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A high school teacher tells college educators what they can expect in the wake of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
Reprinted with permission from the January-February issue of Academe, the magazine of the American Association of University Professors where you can read it online here

You are a college professor.

I have just retired as a high school teacher.

I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.

No Child Left Behind went into effect for the 2002–03 academic year, which means that America’s public schools have been operating under the pressures and constrictions imposed by that law for a decade. Since the testing requirements were imposed beginning in third grade, the students arriving in your institution have been subject to the full extent of the law’s requirements. While it is true that the US Department of Education is now issuing waivers on some of the provisions of the law to certain states, those states must agree to other provisions that will have as deleterious an effect on real student learning as did No Child Left Behind—we have already seen that in public schools, most notably in high schools.

please continue below the cheese-doodle

Troubling Assessments

My primary course as a teacher was government, and for the last seven years that included three or four (out of six) sections of Advanced Placement (AP) US Government and Politics. My students, mostly tenth-graders, were quite bright, but already I was seeing the impact of federal education policy on their learning and skills.

In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind. With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift.

Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.

Recognizing this, those of us in public schools do what we can to work on those higher-order skills, but we are limited. Remember, high schools also have tests—No Child Left Behind and its progeny (such as Race to the Top) require testing at least once in high school in reading and math. In Maryland, where I taught, those tests were the state’s High School Assessments in tenth-grade English and algebra (which some of our more gifted pupils had taken as early as eighth grade). High schools are also forced to focus on preparing students for tests, and that leads to a narrowing of what we can accomplish in our classrooms.

I mentioned that at least half my students were in AP classes. The explosive growth of these classes, driven in part by high school rankings like the yearly Challenge Index created by Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, is also responsible for some of the problems you will encounter with students entering your institutions. The College Board did recognize that not everything being labeled as AP met the standards of a college-level course, so it required teachers to submit syllabi for approval to ensure a minimal degree of rigor, at least on paper. But many of the courses still focus on the AP exam, and that focus can be as detrimental to learning as the kinds of tests imposed under No Child Left Behind.

Let me use as an example my own AP course, US Government and Politics. I served several times as a reader for the examination that follows the course. In that capacity, I read the constructed responses that make up half of the score of a student’s examination. I saw several problems.

First (and I acknowledge that I bear some culpability here), in the AP US Government exam the constructed responses are called “free response questions” and are graded by a rubric that is concerned primarily with content and, to a lesser degree, argument. If a student hits the points on the rubric, he or she gets the points for that rubric. There is no consideration of grammar or rhetoric, nor is credit given or a score reduced based on the format of the answer. A student who takes time to construct a clear topic sentence and a proper conclusion gets no credit for those words. Thus, a teacher might prepare the student to answer those questions in a format that is not good writing by any standard. If, as a teacher, you want your students to do their best, you have to have them practice what is effectively bad writing— no introduction, no conclusion, just hit the points of the rubric and provide the necessary factual support. Some critical thinking may be involved, at least, but the approach works against development of the kinds of writing that would be expected in a true college-level course in government and politics.

My students did well on those questions because we practiced bad writing. My teaching was not evaluated on the basis of how well my students did, but I felt I had a responsibility to prepare them for the examination in a way that could result in their obtaining college credit.

I would like to believe that I prepared them to think more critically and to present cogent arguments, but I could not simultaneously prepare them to do well on that portion of the test and teach them to write in a fashion that would properly serve them at higher levels of education.

Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing. I had too many students. In my final year, with four sections of Advanced Placement, I had 129 AP students (as well as an additional forty-six students in my other two classes). A teacher cannot possibly give that many students the individualized attention they need to improve their writing. Do the math. Imagine that I assign all my students a written exercise. Let’s assume that 160 actually turn it in. Let’s further assume that I am a fast reader, and I can read and correct papers at a rate of one every three minutes. That’s eight hours—for one assignment. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours.

Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. For much of the content I would give students summary information, sufficient to answer multiple-choice questions and to get some of the points on rubrics for the free response questions. That allowed me more time for class discussions and for relating events in the news to what we learned in class, making the class more engaging for the students and resulting in deeper learning because the discussions were relevant to their lives.

From what I saw from the free response questions I read, too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had.

The structure of testing has led to students arriving at our school without what previously would have been considered requisite background knowledge in social studies, but the problem is not limited to this field. Students often do not get exposure to art or music or other nontested subjects. In high-need schools, resources not directly related to testing are eliminated: at the time of the teachers’ strike last fall, 160 Chicago public schools had no libraries. Class sizes exceeded forty students—in elementary school.

A Teacher’s Plea

As a retired public school teacher, I believe I have a responsibility to offer a caution to college professors, or perhaps to make a plea.

Please do not blame those of us in public schools for how unprepared for higher education the students arriving at your institutions are. We have very little say in what is happening to public education. Even the most distinguished and honored among us have trouble getting our voices heard in the discussion about educational policy. The National Teacher of the Year is supposed to be the representative of America’s teachers—if he or she cannot get teachers’ voices included, imagine how difficult it is for the rest of us. That is why, if you have not seen it, I strongly urge you to read 2009 National Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen’s famous blog post, “Teachers Should Be Seen and Not Heard.” After listening to noneducators bloviate about schools and teaching without once asking for his opinion, he was finally asked what he thought. He offered the following:

Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending noneducators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value. “I’m thinking about the current health-care debate,” I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”

The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone’s attention.

“I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.”

During my years in the classroom I tried to educate other adults about the realities of schools and students and teaching. I tried to help them understand the deleterious impact of policies that were being imposed on our public schools. I blogged, I wrote letters and op-eds for newspapers, and I spent a great deal of time speaking with and lobbying those in a position to influence policy, up to and including sitting members of the US House of Representatives and Senate and relevant members of their staffs. Ultimately, it was to little avail, because the drivers of the policies that are changing our schools—and thus increasingly presenting you with students ever less prepared for postsecondary academic work—are the wealthy corporations that profit from the policies they help define and the think tanks and activist organizations that have learned how to manipulate the levers of power, often to their own financial or ideological advantage.

If you, as a higher education professional, are concerned about the quality of students arriving at your institution, you have a responsibility to step up and speak out. You need to inform those creating the policies about the damage they are doing to our young people, and how they are undermining those institutions in which you labor to make a difference in the minds and the lives of the young people you teach as well as in the fields in which you do your research.

You should have a further selfish motivation. Those who have imposed the mindless and destructive patterns of misuse of tests to drive policy in K–12 education are already moving to impose it on higher education, at least in the case of the departments and schools of education that prepare teachers: they want to “rate” those departments by the test scores of the students taught by their graduates.

If you, as someone who teaches in the liberal arts or engineering or business, think that this development does not concern you, think again. It is not just that schools and colleges of education are major sources of revenue for colleges and universities—they are in fact often cash cows, which is why so many institutions lobby to be able initially to certify teachers and then to offer the courses (and degrees) required for continuing certification. If strictures like these can be imposed on schools and colleges of education, the time will be short before similar kinds of measure are imposed on other schools, including liberal arts, engineering, business, and conceivably even professional schools like medicine and law. If you teach either in a medical school or in programs that offer courses required as part of the pre-med curriculum, do you want the fatality rates of patients treated by the doctors whom you have taught to be used to judge your performance? If you think that won’t happen because you work at a private institution, remember that it is the rare private university that does not receive some form of funding from governments, local to national. Research grants are one example; the scholarships and loans used by students to attend your institution are another.

Let me end by offering my deepest apologies, not because I may have offended some of you by what I have written, but because even those of us who understood the problems that were being created were unable to do more to stop the damage to the education of our young people. Many of us tried. We entered teaching because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students who passed through our classrooms. Many of us are leaving sooner than we had planned because the policies already in effect and those now being implemented mean that we are increasingly restricted in how and what we teach.

