April 2011 Archives

When Will the Testing Bubble Burst?

In the mid-1920s our economy boomed. The stock market, then relatively new, soared to amazing heights, as the middle class invested their money and saw their wealth grow. But there was a problem. The stock market prices had inflated beyond the intrinsic worth of the companies they were based upon. This came to be known as a stock market bubble, because when the inflation of value stopped, the bubble burst and the economy collapsed. The nation experienced another bubble recently with the rising value of real estate, which blew up in our faces a few years ago, and is still ...


Ron Fink: Breaking the Rules to Let Kids Play

Today I am sharing a guest post from a reader -- I will let him tell the tale: By Ron Fink I compose musical plays that are used in regular classrooms, grades K-9, all over the country. My writing partner and I build the plays around mandated curriculum, but we add stories, catchy tunes, clever lyrics, and lots of really dumb jokes. Over the last 16 years teachers have produced about 115,000 performances of our 50+ shows. (We sell the scripts, the musical CDs and instructions on how any teacher, no matter how musically timid, can do a fun ...


Tests over Teachers in California

My recent dialogue with the Department of Education after President Obama acknowledged that we have gone overboard with standardized tests revealed that, in fact, there are plans to actually expand the number of mandated tests. Though we have heard a great deal about the $350 million the Dept of Ed is investing in the development of new tests, we have heard nothing about what these new tests will cost to administer, score or prepare for. As our collapsing state budgets result in increased class sizes, shuttered school libraries and the elimination of frills like music and foreign language classes, we ...


Grassroots Teacher Convention Makes Waves in Oakland

Teachers in Oakland have spoken. At the first Oakland Teachers' Convention, more than 200 teachers - close to ten percent of the teachers in the District, gathered and spent two and a half days in intense dialogue to come up with recommendations for the future success of our schools. Last October I joined something called the Effective Teaching Task Force, one of more than a dozen task forces formed under our Superintendent, Dr. Tony Smith. Oakland Unified had been under the control of administrators appointed by the State of California following a financial bailout nine years ago. Dr. Smith was ...


Sarah Rubenstein: When Will Impoverished Students Get What They Need?

Three years ago I started serving as a mentor for a young teacher at an alternative middle school in Oakland. This school was for special cases - students who had been pushed out of regular middle schools, usually because they were having behavior issues or getting in fights with other students. You can imagine the kind of environment you get when you gather all these students under one roof. The next year she landed a new position, this time at one of the wealthiest elementary schools in the hills of Oakland, surrounded by million dollar homes. She has left Oakland, ...


John Kuhn: Why Shouldn't Teachers Be Graded, Too?

Three weeks ago I shared an interview with Superintendent John Kuhn of the Perrin-Whitt Independent School District in the great state of Texas. Today he offers us a reflection on a recent experience at the state Capitol. Yesterday I testified before the Public Ed. Committee of the Texas House of Representatives on behalf of a bill that would initiate a two-year moratorium on standardized testing, known as STAAR in Texas. Here are the remarks I shared before the representatives began asking questions: I have a dilemma: I personally believe state testing is morally compromised because TEA has overwrought test security ...


Pennsylvania Parents Call for Full Court Press with Politicians

Parent activists Tim Slekar and Michele Gray have recently made headlines with their decision to publicly boycott that state's standardized testing of their children. In this guest post they offer some advice, and urge others to help our politicians understand what is happening to our children in the name of reform. By Tim Slekar and Michele Gray In the days since Anthony "misrepresented" the President's comments concerning high stakes standardized tests, the narrative is shifting. The opposition of parents and education professionals to the current school reform direction is finally being heard. Although I am not foolish enough to believe ...


The Media Discovers There is a Debate over Educational Reform!

The New York Times posted a column this morning titled The Deadlocked Debate over Educational Reform. And last week the Times ran a story covering the dialogue I was able to provoke with representatives of the Department of Education regarding President Obama's critical remarks about testing. This latest column was a bit confusing. Just as soon as they have discovered that the debate exists, they wonder if a debate is even possible! Remember NBC's Education Nation last fall? The "supermen" of reform ruled the stage, and the leading experts were Bill Gates, Davis Guggenheim and Michelle Rhee. Teachers were given ...


