Founders on education standards: James Madison

February 25, 2015

Photo of inscription to the left (north) of the main entrance on Independence Ave., of the James Madison Building, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Library of Congress photo

Photo of inscription to the left (north) of the main entrance on Independence Ave., of the James Madison Building, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Library of Congress photo

Madison said nothing against a federal role, but much which supports Common Core standards, and everything in support of public schooling (spellings and other longhand affectations of Mr. Madison left as they were in the letter; emphases added here):

Letter to William Taylor Barry

James Madison (Aug. 4, 1822)

Dear Sir, I received some days ago your letter of June 30, and the printed Circular to which it refers.

The liberal appropriations made by the Legislature of Kentucky for a general system of Education cannot be too much applauded. A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.*

William Taylor Barry was, in 1822, Lt. Governor of Kentucky (one of many posts he held in his lifetime of public service), and the author of the Barry Report, which proposed a system of free public education for Kentucky. Image from Kentucky Secretary of State, at Kentucky.gov

William Taylor Barry was, in 1822, Lt. Governor of Kentucky (one of many posts he held in his lifetime of public service), and the author of the Barry Report, which proposed a system of free public education for Kentucky. Image from Kentucky Secretary of State, at Kentucky.gov

I have always felt a more than ordinary interest in the destinies of Kentucky. Among her earliest settlers were some of my particular friends and Neighbors. And I was myself among the foremost advocates for submitting to the Will of the “District” the question and the time of its becoming a separate member of the American family. Its rapid growth & signal prosperity in this character have afforded me much pleasure; which is not a little enhanced by the enlightened patriotism which is now providing for the State a Plan of Education embracing every class of Citizens, and every grade & department of Knowledge. No error is more certain than the one proceeding from a hasty & superficial view of the subject: that the people at large have no interest in the establishment of Academies, Colleges, and Universities, where a few only, and those not of the poorer classes can obtain for their sons the advantages of superior education. It is thought to be unjust that all should be taxed for the benefit of a part, and that too the part least needing it.

If provision were not made at the same time for every part, the objection would be a natural one. But, besides the consideration when the higher Seminaries belong to a plan of general education, that it is better for the poorer classes to have the aid of the richer by a general tax on property, than that every parent should provide at his own expence for the education of his children, it is certain that every Class is interested in establishments which give to the human mind its highest improvements, and to every Country its truest and most durable celebrity.

Learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty & dangerous encroachments on the public liberty. They are the nurseries of skilful Teachers for the schools distributed throughout the Community. They are themselves schools for the particular talents required for some of the Public Trusts, on the able execution of which the welfare of the people depends. They multiply the educated individuals from among whom the people may elect a due portion of their public Agents of every description; more especially of those who are to frame the laws; by the perspicuity, the consistency, and the stability, as well as by the just & equal spirit of which the great social purposes are to be answered.

Without such Institutions, the more costly of which can scarcely be provided by individual means, none but the few whose wealth enables them to support their sons abroad can give them the fullest education; and in proportion as this is done, the influence is monopolized which superior information everywhere possesses. At cheaper & nearer seats of Learning parents with slender incomes may place their sons in a course of education putting them on a level with the sons of the Richest. Whilst those who are without property, or with but little, must be peculiarly interested in a System which unites with the more Learned Institutions, a provision for diffusing through the entire Society the education needed for the common purposes of life. A system comprizing the Learned Institutions may be still further recommended to the more indigent class of Citizens by such an arrangement as was reported to the General Assembly of Virginia, in the year 1779, by a Committee appointed to revise laws in order to adapt them to the genius of Republican Government. It made part of a “Bill for the more general diffusion of knowledge” that wherever a youth was ascertained to possess talents meriting an education which his parents could not afford, he should be carried forward at the public expence, from seminary to seminary, to the completion of his studies at the highest.

But why should it be necessary in this case, to distinguish the Society into classes according to their property? When it is considered that the establishment and endowment of Academies, Colleges, and Universities are a provision, not merely for the existing generation, but for succeeding ones also; that in Governments like ours a constant rotation of property results from the free scope to industry, and from the laws of inheritance, and when it is considered moreover, how much of the exertions and privations of all are meant not for themselves, but for their posterity, there can be little ground for objections from any class, to plans of which every class must have its turn of benefits. The rich man, when contributing to a permanent plan for the education of the poor, ought to reflect that he is providing for that of his own descendants; and the poor man who concurs in a provision for those who are not poor that at no distant day it may be enjoyed by descendants from himself. It does not require a long life to witness these vicissitudes of fortune.

It is among the happy peculiarities of our Union, that the States composing it derive from their relation to each other and to the whole, a salutary emulation, without the enmity involved in competitions among States alien to each other. This emulation, we may perceive, is not without its influence in several important respects; and in none ought it to be more felt than in the merit of diffusing the light and the advantages of Public Instruction. In the example therefore which Kentucky is presenting, she not only consults her own welfare, but is giving an impulse to any of her sisters who may be behind her in the noble career.

Throughout the Civilized World, nations are courting the praise of fostering Science and the useful Arts, and are opening their eyes to the principles and the blessings of Representative Government. The American people owe it to themselves, and to the cause of free Government, to prove by their establishments for the advancement and diffusion of Knowledge, that their political Institutions, which are attracting observation from every quarter, and are respected as Models, by the newborn States in our own Hemisphere, are as favorable to the intellectual and moral improvement of Man as they are conformable to his individual & social Rights. What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty & Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?

