March 2012 Archives

Department of Education Responds with More Information about Turnarounds

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody On Tuesday, I posted a blog titled "Spinning the Numbers on Turnarounds: School Improvement Grant Controversy Brews." In it I questioned the very limited information Secretary Duncan had released the previous week, when he claimed positive results for the program. I even went so far as to question what the numbers could mean. I had written to the Department of Education asking for clarification on Monday, but had not received any reply. Thursday, an entry was posted at the Department of Education's Homeroom blog, which contained further information that clarified the issue. I immediately ...


Ellen Holmes: NEA's Priority Schools Focus on Teacher Expertise, Parent and Community Involvement

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody This week I have been looking at the issue of Turnarounds and the Department of Education's School Improvement Grants, drawing from a conference I attended sponsored by the Education Writers Association. One of the speakers there was a former teacher named Ellen Holmes, who now leads the National Education Association's Priority Schools Campaign. I asked her to explain more about their work in this area. Anthony: What is the NEA's Priority Schools project? Ellen Holmes: The Priority Schools Campaign is the NEA's commitment to struggling schools. The Campaign was born at the 2009 NEA ...


Flipping the Script on Turnarounds: Why not Retain Teachers instead of Reject Them?

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody At the Education Writers Association conference on School Improvement last Saturday, I was a bit of a contrarian. Many speakers suggested we need to "break the culture" at failing schools. A number suggested that the reason federal policies were not working was because too many schools were choosing the least disruptive option from the four allowed, and therefore were not firing enough of their lackluster staff. I asked one speaker if perhaps we might rethink the need to fire so many teachers given the recent research on the negative effects turnover has on student ...


Spinning the Numbers on Turnarounds: School Improvement Grant Controversy Brews

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody It has been said that "numbers tell the tale." But at the Education Writers Association forum on School Improvement Grants in Chicago Saturday, I saw the same numbers being used to tell some very different stories -- raising serious questions about efforts to improve schools by closing them or giving them "turnaround" treatments. Chicago has long been the epicenter for school "turnarounds." Going way back to 1997, this city has had strong mayoral control of its schools, and has experimented with school closures, reconstitutions, and the latest version, turnarounds. Former Chicago education CEO Arne ...


John Kuhn Roars Back: Texans Rebel Against Testing

Texas has become a hotspot of rebellion against standardized testing. Earlier this year, state education commissioner Robert Scott compared test publishers to the military industrial complex. More than 100 school districts have passed a resolution saying standardized testing is "strangling" their schools. And on Saturday, several thousand Texans gathered at the state capitol in Austin for the Save Texas Schools rally. One of the speakers was a man we first heard at a similar protest more than a year ago, Superintendent John Kuhn. Here is what Superintendent Kuhn had to say. When a government fails to safeguard the development of ...


Teachers and Parents Prepare to Occupy the Department of Education

Last summer many of us marched to protest the US Department of Education's policies at the Save Our Schools march in Washington, DC. While there, I met two activists, Pennsylvania parent Tim Slekar and Florida teacher Ceresta Smith. They are now working to organize an "occupation" of the Department of Education, beginning next Friday, March 30. Here is what they have to say. What are your concerns about the policies coming from the Department of Education? Ceresta Smith: My greatest concern is the implementation of DoEd policies have many accepting fiction as true fact. High stakes test scores do not ...


Gates/Scholastic Teacher Survey Challenges Assumptions About Test-Based Reform

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody The big headline from the recent Gates/Scholastic survey of teachers is that only 28% of teachers see standardized tests as an essential or important gauge of student assessment, and only 26% say they are accurate as a reflection of student knowledge. Another question reveals part of the reason this may be so - only 45% of teachers think their students take these tests seriously, or perform to the best of their ability. We have been stuck in an accountability rut for the past decade, with most reform initiatives revolving around test scores of ...


A Million Teachers Prepare to March Out the Classroom Door

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody The Metlife survey of American teachers has been much discussed in recent weeks. The biggest red flag I see waving here is the 70% increase, over the past two years, in the number of teachers who are likely to leave the profession in the next five years (from 17% to 29%). Assuming this data is accurate, this amounts to more than a million teachers who are preparing to march out of our classrooms. And this is in addition to the roughly one million baby boomers approaching retirement age! I wonder if the teaching profession ...


