  there are no security guards or resource officers, as the salespeople from the company said they “never” have discipline problems.  in just this year alone, at the school which now holds the alternative program, we have had many arrests for things like aggravated assault, stealing, bringing drugs with and without intention to sell, sexual harassment…i could go on but it is just listing very poor choices that these children make/made.  i really can’t see how being in front of a computer will deter behaviors.  especially with the limited supervision of one or two staff members who may have a college degree and it may or may not be in education.  if they truly never have discipline issues, we must be doing something wrong because we have had to arrest many of our kids while at school for the types of activities i mentioned above.  

the salespeople touted that the kids would “feel like they are walking into an office building” and no attendance would be taken as it is not needed.   i guess once these kids are put into a business setting they immediately start attending “work” every day.   we have in place now a very strict attendance policy and some still skip school.  in fact, many do not care about the consequences they get now,  so, they will miraculously start going to “work-school” everyday when they skip our program now???   i don’t think so.  but…would anything else be expected from a for-profit program that treats children as if they are “consumers” or “customers?”

no meals will be provided.  the majority of these kids are on free and reduced lunch now and our meals at school might be the only ones they get that day.  what about kids who are in the special education program?  ones that may not be able to read the words on the computer screen or sit in front of a computer and guide themselves.  i have one child with such a severe reading disability that he is reading on a 2nd grade level in 9th grade.  and he will be successful working solely on a computer???  how will iep’s be followed? who is going to do the 3 crisis interventions i did this year for kids who were very seriously contemplating suicide (one even brought a straight edge razor blade to school)?  had the school not done a back pack search, as they do everyday with all kids, the razor blade would likely not have been found and we’d be dealing with a whole other situation.  what about counseling the girl who was hallucinating and seeing things?  what about the community service program all our kids must participate in?  is computer-based learning really best for kids who can’t even be motivated to sit in class and do class work or learn from actual, human teachers?  there are some kids that would thrive in self-directed, computer-based program.  from my experience in our alternative program, the majority of the kids there can’t even sit at a computer for a class period, much less hours and would certainly not thrive in that type of situation.  i feel this is setting them up for failure.  i won’t even go into the fact that this program is considered “private” which means no test scores have to be reported.  so, does that mean these “at-risk” kids who may not add to the increase (and may actually contribute to a decrease) in test scores don’t count?  that seems like the message being sent.

as i said, when the salespeople from this company spoke to the board, they really emphasized the fact that this program was a “business setting” and kids would feel like they are “walking into an office to work.”  but wait, they have all their lives to work and will spend the majority of it doing just that.  why do they need to start “working” in middle or high school?  the reason the that the teachers that are now teaching at the alternative school are so effective in helping these kids is based on the personal connection and truly individualized education they give.  not sure how the kids are going to get that from a computer screen.

the school board votes on this program this week.  i hope they realize that saving some money now will only lead to more issues later that  we, as a society will have to pay.  by this, i mean that while some of our kids go on to never get in trouble again, the majority are already heavily involved with gangs, have long school discipline records, and most have been arrested as juveniles many times (we have had kids that were charged with assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault and battery, rape, sexual assault/harassment,  carjacking and kidnapping, just to name a few).  we already know recidivism rate for these kids is high.  without exposure to those who show a true interest in these children and truly care about giving them the best education possible instead of hiding them away in a strip mall behind a computer, these kids will surely get the message that they don’t matter.  and recidivism will decrease?  i don’t think so.  and, when these “business people” get out into the real world, we likely will pay, via taxes, when they are in jail or in and out of the judicial system.  

school is NOT a business.  schools should not model themselves after businesses nor think of students as workers or customers.  while the ins and outs of the school system and such things as budgets and maintenance are business issues, the individual schools should be kept out of this model.  kids are kids.  they have their whole lives to work.  i fear without the alternative program as it is now (in an actual school with actual teachers as well as counselors, psychologists, and social workers), we will be seeing many, many more kids choose a path they may not live to see through.  or, they may see it through bars or from the grave.  we all know the statistics…

Why The Business Model Is Not Right for Children.

What We Should Learn From Atlanta

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Saturday, 6 April 2013 at 05:59

What We Should Learn from Atlanta

Posted by E. Rat 

I meant to read the “CORE” districts’ waiver application this week, but I got distracted by the indictments coming out of Atlanta on Friday.  So I read the eight hundred pageinvestigative report instead.

In the press, I am seeing a lot of disappointment in America’s educators.  Recounts of Beverly Hall’s tenure note the incredible pressures her regime put on schools; they also make sure to describe her work personality as unapproachable, removed, and aggressive – you know, not very womanly.

About sixty pages in, I was surprised to see a paper on Parks Middle School – lauding its remarkable (and false) achievement gains.  I was given this case study in successcheating to read at least twice back before the investigation was released (although not before Parks’ results should have been worrying; by the time that fan note was released, the Atlanta Public Schools had already investigated – and found – cheating at Parks (also mistresses, misuse of public funds and public buildings, and sexual harrassment – but I digress).

I think the report should stand as a clear rebuke to education reformers.  Not only do the gains they want not come as easily as they claim, they refuse to take real evidence of cheating seriously.  The report includes two position papers by academics APS asked to take a look at the test results.  The statistician notes that the test scores are about as likely as an oviparous rabbit and that cheating is likely the reason.   This study was suppressed.

Douglas Reeves – noted in APS’s internal records as an education reform proponent- spends three days visiting the twelve schools with the most suspicious records.  In his whirlwind tour that allows about half an hour at each school, he notes that all of his favorite reform strategies – high expectations, public knowledge of test scores, test prep, “strong leadership”, etc. – are in place.  So he decides that the gains aren’t suspicious at all, because obviously if you have high enough expectations and a strong enough leader, proficiency will skyrocket from 0% to 88% in a year.

Moreover, those favored strategies?  Favored some really nasty results.  The principal at Parks was lauded for removing teachers who wouldn’t get with the program.  It ends up that these teachers weren’t sad, lazy veterans but teachers who reported cheating.  His leadership skills were also honored through cash awards, performance pay, and secret gifts from education reformers when he made noises about leaving.  These cash incentives encouraged more cheating.

And since Georgia’s teachers have few job safety measures – their own Professional Standards Commission admits that districts can easily retaliate against whistleblowers – and very limited tenure protections, teachers had the choice to cheat as required or be fired.

So what rank-and-yank, cash incentives, all that leadership, and high expectations got Atlanta public school children was test scores so gamed that the schools lost Title One  program improvement money, and children who needed special education services were disqualified from them because of their remarkable testing prowess.

When education reformers explain what they want, the word “Atlanta” should shut them up.

Retrieved from: http://elementaryrat.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-we-should-learn-from-atlanta.html?m=0

Blood In Their Eyes School ‘Reformers’ Launch Their Final Assault

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Monday, 1 April 2013 at 10:15

Blood In Their Eyes School ‘Reformers’ Launch Their Final Assault

By: John Thompson

 The essence of market-driven school “reform” is captured in the wry humor of the classic movie Patton. As “Old Blood and Guts” Patton gave his standard exhortations, a battle-hardened GI responded, “Yeah, his guts, our blood.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his “brass-knuckled” edu-philanthropist backers, and the true-believers in accountability-driven “reform” may still believe they are battling teachers in order to, someday, produce greater good for more students. But, it is increasingly difficult to comprehend how they could hold on to such an illusion. More likely, test-driven corporate reformers are still enthralled in the beauty of their original theories, and they blame educators for spoiling their vision. Now, blood-in-their-eye “reformers” seem obsessed with punishing teachers who they blame for scuttling their designs for schools ruled by Big Data.

Test-driven “reform” began as a hard-nosed antithesis to traditional educators who sounded too much like bleeding heart liberals. Corporate reformers couldn’t be bothered with generations of social science into what it really takes for schools to overcome intense concentrations of generational poverty and trauma.

Having no knowledge of urban realities, the “Billionaires Boys Club” bought into the macho sound bites of “wonks” who might have spent two or three years in the classroom during their early 20s. These fervent idealists were convinced that veteran educators, and their “excuses,” were the problem. If unionized teachers had “high expectations!,” the cure for poverty could be found within the four walls of the classroom. All that was necessary was a heroic commitment to “whatever it takes!”

Even better, bubble-in “reform” provided an opportunity to repeatedly use tough-minded words such as, “accountability!” and “outcomes!” Corporate reformers funded public relations campaigns that characterized teachers as Madonnas or whores. They promoted documentaries that profiled dedicated young crusaders defeating poverty in the classroom while battling their union bosses, who supposedly protected their slug-like colleagues. Replace burned-out veterans with the Freedom Riders of the 21st century, and poor children of color would be saved.

The righteousness of “reformers'” ends justified their mendacious means. Across the nation, charter schools were set up for success, meaning that more of the most traumatized and difficult-to-educate students were crammed into neighborhood schools. Some “reformers” must have worried about the harm that the greater concentrations of extreme poverty were doing to schools. Others (such as in New York City) seemed to have no qualms turning traditional public schools into dumping grounds, in order to contrast the success of their choice schools with the failures of their unionized enemies. The most vulnerable students, sadly, became collateral damage in the battle against collective bargaining. Once “disruptive innovation” destroyed the “status quo,” it was assumed, “transformative” change would liberate all children of color.

Rahm Emanuel’s closing of 54 schools, like similar corporate “reforms” in Washington D.C. Philadelphia and elsewhere, will fail for the same reasons. They are based on theories that make sense to elites who have never held the hands or watched the fearful eyes of children traversing rival gang territory. They have never comforted kids who had just witnessed the murder of a passerby who ventured into the wrong turf. They have never taught a class where family members of students one side of the classroom have killed family members of kids on the other side. And, after the inevitable brawls, they have never held a student bruised too badly to be recognized by her own teacher.

When comparing “reformers” to General Patton, I must emphasize, I am not comparing teachers to soldiers in combat. When I say that the gutsiness of corporate schemes are paid for with blood, I mean the blood of our children. I have fretted over plenty of unconscious students, sometimes worrying that the kid was not breathing and I have been covered with plenty of their blood, but rarely have I witnessed cases of educators in danger.

The threat to the health of adults is mostly rooted in the stress of our jobs. I’ve never seen a teacher being stomped long after being knocked unconscious; it is the sound of those thuds on teenagers that affects teachers.

“Reformers” consciously added the stress of high-stakes testing to teachers in order to defeat us. But, the anxiety that non-stop testing has imposed on adults cannot rival the humiliation that it pours on our students.

I suspect that Emanuel and his allies see these closures as the last chance for a knockout blow. For nearly a decade, the true believers in accountability thought that they had the teaching profession on the ropes. But, even inside their bubble, it is now clear that teachers are fighting back. If market-driven “reformers” don’t put us away quickly, their exquisite vision for data-driven schooling will unravel. So, across the nation, the mass closings of traditional public schools are their last assault on an education system which did not appreciate their theories.

I suspect that these “reformers,” secure in their ignorance of urban realities, still believe that their opponents are to blame. Had educators welcomed enough rookies willing to gut it out and to “put children first,” the short term pain they dumped on neighborhood schools would have produced transformational gain.

It is hard to believe, however, that Emanuel and the other architects of the latest closures retain such illusions. These latter day Pattons may or may not see them as bulldozing the way towards privatization of our democracy’s schools.

Of course, sometimes we must close schools for economic reasons. There may even be times when closures are a valid way of helping students in failing schools. But, this upcoming battle only makes sense if it is motivated, in large part, by revenge against educators who they believe failed to recognize the power of their courageous battle plan.

Retrieved: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-thompson/blood-in-their-eyes-schoo_b_2940509.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=2276349,b=facebook

national resolution on high-stakes testing

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 08:58

please go to their page and sign if you are so inclined…



This resolution is modeled on the resolution passed by more than 360 Texas school boards as of April 23, 2012. [As of Oct. 2, 2012, endorsed by 819 boards representing 80% of the districts and 88% of the students.] It was written by Advancement Project;Asian American Legal Defense and Education FundFairTestForum for Education and DemocracyMecklenburgACTSDeborah MeierNAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.National Education AssociationNew York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across AmericaParents United for Responsible Education – ChicagoDiane RavitchRace to NowhereTime Out From Testing; andUnited Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

We encourage organizations and individuals to publicly endorse it. Organizations should modify it as needed for their local circumstances while also endorsing this national version.

WHEREAS, our nation’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the governor, state legislature and state education boards and administrators to reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the U.S. Congress and Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.

Retrieved from: http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution/

are test companies trying to capitalize on the adoption of the common core?

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 08:53

 i like pearson and use their testing products as a school psychologist, but when you have the company making the “high stakes tests AND making the review materials, it appears to be a conflict of interest, imo.  would you trust only studies from a drug company that makes the drug or would you try to find other, independent studies?  maybe it’s not the same, but once again, showing the bias of the reformers and their abject acceptance of the common core despite the data coming out that is NOT favorable in the states where it was piloted.

Testing company Pearson spending millions to influence schools


In America’s schools, the barrage of standardized testing kids have come under is overwhelming. From the Iowa Test of Basic Standards (ITBS) to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the alphabet soup of bubble-in tests that fill our schools isprovoking a backlash from educators and parents who think kids are over-tested and denied the opportunities for more meaningful projects, essays, and group learning.

Increasingly, school districts themselves are revolting against the testing obsession. As of last month, “232 Texas school districts have adopted resolutions” calling for a re-evaluation of the test-centered education provided to their students.

This backlash threatens an increasingly powerful special interest: the companies that make the tests and other electronic software used in classrooms. One of the largest of these corporations is Pearson Education, Inc.

Education researcher Ken Libby dug through the records and found that Pearson is spending big on lobbying in four critical states — New York, California, Texas, and Florida. Here’s a small table he made laying out the millions Pearson is spending (i could not copy the graphic for just pearson, so i am including mcgraw hill in the table):



As America confronts its addiction to high-stakes testing, it appears that the companies benefiting from it are willing to spend generously in order to keep taxpayer dollars flowing their way.

UPDATE: An original version of this post had the totals for Florida twice as high as they actually are, because of a reporting requirement in the state that requires totals to be delivered to both executive and legislative branches. A lobbyist for Pearson in Florida, Steve Ulhfelder, pointed this out to us. We apologize for the earlier error.

Retrieved from: http://www.republicreport.org/2012/testing-company-pearson-spending-millions-to-influence-schools/



Principal: ‘I was naïve about Common Core.’

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 11:56

Principal: ‘I was naïve about Common Core.’

Here’s a powerful piece about how an award-winning principal went from being a Common Core supporter to an opponent. This was written by Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York. She was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is one of the co-authors of the principals’ letter against evaluating teachers by student test scores, which has been signed by 1,535 New York principals.

By Carol Burris

When I first read about the Common Core State Standards, I cheered.  I believe that our schools should teach all students (except for those who have severe learning disabilities), the skills, habits and knowledge that they need to be successful in post secondary education. That doesn’t mean that every teenager must be prepared to enter Harvard, but it does mean that every young adult, with few exceptions, should at least be prepared to enter their local community college. That is how we give students a real choice.

I even co-authored a book, “Opening the Common Core,” on how to help schools meet that goal.  It is a book about rich curriculum and equitable teaching practices, not about testing and sanctions. We wrote it because we thought that the Common Core would be a student-centered reform based on principles of equity.

I confess that I was naïve. I should have known in an age in which standardized tests direct teaching and learning, that the standards themselves would quickly become operationalized by tests. Testing, coupled with the evaluation of teachers by scores, is driving its implementation. The promise of the Common Core is dying and teaching and learning are being distorted.  The well that should sustain the Core has been poisoned.

I hear about those distortions every day.  Many of the teachers in my high school are also the parents of young children.  They come into my office with horror stories regarding the incessant pre-testing, testing and test prep that is taking place in their own children’s classrooms.  Last month, a colleague gave me a multiple-choice quiz taken by his seven-year old son during music.  Here is a question:


Kings and queens COMMISSIONED Mozart to write symphonies for celebrations and ceremonies. What does COMMISSION mean?

  1. to force someone to do work against his or her will
  2. to divide a piece of music into different movements
  3. to perform a long song accompanied by an orchestra
  4. to pay someone to create artwork or a piece of music

Whether or not learning the word ‘commission’ is appropriate for second graders could be debated—I personally think it is a bit over the top.  What is of deeper concern, however, is that during a time when 7 year olds should be listening to and making music, they are instead taking a vocabulary quiz.

I think that the reason for the quiz is evident to anyone who has been following the reform debate.  The Common Core places an extraordinary emphasis on vocabulary development. Probably, the music teacher believes she must do her part in test prep. More than likely she is being evaluated in part by the English Language Arts test scores of the building. Teachers are engaged in practices like these because they are pressured and afraid, not because they think the assessments are educationally sound. Their principals are pressured and nervous about their own scores and the school’s scores. Guaranteed, every child in the class feels that pressure and trepidation as well.

An English teacher in my building came to me with a ‘reading test’ that her third grader took. Her daughter did poorly on the test.  As both a mother and an English teacher she knew that the difficulty of the passage and the questions were way over grade level.  Her daughter, who is an excellent reader, was crushed.  She and I looked on the side of the copy of the quiz and found the word “Pearson.” The school, responding to pressure from New York State, had purchased test prep materials from the company that makes the exam for the state.

I am troubled that a company that has a multi-million dollar contract to create tests for the state should also be able to profit from producing test prep materials. I am even more deeply troubled that this wonderful little girl, whom I have known since she was born, is being subject to this distortion of what her primary education should be.

There are so many stories that I could tell–the story of my guidance counselor’s sixth-grade, learning disabled child who feels like a failure due to constant testing, a principal of an elementary school who is furious with having to use to use a book he deems inappropriate for third graders because his district bought the State Education Department approved common core curriculum, and the frustration of math teachers due to the ever-changing rules regarding the use of calculators on the tests.  And all of this is mixed with the toxic fear that comes from knowing you will be evaluated by test results and that “your score” will be known to any of your parents who ask.

When state education officials chide, “Don’t drill for the test, it does not work”, teachers laugh. Of course test prep works. Every parent who has ever paid hundreds of dollars forSAT prep knows it works —but no parent is foolish enough to think that the average 56 point ‘coaching’ jump in an SAT score means that their child is more “college ready.”

Test scores are a rough proxy for learning. Tests imperfectly examine selected domains of skills, so that we can infer what students know. Real learning occurs in the mind of the learner when she makes connections with prior learning, makes meaning, and retains that knowledge in order to create additional meaning from new information.  In short, with tests we see traces of learning, not learning itself.

What occurs in a “data driven”, high-stakes learning environment is that the full domain of what should be learned narrows to those items tested.  The Common Core, for example, wants students to grow in five skill areas in English Language Arts — reading, writing, speaking, listening and collaboration. But the Common Core tests will only measure reading and writing.  Parents can expect that the other three will be neglected as teachers frantically try to prepare students for the difficult and high-stakes tests.  What gets measured gets done, and make no mistake: “reformers” understand that full well.  In fact, they count on it. They see data, not children.  For the corporate reformers, test data constitute the bottom-line profits that they watch.

There is no one more knowledgeable about school change and systemic reforms than Michael Fullan.  He is a renowned international authority on school reform, having been actively engaged in both its implementation as well in the analysis of reform results.  I had the pleasure of listening to him this week at the Long Island ASCD spring conference.

Fullan told us that the present reforms are led by the wrong drivers of change — individual accountability of teachers, linked to test scores and punishment, cannot be successful in transforming schools.  He told us that the Common Core standards will fall of their own weight because standards and assessments, rather than curriculum and instruction are driving the Common Core.  He explained that the right driver of school change is capacity building.  Data should be used as a strategy for improvement, not for accountability purposes.  The Common Core is a powerful tool, but it is being implemented using the wrong drivers.

Fullan helped to successfully lead the transformation of schools in Ontario, Canada, and he has tried to influence our national conversation, but his advice has been shunned.  I will close with a final quote from Fullan and let readers draw their own conclusions:

A fool with a tool is still a fool.  A fool with a powerful tool is a dangerous fool.

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/04/principal-i-was-naive-about-common-core/

Christie Signs a Bill into Law That Will Create Consistency in Special Education Programming

In Education, Education advocacy, Education Law, School reform, Special Education on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 10:30

Christie Signs a Bill into Law That Will Create Consistency in Special Education Programming.

california teachers sue over workload.

In Education, Education advocacy, Education Law, Special Education on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 08:18

thanks for the article, greg branch!


good article.

In Education advocacy, Politics, School reform, Special Education on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 15:13


arne…friend or foe?

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform, Special Education on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 15:08


How Can Teachers Overcome Depression and Strife? – Living in Dialogue – Education Week Teacher

In Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Psychology, School reform, Well-being on Friday, 15 February 2013 at 09:01

great advice on the article below.  

i have never seen a greater level of stress and lower morale than this school year.  i worry every day for my teachers and staff and hope, no matter what “they” throw at us, that the good ones will stay because even if you feel your system doesn’t appreciate you, those kids do.  sometimes, we school employees might be the only people who give a kid attention or show he or she is cared about.  some might not have parents in the house (maybe raised by an older sibling or another family member), some might not have food most days, clean clothes, some don’t even have a house or place to sleep.  

in the end, it’s all about the kids and i do know most teachers and support staff feel that way.  but i also realize that it is difficult to be in a career where teachers are blamed for “outcomes” when teacher/school influence only accounts for 15-25% of student outcome (i have not seen any study that can account for more than that).  how is it then, that teachers are going to be evaluated and paid based on something that they only have 15-25% control of?  the other 75-85% obviously has a greater effect.  all the teachers i know do it for the love of the kids and try very hard to keep this at the forefront.  but…when you are being told that it’s all about test scores, outcome, academic improvement, it’s difficult to focus on things that make teachers who they are…those who chose a profession, not to make money or get rich because they never will, but for the love of learning and the love of children and our future.  the way our country is going with education “reform” breaks my heart and i am saddened for all the wonderful and inspirational teachers that might just decide it’s no longer worth it.

How Can Teachers Overcome Depression and Strife? – Living in Dialogue – Education Week Teacher.


In Education advocacy, School reform, School violence on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 16:33

the comments section has some very well-written and thought-out points.  i believe without the individual attention these kids get now, we will see a rise in criminality. weren’t we JUST on the early intervention kick after sandy hook? how soon we forget…ugh. it’s save now, pay later. but we are the ones that will pay.


The Heart of Education…

In Education, Education advocacy, Humane Education on Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 08:52

The Heart of Education: A Discussion with Zoe Weil

By: Michael Tobias

Zoe Weil is a long-time leader in humane education in the U.S., and throughout the world. As president of the Institute for Humane Education, which she co-founded in 1996, and as author of numerous books, Ms. Weil has passionately championed a movement which, she says, has the “potential to solve every problem we face and create a restored, healthy, and humane world for all.”  Her TEDx talk, “The World Becomes What You Teach” eloquently conveys the essence of humane education and its importance to all living creatures.

Michael Tobias: Zoe, what is unique about the Institute of Humane Education? How broad is it, in terms of the environment, animals, humans themselves, and the future of our planet?

Zoe Weil: At the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) we offer the only graduate programs in comprehensive humane education, as well as online courses, workshops, Summer Institutes, and a free, award-winning resource center. IHE believes that education is the fundamental root solution to injustice, exploitation, and destruction, and our programs are designed to help people become humane educators who can teach others within traditional and non-traditional educational venues. Humane education has four elements that are keys to its power and success, and these include: 1) providing accurate information about the pressing issues of our time so people have the knowledge they need to address global challenges; 2) fostering the 3 Cs of curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking so people have the skills they need to address challenges; 3) instilling the 3 Rs of reverence, respect, and responsibility, so people have the will to address challenges, and 4) providing positive choices and the tools for problem-solving, so people can solv echallenges.

Michael Tobias: And the scope of it?

Zoe Weil: In terms of breadth, humane education covers human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation, and cultural issues such as globalization and systemic change-making. This makes it perhaps the broadest educational movement to date, encompassing sustainability ed, character ed, social justice ed, global ethical ed, animal welfare ed, and media literacy.

Michael Tobias: In your opinion, why is humane education so important?