The Committee, of which your name is the first, have taken a very judicious course in endeavouring to avail Kentucky of the experience of elder States, in modifying her Schools. I enclose extracts from the laws of Virginia on that subject; though I presume they will give little aid; the less as they have as yet been imperfectly carried into execution. The States where such systems have been long in operation will furnish much better answers to many of the enquiries stated in your Circular. But after all, such is the diversity of local circumstances, more particularly as the population varies in density & sparseness, that the details suited to some may be little so to others. As the population however, is becoming less & less sparse, and it will be well in laying the foundation of a Good System, to have a view to this progressive change, much attention seems due to examples in the Eastern States, where the people are most compact, & where there has been the longest experience in plans of popular education.

I know not that I can offer on the occasion any suggestions not likely to occur to the Committee. Were I to hazard one, it would be in favour of adding to Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic, to which the instruction of the poor, is commonly limited, some knowledge of Geography; such as can easily be conveyed by a Globe & Maps, and a concise Geographical Grammar. And how easily & quickly might a general idea even, be conveyed of the Solar System, by the aid of a Planatarium of the Cheapest construction. No information seems better calculated to expand the mind and gratify curiosity than what would thus be imparted. This is especially the case, with what relates to the Globe we inhabit, the Nations among which it is divided, and the characters and customs which distinguish them. An acquaintance with foreign Countries in this mode, has a kindred effect with that of seeing them as travellers, which never fails, in uncorrupted minds, to weaken local prejudices, and enlarge the sphere of benevolent feelings. A knowledge of the Globe & its various inhabitants, however slight, might moreover, create a taste for Books of Travels and Voyages; out of which might grow a general taste for History, an inexhaustible fund of entertainment & instruction. Any reading not of a vicious species must be a good substitute for the amusements too apt to fill up the leisure of the labouring classes.

I feel myself much obliged Sir by your expressions of personal kindness, and pray you to accept a return of my good wishes, with assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Careful readers will note Madison assumed public schools; he had been one of those who contributed to the Northwest Ordinances, which set aside pieces of every township, which land was to be used to create public schooling on the frontiers of America.  If you think Madison’s description of what was to be taught and how sounds an awful lot like Advanced Placement (AP) courses, or the International Baccalaureate curriculum (IB), you’d be in good company.  As opposed to those yahoos who oppose AP or question IB.

_____________
* This line was a favorite quote of Education Secretary Bill Bennett when I published his works in the area. I cannot say whether he still favors Madison’s view, but once upon a time Bennett was rational on these issues.

More:


The Testing Camera. Really just a fable?

February 16, 2015

In reality, few kids get the pep talk Daisy got from her father.

About Peter H. Reynolds and Fablevision:

Peter H. Reynolds, creativity advocate and best-selling author and illustrator, and co-founder of FableVision Learning, has created a new animated short called The Testing Camera — a whimsical poke at high-stakes, standardized testing and a reminder that real assessment is as easy, and — at the same time — as challenging as getting to really know the gifts and talents of every child.

“We’ve gone through a very test-centric decade which, in my opinion, has consumed a lot of time, energy, and resources,” Reynolds shares. “Many teachers have had to adhere to new mandates and measures that require a ‘teach to the test’ approach. Public schools redirected funding for art, music, theater, libraries, field trips, and more. It’s a discouraging picture for those trying to reach all children in creative, engaging ways.”

Reynolds, who is known for his books encouraging creativity, The Dot, Ish, Sky Color and The North Star among many others, penned this whimsical and poignant story about a young girl named Daisy who, dismayed at her art class being canceled, nervously faces her turn with the “Testing Camera.” This huge apparatus snaps at her with a few blinding flashes of light. Weeks later, her father’s reaction to the test results surprises Daisy in a most wonderful way.

“This is my gift to educators to remind them to follow their instincts and remember why they got into teaching in the first place: to see the potential in every child, to nurture those emerging gifts and talents, and to change lives,” Reynolds shared.

The film was produced by FableVision, the transmedia studio in Boston founded by Peter and his twin brother, Paul Reynolds, author of Going Places and the Sydney & Simon series. The Testing Camera was directed by John Lechner with music by Tony Lechner, and animated by a team of young animators interning at FableVision for the summer. Broadway actor Chester Gregory lends his voice to the project.

Reynolds offers this as a poster for downloading at his site.  Teachers, do you have the guts to put it up in your room?

Peter H. Reynolds poster,

Peter H. Reynolds poster, “I am not the Test Score.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Rick Gilson.


Last few Texas TAKS Exit Level Social Studies students? Review here

April 11, 2014

Stealing this wholesale from my history class blog:  A few hundred students still need to take the old TAKS Exit Level Social Studies Test, in order to finish their high school diploma requirements.

Isn't the TAKS Test dead?  Not yet -- zombie like, it still prowls the nightmares of older students working to get a Texas diploma.  Test review and practice in this post

Isn’t the TAKS Test dead? Not yet — zombie like, it still prowls the nightmares of older students working to get a Texas diploma. Test review and practice in this post

You can do it; and if you’ve been out of class for a while, or if you just want to boost your score, here’s a review, and a few lines down here is a link to a place to take an on-line practice test which you can get scored.  The practice test questions should be mostly phased out by now, but the topics will remain.

It’s spring, and a young person’s fancy and earnest wishes turn to acing these tests to get a high school diploma.

From Mr. Darrell’s Wayback Machine:

Here’s a generalized, much truncated list of things high school juniors need to know, according to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).  This is a list from which the TAKS test questions will be drawn.

Earlier posts provided the definitions of each of these terms and phrases — check those out in your study, too.

We’ll add links to these terms as we find them — you may want to bookmark this post so you can find it again.

You can download a MicroSoft Word version of this study guide, essentially the same as here in a dozen posts, in one file that prints out to about 12 pages; click here to get the printed study guide.

Update 2012:  Go here to link to an on-line, TEA-released TAKS Social Studies Exit Level Test.

