"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

Saturday, June 2, 2012

2012 Medley #11 Part 2

Testing, Class Size, Truth and Lies.

What parents say testing is doing to their kids

Is there anyone who has children in public schools who doesn't know that testing is strangling education in America? The United States has more than 3 million public school teachers and nearly 80 million public school students. We -- the teachers and parents -- need to stand up and protect the education of our children.

8000 New York State parents responded to a survey from a group of New York principals:
  • 75% reported their child was more anxious in the month before the test
  • Nearly 80% reported that test prep prevented their child from engaging in meaningful school activities.
  • 87% reported that the current amount of time devoted to standardized testing is not a good use of their child’s school time.
  • 95% were opposed to increasing the number and length of tests
  • 91% were opposed to standardized tests for K-2
  • 65% reported that too much time is devoted to test prep
Parents also wrote anecdotes that reported:
  • Sleep disruption, crying
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Feelings of failure, increasing as the tests progressed
  • Complaints of boredom and restlessness from students who finished early and were required to sit still for the full 90 minutes of each test.
Teachers echoed many of the same concerns.
  • 65% of over 6000 responding teachers said that their students did not have enough time for independent reading, project-based learning and critical thinking
  • 89% of teachers reported that their students became more anxious in the month prior to testing and during testing itself
  • 88% said that test prep had impacted the time spent on non-tested subjects such as science and art
  • Fewer than 3% believed that their students’ learning had increased because of testing.

The Big Snooze (High Stakes Testing and the Low Stakes Mentality)

Is there any better reason to sign the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing? The word insanity is often used to describe the overuse and misuse of testing. When you read this it will emphasize that insanity is the perfect word for the situation facing public education today.
A colleague of mine who works as a home and hospital school teacher for those sick and disabled children who cannot make it to school, told me he is required to test all of his students, regardless of the severity of their illness or injury. In most cases, disabled students are given testing accommodations according to their individualized educational plans (IEPs) but he teaches one boy who was, just weeks ago, paralyzed in a car accident. With no IEP to indicate any accommodations, the teacher is required, by law, to place the CST answer sheet and testing booklets and a No. 2 pencil in front of the poor child and wait there. Since these tests have no time limits the teacher is supposed to carry on this cruel farce until the boy has a miraculous recovery and is able to hold and guide a pencil or until his IEP is written or until the boy's parents toss the teacher and the tests into the street or until the absurdity of these billion dollar testing requirements are mercifully rescinded.

Does Class Size Matter?

Corporate "reformers" continually demand sacrifices from teachers, public schools and public school students, but they demand better for themselves and their own children. All children are entitled to the same education that the 1% demand for themselves and their children.
[Romney] asserted that class size wasn’t important. That is no doubt the advice he had received from his advisors, who like to claim that having a “great teacher” is far more important than class size reduction.

When challenged to explain his comments on class size, Romney said that the global consulting firm McKinsey concluded that class size doesn’t matter. Of course, it mattered a lot to the Romney family. Mitt Romney went to the Cranbrook School in Michigan, where class size is said to be less than 6:1. His children also went to an elite private school, and elite private schools are known for small classes.

Parent activist Leonie Haimson called on President Obama (for whom she worked in 2008) to take a stand on the class size issue. She wrote an open letter to the President, asking him to repudiate comments by Secretary Arne Duncan that sounded no different from what Romney had said. Secretary Duncan is a graduate of the University of Chicago Lab School, where class size is 10:1. Just a year ago, Bill Gates set off a firestorm among teacher bloggers when he said that better teachers were more important than smaller classes. Gates went to Lakeside School in Seattle, where classes are never more than 16.

Don't Believe the Romney Hype

Mitt Romney claims to have presided over a dramatic improvement in academic achievement in Massachusetts while he was governor (2003-2007). Diane Ravitch does the fact checking...
There are three salient points to be made about the Massachusetts reform:

1. It was successful: Massachusetts is indeed at the top of NAEP in fourth and eighth grades, in reading and math.

2. It was expensive: state funding increased from $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion from 1993 to 2000.

3. Mitt Romney had nothing to do with its success.

We Need to Talk About Tenure

Teach For America places high achieving college graduates into schools as teachers after a few weeks of summer training. We've talked about the inadequacy of the training in past blogs. Here's something new...an entry from a TFA teacher who is beginning to understand what being a teacher is all about. This is about tenure. His definition of tenure as "a teacher cannot be fired for the sake of being fired without receiving a hearing" is completely accurate. Tenure for elementary and secondary teachers in public schools simply means due process...something all Americans should support.
One of the advantages of coming into the education world as an outsider has been that I constantly feel stupid about my prior beliefs. I, like many others, erroneously believed tenure was something dated. I mean, I came to teaching with job experience, but in that job experience I received no protections from my boss(es). I had to work hard and exceed expectations everyday, or else I would be subject to a negative review from my peers and supervisors, which would likely put me on the getting-fired trajectory. Wouldn't receiving tenure and union protection make me lazy? I questioned. That's probably why I was so quick to jump on the Michelle-Rhee-get-rid-of-teacher-tenure bandwagon during my Teach for America summer institute training. Later, I learned that those deserving to be teachers, those who actually joined the profession out of ambition and love, did not put tenure on a golden pedestal because students belonged there. Tenure was significant, but for reasons other than "the ability to get lazy."

Tenure, as I see it, simply means that after a period of x years (varies by state) and adequate fulfillment of requirements, a teacher cannot be fired for the sake of being fired without receiving a hearing. This idea came to be as a result of teachers being fired by their principals without reason, often because their political views, personal lifestyles and/or teaching methodologies didn't align with their principals'. As most people who have ever had a job know, not all bosses are fair and all-knowing - it's the same in education, maybe even worse.

Fact-checking “Won’t Back Down” Parent Trigger propaganda flick

Parent Triggers -- giving 51% of parents the right to destroy a public school -- is the newest tactic for the corporate "reformers." The team that gave us Waiting for Superman has another movie coming out. This one is called Won't Back Down and purports to tell the story of a parent trigger movement in California. Parents Across America does the fact checking.
Falsehood: The trailer shows parents, led by one outraged mom, mobilizing themselves courageously to take over their school — and only much later contacting an outside organizer for extra support.

Truth: The reality was the opposite. The Parent Trigger attempt at McKinley was entirely organized by outside operators.

Falsehood: The trailer shows parents rising up as one in support of the purportedly parent-led Parent Trigger.

Truth: Just after Parent Revolution turned in the professionally collected petition signatures, hundreds of McKinley parents turned out to a school board meeting to oppose the Parent Trigger...

Falsehood: The trailer shows determined parents intending to take over the school themselves, against all odds.

Truth: The intent all along at McKinley was to turn the school over to Celerity, the charter school operator. Again, Parent Revolution chose Celerity to take over the school before it had even decided what school to target...
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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