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If new teacher evaluation systems were really about growth and constructive feedback

Anthony Cody says:

while Gates and his employees constantly talk about growth and constructive feedback, they always seek to embed these systems in the evaluation process, where there will be huge consequences for those involved. 

I asked:

If I am wrong, and the new evaluation system described by Bill Gates really is all about feedback and collaboration, then why not remove the model from an evaluative framework? Make the sharing of videos voluntary and low-stakes. Provide teachers dedicated time for collaboration. Offer a variety of structures such as Lesson Study, Critical Friends, and Teacher Inquiry that have been proven effective at generating authentic reflection and growth.

If I turn out to be right, then smash those cameras, boycott those tests, opt out of the data systems, and refuse to be standardized and scripted.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/12/2013_in_review_part_3_gatesian.html

Three central problems plague public education in the United States

Arthur Camins says:

The biggest problem with education is the U.S. is not test scores. Rather, three central problems plague public education in the United States. The most dramatic is inequity. There are vast inequities in educational resources and in the conditions of students’ lives, resulting in persistent race- and class-based disparities in educational outcomes.

Second, we are far too focused on a narrow range of outcomes – reading and math test scores – and not enough on a broader range of subject matter or essential domains, such as critical thinking, creativity and collaborative skills. Third, we gravitate toward partial quick solutions, rather than thinking systemically and having the patience to allow strategies time to develop, take hold, and be refined.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/04/arthur-camins-on-international-test-scores

What does the PISA report tell us about U.S. education? [VIDEO]

An excellent video from AFT about PISA and education reform lessons to be learned. Watch it. Share it. #reclaimit

Happy viewing!

The mainstream media doesn’t care when black and brown children are harmed by misguided education policy

Diane Ravitch says:

It has become obvious over the past decade that the mainstream media not only doesn’t care when black and brown children are harmed by misguided education policy, they typically accept the claims of those inflicting the harm. They report without any criticism the policies that bounce black and brown children around the school district as if they were checkers on a checkerboard. They ignore the protests of the parents of these children when their local school is closed to make way for a privately managed charter or for a condo. It is obvious to everyone but the media that they don’t hear the voices of these children or their parents.

So, yes, it took a condescending comment directed toward white suburban mothers by Secretary Duncan to get the attention of the media. You can bemoan that fact, as Paul Thomas does, or celebrate it as the beginning of coalition politics.

It is beyond argument that those in power will not listen to the poor. But when the black and brown moms (and dads) form a coalition with the “white suburban moms,” they are a powerful force that cannot be ignored.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/26/paul-thomas-the-politics-of-white-outrage-and-my-dissent

Essay questions for education ‘reformers’

Robert Shepherd says:

As a member of the Billionaire Boys’ Club, or as one of the paid associates of the BBC, you . . .

1. believe that extraordinarily complex skills like reading and writing ability can be validly and reliably measured by simple, objective
tests.

Explain how that could possibly be so. Please draw upon your extensive knowledge of the relevant scientific literature.

2. believe that innovation comes about when free persons conceive of varied goods and services that compete with one another in a free market in which users choose the goods and services that they wish to purchase and use.

Explain how this belief can be reconciled with a) a single set of mandatory national standards for all students, b) a single set of mandatory high-stakes national tests, c) a single national database of all student test scores and responses, and d) scripted literacy lessons that all teachers must follow to the letter.

3. believe that all students should follow the same standards and take the same tests.

Explain how this belief can be reconciled with the fact that students differ enormously in their backgrounds, in their developmental levels, in their gifts and interests and propensities, and in the goals that they and their parents have for their futures.

4. believe that national standards do not narrow and distort curricula and pedagogy.

Please answer the following questions:

If standards do not drive (and so narrow and distort) curricula and pedagogy, why create them?

If they do drive curricula and pedagogy, how can a single set of predetermined standards be better than ANY alternative set that might be developed by ANY OTHER expert or group of experts in education and particular subject matter?

5. believe that our schools are failing.

Explain how can this belief can be reconciled with the fact that, when results on internationally norm-referenced exams in reading, mathematics, and science are corrected for the socio-economic levels of students taking the exams, U.S. students consistently score at the top or very near the top?