Things to Know for the Grade 11 TAKS Social Studies Test

People:

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • George Washington
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Clarence Darrow
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Henry Ford
  • Charles A. Lindbergh
  • Harry Truman
  • George C. Marshall
  • Joseph McCarthy
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • W. E. B. DuBois
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Rachel Carson
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Thurgood Marshall

Dates:

  • 1776 – Declaration of Independence
  • 1914-1918 – World War I
  • 1929 – Stock Market Crash (beginning of Great Depression)
  • 1941-1945 – World War II (U.S. involvement)
  • 1787 – Constitution written
  • 1861-1865 – Civil War
  • 1898 – Spanish American War, debut of U.S. as a major world power

Primary Sources (mostly documents):

  • Declaration of Independence
  • U.S. Constitution
  • Bill of Rights
  • 13th Amendment
  • 14th Amendment
  • 15th Amendment
  • Wilson’s 14 Points
  • 16th Amendment
  • 17th Amendment
  • 19th Amendment
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Supreme Court case from 1954)
  • 24th Amendment
  • 26th Amendment

Events:

  • Magna Carta
  • Bubonic plague
  • Columbian Exchange of food
  • English Bill of Rights (1789)
  • Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • American Revolution
  • Articles of Confederation
  • Philadelphia Convention (1787 – wrote the Constitution)
  • Federalist Papers
  • Bill of Rights
  • Nullification Crisis
  • Civil War (1861-1865, TEKS dates)
  • Thirteenth Amendment
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • Fifteenth Amendment
  • Spanish-American War (1898, TEKS date)
  • Panama Canal
  • Sixteenth Amendment
  • Seventeenth Amendment
  • World War I
  • Wilson’s Fourteen Points
  • Treaty of Versailles
  • Nineteenth Amendment (Women’s Right To Vote, or Women’s Suffrage)
  • Red Scare
  • Prohibition (of production and sale of alcoholic beverages)
  • (Scopes Trial)
  • Stock Market Crash, October 29, 1929 (TEKS date)
  • Great Depression
  • New Deal (FDR’s program to pull U.S. out of Depression)
  • FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)
  • Social Security Act
  • World War II (1941-1945, TEKS dates)
  • Pearl Harbor, “a day which will live in infamy” (December 7, 1941)
  • Internment of Japanese Americans
  • Battle of Midway
  • Holocaust
  • Normandy Invasion (D-Day)
  • (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) (Atomic bomb targets)
  • Truman Doctrine
  • Marshall Plan
  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in 1949)
  • GI Bill
  • Korean War
  • McCarthyism
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
  • Sputnik I (1957; TEKS date)
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Twenty-fourth Amendment (banned poll taxes, a civil rights issue)
  • Twenty-sixth Amendment (18-years old to vote)
  • Vietnam Conflict
  • (Watergate)
  • (Resignation of President Nixon)

Vocabulary

  • Colonial grievances
  • Unalienable right
  • Free speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Absolute chronology
  • Relative chronology
  • Demographic patterns
  • Subsistence agriculture
  • Market-oriented agriculture
  • Cottage industries
  • Commercial industries
  • Physical geographic factors
  • Human geographic factors
  • Population growth
  • Technological innovations
  • Telegraph
  • Scientific discoveries
  • Railroads
  • Labor unions
  • Big business
  • Farm issues
  • Minority group
  • Child labor
  • Migration
  • Immigration
  • Unrestricted submarine warfare
  • Prosperity
  • Bank failures
  • Dictatorship
  • Home front
  • Atomic bomb
  • Rationing
  • International trade
  • Political equality

Concepts/Issues:

  • Representative government
  • Revolution
  • Independence
  • Confederation
  • Constitution
  • Limited government
  • Republicanism
  • Checks and balances
  • Federalism
  • Separation of powers
  • Popular sovereignty
  • Individual rights
  • States’ rights
  • Civil war
  • Reconstruction amendments
  • Free enterprise system
  • Spatial diffusion
  • Economic growth
  • Traditional economy
  • Command economy
  • Market economy
  • Industrialization
  • Standard of living
  • Urbanization
  • Expansionism
  • World power
  • Reform
  • (Militarism)
  • (Nationalism)
  • Imperialism
  • Depression
  • Civil rights movement

Testing resistance in Colorado takes to the road

January 20, 2014

From Susan O'Hanian's NCLB Cartoons:   Every year, the Coalitition for Better Education raises grassroots funds to put up these billboards.  You can contribute.  You can go forth and do likewise in your state.

From Susan Ohanian’s NCLB Cartoons: “Every year, the Coalitition for Better Education raises grassroots funds to put up these billboards. You can contribute. You can go forth and do likewise in your state.”

Dr. Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education for Research, said at her blog:

The corporate types who hate teachers’ unions and public schools have been running a billboard and mass media campaign in New York and New Jersey.

But they are not the only ones who know how to frame a message.

Here is a fabulous billboard posted on a major highway in Colorado by critics of the nutty testing regime imposed by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.


How to tell testing is a monster in your local schools: “Test Menu”

June 18, 2013

This would be much funnier were it not so eerily close to stuff I’ve seen, even in great Texas school systems:

Details:

A :30 commercial created by The Canandaigua Film Society in Canandaigua, New York, to protest over-testing in schools in May 2013.

761

More:


Holding teachers accountable, in reality

June 5, 2013

Scott McLeod at Dangerously!Irrelevant put together a video, with computer voices to protect the innocent naive genuinely ignorant and proudly stupid.

Teachers who watch this may cry as they watch America’s future slip away into the Tide of Mediocrity™ we were warned about, which NCLB mistook for high water.  Turn it up so you can hear the full sound effects.  That’s the level of mediocrity rising as the “official” fiddles.

W. Edwards Deming researched and wrote a lot about organization managers who don’t really have a clue what is going on in their organizations, and who lack tools to measure employee work, because they lack an understanding of just what products are, what the resources are that are required to make the desirable product, and how to processes that make those products work, or could work better.

