Archive for the ‘Pedagogy’ Category

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



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


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/

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


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.

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/

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.

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…”



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…


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

power to the teachers!

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


chasing tails…not just for dogs!

In Education, Pedagogy on Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 08:19

Why Do Educators Appear to be Chasing Their Tails?

Four key findings in Promoting Healthy Minds Primed for Learning:
1) A baby’s brain at birth is the least developed organ. An analogy often used is that the brain is like a house built from the bottom up. The brain continues to develop through connections created by sensory experiences from birth onwards.

2) IQ is not fixed at birth. The baby’s experiences physiologically change the brain creating more connections. The quality and richness of the experiences have a major effect on learning and brain development.

3) Learning is life-long but there are critical sensitive periods of time when the brain functions like a giant sponge absorbing specific information.

4) Emotions effect learning. Strong negative emotions have the capacity to weaken the wiring of the brain.

With thoughts of the key neurological findings above I find it concerning that the current focus on ‘content and assessment’ reduces the time teachers have to plan and implement strategies that support how children learn and an environment that is supportive of learning and risk-taking.

It seems to fit into the ‘chasing the tail’ syndrome. There are specific standards that must be reached by students at particular timeframes. The pressure to meet these performance measurements results in class teachers believing that there is ‘little time’ for social emotional wellbeing development. Time is spent in planning, moderating, implementing and assessing. There is little time to ‘catch up’ students falling behind or for the repetition that is necessary for memory storage.

At the end of the term, exhausted teachers gather their assessment together and wonder what went wrong for a proportion of their students. It is not only ‘at risk’ students who have under-performed. Several students will have failed to meet expected standards.

Often the needs of socially and economically disadvantaged students are targeted for learning readiness intervention and support. However there are many and varied reasons for the inhibition of learning as can be seen in the range of students who do not achieve to their expected potential. Conflict in the home, terminal illness in the family, natural disasters, friendship problems, bullying and many other misfortunes lead to strong emotions affecting how students view their world.

The whole concept of ‘intelligence’ is changing. Children with ‘healthy minds’ and ‘inner strengths’ have an increased capacity to achieve social, emotional and cognitive wellbeing and reach expected performance measures within appropriate timelines. But if their inner worlds are in turmoil and they do not commence each day with a focus on building onto their inner strengths, their ability to use higher order thinking skills will be compromised.
I’m hoping that there will be an end to this ‘Chasing the Tail’ syndrome sooner rather than later for the future wellbeing of our young students.

Retrieved from: http://www.ready2resource.com.au/why-do-educators-appear-to-be-chasing-their-tails/

math and chocolate…

In Education, Pedagogy on Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 06:43


agree to disagree

In Education, Pedagogy on Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 11:03

i bet it’s not only kids who can learn from this article…

Post-Election: Teaching Kids How to Respectfully Disagree

By Anthony Jackson on November 10, 2012 3:53 AM

There are many lessons to be learned from the election. Homa Sabet Tavangar, author of Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World, shares one way to make it a teachable moment.

By Homa S. Tavangar

The elementary school children standing in line at our neighborhood bus stop kicked around one topic of banter among them: politics.

It started when one very vocal boy said “I’m so mad Romney lost. I hate Obama.” Then a girl chimed in, “He’s the only person in the world named ‘Barack.'” Timidly, a younger boy added, “I’m glad about Obama.” Then the opinions really started flying between the children, as the yellow school bus pulled up to our corner.

The spirited, but not unique, conversation got me thinking about how to teach children to talk about what matters to them, but without the rancor (and maybe with some fact-checking). How can we raise our children to see various sides of contentious situations as the Founding Fathers and Mothers would have wanted them to, and to effectively, accurately express their views?

Civil dialogue and respect helps strengthen the democracy. That is something all of these children’s families value. As issues in our country and world become more complex, children need the tools to think about multiple, sometimes contrasting, perspectives; so that as adults they can work with diverse people from far-flung places to solve seemingly intractable problems—from finance and poverty to climate change, natural resource use and public health.

This nuanced way of looking at issues is an empathy skill—seeing multiple perspectives or sides of an issue—not political appeasement. To get to this point, we need to take age-appropriate steps with kids so they build up their ability to consider various perspectives. Weighing perspectives also happens to be an important component of global competence for 21st Century learners; so while it’s the right thing to do, it’s also smart.

My friend Catherine shared this story which is deceptively simple yet so instructive. She offered a metaphor that her kids could relate to, in order for them to picture a principle of profound significance:

“During President Obama’s inauguration four years ago, there were many people in the crowd who ‘boo’-ed when President Bush came out [to make his farewell]. Our young children were with us at that historic inauguration. They were surprised by the booing. We asked them to consider how our family would work if once we made a decision together, those of us who weren’t happy were bitter and undermining, and those who were happy gloated and put down the ‘loser.’ … What could our family really accomplish?”

Starting from a micro-level, Catherine’s example showed how paralyzing such contention can be for a family. If you see your fellow citizens (of your country and the world) as one human family, you might treat them differently, even if you disagree with them, and start to build the empathy that allows you to put yourself in their shoes.

This idea was articulated succinctly exactly one hundred years ago, in 1912. On an historic trip to North America, upon his release from a lifetime sentence as a prisoner of conscience when the Ottoman Empire fell, Abdul-Baha shared this thought:

Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity.

That’s a simple idea that most kids can get. Families can explore it in their dinner table conversations, and classrooms can consider what it means for them. Hopefully, politicians can start to work together like members of a family, too, even if they disagree over who gets the first slice of cake.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/global_learning/2012/11/post-election_teaching_kids_how_to_respectfully_disagree.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Helping Your Child Study

In Education, Pedagogy, School Psychology on Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 08:56


By Claire Marketos

‘Tell me, I forget. Teach me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.’- Chinese proverb

Imagine you’re nine years old. Your first test is on Friday, and you have your book in front of you. Your mom tells you to revise your study material. Feeling helpless and ill-equipped, you stare at the pages, hoping that somehow you will remember something.  Soon, you lose interest and begin playing with the dog. It is not surprising that studying turns into a lonely, repetitive chore you dread – one that stifles your natural curiosity. In the words of a fifth grader, ‘Studying is not fun.’

While most schools teach learners how to study, they do so in isolated classes, instead of integrating studying skills in daily lessons and notes, so that it becomes a part of learning. It is extremely frustrating and difficult for a fourth grader to try to apply what he has learned about studying in general to specific subjects. Your child therefore depends on you for help.

Between a rock and a hard place

Instead of treating it as yet another chore, unleash your creativity and approach study time as a fun, inspiring opportunity to bond with your children. By adopting an innovative way of thinking, your child will feel more connected to you and you will empower him with an enquiring mind for life.

Children are curious and instinctively explore their environment to find out more about the world around them. By appealing to your child’s innate inquisitiveness, you can turn studying into an incidental part of his daily activities. Show him how studying can be an enjoyable way to find answers to questions. For example, use Zulu words while preparing the salad. And while driving, throw out a question “Why is it important for people to pay taxes?” This will stimulate critical thinking and lively discussion. By collaborating with your child, you will demonstrate positive ways of interacting with others to find solutions to problems. That’s a useful attribute for almost any career your child may choose later on in life.

Learning how to study effectively is a process that has to be modified according to your child’s needs. There are so many factors influencing the way children study and how well they recall the material later. Whether your child is tired after a long day at school or just battling to concentrate on the task at hand, physical and emotional well-being plays a big role as does personality.

Stumbling blocks

  • If you are going through a divorce and your child worries about this, he will struggle to apply himself.
  • If your child is physically unwell, he may need medical intervention before he is able to concentrate.
  • If your child has learning difficulties, he may require remedial assistance before he can study effectively.
  • If your child has experienced trauma or grief, his ability to retain and recall knowledge will be impaired. Play therapy, among other treatments, may be necessary to provide him with the support he needs.

How children learn

If you are going to be of any help, you need to understand how children learn and how their brains function.