6. believe that a small group of persons appointed by a committee of politicians should be empowered to create standards that overrule and render irrelevant the judgments about desirable outcomes in particular courses of study made by professional teachers, curriculum developers, and curriculum coordinators.”

Why?

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/10/30/shepherd-an-essay-exam-for-reformers

PISA, American schools, and poverty

Jonathan Lovell says:

in a somewhat more nuanced study in January of this year entitled “What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?” economists Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein come to a similar conclusion:

“The share of disadvantaged students in the U.S. sample was the largest of any of the [post-industrial] countries we studied. Because test scores in every country are characterized by a social class gradient—students higher in the social class scale have better average achievement than students in the next lower class—U.S. student scores are lower on average simply because of our relatively disadvantaged social class composition. . . [I]f we make two reasonable adjustments to the reported U.S. average, our international ranking improves. The first adjustment re-weights the social class composition of U.S. test takers to the average composition of top-scoring countries. The other re-weights the distribution of lunch-eligible students by the actual intensity of such students in schools. These adjustments raise the U.S. international ranking on the 2009 PISA test from 14th to 6th in reading, and from 25th to 13th in mathematics. While there is still room for improvement, these are quite respectable showings”

To put it succinctly, the “achievement gap” between American students and their foreign counterparts is largely a red herring.

via http://jonathanlovell.blogspot.com/2013/07/aliterate-readers-and-complex-texts.html

We’ve got extra funds! Let’s buy test-taking devices!

Amy Prime says:

I know of another administrator who sent out a happy email to her staff because the school had some extra funds and was able to purchase a classroom set of tablets for the teachers to use for classroom testing. How many of you parents out there, upon discovering your child’s school had extra funds available, would want that money used to buy test-taking devices?

via http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20131020/OPINION01/310200071/Iowa-View-Opt-Out-Movement-growing-schools-test-test-test

Public education: The balance-wheel of a democratic society

“democracy” says:

There are those who don’t believe in the fundamental purpose of public education. They are not interested in the developing the “democratic citizen,” one who understands and is committed to the core values and principles of democratic governance; one who is imbued with the “character of democracy.” There are certain people and groups and special interests who’ve felt threatened by education for “the masses,” especially Mann’s view of public education as “the balance-wheel of the social machinery” in a democratic society. And this begs the question, is the Business Roundtable committed to the core values and principles of democracy? The Chamber of Commerce? Bill Gates? Jeb Bush? And what about Arne Duncan?

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/10/23/an-answer-to-the-u-s-chamber-of-commerce-part-1

How many policy elites send their own kids to these schools?

Jack Schneider and Heather Curl say:

Policy elites defend their work and attack their critics as misguided, out of touch, or concerned only with adult interests.  Yet how many would send their own children to schools where narrow standards have driven out play and discovery?  How many so-called reformers would enroll their children in schools where young people are endlessly assessed, where the arts have been slashed, where teachers have been demoralized, and where the shame of low scores is borne like a scarlet letter?

Reformers need to understand that their narrow efforts to close the quantifiable “achievement gap” are creating another kind of educational inequity.  In other words, as they seek to close one gap they are opening up another.

we need not accept a narrower vision of what it means to educate.  We need not accept schools focused myopically on basic skills to the exclusion of all else.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/18/what-poor-children-need-in-school

Does StudentsFirst deserve a seat at the policy table?

StudentsFirst

In August I blogged about the intersection of money, politics, and educator evaluation here in Iowa. Today, reporter Mike Wiser quotes me in his Sioux City Journal article about the growing presence of StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s advocacy organization, in our state:

We have seen the rise of influence of outside advocacy groups that are essentially buying access to the political process. There are lots of good ideas out there in the marketplace of ideas, but what worries me is when those ideas come attached to a big donation check, well, we know money talks in politics. [this should not be read as me saying that StudentsFirst has good ideas!]

During my interview with Mike, he asked me if I thought StudentsFirst deserved a place at the policy table. Brain-fried from a long day of working with principals, I think I mumbled that I don’t know how organizations get selected for statewide committees or what the criteria are (or should be). But maybe it’s best to turn the question around…

If an outside advocacy organization

but is more than willing to lavish large contributions around so that it floods local school board elections with unprecedented monies and is the biggest contributor to state legislative races, do you think it deserves a seat at the policymaking table?

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