Now you are seeing the results in the students arriving at your institutions. They may be very bright. But we have not been able to prepare them for the kind of intellectual work that you have every right to expect of them. It is for this that I apologize, even as I know in my heart that there was little more I could have done. Which is one reason I am no longer in the classroom.

Originally posted to teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:14 AM PST.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Education Alternatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A brief explanation (240+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Remembering Jello, Catkin, leeleedee, supenau, mali muso, hnichols, Expat Okie, Spirit of Life, shanesnana, 3goldens, DFWmom, Lorinda Pike, a2nite, weck, banjolele, Powered Grace, daddybunny, Gentle Giant, SilentBrook, Pandoras Box, luckylizard, MKinTN, FarWestGirl, zaynabou, TiaRachel, deviant24x, zerelda, NoMoJoe, mamamorgaine, suzq, flo58, Tonedevil, gizmo59, Laurel in CA, randallt, silver arrow, texasmom, CwV, Cassandra Waites, entrelac, lippythelion69, fumie, doingbusinessas, linkage, marleycat, monkeybrainpolitics, Bisbonian, Darryl House, Shockwave, sb, PurpleThistles, gloriana, peachcreek, Lujane, Siri, Egalitare, One Pissed Off Liberal, hwy70scientist, gulfgal98, dwahzon, uciguy30, Azazello, Mostel26, Smoh, slowbutsure, Simplify, bastrop, Dale, Sprinkles, countwebb, GeorgeXVIII, Wednesday Bizzare, asym, pgm 01, greengemini, Jim P, radical simplicity, Laborguy, Blu Gal in DE, Pam from Calif, houyhnhnm, annetteboardman, cpresley, radarlady, Youffraita, Chaddiwicker, itzadryheat, science nerd, Libby Shaw, pioneer111, RiveroftheWest, SteelerGrrl, trumpeter, Pat K California, devtob, Empty Vessel, reklemrov, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, BeninSC, The Pseudorandom Cat, anodnhajo, xaxnar, fiddler crabby, Lily O Lady, gmats, liz dexic, multilee, bsegel, Joe Bob, 4Freedom, sostos, shypuffadder, FloridaSNMOM, Mike Taylor, Heart of the Rockies, Williston Barrett, akeitz, Aaa T Tudeattack, northsylvania, PapaChach, fixxit, marina, Tom Anderson, historys mysteries, pvasileff, Sam Sara, Teiresias70, lcrp, Born in NOLA, Assaf, filkertom, crystal eyes, Loudoun County Dem, glorificus, Ice Blue, peacestpete, Grandma Susie, bmcphail, Jollie Ollie Orange, buckstop, Tillie630, AaronBa, Plox, allie123, Otteray Scribe, nomandates, CenFlaDem, semioticjim, zenox, begone, wader, CA wildwoman, Dartagnan, tofumagoo, joycemocha, revsue, VTCC73, Liberal Mole, blueoregon, weaponsofmassdeception, TAH from SLC, MRA NY, NoisyGong, Emmy, cinnamon68, Lusty, SanFernandoValleyMom, kayak58, murphy, AverageJoe42, evelette, Leftleaner, Shippo1776, high uintas, Unitary Moonbat, schnecke21, chimene, turdraker, remembrance, paxpdx, DixieDishrag, splashy, denise b, T Maysle, Ree Zen, ARS, NBBooks, lostinamerica, punkRockLiberal, jayden, Loose Fur, roadbear, Akonitum, Mathazar, PrahaPartizan, WakeUpNeo, chira2, deepeco, Lashe, apimomfan2, JanL, Dbug, LarryNM, qofdisks, riverlover, FinchJ, ogre, mollyd, Carlo, rexxnyc, Mayfly, Clues, 84thProblem, lazybum, Sandino, achronon, citylights, Habitat Vic, AlwaysDemocrat, mamamedusa, jbob, bluedust, Byron from Denver, ccasas, Ohkwai, Ozymandius, claude, Matilda, VA Breeze, Joe Archaeologist, Oh Mary Oh, grimjc, BlueDragon, figbash, MJ via Chicago, Mac in Maine, captainlaser, machka, tolerant, Coastside Scout

    our own AaronBa who is one of the editors of this publication requested this piece during the period of time when I was totally retired from teaching.  By the time it went to print I was back in the classroom in a non-profit inner city charter middle school.