Zoe Weil: While there are many ways in which humanity is becoming less violent, less prejudiced, and less cruel, the reality of a warming planet with over 7 billion people and limited resources means we face potential economic, social, and environmental catastrophes. While every generation has faced its challenges, only in this century do we confront the possible loss of half of all species on earth, with the simultaneous breakdown of the ecosystems which sustain us all. At the same time, through the Internet, only in this century do we now have the capacity to work together across every border, and collaborate and innovate so quickly and powerfully. There is great and realistic hope that we can solve the challenges we face and transform dysfunctional, inhumane, and destructive systems, but we’ll be hard-pressed to succeed if children in school continue to be taught under centuries-old models, and if our grand purpose for schooling remains to “compete in the global economy,” which is the buzz phrase of our time regarding education reform.

Michael Tobias: But the basic proficiencies?

Zoe Weil: Of course our children need to become verbally, mathematically, and scientifically proficient, but these are foundational tools, not endpoints. At IHE, we believe that the goal of schooling in today’s world ought to be to provide all students with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscientious choice makers and engaged change makers for a prosperous, healthy, just, and humane world for all people, animals, and the environment, or as we like to put it: we need to graduate a generation of solutionaries.

Michael Tobias: Solutionaries. I like that.

Zoe Weil: Evidence is growing that education that addresses pressing global issues and which fosters compassion, responsibility, and integrity results in graduates who know more, care more, and become more involved in creating positive change.

Michael Tobias: What are the typical impediments to introducing a humane “agenda” in public and/or private school curricula and in this country?

Zoe Weil: Public schools lack funds, freedom, and flexibility. They’re inclined to teach-to-test so as to ensure that they maintain funding, so anything that doesn’t immediately improve standardized, bubble test scores can’t easily gain a foothold. Meanwhile, our country is so politically polarized that anything that smacks of controversy is often automatically excluded, dumbing down the curriculum. A couple of years ago I spoke at a middle school assembly program, and I began by asking the kids what they thought were the biggest problems in the world. One boy said “war.” I agreed with him that war was a big problem. After the talk was over, the principal was very upset. We had a long talk, and he told me he was concerned that he’d get calls from angry parents who were veterans or who had a spouse serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. So I asked him to go into each classroom and ask the kids what they learned from my talk. I had spoken about the need to make connections between our choices and their effects on others; to model the message they hoped to convey in the world; to pursue joy in life by being of service, and to take responsibility for their actions.

Michael Tobias: So what happened?

Zoe Weil: After visiting each class, he was relieved that these points were, indeed, what the students took away from my presentation, but his fear had been so intense, and that’s worrisome. If a child can’t say war is a big problem and have a teacher agree; if we can’t speak about global warming, healthcare, factory farming, immigration, and a host of other “controversial” issues in our classrooms, where will discussions and problem-solving happen? School is exactly the place to grapple with global challenges and to explore multiple viewpoints and perspectives. We all have biases, of course, and teachers need to take care to “own” theirs because their role is to teach their students to be critical thinkers, not to disguise opinions as facts and indoctrinate them. This is why humane education is so important, because one of its core goals is to foster critical and creative thinking, without which our children are at the mercy of every sort of manipulation, group-think, and even simply mainstream norms and habits that may be destructive and inhumane.

Michael Tobias: What about in private or independent schools?

Zoe Weil: For independent schools the issues are different. Many parents send their children to private schools to give them a better chance at getting into elite colleges and to ensure they receive a strong “traditional” education. In meeting parents’ expectations, such schools may neglect innovative approaches like humane education because they’re new and not fully tested. While the reality is that humane education provides the most relevant and important skills for today’s world, parents who want their child to get into Harvard or Berkeley may feel more comfortable with traditional curricula. But there are many independent and charter schools that have adopted new approaches to and goals for education, and these may well be where humane education takes root and becomes replicable.

Michael Tobias: It seems that this whole realm of compassion and humaneness in educational curricula, not to mention, as core values, is still lacking in large measure, no?

Zoe Weil: Comprehensive humane education is still relatively unknown, and there aren’t yet enough assessments to demonstrate either its effectiveness at achieving its own goals (graduating knowledgeable and wise solutionaries), or its ability to increase academic achievement on standardized tests, which is all that we generally measure. IHE is working to remedy this by raising awareness of the field and its importance as well as through a longitudinal study of the effectiveness of humane education which we’re launching this year.

Michael Tobias: What’s the situation with humane education in other countries?

Zoe Weil: While I’m not an expert on the educational systems in other countries, I can say that some are much more open to humane education and some much less. Humane education is far more popular in the U.S. than Asia, while Canadians seem generally more receptive than Americans. It will be interesting to see whether humane education takes root in Finland which has arguably the most advanced, successful approach to schooling of any nation.

Michael Tobias: Finland. I’m not surprised. That nation’s tenth president, Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari won the Nobel Peace Prize as you know in 2008 for thirty years working in the trenches of humane conflict resolution throughout the world.

Zoe Weil: Finland has rejected standardized testing, competition in classrooms, long school days and school years, grading before middle school, even teaching reading before the age of 7, yet they consistently outperform other nations in reading and math by age 15. Given Finland’s success and willingness to embrace new approaches, it could be where humane education is embraced wholeheartedly, too, although I hope the U.S. takes on this opportunity because the impact of a generation of U.S. citizens who have received humane education could have a profound global impact as our graduates become solutionaries through the various fields they pursue and within the various industries in which they work.

Michael Tobias: At your school, can students/teachers get accredited?

Zoe Weil: Our online graduate programs are fully accredited through an affiliation with Valparaiso University. We also have online courses for teachers, parents, and the general public. For those who learn best in person, we bring our workshops to communities throughout the U.S. and Canada and sometimes overseas, and we offer a residency component to our graduate programs and a Summer Institute for teachers at our beautiful facility in coastal Maine. We have students in our programs from across the globe learning how to be humane educators and bringing humane education into their classrooms, universities, religious institutions, and communities through traditional classroom teaching as well as through the arts, as filmmakers, writers, actors and playwrights, designers, and singer/songwriters.

Michael Tobias: Do you see unique job niches for this next generation of so-called solutionaries, who have had humane training?

Zoe Weil: Some of our graduates are entrepreneurs who are creating humane education-oriented businesses. We’re still building the market for the field, but there are more and more opportunities for humane educators all the time.

Michael Tobias: Share with us some success stories?

Zoe Weil: Michael, after the very first week-long humane education class I taught in the summer of 1987, two students started a Philadelphia area-wide group and won awards for their activism. A few years ago I was giving a talk inNew York, and one of them attended. He was working for the mayor of New York City in public health. After the talk, I introduced him to some friends as having taken the first humane education course I ever taught. Before I could finish my sentence he interjected, “That course changed my life!”

Michael Tobias: That’s wonderful!

Zoe Weil: More recently, I received a packet of thank you letters from 8th graders whom I taught each morning over the course of a week. One wrote, “Spending that week with you was the most inspiring 5 days of my life so far. You made me realize how much just one person can do to help the world and how much more we can do by educating others….” The letter went on about what she planned to do with her new knowledge. I felt so great when I first read her letter, but later I came to see it as pretty depressing. Spending a week with me, or any humane educator, shouldn’t be the most inspiring 5 days of a teenager’s life. Her education should always have been inspiring, relevant, and meaningful. Another girl, who heard me speak at her National Honor’s Society induction, exclaimed after the talk, “We should have been learning this since Kindergarten!” This is exactly right.

Michael Tobias: That’s an interesting wake-up call for educators, isn’t it!

Zoe Weil: It was obvious to me from the very beginning of my career as a humane educator that this work had the potential to create profound and lasting change if we could just embrace it fully as an educational goal. I could tell you so many success stories about the impact our graduates are having in their classrooms and communities, but my hope is that soon we won’t need to talk about success stories because humane education will be the norm, infusing all curricula, taught in every school, and ushering in a solutionary generation.

Michael Tobias: This definitely puts any future education debates, let alone any legislation, into a whole new realm of compelling possibility, and plausibility.

Zoe Weil: Just imagine what would happen if every child learned about relevant global issues and examined the underlying production, agricultural, defense, transportation, energy, economic, political, and other ubiquitous systems so that they could use their great minds and big hearts to explore innovative approaches that maximize  justice, sustainability, and peaceful coexistence.

Michael Tobias: Indeed. Yes.

Zoe Weil: Imagine our students participating not just in debate teams, but also in solutionary teams that demand that they come up with practical, cost-effective, and viable ideas for solving problems instead of just arguing about who’s right and wrong. When humane education is integrated into our schools, every child will graduate ready and able to ensure that the systems within their chosen professions are healthy and humane, and when that happens we will witness a profound transformation as we solve the challenges we face and build a more humane and sustainable world.

Michael Tobias: Zoe, many thanks for your outstanding work!

Copyright 2012 by Michael Charles Tobias/Jane Gray Morrison/Dancing Star Foundation. Special Thanks to Ms. Jane Delson.

Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltobias/2012/04/25/the-heart-of-education-a-discussion-with-zoe-weil/

Why the Common Core is Bad for America

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Friday, 8 February 2013 at 06:48

Why the Common Core is Bad for America

By Jonathan Butcher, Emmett McGroarty and Liv Finne

Key Findings

  1. The Common Core is the basis for a national curriculum and national test.
  2. Three hundred prominent policymakers and education experts warn the Common Core will close the door on innovation.
  3. The Common Core standards are of insufficient quality.
  4. The cost of the Common Core is considerable, yet unknown.

1. The Common Core is the basis for a national curriculum and national test.

Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from “exercis[ing] any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction” or selection of “instruction[al] materials.” However, the Department circumvented these prohibitions by making Race to the Top funding and No Child Left Behind waivers contingent on a state’s adoption of the Common Core and the aligned assessments. Because curriculum must be aligned with standards and assessments, the Department would thus be able to exercise direction and control over curricula, programs of instruction, instructional materials.

2. Three hundred prominent policymakers and education experts warn the Common Core will close the door on innovation.

Local control of public school curriculum and instruction has historically driven innovation and reform in education. A one-size-fits-all, centrally controlled curriculum for every K–12 subject threatens to close the door on educational innovation, freezing in place an unacceptable status quo and hindering efforts to develop academically rigorous curricula, assessments, and standards that meet the challenges that lie ahead. State and local leaders cannot change Common Core content or the assessments. There is no evidence that national standards alone lead to higher academic results.

There is no “best design” for curriculum sequences in any subject. Requiring a single set of curriculum guidelines at the high school level is questionable, given the diversity of adolescents’ interests, talents, and pedagogical needs. American schools should not be constrained in the diversity of the curricula they offer to students. We should encourage — not discourage — multiple models.

3. The Common Core standards are of insufficient quality.

Common Core’s standards are of insufficient quality to warrant being this country’s national standards.

The Common Core math standards fail to meet the content targets recommended by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, the standards of leading states, and our international competitors. They exclude certain Algebra 2 and Geometry content that is currently a prerequisite at almost every four-year state college, essentially re-defining “college readiness” to mean readiness for a non-selective community college. They abandon the expectation that students take Algebra 1 in eighth grade. (This expectation is based upon what high-performing countries expect of their students, and has pushed about half of America’s students to take Algebra 1 by eighth grade). The Common Core math standards also require that geometry be taught by an experimental method that had never been used successfully anywhere in the world. The Common Core math standards do not teach least common denominators; delay until sixth grade fluency in division; eliminate conversions between fractions, decimals and percents; adopt a new definition of algebra as “functional algebra” that de-emphasizes algebraic manipulation.

In English Language Arts, Common Core standards are inadequate. The Common Core “college readiness” ELA standards can best be described as skill sets, not fully developed standards. As such, they cannot point to readiness for a high school diploma or four-year college coursework. Skill sets in themselves do not provide an intellectual framework for a coherent and demanding English curriculum. The Common Core document expects English teachers to spend over 50% of their reading instructional time on informational texts in a variety of subject areas, something English or reading teachers are not trained to teach. This requirement alone makes it impossible for English teachers to construct a coherent literature curriculum in grades 6–12. The ELA Common Core Standards will impair the preparation of students for competing in a global economy.

4. The cost of the Common Core is considerable, yet unknown.

States and their taxpayers face significant increased costs in four areas: textbooks and instructional materials, professional development, assessments; and technology and infrastructure. One peer-reviewed study estimates this at $16 billion. The assessment costs will further increase if the consortia are unable to sufficiently refine technologies to score open-ended questions (such as short answer questions) for use in large-scale high-stakes testing. Few states have evaluated these issues.

A version of this paper was submitted to the American Legislative Exchange Council by authors Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute, goldwaterinstitute.org, Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project, americanprinciplesproject.org, and Liv Finne of Washington Policy Center, washingtonpolicy.org.

Download a PDF of this Policy Note here.

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/notes/why-common-core-bad-america

Wall Street Goes to School » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 16:46

Wall Street Goes to School » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

giroux on the war against teachers

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Philosophy, School reform on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 16:35

things that make you go, “hmmm…”



What Happens When the Bills Come Due?

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 09:15

What Happens When the Bills Come Due?.

education and obama’s next four years…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Politics, School reform on Sunday, 3 February 2013 at 16:17

basically, same old, same old…


the dalai lama on education…

In Buddhist Thoughts, Education, Education advocacy, Mindfulness on Saturday, 2 February 2013 at 08:52

“We have to think and see how we can fundamentally change our education system so that we can train people to develop warm-heartedness early on in order to create a healthier society. I don’t mean we need to change the whole system, just improve it. We need to encourage an understanding that inner peace comes from relying on human values like, love, compassion, tolerance and honesty, and that peace in the world relies on individuals finding inner peace.”~His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

standardized tests…an illustration.

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 08:59
what's wrong with this picture?

what’s wrong with this picture?

the multitude of factors affecting student achievement (hint, it’s not just teachers…)

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Friday, 25 January 2013 at 09:15

Are teachers the most important factor affecting student achievement?

By: Stephen Sawchuck

This has become the default first sentence of many speeches and reports on teacher quality. Recently, it’s become common to clarify that teachers are the most important “school-based” factor in learning—a critical qualification, given that factors external to schools exert more influence overall on student achievement than any factors inside the school.

A famous 1966 study by James Coleman found that background characteristics such as race, parental achievement levels, and family income swamped most other factors studied as determinants of student test scores. Decades of research have confirmed this study’s general findings, with a 1999 paper estimating that 60 percent of variation in student achievement was attributable to such background characteristics. [1]

Researchers have been unable to link a significant share of the variation in student achievement—as much as 25 percent—to any particular input. Of the remaining share, attributable to what happens within school, researchers have linked most of that variation to teachers.

It is difficult to cite an exact figure on what percent of the variation in achievement observed is attributable to differences in teacher effectiveness. Three economists in 1998 estimated that at least 7.5 percent of the variation in student achievement resulted directly from teacher quality and added that the actual number could be as high as 20 percent.[2]

Researchers have found that school-based factors, including teaching, are more influential in math than in reading. A 1999 paper puts all in-school factors, including school-, teacher-, and class-level factors, at approximately 21 percent of the variation in 10th grade mathematics achievement. It further estimated that 8.5 percent was directly due to teacher effectiveness.[3]

Some researchers warn that other important factors that potentially affect achievement— such as the effect of principals and other administrators, and the interaction of teachers with the curriculum—have not been as carefully studied as teacher quality.[4]

It can be said:

Research has shown that the variation in student achievement is predominantly a product of individual and family background characteristics. Of the school factors that have been isolated for study, teachers are probably the most important determinants of how students will perform on standardized tests.

Are value-added estimations reliable or stable?

Value-added modeling measures individual students’ performance on tests over time, using prior test scores to predict future outcomes. Statistical controls attempt to screen out factors such as race, family background, and the effect of peers, so as to attribute the remaining variation in student academic outcomes to schools and teachers.

At the level of individual teachers, such estimates vary considerably, pointing to differences in teachers’ levels of skill.

Some scholars say that of the measures of teacher effectiveness studied so far, value-added appears to be among the most promising. In one study, for instance, researchers used value-added estimates of teachers to predict the student-achievement patterns of some 3,000 students in 78 classrooms, and then randomly assigned teachers to these classrooms. The value-added models, while not perfect, were significant predictors of actual outcomes. [1]

At the same time, researchers have discovered that a host of factors contribute to measurement error in these estimates. These problems include the nonrandom assignment of students and teachers to schools and classrooms[2]; different effect sizes or results based on the statistical models used[3]; differences in the tests that supply the underlying data[4]; the seeming instability of estimates of particular teachers from year to year[5]; and the fade-out of teacher effects.[6]

In general, the variance in year-to-year estimates of individual teachers’ performance could indicate measurement error. Some of these problems, like the problem of tracking and instability in the estimates, seem to be ameliorated by using additional years of student data for each teacher, though researchers continue to debate this issue.[7]

The implications of these problems, both for policy and for research, are difficult to parse, and policy experts continue to debate the use of value-added as a component of teacher evaluations and for other purposes.

Finally, the research on teacher quality suggests that other school factors may affect how effective teachers appear to be in these types of calculations. One study found that up to a quarter of the estimate of an individual teacher’s value-added score depended on whether teachers were a good “match” for a particular school. Its author postulated that such factors as whether the teacher’s teaching philosophy meshed with the school’s culture and the choice of curricula might contribute to this match effect.[8]

Many teacher groups argue that value-added measures fail to take into account the considerable role of school and district leadership. Researchers are still investigating the role of principals as distinct from teachers, but it is difficult to disentangle the two.

Teachers’ peers may also influence their effectiveness. At least one study has found that a teacher appears to improve when surrounded by more-effective colleagues. [9] But a second paper looking at this question found no consistent evidence that teachers who hold National Board Certification, an independent honor that teachers go through a rigorous process to obtain, have an impact on the effectiveness of their peers.[10]

For a longer discussion of the issue of value-added measurement and its place in policy, see Harris 2011.

It can be said:

Value-added models appear to pick up some differences in teacher quality, but they can be influenced by a number of factors, such as the statistical controls selected. They may also be affected by the characteristics of schools and peers. The impact of unmeasured factors in schools, such as principals and choice of curriculum, is less clear.

What are the differences in achievement between students who have effective or ineffective teachers for several years in a row?

Scholars have expressed the variation among teachers in many ways. An early paper on value-added dating from 1992, for instance, suggested that teachers near the top of the performance curve in a district could get an additional year’s worth of growth out of students compared with the poorest-performing teachers.[1] They have also found that the variation in teacher quality is primarily within schools rather than between them, meaning that almost all schools have both effective and ineffective teachers.

Despite much rhetoric from advocacy groups, the question of whether it’s possible to dramatically change outcomes for struggling students by assigning them to several effective teachers in a row remains an open one.

One of the most influential studies to assert this dates from 1996. Drawing from mathematics test data on Tennessee students linked to teachers over a four-year period, the study separated teachers by estimated effectiveness into quintiles. The researchers then tracked those students’ progression from 3rd through 5th grade.

They found that students assigned to three years of effective teachers outscored comparable students with three ineffective teachers by up to 50 percent points. The authors said that the effects of having several excellent teachers in a row accumulated over time.[2]

More recent findings, however, have called into question the assumption that teacher effects can simply be added together year after year.

A number of researchers have highlighted the “fade out” or depreciation of teacher effects over time,[3] a phenomenon that has appeared in a number of studies using value-added modeling. What this means is that impact of a teachers’ instruction on this year’s scores does not seem to persist when those same students move on to other grades. One 2008 study, for instance, found that teacher effects from one year had only half their impact in the next year.[4]

Second, as noted earlier, estimates of individual teachers’ effects vary from year to year, and are more volatile for smaller cohorts of students or when fewer years of data are incorporated into the estimates.

Therefore, policies that pair the best teachers with underserved students would need to identify teachers who consistently produce strong gains and ensure that such gains compound over time, if those initiatives are to have a lasting effect on student scores. Such policies have not been tested at scale.

It can be said:

Some teachers produce stronger achievement gains among their students than others do. However, estimates of an individual teacher’s effectiveness can vary from year to year, and the impact of an effective teacher seems to decrease with time.  The cumulative effect on students’ learning from having a succession of strong teachers is not clear.

Do teacher characteristics such as academic achievement, years of experience, and certification affect student test scores?

Most of these characteristics have been examined using large sets of data in which teachers are linked to student scores. Several of the characteristics do indeed bear a relationship to student achievement, but in general, scholars say their effects tend to be somewhat weak or inconsistent across studies.

Thus, on average, such characteristics matter. But there are plenty of cases in which teachers with advanced degrees, extensive experience, or specialized credentials are not noticeably more effective than their peers, and there are likewise many effective teachers without such credentials.

The basic problem can be summed up by the conclusion of a study dating from 2005. It found large differences among teachers in terms of their value-added impact on student achievement and went on to note that this variation was not readily explained by factors such as graduate degrees or experience after the first few years in the profession.[1] A 1999 paper, meanwhile, estimated that only 3 percent of the variation in student achievement could be traced back to measurable teacher characteristics, such as teachers’ academic profiles and degrees.[2]

Of these measures, there is good evidence that teachers gain in effectiveness with additional years on the job.[3] In general, value-added analyses show early career experience pays off in effectiveness steadily through at least the fifth year. This effect appears to be more consistent for elementary and middle schools than for high schools.[4] In addition, the impact of experience appears to be stronger than that of most other teacher characteristics.[5]

Reviews of the empirical research on credentials, in general, point to consensus that teachers’ math content knowledge seems to improve students’ test scores in that subject.

One study found this connection at the 1st and 3rd grade levels using a specially constructed measure of pedagogical content knowledge.[6] A second study looking at Florida test data found links between content-focused professional-development credits in math and secondary math achievement.[7] And one study found slight boosts in achievement for middle and high school students taught by teachers with an undergraduate or graduate degree in mathematics.[8]

Information on other content areas is sparse, but one study found a link between teachers’ holding a bachelor’s degree in science and student achievement in that subject. [9]

Studies are mixed on the attainment of advanced degrees and elementary-level student achievement; some studies show positive correlations, others negative ones. On balance the link to achievement is likely tenuous at best.[10] Several studies have found that entering teaching with a master’s degree of any kind does not boost achievement, relative to not holding such a degree, nor does earning such degrees seem to improve outcomes at the elementary level.[11]

Licensure test scores seem to matter more for math than for other subjects. They consistently appear linked to improved student achievement in that subject, at both the elementary level and at the high school level for algebra and geometry. Findings are mixed for other subjects.[12]

As for certification, one study found that students taught by teachers with any sort of certification outperformed those without certification or who were certified out of field.[13] Another found that those taught by teachers with standard certification outperformed uncertified teachers or those with nonstandard certifications.[14]

Much of the information on teacher certification also seems to find benefits primarily for math. At the high school level, teachers with subject-specific credentials in math tended to boost students’ scores more than those teachers who were not certified in that subject.[15]

Scholars have noted that teachers may affect learning more in mathematics, which tends to be taught exclusively in school, than in reading.[16]

Scholars have spent much time analyzing the effects of National Board Certification, but these numerous studies have mixed findings. In a review of the literature, a National Research Council panel concluded that evidence supports the notion that students taught by national-board-certified teachers on average have higher scores than those not taught by such teachers. But it said the evidence doesn’t support the idea that the process itself makes teachers better at their craft.[17]

Teachers who enter the profession with specific sets of cognitive and noncognitive skills also on average seem to be slightly more effective than those who do not.[18]

The policy implications of these findings are, again, hard to parse. Generally speaking, the policy question concerns whether investing in certain teacher characteristics, (by paying a premium for teachers who hold National Board Certification or a master’s degree, for instance), are cost effective relative to other possible investments.

For a longer summary of the research literature on credentials, see Goe 2007.

It can be said:

Teachers improve in effectiveness at least over their first few years on the job. Characteristics such as board certification, and content knowledge in math sometimes are linked with student achievement. Still, these factors don’t explain much of the differences in teacher effectiveness overall.

Does merit pay for teachers produce better student achievement or retain more-effective teachers?

Performance-pay policies have been tried at many different points in the last several decades. Most offer monetary bonuses to teachers who boost student scores, participate in professional development, or meet other criteria, but they do not change base pay.

The literature on performance pay is vast, and a full review lies outside the scope of this paper. Scholars say that the research questions around performance pay are hard to answer in just one study, especially since the questions vary. Do the programs encourage teachers to work harder and make them more effective at raising scores? Do they serve as a recruitment incentive, attracting high-quality teachers, over time changing the composition of the teacher workforce? Until recently, most of the research has focused on only the first question.

