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So It Begins ...

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From contributing blogger Alyson Klein:

The general election debate over education policy, that is. Federal reporter extraordinaire David Hoff and I will be attending a forum tomorrow sponsored by the Association of Educational Publishers. It's being billed as the first chance for some the education advisers of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama to square off.

The representatives are:

Jeanne Century, Director of Science Education and the Director of Research and Evaluation
University of Chicago's Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, representing Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, principal with the Keegan Company and former state schools superintendent in Arizona, representing Sen. McCain.

The moderator will be Frank Catalano, senior vice president of marketing for Pearson's U.S. K-12 education businesses

They'll have a panel of questioners that includes:

Sara Davis, manager of education resource development for USA Today; Neal Goff, president of the Weekly Reader Publishing Group; Margery Mayer, president of Scholastic Education; Joel Packer, the director of education policy and practice for the National Education Association; and Bernice Stafford, a consultant with the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. Here's a link to some of their bios.

And apparently, Century and Keegan will also be taking questions from the press. Can't make it to the forum, but have something you'd like us to ask them? Let us know in the comments section.

12 Comments

Interesting group. Questions
1. Why no teachers or principals on the panel?
2. Any reaction to the recent failure of Reading First to show its effectiveness, despite the huge financial investment, and despite the fact that Reading First children have more instructional time?
3. Would you agree that we should follow the principle of No Unnecessary Testing (NUT), that we should only test when it is helpful? If so, is there any evidence that we need all the NCLB testing? Is there any evidence that teacher evaluations plus NAEP are not enough?

During the Bush administration educators were directed to eschew the soft bigotry of low expectations. This seems to have been attempted through relentless testing, privatized tutoring programs, and condemnation of schools or entire districts. What all students need are highly qualified teachers, a school physical plant that is not only safe but attractive and adequately roomy for the population, up-to-date textbooks and an adequate supply of up-to-date resources, including technology resources, a gym and sports program, and in some situations, a breakfast and dinner program as well as a lunch program. How do you plan to implement and fund this actually realistic plan for educational improvement across the US?

America's Institutions of Public Education have failed African American students in particular and students of color in general for decades. The achievement scores for these students are truly disconsolate in all academic areas. Some researchers believe that reforms have not been successful because they are enmeshed in deficit paradigms and fail to make critical connections to the culture, language, learning styles and experiences of these diverse students. How do you plan to end this cycle of failure for African American and other students of color?

It is becoming more apparent the extra instructional time given to students in Reading First schools focused too narrowly on skills that were easy to measure, and one result was that second graders in Reading First Schools actually spent less time reading text.

The reauthorization of IDEA came during the implementation of Reading First under NCLB. State special education departments have created a tiered approach which piggybacked on the same programs & assessment practices that failed to raise comprehension scores of students in regular classrooms. It's nightmarish.

Are you willing to intervene immediately so billions more are not wasted, and we do not continue to place a whole generation of readers at risk?

The constant paradigm of testing testing testing under the guise of needing data data data is wearing teachers and students out. Who is courageous enough to suspend certain tenents of required standardized testing tied to diplomas. We have seen graduation rates continue to drop while money continues to be thrown at anything that will stick for a "quick cure" in forced and scripted curriculums, especially reading. Who among you has the courage to is willing to put a moratorium on this ludicrous paradigm and ask front line teachers what is good for students?

Have they heard the rumors about increasing class size?
Does either candidate plan to reduce class size?
If so, in every grade?
When?

...and one more thing. I reiterate the above comment. Why aren't there any frontline classroom teachers/principals/guidance counselors/social workers,on the panel? I see a panapoly of publishers,consultants, and consultant group representatives who have made and stand to make their livings off continued paradigm shifts. Do we have data on the last time any of them were in the classroom for any length of time.
Can I ask if any of you who watch this lsite and are in the K-12 (or 13, or 14 eetc) classroom everyday--were you asked to be on the panel? Sorry for the rant.