That’s education, today.

Should teachers be “held accountable?”  Depends.  Effective organizations understand that accountability is the flip-side of the coin of authority.  Anyone accountable must have the authority to change the things that affect product, for which that person is “held accountable.”  Texas schools lose up to 45 days a year to testing — that may drop as the TAKS test is phased out, but it won’t drop enough.  45 days is, effectively 25% of the school year.  If time-on-task is important to education as Checker Finn used to badger us at the Department of Education, then testing is sucking valuable resources from education, way above and beyond any benefits testing may offer.

Today, Texas Governor Rick Perry has proposed laws sitting on his desk that would greatly pare back unnecessary testing.  A coalition of businessmen (no women I can discern) with a deceptively-named organization urges Perry to veto the bills, because, they claim, rigor in education can only be demonstrated by a tsunami of tests.

What’s that, you ask?  Where is the person concerned about the student?  She’s the woman with the leaky classroom, who is being shown the door.

Why is it those with authority to change things for the better in Texas schools, and many other school systems throughout the U.S., are not being held accountable? If they won’t use their authority to make things better, why not give that authority to the teachers?

Check out McLeod’s blog — good comments on his video there.

More:

Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star

Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star


Out near Longview: Small district defense of CSCOPE and good lesson plans

May 10, 2013

The nasty kerfuffle over a Texas lesson-planning aide, a comprehensive program called CSCOPE, may have evaded your radar.

Heck, most people in Texas aren’t even aware of this money-wasting teapot tempest.

CSCOPE Parent Portal logo

CSCOPE Parent Portal logo for a Texas school district. Click to see one way Grand Prairie ISD gives parents access to what’s going on in classrooms.

But the state’s attorney general (campaigning for U.S. Senate, hoping to please the Tea Party Commissars) makes threatening gestures towards CSCOPE from time to time, our leading Black Shirt member of the State Senate pushes bills to gut the lesson planning tools, and Texas’s education overseeing ministry, the Texas Education Agency, is conducting a three-month “review” of CSCOPE to make sure it’s politically correct and properly condemning of Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, agnosticism and atheism (if any can be found).  CSCOPE critics hope that the review will delay updating materials just long enough that school districts across the state will abandon it in favor of . . . um, well, kids can learn if they got books . . . er, um, well — “they shouldn’t be learning about Islam at all” (never mind the state standards that require that course unit).

Out of the east, near Longview, three brave school district officials from two school districts put up their hands to ask why the CSCOPE critics are standing naked.  It’s not much, but it’s about the toughest defense of CSCOPE put up by school officials — and of course, they risk investigation by the Attorney General Abbott merely by speaking out, according to CSCOPE critic harpies.

Dear Reader, you can learn a lot from this opposite-editorial page article in the Longview News-Journal (I’ve added links for your convenience):

CSCOPE and Carthage ISD

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 5:46 pm

It is sometimes mindboggling how some controversies begin. Certainly, the wildfire that has swept across Texas concerning the CSCOPE curriculum has our heads spinning. Misinformation has spread rampantly and the truth backed by factual information has been difficult to get out in front of the folks that are taking small excerpts and lessons out of context. In some cases, the CSCOPE curriculum has been attacked with reckless, unsubstantiated accusations.

The shame is that CSCOPE should be a success story of how 870 public school districts, average enrollment of 2000 students, working together with the twenty Education Service Centers (ESCs) created a 21st century curriculum based on the state mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Prior to selecting this curriculum for CISD, an extensive investigation was conducted to assure that it was a good fit for our district.

CSCOPE curriculum/lesson plans were created by master “Texas” teachers, not a textbook company, not a testing company, and not a private, for-profit vendor. Multiple resources, including digital resources, were integrated into the curriculum, with suggested lessons that proved to be extremely beneficial to less experienced teachers. The framework allowed districts and staff to integrate localized lessons within the scope and sequence of the system. Approximately 50% of the charter schools (i.e. KIPP Academy, UT Charter School, Bannockburn Christian Academy and the Texas School for the Deaf) also use CSCOPE. Private schools, such as Catholic Diocese of Austin, Wichita Christian, Hyde Park Baptist and Cornerstone Christian Academy use CSCOPE.

What is my point? CSCOPE and our ESCs have been accused of promoting non-Christian and unpatriotic values based on a couple of lessons that were taken out of context, the targeted lessons were based on state standards created and approved by the State Board of Education. Due to several districts refusing to purchase another “new” curriculum, the creators of this “new curriculum” began a mass media blitz misrepresenting two lessons that addressed the state required curriculum standards.

Districts are mandated to teach the major religions of the worlds and the beliefs of those religions. Districts are mandated to teach heroism and terrorism. CSCOPE curriculum units have designed lessons that explore these standards, allowing students to investigate, compare/contrast, and analyze perspectives based on cultural influences. Example, the Boston Tea Party was perceived as an act of heroism from an American’s point of view; however, patriots of England considered this an act of terrorism. Islam, one of the major religions of the world, believes their God is the only God. These are the two excerpts taken out of context of the instructional units that have resulted in mass social media messages from those wanting to sell “their curriculum”, accusing the writers of CSCOPE and the ESCs of treason and promoting the Islam religion! Recently, a superintendent received threatening emails because the district was using CSCOPE.

Carthage ISD was not one of the first districts to embrace the curriculum; however, the revised state standards and new state assessment system demanded a new curriculum. CSCOPE offers a well-designed curriculum framework that is vertically aligned to the state standards (NOT the Federal Core Standards as inaccurately reported), the state assessment system and 21st century life-long learning goals.

CSCOPE insures the appropriate skills are taught in specific grades using multiple resources. The instructional focus is college and career readiness at all levels. School districts have the flexibility of using the curriculum as a sole source or as an alignment framework – CSCOPE lessons/units optional. Skills such as spelling, cursive handwriting, and math facts are found aligned in CSCOPE. Teachers have the flexibility to adjust the amount of time spent practicing these skills.