Passively reading through notes, is not the most effective way to study. Research shows that children learn most efficiently by being actively involved in the learning experience. By involving your child personally through writing, speaking, or experiencing the material, you will enable him to recollect it better. Walking around while acting out their assignment helps some students retain information. Others require bright colourful pictures and concrete objects to stimulate their minds. Try different methods, until you find the best way for your child to study- the more memorable and pleasurable the experience, the better the recall.

Learning in a group also greatly improves children’s comprehension, Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky discovered in his early twentieth century research. He also found that children who worked together were able to explain what they had learned in the context of their daily lives.

Studying with, you, his peers, or teacher, helps your child clarify ideas, ask questions, and understand the subject. Vygotsky calls this ‘reciprocal teaching’ and initially used it to teach reading. So, leaving your child to study alone in his bedroom is not the greatest way to help him retain knowledge. He will recall so much more if he can visualize the material while talking about it to you.

Sensory stimulation theorist Dugan Laird found that children can remember seventy-five percent of material presented in visual form such as pictures and diagrams, thirteen percent that is auditory and twelve percent through the other senses.

Have some fun

·        Help your child turn his study notes into colourful diagrams, mind maps, and cartoons.

·        Involve the whole family by using different voices to speak into a tape recorder, saying important facts. Let your child listen to the tape in the car or while taking a bath.

·        Use visual and auditory stimulus from the computer, to help your child remember more of his notes. A great idea is to use your child’s notes to  put together a PowerPoint presentation on the computer. It is time consuming, but as a visual aid it can be invaluable.

 Feeding and stimulating the brain  

The brain is the source not only of our intellect, but also of our emotions. It is who we are, and our moods influence our ability to concentrate. If your child is feeling pressured or frustrated, he will find it harder to retain information. We have all heard how we only use a small part of our brains and that we rarely reach our full potential. So how can you help stimulate your child’s brain to enhance learning and memory?

The brain comprise mainly fat, so it requires ‘good fats’ and protein to function efficiently. Eating a healthy meal of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids before studying will help fuel the brain.  A favourite memory booster recommended by American Mensa supervisory psychologist Dr. Frank Lawliss is banana and chocolate, preferably eaten together. Other brain foods are water, raw or steamed fruits and vegetables, avocado, whole grains, eggs, nuts, and vitamin D.

Tips to kick start the brain

  • Play marching music and have your child chew gum containing the sugar substitute, xylitol, suggests Lawliss – but avoid gum containing aspartame and sugar.
  • Physical exercise not only relieves stress, it also helps your child breathe more deeply, resulting in more oxygen reaching the brain. Doing a moderate amount of exercise before study will stimulate your child’s brain into action. Too much exercise, on the other hand, will make him feel tired with little energy left to concentrate.
  • Games like chess, charades and building puzzles fires up the mind.
  • Devise games to help your child remember his notes.  Design a quiz show or modify 30 seconds as a revision aid. .
  • Sleep is essential to recharge the mind and help process information- eight to ten hours’ sleep a night is ideal.

Create the right environment

As a child how many times were you told to go and sit at your desk and study? We tend to believe that to study properly we should be seated at a table in a quiet room with good lighting. Good lighting is crucial to avoid eye strain, but children learn in different ways and can study in all sorts of environments. Your child may be able to concentrate better when he walks around or sits on a gym ball with music playing in the background.

Be sensitive and flexible in the way you approach your child’s method of studying. Almost any environment can provide an opportunity to learn, so experiment with different places in the home, until you find those best suited to study. Being able to relax and being comfortable will make the experience more beneficial and pleasant. Nevertheless, trying to study in a room with the television on and other children playing is probably too distracting for most children.


Children with learning difficulties learn more effectively in an environment that is free of clutter, well organised and structured. Have all the necessary stationery available, especially brightly coloured highlighters, dictionaries, and keep a file for notes and pictures. Don’t forget to use the computer as a visual and auditory study aid.

Recent research by Robert A. Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles found that learning different content in different environments helps to remember the study material better. So learning maths while looking out on to the oak tree in the garden, or history while glancing at the lava lamp, gives the brain many associations with the subject which helps to retain it. “When the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting,” said Dr. Bjork, author of ‘The two-room experiment.’

Instead of focusing on only one aspect of a subject when studying such as vocabulary, Bjork suggests combining various aspects of the subject in one study session as athletes or musicians would. For example: while learning a language alternate between “speaking, vocabulary, and reading.”

Nate Kornell states: “What seems to be happening is that the brain is picking up deeper patterns. It’s picking up what’s similar and what’s different.”

Establish a routine

Routine makes children feel safe and secure. Children like to know with absolute certainty what is expected of them. Having a study routine will do away with questions like, ‘Do I have to study now?’ Remember to also chat about the subject in an informal way outside of study time while grocery shopping, watching the news, or when an interesting fact occurs to you. .

Most children become irritable when they are tired, so it is best not to schedule study time just before bed. Negotiate a time for studying with your child that you know is best suited to your child’s temperament. Some children study well in the afternoon after lunch and free play, while others study better after supper. Try to schedule it for the same time every day, but accommodate extra-murals and playtime. Your child needs a balanced lifestyle- time to pursue other interests and to relax in order to be successful.

Studying for hours on end is not productive. Your child will become tired and de-motivated. Memory and concentration also decrease after a while. Stick to the allotted time, and stop when that time is up. Focus instead on managing the set times efficiently. Allow short breaks to maintain concentration and to let the brain process the information. Tomorrow will provide another opportunity to study. If your child continues to spend hours doing homework and learning, it may be necessary to evaluate your expectations of him, or chat to the teacher to find out whether the workload is too heavy. If he is experiencing difficulties with some of the material, provide him with additional help.

Managing stress

Aspire to stimulating curiosity in your child along with the desire to know more about himself and the world around him, instead of merely aiming for higher grades. Children who leave school with passion and energy are motivated to seize the challenges faced in adulthood, whereas overachievers who tried to please their parents throughout their childhood may feel burned out, stressed and disinclined to pursue their ambitions.

Stressing over homework and studying is counterproductive. A stressed child can’t concentrate or remember what he is studying. Choose to stop stressing about studying and your child will most likely develop a more positive attitude towards it. Waking up early to study on the day of a test is likely to create additional stress- and it will probably be ineffective, since the brain will not have sufficient time to process the crammed information. Sleep is more important at this age than studying at the last minute.

Pressuring your child to obtain higher marks, criticising him, and making him redo work over and over again, is discouraging. Not only is your child less likely to do well, he may also develop feelings of resentment, and rebel by underachieving. Avoid comparing your children, especially across the sexes, since boys and girls learn in different ways. Research shows that children who have controlling, strict parents, tend to have lower self esteem, as they learn that they cannot be trusted to manage themselves. Avoid living vicariously through your children, and make sure your intentions are to help him find his true purpose in life.

Show your child how to relax. Deep breathing, visualizations, yoga, swaying and meditation, are all ways to deal with stress, and so focus better. Explain to your child how to concentrate in class, call on the teacher for help, and get guidelines for tests- this way much of the knowledge needed can be gained in the classroom.

What to avoid

  • putting pressure on your child to get higher marks
  • being overly critical
  • making your child redo work over and over again
  • comparing him to others, particularly a girl to a boy, or a boy to a girl
  • being too controlling
  • living vicariously through a child

What to do

  • Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualizations, yoga, swaying and meditation
  • encourage your child to concentrate in class
  • teach your child to ask teachers for help
  • make sure your child gets guidelines for tests and exams
  • approach your child’s school notes with a positive attitude and cultivate this attitude in him
  • allow your child to take control of his schedule, helping where necessary
  • give praise where it is due ,without allowing the praise to turn into added pressure

Keeping your child motivated

‘Aw! Why do I have to study?’ moans a sixth grader. Few children are motivated to study. How do you turn this around? What can you do to inspire your child to enjoy studying? Children watch their parents all the time and your child will copy what you do. If you’re positive and enthusiastic and have a probing mind, your child is likely to be more curious and interested in studying. Watching you read or study will encourage them to do the same.

