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View Diary: Arne Duncan ignores reality to embrace attacks on teachers (158 comments)

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  •  Yes, that's the goal. There (9+ / 0-)

    will be no more need for teachers with subject matter grounding, able to write their own lesson plans and devise and grade their own tests. All that will be prepared by the folks at Pearson, and administering the standardized tests (which will be a daily experience, the whole raison d'etre of class attendance) can be done by untrained people who make sure everyone's terminal is on.

    Education is now seen as a potentially trillion dollar business, and teachers would just get in the way of the corporations planning to cash in.

    This is practically admitted by the CEO of Knewton, in a chilling video posted to Diane Ravitch's web page.

    •  There is a way to stop that. (0+ / 0-)

      If teachers would take personal responsibility for educational outcomes, they could demand more freedom to control lesson plans, teaching methods, etc.

      The best way is:

        1) Test the kids in September and again in June.
        2) Adjust for the socioeconomics of the students.
        3) Credit the teacher with the difference.

      If we do this, I don't care how teachers teach. They should be free to use any methods they see fit.

      But, since teachers insist on bearing no responsibility for learning outcomes, we can't grant them this freedom. They must be micro-managed. In NYC, they control the curriculum down to which day the teacher hands out which worksheet. I hate this...I wish teachers would accept the responsibility -- then they could be granted the power.

      It would make teaching a more fulfilling profession, and probably result in better learning, too.

      •  There's no hope, is there? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bkamr

        You continue to promote testing at all costs, despite the continuing failure of standardized testing to accurately describe pretty much any part of the teaching/learning process.

        And lately you keep insisting on treating teachers like slaves.

        It's all just blowing smoke for you, isn't it? Muddy the waters enough, and no one will see the puppeteers. How many years have you been here promoting VAM and charter schools?

        How is it possible, that in all that time, you fail to recognize the growing evidence that VAM doesn't work (except to drive teachers out of teaching) and charter schools are diverting public dollars into private pockets, without accomplishing anything better than public schools?

        Have you seen the latest from Eva Moskowitz? Quite an accomplishment for one of NYCs top charters, graduating 32 out of 73 students (73 enrolled in first grade, 32 of them made it through 8th). And none of the lucky 44% had standardized test scores high enough to be admitted to the top high schools.

        Is it worth the $50 million-plus public dollars they've taken away from public schools, do you think?

        Or is that the just rewards of Eva taking "responsibility" for the education of her students?

      •  What makes you think that teachers aren't testing (0+ / 0-)

        students at the beginning, throughout the year, and at the end of the year to measure their students' progress and the effectiveness of their lessons?  We've been doing this for years in our school -- for at least the decade long period I've been a teacher!  

        At the beginning of each year, we do the following:

        1. Scantron Testing for Reading and Math - Scantron is an on-line, standardized testing system that gives us immediate, detailed information about students' individual streangths and weaknesses.  

        The results are used to place each studetn in 45 minute, small group Enrichment classes based on their individual needs. For example, students with reading disabilities have a class with a reading specialist, and students having difficulties with fractions participate in a cooking class that's all about fractions.

        2. In their core content classes, students take the common final exams for the courses as pre-tests.

        The results are used to help teachers plan where we need to focus more or less instructional time and effort during the year to meet the trends in needs for particular cohorts.  For example, if students show some weaknesses in analyzing energy flows through food webs (single level analysis should be an already mastered, pre-requisite skill by the time the students come into my class) I know that I'm going to review this area a bit more extensively than I might have, and give a quiz to ensure mastery at one level before I move on to the more complex levels of analysis I need them to able to do before we tackle the effects of ocean acidification in the climate change unit.

        Now, I want you to notice HOW testing is used in both situations.  Testing is used to better meet actual, real students' need in real time.

        During the year:

        1.  Mid-year, students are re-tested using the Scantron system This information is used to guage the efficacy of their Enrichment placements, and students are re-sorted and reassigned students' to reflect their progress and remaining individual needs.  