CSCOPE is a learning curve for classroom instruction. It is not driven by one textbook or worksheets. It embraces multiple resources, integration of technology and higher order thinking skills.

Similar to purchased curriculum there are mistakes within the lessons, those are reported and corrected. An internal system exists where teachers are asked for input on any element of CSCOPE. It is a proprietary curriculum and shares the same protection as other vendors’ products one must purchase to access the content. Districts sign affidavits, comparable to those required by the state for STAAR testing, to protect the integrity of the system, not unlike copyright laws. The cost is based on the enrollment of the district.

Parents can view the content of a lesson at a parent meeting; however, giving parents free access to the lesson plans and tests would destroy the validity of the assessments and negatively impact the intent of the instructional lessons.

The attack against the supporters and users of CSCOPE may well become the first step toward the state assuming total control of all curriculum and lesson plans for all districts. A bill has been filed to begin this process. That would be another attack on local control by the state.

Article by:

Glenn Hambrick, Ed.D., Superintendent, Carthage ISD

Donna Porter, Ed.D., Asst. Superintendent, Carthage ISD

Mary Ann Whitaker, M.Ed., Superintendent, Hudson ISD

More: 

Longview is under the green star, map from Sperling's BestPlaces

Longview is under the green star, map from Sperling’s BestPlaces


. . . and one test to rule them all . . .

October 18, 2012

The fundamental problem with standardized testing is that kids don’t come “standard.”  A teacher friend sent me this cartoon, summarizing the problem nicely:

One test fits all cartoon

If we use tests to cheat teachers out of a job, and to cheat students out of their futures, should we be surprised when students and teachers cheat on the tests?  Is that a mark of their innate sanity, if they do?

I wonder who the cartoonist was, and what other gems may be lurking out there by the same person?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Daniel Rhee.


823 Texas school boards say they are “anti-testing”

October 12, 2012

Political consultant and columnist Jason Stanford out of Austin Tweeted an interesting note today:  823 school boards in Texas now have passed resolutions opposing “over-reliance on high-stakes testing.”

From the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) website:

Testing Resolution Update

Submitted by Alberto Rivas on October 11, 2012

As of October 11, 823 school districts representing more than 4.3 million students have notified us that they’ve adopted the testing resolution opposing the over-reliance on high-stakes testing. That’s 80 percent of Texas school districts and 88 percent of all Texas public school students.

If you believe the current testing system is strangling our public schools, imposing relentless test preparation and memorization and is stealing the love of learning from your students, then we encourage you to present the resolution to your board for consideration. You can use the sample resolution as written or modify it to meet your needs.

See the list of districts that have adopted the resolution.

Here’s the text of the sample resolution:

WHEREAS, the over reliance on standardized, high stakes testing as the only assessment of learning that really matters in the state and federal accountability systems is strangling our public schools and undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into a broad range of learning experiences that better prepares our students to live successfully and be competitive on a global stage; and

WHEREAS, we commend Robert Scott, former Commissioner of Education, for his concern about the overemphasis on high stakes testing that has become “a perversion of its original intent” and for his continuing support of high standards and local accountability; and

WHEREAS, we believe our state’s future prosperity relies on a high-quality education system that prepares students for college and careers, and without such a system Texas’ economic competitiveness and ability to attract new business will falter; and

WHEREAS, the real work of designing more engaging student learning experiences requires changes in the culture and structure of the systems in which teachers and students work; and

Whereas, what occurs in our classrooms every day should be student-centered and result in students learning at a deep and meaningful level, as opposed to the superficial level of learning that results from the current over-emphasis on that which can be easily tested by standardized tests; and

WHEREAS, We believe in the tenets set out in Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas (TASA, 2008) and our goal is to transform this district in accordance with these tenets; and

WHEREAS, Our vision is for all students to be engaged in more meaningful learning activities that cultivate their unique individual talents, to provide for student choice in work that is designed to respect how they learn best, and to embrace the concept that students can be both consumers and creators of knowledge; and

WHEREAS, only by developing new capacities and conditions in districts and schools, and the communities in which they are embedded, will we ensure that all learning spaces foster and celebrate innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication and critical thinking; and

WHEREAS, these are the very skills that business leaders desire in a rising workforce and the very attitudes that are essential to the survival of our democracy; and

WHEREAS, imposing relentless test preparation and boring memorization of facts to enhance test performance is doing little more than stealing the love of learning from our students and assuring that we fall short of our goals; and

WHEREAS, we do not oppose accountability in public schools and point with pride to the stellar performance of our students, but believe that the system of the past will not prepare our students to lead in the future and neither will the standardized tests that so dominate their instructional time and block our ability to make progress toward a world-class education system of student-centered schools and future-ready students;

THEREFORE BE IT

RESOLVED that the ___________ ISD Board of Trustees calls on the Texas Legislature to reexamine the public school accountability system in Texas and to develop a system that encompasses multiple assessments, reflects greater validity, uses more cost efficient sampling techniques and other external evaluation arrangements, and more accurately reflects what students know, appreciate and can do in terms of the rigorous standards essential to their success, enhances the role of teachers as designers, guides to instruction and leaders, and nurtures the sense of inquiry and love of learning in all students.
PASSED AND APPROVED in this _____ day of _____________, 2012.

823 school districts in Texas, looking out for 4.3 million students.  The Texas Lege mostly represents the Tea Party against the People of Texas these days; don’t look for quick action.

Is your school district one of the 823?

More:


Test “priming”: Malcolm Gladwell on how to push test results, and why tests might not work

July 31, 2012

Who is the interviewer, Allan Gregg?