Research shows that the children of loving parents whose expectations are reasonable have higher self- esteem, and are more motivated when it comes to studying. In contrast, the children of parents who pay attention only when they do well tend to have lower self-esteem and less confidence in their own abilities.

We all enjoy being affirmed and praised for our achievements, and you should be generous in your praise. However, research by theorist William Damon from Stanford University shows that constant praise, especially when nothing has really been achieved, actually limits a child’s abilities. Instead, he says, we should ‘guide them towards worthwhile activities and goals that result in credible self esteem.’

Create opportunities for your child to learn from his mistakes, be persistent in the face of adversity, and accomplish things on his own. Imagine the sense of satisfaction he will feel when he takes control of his notes, and rearranges them to be easier to remember. Setting realistic goals and taking steps to achieve them will help motivate your child.

Children have vivid imaginations and can come up with fabulous ideas to help them remember study material. Inspire your child to think laterally as he tackles his notes. Your curiosity and interest in his subjects will stimulate intellectual thought and conversation- a much more enjoyable proposition than merely studying for tests.

We all know how infectious it can be to be around someone who is upbeat and who has a high self esteem. Teach your child the power of positive thinking. Believing in himself, defining who he is and what his abilities are will give him the confidence to overcome stress, especially when studying.

Get creative 

Think outside the box. Engage your child in thinking of novel ways to remember his study notes.

  • When talking with your child about his study notes, add in tidbits of interesting information from your readings and travels. Children love to hear stories, and if you can tell stories relevant to their study material, it will provide a hook to help jog his memory, for example, ‘Mom saw Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus in the British Museum…..’
  • Explain how their notes are relevant to their daily lives, and how as we develop as a society we build on knowledge from the past. Ask ‘what if’ questions to stimulate thinking- for example, ‘What if Thomas Edison hadn’t been curious, and hadn’t kept experimenting to find answers? We may never have discovered electricity. Then there would be so many things we wouldn’t be able to do like……”Challenge your child to come up with uses for electricity.
  • Teach your child to organise his study material, and tackle difficult information first. He doesn’t need to learn work he already knows.
  • Children learn best from notes and diagrams transcribed in their own words and in age-appropriate language. If your child finds his study notes difficult to understand, encourage him to summarise it in his own words. Help him draw mind maps and spider diagrams.
  • Take time to teach your child to read his notes critically. Scan the material to find the most important points. Pose questions and find the answers in the study notes. Write down important points. Being able to read and take notes effectively will be of immense help once your child goes to high school.
  • One picture paints a thousand words, the saying goes. This is especially true when it comes to studying. Always look for a way to represent notes visually. Help your child turn his study notes into colourful pictures and diagrams. For example, if you are studying surface and subsurface water sources, let him draw a diagram showing where the water sources are. These diagrams or pictures can be simple stick figures which don’t take a long time to draw. Use colour to make it more memorable.
  • Use different coloured cards on which to write important information, such as dates. Post the cards behind the toilet door, the car seat, or on the fridge, so that your child can see the information often. Make associations like, ‘Red is 1361BC when people began to settle along the Nile River.’
  • Ask your child to teach you, a teddy, a pet, or other members of the family. To teach, he will need to understand the subject material. Let him use his notes initially, but as the week goes by, let them try without notes. Or as one mother found to her delight, her daughter had rediscovered the karaoke function on the family’s music system. ‘She’s been lecturing to a phantom audience all week,” the mother said.
  • Invent silly rhymes, acronyms and mnemonics with your child to help him remember difficult dates and facts.
  • If your child is musically inclined, he may even make up a rap song from his notes.
  • If your child has good ball skills, let him pin the answers to questions to a wall, and throw tennis balls at the correct answer.
  • Putting on a puppet show for the family can help your child commit information to memory.
  • Film them as they make a documentary on their assignment. They can watch it later for further reinforcement.
  • Drumming is often used these days to help children with learning difficulties. Beating out facts on a drum can make them easier to recall – drumming is relaxing and helps to stimulate the brain.
  • If you can actually visit the place they are learning about, do the experiment, or see the artifact in a museum, your children will easily recall it later.
  • Give your child strategies and tips on how to do well on tests: “Read the questions carefully, underlining key words. Look at the mark allocation. Always answer the question even if you have to make an educated guess.”
  • Guide your child to watch programmes on TV or DVD, and read newspaper articles which show how their study notes are relevant to everyday life, and to reinforce the material they have studied.

For many of us parents studying evokes unpleasant memories, which we wouldn’t want our children to experience. Throw out those old methods that didn’t work for you, and strive to replace them with inspirational ideas that make the learning experience enjoyable and memorable for your children. It is possible to show them that the world provides so many amazing opportunities that they can be part of.

Note to parents: I specifically didn’t use the word ‘work’ when referring to the child’s school notes or study notes as studying should not be viewed as ‘work’ but rather as a means of finding answers to questions.


The IQ Answer  by Dr. Frank Lawliss

Child Development 5th Edition by Laura Berk

This article was first published in the book “Happy Years: A guide for paqrents’ by Abraham Kriel Childcare. The copyright remains with the author Claire Marketos.

This page is sponsored by BLUEKEY– – small & medium business accounting software. Specialists in SAP Business One. info@bluekey.co.za. Toll free 0800 258 3539.

Retrieved from: http://www.inspiredparenting.co.za/NewsCast.aspx?NID=76

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.

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

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



teach happy!

In Education, Fitness/Health, Mindfulness, Pedagogy, Well-being on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 11:57

Why We Need to Add Happiness to the School Curriculum

By: OLGArythm


Young people graduate from school equipped to solve mathematical equations, arrange chemical experiments, and write essays. But often they graduate to the adult life not equipped with skills that will help them deal with everyday struggles, emotions, and difficulties. They are not equipped to be happy individuals.

Happiness is arguably the ultimate meaning of our life. Is there anything we want more for our kids than to be happy? If given a choice, would a parent prefer that her child knows capital cities of all countries or knows how to be a happy person? The ultimate purpose of the traditional academic education is to instill children with knowledge needed for for their future careers. But it does not teach kids the good attitude to deal with the many future personal experiences that make up our life. Inner well-being and peace are as crucial and necessary as the academic skills. It does not make sense to pay no attention to the development of happiness skills.

In 2011, United Kingdom published a report that confirms that lots of kids face serious emotional problems by the time they graduate school. Based on UK statistics, which probably does not differ too much from the situation in the USA, by the time an average class of 30 young people reach their 16th birthdays:

  • 10 of them will have witnessed their parents separate
  • 3 will have suffered from mental health problems
  • 8 will have experienced severe physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect
  • 3 will be living in a step family
  • 1 will have experienced the death of a parent
  • 7 will report having been bullied.

Relate (a leading provider of counseling, therapy, and education in UK)  cites research evidence which shows that emotional and mental health problems developed in childhood and adolescence go on to affect adults later in life. The resulting problems with poor emotional adjustment and general feelings of unhappiness are bad enough. But that is not all the consequences our kids are facing. Unhappiness and emotional imbalance can cause young people to do badly in exams or drop out of education altogether, with consequent damage to their long-term employment prospects and health. For more on the report, see http://www.optimus-education.com/can-schools-promote-happiness.

I agree with Relate’s specialist that schools are the best places to reach young people, and early intervention is effective. But I believe that the most effective solution is prevention. Adding the subject of happiness to school curriculum can help children better deal with their issues, and develop coping mechanisms for the future.

