Tag Archives: edreform

Instead of allowing our son’s school to drain the love of learning from our son…

David and Vasilia Wees say:

We believe that children need these essential elements in order to become healthy adults; creativity, play, intellectual stimulation, exercise, and opportunities to collaborate with and learn from their peers. None of these elements is present in at my son’s current school in a sufficient degree. We can see that the school is fighting a losing battle to maintain some physical activity and art, and from the research we have done, these are often lacking in many of the public schools in New York City.

My son recently told us that his current school is the “No fun school” but that he is “learning to adjust to it.”

Our son’s current school is teaching children that learning is a chore to be done, and not something to enjoy and to love.

We understand that relatively recent legislation in New York State, where teachers and principals are judged based largely on the test scores of their students, is to blame for this situation.

Instead of allowing our son’s school to drain the love of learning from our son, we are removing him from your school’s care.

via http://davidwees.com/content/we-are-homeschooling-our-son

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?

Is this what we want for our students and for our schools?

Dan M says:

[Is] there a country on earth with a successful education system that has ever operated the way [Michelle] Rhee insists this country’s education system should be run? Does Finland, the model for the world, have any of the following: Teach for Finland? KIPP Finland? the Finnish Parent Trigger? the Finnish merit pay system based on student test scores? union-busting organizations like Students First / Finland? No, it has none of this. No. The country that has a system closest to the one pushed by Rhee, Broad, Gates, Walton and others… is Chile… which has, thanks to a CIA coup and decades of ZERO democracy, instituted all of Rhee’s beloved practices. The result? The education system there is an unmitigated, free market disaster… with stratification, low academic achievement, zero democratic oversight of the privatized system… with the only folks benefiting being the “bosses” of these Walmart-ized chains of schools. Every other subgroup – students, parents, teachers, citizens – are worse off, and thus, the protests in that country are ramping up every year.

Seriously, IS THAT WHAT WE WANT FOR OUR STUDENTS AND FOR OUR SCHOOLS HERE?

via http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/10/04/super-rhee-go/#comment-640518

Don’t blame the Common Core for local curriculum decisions

Kathleen Porter-Magee says:

While there is no shortage of programs that are emblazoned with a shiny new “Common Core Aligned!” sticker, the reality is that anyone can claim alignment. And while the Common Core is a convenient and politically expedient scapegoat for programs that lack coherence and rigor, it is up to school boards, principals, teachers, and parents to choose the curricula and the texts that will guide daily teaching and learning in the classroom. Indeed, parents have exactly as much input into the curricular decisions made at their children’s schools as they did prior to 2010.

let’s not forget that on the math side, prior to Common Core adoption, only 11 states required students to learn standard algorithms and only 7 states required students to memorize their basic math facts. Thanks to the Common Core, 45 state standards now require mastery of these essential content and skills. Indeed, the Common Core is unambiguous in its expectation that students learn arithmetic content and skills cold before moving on to more rigorous content.

Similarly, on the English language arts side, let’s not forget that there is no “required reading list” attached to the Common Core. . . . the standards themselves include only 4 “required readings”: the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and a Shakespearean play. Every other text selection is made at the state or local level. If your child is reading a text you don’t like, it’s not because the Common Core demands it.

Of course, this also means that parents … are right to be concerned about curricula that do not emphasize mastery of critical math content. And they’re right to try to push schools to assign appropriate reading that includes classic works of literature. But those are concerns that still need to be brought to local school boards, principals, and teachers. After all, even in the Common Core era, it is these local leaders and school-level educators who will determine the programs that get taught and the books that get assigned in schools across the country.

via http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-has-nationalized-our-curriculum-these-local-decisions

Jesse Hagopian on Education Nation [VIDEO]

“These tests are too small, too puny, to measure all the skills my kids have.”

Yeah, what he said. [1:47]

5 big questions for the Iowa Council on Educator Development

Iowaflag

The Iowa Council on Educator Development meets tomorrow for the first time. This is the statewide group that is supposed to make recommendations to the Iowa legislature about how to better evaluate teachers and school administrators. Given many of the practical and policy insanities that have occurred in other states around this issue – massive swings from year to year in individual teachers’ ratings, educators evaluated by test scores of students they didn’t teach, Teachers of the Year being rated unsatisfactory, teachers being evaluated by student assessments for which there is yet no curriculum / teacher training, etc. – this will be important, highly-visible, and highly-controversial work. Members of the Council include teachers, principals, professors, educator association staff, Department of Education personnel, and, yes, the state director for the Iowa chapter of Students First (whom for some reason the Department of Education insists on referring to primarily as a ‘parent’ rather than her professional role).

