Warm Southern Breeze

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Posts Tagged ‘testing’

How To Improve American Education

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, February 14, 2020

It will be interesting to see if Diane Ravitch picks up on this OpEd by David Brooks of the New York Times.

America’s educational model is lacking… and severely so.

Common Core is not the answer, nor is more testing.

And charter schools – private, often for-profit enterprises that siphon away tax dollars from public schools, funneling them to the charter schools’ owners and investors – are definitely out of the question.

Following WWII, the United States Army essentially rebuilt Japan and Germany, and gave to them most marvelous gifts, which were the essential building blocks for a new and transformed educational system, government, social reforms, and national economy.

It’s worth noting that, while “in Japan, the head of the occupation, General Douglas MacArthur, broke up the zaibatsu, the big conglomerates that were blamed for supporting the Japanese militarists, and introduced a range of reforms, from a new school curriculum to a democratic constitution, that were designed to turn Japan into a peaceable democratic nation,” America has fallen into the trap Dwight David Eisenhower warned about in his Farewell Address – building an economy based upon a “military industrial complex.”

It’s not as if there are no global models in other nations which have been successful, thereby forcing America to be stuck, constantly reinventing the wheel.

But America is the ONLY nation in the world which refuses to transfer to the metric system. Even the National Institute of Standards and Technologies has written that, “The United States is now the only industrialized country in the world that does not use the metric system as its predominant system of measurement.”

To be certain, global metrics such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which is administered to 15-year-olds every three years and “assesses the extent to which they have acquired the key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society,” and focuses upon the core scholastic “subjects of reading, mathematics and science,” including a subject area which changes with every administration, such as “global competence,” which was included in the last survey, are important.

This critique should not be misinterpreted to demean taxpayer-funded public schools, but rather, be viewed as an internal objective criticism.

There’s little, if any, disagreement in principle that teachers should be left to teach, and to operate schools, instead of politicians – from whatever political party happens to be popular at the time. Furthermore, there’s just as little, or less, disagreement that teachers, who are our, or any society’s most influential members upon generations yet to come, should be paid significantly more than they already are. And the most disgraceful event of it all, is the macabre shadow of death which hangs over students’ and teachers’ heads, and burdens not their shoulders, but their minds and hearts, by not knowing, and wondering if at anytime they could be the next victims of a mass shooting.

What is particularly disconcerting to many observers from within, and without – regardless of their city, or state – is the abundant evidence of inequity in teaching support, which includes materials used to teach – such as textbooks, computers, and other necessary items – but also recognizes the often-horrific inequities naturally arising from those schools and districts which have more money, including physical plant conditions, even though they may be in relatively close proximity to each other.

In this era of tax-cutting, it’s difficult to imagine a school, or any government-funded endeavor to thrive with fewer resources, and reduced operational capabilities. And NO ONE wants to talk about increasing taxes, much less an even more efficient use of the existing resources which doesn’t involve fiscal reductions.

Education is forever. It is the only theft-proof thing known to humankind, and once you have it, you have it forever. Any advanced society should recognize and acknowledge that often-overlooked fact, and spare no expenses by investing not only in youth in K-12, but in technical and higher education, and continuing education for adults, as well. This speaks to the very heart of the matter of some political aspirants’ ideals for education. And, they are right.

Equally important, is a sense of public service, an inherent desire to “give back” to society of the talents, knowledge, skills and abilities one has. Of the untold numbers of people with whom I’ve ever mentioned this idea, no one, literally, no one, has ever derided it, nor said it was bad: Mandatory Public Service in much the same fashion as our Military Service Members.

Imagine the tremendous good it would do for our nation, and for the participants, if, following high school, they were to have 2, or 3 years of paid public service in some, or any capacity of their choosing, in and through which they would serve their local communities, state, or nation, and be compensated similarly as our Service Members, with wages/salary up to pay grade E-4, healthcare, housing & clothing allowances, 30 days paid vacation (leave) annually, educational benefits, and if that income was forever tax-free. Yes, FOREVER. A base income of $28,536 per annum is nothing to sneeze at, especially if all other expenses such as healthcare, housing, food, and clothing are paid for, and educational benefits are similarly guaranteed. The combined total compensation would average at least $50,000 to $60,000 annually, or even slightly more. And, it would ALL be tax-free, forever.

And to be certain, there’s always a cost – and it’s not always pecuniary. It’s up to us to decide if we are worth such an investment of time, resources, and money in ourselves. If we’re up for the challenge to better ourselves by the practice of such disciplines, but more importantly, our nation, by looking to the future of the generations yet to come.

The “finer points” of criticism of the state of public education in America could include a lack of mandatory foreign language learning, dearth of artistic/creative curricula such as visual arts, music, and dance/acting, and the money to fund it, but the intellectual and social growth which comes from the exposure to, and involvement in such programmes. (I simply couldn’t resist using the British spelling! ;-))

In short, like every coach of winning teams criticizes, encourages, and trains their athletes, so too should educators practice critique of their profession, and should be open to changes which benefit students, and educators alike – regardless from where they originate.

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nytimes.com

Opinion – This Is How Scandinavia Got Great

By David Brooks

Opinion|This Is How Scandinavia Got Great

The power of educating the whole person.

