April 2012 Archives

Guest post by Karl Wheatley A recent guest post here by John Thompson, Neither Teacher-less nor Teacher-proof: Constructivism Meets Guided Instruction, led to a lively discussion in the comments. I asked one reader to expand on his thoughts, and this post is the result. Here we go again ... How much should teachers provide direct instruction/guidance and how much should they allow for child-initiated learning and jointly-planned activities? I believe that "big-picture" research provides strong support for substantial child-initiated and jointly-planned learning (e.g., play, projects, emergent curriculum) at every grade level. Some folks consider this crazy: Is Direct Instruction ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody As criticism of No Child Left Behind and the associated tests rises, we are hearing more and more about the Common Core Standards (CCS), the next great thing that is supposed to fix all that ails us. When a talking pineapple made New York tests a laughing stock, state education commissioner John King reassured us, It is important to note that this test section does not incorporate the Common Core and other improvements to test quality currently underway. This year's tests incorporate a small number of Common Core field test questions. Next year's test ...


Guest post by Jack Hassard. This post originally appeared here. Over the past four years, two states have passed laws that protect teachers if they present "scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in applicable curricula or in a course of learning." Protecting teachers? Have these legislators heard of VAM? No protection of teachers here. What is really going on? Behind these two laws is the Discovery Institute, a non-science propaganda organization whose chief purpose is to attack Darwinian evolution, and wedge intelligent design into the science curriculum. They were foiled by ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody The recent debacle in New York over an absurd story about a pineapple racing a hare has renewed doubts about the degree to which we have come to rely on test scores for very high stakes decisions. Although it is clear we are not getting high quality information from these tests, their importance has been systematically expanding in recent years. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tells us his policies are moving us away from reliance on these tests. Jon Stewart did his best to get some straight answers from Secretary Duncan in this interview ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody The New York Daily News has perhaps inadvertently shed some light on why teachers might be hesitant to have a large portion of their evaluations based on standardized test scores. In a rare moment of transparency, one of the 8th grade reading comprehension questions has been published, in a story broken by Leonie Haimson on the New York Parents blog, and it has many people scratching their heads. The story is an absurd tale of a talking pineapple, who challenges a hare to a race. The story must be read to comprehend the controversy. ...


Guest post by Jack Hassard. Originally posted here. Note: This is the third in a series of articles on the consequences of the authoritarian standards & high-stakes testing In the next month every American girl and boy in grades 3- 8 will participate in the testing games, an annual competition to determine which schools are good or bad, whether they have a good teacher or a bad one, and what factoids they put to memory or guesswork. The "testing games" have been part of human culture for a long time, but they have taken on greater significance since policy makers have ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody As our public schools are systematically re-engineered for dubious reasons, with questionable results, by people of uncertain motives, there is a disturbing lack of skepticism on the part of our watchdogs for the public good, journalists. One of the basic principles of reporting is to ask "cui bono" - who benefits? In the Watergate scandal, the key informant whispered to reporters Woodward and Bernstein, "Follow the money." But very few reporters today seem to be "following the money" in the field of education. Veteran education reporter John Merrow recently delved into cheating scandals on ...


Guest post by Mark Simon. After over a decade of "corporate reform" strategies in many places, we have a chance to compare the results of two drastically different approaches to improving public schools. In some places, such as Washington, DC, we have seen teacher turnover skyrocket, in line with the belief that lagging student performance is due to inferior teachers. In Montgomery County, Maryland, the teachers' union and District have been following a different path for the last fifteen years, and are seeing dramatic results. "Corporate reform" is the moniker earned by the dominant paradigm in school turnarounds, the one ...


Guest post by Rog Lucido. When I came home yesterday my wife told me she received a phone call from one of my former students whom I had in my physics class in 1998-99. My wife said he was excited to connect with me as he has just finished his student teaching and would begin his first full time position in the fall. He will be teaching at-risk students. I called him and set up a time we could meet the next day. Going to my computer to check my e-mail I found this e-mail he had sent me prior ...


Guest post by Educators for Shared Accountability. A new group, Educators for Shared Accountability (ESA), has issued the first-ever Value-Added Measurement (VAM) evaluation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Secretary Duncan was rated "ineffective," based on four indicators. The United States Department of Education had a discretionary budget of $68.3 billion in fiscal year 2011. This amount was up from $64.1 billion the year before, and up from $29.4 billion in 2000. When the Department of Education was established in 1979, Congress appropriated an annual budget of $14.2 billion. In the past 33 years, the budget ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody A week ago I posted an interview with Teach For America's head of research, Heather Harding. Ms. Harding answered some tough questions that have been raised in recent months here on this blog. Today, I am sharing some responses to her answers. By way of context, I have come to believe that addressing teacher turnover is one of the linchpins of real reform in our struggling schools. Turnover is a key indicator of unhealthy working conditions for teachers -- and that tells us conditions for learning are poor as well. Programs such as Teach ...


Guest post by Jack Hassard. Achieve, Inc. stands to make a lot of money for its work creating new science standards. It might not surprise us, therefore, that a survey they commissioned favors the adoption of these standards. But we need to look at these results with skepticism. Does US competitiveness depend on our rankings on test scores? And will new standards make us better? This year, Achieve, Inc. commissioned a survey of attitudes toward science education with Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The pollsters sampled 800 voters using a stratified sampling technique so that they could ...


Guest post by Stephen Krashen Phillip K. Howard tells us that "To fix America's bureaucracy, we need to destroy it." The part most in need of destruction is not yet fully grown: The new national standards and their spawn, the new national tests. Howard points out that NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and its emphasis on standardized test scores has made it very hard for teachers to be creative and deal with children as individuals. Teaching has been reduced to "teaching to the test." It's going to get a lot worse. The US Department of Education is developing a massive ...


Guest post by John Thompson. The cover story in the American Educator "Putting Students on the Path to Learning," by Richard Clark, Paul Kirschner, and John Swelter should prompt a dialogue between teachers as well as with school "reformers." So, I want to preface my opinions with a request for the professional judgments of fellow teachers. Twenty years ago, I was a true believer in progressive, experiential, "student-centric" instruction when it was done well enough to bring focus to the learning objective. I embraced the conventional wisdom that a teacher should be "a guide on the side, but not a ...


Some Comments on Paul Farhi's "Flunking the Test" Guest post by Stephen Krashen. In "Flunking the Test," Paul Farhi concludes that the media has seriously under-reported the successes of American education and have taken the pronouncements of self-proclaimed "reformers" at face-value. Farhi backs up his argument with real data: American students' performance on international tests is much better than critics say it is, and college attendance has increased enormously. Farhi cites Pedro Noguera, who in turn mentions a Dan Rather program that "explored the link between school performance and poverty, a subject often ignored or noted only in passing in ...


Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody Over the past several months, I have featured a number of posts that were critical of Teach For America (TFA). We had education professor Phil Kovacs, who wrote several articles reviewing the research cited by TFA on their web site, and heard concerns from current TFA corps member Jameson Brewer. Last month, fellow Education Week blogger Rick Hess carried an interview with Heather Harding, TFA's vice president in charge of research, responding to some of these posts. I wrote to Ms. Harding and asked if she would answer some followup questions. Here is the ...


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