Disqus

Monday, April 19, 2010

National Education News of Interest

Two articles of note in the NY Times last week.

One was about how the US is training math teachers and that they earned a C on a new test compared with students in other countries like Singapore and Taiwan and Germany. The tests were created by an international consortium and the study done in the U.S. However, there were few European countries in the study. From the article:

On average, 80 percent to 100 percent of the future middle school teachers from the highest-achieving countries took advanced courses like linear algebra and calculus, while only 50 percent to 60 percent of their counterparts in the United States took those courses, the study said.

“The study reveals that America’s middle school mathematics teacher preparation is not up to the task,” said William H. Schmidt, the Michigan State University professor who was its lead author.

However, other voices stated:

“There are so many people who bash our teachers’ math knowledge that to be honest these results are better than what a lot of people might expect,” said Hank Kepner, professor of mathematics education at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, who is president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “We show up pretty well here, right in the middle of the pack.”

The study was also faulted for including calculus because it isn't taught in middle school.

Other info on the test:

There were two distinct tests, for those preparing to teach in elementary schools and for candidates for middle school.

The same tests, developed by an international consortium, were given to college students in 15 other countries, including advanced nations like Germany and Norway as well as underdeveloped ones like Botswana.

On the elementary test, students from Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan scored far above their counterparts in the United States. Students from Germany, Norway, the Russian Federation and Thailand, scored about the same as the Americans, and students from Botswana, Chile, Georgia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland and Spain scored well below, the report said.

On the middle school test, American students outscored students in Botswana, Chile, Georgia, Malaysia, Norway, Oman, the Philippines and Thailand, the study found.

The other article, which is major news, was about the veto by Florida Governor Charlie Crist against a bill which would have eliminated tenure for public school teachers as well as tying their pay ad job security to how well students were learning. This bill, if approved, would have had the most sweeping teacher pay changes in the country.

From the article:

Mr. Crist said Thursday that his decision was not political. He cited “the incredible outpouring of opposition by teachers, parents, students, superintendents, school boards and legislators.”

The bill was supported by the Florida Department of Education and statewide business groups, which expressed disappointment in the governor’s decision, saying that teachers should be held more accountable.

But the governor, announcing his veto in the Capitol in Tallahassee, said the changes envisioned would put “teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs and teaching certificates, without a clear understanding of how gains will be measured.”

Of course this puts Florida in a bad place for future RTTT. An Obama official said this bill “is consistent with what Race to the Top wants,”.

From the article:

When Florida proposed strict accountability measures, teachers, parents and administrators pushed back. They argued that the proposed system — basing renewal of teacher contracts and at least half their raises on how well students did on standardized tests — would hold them responsible for factors in students’ lives beyond their control.

“I am not a puppet master; I can’t pull strings and make them perform,” said Amy Horr, a second-grade teacher in the Miami-Dade School District who attended a rally on Monday. “I can’t even make them come to school.”

The president of the state teachers’ union, Andy Ford, argued that the pressure on children “will be immense when the teacher’s salary evaluation, contract and certification are all tied to that score.”

This makes Mr. Crist, a moderate Republican, at odds with the Obama Administration as well as some conservatives and yet even some Tea Party activists had opposed the bill because of the increased government bureaucracy.

I've said it before - public education in this country is about local control. I think while many believe that teachers need to be more accountable (but how is the big question), that many are not sure the federal government should be using the carrot/stick that RTTT is. I think the combination of teacher salary/certification/contract was a triple whammy that likely doomed the bill. I wonder if Mr. Crist would have vetoed a more simple bill. Still, it is an opening legislative salvo for this discussion.

15 comments:

Sahila said...

I'm glad he listened to parents and teachers and had the courage of his convictions to decide not to sign...

I hope we can manage the same outcome here in Seattle/Washington...

We need a revolution here - reclaiming public education from the corporate interests (disguised as philanthropists) bent on taking it over via their fronts such as The Alliance...

There are many, many parents, teachers, community members, special interest groups who see clearly what is going on here, and we are taking action...

If you want to know more or be involved, please feel free to email me at metamind_universal@yahoo.com and I'll pass on information and connect you with the right people/groups..

gavroche said...

Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry also rejected RTTT, so this may be a growing trend.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Perry's stated reasons were pretty sound. He called the demands of RTTT too extreme or untested and not worth the payoff -- "...would amount to as little as $75 per student in one-time funding." (Here's his Jan. 13, 2010 letter to Ed. Sec Duncan: http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/O-DuncanArne201001130344.pdf)

Note the high number of business interests behind Florida's extreme proposed bill. By and large, these are not educators or parents who are pushing for these failed "reforms," but businesses and billionaires. Hmm....

ParentofThree said...

NPR also had a story this morning about DC schools. Major budget accounting error that resulted in over 100 teachers being laid off, when in fact they should not have been.

The rub is that the union is now backing down from signing what could be a landmark teachers contract that includes merit pay for student performance, determined by high stakes testing.

The story pointed out that this contract could be used as a nationwide template!

But is "hanging in by a thread at the moment" since there is widespread distrust of what the real budget numbers look like.

seattle citizen said...

"widespread distrust of what the real budget numbers look like"

What?! no way! That must be a terrible thing to go through, over there in DC...imagine not knowing what the real budget numbers look like!

That's just nuts! Luckily for us, Seattle's budget, and the state and federal components of it, are thoughtfully enumerated and well-known years in advance as the methodical and purposeful full funding of our children's education is in the forefront of everyone's minds.

Sahila said...

