Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Ed Beat: The Drone Assessment Plan; Standards (x 2); What Gates Hates; Artistic Control; Heard it On Oprah

Drone-Based Assessment: An educator and education critic whose praises I have often sung is Susan Ohanian. I first noticed her work in the field of "literacy education," which is one of my sub-specialties, when I read her book, One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards, which came out the same year (1999) I was getting out of the field. She is one of the most acuter, and angriest critics of standardization in schools. I heartily recommend her blog. Her sharp wit is demonstrated in the following:
Who says "Irony is dead"?
Washington--Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat with a panel of education reformers to announce the launch of new "Race for the Drones" competitive grants. Available to states already earmarked for Race to the Top funds, unmanned drones will be available for teacher evaluation. Duncan said this modernization of an old, static process is the next rung on the education reform ladder. "Up, up up," said Duncan. "This advanced technology of drones will transform how America evaluates its teachers."

Gold Standards: There are buckets of money to be made in the testing industry. A very close "friend" of the Bush crime family is the family which owns McGraw-Hill, which publishes bales of books and reams of tests. They are NOT losing money.
But resistance is growing. We've been following the story of the teachers in Seattle who have rebelled against administering another meaningless, standardized tests, which actions have JUST THIS WEEK been vindicated! Mad props to the brave folks of Seattle Public Schools:

The school system, which serves more than 45,000 students, had initially threatened protesting teachers with punishment, including a possible 10-day unpaid suspension, according to a memo obtained by Reuters.
The district appeared to soften its stance in February, with an official saying that only educators responsible for administering the test, not those teachers merely voicing opposition, could be punished. The district now says that no teachers will be punished.
"There will be no discipline of any test administrator," Jose Banda, Seattle Public Schools superintendent, wrote on the district's website on Friday.

Meanwhile, there are ripples of resistance being felt even in the troglodytic confines of the Texas legislature. Former Gov. George W. ("The Chimperor") Bush had made Texas an almost impenetrable miasma of standards and standardization, but apparently SOME of the disquiet about it got through to the Lege. This is how the American Prospect: websight reported it:
When the biennial state legislature gaveled in (in January), it didn't take long for newly re-elected Speaker of the House Joe Straus to mention testing. "By now, every member of this house has heard from constituents at the grocery store or the Little League fields about the burdens of an increasingly cumbersome testing system in our schools," he said. "Teachers and parents worry that we have sacrificed classroom inspiration for rote memorization. To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing: The Texas House has heard you."
     It's quite a turnaround for the state that brought standardized testing onto the national agenda. In the 1990s, Governor George W. Bush implemented a series of statewide requirements. Running for president, he claimed the new accountability system led to dramatic improvements, particularly among poor and minority students, calling the results the "Texas Miracle"—though just how miraculous these gains were has since been called into question. In Washington, Bush modeled his No Child Left Behind legislation on the state plan, and around the country, testing became an increasingly prominent part of public education.
     Now Texas is almost certain to scale back on testing, which has continued to expand since Bush's time. Currently the state tests kids every year in multiple subjects between third and eighth grade. In fifth and eighth grade, children who fail are automatically held back. High-schoolers must pass a number of class-specific tests to graduate. The state uses the tests to evaluate the students and the schools. Many other states have a similar system, and plenty have gone even farther, using standardized test results to determine teacher performance and the like.
Why Gates Hates on Teachers: Professor emeritus of Education, Dr. Stephen Krashen, unburdened himself to the editors (and readers) of the Seattle Times earlier this year. His comments are worth quoting in their entirety:
The publicity given to the latest Gates Foundation report on teacher evaluation [ Gates: Test scores not enough for teacher reviews,Jan. 9,] adds strength to the common view that there is something very wrong with American teachers. There is, for example, no pressing concern about how we should evaluate nurses, carpenters, doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, plumbers, butchers, newspaper reporters, etc.
     Every profession has some inferior practitioners, but the available evidence says that American teachers as a group are excellent. When we control for the effects of poverty, our international test scores are very good, ranking at or near the top of world. There are two major factors preventing teachers from being even more effective:
(1) The high level of child poverty in the U.S., 23.1 percent, second among high-income countries; children who are hungry, have poor health care and  little access to books will not do well in school regardless of teacher quality.

(2) The unreasonable demands of the Common Core: a tight, inflexible curriculum that crushes creativity, designed by elitists with little idea of what goes on in classrooms, and a massive amount of testing, more than we have ever seen on this planet.
Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus, USC


An Artistic Approach to School Success: Whoooda thunk it?
Schools CAN get along without glowering, intimidating, heavily-armed thugs with attitudes patrolling the corridors? Even "urban" schools?
That's incredible (snark)..,
Spend some time in the average school in a low income urban neighborhood and between the security guards, armed police, and metal detectors, you'll understand why students, parents, teachers, community activists, and academic researchers say black and Latino kids are being being better prepared for incarceration than college. The ubiquity of law enforcement in city schools makes the decision by Andrew Bott, principal at Orchard Gardens Pilot School in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, to fire all his school's security guards and replace them with art teachers, all the more inspiring.


I Saw It On Oprah: So it must be true...and in this case, probably it is:
The Oprah Winfrey Network reality show, Blackboard Wars, filmed at John McDonogh Hi School in New Orleans this school year reveals some rather shocking details about how charter schools operate in Louisiana. State Board president, Chas Roemer has often bragged that charter operators have the freedom to operate their schools without the usual bothersome red tape required of traditional schools. But we were always told that charters must comply with basic accountability and school reporting rules. Apparently they are exempt from much more than we were led to believe.
.... Observation: A common gimmick used by most of the charters is to sell pie in the sky to the community and news media. Plastered on the walls at John McDonogh are slogans like: WHAT COLLEGE WILL YOU ATTEND (I noticed that the large question mark was missing from the end of the slogan but none of the students or producers of Blackboard Wars seemed to notice) This is an empty promise because the great majority of the students there will not in any way be prepared for college. These schools never seem to teach their students that most adults have to work at real jobs to earn a living. Most of the courses at this school do not relate to the real world nor prepare students for real world jobs. These kids are facing a dead end when they get their fake diplomas. But of course this fake college prep for all is being pushed by the top administrators in our LDOE.


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