Usually, the kids get emotional guidance and character building from interacting with families and friends. As parents, we always try our hardest to raise good people: continuously pass our wisdom to our kids, indoctrinate our values to them, tell them what is good and what is bad, teach them manners, help them with the choice of profession and life partner (if they let us). But do we teach them how to be happy, joyful, grateful, peaceful? Do we live our lives with contentment and moderation, leading our children by example? Parents are people too, and not all of us are happy ourselves. Unfortunately, we do not always have the time, the vision or the skills to instill the basics of happiness into our children. So both the adults and the kids go about the pursuit of happiness by the trial and error method.

There are more and more politicians, organizations and individuals who believe that happiness skills can be learned and should be included in traditional educations. On his Facebook page, the Dalai Lama says that education is the proper way to promote compassion, piece of mind and tolerance in society, which bring a sense of confidence and reduce stress and anxiety (https://www.facebook.com/DalaiLama) . England requested that schools and colleges promote wellbeing to students (http://www.optimus-education.com/can-schools-promote-happiness). The US army uses classes developed by the “Authentic Happiness” program at the University of Pennsylvania to increase resilience levels of the troops (http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/newsletter.aspx?id=1552).

School is the place where our kids grow up, and where they are formed as individuals as much as they are at home. The school system has the infrastructure for influencing entire generations, letting out better adjusted and happier people. Unfortunately, schools spend most of their efforts on achieving high test results and good rankings. There is little emphasis on personal or emotional development. I believe happiness skills are among some of the most important skills a person possesses. To me it is obvious that the school system must help develop happiness skills as much as literacy skills in all children. I would like to see USA schools and schools all over the world to add happiness lessons to their curricula and deliver it to every kid. It will make for better adults and for better societies, and ultimately, for better world.

To see this happen, I plan to open an organization to raise public support, develop happiness curriculum and promote it to schools and departments of education in the US and possibly, worldwide.

If you think this idea is important and worthwhile, and you would like to help, please contact me. I am looking for anyone who can contribute their skills, knowledge, and advice in the fields of not-for-profit organizations, school curricula, marketing, public relations, legal aspects and more!

Retrieved from: http://olgarythm.blogspot.com/2012/10/why-we-need-to-add-happiness-to-school.html

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

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


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

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


Dalai Lama on education…

In Education, Mindfulness, Pedagogy on Monday, 8 October 2012 at 07:30

“Education is the proper way to promote compassion and tolerance in society. Compassion and peace of mind bring a sense of confidence that reduce stress and anxiety, whereas anger and hatred come from frustration and undermine our sense of trust. Because of ignorance, many of our problems are our own creation. Education, however, is the instrument that increases our ability to employ our own intelligence.”~HH 14 Dalai Lama

Tensions and Pitfalls in Teacher Evaluation Policies

In Education, Pedagogy, Special Education on Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 04:40

Getting Honest About the Tensions and Pitfalls in Teacher Evaluation Policies

By Sara Mead on September 26, 2012 10:48 AM

Today the American Enterprise Institute is releasing a new paper that I wrote with my colleagues Andrew Rotherham and Rachael Brown looking at some of the tensions in the current policy shift towards new teacher evaluation systems–and advising policymakers on how to avoid some potential pitfalls implicit in those tensions.

Obviously, Andy, Rachael and I are no foes of the move towards new systems of teacher evaluation: We believe the previous system–which ignored student learning completely, failed to recognize excellence or give teachers meaningful feedback to improve, and rated 99+% of teachers satisfactory or better–was clearly a broken one. We also believe that new evaluation systems, when done well, have the potential not only to identify ineffective teachers who would be better suited to other careers, but also to give due credit to excellent teachers who should be rewarded and retained, and to help all teachers improve their performance.

But we’re also very cognizant of the pitfalls here. In the rush to gain public and political support for new evaluation systems, proponents of these systems have too often over-promised or ignored real limitations, tensions, and trade-offs in both the design of these systems and the technologies (including value-added metrics, data systems, and observational rubrics) that underlie them. As Iwrote recently, there’s a temptation among some reformers to treat value-added measures and evaluation systems as a sort of “magical black box” that, if we just use it, will tell us the real, honest truth about teacher performance. But the reality is a lot more complicated than that. And in failing to acknowledge that, reformers run the risk of jeopardizing the sustainability and success of the very systems they seek to promote. We need to move forward with new teacher evaluation systems–but we need to do so with humility, the recognition that no one knows all the answers, and plenty of room for flexibility and revision over time as we learn from the successes and challenges of various models.

Andy, Rachael, and I outline four key tensions that have been overlooked in current debates over teacher evaluation: 1) Tensions between centralized control and flexibility, 2) Tensions about the role of teacher evaluation in an evolving overall ecosystem where an increasing number of teachers cannot be directly linked to the test scores of a specific group of students in a specific subject, 3) Tensions about how to prioritize different purposes (accountability, personnel decisions, professional development) for which evaluation results may be used, and 4) Tensions about what it really means to evaluate teachers as professionals. We also offer recommendations for policymakers seeking to negotiate and balance these tensions in evolving teacher evaluation systems. Check out the whole thing here.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/sarameads_policy_notebook/2012/09/avoiding_a_teacher_evaluation_hangover.html?print=1

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.

Retrieved from: http://www.aei.org/papers/education/k-12/teacher-policies/the-hangover-thinking-about-the-unintended-consequences-of-the-nations-teacher-evaluation-binge/


listen willya

In Education, Pedagogy, Uncategorized on Sunday, 23 September 2012 at 14:20

nicely done.

How Bad Teachers Nearly Ruined My Life

In Education, Humor, Pedagogy on Sunday, 23 September 2012 at 13:30

How Bad Teachers Nearly Ruined My Life.

musings on…teachers

In Education, Pedagogy on Saturday, 22 September 2012 at 07:09

in response to a FABULOUS post by gpicone…please go read it!  such fabulous points! http://ipledgeafallegiance.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/teachers-and-tenure/#respond

i wanted to post my response here as it is a subject i have wanted to talk about in relation to what i see as a non-teaching public school employee.


EXCELLENT points and fabulous way to get them across.  i am in georgia where we are a “right-to-work” state and have no unions and we still have a whole mess of problems.  so, those who say it is the fault of the teachers’ unions that cause all the ills in education can come to a non-union state and see the EXACT same issues.  ironically, in my early years of working in the schools (probably about 9 or so years ago) a kid put “something” in a teacher’s coffee.  i don’t recall what he put in there (i believe it was some sort of chemical…definitely poisonous, charges were filed by the teacher, not the school or the system).  the particulars escape me now.  things i have seen in the schools: the kid who ruined a principal’s eyesight in one eye permanently by flashing a laser directly into his eye, my dear friend who had a kid take photos of her when she was helping another student-did i mention that she was wearing a past-the-knee length skirt and while she was standing with another student helping him work a problem and this kid was taking photos of her UNDER HER SKIRT (?!?!), teachers who receive written or verbal death threats (there have been many of those), or the kid who threw a teacher into a wall, or the 19 year old freshman who molested a 15 year-old girl with serious intellectual disabilities IN FRONT OF OTHER STUDENTS IN THE CAFETERIA (there was supervision, but the cafeteria is huge and a few adults can’t be everywhere)…i will spare the gory details as to what he made her do.  these are just examples that i can readily think of, there are so very many, unfortunately.  and, i am in a very “wealthy” area (i.e. these are generally kids from families with a high SES).  the stories get more violent as SES is decreased or in the less wealthy areas.  i am NOT a teacher (i don’t think i could ever do that job effectively and i admire teachers who teach for the love of teaching and believe THEY are the true heroes), but do work in the public schools (i am a school psychologist). teaching appears to have become about babysitting, behavior management, raising test scores however you can (see: atlanta public schools cheating scandal for one example http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/investigation-into-aps-cheating-finds-unethical-be/nQJHG/), trying to make sure you don’t get attacked or sued, etc.  i am not sure how teachers are able to really teach (i am talking about teaching via true dialectic and experiential methods), and if they do, how they do it with the over-time demands (being right-to-work, it says in our contracts that we are to work the 8 hour school day “AND any other hours/days you are asked by your principal or direct supervisor” WITHOUT compensation.  we are not allowed to take a lunch break unless we are DIRECTLY supervising kids (i.e. eating with the kids) or we must make up whatever time we take to eat.  even eating and say, writing a report or entering in grades is not considered “direct supervision” and that time must be made up that day (to all those that complain that teachers get so much time off…what if you were told you could not take a lunch break without having to “make up” the time?  no “business lunches.”  heck, my teachers can’t even go to the bathroom when they have to because they can’t leave the kids or it is considered “abandonment of duties.”  i don’t think that happens in the corporate world).  one of the reasons i don’t eat until i am off work-it’s just too much hassle.  i think people really need to realize we don’t have these cush government jobs…especially those states in which there are no unions to attempt to at least get fair compensation (i.e. yes, we will work those extra hours like open house or such, but let us get some sort of compensation.  on open house evenings, my teachers come in at regular time in the morning and must stay until 8 or 9 at night for the open house…that’s a long day and it is required or you lose your job).

