Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Public Education Updates

Get a cup of coffee/tea - there are a lot of them (and big news items at that).

Good News

The governor of Tennessee just signed into law that every single high school grad gets a free ride for two years at a community college.  From Yes!:

The bill provides two years of tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for any high school graduate who agrees to work with a mentor, complete eight hours of community service, and maintain at least a C average. High school graduates will start to reap these benefits in fall 2015.

Oregon Sen. Mark Hass is selling the idea to his state, too. He sponsored a bill that passed earlier this year to study whether a similar system in Oregon would work. The results should be out later this year.

Education Satire

Hey, you 3-year old slackers!

It has come to our attention that your older brothers and sisters have been showing up to Kindergarten completely unprepared for the requirements of a rigorous education. It is time to nip this indolent behavior in the bud. You probably don't even know what 'indolent" means, do you? Dammit -- this is exactly why Estonia and Singapore are challenging the U.S. for world domination!

Testing News

The state of Florida has suspended a state reading exam, at least for the youngest students, after mounting pressure.  From USA Today:

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the state suspended the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading on Monday, also known as the FAIR test, for students in kindergarten through second grade.
Instead, teachers will observe students through a less formal measurement than sitting for an online test.

You may recall one Florida district's school board had voted to opt-out of testing but has now reversed that decision but that focus on testing may have driven this decision.

The Washington Post has an interview with a superintendent who thinks a decade of testing has helped American public school students.  I don't agree with most of what he thinks but there is a poll at the end of it that I think every parent should take to give feedback on this issue.

Can flunking a test help your kid?  Interesting article from the NY Times Magazine.

Imagine that on Day 1 of a difficult course, before you studied a single thing, you got hold of the final exam. The motherlode itself, full text, right there in your email inbox — attached mistakenly by the teacher, perhaps, or poached by a campus hacker. No answer key, no notes or guidelines. Just the questions.

Would that help you study more effectively? Of course it would. 

A question about how great Bill Gates is appears on the NY state Regents exam (of course).  From the great Living in Dialogue website:

A question on a New York Regents test lauds the “stunning” contribution Bill Gates has made to the global fight against disease.

This title says it all: New York's test-score plunge leaves parents to wonder; Is my child on track?  From Syracuse.com:

New York parents, students and teachers woke up to a harsh new reality Wednesday when the state announced that nearly 70 percent of elementary and middle-school students are not meeting the state's new academic standards.

The stakes could hardly be higher: The state stressed that the tests provide a measure of whether children are on track to succeed in college and in their careers.

State and local educators had warned for months that this year's math and English tests would be much harder than in past years. But the plunge in scores was still stunning.

Classroom News

From the NY Times, a story about grading teachers using student surveys.

But the survey, conducted by a tech start-up called Panorama Education, also indicated that her students did not believe she was connecting with them. 

Panorama is trying to assess how well teachers are doing by conducting scientifically valid student questionnaires that collect data about a variety of factors that might affect a teacher’s performance, from how well she conveys the material and whether she encourages interest in a subject to whether a school fosters a sense of belonging for students.

The company, which is run by two 23-year-old Yale grads with a penchant for computers and data crunching, has run surveys in more than 5,000 schools, and it has been adopted by some of the largest school systems in the nation, including the Los Angeles Unified School District and schools in Connecticut.

Common Core

An older story but still shocking, from the Arizona Daily Independent with e-mails sent from the Associate Superintendent regarding a teacher who spoke out about Common Core:

FYI, regarding a teacher named Brad McQueen. He is on a roll criticizing AZCCRS...Just thought you might want to check your list of teacher teams (from which teachers are slected to work on tests at the Dept of Education.  He is one unhappy camper.

The reply is that they have made "a note in his record."

Then another official from the AZ Dept of Education weighs in on this teacher who was on the radio talking about CC:

 What a f**ktard.

They then called into this teacher's classroom and asked him about his "problems" with CC.  Nice.

There's a new site, Alliance for Excellent Education, that focuses on high school students, which is the latest group to claim they are a clearing house for "sound, objective, nonpartisan advice that informs decisions about policy creation and implementation." 

I had some hopes for this group until I started reading some of their "blog" entries.  (I tried to post a comment but it disappeared somewhere.  Not a good sign.)

As for "objective and nonpartisan,"  here's what they said about Common Core concerns:

Accepting the reality of the Common Core State Standards has been difficult for many. Educators, government officials, parents and even students are all struggling with what the Common Core means.  It is rare that we have seen such controversy over setting new standards in our country. Remember the controversy over Beta vs. VHS, the universal switch to unleaded gas, or Blu-Ray as a standard for movies? Each of these standards took place with barely a whisper from the opposition.

If they want to compare public education to VCRs, they've lost me right there and then. 

Really good article on the good, the bad and the ugly of Common Core - distilled down.  From Ed Surge:

The Good: Standards aren’t so bad when they change curriculum for the better.

The Bad: Let’s not make Common Core into No Child Left Behind

The Ugly: Potential impacts of Common Core high-stakes testing on classroom teaching

From Politico, an article about moms standing up against Common Core.   Apparently those moms' efforts are working.

So, backed with fresh funding from philanthropic supporters, including a $10.3 million grant awarded in May from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, supporters are gearing up for a major reboot of the Common Core campaign.