        2.  In content classes, we use common unit tests throughout the year.  This information is used for 2 reasons:

        -  We look for mastery and non-mastery trends.  If there is an area where the kids didn't "get it," then we do remediation with the entire class in that area before going on.  If it's an individual situation, we call parents to hopefully be ablet arrange for the student to attend after school tutoring.  

        (BTW It's usually an environmental situation if a student is failing. e.g. The student is going to counseling or court to testify against an abuser; a parent has been jailed and the student has been moved to live with a grandparent; the student has been arrested for drugs and is going through the juvenile justice system and counseling; the student is struggling with adolescent on-set of a mental illness; parent(s) have lost job(s) and the student may be facing impending homelessness, the student is raising themselves and younger siblings since parent(s) have to work night shifts or second jobs; the parents are getting a divorce and the student's homelife is in chaos and they are in mourning/ being used as a pawn/ up late due to the arguments going on; the parents are not being parents and have opted for being friends and the student is staying up into the wee hours on their phone and playing video games -- and homework is not getting done; there has been a serious family illness/ death; the student has a serious illness and has been absent and unable to do schoolwork for a significant period of time; the student's family moves around a lot so their school experience has been disrupted so many times that they've learned not to really engage -- We have a racetrack in our district and we get students of migrant track workers who stay with us for about 10 weeks and move on; and I could go on and on, but this pretty much covers the 10-15% who fail individual unit tests.)

        - As a content team, we use an item level analysis of unit test results to compare the effectiveness of individual lessons with one another. We use this information to identify and share best practices with one another for continuous improvement year over year. For example, if my students don't do as well on a topical area as one of my team mates, then I listen to what my team mates did, and I re-teach that area using the lesson(s) they used and incorporate the lesson into my plans for the next year.

        Again, I want you to notice HOW testing is used. Testing is used to better meet actual, real students' needs in real time. Testing is used to identify and use best practices within content teams.

        At the end of the year, students take a final round of Scantron tests and final content exams.

         - The Scantron tests are used to measure the effectiveness of our Enrichment interventions and set-up individualized Summer computer-based lessons for the student to use if parents/ students want to conintue learning through the summer.
        - Final exams are used as a final accountability measure for the STUDENTS and for us as teachers.  [Note: Our median scores are usually within a couple of % points of one another given how we collaborate all year using our common unit tests and remediate/ get students individualized help along the way whatever the reason they may be struggling.]  Typically, we are mostly interested in looking at trends where the entire cohort may have shown mastery in a unit test, but no retained the content as well as we would have liked.  As a teaching team, we then look for outside lessons where we can improve our plans for the next year.

        IF a teacher has consistently lower unit test scores, WE help that teacher, and the administration may need to get involved. In my experience, the 3 times (in 10 years) where I have seen a consistent dip (more than 1 grading period) in teacher effectiveness have been for: 1) the teacher had a brain tumor and was struggling with chemotherapy ... eventually the teacher had to leave and subsequently died at the age of 38 yo; 2) a teacher had Lupus and had to leave to go on disability; 3) a teacher's wife left him to go off with his best friend and the teacher was frequently hung over during a couple of grading periods as they went through it all. This teacher was directed (and supportively) to get counseling ASAP, but also they were put on notice that if it continued into the next grading period, they would be removed from teaching through the end of the year -- and possibly not have their contract renewed for the next year.  

        THAT is HOW testing is used to effectively improve learning in schools.  This is how educational professionals all over the country have been using testing FOR YEARS without anyone "making us" do so.  BTW in the state I teach in (KY), EVERY teacher has to complete their Masters Degree within 5 years after they begin teaching to keep their certification, and that advanced degree is done on the teachers' own-time and paid for out of their own pocket.  We are NOT talking about non-professional people, folks.

        Regarding the high stakes, standardized tests:

        1. They take 2-3 weeks to implement the State high-stakes testing battery.  For example, the math section alone took 4 1/3 hours, this year.  We can only have kids do 3 hours of testing each day before their poor brains are mush.  We can't really do hard lessons with the remainder of the day, so we end up spacing the incredibly LONG testing battery over 2 weeks.