From the YouTube site:

Malcolm Gladwell in an interview about Blink explains priming, and re-states some of the examples of priming from Blink with CC (closed captions)

Here’s a longer excerpt of the interview; from TVO (TVOntario)?

Discussion:  Gladwell appears to confirm, for testing results, the old aphorism attributed to Henry Ford:  “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Gladwell seems to be saying that the student’s view of his or her abilities at the moment the test starts rules in a significant way how the student performs — worse, for teachers, it’s the student’s unconscious view of his or her abilities.  As a final shot in class, I have often had students predict their performance on state tests.   I have them write what they think they will scores.  Then I ask them to predict what they would have scored, had they applied themselves seriously to study of history — and of course, almost always the students have a fit of honesty and predict their scores would have been higher.  Then I ask them to pretend they had studied, and cross out the lower predicted score and replace it with the higher predicted score.  At the schools where I’ve taught, we do not administer the tests to our own students, and such exercises are prohibited on the day of the test.  Too bad, you think?

Another exercise I’ve found useful for boosting scores is to give the students one class period, just over an hour, to take the entire day-long TAKS social studies test, in the on-line version offered by the Texas Education Agency.  Originally I wanted students to get scared about what they didn’t know, and to get attuned to the questions they had no clue about so they’d pick it up in class.  What I discovered was that, in an hour, clearly with the pressure off (we weren’t taking it all that seriously, after all, allowing just an hour), students perform better than they expected.  So I ask them to pass a judgment on how difficult the test is, and what they should be scoring — almost unanimously they say they find the test not too difficult on the whole, and definitely conquerable by them.

What else could we do with students, if we knew how to prime them for tests, or for writing papers, or for any other piece of performance on which they would be graded?

With one exception, my administrators in Dallas ISD have been wholly inuninterested in such ideas, and such results — there is no checkbox on the teacher evaluation form for using online learning tools to advance test scores, and administrators do not regard that as teaching.  The one exception was Dorothy Gomez, our principal for two years, who had what I regarded as a bad habit of getting on the intercom almost every morning to cheer on students for learning what they would be tested on.  My post-test surveys of students showed those pep talks had been taken to heart, and we got much better performance out of lower-performing groups and entire classes during Gomez’s tenure (she has since left the district).

Also, if psychological tricks can significantly affect test scores, surely that invalidates the idea that we can use any test score to evaluate teacher effectiveness, unless immediate testing results is all we want teachers to achieve.  Gladwell said in this clip:

To me that completely undermines this notion, this naive notion that many educators have that you can reduce someone’s intelligence to a score on a test.  You can’t.

More:


Junk science in education: Testing doesn’t work, can’t evaluate teachers

July 29, 2012

Diane Ravitch, who once had the ear of education officials in Washington and would again, if they have a heart, brains, and a love for the U.S. defended teachers and teaching in a way that is guaranteed to make conservatives and education critics squirm

Cordial relations with Randi Weingarten may not rest well with our teacher friends in New York — but listen to what Dr. Diane Ravitch said at this meeting of the American Federation of Teachers.

  • “Teachers are under attack.”
  • “The public schools are under attack.”
  • “Teachers unions are under attack.”
  • “Public schools are not shoe stores.  They don’t open and close on a dime.”
  • “‘Value-added assessment,’ used as it is today, is junk science.”

If you care about education, if you care about your children and grandchildren, if you care about the future of our nation, you need to listen to this.


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AFT HQ description:

Diane Ravitch, education activist and historian, rallied an enthusiastic audience at the AFT 2012 Convention with her sharp criticism of education “reform” that threatens public schools.

It’s all true.

More Resources and News:


Some stuff teachers don’t need in education

May 20, 2012

Tip of the old scrub brush to Valerie Strauss, who blogs about education issues at The Washington Post site; she borrowed it from Daily Kos.

What teachers don’t need (but are getting anyway)

By

This was written by Paul Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina. A version of this first appeared on dailykos.com.

By Paul Thomas

Just days ago, I completed my 28th year as a teacher — 18 as a high school teacher of English followed by 10 years as a professor of education.

And I am excited about the coming semesters because, as I have felt every year of my teaching life, I know I failed in some ways this past academic year and I am confident I will be better in my next opportunities to teach.

As a teacher, I am far from finished — and I never will be.

I want to make a statement to the many and powerful leaders in education reform, all of whom have either no experience or expertise, or very little, as teachers:

I don’t need standards to teach. I need students.

If You Have Never Taught, You Simply Don’t Understand

Governors, policy wonks, and think tanks, I don’t need the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Secretary Arne Duncan, I have no interest in racing to the top, when that means the top of the pile of my fellow teachers trampled by the policies you have created and promoted.

Bill Gates, I don’t want a dime of your billions; in fact, I am not even interested in what you do (I have always used Apple products) as long as you drop education as your hobby.

Michelle Rhee, I have no interest in my students having mouths forcibly shut by me. I am here to hear their open minds and mouths.

Pearson, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, and every company seeking to sell me anything to support my implementing CCSS or preparing my students for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, state high-stakes tests, or the SAT, I am not interested in buying anything. No software, no hardware, no textbooks, no worksheets. Nothing.

Professional organizations and unions, I need you to stop racing for a place at the table with the reformers and corporations noted above, and instead, seek ways to support my autonomy and agency as a professional so that the autonomy and agency of the children in our schools can become the primary focus of universal public education for free people.

And, finally, to anyone who thinks you know what I should teach and how, please seek a place at the front of a classroom filled with other people’s children, teach for a few years, and then let’s get together and talk. I am eager to be collegial in the pursuit of community as a key part of teaching and learning.

Then What?

Becoming and being a teacher is a constant state of becoming. A teacher must be always a student and scholar of her/his field(s), her/his pedagogy, and her/his students.

