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The Launch of a Bold Néw Website for Teachers and Their Allies

Diane Ravitch's blog

When I heard from Randy Hoover about his new website called “The Teacher-Advocate.com,” I asked him to write a post explaining his hopes and goals. I knew that he could describe it better than I could. Hoover spent 46 years as an educator.

Randy Hoover writes:

A Project to Reanimate Teacher Advocacy
(Teacher-Advocate.com)
Randy L. Hoover, PhD
Emeritus Professor, Youngstown State University

I began teaching in the late 60s, a political science major who never took an education course nor wanted anything to do with teaching or public schools but who fell into a 6th grade social studies teaching job in Madison, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. I will omit the somewhat sordid details of how I got the job and simply say that within a few weeks of encountering my first middle school students, my life took a 180-degree turn for the better, and I never looked…

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If I Were a Potted Plant

David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education

 

If I were a potted plant, then I would have one of two types of caretakers:

  1. Active Caretaker
  2. Passive Caretaker

An active caretaker would tend to me frequently by providing me with the needed water, nutrients and sunlight. When the time was right they would transplant me to a bigger pot that would allow me to grow to my greatest potential. They may have to move me to several larger and larger pots.

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A passive caretaker would put me in the corner; water me once in a while and rarely set me where there is any sunlight. I would soon outgrow current pot but my passive caretaker would not move me to a bigger pot. Soon I will begin to turn brown and then eventually die.

 

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I use this analogy to compare the relationship between employees /supervisor or teachers/principals.

What kind of caretaker do you have or what…

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North Carolina Teacher: “I Am Embarrassed to Confess: I Am a Teacher”

Diane Ravitch's blog

Sarah Wiles, a science teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools with six years experience and a master’s degree, sent an email to every member of the North Carolina General Assembly with the subject line: “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher.”

This was her email:

“From: Sarah Wiles

“Sent: Tuesday, May 06, 2014 6:47 PM

“Every year there is a debate on teacher compensation. This is only exacerbates during election years. However, nothing happens. As a sixth year teacher, I have only seen a pay increase once (and then again after plunging myself into debt by earning my Masters in Education). I have attended rallies, joined NCAE, petitioned, and worn red (or blue and white, or whatever color of the rainbow I was required to wear to “show my support’). Nothing ever changes, except my wardrobe. So, that brings me to this one request: leave me alone.

“I am…

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Autonomy Must Precede Accountability

Beautiful and to the point: Accountability without Autonomy is Tyranny. This summarizes the bulk of what is wrong with today’s attempts at educational reform.

radical eyes for equity

Nearly 2.5 years ago, I wrote directly about the essential flaw with the thirty-plus-years accountability movement in K-12 U.S. public education. That essential flaw is that accountability built on standards and high-stakes testing is a corruption of the concept of accountability—which may be better understood as “responsibility.”

The corrupted “accountability” imposed on students, teachers, and schools in this model fails to establish first some key conditions in which accountability proper can be valid, ethical, and effective:

  • Identify clearly and openly the conditions that are in need of reform as well as the causational roots of those conditions.
  • Insure and then honor the autonomy of those being held accountable.
  • Insure accountability does not include conditions over which those being held accountable have no real control.

As a teacher, and if I am allowed my professional autonomy, I cannot control the outcomes of my students since those outcomes are impacted significantly by…

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Doing Classroom Research

Small Data: What professional educators have been doing for years.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

At a time when Big Data rules, I look for small answers to big questions about how policies get translated into classroom practices. Big Data can be seen in massive surveys when thousands of teachers respond to questions that pollsters ask. And yes, there are huge data sets derived from major projects that video teacher lessons as well as from students who answer questions about their teachers when taking national and international tests.

But if you really want to know and understand teachers, teaching, learning, and students, one must spend time in classrooms listening and watching the key actors who create good-to-poor lessons. Big Data go for the generalization overlooking the particular that often matters to policymakers, researchers, and practitioners.

Classroom research is crucial to understanding how policymaker decisions aimed at improving instruction and curriculum (think Common Core Standards, 1:1 tablets for kindergartners, Judging teachers on the basis of student…

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Why the Common Core Standards for Grades K-3 Are Wrong

Diane Ravitch's blog

A group of early childhood educators explain here why the Common Core is inappropriate for children in grades K-3. This statement is an excerpt from their joint publication “Defending the Early Years.”

