"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Medley #17

Testing, Testing, and more Testing, Corporate Reform, NCLB Waivers, School Prayer

Once Upon a Time, Not Too Long Ago, Teaching Was Considered a Profession, But Then Came Standardization, Tests, and Value-Added Merit Pay Schemes That Ate All Humanity for Breakfast...

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." -- Albert Einstein
...[While] teaching the basics is important, it is not enough. Of course children need to learn to read and to write and to add numbers. But they also need to know how to decide what is worth reading and what those numbers add up to. And talented teachers need the freedom and professional autonomy to work the magic of their art in a myriad of different ways that defies standardization.
When Test Scores Become a Commodity
When student scores become like orange juice, pork bellies, or yen, the people with the greatest incentive to cheat are the weakest teachers and administrators. These people might be weak, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid. Weak but clever educators will inevitably find ways to game the system, sometimes by cheating, but more often by coming close, but not stepping over the line: Educators could turn their courses into nothing but test-prep machines; they could refuse to collaborate with colleagues; they could curry favor with students to encourage better results; or take other steps we can’t imagine. Many of these weaker teachers, even short of cheating, might well end up with excellent “value added” scores, while stronger teachers who are honest and don’t play the sharp game end up looking bad.

This is not just a possible bad outcome, it is inevitable. It is inevitable because markets generate such behavior and dislocations, and the more volatile the market, the greater the undesirable behavior and dislocations will be.

...If this is the kind of public school system the American people want, then fine. Let’s just be honest about it.
Testing Gone Wild
The growth of testing has all the characteristics of the formation of a bubble. Once it pops, which all bubbles eventually do, the full damage will become apparent. The trouble, however, is that by then it will be too late to remedy matters.
10 Years of Assessing Students With Scientific Exactitude

Michael Winerip gives us a timeline of school "reform" in New York. Why aren't Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg being held accountable?
JULY 2010 Finally someone — Dr. Tisch, the chancellor of the Board of Regents — has the sense to stand up at a news conference and say that the state test scores are so ridiculously inflated that only a fool would take them seriously, thereby unmasking the mayor, the chancellor and the former state commissioner. State scores are to be scaled down immediately, so that the 68.8 percent English proficiency rate at the start of the news conference becomes a 42.4 proficiency rate by the end of the news conference. Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief accountability officer for the city, offers the new party line: “We know there has been significant progress, and we know we have a long way to go.” Whether there has been any progress at all during the Bloomberg years is questionable. The city’s fourth-grade English proficiency rate for 2010 is no better than it was in February 2001, nine months before the mayor was first elected.
Tides Are a-Turnin’
Those of us who believe in “real reform” do have the power of passion which compels us to be active on blogs, comment sections, and social media sites. I think Arne Duncan, Education Nation, Michelle Rhee, Teach for America and The Gates Foundation have all become more careful in what they tweet because we have become pretty darn good at flooding twitter when they post some ridiculous, unproven, pro-corporate propaganda.
Duncan's Dilemma: What will be Done to States without NCLB Waivers?

Duncan and Obama are not friends of public education. The current administration's education policy is just more of the same. The fact that the Republican candidates for President would be even worse doesn't excuse the Democrats from their role in destroying America's public schools.
In fact, the requirements for Race to the Top and the NCLB waivers are even MORE prescriptive than NCLB ever was. In order to be granted a waiver from the onerous effects of the law, states were required to submit plans for teacher and principal evaluations that include student test scores, the embrace of the Common Core standards, and new standards for College and Career Readiness. Secretary Duncan has repeatedly defended the Common Core Standards from the charge that they are stealth national standards by claiming that they are an initiative of the states that are involved. But does not this become a federal project when essential federal aid is made contingent on implementation of these standards?
The truth about school prayer

Wherever there are algebra tests (or physics tests, English tests, or chemistry tests) there will be prayer in school. God wasn't taken out of school in 1963...only state sponsored prayer was removed. Any student may pray at any time, as long as they don't disrupt the educational process. Students are free to pray before tests, before meals, during football games, and before they combine chemicals in chemistry class. That's what voluntary prayer is. The people who tell you otherwise are simply lying.
Truth be told, students of all faiths are actually free to pray alone or in groups during the school day, as long as they don’t disrupt the school or interfere with the rights of others. Of course, the right to engage in voluntary prayer or religious discussion does not necessarily include the right to preach to a captive audience, like an assembly, or to compel other students to participate.

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