    Still, the remarks I offered are still valid.

    The piece has drawn a lot of attention, and I have received numerous emails about it, as well as requests to reprint and redistribute it.

    I decided if others were going to redistribute it, perhaps I ought to share it here.

    Do with it what you want.

    And expect me to be offering several more pieces on educational matters in the next few days.


    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:14:47 AM PST

  •  Thanks, teacher ken. (39+ / 0-)

    As always, your wisdom is much appreciated.  I often pass on your thoughts to my spouse and other friends in Higher Ed and they engender much lively conversation.

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by papahaha on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:49:17 AM PST

    •  Thanks, teacherken. (32+ / 0-)

      This is extraordinarily important, as I can certainly attest (as one of the college professors you're reaching out to here). What is potentially really damaging is the increasing insistence upon a kind of set of numerical performance indicators that utterly belie the complex fields of inquiry that they supposedly measure. We are entering an era where all of us will be asked to juke the stats.

      The end result of this logic is not just the slow infiltration of performance targets into areas that resist any such facile measurement. It also legitimates the swapping out of entire fields of study that seem to inhibit the most directly pragmatic impulses of the contemporary workforce. I just about blew a gasket when I read this nasty attack on the continued viability of the liberal arts as a valued area of inquiry. Hopped up on its own self-importance, the article was full of little chestnuts like this one, which framed the liberal arts as something that could only be value if it were plugged into a largely vocational, business-centered rubric:

      [. . .] Importantly, I'm not suggesting we get rid of liberal arts departments -- I'm suggesting we create more employable English and film majors. "Well-rounded" and "self-sufficient" shouldn't be mutually exclusive concepts, and combining experiential learning with access to business role models and public/private partnerships can fundamentally transform the way we think about workforce development.
      Of course, what is especially hilarious/infuriating is that the author proceeds to lay the contemporary job crunch at the feet of college administrators, who have been insufficiently brutal in their dismantling of the humanities:
      Here's a thought: let's fire every college president with the means and resources to embrace entrepreneurship who doesn't explore, support or start an entrepreneurship education program or partnership of some kind. Sure, that idea is bound to ruffle some feathers, but forgive me if I don't shed a tear for those leaders whose outdated policies (and our tacit willingness to accept them) helped create the situation we're in today.
      The fault here, of course, could never be seen as lying with the subjection of all human activity to the logic of the market, and the creation of a situation where college students can only work in the financial industry if they hope to be able to pay off their student loans. No, clearly the problem is college administrators, who have not devoted enough attention to the pressing problem of how few little capitalists there are running around.

      As if that's a problem.

      The culture of rationalism, with its monthly performance targets, its reductively numerical mode of evaluation, and its celebration of the standardized test as the measure of all value -- all this only reinforces David Simon's argument that, with every passing year, "human beings... are worth less and less."

      Nothing requires a greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of non-thought. -- Milan Kundera

      by Dale on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:26:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  education vs. training (27+ / 0-)

        I completely agree with you regarding the vocational-ization of college. I think much of this is due to a phenomenon where employers do not train employees to anywhere near the same extent they used to. That burden has been shifted from the employer onto the individual.

        When I look at my parents and grandparents, they earned a credential, be it a high school diploma or college degree, and completed training at an employer. Grandpa didn’t get a BS in engineering. He had a high school diploma and he took that to General Electric, where they taught him mechanical engineering. Nor did Aunt Linda get an MBA. She took her college degree to Bell Telephone and they taught her to be a manager.

        Question: Who is responsible for training a business’s employees?
        Answer: The business employing said employees.

