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Living outside the echo chamber

Fortune cookie: The purpose of argument should not be victory, but progress.

This past weekend I engaged in a really long discussion thread about charter schools in which I was definitely a minority voice. Was it maddening and frustrating? Yep. Was I personally insulted on numerous occasions? Yep. Is it highly possible that I made no dent whatsoever on anyone’s thinking? Yep. Was I sometimes glad that those people weren’t in charge of my children’s education and sad that they were in charge of others’? Yep. Was it good for me? Yep.

In his book, The Big Sort, Bill Bishop notes that we are geographically clustering into like-minded groups. The same is true online, leading to narrowcasting and increased likelihood of calcified thinking within echo chambers. When’s the last time we stepped outside our bubbles? How often do we voluntarily expose ourselves to alternative worldviews? (who’s in our Twitter stream? our RSS reader? our Facebook news feed?) And how are we going to come together to compromise and make necessary policy and other educational changes if we don’t even understand each other?

Image credit: The purpose of argument, jon collier

Test makers should not be driving instruction

In a post about the difficulty of New York’s Common Core assessments, Robert Pondiscio said:

Test makers have an obligation to signal to the field the kind of instructional choices they want teachers to make

via http://edexcellence.net/articles/new-york%E2%80%99s-common-core-tests-tough-questions-curious-choices

I’m going to disagree with Robert on this one. I’m fairly certain that test makers should NOT be the ones driving instruction…

Education is and always has been a civil rights issue

Alan Aja said:

Education is and always has been a civil rights issue. Children of color deserve far better than they are getting now. There is no halcyon era in the past when our schools were doing just dandy in this regard. But there was a time when we had a societal awareness that poverty was a pervasive and pernicious source of educational problems. There was a time when federal funds were not awarded based on competition between states, but on the needs of their students. There was a time when the Federal government promoted – even mandated – desegregation, rather than promoting semi-private charter schools that accelerate it.

via http://www.livingindialogue.com/civil-rights-or-civil-wrongs-a-closer-look-at-the-common-core

What testing should do for us

Multiple choice test

John Robinson said:

‘We would like to dethrone measurement from its godly position, to reveal the false god it has been. We want instead to offer measurement a new job – that of helpful servant. We want to use measurement to give us the kind and quality of feedback that supports and welcomes people to step forward with their desire to contribute, to learn, and to achieve.’ – Margaret Wheatley, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time

Want to know what’s wrong with testing and accountability today? It’s more about a ‘gotcha game’ than really trying to help teachers improve their craft. Over and over ad nauseam, those pushing these tests talk about using test data to improve teaching and thereby student learning, but that’s not what is happening at all.

via http://the21stcenturyprincipal.blogspot.com/2014/08/time-to-dethrone-testing-from-its-godly.html

Image credit: Exams Start… Now, Ryan M.

So long as profits are being made, the inadequacies of ed reform ‘solutions’ can be masked

Anthony Cody said:

Here is the deeper problem with [Bill] Gates’ model for education reform. It is built on a vision for social change that asserts that in order for the needs of the poor to be met effectively, the drive for profit must be unleashed. Gates views this as the driving force for innovation.

All of [Gates’] ‘reforms’ undermine the democratic control of our public education system, and wherever possible, shift control into testing companies, private ventures, or individuals subject to corporate influence.

Market-based solutions have a major flaw. When profit is used as the motivator, the most needy students are not served well. The measurement systems that the Gates Foundation has promoted, such as VAM-based teacher evaluations, actually punish teachers who work with the neediest students. Charter schools have been found to consistently under enroll the neediest special ed students, leaving that burden to the public schools. Charter schools are increasing the level of segregation in many cities. Solutions based on technological innovations, so beloved by Gates, have yet to reduce inequities – and may even increase them, as this research suggests. The cities Gates lauded for imposing mayoral control of schools, and high pressure focused on test score accountability, actually performed worse than cities not under such regimes.

