The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
Monday is the Memorial Day Holiday
[The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the Memorial Day weekend.
Look for the next issue on Friday, June 3rd.]
“Getting an education is an awfully wearing process!”
Add Hawaii to the list of states dropping student test scores from it teacher evaluations according to a story in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “Formerly, teachers in Hawaii were beholden to curriculum and standards developed with little or none of their input by entities [Hawaii State Teachers Association] Secretary-Treasurer Amy Perruso described as ‘corporate philanthropists.’ These entities,” it reports, “namely the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, have had sway in setting teacher performance standards, developed testing for those standards and profiting from the system, she said. Teaching effectiveness, then, was rated on student understanding of curriculum teachers themselves didn’t develop but were forced by the administration to implement. Performance of teachers was also rated on aggregated test scores of every student participant — the majority of whom individual teachers never had in their own classrooms.”
How do teachers feel about education technology in their classrooms? That’s the question addressed by a new survey sponsored by the online education resources provider Edgenuity that polled a random sample of 400 middle and high school teachers in grades 6 to 12 in March. Findings are featured in an article in the “Teaching Now” column in EDUCATION WEEK. “Ninety-one percent of teachers agree that technology gives them more ability to tailor lessons and homework assignments to the individual needs of each student,” it explains, “but only 16 percent of teachers give their schools an ‘A’ grade for incorporating it into their classrooms, according to a new national survey. . . . According to the survey, the top three roles teachers felt technology should play in the classroom are providing a variety of learning tools or modalities, making the learning experience more engaging, and differentiating the learning experience.” The item includes a link to the full study titled “Teachers’ Dream Classroom Survey.” For an infographic summarizing the findings from the poll click here (the article includes a small portion of that infographic).
Poem About Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog once again plays host to “Some DAMpoet” who turns his pen on those corporate “reformers.” His offering is titled “The Path Not Taken” with apologies to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” which you can read or listen to being recited (1:16) by clicking here. Here’s the first stanza of the parody to whet your appetite:
“Two paths diverged in a public school,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, help and tool
I looked down one, like a teaching fool
To how it lent to the student growth”
The Teaching Profession
Florida is experiencing a mass exodus of teachers as this school years ends Reasons for the phenomenon include a lack of respect from the legislature, an overemphasis on standardized testing and lousy salaries among others. The Orlando Sentinel has the depressing details. Why is the story so depressing? Because we’ve heard these reasons so often before. “The exodus is so intense that state records show that 40 percent of new teachers leave within five years after they start,” it notes, “Florida’s attrition rate for new teachers is 15-20 percent higher than the national average, depending on the year.” Are American teachers the only ones who are fed up and frustrated with the misuse of standardized tests, low morale, lack of respect for the profession, poor pay and working conditions? Apparently not. A teacher in the U.K. has written an open letter on The Girl on the Piccadilly Linewebsite announcing her reluctant resignation from her teaching job after 6 year in the classroom. “In some ways I don’t feel like a teacher at all any more. I prepare children for tests and, if I’m honest, I do it quite well,” she relates. “It’s not something I’m particularly proud of as it’s not as if I’ve provided my class with any transferable, real life skills during the process. They’ve not enjoyed it, I’ve not enjoyed it but we’ve done it: and one thing my children know how to do is answer test questions.” Her complaints are amazingly similar to the reasons why educators in this country are leaving. The note is addressed to the Secretary of State for Education of the Conservative Party. Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, makes the case for why the public school system in this country needs more teachers of color. “Black students relate to black teachers. White students relate to white teachers. It’s just human nature. We identify most with people like us. It doesn’t mean kids can only be taught by teachers of their own race. That’s silly,” he argues. “But it’s just as ridiculous to pretend like this doesn’t matter at all. Fact: Roughly 48% of our nation’s public school children are children of color. Fact: Only 18% of our nation’s teachers are persons of color. We’re missing a tremendous opportunity!” Singer proceeds to explain what that opportunity is and why it’s important.
