"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

Thursday, January 26, 2012

2012 Medley #2

State of the Union, California, No Excuses, Reformers, Testing, Teachers Unions

Obama on education in State of the Union address
Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.
If we stop teaching to the test (which would be wonderful) does that mean that we'll identify "good teachers" some other way than by student test scores? If so, how?

Does "reward the best" teachers mean that they get paid more? If so, are we going to continue to use test scores as the measure for a "good teacher?" What's to keep teachers from "teaching to the test" if "the test" is going to determine their pay and job status?

If "teachers matter" why doesn't the President honor teachers by appointing a teacher as the Secretary of Education? He appointed a doctor as Surgeon General...an attorney as Attorney General...isn't the Department of Education important enough to warrant a professional as it's head?

See, The Facts That School Reformers Ignore.

Another critique of President Obama's Education content from the State of the Union speech is Anthony Cody's Teachers Offer the Wealthy an Escape from Poverty.
The...problem is a glaring contradiction, a logical flaw so huge it has been overlooked by almost every journalist apparently too polite to challenge the administration on it. If you do not wish teachers to teach to the test, if you want them to be passionate and creative, then how can you insist that their performance be measured by the use of test scores?

Let us be crystal clear. The Obama administration has made the use of test scores to evaluate principals and teachers a pre-condition for federal aid. Both Race to the Top and the NCLB waivers require that states develop evaluation processes that incorporate this data. Furthermore, the administration proposes to continue to identify and target for closure or "turnaround" the bottom 5% of schools, once again based on these same test scores we are told should not be taught to.

Will California Start a National Revolt Against Bad Ideas?
Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State message, in which he announced his intention to reduce the amount of testing across the state. Standardized testing in California has spun out of control. Children in 2nd grade spend five hours on mandated state tests, for no reason at all. And it is no better, even worse, in other grades! He also made this remarkable statement: "My hunch is that principals and teachers know the most..." Can you believe it? He acknowledges that the people who do the work may know more than those who sit on the sidelines taking pot shots at them.

Behind the "No Excuses" Mask: "Evidence Is Not Policy"
The "No Excuses" Reformers have remained committed to several alternatives to what they call the status quo: Teach for America (TFA), charter schools, and school choice. What do all three have in common?

A lack of evidence for pursuing any of them as policy.

The facts that school reformers ignore

President Obama should have read this before his State of the Union speech.
Education “reformers” have a common playbook. First, assert without evidence that regular public schools are “failing” and that large numbers of regular (unionized) public school teachers are incompetent. Provide no documentation for this claim other than that the test score gap between minority and white children remains large. Then propose so-called reforms to address the unproven problem — charter schools to escape teacher unionization and the mechanistic use of student scores on low-quality and corrupted tests to identify teachers who should be fired.

Careful examination discloses that disadvantaged students have made spectacular progress in the last generation, in regular public schools, with ordinary teachers. Not only have regular public schools not been “the great discriminator” — they continue to make remarkable gains for minority children at a time when our increasingly unequal social and economic systems seem determined to abandon them.

Testing Band and Music is on its Way

...but teaching to the test is bad...
...New York won the largest federal grant, $700 million over the next four years. In that time, roughly $230 billion will be spent on public education in the state. By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.

That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.

Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.

Why Rhee is wrong on collective bargaining and teachers’ unions

Using their own measures, standardized tests, the states with the highest scores are the states with the strongest teachers unions. This is not a question of what's best for students. It's simply another way to blame teachers and their professional organizations for the problems the country is facing.
“Critics of American education are sometimes disapproving of the teachers’ unions and of how they perceive these unions as interfering with promising school reform programmes by giving higher priority to the unions’ “bread and butter” issues than to what the evidence suggests students need to succeed. But the fact is that many of the countries with the strongest student performance also have the strongest teachers’ unions, beginning with Japan and Finland. There seems to be no relationship between the presence of unions, including and especially teachers’ unions, and student performance. But there may be a relationship between the degree to which the work of teaching has been professionalised and student performance. Indeed, the higher a country is on the world’s education league tables, the more likely that country is working constructively with its unions and treating its teachers as trusted professional partners. Witness the reports of Ontario in Canada or Finland.”

Quote of the day:

"Poor people have $h*tty lobbyists." -- Jon Stewart

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