We cannot continue to allow corporations, politicians, and standardistos who want to control education tell us what to do. We educators live and breathe teaching and learning. Our students cannot be made into political capitol for self-serving interests. If other groups, such as those who are not totally heterosexual (great group of people), can unite and make their voices heard, then as educators we can do the same. We have to collectively invite those on the "front line" - our teachers - know that we support them. Brave teachers like Carl Chew, Doug Ward, Don Perl, and courageous assistant principal Teri Pinney, plus the 160 middle school students in the Bronx who turned in blank tests are showing us the way. The momentum is moving. We have to do everything we can, even if it does not seem like much, to let the politicos, standardistos, publishers and test makers that enough is enough. We cannot continue to be snookered and compromised. We must stand up for ourselves and others will join in. We have to be part of the change in paradigm with regards to education. We have to educate for human greatness, not those insane tests, which don't add value, except make the test makers and others like them rich of the backs of our young, the Halliburtons of education. The change begins with one person at a time, and being relentless in our efforts. We have to pass out information like the Office of Inspector General's report of the blatant misuse of Reading First funds. We have the information, now we have to reach the public and encourage those in the front line, our teachers, to become politically active. Our teachers' and students' stories must be made public. NOW is the time to act. I have left relevant information in various public places and I continue to talk one-on-one with friends, neighbors, the people who come to fix things at my home about education and the travesty of NCLB and high stakes testing. They AGREE with us. In fact, so many of the general public thinks high stakes testing is ridiculous. We also need to be talking about what education is all about - to lead out, not cram down. We need to be taking about the insanity of 'kids not being at grade level' for being at grade level is a mathematical principle of the bell shaped curved. Remember Lake Wobegon??? Lake Wobegon is what Keillor makes fun of. We have the data, now we need the fortitude, passion, and the perseverance - not easy, but much needed. When I hear about such nonsense as getting our students '21st century workforce ready' I talk about the insanity of this concept. What in the world does this mean? When I hear or read about how more testing is the answer, I again talk about the insanity of giving kids even more tests at the cost of learning. Thank goodness people are realizing that propaganda techniques have been and continue to be used on them. We need to talk about the importance of the arts, the need for diversity, the illogic of testing kids ad nauseam, in addition to the fact that ‘education should lead out’ and have our young discover and develop their many different talents and interest, for this is what our democratic society needs, not robots. Our young need to learn how to think out of the box. Who knows what the future will bring. None of has a crystal ball. Diversity is an asset, and has always been this country’s wealth. We cannot continue to use the factory model in education. Schools are not factories. In fact, this factory model so prevalent in many situations where CEOs continue to try to squeeze more and more out of people does not add value. It takes away, and ultimately, destroys. When people are valued, not overly tired from the constant grind, and have leisure time to just be, they are more creative and productive, and everyone wins, not just the CEOs. 
Quality is always better than quantity. And our young need organic material (meaningful learning engagements), not more punishment and fear. Remember bread rising, cakes baking, plants growing need fertile conditions. One is a fool if one thinks that cake will bake faster if the temperature is just turned up. The cake will burn. Our teachers and students are crashing and burning because of the insanity of NCLB, high stakes testing, and the GREED of those who don't really give one hoot about our young except to get rich and report back to their stock holders about the quarterly report. This country has gone backwards, and we like the little kid in the story, have to point out, "But the emperor does not have any clothes on." We must continue to make our voices known for the sake of our young, our country's future, and our fragile democracy. NOW IS THE TIME. We cannot let this opportunity slip. Don't let the naysayers keep you from doing what you can. NCLB Act is a BAD law, high stakes testing does not add value, reading is more than sounding out isolated sounds, writing is more than spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and the students, their parents/caregivers in consort with the teachers know more about how well a student is learning. Being able to spout isolated facts without depth of understanding mean nothing.

oh yay, thank you for above. Well...that about says it all. Count me in Yvonne.

Please go to the following link and read about the blow to living democratic principles in schools by Colorado's governor, Mr. Ritter. His actions show that he is afraid. If we have to bully our young into taking those dumb high stakes tests and instill fear and punishment in them and their parents/caregivers for resisting the insanity, this says a lot.

Go to: http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2008/06/02/daily51.html

Read about how Ritter vetoed a bill that would haved barred school officials from punishing students for skipping a state standardized asessment test.

Should schools be places where democratic principles are lived and practiced? If so, how does the punishment and fear model of high stakes testing accomplish "living" democratic principles in our public schools?

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