What the people and groups identified above seem not to understand is that for my eighteen years of teaching high school English, I probably taught about 2,000 students; thus, I taught about 2,000 different classes. And not a single measurable outcome of any of those students predicts much of anything about my effectiveness or if I’ll succeed with any future student. Some of the students who appear successful did so in spite of my failures. Some of the students who appear to have failed were provided my very best as a teacher. Almost all of the good and bad I have created as a teacher are not measurable or apparent in manageable ways.

I wasn’t concerned about meeting anyone’s standards or preparing any student for a test or making sure any student was prepared for the next grade, college, or the workforce.

And I never will be.

Instead of standards, testing, competition, labeling, ranking, and sorting (all the cancerous elements of traditional schooling and the current accountability era), as a teacher, I need to offer my students authentic learning opportunities in which they produce artifacts of their understanding and expertise. My students need from me my authoritative feedback to those authentic artifacts.

I have no interest in competing with my fellow teachers for whose students score highest on tests so I can earn more money than my colleagues. I don’t, either, want to join forces with my in-school colleagues to outperform other schools in order to compete for their customers. I couldn’t care less how my state’s schools compare with other states or how U.S. schools compare on international tests.

Absolutely none of that matters.

While not unique to Howard Gardner, we have a very clear idea of what it is teachers should do in the pursuit of learning. Gardner’s “The Disciplined Mind” examines a conception of education not distracted by accountability.

Teaching and learning must be primarily collaborative, a community of learners.

The goals of learning must be the broad and clear — although always evolving — defining qualities of the fields of knowledge we honor in academia.

Every history course, for example, would pursue, What does it mean to be a historian? Every science class, What does it mean to be a scientist? Every writing class, What does it mean to be a writer?

Teaching and learning are the collaborative pursuit of questions. Anything else is indoctrination, dehumanizing, and antithetical to democratic ideals and human agency.

Humans never will—and never should—learn the same box of knowledge. Humans never will—and never should—learn in linear, sequential ways.

And there is no need for any of that anyway as long as we seek to be a community instead of barbaric individuals committed to the conquest of goods at the expense of others.

I don’t need standards to teach. I need students.

(My becoming a teacher can be traced directly to the wonderful and rich influence of my mother, and that influence is inextricable from the powerful and enduring influence of my father.)

-0-

I don’t expect anyone to agree 100% with Prof. Thomas’s views — but anyone concerned about education, about job training, about their children, or about our nation, will listen.


Would you even know a good teacher, if she pushed your kid to great achievement?

May 17, 2012

Yes, that’s Rod Serling‘s shadow, and that’s the “Twilight Zone” music you hear.

Consider the curious case of Carolyn Abbott in New York City (links added):

Carolyn Abbott was, in one respect, a victim of her own success. After a year in her classroom, her seventh-grade students scored at the 98th percentile of New York City students on the 2009 state test. As eighth-graders, they were predicted to score at the 97th percentile on the 2010 state test. However, their actual performance was at the 89th percentile of students across the city. That shortfall—the difference between the 97th percentile and the 89th percentile—placed Abbott near the very bottom of the 1,300 eighth-grade mathematics teachers in New York City.

How could this happen? Anderson is an unusual school, as the students are often several years ahead of their nominal grade level. The material covered on the state eighth-grade math exam is taught in the fifth or sixth grade at Anderson. “I don’t teach the curriculum they’re being tested on,” Abbott explained. “It feels like I’m being graded on somebody else’s work.”

The math that she teaches is more advanced, culminating in high-school level algebra and a different and more challenging test, New York State’s Regents exam in Integrated Algebra. To receive a high school diploma in the state of New York, students must demonstrate mastery of the New York State learning standards in mathematics by receiving a score of 65 or higher on the Regents exam. In 2010-11, nearly 300,000 students across the state of New York took the Integrated Algebra Regents exam; most of the 73 percent who passed the exam with a score of 65 or higher were tenth-graders.

Because student performance on the state ELA and math tests is used to calculate scores on the Teacher Data Reports, the tests are high-stakes for teachers; and because New York City uses a similar statistical strategy to rank schools, they are high-stakes for schools as well. But the tests are not high-stakes for the eighth-graders at Anderson.

By the time they take the eighth-grade tests in the spring of the year, they already know which high school they will be attending, and their scores on the test have no consequences. “The eighth-graders don’t care; they rush through the exam, and they don’t check their work,” Abbott said. “The test has no effect on them. I can’t make an argument that it counts for kids. The seventh-graders, they care a bit more.”

The state tests, she believes, are poorly equipped to assess real mathematical knowledge, especially for high-performing students. “They’re so basic; they ask you to explain things that are obvious if you’re three years ahead,” she says. The Anderson students “understand it at a different level. They want to explain with equations, not words.” But the scoring of the free-response items on the tests emphasizes a formulaic response, with the scoring instructions often looking for a single keyword in a response to garner credit.

“They’re not accepting answers that are mathematically correct,” Abbott notes, “and accepting answers that aren’t mathematically correct.” And the multiple-choice questions?  “Multiple-choice questions don’t test thinking,” she declares. Knowing how to answer them is “just an art.”

Ms. Abbott?  Oh, yes.  She is ranked the worst math teacher in New York City.

Read more of this fascinating, troubling case* at Aaron Palas’s blog at the Hechinger Report.

_____________

* Working hard to avoid using the term “colossal cluster f***.”


Teacher ratings can’t tell good teachers from bad ones – back to the drawing board?

March 4, 2012

Corporate and business people who have lived through serious quality improvement programs, especially those based on hard statistical analysis of procedures and products in a manufacturing plant, know the great truths drilled by such high-quality statistical gurus as W. Edwards DemingThe fault, dear Brutus, is not in the teacher, but in the processes generally beyond the teacher’s control.