Conclusions culled from random-assignment experimental studies, the research “gold standard,” are limited. One review found just nine studies that used a random-assignment or quasi-experimental method to determine whether bonus programs raised scores; some of the studies looked at performance pay in countries outside of the United States. Those studies, in general, showed positive effects, but may not be applicable to the U.S. school system.[1]

In 2010, researchers at the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University released the results of a three-year experimental study on merit pay in Nashville middle schools. Under the experiment, math teachers who increased student scores received a significant bonus of up to $15,000. The study found no effects on achievement outside of 5th grade. Its authors concluded that the program had done little to change teacher practices.[2]

Also in 2010, preliminary results from a random-assignment experiment in Chicago on the Teacher Advancement Program, which includes merit pay as well as other features such as modified professional development, found no effects on achievement or teacher- retention rates. [3]

A handful of other quasi-experimental studies have been mounted to study school reform plans that contain a performance-pay element. Using a method to create “synthetic” comparison schools, one study found apparent benefits for students whose teachers participated in the Teacher Advancement Program, a finding that stands in contrast to the Chicago experiment.[4]

Teachers participating in the pay-for-performance component of Denver’s comprehensive ProComp teacher-compensation plan also appeared to boost achievement under certain conditions. The program requires teachers to set achievement goals with their principals. Those teachers who wrote the highest-quality objectives were associated with higher student achievement in elementary, middle, and high school than teachers who wrote lower-quality objectives.

However, a comparison of schools participating in the pilot program with those not participating found mixed effects from the program.[5]

Factors such as the size of the bonus, the number of teachers permitted to receive it, and the methodologies used to award the pay all seem likely to shape the effects of such programs.

It can be said:

In the United States, merit pay exclusively focused on rewarding teachers whose students produce gains has not been shown to improve student achievement, though some international studies show positive effects. Research has been mixed on comprehensive pay models that incorporate other elements, such as professional development. Scholars are still examining whether such programs might work over time by attracting more effective teachers.

Do students in unionized states do better than students in states without unions?

Many studies have attempted to address the impact of unionization or collective bargaining on student achievement. The question needs careful parsing.

It is true that students now tend to do better in heavily unionized states, like Massachusetts, rather than in those without required bargaining, like Alabama and Mississippi. But this simple correlation provides no information about whether unionization causes these achievement patterns. As the general public isn’t likely to be aware of the difference between correlation and causation, it behooves reporters to explain the difference when reporting on this topic.

Some research has been conducted on the causation question, and, as one 2008 paper summarizing the relevant literature found, results appear to be mixed. The studies tended to use different models and methodologies, choices that impacted their findings, the paper found. For instance, “point in time” studies tended to find positive impacts of unionization on academic achievement, while those looking at student growth over time tended to show negative impacts.[1] See Burroughs 2008 for a longer discussion and bibliography.

The most recent study purports to use a “natural experiment” to compare performance on SAT exams from the period between 1993 and 1999, during which New Mexico had mandatory bargaining, to the period between 1999 and 2003, when bargaining was permissible but no longer mandatory. It compared performance during those time periods to achievement patterns in other states, controlling for factors such as state racial composition, poverty rates, and crime rates.[2] In addition, the author attempted to account for the fact that the change in bargaining laws probably would not have had immediate effects.

The study found that mandatory collective bargaining was correlated with an increase in SAT scores, but a lowering of graduation rates.

Critics of the study noted that federal data show that before the shift in state law, not all local teachers had voted in favor of union representation, raising questions about what phenomena the results actually reflect.

It can be said:

Students tend to do well in some heavily unionized states, but it isn’t possible to conclude that it is the presence or absence of unions that cause that achievement.

About the Author: Stephen Sawchuk is an assistant editor at Education Week, an independent national news organization based in Bethesda, Md. He reports on teacher quality and the teaching profession.

EWA Research Brief: What Studies Say About Teacher Effectiveness


Burroughs, Nathan. 2008. “Arguments and Evidence: Collective Bargaining’s Role in Public Education.” Center for Evaluation & Education Policy, Vol. 6(8)

Clotfelter, Charles T. Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L. Vigdor. 2007a. “Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement: Longitudinal Analysis with Student Fixed Effects.” Economics of Education Review (December)

—. 2007b. “How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?” CALDER Working Paper 2. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute

—.  2007c. “Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High Schools: A Cross-Subject Analysis with Student Fixed Effects.” CALDER Working Paper 11. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute

—, and Justin Wheeler. 2007. “High Poverty Schools and the Distribution of Teachers and Principals.’ CALDER Working Paper 1. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute

Darling Hammond, Linda, Deborah J. Holtzman, Su Jin Gatlin, and Julian Vasquez Heilig. 2005. “Does Teacher Preparation Matter?” Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(42)

Glazerman, Steven, and Allison Seifullah. 2010. “An Evaluation of the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) in Chicago: Year Two Impact Report.” Mathematica Policy Research, 6319-520

Goe, Laura. 2007. “The Link Between Teacher Quality and Student Outcomes: A Research Synthesis.” Washington, D.C.: National Comprehensive Center on Teacher Quality

Goldhaber, Daniel, Dominic J. Brewer, and Deborah J. Anderson. 1997. “A Three-Way Error Component Analysis of Educational Productivity.” Education Economics, Abingdon

Goldhaber, Daniel, and Dominic Brewer. 1999. “Teacher Licensing and Student Achievement.” In C. Finn and M. Kanstoroom, eds.:Better Teachers, Better Schools. Washington, D.C. Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Goldhaber, Daniel, and Dominic Brewer. 1997. “Evaluating the Effect of Teacher Degree Level on Educational Performance.” In W. Fowler, ed., Developments in School Finance, 1996NCES 97–535. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

Hakel, Milton, Judith Anderson Koenig, and Stuart W. Elliot, eds. 2008. Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced Level Certification Programs. Committee on Evaluation of Teacher Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council

Hanushek, Eric A. 1992. “The Trade-off Between Child Quantity and Quality.” Journal of Political Economics, 100(1), 84-117

Hanushek, Eric A., and Steven G. Rivkin. 2010. “Generalizations About Using Value-Added Measures of Teacher Quality.” American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings Vol. 100

Hanushek, Eric A., John F. Kain, and Steven G. Rivkin. 1998. “Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement.” New York: National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 6691

Harris, Douglas N. 2011. Value-Added Measures in Education: What Every Educator Needs to Know. Harvard Education Press: Cambridge, Mass.

Harris, Douglas N., and Tim R. Sass. 2007. “Teacher Training, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement.” CALDER Working Paper 3. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute

Harris, Douglas N., and Tim R. Sass. 2009. “The Effects of NBPTS-Certified Teachers on Student Achievement.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 28 (1), 55-80

Harris, Douglas N., and Tim R. Sass. 2011. “Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement.” Journal of Public Economics 95 (2011) 798-812

Hill, Heather, Brian Rowan, and Deborah Loewenberg Ball. 2005. “Effects of Teachers’ Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement.” American Educational Research Journal 42(2), 371-406

Hudson, Sally. 2010. “The Effect of Performance-Based Teacher Pay on Student Achievement.” Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Discussion Paper 09-023

Jackson, C. Kirabo, and Elias Bruegmann. 2009. “Teaching Students and Teaching Each Other: The Importance of Peer Learning for Teachers.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 1(4): 85-108

Jackson, C. Kirabo. 2010. “Match Quality, Worker Productivity, and Worker Mobility: Direct Evidence From Teachers.” New York: National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 15990

Kane, Thomas, Jonah Rockoff, and Douglas O. Staiger. 2006. “What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence From New York City.” New York: National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 12155

Kane, Thomas J., and Douglas O. Staiger. 2008. “Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation.” New York: National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 14607

Koedel, Cory, and Julian R. Betts. 2007. “Re-Examining the Role of Teacher Quality in the Educational Production Function.” Unpublished working paper, University of Missouri

Koedel, Cory, and Julian R. Betts. 2009. “Does Student Sorting Invalidate Value-Added Models of Teacher Effectiveness? An Extended Analysis of the Rothstein Critique.” Unpublished working paper, University of Missouri

Hill, H.C., B. Rowan, and D. Ball. 2005. “Effects of Teachers’ Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement.”American Educational Research Journal 42(2)

Lindy, Benjamin. 2011. “The Impact of Teacher Collective Bargaining Laws on Student Achievement: Evidence from a New Mexico Natural Experiment.” 120 Yale Law Journal 1130

Nye, Barbara, Spyros Konstantopoulos, and Larry Hedges 2004. “How Large Are Teacher Effects?” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(3)

Paypay, John P. 2011. “Different Tests, Different Answers: The Stability of Teacher Value-Added Estimates Across Outcome Measures.” American Educational Research Journal 48(1), 163-193

Podgursky, Michael J., and Matthew G. Springer. Teacher Performance Pay: A Review. 2006. National Center on Performance Incentives, Working Paper 2006-01

Rice, Jennifer King. 2010. “The Impact of Teacher Experience: Examining the Evidence and Policy Implications.”  CALDER. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute

Rivkin, Steven G., Eric A. Hanushek, and John F. Kain. 2005. “Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement.” Econometrica 73(2), 417-458

Rockoff, Jonah. 2004. “The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data.” American Economic Review 94(2), 247-252.

Rockoff, Jonah E., Brian A. Jacob, Thomas J. Kane, and Douglas O. Staiger. 2008. “Can You Recognize an Effective Teacher When You Recruit One?” New York: National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 14485

Rothstein, Jesse. 2009. “Student Sorting and Bias in Value-Added Estimation: Selection on Observables and Unobservables.”Education Finance and Policy 4(4), 537-571

Rothstein, Jesse. 2010. “Teacher Quality in Educational Production: Tracking, Decay, and Student Achievement.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 125(1): 175–214

Rothstein, Richard. 2010. “How to Fix Our Schools.” Washington D.C.: Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief No. 286.

Sanders, William L. and June C. Rivers. 1996. “Cumulative and Residual Effects of Teachers on Future Academic Achievement.” Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Value-Added Research and Assessment Center

Slotnik, William, and Maribeth Smith. 2004. Catalyst for Change: Pay for Performance in Denver. Community Training and Assistance Center

Retrieved from: http://www.ewa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=research_teacher_effectiveness2

Did Obama Just Perform A “Progressive Pivot-Point” On Education Policy?

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform on Friday, 25 January 2013 at 07:48

Did Obama Just Perform A “Progressive Pivot-Point” On Education Policy?.

a statement from florida’s teachers about their extravagant salaries…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Thursday, 10 January 2013 at 04:58

i saw this on facebook.  the link to the group is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Florida-Teachers-Against-Pay-For-Performance-Salary-Pay-Scales/10150134353705537  

my sister-in-law is a teacher in florida and i have heard first-hand from her how they are determining their pay now (and it’s not pretty, especially when the kids you teach are more concerned with how they are going to get a meal for the night and find a place for them and their families to stay…kinda makes them a bit less focused on school, huh?).  pay-for-performance, value-added, education “reform”…why is the blame put on the teachers???  if any major corporation, say coca cola (i live in atlanta, it comes to mind first) saw a severe loss in profits and poor performance, would everyone be screaming to fire the plant workers, delivery people, distributors, etc?  of course, not.  because any corporation is only as good as its leadership.  so, i would think the executives would have to answer to their higher-ups about the poor performance, not blame the “workers.”  so, with that example, how is it that the teachers are the ones under fire???  doesn’t it start at the top???

here’s the florida teacher post:

Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It’s time we put thing in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit! We can get that for minimum wage. That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That …would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours). Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations. LET’S SEE…. That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year. Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!


charter schools…public or private?

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 07:16

Judges look at whether charter schools are public

By Valerie Strauss , Updated: January 2, 2013


Charter schools are publicly funded but increasingly people are asking whether many of them more resemble private schools. Here’s a different look at this notion from Julian Vasquez Heilig, an award-winning researcher and Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas at Austin. A version of this appeared on his Education and Public Policy blog.

By Julian Vasquez Heilig

The common refrain is that charter schools are public schools. Critics, such as Diane Ravitch, have said that charter schools accept public money but act private. I have levied a variety of critiques at charters despite the fact that I was an instructor at an Aspire charter school in California and that I currently sit on UT-Austin’s charter school board. See CI’s full thread on charter schools here.

At the recent UCEA convention in Denver, I had the pleasure of presenting in a conference session about charters schools and equity. At the conference I was blown away how judges are treating charters schools as private schools and the implication that these choices have for student who attend those schools. I have excerpted below from a law journal article authored by Preston C. Green III, Erica Frankenberg, Steven L. Nelson, and Julie Rowland.

Citation: Green, P., Frankenberg, E., Nelson, S., & Rowland, J. (2012). Charter schools, students of color and the state action doctrine: Are the rights of students of color sufficiently protected? Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, 18(2), 254-275.

A recent federal appellate court decision suggests that students of color should also be concerned about the legal protections that charter schools might provide to students.18 Because state authorizing statutes consistently define charter schools as “public schools,”19 it would appear that charter school students are entitled to constitutional protections.20 Students attending public schools have challenged deprivations of federal constitutional and statutory rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which establishes a cause of action for deprivations of federal constitutional and statutory rights “under the color of state law.”21 Students have sought damage awards pursuant to § 1983; “actions for injunctive or declaratory relief are [also] a major portion of the case law.”22 However, in 2010, the Ninth Circuit concluded in Caviness v. Horizon Learning Center23 that a private, nonprofit corporation running an Arizona charter school was not a state actor under § 1983.24 The Ninth Circuit specifically rejected the assertion that charter schools were state actors because they were defined as “public schools” under the state statute.25

Although the Caviness case was an employment case, it is important to recognize that a similar analysis could lead to the conclusion that charter schools are not state actors with respect to student constitutional issues. Students attending public schools are guaranteed constitutional protections.156 There are constitutional safeguards for student expression.157 Public school students are protected from unreasonable search and seizure.158 The Constitution also requires public schools to provide procedural due process safeguards when suspending or expelling students.159 Of the seven states in the Ninth Circuit with legislation authorizing charter schools,160 only Oregon guarantees that all federal rights apply to charter schools.161 With the exception of Oregon, state legislatures do not compel charter schools to follow constitutional guidelines with respect to due process. California and Idaho merely require potential charter school operators to disclose their disciplinary policies in their initial charter application.162 Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada do not even demand that charter schools disclose their disciplinary policies at the time of application.163

Students of color attending charter schools should be concerned about the potential lack of constitutional due process protection. Studies of data at the national, state, district, and building levels have consistently found that students of color are suspended at two to three times the rate of other students.180 African-American students should be especially concerned about the possible lack of due process protection.181 According to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, in the 1970s African-Americans were two times more likely than white students to be suspended from school.182 By 2002, the risk of suspension for African-Americans increased to nearly three times that of white students.183 Further, a study of office discipline referrals in 364 elementary and middle schools during the 2005-06 school year found that African-American students were more than two times as likely to be referred to the office for disciplinary issues as white students.184 The same study found that African-American students were also four times more likely to be sent to the principal’s office than white students.185

Because of their foci on autonomy and accountability, supporters of charter schools have argued that they are the perfect vehicle for addressing the educational needs of students of color. This article points out, however, that charter schools may not be state actors under federal law with respect to student rights. Consequently, students of color may be unwittingly surrendering protections guaranteed under the Constitution in order to enroll in charter schools.

I have already discussed how charters can wield contracts to exclude students from school here. In conclusion, Professor Green commented via email:

The key takeaway about Caviness is that it’s unclear whether the constitutional rights of kids are protected in charter schools. In a NEPC brief, Julie Mead and I point out that charter school statutes can address this confusion by clearly stipulating that children are guaranteed the same rights in charter schools as they would receive in traditional public schools… there are important implications for African-American males with respect to Due Process, suspensions, and expulsions.

© The Washington Post Company

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/02/judges-look-at-whether-charter-schools-are-public/

education and the fiscal cliff

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform on Wednesday, 2 January 2013 at 13:43

K-12 Aid Faces Uncertain Future, Despite ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal

By Alyson Klein

Education programs will be spared the prospect of the largest across-the-board cuts in history, but only temporarily, under a bill to avert much of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” overwhelmingly approved by Congress on Tuesday.

The measure, which passed the U.S. Senate 89-8 early Tuesday morning and the U.S. House 257-167 Tuesday night, will delay the trigger cuts known as “sequestration,” which have been set to hit just about every government agency—including the U.S. Department of Education—on Jan. 2. Under the deal, the cuts will be postponed until March, giving federal lawmakers time to craft a broader budget agreement. The deal was worked out at the 11th hour by Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader.

In the House, where approval seemed touch-and-go most of Tuesday, nearly every Democrat voted for the bill, while 85 Republicans supported it. Sixteen Democrats, and 151 Republicans voted against the measure.

To help pay for the postponement of the trigger cuts—which would slice 8.2 percent from a wide range of programs, including K-12 education—lawmakers have agreed to $12 billion in revenue increases, plus $12 billion in spending cuts, including $6 billion from domestic programs, according to published reports. It’s unclear how, and whether, those cuts would affect education spending.

The deal essentially sets up yet another major fiscal fight later on this year. Congress will need to come up with new legislation to cope with sequestration by March. That could involve a fresh round of domestic-spending cuts, which, in turn, could put education programs on the chopping block.

Plus, the federal government is operating on a temporary budget, called a continuing resolution, which expires at the end of March. Lawmakers will have to figure out a final budget for fiscal year 2013, which began back on Oct. 1, or face the prospect of a government shutdown.

To top it all off, the nation has hit the federal debt ceiling yet again, meaning that the government will need new legislation to be allowed to borrow more money—and keep agencies and programs in business. A measure to deal with that issue will also need to be approved in the next couple of months.

Education advocates fear the result may well be more chaos, since it was the last deal to raise the debt ceiling, back in August of 2011, that put sequestration in place to begin with. Republicans have said they do not want to raise the debt ceiling without reducing spending.

All this adds up to a lot of continued uncertainty for school districts and their advocates.

The fiscal-cliff deal is “sort of like a temporary stay of execution,” said Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying coalition. “We’re hoping we get pardoned. …. It just creates sort of another cliff two months from now.”

And the next fiscal year, 2014, could prove to be even more difficult, Packer said, in part because of the reduced domestic spending in the budget agreement, and in part because the Pell Grant program, which helps low-income students cover the cost of college, continues to eat up a bigger share of education funding. The program, which is exempt from sequestration, faces a structural deficit, in part because of higher demand for the grants as more students enroll in postsecondary education.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a 1.5 million member union, urged House lawmakers to vote in favor of the fiscal cliff package, while acknowledging that it is “imperfect,” in part because schools will continue to face budget uncertainty.

“As important as this relief is right now to the majority of Americans, this is a temporary, Band-Aid solution,” said Weingarten in a statement. “Kicking the can down the road for two months means that we still face the possibility of staggering and debilitating cuts to public schools, health care and services that our kids and families count on.”

If the sequestration cuts do end up going through in March, most school districts wouldn’t feel the pinch until the start of the 2013-14 school year, because of the way that key programs, such as Title I grants for districts and special education aid, are funded. That gives districts a planning window to figure out how to implement the cuts without hurting student achievement—and it gives Congress and the Obama administration more time to work out a deal.

But other programs, such as the Head Start preschool program for low-income children, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would be cut right away. And the impact-aid program would feel the sequestration sting in April, when districts receive their next payments. That program helps districts with a large federal presence, such as a military base. More on the cuts here.

One thing is almost certain: Congress will be very busy over the next several months trying to figure out solutions to these various fiscal puzzles. That leaves less time for education legislation—meaning that pending renewals of programs governing special education, community and development grants, higher education, career and technical education, and workforce development—not to mention the long-stalled reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as No Child Left Behind)—could continue to sit for a while.

Still, there’s some good news for education programs in the deal. Key tax provisions, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps families afford college, were extended. And the deal includes an extension of the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program, as well as a tax credit that helps teachers purchase supplies for their classrooms.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2013/01/school_districts_continue_to_f.html

FAPE and class size…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, Special Education on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 09:26

wow, 6-8 kids in a resource class sounds like a great idea and it is the law, but…what to do when the law and politics don’t mesh???  so the law says we must offer smaller classes, and i agree that some kids really, really need this type of individualized instruction only able to be taught in much smaller classes.  there are general education and team-taught classes with upwards of 40 kids in a class and that does not allow for the type of instruction some of our kids need.  so, glad to see the courts upheld smaller class sizes to adhere to FAPE, but i have to wonder exactly how that is going to happen when all i see in my district is cut, cut, cut.  cutting programs, closing schools, firing teachers…so i have to wonder how school districts are going to follow FAPE without teachers to teach the classes and, in some cases, rooms to hold them in.  guess we shall see.  maybe this, along with other recent events, will send the message that we need to be throwing money at education and early intervention services.  or, maybe there will need to be law suits to get the districts to realize where their money needs to go.  all i know now is that teachers are completely over-worked and under-paid (my district’s employees-that would include me-have not had a raise or any increase in SIX years) and programs and schools in my district are closing.  not sure how they are going to provide FAPE with a cap of 6-8 kids.  not unless we have a paradigm shift and decide education in the u.s. needs a complete overhaul and it does NOT start with the teachers.  we need to reorganize our priorities and make EDUCATION primary…not testing, numbers, pay-for-performance.  true education by any means necessary, i.e. NOT making up new standards every few years, NOT rating everything as it relates to test scores, and NOT blaming teachers.  i think after newtown we all saw where teachers’ hearts lie…with their students.  

Special Ed: FAPE Required a Smaller General Education Setting (6-8 Students)

NOVEMBER 27, 2012


Nov. 26 (2012): The United States Supreme Court recently denied the Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed by the Solana Beach School District in the case of KA.D. v. NEST (Case Nos. 10-56320, 10-56373). This case is significant because it effectively upheld the lower courts’ decisions that FAPE required an offer of a smaller general education class.

A summary of the underlying facts is that the student, diagnosed with autism, was placed by her parents at Hanna Fenichel (a small private preschool for typically developing peers), because the district failed to offer a small group setting with typical peers at a public school. The district’s offer consisted of a bifurcated placement, which divided the student’s school day between a special day class and a general education class. The parents’ position was that their daughter had difficulties in larger educational settings, but that their daughter was able to participate in a general educational setting with a 1:1 aide as long as the setting had a small student teacher ratio. There was no dispute that the student benefitted from her instruction at Hanna Fenichel. Parents sought reimbursement for the private placement.

At Hanna Fenichel, the classes consisted of 6 – 8 students. The District’s offer of placement would have required for the student to interact with about 42 children. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision that the district’s offer of placement failed to provide FAPE. The district then filed a Petition in an effort to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the actual opinion is not published,* parents should be aware of the reasoning of the lower courts in case they have similar claims or concerns with respect to their child.

For more information:

Ninth Circuit Opinion

U.S. District Court, S.D. California

Attorney for parents: Michael T. Kirkpatrick, Public Citizen Litigation Group, 1600 20th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, 202-588-1000.

*Opinons that are not “published” do not serve as precedent and do not have the same binding effect as cases that are published. However, the reasoning of the courts may be beneficial to parties asserting similar claims and may be cited under certain circumstances.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/special-ed-fape-required-a-smaller-general-education-setting-6-8-students

time to stop the blame and criticism…education reform needs reform

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, School violence on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 13:47

Remembering the Fallen Sandy Hook Educators

By Anthony Rebora on December 17, 2012 2:41 PM

Here are the names of the faculty members who were killed Friday in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Rachel Davino, behavioral therapist, 29

Dawn Hochsprung, principal, 47

Anne Marie Murphy, special education teacher, 52

Lauren Rousseau, teacher, 30

Mary Sherlach, school psychologist, 56

Victoria Soto, teacher, 27

Reports of the courage, selflessness, and sheer quick-wittedness of the educators at the school have proliferated over the weekend. In his speech at the prayer vigil in Newtown last night, President Obama highlighted the faculty members’ heroism as a source of inspiration for the country:

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch. They did not hesitate.

… [T]hey responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances, with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all and reassured their students by saying, “Wait for the good guys, they are coming. Show me your smile.”