“We’ve been fighting emotion with talking points, and it doesn’t work,” said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute, a leading supporter of the standards. “There’s got to be a way to get more emotional with our arguments if we want to win this thing. That means we have a lot more work to do.”

And there will be a whole lot more from the pro-Common Core side on social media, including Pinterest pages full of student work. A coming Twitter blitz will aim to stir up buzz for a new video that tracks a debate between four people who at first seem to want very different things from their schools — but end up discovering they all support the standards. The video, produced by an Arizona coalition, doesn’t once mention the well-worn talking points “academic rigor” or “international benchmarks.”
One of the best education writers today, Mercedes Schneider, writes compellingly about Common Core.
Here’s the reality: CCSS was conceived, organized, produced, monitored, and promoted by “the few,” the most obvious CCSS “top downers” being the two organizations that drafted the CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) and that hold the CCSS license: The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). And these two groups were clear in their positioning an NGA-corporate-run nonprofit, Achieve, at the center of CCSS development, as well as two testing companies (ACT and College Board)– and in tapping the federal government for undeniable involvement in funding all but CCSS creation– with the feds forking over $350 million for the steering wheel of the CCSS venture– the CCSS consortium assessments. 

Moreover, even though it was drafted and signed by governors of 45 states, DC, and three territories prior to the formal launching of Obama and Duncan’s Race to the Top (RTTT), RTTT is mentioned in the CCSS MOU.

So, for the public to have the perception that the federal government “initiated” CCSS (PDK/Gallup wording) or “requires all states to use CCSS” (EdNext wording) reflects not only the federal government’s notable role in the CCSS “venture,” but also the very public efforts of US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to 1) instruct the press on how to report on CCSS, 2) blame “white suburban moms” for CCSS resistance, and 3) threaten to revoke No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers when states choose to be “state led” away from CCSS.

Campus Safety

The Huffington Post reports that President Obama is launching a new campaign - targeted at men and boys - to stop campus sexual harassment and violence.  The campaign is called "It's On Us."  Model policies will be announced at the end of September.

Presidential aides point to research shows that men are often reluctant to speak out against violence against women because they believe other men accept it, and that Obama and Biden hope to set an example by speaking out to help change social norms.

"We can do more to make sure that every young man out there - whether they're in junior high or high school or college or beyond - understands what's expected of them and what it means to be a man, and to intervene if they see somebody else acting inappropriately," Obama said in January when he announced a task force to combat the problem. "We're going to need to encourage young people, men and women, to realize that sexual assault is simply unacceptable. And they're going to have to summon the bravery to stand up and say so, especially when the social pressure to keep quiet or to go along can be very intense."
Ed Reform

From the Washington Post's, The Answer Sheet, 7 things teachers are tired of hearing about ed reform.

1. Don’t tell us that you know more about good instruction than we do.  
2. Don’t talk to us about the importance and rigor of the standards.

3. Don’t tell us about testing data. 
4. Don’t tell us “The research says…” unless you’re willing to talk about what it really says.
5. Stop with the advice about teaching critical thinking skills.     
6. Stop using education reform clich├ęs. (Hilarious compendium of these cliches.)

“After consulting the research and assessment data, and involving all stakeholders in the decision-making process, we have determined that a relentless pursuit of excellence and laser-like focus on the standards, synergistically with our accountability measures, action-oriented and forward-leaning intervention strategies, and enhanced observation guidelines for classroom look-fors, will close the achievement gap and raise the bar for all children.” 

You can’t talk like that and expect to be taken seriously by educated adults.
7. Don’t tell us to leave politics out of the classroom. 

Charter Schools

Something to consider with two propositions on our ballot in November about preschool.  There is a push nationally for charters to have preschool.  There was a recent report that argued that one single charter preschool was really great and that one single example should prove that more charters could do preschool successfully.

From the National Education Policy Center:

But a review of the report, written by experts on early childhood education, cautions that it fails to make the case that the D.C. charter under study is unusually effective – or that its charter status is the driving force for any success it may be having.
W. Steven Barnett and Cynthia E. Lamy, both of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, reviewed Seeds of Achievement: AppleTree’s Early Childhood D.C. Charter Schools, by Cara Stillings Candal and published by the Pioneer Institute.

“While the AppleTree model may well be as effective as the Pioneer authors suggest, this report lacks rigorous evidence regarding the model’s development, implementation, cost and effectiveness,” write Barnett and Lamy in their review.

“Sample sizes, attrition, and statistical methods are unreported, and no statistical tests of significance appear to have been conducted,” write Barnett and Lamy. Additionally, they observe, the report fails to demonstrate that any success at Appletree is attributable to its charter
Hey, some good charter news (and something I have talked about for years) - helping parents learn so they can be good teachers/role models for their own children.  From the Washington Post:

“We spend a lot of money on poor children in our schools,” said Sharon Darling, president of the National Center for Families Learning. “But in reality, there are no poor children. They live with poor parents, and they are poor because they have poor skills. You can’t keep putting a Band-Aid on one part of the equation.” 

It’s an approach that an increasing number of researchers and philanthropists are promoting across the country as experts worry that investments in early childhood education or school improvement can only go so far.  

But dual-generation approaches — in which parents are pursuing education in tandem with their children — echo research that shows that a mother’s education is one of the strongest predictors of a child’s academic succes

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