Jack Hassard: Charter School Data Fuels Controversy in Georgia

Guest post by Jack Hassard. The Charter school movement has been in the news recently in Georgia. The Georgia Legislature is trying to get around the present Charter School law which says that applications for establishing a charter school must be approved by the local school district. According to the Georgia Department of Education, there are 133 charter schools operating in Georgia. Charter schools are public schools of choice that operate under the terms of a charter, or contract, with an authorizer, such as the state and local boards of education, or the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. Charter schools receive ...


John Thompson: New York Reformers Show Their True Colors

Guest post by John Thompson. If nothing else, the controversy over publicizing New York City teachers' value-added scores has revealed the essence of test-driven school "reform." The contemporary data-driven accountability experiment was begun by idealists, who sincerely sought a "civil rights movement of the 21st century," but who were clueless about the realities of urban education, and now it is in shambles. Some honest reformers, like the Washington Post''s Jay's Mathews, seem to ruefully acknowledge that the bubble-in mania produced "sand castles carefully constructed on the beach." Other accountability hawks, such as Stanford's Eric Hanushek, admit that New York's latest ...


Teacher Evaluation: Should we Look at Evidence of Learning?

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody In the mistaken belief that test scores are adequate reflections of learning, we have created vast systems to extract test score data, and now are requiring that this data be incorporated in teacher and principal evaluations across the country. Can we return to an authentic use of evidence and data in teacher evaluations? The publication of teacher ratings generated by Value Added Models (VAM) in New York has prompted some closer examination of their validity, as I discussed here yesterday. This has brought into the mainstream what was, up until recently, a discussion among ...


VAM gets Slammed: Teacher Evaluation Not A Game of Chance

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody Teachers in New York City have been slammed by the publication of VAM ratings for 18,000 of them. But something new is happening this time, and it was not what proponents of the use of these ratings for evaluative purposes intended or wanted. People are actually delving into the data to see what it shows. This week Teach For America founder CEO Wendy Kopp became the latest advocate of VAM to denounce the publication of scores in the press, and the associated public scorning of the "bad teachers" they supposedly revealed. In taking ...


Vince Marsala: Politicians are Wrecking Our Schools

Guest post by Vince Marsala. As election season nears, grandstanding Democratic and Republican politicians will discuss the importance of educators and not teaching to a test. Then, with their empty rhetoric still in the air, they will enact laws that base evaluations on test scores, weaken due process, and inject competition. Meanwhile, many news organizations, who have failed to report on why many educators are against these things, will hail their efforts. None of these efforts will work, and the thousands of teachers and principals who have criticized these ideas will then clean up the mess. In 1991, New York ...


Jack Hassard: Are Science Standards Taught as if they were Bricks?

Guest Post by Jack Hassard. In the last post we used science education research to show how accountability standards in science education today pose barriers to meaningful learning in science. Today, we extend this theme, and show that the theory of learning underlying the accountability standards movement is in conflict with contemporary theories used to explain how students learn. Ideas as Bricks. John Dewey believed that learning is embedded in experiences when the student interacts with the environment, which is when humans work to deal with the tensions between themselves and their surroundings. Dewey believed that learning is natural, not ...


Jack Hassard: A Skeptical Look at Science Standards

Guest Post by Jack Hassard. Over the next two posts I am going to focus on standards- and test-based educational reform with an eye toward opening a conversation about how standards and high-stakes tests might actually impede science teaching and learning. We begin by examining the science standards, which have been an integral part of science education since the publication of the National Science Education Standards by National Research Council in 1995. Then in 2011, the National Research Council published A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas. The Framework is now being used by Achieve, ...


March Madness Begins in Our Schools: It's Test Prep Time

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody In our nation's public schools, March Madness has taken on a whole new meaning. It is test prep time in America. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is fond of saying that we should not teach the test. At the same time, there are huge consequences for schools, teachers and principals that do not raise test scores. The NCLB waivers allow states to eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the majority of schools, but huge pressure will still be applied to the bottom tier of schools, those with high poverty and large numbers of English ...


Bill Schechter: I Was a Teacher, Not a Number

Guest post by Bill Schechter. Clearly, I was a superb teacher. Probably one of the best. That's what the numbers show, and numbers don't lie. Before I retired after 35-years as a high school teacher, almost none of my school's students failed the state standardized tests mandated by the 1993 Education Reform Act in Massachusetts. How about a passing rate of 97%! True, I taught in an affluent district where most students were so enriched even before they entered my classroom that sometimes I thought their heads would explode. Mostly their parents were professionals. College? Not an issue. The real ...


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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