A number of educator-bloggers have also drawn inspiration and a sense of professional strength from the Sandy Hook teachers’ actions. Some highlights:

Angela Maiers:

You have just been reminded of why we are indispensable and why no one can simply walk in off the street and do our work. You are in this position of privilege to do one thing like no other person on earth can do.

Vicki Davis:

You are a teacher. You are noble. Why does it take a dumb tragedy for people to realize how dedicated most of you are to your students? You make sacrifices every day and I know that many of you out there would do the same thing for your babies in your classroom.

Anthony Cody:

On this day we are reminded that classroom teachers, staff and administrators are on the front lines with our children every day. They are witnesses to the children’s growth and growing pains. They see the blossoming and the blight. … They take the chance that violence may come into their lives. They take the chance that they will encounter children with damage beyond their ability to reach. They take the chance that the trauma that inhabits the lives of so many of our children will find its way into their lives as well.

John Wilson:

Today will be a time for community and political leaders to thank teachers for their unheralded bravery. A visit to the school to show support would be appropriate. Providing special treats for the teachers’ lounge with a note of appreciation would be welcomed. The stress that teachers have been under all year is compounded when students and their colleagues are harmed. It is a time to re-examine how teachers in this country have been minimized for the contributions they make, and it is a time to re-commit to honor and respect and reward America’s teachers.

Let us know how you and your colleagues are responding.

Retrived from: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2012/12/here_are_the_names_of.html#Newtown

woulda, shoulda, coulda…

In Education, Education advocacy, School Psychology, School violence on Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 09:54

School Psychologists Feel the Squeeze

As school budgets shrink, school-based mental-health services are losing resources and support.

By Kirsten Weir

September 2012, Vol 43, No. 8


The Philadelphia school district came under fire last February when it announced a plan to eliminate half of its 110 school psychologist positions to help close a budget shortfall. After the public outcry, district administrators decided against the cuts.

But not all schools have been so lucky. The economic downturn has forced schools nationwide to tighten their belts — and many school psychologists are feeling the squeeze. Cash-strapped schools have already eliminated what they dub as “nonessential” school personnel and programs, such as art and physical education programs, says Ronald Palomares, PhD, assistant executive director of the APA’s Practice Directorate. And even after making these cuts, schools lack funding.

“Now that there’s less money with the same focus on academics, [schools] are looking at a broader definition of nonessential personnel,” he says. “And unfortunately, that is often where school psychology has fallen.”

That nonessential designation is, of course, all a matter of perspective. Federal special education law requires public school districts to employ school psychologists to evaluate students for special-education services. Fulfilling that role is the primary responsibility of the nation’s estimated 32,300 school psychologists (School Psychology International, 2009). About 6.5 million public school students — about 13 percent — received special-ed services in the 2009–10 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In their remaining time, school psychologists tend to students’ mental health needs by consulting with teachers and families of children who have social, behavioral and emotional problems. Some also lead psychosocial groups, such as grief groups for students who have suffered a loss, or pregnancy prevention programs for at-risk girls. They also assist children and schools during times of crisis, such as following a student suicide.

“It’s a combination specialty,” says Frank C. Worrell, PhD, director of the school psychology program at the University of California, Berkeley. “The solution to a psychology problem may be an academic intervention, and the solution to an academic problem may be a psychological intervention. Recognizing the connection between these worlds is important.”

Not enough hours in the day

Despite the need for school psychologists, they are in short supply. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) recommends that districts employ one school psychologist for every 500 to 700 students. But that’s not happening, says Philip Lazarus, PhD, director of the school psychology program at Florida International University and 2011–12 NASP president.

“In many states, that ratio is more in the neighborhood of one to 2,000, though in some states it goes as high as one to 3,500,” Lazarus says. “We certainly don’t have the number of personnel we feel is necessary.”

With too few personnel to go around, many school psychologists don’t have the time to perform the full range of services they are trained to provide. Though most school psychologists serve two or three schools, it’s not unusual for a single professional to be responsible for visiting five or even seven different schools, says Worrell.

As money becomes tighter, school psychologists may find they’re stretched even thinner. Most school districts haven’t cut school psychologist positions outright, but many have opted not to fill vacant positions, or have shortened annual contracts by a month or two, says Lazarus. “That’s a subtle way students are losing services,” he says.

Rachel Barrón Stroud, PhD, a school psychologist at Hays Consolidated Independent School District outside Austin, Texas, has seen that trend firsthand. “Our district continues to grow, but there’s no talk of adding additional personnel. The needs of students are being met, but the staff continues to get busier,” she says.

Meanwhile, the district has lost technology specialists and academic interventionists, hurting students and staff alike. Without those technology specialists, for instance, school psychologists may have to spend more time trouble-shooting for special-education students who use assistive technology to communicate.

“The job is getting more difficult in terms of time management,” says Barrón Stroud, who still makes time to provide counseling and teacher consultations and to lead two social-skills groups each week. She says she manages to fit in the extra tasks because she regularly takes work home at night. But she adds, “I think, in general, school psychologists feel like they don’t have time to do all the things they’d like to do.”

Changing the conversation

Budget shortfalls are also undermining psychologists’ prevention efforts at schools — even though research suggests schools are often the best places to reach kids (Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 2008).

“Children spend the majority of their day in schools,” says Tammy Hughes, PhD, a professor of counseling, psychology and special education at Duquesne University. “Further, because school psychologists work with parents and teachers, they are uniquely situated to help children across multiple settings.”

But too often, when budget cuts loom, prevention and early intervention are the first to go. “The trimming happens at the prevention end — at the time we have the most ability to influence positive social and emotional development and address symptoms very early,” says Hughes.

School psychologists aren’t the only mental health positions affected. School counselors, social workers and academic interventionists can all be considered nonessential when there’s not enough money to go around. Cutting these positions puts extra stress on teachers, who have fewer resources to help them manage students with behavioral and emotional problems.

“Teachers are getting overwhelmed with responsibilities,” Palomares says. “How much can they do at such a high level of expectation and still be successful?”

Inadvertently adding to the burden is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which places an emphasis on student testing and school performance. Unfortunately, policymakers have failed to acknowledge the close link between mental health and academic achievement, says Lazarus.

“Students who can’t focus, or are dealing with difficult family problems, won’t succeed in schools no matter how many reforms are put in place by governors or presidents,” he says.

He and others point out that education reform has focused on increasing academic test scores without considering students’ emotional well-being. “And there’s a direct correlation between emotional health and academic success,” Lazarus says.

Bright spots

In spite of the grim economy, school psychologists’ efforts are making significant headway. One positive sign is a new national focus on bullying, says Susan Swearer, PhD, a professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, who participated in the White House Bullying Prevention Conference earlier this year. That focus has helped to bring student mental health to the forefront, she says.

“Issues like bullying really point to the importance of school psychologists being at the leading edge of mental health service delivery for youth. It’s a perfect issue to address the fact that we can’t shortchange mental health services in schools,” she says. “But in this era of dwindling budgets, the [school] leadership has to really prioritize mental health treatment.”

And indeed, some districts are already boosting their focus on students’ mental health. Among them is the Baltimore City Public School System, which employs 128 full-time school psychologists to serve 84,000 students — a ratio of about 1:656. Many of those students come from families of low socioeconomic status and often experience social and emotional difficulties, and school personnel are extremely committed to helping students overcome those difficulties, says Rivka Olley, PhD, who supervises psychological services in the system.

“Unlike a lot of districts, we are known for the fact that our school psychologists are providing mental health services,” she says.

Baltimore’s school psychologists and social workers proactively work with teachers and establish student support teams to help students at the first signs of trouble. They also meet with families in their homes or churches, at coffee shops or local restaurants. “We want to make that connection because that’s what the research shows makes a difference for these kids. It’s really reaching out to the families and bringing them into the loop,” Olley says.

Ultimately, it’s hard to argue against making student mental health a priority. And school psychologists can take a leadership role in making that argument, Hughes says, by reaching out to both administrators and legislators to underscore the importance of investing in students’ mental well-being.

“The potential for impact is enormous,” she adds, “if we can get everyone working in the same direction.”

Kirsten Weir is a writer in Minneapolis.

Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/squeeze.aspx

Evaluating special education teachers: Implementing the IEP should be the standard

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, Special Education on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 09:05

Evaluating special education teachers: Implementing the IEP should be the standard.

power to the teachers!

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Friday, 14 December 2012 at 08:31


How education could plunge off the ‘fiscal cliff’

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 07:10

How education could plunge off the ‘fiscal cliff’

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Sequestration: The word strikes fear in the hearts of school boards and administrators nationwide, and with good reason.

What does it mean? The term refers to the across-the-board budget cuts that will automatically occur in federal programs in January 2013, unless Congress reaches an agreement by the end of this year on reducing the deficit.

What kind of cuts will this mean for education?

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) estimates the reductions would amount to over $4 billion. That would plunge education funding into pre-2003 levels, according to the National Education Association.

Why is that so scary? Part of the reason is that America’s schools have added 5.4 million new students to their rolls since 2003, and costs have risen about 25%. Budget cuts triggered by the fiscal cliff could potentially affect millions of students and teachers by reducing programs and services and increasing class sizes.

According to Deborah Rigsby, director of federal legislation for the National School Boards Association, if sequestration happens, each school district could lose more than $300,000 for every 5,000 children enrolled.

“Sequestration would hurt our school districts and ultimately, our students,” said Rigsby on a conference call Wednesday.

Not all of the effects would be immediate, although some federal programs, such as Title I, Head Start, and state special education funding would feel the impact of the cuts right away. Schools that receive Impact Aid funding would also experience immediate cuts.

Schools would really feel the hit next academic year. According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), sequestration won’t automatically impact most schools’ 2012-2013 budgets, but for the 2013-2014 school year, the impact could be “profound.”

U.S. Senate subcommittee warns that cuts would spell out layoffs for more than 46,000 employees nationwide, unless states or communities covered their salaries.

But many states and school districts may not be able to help. In an AASA surveypublished in July, state and local districts were asked if they’d have ability to soften the impact of sequestration. Some 90% of them said they didn’t – that their state would be unable to help absorb or offset the cuts.

“We love our public education here, but we feel like we’re under attack,” said Juandiego Wade of Virginia’s Charlottesville City Schools on the NSBA conference call. “We don’t have the resources to supplant those federal funds.”

Already out of reserves drained during recession years, states would have to respond by reducing teachers’ professional development, programs such as after-school and enrichment, and personnel, according to the survey. Also on the table: Deferring textbook and technology purchases and reducing extracurricular activities.

Some schools are bracing for impact.

A little more than half of the school districts that responded to the survey say that they have built some cuts into their 2013-2014 budgets to offset sequestration. A little less than half say they have not and plan to address the cuts when they happen.

Board member Jill Wynns of the San Francisco Unified School District says that California would lose $387 million in education funds in the first year alone of sequestration. And that’s on top of 20-24% cuts the state has already made to its education budget since the 2007-2008 school year.

“This is not saving money. It’s disinvesting in our future,” said Wynns.

Education advocates and organizations have launched massive efforts to put pressure on the president and Congress to prevent sequestration.

The National School Boards Association has reached out to Congress and raised awareness among its members, giving them steps they can take to help stop the cuts from happening.

The National PTA has a sequestration toolkit to provide its state and local units with information as well as templates for letters to Congress and media outlets to turn the pressure up on elected officials.

On the NSBA call, the Virginia school board member reflected on the recent elections and spending priorities.

“Our state saw a lot of campaign money spent here last month. I wish some of it could be spent now on education,” said Wade.

Retrieved from: http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/15/how-education-could-plunge-off-the-fiscal-cliff/

Why Do So Many Teachers Quit Their Jobs? Because They Hate Their Bosses – The Atlantic

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 07:34

is it the principals specifically or the fact that the principals are also pawns to the “higher ups” (i.e. the system, those that don’t work in the schools but make the rules, the boards, etc.) and are also in the firing line (by this, i mean can be easily replaced should they not comply with the education reformists and those that rule from their offices).  in my district, the principals are also being evaluated based on scores, data, and subjective measures.  i really believe they, too, feel the pressure of those of us in the trenches and most of them are in the trenches as well.  while there are definitely some nefarious characters that are principals, there are some who try to fight the good fight and just want what’s best for their kids.  they, too, have not had raises in the last 6 (yes, i said 6) years and are under some of the same pressures as teachers and support staff.  

as for salaries, we have not had any kind of raise in 6 years and were told there were none on the horizon.  i signed my first contract with my county 10 years ago.  i was quite happy with my salary and degree credit.  fast forward 10 years later.  because of furloughs and the fact that i went from a 205 days a year employee to 190, as well as a 50% cut of my degree credit because i don’t work in a classroom and am directly related to “student achievement” (i am a psychologist at FOUR schools, and i DO believe i have MUCH to do with achievement but, in our new data-driven school system, i guess you can’t see what i do on standardized tests), i am now making LESS than i did 10 years ago when i signed my first contract.  i believe my net loss is around $14,000.  how many people would put up with that?  but, we are told time and time again, “at least you have a job.” 

well, my county is now looking to outsource some very important programs.  i guess that “at least you have a job” may not apply to everyone by next year.

yes, bad bosses are one reason, but i have to believe they are just pawns or figureheads in this education reformist scheme and are forced to “follow the party line.”  

then again, i have had some REALLY bad principals, too.  let me assure you, those that LOVE power and micromanagement…they could definitely make you leave a job!!!  i get it.

Why Do So Many Teachers Quit Their Jobs? Because They Hate Their Bosses – The Atlantic.

education reform. this too shall pass…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Monday, 12 November 2012 at 10:45

Red herrings in education reform

Clarke L. Ruebel

In the rhetoric of education reform, both sides are guilty of proposing solutions that generally ignore the consequences of isolated changes within an elaborate and inbred system.

Education reformers level their sights on issues such as tenure, unions, salaries, and benefits. These are effective rallying points, but they are red herrings diverting attention from the more pernicious philosophical issues driving education and they should not be confused with improving education. No monetary issue, no adjustment in spending, no manipulation of data can redress the myopic philosophies that fuel our problems.

Currently, for example, educators are stuck between mandates to increase API scores while preparing for looming contradictions implied in Common Core Standards slated for 2014. API is an arbitrary, senseless goal and a sorry financial investment if we aim to continue associating schools with education. Common Core Standards might be a step up, but the mystery shrouding them rivals the unveiling of a new Apple product and educators are currently developing curriculum to address the theoretical, conjectural demands of this mystery. So we divide our time between racing to futility and barreling toward ambiguity.

While some rumors linked to Common Core seem more relevant than the current foolishness, the bigger point is that this institutionalized confusion routinely consumes too much staff time, wastes money, and perpetuates the image of fiscal irresponsibility. I won’t guess at how much money has been spent over my career on programs, binders, snacks, and training for systems and saviors that lose favor before the ink is dry on expenditure checks.

The learned mentality among my peers is not to take it too seriously; it’s generally out of vogue before we’re back in our classrooms to apply what we learned.

This absurdity is the product of the same flawed thinking that lowers standards and celebrates mediocrity as success. In response, “advocates” politicize the welfare of young people and label it reform. Worse, they vehemently attack issues that will not result in a more effective system.

Eliminating tenure, for example, renders vocal anti-establishment teachers most vulnerable to punitive firings. Incompetent teachers too often milk the system until they retire, but incompetence blends in much better than activism. In education, the managerial world is data-driven, a world wherein success is measured by allusive, arbitrary benchmarks. From this perspective, incompetence, vocal activism, and conscientious objection all look the same. As comedian Steven Wright pointed out, “the squeaky wheel gets replaced.” We have more to fear from impotence than incompetence.

The natural inclination of leadership is to function in an either-or world.

It is understandable in the face of school mission statements that include numerical goals, where the intent is clearly more about perfecting a system of measurement than facilitating discovery or enlightenment.

This is not to vilify administrators. Many philosophically disagree with the status quo, but do not enjoy the same level of protection as teachers and remain mute for the sake of their own professional survival. It is a divisive, absurd, maybe more accurately disingenuous system that protects teachers while backing administrators into corners where conformity is the benchmark of efficacy.

Our system stifles independent thinking among leadership the same way teachers are tasked with subverting critical thought in our students. Those of us who resist become agitators, drawing the ire of a frustrated public who consider us problems rather than potential solutions, which leads to increasingly adamant demands to rein us in.

Charter and private schools are not immune to this cycle. They are products of it, and vouchers, like merit pay, will only serve to legitimize the fundamental flaws in the current system. Ironically, demanding structural changes without philosophical adjustment contributes to the structural problems.

I have yet to hear a valid argument against improved funding of education. As an addendum, however, any such headway must be accompanied by a critical look, not just at spending or contracts, but at ideologies that set the stage for perpetual distress. We need to find a balance between the front line and the bottom line, and remember who the casualties are.

Clarke L. Rubel has taught English at Alta Loma High School for 14 years. He lives in Rancho Cucamonga.

Retrieved from: http://www.sbsun.com/pointofview/ci_21971294/red-herrings-education-reform

The Coming Storm for Common Standards: Public Knowledge? – Curriculum Matters – Education Week

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 13:37

The Coming Storm for Common Standards: Public Knowledge? – Curriculum Matters – Education Week.

After 30 Years of Special Ed. Law, How Far Have We Really Come? – On Special Education – Education Week

In Education, Education advocacy, Special Education on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 13:33

After 30 Years of Special Ed. Law, How Far Have We Really Come? – On Special Education – Education Week.

value-added, pay for performance, a rose is a rose…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 13:43

Is Seniority for Teachers Bad for Students?

By Anthony Cody on November 3, 2012 11:23 AM

Yesterday’s post challenging the ability of some education reform “liberals” to shed core values such as support for unions, desegregation and the institution of public education apparently hit some sensitive nerves. In particular, Chris Arnold, whom we recently saw praising the “parent trigger” movie “Won’t Back Down,” took me on via Twitter. You may recall that Mr. Arnold caught some flak for initially failing to disclose his affiliation with The New Teacher Project, a Gates-funded non-profit that has pushed hard for “reforms” in teacher evaluation.

In an exchange that took place over the past 24 hours, he asked me:

How do students (or teachers) benefit from seniority-based, quality-blind layoffs and rigid, factory era pay systems?

It is tough to answer such a question in 140 characters or less, so I am going to offer an extended answer here.

To answer this question, we have to look at the alternatives to seniority and due process, and the reason these systems were developed in the first place. Seniority provides a degree of security to people based on when they were hired. Since pay rises with experience, there is an incentive to lay off more senior teachers. Administrators might also be motivated to play favorites when making these decisions, if given the opportunity.

What are the benefits seniority provides?

Seniority combined with due process gives teachers a degree of freedom to speak their minds, and exercise some autonomy over their classrooms. This helps students because it allows teachers to be more creative. It allows the school to be a more democratic place, where teachers can speak out about issues the school faces. This also has the effect of encouraging people to invest in teaching as a career. Once they have established themselves at a school or in a district, they have some security. In the school where I taught for 18 years, there used to be teachers who had been there for twenty or thirty years. They had a different set of gifts from those of the youthful novices, but they were of great value nonetheless. They carried the school’s culture, the history of the place. We had a sense of family, and they were our elders. They served as mentors, and helped us through some tough times. They brought a sense of stability, and taught generations of children from the families of our community. As research has shown, stability is very important for our students, and instability undermines student performance. Many of our students face instability in their home lives. It is crucial that our schools serve as stable oases for them, rather than echoing the chaos that sometimes reigns in their neighborhoods.

What does “quality-blind lay-offs” mean?

To discuss this, we need to be clear about the alternative that Mr. Arnold has in mind. The New Teacher Project has been actively promoting the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. He can correct me if I am wrong, but the alternative to “quality-blind lay-offs” is the creation of a ranking system to lay people off based on their “effectiveness” at raising test scores, usually using some form of Value-Added Method (VAM). This is most certainly bad for students in a number of ways. To understand why, take a look at the research done by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond – once a supporter of the use of VAM. Her investigations reveal the following:
First, test-score gains–even using very fancy value-added models–reflect much more than an individual teacher’s effort, including students’ health, home life, and school attendance, and schools’ class sizes, curriculum materials, and administrative supports, as well as the influence of other teachers, tutors, and specialists. These factors differ widely in rich and poor schools.


Second, teachers’ ratings are highly unstable: They differ substantially across classes, tests, and years. Teachers who rank at the bottom one year are more likely to rank above average the following year than to rate poorly again. The same holds true for teachers at the top. If the scores truly measured a teacher’s ability, these wild swings would not occur.


Third, teachers who rate highest on the low-level multiple-choice tests currently in use are often not those who raise scores on assessments of more-challenging learning. Pressure to teach to these fill-in-the-bubble tests will further reduce the focus on research, writing, and complex problem-solving, areas where students will need to compete with their peers in high-achieving countries.


But, most importantly, these test scores largely reflect whom a teacher teaches, not how well they teach. In particular, teachers show lower gains when they have large numbers of new English-learners and students with disabilities than when they teach other students. This is true even when statistical methods are used to “control” for student characteristics.

This is all clearly bad for students. What teacher will choose to work these difficult populations when it could mean a disastrous end to their career? The result will be teachers will seek to avoid the neediest students, and these students will not be well-served.

And our students are being very poorly served by a system that revolves entirely around test scores. They are getting the message that learning equals answering a series of multiple choice or short answer questions, and their instruction is ever-more finely focused on these all-important tests.

I also think there is room for improvement in teacher evaluations. I worked with others to prepare the Accomplished California Teachers report “A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom,” which provided detailed examples and recommendations. Teachers should receive feedback from administrators and peers — but the process should not be dominated by test score data.

How about “rigid, factory-era pay systems”?

Once again, we need to remember why these systems were created, and also consider carefully the alternatives that are on the table. In the past, elementary teachers were almost all women, and they received significantly less than high school teachers. The pay systems were developed to provide a fairer system, that honored both education level and experience. There is certainly some room for improvement, recognizing the different roles teachers now play in a school. However, once again, we have to look critically at the systems The New Teacher Project has been promoting, many of which include connecting pay to student test scores. This approach yields most of the negative consequences we see from using test scores for evaluative purposes, and thus is likewise bad for students.

There is a reason that states (and nations like Finland) with strong teacher unions tend to have better education systems. When we invest in schools, and give teachers a sense that their experience and expertise is honored, that they will have academic freedom and autonomy in the classroom, they are happier with their work. They stick with it, and are driven, not by a fear that their students’ scores will be low resulting in the loss of pay or job security. They are driven by their passion to inspire their students with new challenges, to create outstanding work, to investigate the world around them in new ways. This sort of teaching is not the product of some perfectly aligned testing and evaluation system. It is the product of the passion for teaching and learning that drew so many of us to work with children in the first place.

What do you think? Is seniority good or bad for students? How about using test scores or VAM ratings to determine who is laid off?

Dialogue with me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/11/is_seniority_for_teachers_bad_.html

What to Watch for on Election Night: Education Edition

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 12:55


By Rick Hess on November 5, 2012 6:17 AM

What does tomorrow hold? For all those educators, scholars, and advocates who don’t have a lot of time to track national politics or wonder about what the results might mean for education, let’s take a quick spin around the block:

First, the conventional wisdom is that President Obama has better than a 70% chance of being reelected. Most scenarios have him winning around 280 or 290 electoral votes (270 are needed for victory.) Obama would win 290 if Romney claims Indiana (a foregone conclusion) and Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia–but plucks nothing else from Obama’s 2008 column. If Obama’s electoral vote total creeps much above 300, you could hear talk of a surprisingly strong victory; alternatively, the narrative could emphasize that Obama would almost assuredly be the first president to fare worse in his reelection bid than in winning his first term. While nobody imagines that education has played much of a role in this fall’s election, the results will have important consequences for K-12 and higher ed: An Obama win would minimize potential cuts for education and ensure that efforts to resuscitate “gainful employment” and to promote NCLB waivers continue to roll forward. At the same time, since both candidates (but especially Obama) have run vague, agenda-less campaigns, it’ll be hard for the winner to claim much of a mandate to do anything particular come January–especially given a sharply divided electorate.

Second, Romney could certainly win. To do so, he’d likely need to claim North Carolina (probable), Florida (he’s the slight favorite), Virginia (a toss-up), Ohio (where Obama seems to be about three points ahead), and one other small state (probably New Hampshire or Colorado). If Romney were to somehow claim Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, or a couple small swing states like Iowa and Nevada, his path would be easier. For some of the implications of a Romney win, see here.