Here’s the shortest video I could find on Deming’s 14 Points for Management — see especially point #14, about eliminating annual “performance reviews,” because as Dr. Deming frequently demonstrated, the problems that prevent outstanding success are problems of the system, and are beyond the control of the frontline employees (teachers, in this case).  I offer this here only for the record, since it’s a rather dull presentation.  I find, however, especially among education administrators, that these well-established methods for creating champion performance in an organization are foreign to most Americans.  Santayana’s Ghost is constatly amazed at what we refuse to learn.

Wise words from the saviors of business did not give even a moment’s pause to those who think that we can improve education if we could only get out those conniving, bad teachers, who block our children’s learning.  Since the early Bush administration and the passage of the nefarious, so-called No Child Left Behind Act, politicians pushed for new measures to catch teachers “failing,” and so to thin the ranks of teachers.  Bill Gates, the great philanthropist, put millions of dollars in to projects in Washington, D.C., Dallas, and other districts, to come up with a way to statistically measure who are the good teachers, the ones who “add value” to a kid’s education year over year.

It was a massive experiment, running in fits and spurts for more than a decade. We have the details from two of America’s most vaunted and haunted school districts, Washington, D.C., and New York City, plus Los Angeles and other sites, in projects funded by Bill Gates and others, and we can pass judgment on the value of the idea of identifying the bad apple teachers to get rid of them to improve education.

As an experiment, It failed.  After measuring teachers eight ways from Sunday for more than a decade, W. Edwards Deming was proved correct:  Management cannot identify the bad actors from the good ones.

Most of the time the bad teachers this year were good teachers last year, and vice versa, according to the measures used.

Firing the bad ones from this years only means next year’s good teachers are gone from the scene.

Data have been published in a few places, generally over complaints of teachers who don’t want to get labeled as “failures” when they know better.  Curiously, some of the promoters of the scheme also came out against publication.

A statistician could tell why.  When graphed, the points of data do not reveal good teachers who constantly add value to their students year after year, nor do the data put the limelight on bad teachers who fail to achieve goals year after year.  Instead, they reveal that what we think is a good teacher this year on the basis of test scores, may well have been a bad teacher on the same measures last year.  Worse, many of the “bad teachers” from previous had scores that rocketed up.  But the data don’t show any great consistency beyond chance.

So the post over at the blog of G. F. Brandenburg really caught my eye.  His calculations, graphed, show that these performance evaluations systems themselves do not perform as expected:  Here it is, “Now I understand why Bill Gates didn’t want the value-added data made public“:

It all makes sense now.

At first I was a bit surprised that Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee were opposed to publicizing the value-added data from New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities.

Could they be experiencing twinges of a bad conscience?

No way.

That’s not it. Nor do these educational Deformers think that value-added mysticism is nonsense. They think it’s wonderful and that teachers’ ability to retain their jobs and earn bonuses or warnings should largely depend on it.

The problem, for them, is that they don’t want the public to see for themselves that it’s a complete and utter crock. Nor to see the little man behind the curtain.

I present evidence of the fallacy of depending on “value-added” measurements in yet another graph — this time using what NYCPS says is the actual value-added scores of all of the many thousands of elementary school teachers for whom they have such value-added scores in the school years that ended in 2006 and in 2007.

I was afraid that by using the percentile ranks as I did in my previous post, I might have exaggerated or distorted how bad “value added” really was.

No worries, mate – it’s even more embarrassing for the educational deformers this way.

In any introductory statistics course, you learn that a graph like the one below is a textbook case of “no correlation”. I had Excel draw a line of best fit anyway, and calculate an r-squared correlation coefficient. Its value? 0.057 — once again, just about as close to zero correlation as you are ever going to find in the real world.

In plain English, what that means is that there is essentially no such thing as a teacher who is consistently wonderful (or awful) on this extremely complicated measurement scheme. How teacher X does one year in “value-added” in no way allows anybody to predict how teacher X will do the next year. They could do much worse, they could do much better, they could do about the same.

Even I find this to be an amazing revelation. What about you?

And to think that I’m not making any of this up. (unlike Michelle Rhee, who loves to invent statistics and “facts”.)

You should also see his earlier posts, “Gary Rubenstein is right, no correlation on value-added scores in New York city,” and “Gary Rubenstein demonstrates that the NYC ‘value-added’ measurements are insane.”

In summary, many of our largest school systems have spent millions of dollars for a tool to help them find the “bad teachers” to fire, and the tools not only do not work, but may lead to the firing of good teachers, cutting off the legs of the campaign to get better education.

It’s a scandal, really, or an unrolling series of scandals.  Just try to find someone reporting it that way.  Is anyone?

More, Resources:


GFBrandenburg shows “value-added” teacher measures cannot work

March 4, 2012

You wanted evidence that Michelle Rhee’s plans in Washington, D.C., were not coming to fruition, that the entire scheme was just one more exercise in “the daily flogging of teachers will continue until morale improves?”

G. F. Brandenburg ran the numbers. It isn’t pretty.

Click the top line, which should be highlighted in your browser, to see the original post; or click here.

See more, next post.

GFBrandenburg's Blog

It all makes sense now.

At first I was a bit surprised that Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee were opposed to publicizing the value-added data from New York City and other cities.

Could they be experiencing twinges of a bad conscience?

No way.

That’s not it. Nor do these educational Deformers think that value-added mysticism is nonsense. They think it’s wonderful and that teachers’ ability to retain their jobs and earn bonuses or warnings should largely depend on it.

The problem, for them, is that they don’t want the public to see for themselves that it’s a complete and utter crock. Nor to see the little man behind the curtain.

I present evidence of the fallacy of depending on “value-added” measurements in yet another graph — this time using what NYCPS says is the actual value-added scores of all of the many thousands of elementary school teachers for whom they have…

View original post 255 more words


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