The first mistake of the Common Core is that it “maps backwards” from what is needed for high school graduation and ignores the kind of learning that is developmentally appropriate for young children. “An example of a developmentally inappropriate Common Core standard for kindergarten is one that requires children to “read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding.” Many young children are not developmentally ready to read in kindergarten and there is no research to support teaching reading in kindergarten. There is no research showing long-term advantages to reading at 5 compared to reading at 6 or 7.”

The second mistake is that the CCSS assumes that all children learn at the same rate and in the…

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Another Report Finds VAM is Flawed

Diane Ravitch's blog

A new report prepared by Andy Porter, dean of the graduate school of education at University of Pennsylvania, and Morgan Polikoff of the University of Southern California caution about value-added-measurement, basing teacher evaluation on test scores, because this method has “a weak to nonexistent link with teacher performance.”

Why are at least 30 states using this flawed measure? Because Arne Duncan made it a requirement of eligibility for Race to the Top and for state waivers. Despite the lack of evidence or negative evidence, states have passed laws tying as much as 50% of a teachers’ evaluation on scores.

“Morgan Polikoff and Andrew Porter, two education experts, analyzed the relationships between “value-added model” (VAM) measures of teacher performance and the content or quality of teachers’ instruction by evaluating data from 327 fourth and eighth grade math and English teachers in six school districts. The weak relationships made them question whether…

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New Math Standards in Texas, Grades 3-8

Texas just changed the math standards for grades 3-8 beginning next school year. Major changes mean a series of unfortunate events for teachers and students.

Students in 4th grade will be expected to know a large quantity of what 6th graders are currently expected to know. There’s a lot of new stuff added for everyone as well. Teachers and students have serious obstacles to face here. 

First, how is a student freshly out of 3rd grade going to perform at 6th grade level by testing time? (High school algebra students where I teach are often struggling with the concept of y=mx+b at test time.) I wonder if our legislators have considered that a child might not be cognitively able to perform math at this level. Or if a teacher can actually cram three years of math into one year — never mind if a child’s mind can hold it. 

Second, regarding incoming 3rd graders, how is an 8 or 9 year old going to not only cover this new gap with any retention, but how is this child going to cover all of the additional standards the legislator has added as well? The standards teachers must get them to by 4th grade will be insurmountable, it seems to me. 

Third, the STAAR test will have to be re-made. The test will be new. A teacher has no idea what will be on the test or what it will look like, but must prepare their students to do well on it. How can a teacher effectively manage this feat in addition to the new standards?

Fourth, a teacher is evaluated on his or her students’ performance on this one test through VAM methods (EVAAS in our district). What kind of accuracy can be expected when the test has never been given, the students being tested have never before taken a standardized test, and any projections that COULD be made are on a completely different test with completely different standards? Not that VAM evaluations are logical, reliable, or accurate in the first place. 

Fifth, this evaluation will affect the state’s accountability as well as federal NCLB accountability. 

The logistics of this are confounding. 

Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff are currently working on a plan for assessing grades 3–8 mathematics in spring 2015. The plan will involve a special operational administration that incorporates the revised mathematics TEKS as indicated in the recently posted STAAR assessed curriculum documents and blueprints available on the STAAR Mathematics Resources webpage at: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/math/. 
For the spring 2015 STAAR grades 3–8 mathematics test administrations, students will receive a raw score (XX questions correct out of XX total questions) prior to the end of the school year based on their performance on the assessments. Then data from the spring administrations will be used to establish new performance standards for STAAR mathematics in summer 2015. 

                                                                                                                                             — TEA Release

 

 

Furthermore, it involves some mathematical acrobatics. 

The new performance standards will be retroactively applied to the spring 2015 administrations with new reports and data files sent to school districts in August 2015. 
Because performance standards for STAAR grades 3–8 mathematics will not be set until after the spring 2015 administration, Student Success Initiative (SSI) retest opportunities for STAAR grades 5 and 8 mathematics will not be offered in May and June of 2015. For the 2014–2015 school year, districts will use other relevant academic information to make promotion/retention decisions for mathematics. 

                                                                                                                                             — TEA Release, emphasis added

 

To all math teachers, I say good luck. To all math teachers, grades 3-8 — I wish you more than luck. I wish you a miracle.

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If This Is Teacher Appreciation, I’m Glad It Is Only a Week

Yes!

radical eyes for equity

Talk back, speak up, be heard.

Bill Ayers, To Teach.

This is not the time for the teacher of any language to follow the line of least resistance, to teach without the fullest possible knowledge of the implications of his medium.