Third, there’s a fair chance that the successful candidate will lose the popular vote while winning the electoral college. If there is such a split (which is probably close to a 50-50 bet in the case of an Obama victory), it’s unlikely that the outcome would have much practical effect. Normally, we might imagine such a split to cause a ruckus or give the winner extra impetus to extend the olive branch to the other side. That might, for instance, be expected to offer an opening for NCLB reauthorization (just as Bush’s efforts to romance key Democrats in 2001 were part of the aggressive push on No Child Left Behind). But, given that the Republicans benefited from this scenario just a decade ago, reaction is likely to be modulated due to the sense that turnabout is fair play. Meanwhile, if it’s Obama facing off against House Republicans (as seems likely), well…

Fourth, we may not know the official winner for days or weeks. The result could easily hinge on a couple swing states where the race currently looks to be razor close. Between recount procedures, provisional ballots, legal challenges, and the rest, some of those states might take days or weeks to sort things out. Depending on who wins, this could impact public attitudes about government, negotiations over sequestration, or even (if Romney wins) the assembly of the next cabinet and Department.

Fifth, surprisingly, it looks like Democrats will keep control of the Senate. As recently as August, it was pretty much assumed that Republicans would capture the Senate–because the Dems are defending a massive number of open and vulnerable seats. Yet, Republicans seem to be blowing their chances in Missouri, Ohio, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Dems appear poised to gain seats in, at least, Massachusetts and Indiana. It now seems likely that Dems (and Dem-allied independents) will hold between 52 and 55 seats in the Senate, giving them powerful sway over a potential Romney agenda. At the same time, the GOP will have at least 45 seats and remain well-positioned to frustrate an Obama agenda. One intriguing twist: If the Democrats hold the Senate, Lamar Alexander will take over for Mike Enzi as the ranking Republican on the Senate education committee. Alexander, the former U.S. Secretary of Education who gave up his high-ranking position in the Senate Republican hierarchy so that he’d be freer to speak his mind, is the most thoughtful and sophisticated Republican in the Senate when it comes to education issues. Having made it clear that he thinks the feds have overreached on education, Alexander’s ascendancy could stir the pot in unexpected ways.

Sixth, it’s almost certain that Republicans will hold the House, while losing perhaps a half-dozen seats. This means that a Speaker Boehner would be positioned to check a second Obama administration just as he has in 2011 and 2012. Now, one thing to keep an eye on is that several Tea Party celebrities from 2010–Daniel Webster, Allen West, and Michele Bachmann among them–are in tight races. If some of these folks lose, combined with an Obama victory and a good night for Dems in the Senate, it could add luster to the Democrats’ night and chasten House Republicans. Such an outcome would fuel talk that Obama has beaten back the Tea Party and regained momentum, and could strengthen his hand in the coming face-off with House Republicans over budget cuts, taxes, and his second term agenda.

Seventh, there are several key education or education-related referenda in the states that are worth keeping an eye on. In Washington state, voters will decide on Initiative 1240 to allow 40 charter schools to open in the next five years. Washington voters previously rejected charter initiatives in 1996, 2000, and 2004. The measure is backed by donors including Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Jeff Bezos, and opposed by the Washington Education Association. In Idaho, three initiatives ask voters to approve of dramatic legislation to phase out tenure, limit collective bargaining, and institute merit pay. In Michigan, the union-backed Proposal 2 would make collective bargaining for public employees a constitutional right. In California, Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 would boost sales and income taxes to close the state’s massive deficit; he’s promised that schools will suffer if Prop 30 goes down. Meanwhile, Proposition 32 would limit the ability of unions to use member contributions to fund political activities. If unions triumph on most of these (especially if California votes to raise taxes), it’ll suggest that the teachers unions are on a roll after their victory in Chicago. If Washington passes charters; the unions lose in Idaho, Michigan, and California; and California voters don’t boost taxes, we could be in for turbulent times ahead. If the verdict is mixed, well, we’ll have to sort through the results to see what it all means.

Bottom line: Given that Dems are likely to hold the Senate (with a modest majority), Republicans are likely to hold the House, and the President is likely to win narrowly, it’s doubtful that the results are going to yield much change in Washington from what we’ve seen during the past two years. For one thing, especially with Congress already eyeing a very full plate and the NCLB waiver process well underway, I’d put the odds of NCLB reauthorization actually happening before 2015 at less than ten percent. Meanwhile, the likelihood that new ideological, uncompromising icons, like Democrat Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Republican Ted Cruz from Texas, will be replacing more pragmatic Republicans like Scott Brown and Kay Bailey Hutchison, means that partisan polarization will continue apace. (If you’re trying to souse all this out, you may want to attend or watch the livestream of AEI’s Thursday morning panel “What will the 2012 election mean for education?“)

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rick_hess_straight_up/2012/11/what_to_watch_for_on_election_night_education_edition.html


education reform or privatization? an interesting viewpoint.

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 12:44

Are Education “Reformers” Becoming Privatizers?

By Anthony Cody on November 2, 2012 2:34 PM

Quite a few “liberal” education reformers ought to be doing a bit of soul searching these days, as their movement seems to be veering into territory previously occupied by segregationists and anti-union business and political leaders. Diane Ravitch has begun calling people whom we used to know as “education reformers” by the more loaded term “privatizers.”

In California, we are seeing where this path is leading some of our state’s most prominent “liberal” politicians, and it is not pretty. The former state senate Democratic majority leader, Gloria Romero, has become the “face” of Proposition 32, an initiative funded by the Koch brothers, which will disallow unions from making political contributions. The initiative has language that makes it appear even-handed, but due to court decisions such as Citizens United, corporations will continue to have few limits on their ability to make contributions.

Education reform has long been an easy ticket to political credibility for liberals. But in the past, this meant people actually fought for public investments in our schools. Ever since NCLB came along, however, there has been a new game in town. Some of those who supported NCLB did so because they thought higher standards combined with pressure from tests would “force” public schools to succeed. Others, however, wanted to “blow the system up.” It took a few years, but as the hedge fund managers and investment capitalists have figured out the billions to be made, they have been climbing on board the train. They have also seen the clear connection between the NCLB hammers – tests and school closures – and the creation of greater opportunities for “innovative” alternatives to public schools. And of course the new Common Core assessments will reveal new “performance gaps,” yet another set of opportunities for the “innovators.”

But the “liberals” who were gung ho supporters of NCLB have always insisted that their goal was the salvation of public education, not its destruction. People like Ted Kennedy and California Congressman George Miller staked their position firmly in the solid ground of civil rights. But now people like Romero are now using this same rhetoric to attack unions. Romero is all over TV this week, appearing in TV ads paid for by the Koch Brothers, to promote legislation that will force unions out of the political arena.

As Romero explained to reporter Matthew Fleischer, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics. It’s flowing to both sides. Government isn’t about drawing lines. It’s not about saying you’re on that side and you can’t come over.”

Romero “came over” via a group called Democrats For Education Reform. This organization has been influential with the Obama administration, and is funded by hedge fund billionaires who are seeking to expand investment opportunities in education.

Michelle Rhee is another “reformer” who has draped herself in the garb of a liberal. She claims to be a Democrat, and her husband is the Kevin Johnson, a former basketball player who is now the mayor of California’s capital, Sacramento. She told a reporter in September, “I’m not just a Democrat — I feel like I’m a pretty lefty Democrat, and it is somewhat disappointing when I hear some people saying, ‘She’s not a real Democrat.'” In May, she shifted $2 million into a California StudentsFirst PAC, and has made contributions to influence legislative races in the state. This is how influence is purchased.

Rhee spoke out in support of Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and more recently, Rhee’s StudentsFirst PAC has funneled half a million dollars to DEFEAT a proposition in Michigan that would protect the right of workers (including teachers) to collective bargaining. The more influence “Democrats” like Romero and Rhee wield within the Democratic Party, the more we will see that party promote charter schools and the privatization of education.

Wendy Kopp, another supposed liberal, has morphed Teach For America into a program devoted to building “leadership.” A few years ago, TFA created the organization Leadership for Educational Equity, as a sort of launchpad for TFA alums interested in advancing their political careers. The candidates they support share some familiar political goals – advancing merit pay for teachers, the “parent trigger,” and the expansion of standardized testing. As this article in The American Prospect concludes, “what began–and is still viewed by many–as an apolitical service corps could be the Trojan horse of the privatization of public education.”

At some point, genuine liberals need to start to question this path. 
Do they really want to be associated with people who are literally turning our public education system over to profit-making corporations? Is the fig leaf of “civil rights” going to continue to mask the re-segregation of our schools? Do the virtues of “innovation” justify turning public dollars over to parochial schools that teach students the Earth is 6,000 years old? Or to virtual charter schools that claim to “personalize” education by assigning poorly paid teachers hundreds of students, while their CEO rakes in $5 million a year?

I grew up in a liberal family. Certain values were upheld as sacred. You did not cross a picket line. Ever. You stood with the underdog, and supported worker’s rights to organize and strike. When our city moved to desegregate schools in 1968, we supported and participated not because it would improve test scores, but because we believed in Martin Luther King, Jr’s vision for the future, that our children would learn together, and build for their common future as they played together. I was one of those children, and these are values that still guide my support for public education and for teachers’ rights to collective bargaining.

It is remarkable to me that supposed liberals can abandon these values. But when enough “mothers milk” is made available, I guess it becomes hard to resist.

We do not have much difficulty identifying Michelle Rhee as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Will other “liberals” such as George Miller continue to provide steam for the engines that threaten our public schools? Will they continue to support special exemptions that allow Teach For America novices to be considered “highly qualified teachers”? Will they support the expansion of charter schools and the use of the deceptive “parent trigger” even as they increase segregation and leave the toughest to teach students behind? Will they support the expansion of sham virtual schools like K12 Inc even as they divert public funds to clearly inferior alternatives?

Tuesday’s election will tell us how successful they will be this time. Educators and underdogs know who our friends are, and they show this not by what they call themselves, or their party affiliation, but by their actions.

What do you think? Are “liberals” like Kopp, Rhee and Romero actually advancing the privatization of our public schools?

Dialogue with me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/11/are_education_reformers_becomi.html

don’t blame teachers…an opinion from across the pond.

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Politics, School reform on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 08:21

Yes, teachers ought to inspire, but they can’t work in isolation

It’s the lack of opportunities, not teachers’ expectations, which prevents disadvantaged children from escaping their background

Will Huton

The Observer, Saturday 27 October 2012

David Laws, newly restored to the front rank of British politics as Lib Dem education minister, is a disgrace to his party and political tradition. He was one of the principal architects of the coalition agreement, one of whose consequences was to undermine Britain’s threadbare social contract. Now, compounding the felony, he has joined the choir of elite figures who attack teachers as undermining working-class aspirations.

Last week, he told the Daily Telegraph, voicing what he imagined is the emerging consensus, that teachers’ “depressingly low expectations” fail to encourage too many children “to reach for the stars”. Too few teachers, career advisers and colleges encouraged pupils to believe they could reach the top. Improved social mobilitydemanded change.

There is no easier constituency to attack than teachers, especially as, at first glance, Laws has a point. In too many schoolsteaching is little more than getting through the day without incident, shepherding the barely controllable class to modest qualifications. Of course it should be better and teachers and teaching unions would do their cause a great deal of good if they committed themselves fully to excellence and aspiration. There are enough barriers to disadvantaged children breaking out of their situation without teachers offering another.

But to focus merely on the shortcomings of teachers is to dodge huge questions, not just about the nature of contemporary society but about what it means to live a life well. Stagnant social mobility characterises the entire industrialised west. And, uncomfortable as it may be for those who believe that social class is so very yesterday, the brutal truth is that the higher the inequality and the weaker a country’s social contract, the lower its mobility and aspiration. Inequality matters. Blaming hapless teachers for deep trends that have an impact on all western societies is little better than scapegoating.

Too much discussion of inequality takes as axiomatic why we should be concerned about the extent to which the top 1%’s incomes are outstripping the rest, driven by technology, skills and not a little old-fashioned exploitation. Yet what makes inequality toxic is not so much the differential buying power but that it creates social groups in which the members of society have no idea or stake in how others live and which work as self-fulfilling traps.

The more hermetically sealed the world of the rich, the less a sense of obligation or shared destiny they feel they have with the rest of society. Conversely, for the average and disadvantaged, the chance of escaping their position becomes ever more remote as expectations and aspirations, collapse along with their relative incomes.

Laws says it is deplorable that even young people in his own constituency of Yeovil, not a social black spot, feel that a career in investment banking is so much another world that they and their teachers would not aim to join it. But such a response is completely rational.

Investment banking is another world. Nor are its denizens interested in creating wealth on the ground in Britain. To declare yourself a candidate means doing something of dubious value, where the objective odds of selection are tiny.

I doubt Laws would criticise, say, Lord O’Donnell for not being aspirational enough to be candidate for the governorship of the Bank of England: why set yourself up for a highly probable failure? Precisely the same logic applies to a bright student from a state school in Yeovil, pondering a career in investment banking. In any case, even if Yeovil’s half-a-dozen brightest end up working at Goldman Sachs, in what way would anything substantive be solved for the rest of Yeovil’s school-leavers?

Of course school-leavers want to make the best of themselves, live a life they have reason to value and find jobs where employers allow them to do just that. Most social mobility is not driven by making spectacular leaps across ever widening social gaps, even though we should never discourage the attempt. Rather, it is done by joining an organisation and working one’s way up. The problem is that so few of today’s employers provide such ladders and those that do are being driven by economic exigency to remove them.

Promotion in the public sector has been close to eliminated by the over-the-top austerity for which Mr Laws is such an enthusiast. By next year, for example, it will be four years since the Metropolitan Police stopped promoting constables to sergeants. Meanwhile, in the private sector, large organisations are removing layers of management and very few offer starter job apprenticeships on any scale. Barclays, creating 1,000 apprentices, was oversubscribed more than 10-fold.

To promote social mobility, we need to create a more dynamic capitalism so that more firms can grow together with their people. Alongside it, we need a social contract that equips people, especially our young, to make the most of their capabilities. Only then might the gap between the social groups be narrowed to allow more people to move up, and also create a society in which we live more fulfilled lives, surely a broader conception of social wellbeing than just mobility alone.

Some of the foundations of a 21st-century social contract were laid by New Labour. The child trust fund was a means by which working-class parents could create a pool of saving for their children, their contributions matched by the state, so that as adults they would have some wherewithal to buy training or, at the very least, the means to buy or rent a home. It was carelessly scrapped by the coalition. Same story with the education maintenance allowance. Housing allowance for the young is soon to go as well. Yeovil’s young men and women are trapped both geographically and socially, while the firms that might employ them are no less stymied.

Doubtless, some teacher in a Yeovil school might have dissuaded a bright student not “to reach for the stars”, but most are only too anxious to spot and coach young talent. It is what makes the job worthwhile. But Britain’s teachers operate in the most socially polarised schools in the world, according to the OECD. The great liberal thinkers – Green, Hobhouse, Keynes and Beveridge – who wrestled with how to create a social liberalism that offered opportunity alongside capitalism would never have singled out uninspirational teachers as the cause of falling social mobility. Neither should their successors today.

Retrieved from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/28/will-hutton-education-aspiration-david-laws/print

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


both sides now…charter school amendment

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Politics, School reform on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 07:46

on election day tuesday (or before for those that voted early) egeorgia will be voting yes or no on amendment 1 which regards charter schools and states: 

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

All persons desiring to vote in favor of ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “Yes.”

All persons desiring to vote against ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “No.”

If such amendment shall be ratified as provided in said Paragraph of the Constitution, it shall become a part of the Constitution of this state. 

you can read the specifics of the amendment here: http://www.sos.ga.gov/elections/ConstitutionalAmendmentsForNovember2012.pdf

since i am a strong believer in RESEARCHING everything and getting the facts (quantoid), i am posting two sides to the charter school amendment.  please be cautioned not to just read what i post if you are going to vote on this amendment and are looking for information, but do your due diligence in finding your own research in making an educated opinion based on your own feelings and information.


Charter School Amendment Supporter Speaks Out

A Letter to the Editor in favor of the Nov. 6 ballot issue claims the education establishment “is not fighting for your children.”

Editor’s Note: Last weekend East Cobb Patch published a blog post from a parent who supports charter schools but opposes HR 1162, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The following commentary is written by Kelly Cadman, Vice President of School Services at theGeorgia Charter Schools Association. She is a former founder of a charter school, and a charter school mother and public education supporter.

By Kelly Cadman

There has been an awful lot of energy expended by opponents of the Charter School Amendment. The opposition to the Amendment claim that the state can “already” act as an appeals body for charter schools. Those supporting the Amendment wonder, if the state can already approve charters, why is the Education Establishment fighting THIS hard against affirming that on the ballot on November 6?

Most of the arguments posed against the Amendment are related to the enabling legislation, which establishes a Commission. The ballot question, however, ONLY reaffirms the state’s role in K-12 general education, so why the nasty battle against the Amendment?

At the heart of the argument employed by the school districts and affiliate associations who earn their bread and butter from dues and fees from the Education Establishment are two primary arguments: CONTROL and MONEY. And the Establishment doesn’t even deny it.

For those on the fence about voting on the Amendment, here are some facts to consider as you make your decision about how to vote:

LOCAL CONTROL is currently vested in elected board members in each of 180 school districts. The public is led to believe that it can, through its vote for one individual on the district board, every 4 years, only 3 times in the course of a child’s educational career, actually influence what happens in their school district. That’s nonsense.

The set-up, although through an election process, does not allow for a community to easily overhaul a district board that is failing its children and not meeting its fiduciary obligations. Moreover, you have unelected superintendents that actually run the show – aided by the Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association, both who train up weak and passive board members to follow the superintendents’ bidding. It’s a recipe for disaster without recourse.

Just look at the number of districts who have lost SACS accreditation or who are on probation. Even in these very serious situations, the local boards cannot easily be voted out by its community, and those living in APS, DeKalb, Clayton, and Sumter Counties can attest to this. They are trapped and so are their children. But goodness knows, let’s protect “local control.” Interestingly enough, we have recently had a charter go before Clayton County that was denied. Denied.

What absolute arrogance to deny the rights of parents and community members trying to get out from under failure to give their kids something better and to be denied by the very district who failed the whole community. But it is this district Establishment the opposition to the amendment wants you to “protect” by voting no. Forget what’s better for kids.

FOLLOW THE MONEY is the mantra of the opposition, but to be fair, let’s turn it around and follow the money on the other side to see how protecting the money (which isn’t in danger to begin with) ties with protecting the fiefdoms of the districts. Without doubt, the districts have had austerity reductions over the last 3 years due to the state of our economy.

There is another side to the equation to consider, and that is with spending. Without getting too deeply engaged in the rampant waste on travel and unnecessary expenses not tied to instruction, let’s look at spending just at the heart of “local control” – the boards and central offices – to see why they are fighting so hard to protect it.

  • Every single one of our school boards are paid for their “public service.” This accounts for $4.1 MILLION dollars in salary. With the austerity cuts, are board members donating their salaries back to put into classrooms? Nope. Just as an aside, charter board members receive $0 in compensation. Ever.
  • Nearly one third of the superintendents in this state make in excess of $150,000 yearly. Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, of Gwinnett County, makes $410,000 annually, followed closely by superintendents from Clayton, Atlanta Public Schools, Savannah-Chatham, Fulton, and Cobb (3 of which are in danger of loss of accreditation, by the way). Forty-seven superintendents took a raise last year while furloughing educators.
  • Our state spent $686 MILLION dollars on central office. Seventy-seven out of our 180 districts serve less than 3000 students and have FULL central offices and account for $67 MILLION dollars of the total spent. In these tough economic times, are districts in rural areas combining central offices to reduce duplicative costs? Are large districts cutting central offices to keep money in classrooms? No, and in fact, according to a recent study by Dr. Benjamin Scafidi of Georgia College and State University, central office growth has nearly doubled the growth of students.

This is all very important in the context of this fight for money and control against the Charter Amendment. The Education Establishment is not fighting for your children. They aren’t fighting for quality education. They aren’t fighting to protect the voice of parents or teachers. They aren’t fighting for kids to become work or college ready.

Don’t be fooled by the Education Establishment. This amendment is about giving public school students a chance and parents a choice for a quality public education.

Sources of data:

Open Georgia:  www.doe.k12.ga.us

Ga DOE: http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fin_pack_revenue.display_proc

Retrieved from: http://eastcobb.patch.com/articles/charter-school-amendment-supporter-speaks-out


Charter Advocate Will Vote No

By  Dana Teegardin

Georgia is in the midst of an intense debate over a proposed charter school amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Whatever your position, you need to read my story.

The polls predict this amendment will pass with flying colors, thanks to a misleading ballot question and a majority of funding from outside the state. If this amendment passes, politics and corporations will shape our schools. Charter groups with multi-faceted objectives are lining up to grab their market share. If a state-controlled charter school comes to your town, you will have little recourse if there is a problem.

Why Local Control is Critical
Proponents of the amendment declare that if a charter school is performing, it will remain open and if it is not performing, it will close. It’s not that simple when a charter group is willing to break the rules.

The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy Charter School in Alpharetta could not have been anticipated by our local and state board of education or by educators across the country.

The proper charter school board protocol did not work because the group running the school was not transparent. I asked for help from the local school board and from my legislator, Jan Jones, who also crafted the charter school amendment. It was the local school board that took action.

It is irresponsible of Gov. Nathan Deal, Jan Jones and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.

Problem? My son attended the Fulton Science Academy Charter School for three years when I found out about problems that also led to my learning that the school was being operated by followers of the influential Turkish imam, Fethullah Gulen.

Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated, by an external audit, commissioned by the local school board. Details can be found in this article in The New York Times,Audits for 3 Georgia Charter Schools Tied to Gulen Movement.

Turns out the Gulen movement was the least of my worries.

The real problem? Legislators with tunnel vision, hoping to open the Georgia education frontier to more charter groups at any cost. My legislators demonstrated that they will look the other way as long as a school has high test scores. The legislators were willing to ignore financial mismanagement and reported federal investigations.

Local School Board Takes Action
It was the local school board that held Fulton Science Academy accountable and did not renew its charter. The local school board did the right thing even after politicians pressed for the board to reverse their decision. My experience is a critical example of why local control is necessary. The local school board took action and politicians would not help.

Vote No
Amending the constitution is serious business. Don’t vote for an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that contains weak legislation and does not address current problems we face in our state.

Details about Fulton Science Academy, including the letter I sent to the governor and legislators asking for help, can be found at Georgia Charter School Fiasco.

Retrieved from: http://eastcobb.patch.com/blog_posts/charter-advocate-will-vote-no-64de4605



studies show adolescents need more sleep.

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 13:15

and THAT would be how you increase academic achievement!  everyone is so concerned about raising academic achievement and ways in which to do it, obviously focusing on teachers and schools.  there are SO many other factors that have a stronger correlation with academic achievement…and sleep is definitely one of them.  i have had kids fall asleep while i’m testing them!

More Sleep for Teens?  Montgomery Petition Signed By Thousands.

By Donna St. George, Published: November 2

The sky is pitch-black at a school-bus stop in Olney, and it might as well be midnight for 15-year-old Joe Palmer. His eyes are open, but his brain feels stalled. He wishes he were still in bed. It is 6:30 a.m., with sunrise still an hour away.

“I’m pretty much a zombie,” he says as his bus pulls up. He drags himself aboard, bound for Sherwood High School.

The teen’s lament is familiar across Montgomery County, where the opening bell of high school rings at 7:25. But such pre-dawn travails have taken on more urgency in recent weeks, propelling a burgeoning effort to change the hours of the high school day.

The goal: a start time of 8:15 or later.

The idea’s at the heart of an online petition, started by a Garrett Park parent, that has garnered thousands of signatures since Oct. 15 and is firing up debate on community and school e-mail discussion groups. Students have signed on, too.

“Either this or less homework. Please,” wrote a North Potomac teen. “I’m barely even alive right now.”

The effort comes six months after Fairfax County school leaders voted to establish a goal of later start times for high schools. The county is now hiring a consultant to come up with a “blueprint for change” by early next year.