There is a national backlash against corporatist reform and RTTT...

http://dailycensored.com/2010/04/15/bamn-attorneys-representing-the-elected-detroit-board-of-education-will-ask-judge-wendy-baxter-for-a-preliminary-injunction-to-stop-emergency-financial-manager-of-detroit-and-eli-broad-academy-graduat/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Dailycensored+%28Daily+Censored%29

there are people all over the country who are a: following what's going on, connecting the dots and calling out the Broad/Gates reformists when they're uncovered and b: taking action in their communities...

Its time now, before Washington (and Seattle)get sucked into this miasma, to take action... once this reform agenda is firmly in place and being implemented fully, we might not get a chance to take back public education for many, many years....

Sahila said...

Crist is not alone in his concern about education reform...

here's the text of Texas Governor Rick Perry's letter to Arne Duncan refusing involvement in RTTT... many, many points are applicable to Seattle/Washington...

http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/O-DuncanArne201001130344.pdf

Sahila said...

SEA is having a rep body meeting at 4pm today at Washington Middle School, where it will vote on whether to support SPS and Washington's signing on for RTTT funds...

At an average one-off $22/per child in extra funding, it doesnt seem worth selling our children's souls... what we would be giving away is far more valuable...

Teachers need to know that we parents (by and large) support and value them... we need to not allow the Alliance for Education to drive a wedge between us and them...

If you have time and the inclination, please join some of us parents at Washington Middle School this afternoon, as we hand out information flyers and let teachers know we back them in opposing corporatist education reform that would bust their union, fire seasoned, accomplished professionals, force them to 'teach to the test', hold them unreasonably and unfairly accountable for childrens' test performance and hire in untrained cheap labour to 'teach' our kids...

Yes, there are things that dont work in the system as it stands, but we dont need to irrationally demonise and blame one set of people to fix that...

TechyMom said...

"The study was also faulted for including calculus because it isn't taught in middle school."

Oh, please. A math teacher needs to love math, especially if he or she is going to get a bunch of hormonal middle schoolers excited about math. These tests are given to college students who plan to become teachers. A college student who loves math should be able to ace a calculus test. One that can't probably isn't cut out for a career teaching the subject.

The fact that US isn't a leader here isn't news, but it is a real measure of how poor our math education is. These college students weren't trained well enough in math, and they are not well-enough prepared to teach it to the next generation.

hschinske said...

I can see that including calculus on a test of *working middle-school teachers* would be unfair (I've certainly forgotten most of the calculus I studied, even though I took it in both high school and college). But yeah, I think those in college who are planning to become math teachers should have recent enough experience with calculus to do reasonably well on such a test.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy Neville said...

I think it depends on how much calculus the teacher is expected to remember. I *do* think that working middle school teachers ought to have taken calculus and retained the general principles. Remember all the integration tricks? No. Remember how acceleration, velocity, position and area relate? Definitely. Remember how sequences and series and limits work, at least at a general level? Absolutely. Never been exposed to these concepts? Then you shouldn't be teaching math.

All that work on linear equations, parabolas, and polynomials. It's working up to the concepts of rate of change. (And the Key Curriculum Algebra 1 doesn't even say slope, calls it rate of change or something like that. The teacher better understand why, and aren't we trying to get many 8th graders through algebra 1?) In fact, I recall someone commenting on this blog about some excellent inquiry based math work their child did that involved just this sort of thing, exploring ideas from calculus in early algebraic setting without calling it calculus. So *especially* with an inquiry based mathematics, the teacher *must* have a firm grasp on the concepts being motivated. Otherwise, don't expect the instruction to go anywhere. (Oh, that's right, that's the reason so many parents complain about inquiry based math. It's not just that the materials are sometimes confusing, but that the topics require the teachers to have more mathematical sophistication for the pedagogy to work.)

Better than expected? Middle of the pack? Sheesh!

Sahila said...

Just to report back... myself and two SPS parents went to the SEA rep body meeting location today, to let teachers know that we support them, that we dont want RTTT in this state, that we dont advocate for merit pay and performance management and that many parents we are in contact with feel the same way...

We told them that we were very well aware of the wedge the Alliance is attempting to drive between parents and teachers and that we thought it was very wrong of The Alliance, Gates, Broad et al to demonise teachers and lay all the blame for student 'failure' at their feet...

I have to say I was shocked at the response... some teachers were on the verge of tears they were so touched by our presence and our words... they feel totally embattled, vulnerable, unappreciated and alone in this struggle against corporate-driven education reform......

We cant let phony groups like the Alliance and all the other 'astro-turf' coalitions succeed in this drive they're currently embarked on...

We parents have to join with teachers, take back public education and work together to make it better...

Some of us have plans to do just that... if you're interested in joining us, please email me at metamind_universal@yahoo.com and I'll connect you up with groups working in various communities...

Namaste

Sahila

wseadawg said...

Thanks for the report, Sahila. Some of us shark jumpers believe in our teachers and don't blame them for our collective failures as a society.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm not as sanguine as some other voices about the opposition to RttT by Gov. Crist and Perry because I see their resistance as displays of partisanship rather than principle.

I think that RttT is consistent with Republican policies on education and, had they come from a Republican administration, would have been supported by these governors. But, since the Republican party has decided to become the Party of No, they choose to oppose anything that has Mr. Obama's name associated with it.

Rather than a positive sign, I regard this opposition to RttT as a sign of the further decay of our political function in this country and another step downward out of the light and into the basest and most juvenile expression of partisanship: I don't want it if comes from him.

Sahila said...

I see your point Charlie, and you may be right...

But the reasons both governors put forward for their opposition to RTTT (Kerry) and the merit pay legislation (Crist) are valid points and reflect the reasons why so many of us feel so strongly that both these initiatives should be rejected...

West Seattle said...

interesting article on the return of racial segregation in schools.
Specifically in the south but interesting none-the-less.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36660242/ns/us_news-washington_post/