as far as compensation, and i can only speak for myself in regard to this. since i started working in the public schools 11 years ago, my salary has DROPPED by about $14,000.  i am making LESS now than when i signed my first contract 11 years ago!  not to mention that higher degree that i worked so hard for…our “degree credit” (really about $3000 a year) was cut in half for anyone that does not work in the classroom.  that, along with decreasing my work days from 205 to 190,  furloughs, increase in cost of benefits, etc. have all contributed to the huge decrease in pay.  what other job is like that where, in addition to not receiving any added monies, i.e. a raise of any kid, in 6 years and your salary DECREASES each year?  and, did i mention that our department was cut by 25% a few years ago, but more schools and responsibilities were added on (in essence, we are now responsible for doing 125%…i know…try and figure out how that works). yet, i can honestly say i don’t do this for the money and nothing is better than the feeling i get when i have really helped a student and/or their family and made a connection.  my soul is fed by “my kids” but it does get crushed each time i get a ‘message’ from the higher ups that i am nothing more than just another employee/number and easily replaceable or that that higher degree you got to make yourself more effective at your job just doesn’t mean anything (i.e. why further your skill set and knowledge base when all you get from it is mounting student debt and the message that higher education is not important?  i.e. loss of degree credit).  it’s just…sad.  kids are the future yet we treat those that help to mold them into who they are going to be awfully and with little respect.  instead, it sometimes feels like glorified babysitting.

i would challenge anyone who thinks teachers make too much money (laughable), have too much time off (not when you add all the extra hours from taking work home and various after school hours mandatory functions), or thinks teachers have total have job security via tenure thus allowing teachers to not teach and not be held accountable (in my state, the KIDS comments and impressions are now part of a teacher’s evaluation…thus, a student who is angry with a teacher for failing/disciplining/assigning homework/etc. is going to be part of what determines if a teacher keeps their job or not (not to mention that that teacher BETTER show an improvement in academic achievement based on standardized testing).  we all know kids can be reactionary and, if angry or they just don’t like someone, will not hesitate to rate that teacher as “unfit” and probably not rate them accurately nor objectively.  please see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/georgia-professors-blast-teacher-evaluation-system/2012/07/09/gJQAFhSbZW_blog.html for a very salient case made regarding teacher evaluations in georgia.

i could go on (and on and on) but there’s no point.  many people will believe what they want to believe, even when shown data to the contrary.  i just wish those who thought teaching was “cake” would go try it for even a day and have to competently fulfill all duties (endless meetings, data collection (RTI), accommodations and modifications, individualized and differentiated instruction, paperwork, keeping class blogs updated, grading homework and classwork, administering the many assessments that are required, thus eating into instruction time BUT being expected to cover ALL material in the curriculum so that progress (i.e. higher scores) can be quantified, the list goes on). whoever thinks all teachers do is stand up in front of a class and actually teach is sorely misled.  that’s why i TRULY believe, as jonathan kozol says:  “Teachers are my heroes; they are the most courageous people in this country.”  we need to start treating them as such instead of bashing the profession. for example, just because you have a physician who is negligent, do you then go and bash ALL physicians based on one or two bad examples?  no.  while the unscrupulous teachers get the press, there are ordinary heroes in our classrooms everyday.  those who teach for the love of teaching and for the love of kids.  there are many more of those than bad ones…you just don’t hear about them.  while we revere physicians for being able to heal, why don’t we share some of that same reverence for teachers?  THEY are the ones who spend 8 hours a day, approximately 180 days a year, preparing YOUR children for the future (often, more cumulative time than parents spend with their own children).  maybe not performing a life-saving surgery, but helping to prepare these kids for the future.  THEY should be our heroes and celebrities.  and, unlike celebrity, they are CERTAINLY not in it for the money or accolades…

just my opinion…

Some thoughts on education…

In Education, Pedagogy, Philosophy on Sunday, 16 September 2012 at 11:26

there is a need for teaching to involve true socratic dialectic.  below is an article i found on how it can be done on today’s public schools.  following it is an article on paulo freire.  i believe his books should be required reading for those going into education (along with jonathan kozol’s books on education…all of them!).  i urge anyone in education who has not read kozol’s books to read at least one along with freire’s work.  i believe a better understanding of epistemology and pedagogy, in general, are crucial when trying to make a difference in the education of our nation’s children.


Making the Leap to Socratic Seminars

By Elizabeth Ely

Premium article access courtesy of TeacherMagazine.org.

Over the past few years, I’ve attended summer workshop after summer workshop that touted the merits of Socratic seminars. The discussions revolved around open-ended questions facilitated by not teachers, as I’d previously understood such seminars—but students. Perhaps it is appropriate that I often left these workshops with more questions than answers.

I just couldn’t picture how this would work in my 6th grade English/language arts classroom. How would I guide my students to discuss topics in a civil way and connect their ideas to their academic learning? How would I ensure each student was engaged? How would I assess students? What if no one had anything to say?

But this past year, I pushed aside my own desire for control and gave more agency to my students. It was risky, especially when facing high-stakes testing and a new evaluation system. But my students were more engaged in learning than ever. And I knew that I didn’t need to worry about the evaluation rubric if my students could sustain this kind of growth.

Listen, Discuss, Collaborate

Let’s face it—most middle school students don’t walk into our classrooms in August ready and able to participate in a Socratic seminar … or any type of academic discussion. But here’s how I got them ready.

From week one, I began to set expectations about three major skills: active listening, academic discussion, and collaborative teamwork. I also worked to create a climate in which it was safe for students to speak their minds—where it’s okay to take risks (and sometimes fail).

The first thing we talked about was active listening. Students need to understand that a discussion involves constant feedback and participation from all involved—and that even a listener’s body language can affect the tone and focus of the discussion. I solicited and recorded students’ ideas about what active listening is, creating a sort of “how-to” poster as they discussed.

During the first week, I built in lots of discussion activities in pairs, small groups, and whole-class arrangements. Students got to know one another, built a sense of community, and practiced their active-listening skills.

One of our first activities was “What’s My Lie?” Students wrote three statements about themselves—two true statements and one that was a lie. I did the same, then modeled the activity: I shared my statements with a student volunteer, who then guessed which statement was a lie and explained why. I confirmed or shared the correct answers.

Next, students mingled and performed the same activity, changing partners when prompted. I reminded students about active listening and encouraged them to thank their partners in the activity.

During the early weeks of the school year, our activities were very structured, gradually becoming less so. Students learned to initiate questions or engage in discourse without my dictating the order of responses.

Early on, I introduced strategies for responding to others in a civil way that sustains the discussion: “I agree, Bobby, but I would also add … ” or “I disagree, Sally, because the text says … ” or “That reminds me of the article/text/novel that … ”

As last year got going, I realized that my new role was to facilitate learning rather than deliver it. As I moved from table to table, I modeled active listening and academic discussion for my students while at the same time getting to know them and assessing their learning.