Supporters say a growing body of sleep research shows that teens are biologically wired for later bedtimes and later wake-ups. And studies show that lack of sleep is linked to lower academic performance, absenteeism, and an increased risk of depression and car crashes.

Another danger was at issue this week, too: A student was fatally struck by a car at 7:03 a.m. as she crossed busy Route 118 in the dark on her way to Seneca Valley High School. Some parents wonder if the early school-opening hour was a contributing factor.

“It’s dark out — and it’s not safe,” said parent Shelly McGill of Bethesda.

Critics say that pushing back start times would be complex, cost too much, and affect after-school activities and sports. School buses in Montgomery do double or triple duty, shuttling the oldest students first, then middle-schoolers and finally the youngest.

For many parents, a change cannot come soon enough.

Beth Newman, who has 14-year-old twins at Magruder High School in Rockville, said her husband, who is in charge of morning wake-ups, uses an array of tactics to rouse their slumbering sons: flipping on the lights, turning up the radio, threatening to keep them from activities. “It’s just torture. It’s a constant struggle,” said Newman, who works as a substitute teacher in Montgomery and has seen teens fall asleep in class, especially during first period.

Other students nap after school. They ask parents for rides, rather than take the bus, so they can sleep in as long as possible. One Kensington teen says being tired is one of the most discussed topics of every school day.

Mike Kramer, 16, a junior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, started a Facebook page on the issue last year on a night when he had “seven to eight hours of homework and I was up to 2 a.m. and I had to get up at 6.”

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/montgomery-petition-to-let-high-schoolers-sleep-longer-signed-by-thousands/2012/11/02/805ccfb8-20fa-11e2-ac85-e669876c6a24_story.html?hpid=z7

Teacher Quality

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:29

Teacher Quality: Who’s On Which Side and Why

By Marc Tucker

We were gathered around a table in the office of a key state official.  In the middle of the table was a chart.  On the vertical axis was a scale showing the scores of entering students in the state’s teacher education institutions on a statewide college entrance examination.  On the field of the chart were colored circles representing each of the teacher education institutions. Each was placed vertically with its center at the average score of their students on the state college entrance exam.  The size of the circles represented the number of students at each of the institutions.  Many of the circles were above the median performance on the statewide college entrance test.  But the biggest circles were well below the median. Without question, the state is recruiting most of its new teachers from its less capable high school graduates.
The state’s leaders are determined to bring the state into the top ranks of states and countries measured by the OECD PISA surveys of student performance.  And they are well aware that the research shows that the countries in those top ranks are typically recruiting their teachers from the upper ranks of their high school graduates.

This state is not in the United States. Unlike most American state boards of elementary and secondary education, it was in a position to set minimum scores for entrance into its teachers colleges.  So you would think that they would institute a policy that would stipulate a high minimum score, so that they could be sure that they would get higher quality students entering their teacher colleges and therefore higher quality teachers.

But that is not happening.  It turns out that the principals, classroom teachers and their unions—and they are very strong unions—are all for raising entrance requirements.  They see it as in their interest to have as many high quality teachers as possible.  But the teachers colleges are dead set against it.  They are afraid that, if the standards of entry go up, they will lose students and have to let faculty go.

On the face of it, that makes no sense.  The schools, you might say, need X many new teachers this year and are likely to need a comparable number next year, so why should the schools of education take in fewer candidates if the requirements for entry go up?

Well, it turns out that the combined output of the teachers colleges every year is enough to produce many more teachers than the state actually needs to hire each year.  That produces a surplus of candidates for jobs in teaching and a surplus of candidates keeps the wages of teachers down.  Young people who are making career decisions who did not do so well in high school may be attracted to teaching because it is easier to get into a teachers college than a law school or engineering school.  If the state raised the requirements to get into education schools, then it would have to attract into its education schools students who would otherwise be choosing a path leading to law school, medical school or engineering school.  But those occupations pay more than teaching and generally offer more professional autonomy and better working conditions.

So we asked whether the state is willing to pay for more teachers if it raises the entrance requirements for its teacher colleges.  Oh no, was the response.  The state is in a budget bind and higher wages for teachers are not on the table.

Well, we said, in the United States, the typical teachers college graduate has left the teaching profession after five years.  The international evidence shows that, if you raise wages, raise standards for entry and improve working conditions, new teachers will stay a lot longer in the profession and the state will save a fortune on teacher training, because of the reduction in teacher turnover.  Maybe you could pay for a big raise for teachers with the savings from reduced turnover.

But it turns out that, in this state, in this country, the current rate of turnover is half of what it is on average in the United States, so the possible savings would be much less than it would be in our country.  No wonder, we thought, that the teachers colleges are dead set against raising standards.  Their fear that the result would be to lower admissions and enrollments is very well founded.  That looks like the makings of a stalemate on the teacher quality agenda.

We had a conversation the other day with the leaders of the higher education system in an American state.  They are very much aware of these issues and very interested in dealing with them.  But the higher education institutions in that state will not even share their data on the test scores of the students they admit to their teacher education institutions.  This is not a conversation they want to have, because they are afraid of where it might lead.

But it is time to have that conversation.  No one believes that high SAT scores or ACT scores, or high high school grade point averages by themselves guarantee that a candidate will be a good teacher. Everyone I know believes that a passion for teaching and an ability to relate well to young people are very important characteristics of good teachers.  But these are not mutually exclusive qualities.  The record shows that countries that recruit their teachers from a pool of people who score high on their college entrance exams, had high grade point averages and also show a passion for teaching and an ability to relate well to students produce higher student achievement across the board than countries that leave out one or more of these qualities when they are recruiting their students.

The fact that we have very high rates of attrition for new teachers gives the United States more room for maneuver.  We can afford to raise teacher salaries in anticipation of substantial savings in the churn of teachers in our teacher labor market.  Unfortunately, though, the costs here come out of one pocket and the savings will be realized in another.  We have to find a politically sensible way to deal with that reality.  When we do, we will be able to turn the corner on teacher quality.  And, if there is anything at all to be learned from the experience of the top-performing nations, it is that this is the key to improving student performance.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2012/11/teacher_quality_whos_on_which_side_and_why.html?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

a description of education in massachusetts under romney…a teacher’s story.

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:25

Romney’s home state teachers ask, ‘Where’s the love, Mitt?’

by Paul Toner

In the third presidential debate Mitt Romney twice proclaimed, “I love teachers!” As a middle school teacher in Massachusetts while he was governor and now president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, I can assure you that we never felt Romney’s “love.” Our former governor never once met with the MTA to find out our views on education issues. He listened to business leaders and ideologues, not to classroom teachers, support staff or public higher education faculty and staff.

We roll our eyes when Romney tries to take credit for our high-performing students. Massachusetts is a relatively affluent state that has always had good schools. Those schools were made even better as a result of a major education overhaul and increased funding for low-income districts adopted in 1993, 10 years before Romney took office. No major education initiatives were enacted while he was governor. In fact, Massachusetts cut funding for public schools by a higher percentage than any other state during his tenure.

Romney’s boast that top-scoring students can attend any public college or university in Massachusetts “tuition-free” as a result of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship he sponsored also elicits groans from educators, parents and students alike. In Massachusetts, our public higher education campuses charge very low tuition and very high fees, so the break these students get is way less than meets the eye. For example, tuition, fees, room and board this year at the University of Massachusetts comes to $23,436. Of that, only $1,714 is tuition, so the Adams Scholarship winner still has to pay $21,722 to attend. In addition, fees rose by $3,000 under Romney, more than swallowing up any small benefit from the scholarship.

Romney was a frequent critic of those of us who call for smaller class sizes. He claimed that there is no correlation between class size and student performance even while he sent his own sons to the Belmont Hill School – an exclusive prep school that costs $37,000 a year and that touts “class size averaging 12 students per section” as one of its selling points. Truly, Mitt Romney is out of touch with the needs of low- and middle-income students.

Mitt Romney has never liked unions. He especially dislikes teacher unions. While governor, he once told The Boston Globe, “We should put together all the stakeholders at the table, but not the unions. Individual teachers, yes, but not the unions.” It’s no surprise that today he believes that teacher unions should be barred from making political contributions. Not oil companies. Not tobacco companies. Just teachers and other educators.

As with so much in this election, it’s important to get information from people close to the source to cut through the spin. This much we know. Until Mitt Romney got Potomac fever mid-way through his only term as governor and started roaming the countryside bad-mouthing our state and bad-mouthing teachers’ unions, he never gave so much as a passing glance to the teachers he now proclaims to “love.”

Toner is a middle school social studies teacher in Cambridge, Mass., and president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Retrieved from: http://educationvotes.nea.org/2012/11/01/romneys-home-state-teachers-ask-wheres-the-love-mitt/

common core…another educational phase or here to stay?

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Psychology, School reform, Special Education on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:23

Scores Drop on Ky.’s Common Core-Aligned Tests

By Andrew Ujifusa

Results from new state tests in Kentucky—the first in the nation explicitly tied to the Common Core State Standards—show that the share of students scoring “proficient” or better in reading and math dropped by roughly a third or more in both elementary and middle school the first year the tests were given.

Kentucky in 2010 was the first state to adopt the common core in English/language arts and mathematics, and the assessment results released last week for the 2011-12 school year are being closely watched by school officials and policymakers nationwide for what they may reveal about how the common standards may affect student achievement in coming years. So far, 46 states have adopted the English/language arts common standards; 45 states have done so in math.

Two federally funded consortia are working on assessments based on the common standards, and those tests are not slated to be fully ready for schools until 2014-15. But Kentucky’s tests are generally understood to be linked to the common core.

“What you’re seeing in Kentucky is a predictor of what you’re going to see in the other states, as the assessments roll out next year and the year after,” said Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers, which spearheaded the common-core initiative along with the National Governors Association. Mr. Wilhoit was also previously Kentucky’s education commissioner.

Falling Scores

The drop in Kentucky’s scores conform to what state education officials had expected: that students in grades 3-8 taking the new, more-rigorous Kentucky Performance Rating of Education Progress, or K-PREP, would not be able to reach their achievement levels of prior years. Kentucky began implementing the common standards in the 2011-12 school year.

The biggest drop came at the elementary level. On the previous Kentucky Core Content Tests, 76 percent of elementary students scored proficient or higher in reading in the 2010-11 school year. That percentage plunged to 48 percent for the K-PREP results in the 2011-12 school year, a drop-off in proficiency of more than a third.

In 2010-11, 73 percent of elementary students were proficient or better in math, but that fell to 40.4 percent. That drop represents a 45 percent decline in the share of proficient students.

Middle schoolers’ decline was a little less steep. In reading, they dropped from a 70 percent proficiency level in 2010-11 to 46.8 percent in 2011-12, a decline of a third. In math, proficiency-or-better levels declined slightly more than that, from 65 percent in 2010-11 to 40.6 percent in 2011-12.

Overall, students in grades 3-8 demonstrated somewhat higher proficiency levels in reading than in math.

When new tests are introduced, states can expect scores to fall in most cases, said Douglas McRae, a retired assessment designer who helped build California’s testing system. “When you change the measure, change the tests, then you interrupt the continuity of trend data over time. That’s the fundamental thing that happens,” he said.

Kentucky developed its tests in conjunction with Pearson, the New York City-based education and testing company, which is also crafting curricula for the common core.

K-PREP does not represent the final, polished version of common-core assessments. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and theSmarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are designing the tests that most states have signed on to for gauging students’ mastery of the common standards nationwide beginning in the 2014-15 school year. (Kentucky belongs to the PARCC consortium.)

But Mr. Wilhoit said K-PREP represents the state’s best effort, along with Pearson’s, “to develop an assessment that was representative of the common core.”

Proficiency drops also occurred in the end-of-course tests in reading and math Kentucky administered to high school students. But those declines were smaller than those in the earlier grades, and a state study shows that while the K-PREP tests are completely aligned with the common standards, the high school end-of-course tests (from the ACT QualityCore program) are only about 80 percent to 85 percent aligned to the standards.

The proficiency level in high school reading dropped from 65 percent to 52.2 percent (a figure 6 percentage points higher than the state’s prediction), based on the end-of-course tests, while proficiency in math fell from 46 percent to 40 percent on the Algebra 2 test, beating the state’s prediction by 4 percentage points.

Commissioner’s Take

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said that students beat the state’s predictions for both the K-PREP and end-of-course exams. Using a statistical model that predicted ACT performance based on academic results in reading and math in 2011, for example, the state estimated a 36 percentage-point drop in elementary reading scores in 2011-12, instead of the actual 28-point drop.

“We’re just a little bit above our prediction, which I think is a pretty good testament to our teaching,” Mr. Holliday said.

Earlier exposure to the common standards, he suggested, would help younger students at first.

“It’s going to take a little longer to see middle and high school growth on these tests,” Mr. Holliday said. “It’ll take about five years to see an overall growth of significance at all levels.”

But based on national benchmarks, the new K-PREP tests may not have been rigorous enough, said Richard Innes, an education policy analyst at the Bluegrass Institute, a conservative-leaning Lexington, Ky.-based think tank.

In a report released the week of Oct. 29 for the institute, Mr. Innes compared the K-PREP math scores for 8th graders this year (41.5 percent proficient or better) with the results on the ACT Explore test this year (30.5 percent) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress proficiency levels in 2011 (31 percent).

“There are questions in my mind as to whether they are rigorous enough in several areas,” he said. Different subject tests appeared to have been more rigorous in different grade levels, Mr. Innes said. The math in middle schools appears to be the subject where K-PREP is less rigorous than NAEP or Explore tests, he noted. He drew the same conclusion about K-PREP reading results at the elementary school level.

One number that went up: the proportion of students qualifying as college and/or career ready, which rose to 47 percent in 2011-12, from 38 percent the previous year. Mr. Holliday attributed that rise to the state creating more career pathways and bringing more introductory college courses to high school seniors to prevent the need for postsecondary remediation.

“To get that much improvement in the first year is extraordinary, I think,” said Bob King, the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, based in Frankfort, Ky.

Preparing the Public

To combat a potential public backlash from the lower scores, Mr. Holliday noted that he had enlisted the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce as part of a yearlong public relations campaign.

Florida schools earlier this year endured a significant backlash when proficiency rates on its state writing tests dropped by two-thirds after a tougher grading system was introduced, forcing the state school board to change the test’s cutoff score retroactively.

“We knew the scores were going to drop, but this is the right thing for our kids, our schools,” he said. “You’re going to see quite a different reaction in Kentucky because we watched what happened everywhere else,” Mr. Holliday said.

But the transition for schools can be disappointing for some, especially in the short term. Carmen Coleman, the superintendent of the Danville Independent district, said she was proud of how the school system had progressed over the past three years from a ranking of 110th to 24th among the state’s 174 districts, only to tumble back to the middle of the pack in the newest rankings of school districts.

“It’s a tough blow for teachers and students,” she said.

The Kentucky PTA has received grant money from the National PTA to educate parents and others about the new standards, but the state group’s president, Teri Gale, said it doesn’t mean people won’t be caught off guard by the lower-than-usual results.

“They’ve heard us talk about it. They’ve seen the newscasts and everything,” Ms. Gale said. “But until they actually see the scores, I don’t think it’s going to hit home that this is what we were talking about.

Coverage of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the common assessments is supported in part by a grant from the GE Foundation, atwww.ge.com/foundation.

Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/11/02/11standards.h32.html?tkn=MUUFgXKG6BeBJ5plrgNFi1pr%2BpWNe%2BzfFckH&cmp=clp-edweek&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EducationWeekWidgetFeed+%28Education+Week%3A+Free+Widget+Feed%29


darwinian theory of education…adapt or die?

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:19

Education system must adapt or face extinction, say experts

KARACHI: In nature, when species face a changing environment, they must adapt or face extinction. Education systems, however, may remain static even when they are no longer relevant – a fact not lost on the participants of the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development’s (AKU-IED) international conference.

The three-day event, which has been organised with the support of the Higher Education Commission and United Nations Children’s Fund, aims to foster debate among experts about the state of Pakistan’s education system and how it can be changed.

“Education needs to move with the times, to be responsive to the emerging needs of present day societies,” said AKU-IED’s director, Dr Muhammad Memon, at the inaugural session on Thursday. In his welcome address, he also called for policy that would formally recognise teachers’ professional status and integrity.

Renowned physicist, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, the chief guest, said, “The 18th Amendment has empowered provinces to lead the change in Pakistan’s education system, but they have failed to take any substantial initiatives so far.” He called for “dramatic and sustainable changes” in the education system. “Pakistan presents a particularly challenging environment, but there are some grounds for optimism,” he added. “A clearer understanding of how the education environment can be better managed – both inside and outside the classroom – will certainly be important.”

The conference chair, Dr Kulsoom Jaffer, told The Express Tribune that researchers, academics and practitioners will present around a 100 papers during the conference. They will cover themes such as innovations in methods of teaching, conventional and alternative assessment methods, the relevance of curriculum in changing times and educational policies.

Two foreign experts had also been invited to speak at the inaugural session. Prof. Andy Hargreaves, who is associated with Boston College’s Lynch School of Education in the United States, said the importance of good teachers for sustainable change cannot be ignored. “If you teach the same thing for over ten years, you would ultimately lose the sense of challenge,” he told the audience via video link. “We need to challenge and stretch our pupils so that we could know if we are doing the job all right,” he said, urging greater collaboration among teachers to develop a mentoring system.

He also emphasised the need to support teachers, regardless of the stage in their careers. “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children and their teachers,” he said, quoting Nelson Mandela.

Prof. Chandra Gunawardena, UNESCO-COL Chair in Distance Education at Open University of Sri Lanka presented a brief history of educational reforms in her country which have raised the adult literacy rate up to 90.6 per cent.  “The right of all children to education was recognised in Sri Lanka in the 1940s, years before international conventions were even introduced and universal goals were set.” The society, however, still finds a gap between education and economy. “More than academic qualifications, the private sector demands for the employees to be well-equipped with general transferrable skills and communication skills in English.”

Dr Memon hopes that the conference will reinforce the discourse on educational changes through sustainable reforms. AKU-IED also intends to compile a book on the conference proceedings.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2012.

Retrieved from: http://tribune.com.pk/story/459484/education-system-must-adapt-or-face-extinction-say-experts/

special education in los angeles…

In Education, Education advocacy, Special Education on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:16

Los Angeles Still Struggles to Serve Students With Disabilities

By Nirvi Shah

The latest progress report on Los Angeles’ ability to serve its students with disabilities shows the district is making headway in some areas, but it is still falling short of a 6-year-old target for providing services as frequently and for as long as special education students need them.

In the report, issued last week, the district’s independent monitor noted that the district was to have provided—by 2006—93 percent of the services for students with disabilities. That target was the result of a federal court case resolved in 2003. The district has largely reached that target, though intermittently.

But another goal set in the court case was that the district would provide 85 percent of those services for the duration and frequency specified by students’ education plans. For example, a student might require three one-hour sessions of speech therapy each week.

While the district has come a long way, it still falls short of this second goal, said the monitor, special education expert Frederick J. Weintraub. About 83.5 percent of students received the correct number of service sessions, but only 70 percent got those services for the amount of time their educational plans say they should, the report said.

While some of the shortfall might be attributed to inaccurate record-keeping, therapists and other service providers said that making up missed sessions is sometimes a challenge because of paperwork, meetings, the district’s electronic monitoring system for tracking services, and scheduled school events, such as testing or school assemblies, the report said. Some providers simply aim to provide a certain amount of services each month or year for their own flexibility (does this serve the students though? Advocates, experts, please weigh in.).

Mr. Weintraub was appointed as a monitor because of a federal court settlement, and must stay on until Los Angeles meets all the goals it set out to achieve. Next school year, the district will study its own capacity to monitor whether students with disabilities are getting the services they need, he said in the report.

“The [independent monitor] has repeatedly stated that service provision is the cornerstone of [a free, appropriate public education] and substantial compliance. As this consent decree nears completion, the District must demonstrate the ability to deliver services and comply with the service requirements of the IEP,” he said in the report.

Mr. Weintraub did find that while about 94 percent of kids with disabilities receive services—at least one session of any of the services they may be entitled to in a given eight-week period—but he also found 400 cases in which there was no evidence students were served at all in eight-week period. Some of this was because of the district’s tracking system.

One high point: the monitor found that Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, now has enough well-qualified special education teachers to meet its needs. A decade ago, it had enough to meet only 70 percent of its needs, and now that figure has risen to 96 percent. The district has also made progress in reducing the disproportionate identification of black students as having an emotional disturbances, and in remodeling and upgrading facilities to make them accessible to students with disabilities.

There’s been some progress on yet another lingering issue: whether charter schools are screening students for disabilities. (Los Angeles isn’t unique in having some version of this issue.) The monitor found that in June, 28 charter schools continued to ask parents to provide information related to special education. “While this is a substantial decrease from the past two years, this finding is evidence of the district’s inability to provide rigorous oversight of its independent charter schools,” the report said.

The district must review charter school applications again in December.

Still, overall enrollment of students with disabilities at charter schools continues to climb, the monitor found.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2012/10/los_angeles_still_struggles_to_serve.html

Seven Practices to Prevent Unethical Behavior

In Education, Education advocacy on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 07:14

Seven Practices to Prevent Unethical Behavior

By: Emily Douglas

In recent weeks, I have had several conversations with school personnel directors about the importance of building ethical cultures and practices. Leaders in all industries face issues concerning unethical behavior and can learn from each other about how best to tackle these situations. Here are seven practices to help prevent unethical actions in any organization:

• Create Policies and Practices: Organizations must research, develop, and document policies and processes around defining, identifying, and reporting ethics violations. These policies should be articulated in the employee handbook and protections should be put in place for those who raise ethical issues. However, having a policy is not enough. You must practice what you preach. Case in point: Years ago, the Enron Corporation was known to have one of the most intricate ethics policies in the country. The 64-page document was given to new employees with a letter from Ken Lay, the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. But, in 2001, it was revealed that Enron had engaged in major accounting fraud to disguise its poor financial health. After Enron declared bankruptcy, copies of their ethics policy went up on eBay. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History also secured a copy that now lives in the museum’s exemplary business practices exhibit. How appropriate. I encourage you to read more about the Enron scandal in the article “Management Controls: The Organizational Fraud Triangle of Leadership, Culture, and Control in Enron” published in the July/August 2007 issue of Ivey Business Journal.
• Hire Right: Selecting quality people from day one can make a huge difference in the ethics of your organization. Some organizations scour background checks, purchase screening tools, or use behavior-based interview questions, which may ask candidates to describe a situation when they acted ethically even when it was against social or cultural norms.
• Develop People’s Understanding: Most HR professionals will tell you that training people to act “ethically” will not have much of an impact, but developing a process for reporting ethics violations and building staff understanding about ethics expectations is important.
• Incent the Right Thing: Some in the education community are asking, “Do states and school districts incent people to cheat or act unethically by giving more weight to certain measures over others?” Before introducing a new measure in schools–or any other industry–leaders must consider if it encourages the type of actions that are valued by the organization. If there is a risk of impropriety, it is important to have a conversation around what checks and balances will be put in place to make sure unwanted behaviors are handled appropriately.
• Put Controls in Place: Risk management professionals will tell you that even with all the proper policies and processes in place and a staff that understands them, it is also wise to perform regular audits to help reduce opportunities to act unethically, incent individuals who may act unethically to reconsider, help catch issues that have occurred by accident, and mitigate risk all around.
• Build a Culture of Transparency, Openness, and Communication: Cultural management work is difficult. To ensure true success when it comes to organization ethics, people must see and hear what is going on as well as feel comfortable to stand up and speak out if they see something occur that is not right.
• Leadership Must Walk the Talk: Leaders can talk about the importance of policies and processes, incentives, communication, and openness all day, but if they turn around and act unethically, it can be like throwing a large stone into the pond of ethics tranquility. The same goes for promoting staff who have behaved unethically. It doesn’t take long for staff at all levels of an organization to recognize a leader who talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk when it comes to ethics. This can breed suspicion and destroy trust.

What has your organization done to not only ensure that it has strong policies and processes in place to build understanding around ethical expectations, but also to ensure that these policies translate to everyday action among staff and leadership?