High Tech Testing on the Way: a 21st Century Boondoggle?

In my recent exchange with the Department of Education regarding President Obama's remarks critical of our obsession with testing, it became clear that there is a vast expansion of testing on the horizon. Few reports have emerged that describe this, and I fear the public may be unaware of the resources that soon will be diverted from our already decimated classrooms. I asked two of the nation's experts on this trend to share what they have learned about this recently. Here is their report. by Stephen Krashen and Susan Ohanian When the plans to create Common Core Standards were announced, ...


President Obama: We Want for Our Children What You Want for Yours

Last week I kicked the hornet's nest by pointing out that President Obama's remarks at a town hall meeting do not align with the policies being carried out by his Department of Education. This was picked up by a number of fellow bloggers, including Valerie Strauss, Deborah Meier, Doug Noon and Ira Socol.Today, the New York Times ran an article on the imbroglio, featuring quotes from myself and our correspondent at the Department of Education, Justin Hamilton. Let me explain why I think this is resonating so much. The Obama campaign relied on the energy of millions of us, ...


The Department of Education Cannot Unring the Bell Obama Struck

Last Monday, President Obama went off script at a town hall meeting, and in response to a question from student Luis Zelaya, offered us a vision for education. In 338 words, he made it clear that current Department of Education policy is way out of line with what he knows is best for his own daughters, and for students across the nation. After I expressed this view in my blog Monday night, Justin Hamilton, a press secretary for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, wrote to me and I then sent him four questions. On Friday he answered three of them, ...


Dept. of Ed Responds Again: "Secretary Duncan Totally Concurs with President Obama"

A week ago I posted a blog pointing out that President Obama's remarks at a town hall meeting seemed to undermine Department of Education policies. I received a request for a correction to my post from Justin Hamilton, Press Secretary to Secretary Duncan. He agreed to answer some questions for me. Friday I posted his responses to my first three questions. Today, he has answered the fourth. My question: President Obama also said: So what I want to do is--one thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you're not ...


Obama Knows Best, Part 2: "Too Often we are Using These Tests to Punish Students or Schools."

Last Monday, President Obama went off script at a town hall meeting, and in response to a question from student Luis Zelaya, offered us a vision for education. In 338 words, he made it clear that current Department of Education policy is way out of line with what he knows is best for his own daughters, and for students across the nation. After I expressed this view in my blog Monday night, Justin Hamilton, a press secretary for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, wrote to me and requested that I correct my post, providing me with his official interpretation of ...


Obama Knows Best, Part One: How Should we Assess Learning?

The journalist Michael Kinsley once said "a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth." A week ago, President Obama opened his mouth in an unscripted town hall, and the truth accidentally fell out. By now, you have read his words. You can view the event here. President Obama was responding as a father, and reflecting on how he sees his own daughters, Sasha and Malia, experience tests at their exclusive private school. This is an excellent model for the way student learning should be assessed. Just to be clear, the whole point of my post Monday night was ...


Obama's Policies Under Fire: Department of Ed Responds

On Monday night I posted a blog pointing out that President Obama's remarks at a town hall meeting seemed to undermine Department of Education policies. I received a request for a correction to my post from Justin Hamilton, Press Secretary to Secretary Duncan. He agreed to answer some questions for me, which I posted earlier today. Note that in my questions, I included President Obama's remarks. Mr. Hamilton has removed those quotes in his reply. From Justin Hamilton: Before I answer your questions, I want to say that President Obama and Secretary Duncan believe that assessing student achievement and their ...


Just Who is Misinterpreting President Obama on Education Policy?

The four questions the Department of Education promises to answer soon (here are answers to the first three) On Monday I wrote a post contrasting President Obama's insightful thoughts about standardized tests to policies that are being pursued by his own Department of Education. Justin Hamilton, a press operative for the Department of Education believes I have misinterpreted President Obama's remarks, and on Wednesday he sent me an email requesting that I correct my post. He offered me the following "clarifications": While President Obama and Secretary Duncan are open to how we can best assess student progress in subject areas ...


The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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