        THEN, politicians have also added that all students have to also take the Explore, Plan, ACT testing series starting in 6th grade.

        This is already too much. Over the course of a student's K1- 12  school experience, we are already losing abot 120 instructional days with the high stakes testing -- that's over 1/2 a YEAR less time instructional time than my generation had.  We do NOT need to double that and lose an entire instructional year!

        2. Then, everyone is assuming that the corporate testing industry (which has grown to become a $4.8 billion dollar industry) is producing valid, reliable, content relevant (based on the national content standards) tests. Why is everyone making that assumption?

        I'm not allowed to say anything specific about the tests since teachers and students who get to see the tests have to sign a confidentiality agreement with dire consequences. We're even supposed to try to wipe our brains clean of anything we saw on the tests and not think about anything on the tests that we saw!  Pretty nice gig, huh?  We're forced to pay out +$75/year per student in districts that can no longer afford textbooks for students, taxpayers are puttig up $4.8 billion, and who is holding the testing industry accountable for the quality of the tests?  Hmmmm?  

        Crickets, that's who.  Next question: If The Tests suddenly showed that students were doing just fine, how long do you think the country would be willing to give the corporate testing industry $4.8 billion a year?  This year, I did ask if I still had my 1st Amendment rights to at least say:  "The tests suck!"  I was given permission to say, "The tests SUCK!"  

        3. The #1, biggest thing the high stakes tests do consistently, correlate with is socioeconomic level.  We always skip over THAT factor since we assume we can't actually do anything about poverty, and we go to a much lesser, and frequently problematice factor -- individual teachers.  

        4.  It is problematic since we do not measure within year progress which would be a valid (IF the tests were valid, themselves, and I'm allowed to say, "The tests suck.") measure of what a teacher at least had a chance to influence, but the tests do NOT measure this.  They measure from one year to the next.  In other words, from one cohort to the next.  Anyone who has taught for more than 5 years can tell you that there are frequently big differences bewteen one cohort and the next.  For example, last year I had 34/120 students in Special Ed mainstreamed in my core classes.  This coming year, I will have 12.  My test scores will go up.  The next year, looking at the 6th grade special ed population, I will have in the 30's range.  MY performance will not be fluctuating year to year.

        5.  In districts where teacher and administrators' pay, and even keeping their jobs, are based on high stakes test outcomes, we have already seen some really awful outcomes (think Atlanta, NJ, and Philly).  When people are placed in a situation that is fundamentally unfair (see #2-#4), and their mortgages and the $ they need to support their families is put at-risk, people are in the classic STRESS situation:  high risk with little control/ power over the situation.  Some of the results have been:
        - "Teaching to the tests." The tests suck, so what kind of instruction might you get?  Drill and kill, all love of learning?  Who could possibly have guessed that might happen?  
        - Cheating. In my prior career before I decided to finish my professional life as a teacher, I was a VP of Training and Quality for a GE Captial company. I would NEVER create an organizational situaiton like the one the politicians (and public like the poster mentioned at the beginning of the diary) has created!  You put people in a basically flawed, unwinnable situation in (low socioeconomic areas) and put their livelihoods on the line?  Of course your are going to have people feeling pushed to cheat the system!  It's a fundamentally dishonest situation that breeds dishonest survival reactions.

        6.  If you use the high-stakes tests to rank order teachers against one another and make their pay competitive, what do you think is going to happen to the teams working together for continuous improvements who are sharing best practices with one another within our schools?  What kind of culture would such a cut-throat environment create?  Answer: This will break the teams and destroy teacher-to-teacher collaboration.  (Gee, I wonder what kind of effect that might have on teachers' unions?)