Next Step: Introducing Socratic Seminars

I now know you should never spring a Socratic seminar on students without introducing the concept. Period. For a seminar to be truly effective, I’ve found my students need to know what it is, why they’re doing it, what’s expected of them, and how they’ll be graded. They need time to prepare.

Two or three days before our first seminar, I took an entire period to introduce what Socratic seminars are like—and why we would be doing them.

Students need to understand the roles of the seminars in my classroom—and their importance. A seminar can be a discussion of articles or a novel students have read, or they can be the culminating point of an entire unit. Seminars can help students with pre-writing or serve as performance-based assessments.

It is also important for students to perceive seminar participation as an exciting privilege—a chance to be responsible for their own learning. I want them to see that I am interested in their insights. The more I stress the value of the activity, the more value students place on their personal performance.

I began the first introductory session by giving students background on who Socrates was and what “Socratic” means. I introduced Socrates as an ancient Greek philosopher and teacher who valued the power of asking questions, engaging in inquiry, and discussing rather than debating.

Then we talked about the seminar’s structure. I’ve found an inner-outer circle most effective with my 6th graders. I arrange student desks in two concentric circles. During the seminar, the inner circle discusses while the outer circle observes and assesses their inner partners. Halfway through the seminar, the groups switch roles.

I explained the seminar responsibilities of students: to be prepared with their handouts and texts, to take part in discussion when in the inner circle, and to evaluate the discussion when in the outer circle.

My favorite part was explaining my role as teacher, which is to open a Diet Coke and relax. They laughed, but by the end of the year, they realized how accurate this description had been.

This year, this introductory lesson will be followed by a class session in which we watch and analyze a video clip of a Socratic seminar in action.

Deciding What Matters: Student-Generated Rubrics

I took another risk this past year as I committed to a student-centered classroom: I decided students should play a role in designing a rubric for seminar participation.

I had initiated this process at the start of the year, when I first asked students to identify the characteristics of an active listener. Continued reflection on the “how” of our classroom activities led students to become much more aware of my expectations—and their own.

The day after I introduced the basic concept of Socratic seminars, I asked students to consider how the seminars should be evaluated.

I distributed a template with categories (participation, quality of discussion, and behavior/attitude) and scoring columns (exemplary, proficient, and emerging). I left the contents of the rubric blank, and asked student groups to generate indicators for each of the possible scores for the categories.

I recorded student contributions and solicited revisions along the way, encouraging as much specificity as possible. And I found that, given the opportunity, my students set high expectations for themselves—in part because they were so excited and honored to be able to take part in the seminars.

The rubric-building activity helps students become even more aware of what’s expected on seminar day. Just to make sure we were all on the same page, I posted the rubric to my class wiki, requiring students to review it for homework and “sign” their names on the wiki page.

Many teachers have practiced this kind of student-centered instruction. But it was revolutionary for me, a teacher who once felt more comfortable with a tightly scripted plan for each lesson.

Here’s what my principal said after observing a Socratic seminar in my 6th grade ELA classroom: “The only thing that could have made it more impressive was if you had just turned around and left the room.”

On that day, in that moment, I became obsolete and loved it. It was then that I knew I truly had a student-centered classroom—my students were motivated and engaged enough to learn from one another without me.

Elizabeth Ely is a 6th grade ELA and world history teacher at Walker Middle Magnet for International Studies in Tampa, Fla. She is a member of CTQ’s Teacher Leaders Network and plans to continue taking risks this year in the classroom.


food for thought…

Reference: Smith, M. K. (1997, 2002) ‘Paulo Freire and informal education’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. [www.infed.org/thinkers/et-freir.htm. Last update: May 29, 2012]


paulo freire

Perhaps the most influential thinker about education in the late twentieth century, Paulo Freire has been particularly popular with informal educators with his emphasis on dialogue and his concern for the oppressed.

Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997), the Brazilian educationalist, has left a significant mark on thinking about progressive practice. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed is currently one of the most quoted educational texts (especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia). Freire was able to draw upon, and weave together, a number of strands of thinking about educational practice and liberation. Sometimes some rather excessive claims are made for his work e.g. ‘the most significant educational thinker of the twentieth century’. He wasn’t – John Dewey would probably take that honour – but Freire certainly made a number of important theoretical innovations that have had a considerable impact on the development of educational practice – and on informal education and popular education in particular. In this piece we assess these – and briefly examine some of the critiques that can be made of his work.


Five aspects of Paulo Freire’s work have a particular significance for our purposes here. First, his emphasis on dialogue has struck a very strong chord with those concerned with popular and informal education. Given that informal education is a dialogical (or conversational) rather than a curricula form this is hardly surprising. However, Paulo Freire was able to take the discussion on several steps with his insistence that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting on another, but rather people working with each other. Too much education, Paulo Freire argues, involves ‘banking’ – the educator making ‘deposits’ in the educatee.

Second, Paulo Freire was concerned with praxis – action that is informed (and linked to certain values). Dialogue wasn’t just about deepening understanding – but was part of making a difference in the world. Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing. Informal and popular educators have had a long-standing orientation to action – so the emphasis on change in the world was welcome. But there was a sting in the tail. Paulo Freire argued for informed action and as such provided a useful counter-balance to those who want to diminish theory.

Third, Freire’s attention to naming the world has been of great significance to those educators who have traditionally worked with those who do not have a voice, and who are oppressed. The idea of building a ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’ or a ‘pedagogy of hope’ and how this may be carried forward has formed a significant impetus to work. An important element of this was his concern with conscientization – developing consciousness, but consciousness that is understood to have the power to transform reality’ (Taylor 1993: 52).

Fourth, Paulo Freire’s insistence on situating educational activity in the lived experience of participants has opened up a series of possibilities for the way informal educators can approach practice. His concern to look for words that have the possibility of generating new ways of naming and acting in the world when working with people around literacies is a good example of this.

Fifth, a number of informal educators have connected with Paulo Freire’s use of metaphors drawn from Christian sources. An example of this is the way in which the divide between teachers and learners can be transcended. In part this is to occur as learners develop their consciousness, but mainly it comes through the ‘class suicide’ or ‘Easter experience’ of the teacher.

The educator for liberation has to die as the unilateral educator of the educatees, in order to be born again as the educator-educatee of the educatees-educators. An educator is a person who has to live in the deep significance of Easter. Quoted by Paul Taylor (1993: 53)


Inevitably, there are various points of criticism. First, many are put off by Paulo Freire’s language and his appeal to mystical concerns. The former was a concern of Freire himself in later life – and his work after Pedagogy of the Oppressed was usually written within a more conversational or accessible framework.

Second, Paulo Freire tends to argue in an either/or way. We are either with the oppressed or against them. This may be an interesting starting point for teaching, but taken too literally it can make for rather simplistic (political) analysis.

Third, there is an tendency in Freire to overturn everyday situations so that they become pedagogical. Paulo Freire’s approach was largely constructed around structured educational situations. While his initial point of reference might be non-formal, the educational encounters he explores remain formal (Torres 1993: 127)  In other words, his approach is still curriculum-based and entail transforming settings into a particular type of pedagogical space. This can rather work against the notion of dialogue (in that curriculum implies a predefined set of concerns and activities). Educators need to look for ‘teachable moments’ – but when we concentrate on this we can easily overlook simple power of being in conversation with others.

Fourth, what is claimed as liberatory practice may, on close inspection, be rather closer to banking than we would wish. In other words, the practice of Freirian education can involve smuggling in all sorts of ideas and values under the guise of problem-posing. Taylor’s analysis of Freire’s literacy programme shows that:

.. the rhetoric which announced the importance of dialogue, engagement, and equality, and denounced silence, massification and oppression, did not match in practice the subliminal messages and modes of a Banking System of education. Albeit benign, Freire’s approach differs only in degree, but not in kind, from the system which he so eloquently criticizes. (Taylor 1993: 148)

Educators have to teach. They have to transform transfers of information into a ‘real act of knowing’ (op cit: 43).

