February 2012 Archives

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody Last week I wrote about the fairy dust of multiple measures that the Department of Education has been sprinkling on worthless Value Added Models, under the mistaken belief that this somehow renders them golden. Dept of Ed press secretary Justin Hamilton quoted Arne Duncan, who said, "here in the US teacher evaluation is all too often tied only to test scores which makes no sense." I replied "WHO uses test scores only? Can you name one district that evaluates this way?" The answer came last week, as newspapers in New York published the value ...


Guest post by Arthur Camins. Slip slidin' away Slip slidin' away You know the nearer your destination The more you're slip slidin' away Paul Simon The current narrative for improving education in the United States is based on two undeniable charges and several simple and compelling solutions. The current charges: Despite decades of effort we have failed to substantially mediate the effects of race and class on educational outcomes. Compared to product innovations in the private sector, innovations in the education sector are infrequently dispersed or institutionalized... they don't stick. We've all been there. Just when we think we nearing ...


Guest post by Rog Lucido. Year after year, Mario takes district, state and national tests. Each year Mario's individual scores are combined with others in his class, school, district, and state. The scores are sent home to parents, analyzed by teachers, districts and departments of education. Decisions are made about Mario, his teachers and his school. Belief in the validity of the scores is so strong that most people uncritically accept their truth. All high-stakes testing is based on the paradigm that learning can be 'measured' by using a device that produces a number. Tests play the role of this ...


Last Friday, I posted this essay by Teach For America corps member Jameson Brewer: Hyperaccountablity, Burnout and Blame. One of the comments came from another TFA corps member, duke solaris. This comment and Jameson's response ran yesterday, Teach For America Corps Members in Dialogue: Can this Model Work? Today, in the third installment of this dialogue, I share the latest exchange between these Teach For America corps members. To begin, duke solaris writes: Thank you for the reply, and for being willing to engage in conversation! I completely agree that the achievement gap is reflective of deeper issues in society ...


Yesterday this blog featured a guest post from a current Teach For America corps member, Jameson Brewer. The following comment was posted by another TFA teacher. A response from Jameson Brewer follows. As can be expected from a Corps Member, this is a reasonably accurate depiction of TFA's Institute and AIM, with one caveat. In my experience as a CM, TFA pushed CMs to focus within their "locus of control" and work relentlessly to pursue academic achievement for our students. The way I saw it, TFA didn't tell us to ignore socioeconomic challenges (to do so would be terrible) or ...


Guest post by Jameson Brewer. The rhetoric of educational policy is an ever swaying pendulum from the conservative right to the progressive left. However, in reality, in the decades leading up to and the ten years following the passing of No Child Left Behind, it has been neoliberal policies and practices that have dramatically shaped the American education landscape. Perhaps this claim is best characterized by the onslaught of hyper accountability that traces its most recent roots to NCLB. The neoliberal practice of hyper accountability, specifically that of teacher accountability, has led to an increase of labeling (e.g., failing ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody As the Simpson family prepared to travel south of the equator to Brazil, Homer revealed some misconceptions. In opposite land, according to Bart's father, "warm snow falls up." Reading the latest press releases and speeches from the Department of Education, sometimes I feel as if this is where we have arrived. For the past two years, the Department of Education policies have been roundly criticized by teachers. The latest response from Arne Duncan is a big public relations push bearing the title RESPECT -- Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching. However, as ...


Guest post by Steven Sellers Lapham. Note: Steven Sellers Lapham and Jack Hassard worked together on this post. Public schools in America are under attack from many directions, and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) seems bent on delivering a lethal one-two-three punch. This decade will likely witness more neighborhood schools shutting down, crowded classrooms, excellent teachers fired, and children fobbed off to "online learning programs." Let's recall that Prince Edward County, Virginia, closed its schools 1959-64, creating a "lost generation" of children who were hobbled, as adults, by years of missed education. Today, a school district in Delaware ...


Guest post by Jack Hassard. You can read Part One here. Practicing teachers, clinical professors, and researchers who work in the field know that assessing teachers or students requires much more than simply looking at test scores. And indeed, researchers who have examined the value-added assessment system which purports to measure the "teacher effect" on student achievement test scores, question it's validity and more important reliability. The Data Used to Make High-Stakes Decisions on Teachers and Students Value Added Effect For example, Terry Hibpshman, of the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, did an in-depth review of value-added models and concludes ...