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/topschooljobs/k-12_talent_manager/2012/10/7_practices_to_prevent_unethical_behavior.html

test scores in tennessee…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 07:06

Early Test Scores Low in Tennessee’s Achievement District

By Jackie Zubrzycki

Students in the six schools that make up Tennessee’s Achievement School District, or ASD, scored at the 16th percentile in the nation, on average, on the Measured Academic Progress, or MAP, test, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The ASD, currently in its first school year, was created to oversee the state’s lowest-performing schools—or, as its website declares, to “catapult the bottom 5 percent of schools into the top 25 percent in the state.” These MAP scores indicate that this may be an uphill battle.

The Commercial Appeal reported that the ASD’s superintendent, Chris Barbic—who founded charter network YES Prep—was “stunned” by the low results, though, he said, “We intuitively knew kids were coming in that far behind.” But Barbic was optimistic: “We are using data to adjust. That is what good leaders and good teachers do. That’s a good best practice you see in lots of schools.”

The MAP is not a high-stakes, state-administered standardized test, but is rather a computerized formative assessment, intended to help gauge student progress. The students in the Achievement School District will take the test twice more this year, and teachers said they hope to see dramatic growth, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The ASD is one of a number of state-created districts modeled after the Recovery School District in New Orleans. Tennessee’s plan was to add schools slowly but steadily. The district announced this summer that seven charter networks will open nine new schools in the state in the 2013-14 school year as part of the ASD.

Its performance and outcomes will likely be closely watched, especially in Memphis, which is home to five of the six current ASD schools, and where the ASD’s growth is one of a number of factors complicating the future of the school district, as my colleague Christina Samuels reported earlier this year.

Want to keep up with school district and leadership news? Follow @district_doss on Twitter.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2012/11/guest_blog_post_by_jaclyn.html

place-based learning…an example

In Education, Education advocacy on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 06:44

Documentary Explores ‘Place-Based’ Learning

By Liana Heitin

With the storm keeping us out of the office for a few days, I finally had a chance to watch a documentary I’ve been meaning to get to for several months now called“Schools That Change Communities.”

The 60-minute film, directed by Bob Gliner, looks at five schools that are seeing positive results through the use of place-based learning (similar to project-based learning, but with a focus on serving local communities). Among other impressive educators, the film features Tom Horn, the former principal of Al Kennedy Alternative School in Cottage Grove, Ore., whom I profiled in an article last April. (Horn is now the principal of a K-5 school in Eugene, where he assured me by email he plans to continue to “hit project and place-based ed. hard” with a “serious continued focus on ecology and sustainability.”)

The film puts a lens on some very different tacks for incorporating place-based learning into schools. In the tiny town of Crellin, Md., students help design a new playground, bake and deliver bread to neighbors, and pick up trash around their community. In the economically downtrodden neighborhood of Mattapan, in Boston, students take oral histories of their families and create radio programs to offer information needed by locals—on the causes of asthma, for instance. In Watsonville, S.C., students produce documentaries about migrant workers and gang violence in the town, and in Howard, S.D., students hold community meetings and reach out to politicians in an effort find ways to improve the local economy.

As for the Kennedy School, the movie details the partnerships Horn created with local organizations in Cottage Grove, including Aprovecho, a nonprofit focused on sustainability that worked with high schoolers to build a house with green materials. (I got to see the final project while visiting—the straw bale and mud mix made for thick, well-insulated walls. Like nothing I’d ever seen before.) It also goes into the Kennedy School students’ work on a wetlands mitigation project that is helping improve water quality.

Gliner’s film avoids investigating the obstacles that can make place-based learning hard to implement (curriculum and testing demands, scheduling, buy-in, etc.). And it does not include a look at programs that failed to get off the ground or did not show positive outcomes. But failures are not really the point. Gliner’s goal instead is to show that instead of asking what communities can do for schools, some people are asking what schools can do for communities. And it turns out, they can do a lot. The payoff for kids, meanwhile, is engagement and deeper understanding. Very simply, as Gregory Smith, co-author of Place- and Community-based Education in Schools, explains in the film: “These kids don’t have to ask their teacher, ‘Why am I learning this?’ They know why they’re learning it.”

The film is slated to air on some public broadcasting stations in January. In the meantime, it is available for purchase now on Gliner’s website.

Here’s the trailer:


Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2012/10/documentary_explores_place-based_learning.html


Career-Ladder Program Centers on Teaching Rubric, Targeted Support

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:52


Career-Ladder Program Centers on Teaching Rubric, Targeted Support

By Liana Heiten

It’s a program that combines some of the most controversial policy issues facing teachers: value-added scores, rubric-based teacher-evaluations, professional development reform, peer review, and merit pay. In other words, it’s potentially a school’s perfect storm. And yet at one Louisiana school where the intricate career-ladder and compensation system known as TAP has been in place for four years, the climate is quite temperate. Teachers appear to be thriving and happy. And rather than using the often-inflammatory ed-policy jargon when discussing TAP, teachers there generally emphasize two simple benefits of the system: support and growth.

The school’s adoption of the TAP program was prompted, as most reforms these days are, by student-achievement concerns. In 2007, Keith Simmons, the principal at 490-student North DeSoto Middle School in the small, rural community of Stonewall, La., saw that test scores, while meeting performance goals, had hit a plateau. “We were working as hard as we could, but we felt we could do better,” the 12-year veteran principal recalls. “We needed a way to work smarter that wasn’t cliché, that wasn’t just the newest PD [fad].”

The next year, he turned to the TAP System for Student and Teacher Advancement (as its officially known), a program developed by businessman Lowell Milken in 1999 as a means of overhauling a school’s staffing model to help improve teacher quality. It didn’t take long to see results. The school exceeded its growth target that year. Since then, the North DeSoto’s performance score—a measure determined by the state based on attendance, dropouts, and student test scores—has continued to climb.

Perhaps not surprisingly, TAP is now in place in all of the DeSoto Parish school district’s 13 schools.

Moving On Up

The TAP System, operated by the nonprofit National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, is currently in place in nearly 350 schools across the country, most of which are categorized as high poverty. It relies heavily on the premise that teachers will be more invested in their work if they are able to grow, including financially, in their careers.

In a TAP school, that growth is facilitated in two ways. First, TAP teachers can move up a set career ladder, from “career teacher” to “mentor teacher” to “master teacher.” Second, on a year-by-year basis, they can earn bonuses for receiving high evaluation marks, which are a combined measure of classroom-observation scores, value-added scores, and completion of other school responsibilities.

At the heart of this advancement process system is a complex, multi-page rubric with descriptors of good teaching practices. The 19 elements on which educators are evaluated fall into three categories—lesson planning, the learning environment, and classroom instruction—and have up to a dozen sub-elements.

The rubric can be overwhelming to new TAP teachers, according to Vicki Cabra, one of two master teachers at North DeSoto, but becomes clearer and more manageable with time. “At first, you see them all [i.e., rubric elements] as separate things. Then you start to see connections,” she said. “They’re all interdependent. It becomes a part of who you are and what you do naturally.”

At North DeSoto, the rubric is the central dogma of instruction. Teachers are all but religiously devoted to understanding the elements and incorporating them into their teaching. As Nicole Bolen, a TAP executive master teacher who supports teachers in several Louisiana schools, explained, “The rubric terminology becomes the common language of the school.” Often, even students can recite it.

All teachers at TAP schools receive four evaluations per year, some at agreed-on times and others unannounced. Master teachers, who evaluate career and mentor teachers (and are themselves evaluated by executive master teachers), emphasize that the goal is not to get a perfect score on an evaluation. Instead, teachers should aim for at least a proficient score, or a 3 on the 1 to 5 scale. “It’s important to communicate to teachers what proficient means—it’s rock solid,” Bolen explained.

“I’ve never scored perfect on a lesson,” said Cabra. “It’s all about constantly improving.”

New teachers also need to understand that TAP is not meant to be “a ‘gotcha’ system,” said Bolen. “Master teachers play the role of ‘servant-leaders,'” she explained. Their aim is to help improve instruction, not catch teachers doing something wrong. Cabra said that master teachers try to develop trust with mentor and career teachers by staying visible in classrooms—and not just as evaluators. “You throw the clipboard down and go in there and start helping them,” she said. “I’m coaching you—how am I trying to ‘getcha’?”

A Model Lesson

One day last spring at North DeSoto, Bolen and Cabra evaluated a lesson by Brandi Rivers, a 7th and 8th grade English teacher who had been teaching in Louisiana schools for eight years but was new to the TAP system.

During a pre-evaluation conference, Cabra asked Rivers a series of scripted questions about what the lesson would look like. Rivers, who comes across as gentle and a bit shy, laid out a thorough lesson, replete with interactive-whiteboard visuals, reading material differentiated by paper color, and multiple grouping techniques. She answered Cabra’s questions with assurance, pointing to examples in her plan. When Cabra asked what she would model for students, Rivers stumbled for a moment. “I don’t really know what I would model,” she said.

Cabra recounted an instance in which she herself had forgotten to model during a lesson, and how that had caused confusion. She offered Rivers some suggestions—perhaps she should model the jigsaw grouping or student conversations. “Make a note and think about what you might need to model,” she told Rivers.

Upon taking her place at the front of the classroom, Rivers’ reticent manner disappeared. She taught a fast-paced and organized lesson with all the elements she’d explained in the conference—and the addition of modeling how to annotate. The transitions from whole-group instruction to group and individual activities were seamless. Her students remained focused throughout.

At the end of the period, Bolen and Cabra shared some private reflections on the multi-faceted lesson. “I’ve never seen a teacher embrace and understand the rubric the way she did,” said Cabra.

Even so, in scoring the lesson, the two spent an hour and a half pouring over each of the TAP rubric descriptors, flipping through piles of student work and their own notes to back up each score with evidence. They dove into the minutiae of individual students’ learning: Had Rivers accommodated one student’s specific learning needs? Had she pushed another student to show the higher level thinking he was capable of? “When you move from proficient to exemplary [on the rubric], you’re looking to move each student,” explained Bolen. A score sheet of 4s and 5s illustrated that Rivers had done just that.

After much discussion, Bolen and Cabra teased out a weakness in the lesson that would become Rivers’ area of “refinement”: Students had not asked questions about the content. The evaluators then came up with several simple, concrete solutions: Rivers could build in time for questions—”Wow and Wonder” sharing, for example—or she could have students write questions on their exit slips. “It’s an easy fix,” said Cabra. “We’re all about being real. We’ll set up a follow-up time, too.”

Targeted PD

In addition to receiving this sort of precise feedback after an evaluation, TAP teachers attend regular in-house professional development sessions. At North DeSoto, those take the form of twice-a-week “cluster,” or team, meetings led by master teachers. Cluster meetings are held during common prep time and run, in essence, like a school within a school. The master teachers have a dedicated classroom—Cabra and her partner’s is decorated with a luau theme and has a constant supply of snacks—where they teach lessons on research-based instructional strategies.

The masters select the strategies meticulously based on the clusters’ needs, as determined by classroom observations and data collection. They even “field test” the strategies with students before teaching them to the PD group. The intended result is a sort of trickle-down, real-time instructional effect: Master teachers target and fill in instructional gaps for teachers, who then head back to class and fill in knowledge gaps for students.

According to Laura Goe, a research scientist at Educational Testing Service and a principal investigator for research and dissemination for The National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, this direct link between teacher evaluation and professional growth is often more important to TAP teachers and administrators than the prospects for merit pay. “It’s all about professional-growth opportunities and not about the money for them,” she said.

A 2009 review of teacher evaluation systems commissioned by the National Education Association echoed that sentiment, finding that TAP teachers were generally positive about the system and the support they receive. Performance pay, it turned out, was the least popular element of the TAP system.

Simmons, the North DeSoto principal, echoed that it is the “support piece,” not the accountability or performance pay, that excites him about TAP. “Accountability without support is counterproductive,” he said.

The alignment between professional support and evaluation is also the part of the system that non-TAP schools and districts can learn the most from, according to Goe, who has written extensively on teacher evaluation. Schools should hire “trained observers who are required to have conversations with teachers about practice,” she said. From there, schools should be “tying that to PD goals and opportunities for teachers, and ensuring teachers get access to those opportunities.

Goe is adamant that that kind of alignment “can happen anywhere. You don’t need TAP to do that.” Any school can point teachers to online resources and outside PD that correlate to their instructional weaknesses.

What schools do need before they can align PD to targeted teacher needs, however, is a research-based instructional rubric, said Goe. For instance, Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, which the TAP rubric is based on in part, or the Classroom Assessment Scoring System from the University of Virginia are both good options, she said. The key is that schools are “using evaluation results to improve professional growth. … That’s the sort of thing TAP is very good about and [other schools] can learn about,” she said.

Promises and Pitfalls

Learning from TAP’s successes may be the best that some schools can do, because like with any overhaul, TAP will not work everywhere. First and foremost, the system requires buy-in from staff. NIET recommends that schools take a vote before adopting TAP, and only do so if 75 percent of teachers are in favor of the move. Teachers also need to accept the rubric as doctrine for good teaching and devote themselves to understanding and implementing it.

TAP, particularly because of the built-in bonus pay and extra staffers, is also quite expensive. Kathy Noel, director of curriculum and instruction for Desoto Parish schools, said that the average cost there is about $445,000 per school. The district has been able to fund the initiative through a combination of money from federal Title 1, Teacher Incentive Funds, School Improvement Funds 1003G, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Title II, and local funds. But in many places, drumming up that kind of cash is simply not feasible.

TAP is not always as successful as it has been at North DeSoto, either. In 2007, just two years after implementing TAP in 26 schools, Louisiana’s Calcasieu Parish gave up on the program. Performance scores had improved at 58 percent of schools, according to Kristan Van Hook, senior vice president for public policy and development at NIET, but “it wasn’t the kind of success we normally hoped to see.” Van Hook said Hurricane Rita, which closed schools for six weeks in 2005, made the first year with TAP a challenging one.

But Jean Johnson, president of the Calcasieu Federation of Teachers, said that teachers were “very unhappy” with the system, which the district “jumped into full force.” The system “wound up costing millions for the parish,” she said, and “we didn’t feel like the results were any better than what we were already doing.”

But for Rivers, the English teacher at North DeSoto, the promise of professional growth and improved practice have rung true. “One of the reasons I left my other schools is because I felt like I wasn’t growing anymore,” she said. Previous principals had simply labeled her teaching “satisfactory,” leaving her at a loss for how or where to improve. But because the TAP mentor teachers offer specific feedback at the debriefing sessions, she said, she now knows her students better and can address their needs.

“We’re constantly going over data, I know their abilities and weaknesses more, I know what modifications I need to make,” Rivers said. “I feel like I’ve grown more this year than all my other years of teaching.”

Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2012/10/17/tl_tap.html

abandonment in teaching…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:37

What Do We Selectively Abandon?

Peter Dewitt

“The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.” Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Mission Statement

Teach.com recently posted a story entitled Cursive Writing Being Phased Out in Some Schools. They said, “that this change is partially due to the implementation of the common core standards, which does not require teaching cursive handwriting but instead emphasizes more technology-oriented learning. It will be ultimately up to individual districts to decide whether they will continue teaching cursive writing or ditch what may become an obsolete skill.”

Just like with any subject, handwriting is met with mixed feelings with many teachers. Some love to teach it because it is one of those areas schools have always been known for and it is an important part of who we are. People comment on one another’s handwriting and there are experts who can tell a lot about someone based on their handwriting. For those of us who are left handed, we often hear that we write upside down.

However, this story leads to a discussion that is much larger than handwriting, although handwriting is extremely important to some people. This story leads to a discussion about what we need to selectively abandon as we move forward in education. What are the most important subjects and topics we can teach to students? What are the ones that should be left behind?

Education is changing. In some cases it is changing for the better when we look at engaging students with technology and cooperative learning. In other cases it is changing for the worse because of absurd accountability and high stakes testing. Those things teachers, students and administrators control will lead to more prepared students and more innovative teaching practices. With all of these changes teachers simply do not have the time to continue teaching everything they have always taught.

To Abandon or Not Abandon…That is the Question
Over the past couple of years since the CCSS came our way educators have had discussions about what they can teach and what they have to give up. The biggest shifts came in Math and ELA and those teachers who long had a passion for certain topics found that they had to stop teaching them because they were no longer a grade level expectation.

What made all of this a little more complicated is that the CCSS are a base of what teachers need to teach and what students need to learn. They do not dictate, although some believe they do, exactly how subjects and topics need to be taught each year and if teachers have time they can still teach topics beyond what the CCSS ask. CCSS state, “The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.”

For schools that have been in the curriculum mapping process for the past five or six years the question of selectively abandoning certain topics have come up over and over again. This happens because every teacher is known for specializing in something. Teachers have things that they have loved to teach and have built upon it year after year. Former students return remembering those topics and how the teachers taught them.

Those same teachers are finding that the topics they are known for might not fit into their present teaching situations and they find that a little sad. That level of control over what they chose to teach is somewhat gone. As much as those teachers have the reputation for being great teachers, they are finding those topics they love the most are no longer relevant to their grade level expectations, which can leave educators feeling a little empty.

In the End
To some teachers cursive writing is as important as learning a foreign language. To those of us left handers who actually have good handwriting it is a way to prove that we do not all write upside down. To other educators the idea of not teaching cursive writing is a welcomed idea that will provide them more freedom to teach other subjects they love more. Ultimately, this is about so much more than cursive writing. This is about teachers giving up topics that they have long valued.

The optimist in me feels as though some of these shifts will lead to new topics to explore and love. As much as we feel angst now where the CCSS are concerned we may find more passion for them in the future as we become more familiar and think of new ways to teach outside the framework box provided to us. Whatever comes to us also provides us with a new opportunity to learn and we should never selectively abandon our own learning.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/11/what_do_we_selectively_abandon.html

tribute to a friend…jonathan kozol quotes.

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:13

jonathan kozol…a tireless supporter of equality in education. and my friend.

“If you could lead through testing, the U.S. would lead the world in all education categories. When are people going to understand you don’t fatten your lambs by weighing them?”

“A dream does not die on its own. A dream is vanquished by the choices ordinary people make about real things in their own lives…”

“I have been criticized throughout the course of my career for placing too much faith in the reliability of children’s narratives; but I have almost always found that children are a great deal more reliable in telling us what actually goes on in public school than many of the adult experts who develop policies that shape their destinies.”

“You have to remember. . .that for this little boy whom you have met, his life is just as important to him, as your life is to you. No matter how insufficient or how shabby it may seem to some, it is the only one he has.”

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.”

“The future teachers I try to recruit are those show have refused to let themselves be neutered in this way, either in their private lives or in the lives that they intend to lead in school. When they begin to teach, they come into their classrooms with a sense of affirmation of the goodness and the fullness of existence, with a sense of satisfaction in discovering the unexpected in their students, and with a longing to surprise the world, their kids, even themselves, with their capacity to leave each place they’ve been … a better and more joyful place than it was when they entered it.”

“Good teachers don’t approach a child of this age with overzealousness or with destructive conscientiousness. They’re not drill-masters in the military or floor managers in a production system. They are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don’t yet know what’s in the box. They don’t know if it’s breakable. ”

“I always want to tell these young idealists that the world is not as dangerous as many in the older generation want them to believe…The [people] for whom I feel the greatest sadness are the ones who choke on their beliefs, who never act on their ideals, who never know the state of struggle in a decent cause, and never know the thrill of even partial victories.”

“There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner-city child only eight years old “accountable” for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before.”

“We should invest in kids like these,” we’re told, “because it will be more expensive not to.” Why do our natural compassion and religious inclinations need to find a surrogate in dollar savings to be voiced or acted on? Why not give these kids the best we have because we are a wealthy nation and they are children and deserve to have some fun while they are still less than four feet high?”

“Young children give us glimpses of some things that are eternal.”

“Evil exists,” he says, not flinching at the word. “I believe that what the rich have done to the poor people in this city is something that a preacher would call evil. Somebody has power. Pretending that they don’t so they don’t need to use it to help people-that is my idea of evil.”

“A dream does not die on it’s own. A dream is vanquished by the choices ordinary people make about real things in their own lives.The motive may be different, and I’m sure it often is; the consequence is not.”

“The rich…should beg the poor to forgive us for the bread we bring them. Healthy people sometimes feel they need to beg forgiveness too, although there is no reason why. Maybe we simply ask forgiveness for not being born where these poor women have been born, knowing that if we lived here too, our fate might well have been the same.”

“Shorn of unattractive language about “robots” who will be producing taxes and not burglarizing homes, the general idea that schools in ghettoized communities must settle for a different set of goals than schools that serve the children of the middle class and upper middle class has been accepted widely. And much of the rhetoric of “rigor” and “high standards” that we hear so frequently, no matter how egalitarian in spirit it may sound to some, is fatally belied by practices that vulgarize the intellects of children and take from their education far too many of the opportunities for cultural and critical reflectiveness without which citizens become receptacles for other people’s ideologies and ways of looking at the world but lack the independent spirits to create their own.”

“Still, the facts are always there. Every teacher, every parent, every priest who serves this kind of neighborhood knows what these inequalities imply. So the sweetness of the moment loses something of its sweetness later on when you’re reminded of the odds these children face and of the ways injustice slowly soils innocence. You wish you could eternalize these times of early glory. You wish that Elio and Ariel and Pineapple could stay here in this garden of their juvenile timidity forever. You know they can’t. You have a sense of what’s ahead. You do your best to shut it out. You want to know them as they are. You do not want to think too much of what may someday be.”

“Research experts want to know what can be done about the values of poor segregated children; and this is a question that needs asking. But they do not ask what can be done about the values of the people who have segregated these communities. There is no academic study of the pathological detachment of the very rich…”

“If high salaries for school teachers and small class size and attractive spacious buildings equipped with beautiful libraries and computers are good for the son or daughter of a president or a member of the Senate or a CEO, then they’re also good for the poorest child in the Bronx.”

“In a sense, those of us – and I’ve had a privileged education, too – those of us who have those benefits have to live with the uncomfortable knowledge that all our victories in life will be contaminated by the fact that we were winners in a game that was never played on a level playing field.”

“The ones I pity are the ones who never stick out their neck for something they believe, never know the taste of moral struggle, and never have the thrill of victory.”

“Even if you never do anything about this, you’ve benefited from an unjust system. You’re already the winner in a game that was rigged to your advantage from the start.”

“So long as these kinds of inequalities persist, all of us who are given expensive educations have to live with the knowledge that our victories are contaminated because the game has been rigged to our advantage.”

“If you grow up in the South Bronx today or in south-central Los Angeles or Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, you quickly come to understand that you have been set apart and that there’s no will in this society to bring you back into the mainstream.”

“I think a lot of people don’t have any idea of how deeply segregated our schools have become all over again. Most textbooks are not honest in what they teach our high school students.”

“At that time, I had recently finished a book called Amazing Grace, which many people tell me is a very painful book to read. Well, if it was painful to read, it was also painful to write. I had pains in my chest for two years while I was writing that book.”

“What I tell these young people is, the world is not as dangerous as the older generation would like you to believe. Anyone I know who has ever taken a risk and lost a job has ended up getting a better one two years later.”

“But for the children of the poorest people we’re stripping the curriculum, removing the arts and music, and drilling the children into useful labor. We’re not valuing a child for the time in which she actually is a child.”

“Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.”

“An awful lot of people come to college with this strange idea that there’s no longer segregation in America’s schools, that our schools are basically equal; neither of these things is true.”

“Children are not simply commodities to be herded into line and trained for the jobs that white people who live in segregated neighborhoods have available.”

“During the decades after Brown v. Board of Education there was terrific progress. Tens of thousands of public schools were integrated racially. During that time the gap between black and white achievement narrowed.”

jonathan’s playful side…what makes him so special.

a mother’s letter to the principal…

In Education, Education advocacy, School Psychology, Special Education on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 15:47


yet another piece about teacher evaluations…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 15:14

Los Angeles Times Sues LAUSD Over Teacher Performance Data

By Barbara Jones Posted: 10/19/2012 2:17 pm EDT

The Los Angeles Times has asked a judge to order the Los Angeles Unified School District to release records that would allow the newspaper to update its online database which uses student test scores to rate the performance of individual teachers.

In its lawsuit filed Oct. 12 in Los Angeles Superior Court, the Times claims the school district illegally denied or omitted details of the information it requested under the California Public Records Act.