Fifth, there are problems regarding Freire’s model of literacy. While it may be taken as a challenge to the political projects of northern states, his analysis remains rooted in assumptions about cognitive development and the relation of literacy to rationality that are suspect (Street 1983: 14). His work has not ‘entirely shrugged off the assumptions of the “autonomous model”‘ (ibid.: 14).

Last, there are questions concerning the originality of Freire’s contribution. As Taylor has put it – to say that as many commentators do that Freire’s thinking is ‘eclectic’, is ‘to underestimate the degree to which he borrowed directly from other sources’ (Taylor 1993: 34). Taylor (1993: 34-51) brings out a number of these influences and ‘absorbtions’ – perhaps most interestingly the extent to which the structure of Pedagogy of the Oppressed parallels Kosik’s Dialectic of the Concrete (published in Spanish in the mid 1960s). Here we would simply invite you to compare Freire’s interests with those of Martin Buber. His concern with conversation, encounter, being and ethical education have strong echoes in Freirian thought.

Further reading and references

Key texts:

Paulo Freire’s central work remains:

Freire, P. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Important exploration of dialogue and the possibilities for liberatory practice. Freire provides a rationale for a pedagogy of the oppressed; introduces the highly influential notion of banking education; highlights the contrasts between education forms that treat people as objects rather than subjects; and explores education as cultural action. See, also:

Freire, P. (1995) Pedagogy of Hope. Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Continuum. This book began as a new preface to his classic work, but grew into a book. It’s importance lies in Freire’s reflection on the text and how it was received, and on the development of policy and practice subsequently. Written in a direct and engaging way.

Biographical material: There are two useful English language starting points:

Freire, P. (1996) Letters to Cristina. Reflections on my life and work, London: Routledge. Retrospective on Freire’s work and life. in the form of letters to his niece. He looks back at his childhood experiences, to his youth, and his life as an educator and policymaker.

Gadotti, M. (1994) Reading Paulo Freire. His life and work, New York: SUNY Press. Clear presentation of Freire’s thinking set in historical context written by a close collaborator.

For my money the best critical exploration of his work is:

Taylor, P. (1993) The Texts of Paulo Freire, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Other references

Kosik, K. (1988) La dialectique du concret, Paris: Plon.

Street, B. V. (1984) Literacy in Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Torres, C. A. (1993) ‘From the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” to “A Luta Continua”: the political pedagogy of Paulo Freire’ in P. McLaren and P. Leonard (eds.) Freire: A critical encounter, London: Routledge.


Lesley Bentley – Paulo Freire. Brief biography plus lots of useful links.

Catedra Paulo Freire (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Sao Paulo) – click for English version.

Blanca Facundo’s critique of Freire’s ideas, and reactions to Facundo’s critique – interesting collection of pieces.

Paulo Freire Institute – a wide range of material available about current work in the Freirian tradition. Click for the English version.

Daniel Schugurensky on Freireconsists of a collection of reviews of his books and links to other pages.

Q&A: The Freirian Approach to Adult Literacy Education,  David Spener’s review for ERIC.

New Rules from the NY Times

In Education, Pedagogy on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 07:35


New Rules

Thomas L. Friedman

September 8, 2012

I JUST arrived in Shanghai, but I’m thinking about Estonia and wondering about something Presidents Clinton and Obama have been saying.

Wired magazine reported last week that public schools in Estonia are establishing a program for teaching first graders — and kids in all other grades — how to do computer programming. Wired said that the curriculum was created “because of the difficulty Estonian companies face in hiring programmers. Estonia has a burgeoning tech industry thanks in part to the success of Skype, which was developed in Estonia in 2003.”

The news from Estonia prompted The Guardian newspaper of London to publish an online poll asking its readers: “Children aged 7 to 16 are being given the opportunity to learn how to code in schools in Estonia, should U.K. school children be taught programming as part of their school day?” It’s fascinating to read about all this while visiting Shanghai, whose public school system in 2010 beat the rest of the world in math, science and reading in the global PISA exam of 15-year-olds. Will the Chinese respond by teaching programming to preschoolers?

All of this made me think Obama should stop using the phrase — first minted by Bill Clinton in 1992 — that if you just “work hard and play by the rules” you should expect that the American system will deliver you a decent life and a chance for your children to have a better one. That mantra really resonates with me and, I am sure, with many voters. There is just one problem: It’s out of date.

The truth is, if you want a decent job that will lead to a decent life today you have to work harder, regularly reinvent yourself, obtain at least some form of postsecondary education, make sure that you’re engaged in lifelong learning and play by the rules. That’s not a bumper sticker, but we terribly mislead people by saying otherwise.

Why? Because when Clinton first employed his phrase in 1992, the Internet was just emerging, virtually no one had e-mail and the cold war was just ending. In other words, we were still living in a closed system, a world of walls, which were just starting to come down. It was a world before Nafta and the full merger of globalization and the information technology revolution, a world in which unions and blue-collar manufacturing were still relatively strong, and where America could still write a lot of the rules that people played by.

That world is gone. It is now a more open system. Technology and globalization are wiping out lower-skilled jobs faster, while steadily raising the skill level required for new jobs. More than ever now, lifelong learning is the key to getting into, and staying in, the middle class.

There is a quote attributed to the futurist Alvin Toffler that captures this new reality: In the future “illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn.” Any form of standing still is deadly.

I covered the Republican convention, and I was impressed in watching my Times colleagues at how much their jobs have changed. Here’s what a reporter does in a typical day: report, file for the Web edition, file for The International Herald Tribune, tweet, update for the Web edition, report more, track other people’s tweets, do a Web-video spot and then write the story for the print paper. You want to be a Times reporter today? That’s your day. You have to work harder and smarter and develop new skills faster.

Van Ton-Quinlivan, the vice chancellor for work force and economic development at the California Community Colleges System, explained to me the four basic skill sets out there today. The first are people who are “ready now.” That’s people with exactly the right skills an employer is looking for at the right time. Employers will give the local labor market and schools the first chance at providing those people, but if they are not available they’ll go the “shortest distance to find them,” she said, and today that could be anywhere in the world. Companies who can’t find “ready now” will look for “ready soon,” people who, with limited training and on-the-job experience, can fit right in. If they can’t find those, some will hire “work ready.” These are people with two or four years of postsecondary education who can be trained, but companies have shrinking budgets for that now and want public schools to do it. Last are the growing legions of the “far from ready,” people who dropped out or have only a high school diploma. Their prospects for a decent job are small, even if they are ready to “work hard and play by the rules.”

Which is why if we ever get another stimulus it has to focus, in part, on getting more people more education. The unemployment rate today is 4.1 percent for people with four years of college, 6.6 percent for those with two years, 8.8 percent for high school graduates, and 12.0 percent for dropouts.

That’s why I prefer the new mantra floated by Clinton at the Democratic convention, (which Obama has tried to fund): “We have to prepare more Americans for the new jobs that are being created in a world fueled by new technology. That’s why investments in our people” — in more community colleges, Pell grants and vocational-training classes — “are more important than ever.”

Socratic Dialectic and Constructivist Theory in Daniel Quinn’s “My Ishmael”-Lorie Ederr

In Education, Pedagogy, Philosophy on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 05:43

I wrote this many years ago (maybe 2005?) as a class assignment.  Not one of my best works, but thought I’d share anyway…

Socratic Dialectic and Constructivist Theory in Daniel Quinn’s “My Ishmael”

Lorie Ederr

          At its core, the book “My Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn, chronicles the relationship between Ishmael (a gorilla) and his twelve year-old pupil (Julie).  Ishmael and Julie embark upon a dialectical relationship in which Julie’s desire for knowledge and understanding are motivated by her need to feel useful, while Ishmael’s primary motivation appears to be the need to impart knowledge.  This dialectic is the basis of the book and the forum upon which Ishmael’s views of the world are expressed.

