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May 29, 2013

Michelle Newsum: Tracking Our Way to Wider Achievement Gaps

Under the fear created by NCLB/RTTT, large scale ability group tracking has made its way back into schools. Because tracking is commonly considered odious, and the research does not support it, no one calls it that. It is now given cuter or more palatable names like 'Walk to Read' or 'Intervention Time' even 'Flexible Grouping.' (Although some schools have flexible grouping and intervention time that takes place in classrooms and is quite lovely.)

May 27, 2013

Will Teacher Prep Academies Replace Schools of Education?

Schools of Education will become an endangered species if this bill becomes law. Advocates have long hungered for "disruption" of the "monopoly" that schools of education have had on teacher preparation. This bill would create big incentives for states to allow virtually anyone to set themselves up as a teacher preparation academy.

May 18, 2013

Katie Lapham: Data Shows Not Enough Teaching

I did some of my own data analysis to determine how many school days will be non-teaching for me this year. It does not include the amount of classroom time that was lost to preparing my students for state tests. That data is forthcoming. In addition to the 40 days I will have spent doing state test work, seven school days were devoted to attending New York City DOE professional development workshops. A few were quite useful to my teaching practice; at one I learned new strategies for teaching reading and writing to ELLs (English-language learners), and another validated my collaborative teaching efforts. However, the others dealt solely with accountability matters such as learning how to use the AMAO (Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives) estimation tools, and looking at the new Common Core-fortified NYSESLAT assessment. The NYSESLAT is an annual four-part assessment given every spring to ELLs in New York State.

May 16, 2013

Dystopia: A Possible Future of Teacher Evaluation

This is a future I believe is possible given the systems and structures being promoted by technocrats like Gates. This is NOT the way the system has been described by Bill Gates or any of his representatives. They tend to use the language of feedback and collaboration. But as I have been asking, if collaboration is the goal, why must this be embedded in an evaluation process, which has the goal of determining who ought to be fired?

May 15, 2013

Monty Neill: Building Effective Campaigns for Testing Reform

Across the country, many local school boards, superintendents and principals have been speaking out against excessive testing. Parents, teachers, students and community groups should work with them to reduce the number of tests and any stakes attached to them. Those who still support the status quo need to be educated and, if necessary, pressured. In cities with appointed school boards, political pressure often will need to work through other avenues.

May 14, 2013

Monty Neill: Authentic Assessment as Part of a Testing Reform Campaign

Across the nation, a rebellion is brewing against testing overuse and misuse. But just saying "no" isn't enough. In fact, high-quality feedback from assessment is vital to teaching and learning. Students, teachers and parents need to know whether kids are making progress. Communities and taxpayers deserve to know if schools are serving children well and children are succeeding. To win change, activists must offer proposals for better assessment systems coupled with demands to end harmful practices.

May 13, 2013

Monty Neill: Building a Successful Test Reform Movement

Over the past few months, I've been involved in dialogues and public meetings aimed at furthering the testing reform movement. Our conversations focused on how to win key goals: less testing, lower stakes, and better assessment practices. In this post, I focus on basic goals and strategy for launching a campaign. In subsequent posts, I will discuss the importance of pushing for high-quality assessments, and then propose tactics to educate the public, develop strong coalitions, and persuade policymakers.

May 10, 2013

John Thompson: An Improbable Tale of Successful Reform

Kirp then dissects the dramatic turnaround of the entire school system of Union City, New Jersey, and he shows how we can build great schools on the strengths of our democratic culture. Its answer did not come from technocrats from the outside, but from a local culture of "abrazos" or caring. Rather than firing our way to the top, Kirp shows that school improvement must come from trusting relationships. The secret sauce of Union City's success is "respeto," or respect.

May 08, 2013

Bill Gates' TED Talk: Are Video Cameras the Missing Link?

Bill Gates has described himself as a technocrat, so perhaps it is natural that he would fixate on some piece of technology as the missing element. But the real things that are missing are the time that teachers need to work together, and the understanding that this time will be most fruitful when teachers are given the autonomy to tackle the challenges they face, rather than micromanaged and driven by test score data.

May 01, 2013

Are Education Innovators Channeling B.F. Skinner?

So what is wrong with these machines and this mechanical "personalization"? The modern versions of the teaching machines are certainly more sophisticated than these dinosaurs of the 1950s. But they have more in common than just the promises made on their behalf. If we look over the shoulders of children in computer labs today, most of the programs are variations of those described by Dr. Skinner. Students are given a short text or math problem and must provide the correct answer. Often there is a game or snazzy cartoon characters who dress up the process and make it more fun, but the essence has not changed much. Students follow a course of study with bits of learning sprinkled along a pathway, and then take periodic tests to show they have mastered that mouthful.

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