"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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Grading Schools Shows "Reformers" Failure

Standardized test scores have been consistently misused for the last thirty years. They have been used to rank students, teachers, schools, and school systems. This is the status quo of public education as promoted by the educational establishment (aka "reformers") consisting of federal and state departments of education, federal and state commissioners of education, governors and presidents, federal and state legislatures and super-wealthy educrats.

The correlation between poverty and achievement is well known. A quick internet search for the "relationship between poverty and educational achievement" will yield several million hits. On the whole, children who live in poverty do not achieve as well as children from higher income levels.

Poverty is reflected in standardized tests. Children who live in poverty generally have lower scores and therefore the ranking of students, teachers, schools and school systems reflects the prevalence or absence of poverty. Those schools and school systems with higher percentages of students who live in poverty score lower than schools and school systems with lower levels of poverty (See below for a sampling of articles discussing this relationship). A frequent theme on this blog is the fact that pundits, politicians and policy makers seem to exclusively blame teachers and public schools for the low achievement of children in poverty rather than admitting that their own inadequate policies (if any) designed to eliminate or reduce poverty also contribute to the problem.

Grading schools based on achievement test scores, by using a simplistic letter grade or descriptor has become commonplace among the states. Michael Brick, in an oped in the NY Times writes about grading schools by test scores in When ‘Grading’ Is Degrading: Grading Schools isn't the Answer. It's the Problem,
For the past three decades, one administration after another has sought to fix America’s troubled schools by making them compete with one another. Mr. Obama has put up billions of dollars for his Race to the Top program, a federal sweepstakes where state educational systems are judged head-to-head largely on the basis of test scores. Even here in Texas, nobody’s model for educational excellence, the state has long used complex algorithms to assign grades of Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable to its schools.

So far, such competition has achieved little more than re-segregation, long charter school waiting lists and the same anemic international rankings in science, math and literacy we’ve had for years.
In his article Mr. Brick doesn't disaggregate the test results used to yield our "anemic international rankings" in science, math and literacy. If he had, he could have reported a consistent correlation between poverty and performance. Our students from low poverty schools score at the top of the world's "rich" nations. The fact that here in the US we have a child poverty rate closing in on 25% means that our average scores are much lower.

The "reformers want to improve achievement in the following ways...
  • evaluate teachers using student test scores
  • close "low achieving schools"
  • fire teachers and principals
  • close regular public schools and open more charter schools
  • use tax money for vouchers

None of those "reforms" have been shown to improve achievement for America's children. Instead we should put in place the suggestions made by Diane Ravitch in her speech to the Opportunity to Learn campaign. We need a systemic change in American society.
  • Every pregnant woman should have good pre-natal care and nutrition so that her child is born healthy. One of three children born to women who do not get good prenatal care will have disabilities that are preventable. That will cost society far more than providing these women with prenatal care.
  • Every child should have the medical attention and nutrition that they need to grow up healthy.
  • Every child should have high-quality early childhood education.
  • Every school should have experienced teachers who are prepared to help all children learn.
  • Every teacher should have at least a masters degree.
  • Every principal should be a master teacher, not a recruit from industry, the military, or the sports world.
  • Every superintendent should be an experienced educator who understands teaching and learning and the needs of children.
  • Every school should have a health clinic.
  • Schools should collaborate with parents, the local community, civic leaders, and local business leaders to support the needs of children.
  • Every school should have a full and balanced curriculum, with the arts, sciences, history, civics, geography, mathematics, foreign languages, and physical education. Every child should have time and space to play.
  • We must stop investing in testing, accountability, and consultants and start investing in children.

Susan Zimmerman in Comprehension Going Forward reminds us...
"Somewhere along the line we've forgotten that education is not about getting this or that score on a test, but it is about enlarging hearts, minds, and spirits. It's about fulfilling human potential and unleashing human creativity. It's about helping children understand that the world is a place full of wonder, truly wonder-full. It's about giving children the tools they will need to participate in a complex global world where we can't imagine today what the next twenty years, let alone century, will bring."
It's time to change the status quo in American Public Education.

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Poverty and Achievement
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Indiana Residents: Did you vote for Glenda Ritz?

Let Governor-Elect Pence and the Indiana Legislature know that we voted for her because we rejected the top-down, corporate reform model imposed by the state. We embraced Ritz's platform and her research-backed proposals to support and improve our public schools.

Sign the petition at:

http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-daniels-governor-elect-pence-the-indiana-state-legislature-honor-our-1-300-000-votes-for-glenda-ritz#

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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