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The lack of evidence supporting the use of student test scores to rank teachers is staggering

Jason Glass said:

For a policy that practically every public school system in the nation is pursuing, the lack of evidence to support [the] effectiveness [of using student test scores to rank and evaluate teachers] is staggering. The number of high-performing education systems that use such an approach: zero. The number of peer-reviewed scientific studies that support this approach: zero.


Thinking about charter schools

Stephen Dyer says:

I get and am sympathetic to the argument that kids need opportunities to escape struggling schools. And I have little problem with the few really excellent school choice options that are out there that genuinely do give kids opportunities to achieve their potential.

But when the vast majority of those opportunities aren’t any better (and are usually much worse) than the struggling school, and paying for these mostly worse options means the kids who remain in the struggling public school have far fewer resources with which to achieve, or the school to improve?

Well, I’m sorry. I just don’t get that.


What kind of learning environments do high-poverty minority students deserve?

Paul Thomas says:

The public narrative around KIPP is based on embracing an authoritarian and highly structured model for high-poverty and minority students. Public schools have failed high-poverty and minority students in terms of disproportionate discipline and academic policies, including expulsion, suspension, failure, and retention; it appears by the evidence that KIPP and other “no excuses” charter schools mirror those failures instead of alleviating them. The school-to-prison pipeline and the school-as-prison dynamic are key elements of the larger mass incarceration era; KIPP’s association with strict discipline, high attrition, and selectivity are problematic for those of us who wish to break those cycles.

Public and charter schools are experiencing an increase in segregation of students by race and class; KIPP appears to be a part of that troubling pattern, again not a solution.

[In] Sarah Carr’s Hope Against Hope, … she details how KIPP and the other “no excuses” charters do in fact practice the sort of discipline policies about which I am critical: (1) a strict discipline code that includes SPARK (Carr, p. 11) and SLANT (making and maintaining eye contact, shaking hands, and other highly regimented behavior demands on students), (2) the Bench as as shaming discipline technique (Carr, p. 23), (3) a demanding culture that stresses “no excuses” for teachers and students (Carr, pp. 42-43), focusing almost exclusively on minority students from poverty (and not being implemented in white or affluent schools), and (4) depending so heavily on structure and external rewards that students falter once they enter college and have those elements removed (Carr, p. 188).

KIPP, specifically in its relationship with Teach for America (see Waiting for “Superman” and Carr), contributes directly and indirectly to several harmful and inaccurate claims about teaching and education: teaching quality is primarily a function of being demanding and not of experience or expertise (although this appears true only when dealing with high-poverty minority students since white and affluent students tend to have experienced and certified teachers).


What would be your reasoning NOT to connect your students to the world?

Laura Gilchrist said:

Twitter allows educators to connect and interact with resources, ideas, and people from around the world. Twitter allows educators to share their stories – positive stories included. We need more positive stories because, I’m telling you, there’s a lot of good going on in our schools – good that doesn’t get shared. Those walls you see around you do not have the power to isolate you and your kids any longer.

My question to you: If you have in your hands a tool (phone, computer, tablet + Twitter) that, by just moving your fingers, can connect you, your students, and your communities to resources, ideas, and people from around the world – a tool that can empower kids and educators to learn, create, grow – why would you choose NOT to start using it? What would be your reasoning?


For our students, how often are academics and enjoyment the same thing?

Daniel Ching said:

Somewhere along the way, someone convinced American society that breadth is far more important than depth. That same person also convinced everyone that academics and enjoyment are two different things. In their minds, students should have their nose in the books, cramming for a big test, and praying that nothing weird happens to throw them off on the test day. This has come to be known as rigor. . . .

There is nothing wrong with research, reading a crazy amount of books (one of my favorite past times), and studying all night for a test. But when this kind of activity arbitrarily takes the place of hands on, practical, experience based learning, there is something wrong. It is no wonder our drop out rates are high in both high school and college. Kids have at least 13 years of the same thing over and over. We are still functioning on an industrial education model and an agrarian calendar that says, all students learn the same, curriculum should be separated into subjects that don’t intersect, and everyday should be broken up into periods that end and being with a bell. This model makes it extremely difficult to foster creativity, cross curricular work, hands on learning, and spontaneity.