Testing and Common Core
In 2o10 Kentucky became the first state to adopt the Common Core and to begin using assessments aligned to the standards. At first student scores dropped in the Bluegrass State and have only recently begun to creep up. More troubling is the fact that the achievement gap between Black and white students continues to widen based on a story in THE HECHINGER REPORT. “In spring 2015, in the elementary grades, 33 percent of black students were proficient in reading, versus 58 percent of white students; in math, the breakdown was 31 percent to 52 percent, according to Kentucky Department of Education figures. And those gaps, in many cases,” it mentions, “have widened, according to an analysis of state testing data by The Hechinger Report and the Courier-Journal.” Did Campbell Brown just step in it again? Brown made a statement in a video with “advice for the next president” about future education policies and how she interpreted some recent NAEP scores. When Tom Loveless, a former Harvard professor and expert on school reform and student achievement, challenged her on her assertion the Twitter world lit up with a back and forth that drew in a few other commentators. Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post, invites Carol Burris to describe the situation. Burris was directly involved in the social media exchange regarding the skirmish. “Another day, another fight in the education world,” Strauss begins. “This one is worth delving into because it is really not about who said what but about fundamental understandings — and misunderstandings — of standardized testing data and how it drives policy.” Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29, attempts to “school” Campbell Brown (see above) onthe intricacies of NAEP scores and their ratings. Brown doesn’t seem to understand concepts like “proficient” and “grade level” so Schneider makes an effort to set her straight. “Based upon Brown’s bizarre response, I think we might reasonably expect her to continue to willfully misinterpret NAEP proficiency. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, and she doesn’t care. But readers can take a lesson: Don’t be like Brown. Remember that NAEP ‘proficient’ and ‘at grade level’ are not to be used interchangeably,”she dutifully explains, “nor are NAEP ‘proficient’ and ‘grade level proficiency.’ One should not even imply that students must achieve NAEP proficient in math or reading in order to be considered at grade level in math or reading.” The controversy over a Columbia University professor who published May 7th a critique on her blog of the 4th grade PARCC English assessment by a teacher (highlighted extensively in the last couple of editions of the “Ed News), sparking a ferocious reaction from the CEO of PARCC, is the topic of a story in The New York Times. The piece is titled “Leaked Questions Rekindle Fierce Debate Over Common Core Tests” and once again reviews the situation and identifies some of the key players. “Ever since most states adopted the Common Core — guidelines for kindergarten through high school reading and math — parents and teachers have pushed back,” the reporter notes, “with many parents choosing not to have their children take the exams. Although a new federal education law has lowered the stakes for testing, the viral response to the anonymous teacher’s critique highlights the strong feelings that standardized testing continues to evoke.” Leonie Haimson has a commentary on the NYC Public School Parents website with an analysis of the New York Times article and what it left out. She also reviews the case and includes lots of links to important articles, blogs and essays about the issue. “What’s the next chapter in this saga? Stay tuned,” she speculates, “for possible legal challenges if PARCC continues its attempt to evade accountability for the flawed nature of these exams through censoring any critiques that contain excerpts from the exam.”
The most recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an op-ed in Thursday’s L.A. Times that suggested that charter schools were not detrimental to the LAUSD. That piece prompted two letters in today’s paper. Both were quite skeptical of the author’s premise. “Because traditional schools serve everyone, their per-pupil costs are significantly higher than charter schools. Charter schools can effectively cherry pick their students,” the writer of the first letter concludes, “leaving children with the greatest needs in traditional schools. Charter schools are indeed siphoning money from traditional schools.” The second letter questions the op-ed author’s motives, pointing out that she “was a senior consultant to Bill Gates, the billionaire who, along with others like him, wants to replace public schools with his corporate-style education model.”
Sue Desmond-Hellman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has a first annual newsletter out touting the many “successes” of the organization in the realm of education. She points to Kentucky as a prime example of how things like the Common Core are working wonders in that state. Unfortunately, she seems to ignore the factual evidence (see the first item under the “Testing and Common Core” heading in this edition of the “Ed News”). That would seem to call for “STRIKE ONE!” against the foundation. Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, points out the problem with touting Kentucky as a success story and mentions a couple of other less than successful endeavors that Desmond-Hellman conveniently leaves out of her accounting. “The Gates Foundation has no shortage of experiences to reflect upon, and should be able to muster a bit of humility to match the task. Unfortunately we have yet to see this disposition applied to K12 education,” Cody scolds. “Thus far, the interventions promoted by the Gates Foundation have caused more harm than benefit for teachers and students. This latest letter from Desmond-Hellmann does not suggest that much reflection is underway.” Taken together does this make for “STRIKE TWO, THREE, FOUR and . . . .” on the Gates Foundation?
Two law professors, one from Harvard Law and the other from the University of Richmond, write on EDUCATION WEEK about “The K-12 Funding Crisis.” They mention some of the other attempts at reform, i.e., the Common Core, teacher evaluations and passage of the ESSA to replace NCLB, but suggest that none of those will ever be successful if schools are not funded at proper levels. “What is often missing from education reform conversations is how these reforms can create sustainable changes to the education system. We believe the system’s very foundations are broken,” they maintain, “and school funding is one of the most pressing issues in need of repair. Most states have failed to create school funding systems that provide the necessary foundation for all children to receive equal access to an excellent education. The nation’s children deserve no less, particularly in view of evidence that money spent wisely on education matters.” The essay offers some suggestions for boosting school funding to adequate levels.
Comparing the U.S. School System to the One in China
And finally, Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable, who spent some time studying the school system in China. As a result of that research he believes we should stop comparing American students to those in China. China’s scores on various international exams have been hailed as miraculous and China has been singled out as having an exemplary school system. However, Harvey’s main contention is that the Chinese government severely restricts student access to its school system which results in rather skewed international test results. He explains how all this plays out.