LaBrant, L. (1947, January). Research in languageElementary English, 24(1), 86-94.

The first full week in May 2014 is a swift punch in the gut of teachers across the U.S. since the week is both Teacher Appreciation Week and National Charter School Week.

Not since Waiting for “Superman” have teacher bashing and “miracle school” mania had such a distorted coexistence.

Here in my home state of South Carolina, we are witnessing a steady stream of Op-Eds written by teachers calling for VAM and an end to seniority in the dismissal of teachers. Yes, written by teachers. We also have a steady dose of Op-Eds about the…

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Teaching

Students Are Not Like Beans

Great teaching and learning goes beyond standardized testing. Way beyond.

We are modeling our test-culture after a business theory popular mandated in the States that is based on quarterly earnings. This trains the eye toward the next quarter and the next quarter only. Myopia becomes the norm as participants scrape by on quotas. Similarly, students are put into various demographic groups and given frequent assessments. Their performance on these assessments (every three weeks in my current district) is analyzed to find out if each demographic is meeting the district’s quota. Easily enough, a person can see that this method is deeply flawed, primarily because people aren’t beans. This isn’t the way it has to be.

“Bean counting is the consequence of a view of the world as consisting of “things” to be manipulated, rather than people to be interacted with and conversed with and responded to.” — Steve Denning, Forbes Business, Online.

In fact, a student is very unlike a bean in so many ways. Consider the following ten facts about beans:

1. Beans are not cognitive creatures. 

2. Beans do not experience grief. 

3. Beans do not experience poverty. 

4. Beans do not experience discrimination. 

5. Beans are not affected by their inability to read, problem solve, or learn as well as other beans. 

6. Beans never need foster care, child support, or doctors’ visits. 

7. Beans do not feel the need to pretend everything is ok. 

8. Beans are not afraid to ask for help. 

9. Beans do not pressure other beans into poor decisions. 

10. Beans do not experience puberty.

I could continue to outline the many fascinating ways that students are not like beans, but but imagine if beans were just like students. Would frequent testing make the beans better beans? Or would a farmer be first obligated to address the ten issues (and hundreds more) first before considering the validity of any test or the judgment a test pronounces upon the quality of the beans (and their little bean trainers)?

No doubt, this metaphor is extremely exhausted by this point, but it certainly reveals the “data-driven” status quo’s absurdity. Great teaching is more than science — it is inarguably an art. A great teacher will be sensitive to a student’s individual needs in a way that no standardized test can be. A great teacher will be encouraging when a student feels defeated in ways that no standardized test could measure. A great teacher will strive to move mountains blocking a student’s achievements in ways VAM can not account. Great teachers are sensitive to a student’s stagnation and growth, pain and delight, poverty and privilege, anxiety and assuredness, turmoil and peace — and the list goes on.

I’ve compared our educational model to that of Germany’s in an earlier article. We can make a similar comparison here in the financial world. Germans rely upon great detail regarding complex businesses (like engineering fields) and take exacting measurements — however they consider the long term. If a product or service is currently unprofitable, they will likely continue to keep it if it shows future promise. They have more data and it is vastly more accurate. They have a much stronger information system than companies in the US as well. If you’re interested in reading more about this system, Management Accounting Quarterly has a wonderful abstract from 2007.

While it may sound at first like I’m arguing in favor of more data, I’m not. But I am. I don’t think the kind of data that comes from standardized tests could be construed by ANYONE as high quality or accurate. I do however think that the kind of “data” a master teacher utilizes day to day IS of this high quality and accuracy. Teachers use this data all day long — they confer and collaborate with colleagues about assignment ideas and lesson planning, they reflect with each other on the outcome of a lesson or event, they adapt their own lessons class after class throughout the day based on data that is collected in real-time through dozens of formative assessments while teaching. A really great teacher knows that their students succeed when they work well with teachers who teach the same students — regardless of department, when they listen to kids who look like they need an ear, and when they voice their concerns to the appropriate parties responsible for making in-the-now changes.

We horizontially align and vertically align — mostly through email and conversations in the hallway or during conferences. We pore over data we collect on our individual students when we ask a collegue, “Did Danny seem upset today? I wonder what was wrong?” and our reply is, “I called his grandmother. They were evicted since she lost her job and in two weeks they’re worried they will be living in a car.” We find solutions to challenges that no CCSS could ever address to help a student become successful.

The problem isn’t that students are not beans. The problem is the status quo is treating them like beans.

 

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