Education is and always has been a civil rights issue

Alan Aja said:

Education is and always has been a civil rights issue. Children of color deserve far better than they are getting now. There is no halcyon era in the past when our schools were doing just dandy in this regard. But there was a time when we had a societal awareness that poverty was a pervasive and pernicious source of educational problems. There was a time when federal funds were not awarded based on competition between states, but on the needs of their students. There was a time when the Federal government promoted – even mandated – desegregation, rather than promoting semi-private charter schools that accelerate it.


What testing should do for us

Multiple choice test

John Robinson said:

‘We would like to dethrone measurement from its godly position, to reveal the false god it has been. We want instead to offer measurement a new job – that of helpful servant. We want to use measurement to give us the kind and quality of feedback that supports and welcomes people to step forward with their desire to contribute, to learn, and to achieve.’ – Margaret Wheatley, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time

Want to know what’s wrong with testing and accountability today? It’s more about a ‘gotcha game’ than really trying to help teachers improve their craft. Over and over ad nauseam, those pushing these tests talk about using test data to improve teaching and thereby student learning, but that’s not what is happening at all.


Image credit: Exams Start… Now, Ryan M.

Reader interest trumps passage readability?


Alfie Kohn said:

intrinsic motivation – has a huge empirical base of support in workplaces, schools, and elsewhere. We’ve long known that the pleasure one takes from an activity is a powerful predictor of success. For example, one group of researchers tried to sort out the factors that helped third and fourth graders remember what they had been reading. They found that how interested the students were in the passage was thirty times more important than how ‘readable’ the passage was.


Image credit: Reading, John Flinchbaugh

Redefining ‘rigor’

Tedd Wakeman said:

We’ve always defined, as an educational community, rigor as being a lot of hard drudgery, what we consider really hard work, taking engagement and interests completely out of the equation and saying, ‘If we see kids who are sitting at their desks and they’re just writing a ton or they’re doing a bunch of research, if they just look kind of upset, if they look like they are not enjoying themselves, then there is rigorous things going on in that classroom.’ That’s a real problem.

We need to stop defining rigor as busywork, as kids knuckling down to the pressure and the drudgery of school. At the end of the year, there is this huge binder of notes and diagrams from PowerPoint exhibits, stuff that kids worked all year on. I’ve talked to kids here who have produced an artifact like that. To the outside community, even in many ways to the inside community, that looks rigorous because, look at what you produced.

But when we talk to those kids, when we ask, ‘What are your retaining from this? What do you feel, what are some of the big concepts that you came away with, and how are you applying those in your life in your lives every day,’ they can’t tell you. They know that they did this thing and they got a good grade on it but they can’t tell you what they are going to do with that. And yet to the more traditional educational community, that’s viewed as rigor.

We would much rather define rigor as the pursuit of solving a really difficult task that you care about solving. And that persistence can be taught in that way as opposed to, ‘Yeah, let’s teach kids persistence by having them do this thing that they couldn’t care less about, but it’s really hard and just if you can survive it, that’s persistence.’


Computers can help you get schooled for minimum wage jobs

Justin Reich said:

In the [past] forty years … educational technologists have made progress in teaching parts of the curriculum that can be most easily reduced to routines, but we have made very little progress in expanding the range of what these programs can do. During those same forty years, in nearly every other sector of society, computers have reduced the necessity of performing tasks that can be reduced to a routine. Computers, therefore, are best at assessing human performance in the sorts of tasks in which humans have already been replaced by computers.

Perhaps the most concerning part of these developments is that our technology for high-stakes testing mirrors our technology for intelligent tutors. We use machine learning in a limited way for grading essays on tests, but for the most part those tests are dominated by assessment methods – multiple choice and quantitative input – in which computers can quickly compare student responses to an answer bank. We’re pretty good at testing the kinds of things that intelligent tutors can teach, but we’re not nearly as good at testing the kinds of things that the labor market increasingly rewards. In ‘Dancing with Robots,’ an excellent paper on contemporary education, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argue that the pressing challenge of the educational system is to ‘educate many more young people for the jobs computers cannot do.’ Schooling that trains students to efficiently conduct routine tasks is training students for jobs that pay minimum wage – or jobs that simply no longer exist.


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