Although Los Angeles Unified provided updated test scores it used to gauge a teacher’s performance — a formula known Academic Growth over Time — the district withheld the teachers’ names and the schools where they worked, citing privacy concerns, the suit said.

The district also changed the teacher identification numbers it had used to release test scores from 2002-2009, making it impossible for the Times to connect teachers with AGT scores for subsequent years, the suit said.

Los Angeles Unified has not yet responded to the suit, and official had no comment.

The Times’ attorney was unavailable for comment.

The newspaper created its database in 2009, using information collected under the state’s Public Records Act.

It created a so-called “value-added system,” using previous test scores to predict how students would perform in the future, then rating the teacher’s effectiveness based on the difference between projected and actual test results.

The suit says the Times has tried for more than 15 months to get the information. The district initially used its own attorneys in the dispute but in May hired retained outside lawyers to negotiate with the Times.





(c)2012 Daily News (Los Angeles)

Visit the Daily News (Los Angeles) at www.dailynews.com


Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/los-angeles-times-sues-lausd_n_1986952.html?ir=Education


another piece on teacher evaluations…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Psychology, School reform, Special Education on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 08:25

Seeking Aid, More Districts Change Teacher Evaluations

By: Motoko Rich

LONGMONT, Colo. — In an exercise evoking a corporate motivation seminar, a group of public school teachers and principals clustered around posters scrawled with the titles of Beatles songs. Their assignment: choose the one that captured their feelings about a new performance evaluation system being piloted in their district.

Jessicca Shaffer, a fifth-grade teacher in this suburban community northeast of Boulder, joined the group assembled around “Eight Days a Week.” (Other options: “We Can Work It Out” and “Help!”)

“If we truly had 52 weeks of school a year, we still would not have enough time to do everything we have to do,” Ms. Shaffer said, sounding a common note of exasperation. “I am supersaturated.”

An elementary school literacy coach wondered whether the evaluations would produce anything other than extra paperwork. “Are they going to be giving us true feedback?” she asked. “Or are they just going to be filling out a form?”

The teachers and administrators, who gathered last month in the boardroom of the St. Vrain Valley School District for a daylong training session on evaluating teachers through classroom observations, echoed anxieties that are rippling through faculty lounges across the nation.

Fueled in part by efforts to qualify for the Obama administration’s Race to the Top federal grant program or waivers from the toughest conditions of No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era education law, 36 states and the District of Columbia have introduced new teacher evaluation policies in the past three years, according to the National Center on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. An increasing number of states are directing districts to use these evaluations in decisions about how teachers are granted tenure, promoted or fired.

Proponents say that current performance reviews are superficial and label virtually all teachers “satisfactory.” “When everyone is treated the same, I can’t think of a more demeaning way of treating people,” Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said in a telephone interview. “Far, far too few teachers receive honest feedback on what they’re doing.”

So far, attention has focused mainly on one element of the new evaluation systems, the requirement that districts derive a portion of a teacher’s rating from student performance on standardized tests. Anger over the use of test results exploded during the strike by the Chicago Teachers’ Union last month. But most of the new state policies also include a component based on classroom observations by principals, peers or outside evaluators.

Advocates of the new evaluations, including Secretary Duncan, have repeatedly emphasized the importance of professional reviews including “multiple measures” of performance.

During the St. Vrain seminar, officials from the Colorado Department of Education walked administrators and teachers through a model rubric for classroom observations that the Education Department had developed to guide principals in assessing teachers. At 24 pages, the rubric serves as a checklist of broad ideals, asking whether a teacher “motivates students to make connections to prior learning” or “provides instruction that is developmentally appropriate for all students.”

The new Colorado evaluation system was developed in response to a 2010 bill requiring that all principals, teachers and other licensed school staff be reviewed annually. Half of a teacher’s score is determined by student achievement on a range of tests; the other half is based on an evaluation of “professional practice” — what can be observed in class as well as gleaned from lesson plans and other instructional materials.

Even those who are skeptical about the value of using test scores to rate teachers say that classroom observations, done well, can help teachers improve.

“It can be very powerful and it is more stable and reliable” than measures that look at test scores, said Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University. But, she added, “one of the big challenges we have is to create systems that are manageable, doable and not overwhelming.”

For teachers, the biggest fear is that a poor evaluation could lead to job loss. Under the new Colorado law, teachers can be rated highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective. Starting in the 2014-15 school year, anyone who receives an “ineffective” or “partially effective” rating for two consecutive years will be stripped of the state’s equivalent of tenure status, said Katy Anthes, the executive director of educator effectiveness at the state Education Department. To qualify for tenure, a new teacher must be rated at least “effective” for three consecutive years.

During the St. Vrain training session, officials from the state Education Department sought to tamp down fears that the new evaluations were designed to weed out or shame underperforming teachers. “It is not about a ‘gotcha’ game,” Mike Gradoz, a consultant with the department, told the teachers and principals. “It is about elevating the game so you get better at what you already do.”

To help acquaint the principals and teachers with the state’s rubric, Mr. Gradoz and another trainer walked them through a mock scoring exercise. In one case study, the phantom teacher earned a “partially proficient” rating for failing to establish a “safe, inclusive and respectful learning environment” and showing weak evidence of lesson planning.

Mr. Gradoz asked the group how they would respond to such a rating. Joe Mehsling, a veteran principal, got right to the point. “If it is a rookie, there is hope,” he said. “If it is a veteran, time to start counseling out.”

During a break, Mr. Mehsling said the new system — and the mandated consequences — would indeed make it easier for principals to fire low-performing teachers. “The elephant in the room that we are dancing around is the fact that public education has not done a good job on our own dismissing ineffective teachers,” Mr. Mehsling said.

But, he added, such teachers represented only 1 or 2 percent of those in classrooms. The new systems, he said, could subject the best teachers to onerous observation and bureaucracy so that principals could justify firing a few bad eggs. “It is taking a sledgehammer where an ice pick would have been effective,” he said.

Still, Mr. Mehsling said the new evaluation systems could result in more objective reviews. “I think it is going to be more work,” he said. “But I think it is going to be more meaningful.”

In that, he was joined by many principals and teachers at the training session.

“The current system has no rubric so it is harder to know what you are checking for,” said Janis Hughes, a principal who attended the training.

The following day, Ms. Hughes, who has been the principal for more than a decade at Burlington Elementary, a diverse neighborhood school where about 41 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, dropped by to observe Brian Huey, a fourth-grade teacher.

Mr. Huey, who shaves his head and wears a tiny silver hoop in each ear, began by asking the children to define the word of the day: “disposition.”

Quietly segueing into a math lesson, he wrote a multiplication word problem on a whiteboard. The students worked independently, and then Mr. Huey helped guide them through several strategies that would help them arrive at the right answer.

Next the class gathered on the rug for a review of geometry concepts. “What are the dimensions of that rectangle?” Mr. Huey asked one boy.

The boy paused. A girl who had piped up several times during the lesson was eager to showcase her knowledge again. “It is also known as a perimeter!” she blurted.

“Let’s not cheat his thinking,” Mr. Huey said gently.

Ms. Hughes, watching from the back of the room, noticed. “He engaged Janelle but did it in a respectful, nice way,” she said. “But it also let her know she can’t dominate the conversation.”

Such observations, Ms. Hughes said, would easily fit into the state’s model rubric. (Page 10: The teacher “ensures that all students participate with a high level of frequency.”)

In general, Mr. Huey said, “when I looked over what the criteria are, they sound fair.”

“It’s just good teaching,” he added.

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/education/seeking-aid-more-districts-change-teacher-evaluations.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fnational%2Findex.jsonp&_r=0&pagewanted=all


Special Ed complaints to Office of Civil Rights reach new heights

In Education, Education advocacy, School Psychology, School reform, Special Education on Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 08:49

Special Ed complaints to Office of Civil Rights reach new heights

OCTOBER 7, 2012


The federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR)has just released a new report, Disability Rights Enforcement Highlights, and it reveals among other interesting findings that during the three year period from 2009-2011, it received more disability complaints than during any other three year period in its history. During this time, OCR received over 11,700 disability complaints, which comprised 55% of the total overall complaints received. The other 45% of the claims received were related to other areas of OCR enforcement in areas such as national origin, race, age, and sex.

Based on the report, it is clear that the vast majority of disability complaints were in the area of FAPE, Free and Appropriate Public Education. FAPE questions concern whether a district has offered a special needs child an educational program from which the student can obtain at least some minimal benefit. If not, the student has been denied FAPE. Of the 11,700 disability complains, 4678 were devoted to FAPE questions, or roughly 40%. Other high complaint areas were exclusion, retaliation, and academic adjustment. During this three year span, the OCR launched 15 FAPE related investigations of its own.

Another important function that OCR noted it played over this same time span was protecting the educational rights of “wounded warriors.,” our nation’s soldiers who have returned home from battle with permanent injuries that qualify them for educational protection. OCR noted that often these former soldiers are not familiar with the educational protections provided for them under federal law.

Similarly, educational institutions are not uniformly prepared to serve an influx of veterans with combat-related disabilities such as Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. OCR’s technical assistance has informed veterans, educators and service providers from institutions such as the Veterans Administration about how the protections afforded to post-secondary students with disabilities apply to those returning from war.

Here are examples of some of the investigations based on complaints received by OCR.

Academic Adjustment: An HIV positive student alleged that his college discriminated against him by dismissing him from its medical office technology program. One of the required classes for it mandated that the students draw blood from one another, and the school dropped the young man due to safety concerns. In order to resolve the complaint, the school agreed to re-enroll the student, consider the student’s request for the academic adjustment of not having other students draw his blood, and provide the college’s staff with training on the necessity of providing academic adjustments to disabled students.

FAPE: OCR facilitated Early Complaint Resolution where parents alleged that a school district had not faithfully implemented their child’s IEP (individualized educational program) who qualified for services due to a mood disorder. Based on these efforts, the district agreed to schedule an IEP to discuss the parent’s concerns and to provide notice to the teachers of the requirement that they implement the IEP.

Harassment: Parents filed a complaint based on harassment they alleged their student had received due to a disability related body odor issue. The child had been previously diagnosed due to Fragile X Syndrome, ADD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Tourette’s Syndrome. The complaint alleged that based on the body odor issue, the student had been detained by school staff who made her take a shower prior to attending class, had staff spray air freshener on her in front of other students, and be sent home prior to the end of the day due to her body odor. After OCR facilitated Early Complaint Resolution, the school district agreed to train staff regarding the student’s disabilities, enroll the student in its Senior Life Skills course, offer weekly social work services, and assist the student in finding community employment.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/special-ed-complaints-to-office-of-civil-rights-reach-new-heights

this is not very awesome…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, Special Education on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 15:32

this isn’t any good for anyone…




The hangover…and I’m NOT talking about the movie.

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Tuesday, 2 October 2012 at 06:31

below is the link to the paper that my post, “unintended consequences” came from.  you can download and read in its entirety here:


full pdf of the report.

a summary from http://www.aei.org/papers/education/k-12/teacher-policies/the-hangover-thinking-about-the-unintended-consequences-of-the-nations-teacher-evaluation-binge/

The hangover: Thinking about the unintended consequences of the nation’s teacher evaluation binge

Sara Mead, Andrew J. Rotherham, Rachael Brown | American Enterprise Institute

September 26, 2012

Over the past three years, more than twenty US states have passed legislation establishing new teacher evaluation requirements and systems, and even more have committed to do so in Race to the Top or Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility Waiver applications. These new evaluation systems have real potential to foster a more performance-oriented public education culture that gives teachers meaningful feedback about the quality and impact of their work. But there are pitfalls in states’ rush to legislate new systems, and there are real tensions and trade-offs in their design.

Unfortunately, much of the current policy debate has been framed in stark ideological terms that leave little room for adult discussion of these tensions. This paper seeks to move the debate beyond ideology and technical issues by highlighting four key tensions that policymakers, advocates, and educators must consider in the development of new teacher evaluations:

  • Flexibility versus control: There is a temptation to prescribe and legislate details of evaluations to ensure rigor and prevent evaluations from being watered down in implementation. But overly prescriptive policies may also limit school autonomy and stifle innovation that could lead to the development of better evaluations.
  • Evaluation in an evolving system: Poorly designed evaluation requirements could pose an obstacle to blended learning and other innovative models in which it is difficult or impossible to attribute student learning gains in a particular subject to a particular teacher.
  • Purposes of evaluations: New evaluation systems have been sold as a way both to identify and dismiss underperforming teachers and to provide all teachers with useful feedback to help them improve their performance. But there are strong tensions between these purposes that create trade-offs in evaluation system design.
  • Evaluating teachers as professionals: Advocates argue that holding teachers responsible for their performance will bring teaching more in line with norms in other fields, but most professional fields rely on a combination of data and managerial judgment when making evaluation and personnel decisions, and subsequently hold managers accountable for those decisions, rather than trying to eliminate subjective judgments as some new teacher evaluation systems seek to do.

Recognizing these tensions and trade-offs, this paper offers several policy recommendations:

  • Be clear about the problems new evaluation systems are intended to solve.
  • Do not mistake processes and systems as substitutes for cultural change.
  • Look at the entire education ecosystem, including broader labor-market impacts, pre- and in-service preparation, standards and assessments, charter schools, and growth of early childhood education and innovative school models.
  • Focus on improvement, not just deselection.
  • Encourage and respect innovation.
  • Think carefully about waivers versus umbrellas.
  • Do not expect legislation to do regulation’s job.
  • Create innovation zones for pilots—and fund them.

Article Highlights

  • Over past three years, more than 20 U.S. states have passed legislation establishing new teacher evaluation requirements and systems.
  • As the Chicago teachers’ strike illustrates, policymakers often treat evaluation systems as though they were being implemented in a vacuum.
  • We must examine the education ecosystem as a whole, clarify the pain points of the evaluation system and encourage and respect innovation.



“Unintended Consequences…”

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Friday, 28 September 2012 at 14:28

one thing i have noticed this year, more than others, is the overwhelming feelings of tension, anxiety, fear, etc. that are pervasive and hang thick in the air every time i enter one of the schools i work at.  a feeling that you must ALWAYS watch your back because there is someone waiting around the corner to document any misstep (the idea that if they can point out how poorly one teacher, counselor, administrator, etc. is, they will curry favor with the higher ups and/or show their loyalty and possibly take the spotlight off of themselves).  the tension is thick and no doubt felt by the kids as well.  i believe much of this stems from the fact that those working in education feel threatened regarding the arbitrary nature of the “new and improved” evaluation system.  and the fact that they do not feel valued as an educator and can easily be replaced.  or the tension stemming from public perception as to what a ‘piece of cake’ this government job is.  or the fact that the students they are supposed to be teaching, disciplining, and testing are now going to have a say in whether or not they keep their jobs.  part of their evaluations include not only how the students do on those all-important standardized tests, but also on how the students themselves rate their teachers.  “give me an “f” and make my parents take away my new iphone…now you’re going to be sorry.  i’m going to give you a poor evaluation.”  we all know kids (grades 3-12, since they were ‘kind’ enough to leave out k-2) can see things from their own myopic viewpoint and, when angry, may not thoughtfully and truthfully assess a teacher.  say it isn’t so!  yes, it is. i can’t say exactly why it is but, lately, when i walk into my schools i feel such a heaviness in the air.  anxiety stemming from uncertainty?  some of us haven’t even seen or been told about the very tool we are going to be assessed with nor have any clue as to what the actual assessment measures are.  how would that go in the real world?  “i am going to be looking at a number of factors related to how well you do your job in order to better determine whether or not you will be keeping your job.  you will have to collect data and show quantitative support as to how you achieved these objectives.  oh! you want to know what data to be preparing and what you are actually being evaluated on???  we haven’t been trained on that yet.  sorry.  we’ll let you know…to be determined.”  why should that cause anxiety?  i guess it should make a professional no more anxious than a student who has been told he or she has a test on “math” and never being told anything else.  ok, you know it’s on “math” but is it geometry?  pre-calculus? algebra?  just wait until the test and you’ll find out.  you also might fail the test, but hey, that’s life and then we can replace you with a student who can pass…

i realize my example is a bit far-fetched, but not that much.  all i can say is the feelings being expressed by my colleagues are those of anxiety, stress, and tension.  NOT a fun place to be and i can’t think that it’s good for the kids.

and i am not sure we needed a paper to tell us about the rising tensions, but the latest one is below.  teacher evaluation system or not…public education is not a fun place to be right now.  to me, the “unintended consequences” be they a result of the evaluation system or the system, in general, negatively impact the kids.  is that really the desired result?


Teacher Evaluation Systems Hold Inherent Tensions, Require Refining: American Enterprise Institute Report

With No Child Left Behind waiver applications and related legislation ushering in new teacher evaluation systems in upwards of 20 states, a report out of the American Enterprise Institute highlights four key tensions policymakers and educators must consider in refining such policies.

The first section in the paper, titled “The Hangover: Thinking About The Unintended Consequences Of The Nation’s Teacher Evaluation Binge,” calls for evaluation requirements to allow for flexibility. There is a tendency to make policies overly prescriptive, which in turn could limit school autonomy and hinder innovation that could lead to the development of better evaluations.

Many of the evaluation proposals being circulated call for decreased attention on details like teachers’ training and other characteristics, and greater focus on the bigger picture — results they elicit in the classroom. On the other hand, mandates that teacher evaluations include specific design elements could be seen as overly prescriptive. According to the paper, this is already the case in several states that now require school districts to adopt teacher evaluations that employ state-defined value-added models or specific teacher evaluation rubrics. In addition, while NCLB waiver criteria require only that states design guidelines for teacher evaluation systems and ensure local districts implement systems that meet those guidelines, some states — including Delaware and South Carolina — have elected to adopt a single statewide teacher evaluation system, in which all the state’s districts must take part.

The paper’s authors point out that poorly designed evaluation requirements could also hinder other innovative models. Some schools have begun to incorporate learning-based software in their classrooms and other blended learning models; these technologies vary in design, approach, costs and teacher role. Student groups in these models are more flexible and fluid, and students receive instruction and tutoring from a variety of teachers and programs. This makes it difficult or impossible to attribute student learning gains in a particular subject to a particular teacher, and complicates teacher evaluation systems that rely on linking teachers to their students’ academic results.

The third tension the paper highlights is the purpose of evaluations; new evaluation systems have been marketed as a means of identifying and dismissing underperforming teachers, while providing all teachers with useful feedback to help improve their performance. That said, state efforts to create new evaluation systems have focused much more on what happens to teachers at the bottom of the spectrum, versus those in the middle or at the top.

Several states’ new teacher evaluation laws mandate the creation of a professional development plan only for low-performing teachers, and chiefly as a means of allowing them an opportunity to improve before dismissing them. Current design efforts have not focused on incorporating features that would ensure evaluations actually help teachers improve. According to the report’s authors, evaluation systems need to be designed with a mind to allowing for face-to-face discussion time between the teacher and his or her evaluator.

Lastly, there is a prevailing sentiment that holding teachers accountable for their performance will more closely align teaching with norms in other professions. However, most professional fields rely on a combination of data and managerial judgment when conducting evaluations and making subsequent personnel decisions. This is in stark contrast to the teaching profession, in which new evaluation systems have aimed to eliminate subjective judgments entirely, instead focusing solely on student performance.

According to the paper, the best protection against biased managerial judgment is to ensure that the managers themselves are also held accountable for performance. Furthermore, in designing value-added systems, policymakers should consider whether the elements they are adding move education away from or closer to professional norms in other fields.

The report’s authors offer several policy recommendations for designing new teacher evaluation systems moving forward:

• Be clear about the problems new evaluation systems are intended to solve. • Do not mistake processes and systems as substitutes for cultural change.

• Look at the entire education ecosystem, including broader labor-market impacts, pre- and in-service preparation, standards and assessments, charter schools, and growth of early childhood education and innovative school models.

• Focus on improvement, not just deselection.

• Encourage and respect innovation.

• Think carefully about waivers versus umbrellas.

• Do not expect legislation to do regulation’s job.

• Create innovation zones for pilots—and fund them

Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/28/american-enterprise-insti_n_1921088.html

a people’s education platform

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 07:23

A people’s education platform

By Valerie Strauss

With the presidential election approaching and the recent Chicago teachers strike, it seems like a good time for the following post, a “people’s platform” for education, or what Americans really want from their public schools. It was written by Nancy Flanagan, an education consultant and blogger at Education Week Teacher, and Don Bartalo, a retired superintendent who now works as an instructional coach and is also an author.

By Nancy Flanagan and Don Bartalo

What if education policy guidelines and political platforms were shaped by rank-and-file citizens?

What if the real education experts — parents, teachers, students and school leaders — got to fashion a platform of policy goals for education and determine which ideas provide maximum opportunity for public school students, our future citizens?

We need a national, nonpartisan effort to figure out how to strengthen public education, a kind of people’s platform. Such an effort — given the upcoming election and the recent Chicago Teachers Union strike — could not be timelier. Says Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union:

[Billionaire education reformers] have been putting money and money and money into education. And all they come up with is, ‘Let’s just get rid of all the teachers. Let’s have a national curriculum. Let’s test people to death.’ None of this stuff works. Not only does it not work, it exacerbates the problem. Standardized tests have been disguised as merit when they’re just ranking and sorting, and they’re disguising race and class privilege. We don’t have honest discussions about education in this country because we don’t want to have honest discussions about race and class.

 Amen. Let’s start talking.

Humorist Joel Stein says: A platform is supposed to be boring. It’s one of the few documents that people write hoping no one reads them.

An education platform written by educators and stakeholders would not be boring! It could be a lively and changing framework of ideas and principles. We have invested more than a century in funding the uniquely American concept of a free, high-quality, fully public education for every child. Why not lay down a clear template of what this means, in terms of federal responsibilities?

We might begin with a preamble:

There comes a time when a truly great nation must either choose to have the best public schools possible or stop talking about the importance of education.  Structures for publicly supported education must:

·         Help students learn

·         Help teachers teach

·         Let school leaders and elected boards lead

·         Relentlessly pursue genuine excellence and equity

As we see it, there are only three fundamental parts to the federal role in education: Excellence, equity, and economies of scale.

Excellence comes before equity — because you can’t have equity unless you know what top quality looks like. It’s in all of our interests to provide a clear and explicit vision of excellence: Rich curriculum. Creative instruction, tailored for unique student populations. Ample resources. Community input. Future-focused, joyful learning.

What do we want students to experience, learn, understand, and be able to do? What about citizenship? Defining the mission public education ought to come first in a platform.

Equity is the most fundamental federal role in education policy. The national government’s central priority must be assuring that children in the Mississippi Delta have the same basic opportunities as those who grow up on Long Island or a ranch in Wyoming. Besides great teaching and sufficient tools, what are those opportunities? A free, first-rate pre-school education program? Tutoring to ensure literacy for all? Let’s make a list.

Economies of Scale. What can the federal government provide, cheaper and better than smaller-scale commercial vendors? Lots of technological infrastructure. Free materials — both digital and hard copy. Travel and internships. Scholarships and low-cost loans. Ideas and research, instituted without the taint of corporate funding.

It is ironic that the federal Department of Education is now developing computer-based tests for schools with inadequate hardware to administer them. It should be the other way around, with the department using its purchasing power to provide or reduce costs of infrastructure, rather than shaping curricular and instructional work that belongs in districts and classrooms. We need a Race to Improve All Schools, not a state-against-state competition for federal grants aligned with questionable ideas that should be decided at local levels.

The Education Department needs to return to its original purpose.

Congress established the U.S. Department of Education in 1979. ED’s stated mission is to:

Strengthen federal commitment to assuring access to equal educational opportunity; Supplement and complement the efforts of education stakeholders;

Encourage the increased involvement of the public, parents, and students in federal education programs;

Promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education, to share research information;

Improve the coordination, management of federal programs and accountability to the public.

Note: ED was not established to make teachers accountable to the public, but to make the federal government accountable to the people. When was this guiding principle lost?

Public schools should be the foundational hope of the American people — the children of the poor have no other hope. It’s time for ordinary citizens to initiate those uncomfortable conversations about race and class, and share our national hopes and dreams for public education with policy-makers.

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/a-peoples-education-platform/2012/09/25/ecd63dbc-072f-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html#pagebreak

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