Guest post by Jack Hassard. Part 1 of 2. In my post of a week ago, I reported that Georgia's Cobb County School System rejected the superintendent's proposal to hire 50 Teacher for America teachers for schools located in South Cobb. Many of the South Cobb schools are underperforming schools. I suggested that this was a good decision, but also indicated that it was done by default. The default is, that the proposal never made it to agenda of the board and thus was withdrawn for the time being. Is this another avoidance tactic? Today, we expand our thinking to ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody This week I engaged in another online debate with one of Arne Duncan's press secretaries, Justin Hamilton, who readers may recall asked me to "correct" my commentary a year ago after President Obama inadvertently criticized our over-reliance on standardized tests. This time Mr. Hamilton took issue with a question I posed in advance of Duncan's latest Twitter Town Hall. I asked, "How can you say that we should not teach to test while NCLB waivers tie teacher & principal evaluations to test scores?" To this, Hamilton (@EDpressSec) replied: "False. Waiver states using multiple measure not ...


A few days ago, I ran a guest post authored by science educator Jack Hassard; Cobb County, Georgia, Rejects Teach For America. One cogent comment came from Stuart (EdOutsider), who wrote the following: Listen, all this slapping our own backs might be fun and good, but of all the states where TFA places its teachers, three (Tennessee, North Carolina, and Louisiana) conducted a study to determine which certification path produced the greatest collective student gains. What did it find? TFA teachers (teaching in the poorest 20% of schools) outperformed all other certification routes, including residency master's programs. Yes, on 5 ...


Guest post by Gerald Coles Last week the New York Times provided valuable, disturbing information by reporting recent research on the growing educational achievement gap between rich and poor students, which has grown substantially over the past few decades, even while the achievement gap between black and white students has narrowed. As the author of one study put it, "family income appears more determinative of educational success than race." Yet, as is often true of the Times, what it gives with one hand, it takes with the other. For example, as the media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting ...


Guest post by Sarah Puglisi. Often I ask people what they think or remember of school. After 30+ years teaching public school in areas of poverty--some of the "worst," apparently, in the nation--it interests me what the answer will be. Most often it has to do with a relationship between a student, a teacher, and the student's feelings of recognition of a gift, talent, ability, possibility. This is how hope operates in a real-world context. The stories usually celebrate what assisted that person to try to "make it in a tough world." I call these the echoes of my work. ...


Guest post by Jack Hassard. Cobb County, Georgia's second largest school district, decided not to consider the superintendent's request to hire 50 Teach for America (TFA) uncertified college graduates to work in under-performing schools in South Cobb. According to an editorial in the Marietta Daily Journal, Dr. Michael Hinojosa, the county's new superintendent (formerly superintendent of the Dallas ISD) had worked with the Atlanta office of the Teach for America program behind the scenes to bring the new teachers to the school district. Teach for America recruits and then trains the teachers in 5 week summer sessions before they assume ...


Guest post by Kelly Flynn. It's an unspoken pact: teachers will not talk about the biggest roadblock to teaching and learning. They'll talk about all sorts of other things, things you've heard a million times before: that it's hard to teach a hungry child, a frightened child, or a sick child. They'll also talk about the students they love, kids who have succeeded in spite of deplorable home lives and serious learning disabilities, kids who are kind, empathetic, funny, and wise. But they refuse to talk about the elephant in the room because it has become politically incorrect to do ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody In 1961, a Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, closed his term with a speech that carried a prophetic warning. He said: Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend ...


Guest post by Jack Hassard Who the #@!% would make such a statement? Why would such a statement be made about America's youth? If you go the Broad Foundation Education page you will find the answer to the first question. This is the first of four statements about American youth, followed by "stark" statistics. The Broad Foundation says: "We have low expectations for American students." Shame on them! This is the foundation that has channeled over $400 million into education, primarily in charter schools, training of administrators, and online education. It's a very good time to be in the business of ...


Guest post by Katie Osgood. I have a pretty unique job. I work as a teacher on a child/adolescent inpatient unit at a psychiatric hospital in Chicago. My students come from all over Chicagoland and attend all types of schools: neighborhood, charter, turnaround, private, suburban, alternative, and sometimes no school at all. The vast majority of my students, however, come from low-income minority neighborhoods. My job allows me a rare birds-eye view of the educational landscape here in Chicago. And I do not like what I see. My students are often very sick. The reasons they find themselves hospitalized ...


Guest post by John Kuhn. Part Two of two. I ended the last posting with a list of possible causes of the superior academic results seen in Highland Park ISD as compared to Everman ISD. In this posting, I want to talk at length about causality, because it is at the core. The battle line over causality, like all battle lines, is defined by two sides. One side shouts, "It's poverty, stupid," and the other shouts, "Quit making excuses and get results." Who to side with? There are two main reasons I side with the poverty faction (not including the ...


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