As I think about the work ahead for this group and the changes that it may recommend, five big questions come to mind that will need resolution…

  1. First and foremost, will the purpose of any changes in our current educator evaluation systems be for educator improvement or for educator ‘accountability?’ The primary philosophical orientation of any proposed changes is paramount and will shape all other conversations, decisions, and design considerations. For instance, systems designed for educator improvement won’t be punitive; will focus on educator learning, growth, and remediation; will be less consequential to teachers’ incomes, employment, and reputations (i.e., lower stakes rather than high stakes); and will do everything possible to minimize year-to-year volatility and unreliability because they’re focused on an ethic of care, not on perspectives of shame, blame, or disdain.
  2. Iowa revised its educator evaluation systems just a few years ago to give educators much better feedback on their performance. Are there big flaws in those recently-changed systems that warrant major new changes?
  3. When teacher differences only account for about 10% of the variance in student achievement, will this statewide committee work on educator evaluations (and potential policy/funding changes) be placed in proper context given other potential legislative actions?
  4. If, as I don’t hope, the Council decides – despite an overwhelming wealth of statistical, policy, and legal reasons against such systems - that educator evaluation in Iowa should be changed so that it is high stakes AND that student statewide assessment scores should be a component of such a system, how will we remedy the deficiencies that have resulted in other states related to operational unreliability, massive unfairness, legal concerns, and a lack of confidence in the accuracy and validity of resultant educator ratings? In other words, can we identify states or districts who are actually doing this in ways that work? (and, if not, are we somehow smarter than every other state that’s tried this?) If the Council goes down this path, issues that will arise include year-to-year volatility of test scores and educator ratings, inappropriate uses of assessments and statistics that are designed for purposes other than educator evaluation, the lack of standardized statewide assessments for most students, inherent systemic biases of so-called ‘value-added’ systems against educators that work in particular settings, long-term impacts on the perceived desirability of education as a profession (and thus educator supply), Constitutional equal protection and due process rights, etc.
  5. If, as I hope, whatever changes the Council may recommend are focused on educator improvement rather than ‘accountability,’ will we be able to get the federal government to approve them? And if we can’t, it is more harmful to Iowa education to stay with the current NCLB scheme or receive a NCLB waiver? In other words – when both options have serious consequences, substantial drawbacks, and significant negative impacts on students, educators, and communities – whom are we willing to sacrifice and what will be our moral, ethical, professional, and legal justifications?

This work is going to be difficult and complex. What other big questions do you think the Council will have to address?

Image credit: Iowa flag, Chuck Thompson

Education Nation: Celebrities and financiers, but few educators

Anthony Cody says:

The annual Education Nation extravaganza is just over a week away. As has been widely noted, the list of presenters includes almost nobody with any actual experience working with children. No teachers. No prominent parent advocates. What is more, there is hardly even anyone we would recognize as being expert in education. No Linda Darling-Hammond, and certainly no Diane Ravitch. But there is, of course, the usual parade of celebrities and financiers — Goldie Hawn, M. Night Shymalan, and Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein. Educators have been completely silenced at a summit focused on our profession.

Can you imagine a summit on healthcare that included not a single prominent doctor?

We seem to have two worlds – corporate reform world, which Education Nation will put on stage like some kind of weird Soviet style festival of one-sided propaganda. And then we have the world of our schools, where teachers and students struggle with the impact of budget cuts, school closings, constant test pressure and so forth.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/09/marginalizing_the_teaching_pro.html

Money, politics, and educator evaluation in Iowa

Timeline

Some observations

I am not aware of any mention in any Iowa news outlet of…

  1. the fact that the reforms advocated for by Students First (and others) have resulted in smaller, not larger, student achievement gains;
  2. the corporate profit motive behind many of Students First’s proposed policies;
  3. Students First’s anti-gay ‘Reformer of the Year’ in Tennessee;
  4. the D.C. Public Schools’ cheating scandal under Rhee’s leadership and the fact that DCPS schools are worse off now than before her arrival;
  5. Rhee’s belief that communities should not be democratically involved in their schools (so much for local control);
  6. the fact that virtually none of Students First’s policy proposals have any peer-reviewed data, research, evidence, or other supports behind them; or

any of the other controversies (of which there are many) surrounding Students First and its proposed policies.

I’m also not aware of any state- or district-level systems that tie educator evaluations to student test scores that are deemed to be statistically stable, operationally reliable, and proportionately impactful (if you’ve got ‘em, please share ‘em!).

Some questions

  1. Why aren’t the journalists in our state doing a better job of investigating the claims and backgrounds of groups like Students First instead of simply reporting on them and/or passing along their press releases as ‘news?’
  2. Should Students First have a seat on Iowa’s new educator evaluation council?
  3. So far Iowa has resisted many of the educational policy insanities that have infected other states. Will this council focus on evaluation measures for lower-stakes educator improvement purposes or higher-stakes educator accountability purposes? If the former, will such a scheme be approved by the federal government if/when Iowa applies (again) for a NCLB waiver? If the latter, will Iowa become just another of the many states that “pretend that mathematical models can do something they cannot?
  4. Will this council think smartly when considering ‘multiple measures’ of teacher quality?
  5. Will we decide as Iowans what our educational policies should be or will we allow ourselves to be bought by outside advocacy groups?

UPDATE: In case there was any confusion about whether Patty Link is in this role as a ‘parent’:

StudentsFirstIA

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