While it seems authentic dialectic is the goal of this relationship, as well as the type of dialogue illustrated in the book, this does not appear to be the case upon further investigation.  In Socratic questioning, the pupil is led through a series of questions in order to attain “truth” (Honderich, 1995).  For the sake of this paper, truth and knowledge will be interchangeable and understood to be defined by the constructivist view.  The constructivist view purports that knowledge is constructed by the interpreter based on his or her experiences and interactions.  Thus, it is not absolute and does not reflect an ontological reality (Honderich, 1995).  Socrates’ approach to teaching was to induce knowledge through a series of questions in order to gain a posteriori knowledge (Greco & Sosa, 1998).  This is illustrated in the book via Ishmael’s desire for Julie to attain the knowledge that he “gives” her.   This role-oriented questioning, in which the pupil takes a less active role in the learning process, is a component of Socratic questioning.  A purpose of Socratic questioning is to expose the pupil’s logic through reasoning, rationalization, elaboration, and thought development (Greco & Sosa, 1998).  It assumes the roles of facilitator and pupil.  It does allow for both teacher and student to take part in the questioning (as is seen by Julie’s responses to Ishmael), while a less egalitarian relationship would not allow for this.  This is the case with Ishmael and Julie, albeit, by Ishmael assuming the role of “teacher”, there is an imbalance of power that would not allow for authentic dialectic.

An example of this type of questioning can be found in Plato’s Meno (Boyles, 1996), specifically during the dialogue with Socrates and the slave boy. This can be directly related back to My Ishmael and Ishmael’s role in his dialogic relationship with Julie.  In Socrates’ dialogue with the slave boy, it appears he is utilizing Socratic questioning techniques to lead the slave boy to recall geometric truths (Boyles, 1996).  He does this through questioning and answering, and he elicits responses from empirical demonstration in which the slave boy is marginally participatory (Boyles, 1996).  His participation is limited because the relationship is not equal.  Julie is a more active participant than the slave boy, but the role of student and pupil is still evident, as is the imbalance of power merely by assuming these roles.  The teacher (Ishmael) has something to give and the student (Julie) is expected to come to certain conclusions in light of the information she receives.  In questioning a slave boy (and assuming the relationship of owner vs. slave), is it expected that authentic dialectic can be achieved?  Would the slave boy really question Socrates or show disagreement?  In addition, the questions Socrates asks are factual, data-driven, and specific (Boyles, 1996).  In a review of the dialogue, it is apparent that the slave boy only has to answer “yes” and follow Socrates’ lead (Boyles, 1996).  Seen in this light, the question is then posed as to whether or not the slave boy has really gained a posteriori knowledge and could have come to the answer if not “led” so strongly.  The argument can be made that Socrates uses this line of questioning to show the fallibility of this method (Boyles, 1996).

This passive versus active learner is seen in our education system today.  Teachers “deposit information” and “cover material”, mostly through didactic means, and the students are left to “get it” and utilize it (Freire, 1993).  This problem is also termed the “banking method of education” coined by Paulo Freire (1993).  Material (the lesson or concept being taught) is “deposited” by teachers and the students must then “withdraw” it (i.e. during an examination or during ‘testing.’)  The primary concern is not one of authentic dialectic in which the student constructs his or her own truths from his or her experiences and interactions.  The primary concern is one of “covering” specific material.  Once that is done, either in the absence or presence of authentic dialectic (most often in absentia of any authentic dialectic), the teacher’s job is done.  They have “covered” (deposited) the material.

Ishmael (or Quinn) has very strong opinions about our current education system.  According to him, a purpose of education is to keep people out of the job market and he does not see education as a means of preparing a student to become a part of the work force.  Ishmael believes that children who are left to their own devices will seek knowledge that is important to them and create their own meaning through personal constructs.  This does not appear to be the philosophy of the present educational system.  Instead, it seems the goal of the current educational system places strong emphasis on skills and job preparation so that when these students do go into the work force, they will be able to take care of themselves and promote the values of consumerism and capitalism (McLaren, 2003). Banking education attempts to conceal certain facts while placing emphasis on others and resists dialogue while treating students as mere depositories for the given material (Freire, 1993).  This “banking” appears to be most evident in relation to “high stakes testing” and “teaching to the test.”  This is additionally related to the point Ishmael makes regarding preparing graduates to have the skills necessary to gain income and purchase food, in such, reifying the “Taker” plan and becoming an inmate in the “Taker Prison.”

Constructivism can be viewed as the theoretical viewpoint Quinn is attempting to illustrate.  The constructivist view and approach to learning builds on current knowledge by allowing the pupil to explore and investigate based on his or her a priori knowledge, constructs, and experiences (Honderich, 1995).  Pupils are encouraged to actively construct meaning through exploration of interests, deduction, and evaluation (Greco & Sosa, 1998).  By dialoging with Julie, Ishmael wants her to create her own meaning from the stories and examples he gives her.  Whether or not he leads her to come to certain conclusions is of question, but seemingly, she comes to conclusions through experiential learning and self-exploration.  Julie’s reality is based on her experiences and a priori knowledge.

This is in direct contrast with another theoretical viewpoint known as objectivism.  The objectivist view postulates that all objects have intrinsic meaning and knowledge is stable and based on an absolute, ontological reality (Honderich, 1995).   Knowledge, in accordance with objectivist theory, is objective or absolute.  This is in opposition with the constructivist’s view that it is subjective, and thus, unable to be unequivocally regarded as a knowledge claim or “truth.”

In the same vein as objects possessing an absolute reality, Quinn attempts to utilize symbolism in his novel to make certain points, relying on the fact that all symbols will carry with them the same basic meaning for all readers.  He is representing the teacher/student relationship in the relationship between Julie and Ishmael.  By telling the story of the “Takers and the Leavers”, Quinn is symbolizing the impact that industrialization and capitalism have had on society.  When Ishmael tells of the “Great Dancing Revolution”, he is actually referencing the Agricultural Revolution that took place in our own society and the consequences of such.  A further example of symbolism is seen in Ishmael’s use of the phrase “Taker Prison”, which is a fairly obvious parallel to this society’s work force.

Peter McLaren (2003) illustrates the hegemonic practices that foster our educational system and keep the “oppressed” as the submissive culture.  These can be directly related to Ishmael’s views on education as a means of promoting industrialization which foster consumerism and capitalism.  Hegemony serves to keep the “oppressed” oppressed, as does the system of rules and laws made by the Takers to ensure the availability of food sources.  The Takers made it so the Leavers would have no choice but to work for their food.  The Takers took it upon themselves to determine for the Leavers the way in which they should live.  This is also evident in Freire’s (1993) and McLaren’s (2003) examples of the dominant culture (i.e. the oppressors) making rules and laws for others (i.e. the oppressed) to follow.  In today’s educational system, as in today’s culture in general, hegemony runs rampant.  The Takers are still making the rules and the Leavers must follow or risk starving.


          Allen, R.E., trans.  (1984).  The Dialogues of Plato.  New Haven: Yale University Press.

Boyles, Deron.  (1996).  Sophstry, Dialectic and Teacher Education: A Reinterpretation of Plato’s Meno.  Philosophy of Education Society.

Freire, Paulo (1993).  Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  New York: Continuum Books.

Greco, John & Sosa, Ernest, eds.  (1998).  The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology.  Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Honderich, Ted, ed. (1995).  Oxford Companion to Philosophy.  New York: Oxford Press.

McLaren, Peter.  (2003).  Life in the Schools: An Introduction to Critical Pedagogy in the Foundations of Education.  New York: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon.

The Exploiting Business-Deron Boyles, Ph.D.

In Education, Pedagogy, Philosophy on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 05:06

This is a paper written by one of my former professors, Deron Boyles.  While it was released in 2001, it is maybe even more prevalent now than it was then.  I see this is the public schools all the time.  Deron’s descriptions and writing are SPOT ON!

If you are interested in the public schools, this is a great read!



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