        7.  Plus, what about the years in which a teacher's content is not tested that year? If you tested EVERY content area, the testing would stretch to 3 weeks, for sure.  So, science is tested in 7th but not 8th grade.  I teach 8th grade science, so what do they measure MY performance on?  Wait for it ... reading!  If my pay, and me getting to even keep my job, is going to be based on reading informational text comprehension, what would it make more sense for ME to do in class:  do a lot of hands on science labs OR spend lots of classes reading the textbook aloud in class and have the kids practice reading comprehension questions day after day?  Oh, and how are the art, music, health, techology ... teachers going to be measured?

        8.  What about our students who are NEVER going to pass the tests?  The bar for No Child Left Behind is 100% of students will pass The Tests at grade level, OR the school and teachers are failures. We have children in our full resource rooms who do not have full brains.  I am not being figurative.  Or what about what the exams themselves DO to our seriously autistic students? Volunteer and get trained to implement The Tests in your local school.  You may get to be a reader for a child who is so stressed out with the loss of their regular routine that they will spend a week under the table self stimming.  You will read the questions on the test, wait the approriate wait times, nothing will ever get marked and go on to the next question.  How about the OCD student you are reading for who marks the test booklet A, B, C, D through the entire 2 weeks completely independent of whatever the question is.  Would YOU like to be the district teacher who has to go to a student's home who is in hospice care with terminal cancer to administer The Tests during the last weeks of the student's life?  Or, maybe, a child who is just undergoing chemotherapy?  I'll make it simpler.  We have students mainstreamed in 8th grade with IQ's below 70.  They are NEVER going to pass the algebra sections on the math exams.  Yet, if a school has any even ONE population within a school fails -- the school is counted as a FAILURE.

        9.  Well, what about how we measure up against other nations?  When we compare the populations they include in their results with the same populations in the US, we do very, very well.  In the US, we have legislated that ALL of our children are tested.  It's an apples to oranges situation.

        10. What about district where ALL the students qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch?  My school has a 35% Free and Reduced population.  You could staff the former school with Supermen and Superwomen, and that school is still not going to be able to compete on high stakes testing with my school.  Plus, if you make teacher pay based on test scores, you are NOT going to get a school full of Supermen and Superwomen who are going to get sanctioned, counseled out for poor test performances, and get their names printed in the paper as for being "low performance" teachers. What is it, now?  1:4 students live below the povery level?  I'm sorry, there simply are not a 800,00 - million Mother Theresas in the teaching profession, and we should not have to expect sainthood or super-human levels of professionalism for our public school system to work.  

        If we are, then there is something wrong with the system itself, no the professional human beings wiho do their best to work within that system.

        I'm going to repeat back to your paragraph:
        But, since teachers insist on bearing no responsibility for learning outcomes, we can't grant them this freedom. They must be micro-managed. In NYC, they control the curriculum down to which day the teacher hands out which worksheet. I hate this...I wish teachers would accept the responsibility -- then they could be granted the power.
        There's my LONG and informed answer about why a professional educator like myself despises the high stakes testing system.  I think it has the very real potential to, and probably IS, causing very serious HARM to our public school system and an entire generation of our children.  

        I am NOT the least bit afraid of testing like I've described we've been doing for YEARS! I've explained HOW and WHY the tests that teachers and schools use help us meet individual students' needs and help us continuously improve.

        And given all the very seious downsides to high stakes testing and the lack of valid benefits from my perspective, I have some very real questions about HOW and WHY we are doing high stakes testing, at all.

        I have to run, now, to go into school on my summer "vacation" off to meet with my content team mates.  We're spending the afternoons for the next 2 weeks working on some new labs we want to run and -- painting the walls of our classrooms!    We want our learning environments to be less sterile (white), and the district was willing to give us a grant to buy the paint, but no labor $$$.

        But, I'll be back later to answer any questions you might have.  If you've read through all this, thank you for your willingness to wade into the weeds about this issue.  I understand that Fox News-like bullets may sound like they make sense, but the education of a child, the education of a whole human being, is much more complicated than a few bullet points, and there are some special interests out there who would dearly LOVE to get their private hands on public educaitonal $$$ for PROFIT -- not the best interests of our children.

        Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

        by bkamr on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 07:33:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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