However, so long as profits are being made, the inadequacies of these ‘solutions’ can be masked, because the corporations making money can provide active financial support to lawmakers willing to give them support, and few in the media are willing to run the risk of incurring the epithets of the billionaires they might offend by uncovering the unsavory side of reform.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/07/questioning_education_reformer.html

The takeover of Camden

Julia Sass Rubin said:

Many parents – and Camden public school administrators – also believe that a complete charter takeover of the district is inevitable and beyond their control. There is even a publicly-available blueprint that details the Christie Administration’s intentions to convert Camden into a New Orleans style all-charter district that includes a few remaining public schools to educate the children too challenging for the charter chains to take on – children with significant special needs; children who are not English proficient; and children whose families are too economically or emotionally distressed to meet the charter networks’ parental-involvement requirements.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/07/charters_school_networks_and_s.html

So much for separate is unequal

“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” – Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Well, so much for that…

kindergarten poverty

via http://www.epi.org/publication/black-hispanic-kindergartners-disproportionately

See also the resegregation research from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

The REAL international story of American education

Linda Darling-Hammond said:

Federal policy under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Department of Education’s ‘flexibility’ waivers has sought to address [the problem of international competitiveness] by beefing up testing policies — requiring more tests and upping the consequences for poor results: including denying diplomas to students, firing teachers, and closing schools. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn’t worked. In fact, U.S. performance on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) declined in every subject area between 2000 and 2012 — the years in which these policies have been in effect.

Now we have international evidence about something that has a greater effect on learning than testing: Teaching. The results of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), released last week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), offer a stunning picture of the challenges experienced by American teachers, while providing provocative insights into what we might do to foster better teaching — and learning — in the United States.

In short, the survey shows that American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work. Not surprisingly, two-thirds feel their profession is not valued by society — an indicator that OECD finds is ultimately related to student achievement.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. middle-school teachers work in schools where more than 30 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. This is by far the highest rate in the world, and more than triple the average TALIS rate. The next countries in line after the United States are Malaysia and Chile.

Along with these challenges, U.S. teachers must cope with larger class sizes (27 versus the TALIS average of 24). They also spend many more hours than teachers in any other country directly instructing children each week (27 versus the TALIS average of 19). And they work more hours in total each week than their global counterparts (45 versus the TALIS average of 38), with much less time in their schedules for planning, collaboration, and professional development.

via http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-darlinghammond/to-close-the-achievement_b_5542614.html

It’s not that we don’t believe in bad teachers, it’s that we don’t believe in you

Peter Greene said:

I think there are faux tin hat physicists who are closer to building a cold fusion generator and a perpetual motion machine than reformsters are to building a reliable and accurate system for identifying bad teachers.

Do I think there’s a valuable conversation to be had about less effective teachers and how to best deal with them in a school system? Oh, boy, do I. But we aren’t ready for that conversation, because you aren’t ready to admit that you don’t have a clue how to tell a great teacher having a bad day from a good teacher with a tough class from a bad teacher who probably should be a shoe salesman from a great teacher who just got randomly swept up by whatever mangled metric you loosed upon the teaching world.

You keep saying you want to raise the bar when mostly you’re just swinging the bar wildly around with closed eyes and every time you randomly clobber something you cry out, “There– it’s another bad teacher!” As long as you are swinging bad metrics around like so many long-dead cats on a ten-foot pole, no teacher is going to be comfortable getting anywhere near you and your super-secret method for weeding out the riff from the raff.

It really is not that we don’t believe in bad teachers, or that we think they should be enshrined and preserved. What we don’t believe in is you, and your cockamamie untested unvalidated unproven evaluation systems.

via http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2014/06/yes-virginia-there-are-bad-teachers.html

Teacher tenure policies are not the problem

Dana Goldstein said:

[Teacher tenure policies] aren’t the only, or even the primary, driver of the teacher-quality gap between … middle-class and low-income schools. The larger problem is that too few of the best teachers are willing to work long-term in the country’s most racially isolated and poorest neighborhoods. There are lots of reasons why, ranging from plain old racism and classism to the higher principal turnover that turns poor schools into chaotic workplaces that mature teachers avoid. The schools with the most poverty are also more likely to focus on standardized test prep, which teachers dislike. Plus, teachers tend to live in middle-class neighborhoods and may not want a long commute.

Educational equality is about more than teacher-seniority rules: It is about making the schools that serve poor children more attractive places for the smartest, most ambitious people to spend their careers. To do that, those schools need excellent, stable principals who inspire confidence in great teachers. They need rich curricula that stimulate both adults and children. And ideally, their student bodies should be more socioeconomically integrated so schools are less overwhelmed by the social challenges of poverty. Of course, all that is a tall policy order; much more difficult, it turns out, than overturning tenure laws.

via http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/california-rules-teacher-tenure-laws-unconstitutional/372536

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