David Brooks

People admiring the annual cherry tree blossoms in Stockholm.
Credit…Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Almost everybody admires the Nordic model. Countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland have high economic productivity, high social equality, high social trust and high levels of personal happiness.

Progressives say it’s because they have generous welfare states. Some libertarians point out that these countries score high on nearly every measure of free market openness. Immigration restrictionists note that until recently they were ethnically homogeneous societies.

But Nordic nations were ethnically homogeneous in 1800, when they were dirt poor. Their economic growth took off just after 1870, way before their welfare states were established. What really launched the Nordic nations was generations of phenomenal educational policy.

The 19th-century Nordic elites did something we haven’t been able to do in this country recently. They realized that Read the rest of this entry »

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Reasons to Oppose Common Core from the Left & Right

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, August 11, 2014

Once, I supported Common Core.

Now, I do not.

Read on to understand why.

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Everything you need to know about Common Core — Ravitch

January 18, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-common-core-ravitch/

Diane Ravitch, the education historian who has become the leader of the movement against corporate-influenced school reform, gave this speech to the Modern Language Association on Jan. 11 about the past, present and future of the Common Core State Standards.

Here’s her speech:

As an organization of teachers and scholars devoted to the study of language and literature, MLA should be deeply involved in the debate about the Common Core standards.

The Common Core standards were developed in 2009 and released in 2010. Within a matter of months, they had been endorsed by 45 states and the District of Columbia. At present, publishers are aligning their materials with the Common Core, technology companies are creating software and curriculum aligned with the Common Core, and two federally-funded consortia have created online tests of the Common Core.

What are the Common Core standards? Who produced them? Why are they controversial? How did their adoption happen so quickly?

As scholars of the humanities, you are well aware that every historical event is subject to interpretation. There are different ways to answer the questions I just posed. Originally, this session was designed to be a discussion between me and David Coleman, who is generally acknowledged as the architect of the Common Core standards. Some months ago, we both agreed on the date and format. But Mr. Coleman, now president of the College Board, discovered that he had a conflicting meeting and could not be here.

So, unfortunately, you will hear only my narrative, not his, which would be quite different. I have no doubt that you will have no difficulty getting access to his version of the narrative, which is the same as Secretary Arne Duncan’s.

He would tell you that the standards were created by the states, that they were widely and quickly embraced because so many educators wanted common standards for teaching language, literature, and mathematics. But he would not be able to explain why so many educators and parents are now opposed to the standards and are reacting angrily to the testing that accompanies them.

I will try to do that.

I will begin by setting the context for the development of the standards.

They arrive at a time when American public education and its teachers are under attack. Never have public schools been as subject to upheaval, assault, and chaos as they are today. Unlike modern corporations, which extol creative disruption, schools need stability, not constant turnover and change. Yet for the past dozen years, ill-advised federal and state policies have rained down on students, teachers, principals, and schools.

George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top have combined to impose a punitive regime of standardized testing on the schools. NCLB was passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law in 2002. NCLB law required schools to test every child in grades 3-8 every year; by 2014, said the law, every child must be “proficient” or schools would face escalating sanctions. The ultimate sanction for failure to raise test scores was firing the staff and closing the school.

Because the stakes were so high, NCLB encouraged teachers to teach to the test. In many schools, the curriculum was narrowed; the only subjects that mattered were reading and mathematics. What was not tested—the arts, history, civics, literature, geography, science, physical education—didn’t count. Some states, like New York, gamed the system by dropping the passing mark each year, giving the impression that its students were making phenomenal progress when they were not. Some districts, like Atlanta, El Paso, and the District of Columbia, were caught up in cheating scandals. In response to this relentless pressure, test scores rose, but not as much as they had before the adoption of NCLB.

Then along came the Obama administration, with its signature program called Race to the Top. In response to the economic crisis of 2008, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Education $5 billion to promote “reform.” Secretary Duncan launched a competition for states called “Race to the Top.” If states wanted any part of that money, they had to agree to certain conditions. They had to agree to evaluate teachers to a significant degree by the rise or fall of their students’ test scores; they had to agree to increase the number of privately managed charter schools; they had to agree to adopt “college and career ready standards,” which were understood to be the not-yet-finished Common Core standards; they had to agree to “turnaround” low-performing schools by such tactics as firing the principal and part or all of the school staff; and they had to agree to collect unprecedented amounts of personally identifiable information about every student and store it in a data warehouse. It became an article of faith in Washington and in state capitols, with the help of propagandistic films like “Waiting for Superman,” that if students had low scores, it must be the fault of bad teachers. Poverty, we heard again and again from people like Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and Michelle Rhee, was just an excuse for bad teachers, who should be fired without delay or due process.

These two federal programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, has produced a massive demoralization of educators; an unprecedented exodus of experienced educators, who were replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of many public schools, especially in poor and minority districts; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; an increase in low-quality for-profit charter schools and low-quality online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers’ due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations, charter chains, and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market. Hedge funds, entrepreneurs, and real estate investment corporations invest enthusiastically in this emerging market, encouraged by federal tax credits, lavish fees, and the prospect of huge profits from taxpayer dollars. Celebrities, tennis stars, basketball stars, and football stars are opening their own name-brand schools with public dollars, even though they know nothing about education.

No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do. Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Education wants every state and every district to do it. Because of these federal programs, our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools.

The Pearson Corporation has become

Read the rest of this entry »

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