        Wrong! The employees are to train themselves, on their own time, with their own money. You often hear this manifest on the news when Concerned Business Owner™ says, “We can’t find any qualified employees for our open positions.” Translation: “We do not provide on-the-job training. We want people to figure that out themselves before they apply for a job with us.”

        Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

        by Joe Bob on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:52:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  qualified employees at the price they want to pay (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          helfenburg, citylights, brae70, claude, Joe Bob

          compensation of the lower classes is to be considered immune to market forces.

          fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

          by mollyd on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 01:13:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I have heard it said that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joe Bob

          training is preparing someone to do something specific very well; education is preparing someone for coming to terms with an uncertain world.

          Working for a large vocational education and training organization, I can only concur that companies should be doing the training that they need for their employees, but it is much more cost effective to defer these costs to the individual. It's not just a matter of shifting priorities, it's a matter of shifting responsibility and ultimately blame.

          BTW, I live and work in Germany ... this is by no means just a US-domestic problem. The key word used here: employability (which quite frankly makes my hair stand on end).

      •  Liberal arts are the basis, the foundation of all (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JanL, mollyd, lazybum, achronon, citylights

        specialized education.

      •  What they are trying to do... (7+ / 0-) make creativity development a precious educational commodity for the chosen few. Everyone else gets RADICAL Pavlovian behaviorism!

        Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

        by semioticjim on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:27:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  in other words, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the only metric of success is how much money a graduate can go out and earn,  which really means,  how much money can a capitalist of some ilk profit by the efforts of this graduate.

        The antidote, or opposite, to this crass metric is the old digger adage:

        "if it's not worth doing for love,  it's not worth doing".

        What's really sad will be the number of people who simply won't comprehend the meaning of that toss-off line,  who will need it explained in detail.  Thus enhancing Ken's crucial point.

        Face it.  Educated people with critical thinking skills are a pain in the ass.  They are especially a pain in the ass if they are brown of hue  and/or are of the working class and have the temerity to stand up on their hind legs and demand,  in articulate and well-reasoned speech,  their fair share of the pie and a say in how things are run.

        The flaws in our education system are a feature,  not a bug.

        don't always believe what you think

        by claude on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 06:54:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  troo dat (0+ / 0-)

          "Face it.  Educated people with critical thinking skills are a pain in the ass.  They are especially a pain in the ass if they are brown of hue  and/or are of the working class and have the temerity to stand up on their hind legs and demand,  in articulate and well-reasoned speech,  their fair share of the pie and a say in how things are run."

          Time to stand up before the remaining stumps get ground down further.

  •  Too ture. (34+ / 0-)

    I was not thrilled when I quit teaching three years ago, but I also realized that I couldn't go on.  

    Just today, I was back at my last school playing accompaniments for the band kids' solos.  I always feel nostalgic when I first enter the school.  There are so many colleagues whom I really like and respect, and I just love being with the kids.  Then I see the principal with his clipboard full of crap, and I remember why I left.  :-)

    If I could go into a classroom and really teach again, I'd do it in a heartbeat.  

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:35:26 PM PST

  •  I taught undergraduates (25+ / 0-)

    as a grad student in the mid 90s. They already could not use logic and reason to support an argument, write clearly and convincingly (and forget about style and grammar altogether), and didn't even understand that paragraphs in an essay should be logically linked to each other in some way to form the basis of their argument.

    I can only imagine how bad it must be now.

    "No one has the right to spend their life without being offended." Philip Pullman

    by zaynabou on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:40:51 PM PST

  •  I saw this happening in California a decade ago.. (27+ / 0-)

    I used to grade tests & read papers for a friend who taught freshman art history at a state university. Many of the ESL students had greater writing skills than most of the freshmen who grew up in the Bay area public school system. The plagiarism was rampant and students really couldn't conceive of how I could tell which paragraphs they'd lifted from a textbook and which they'd written themselves. I assessed the writing and comprehension skills at about 5th grade level for most of them, occasionally 8th. It was terrifying to contemplate the running of the country falling to that generation. Couldn't think, couldn't communicate, had no appreciable exposure to social studies or logic-based assessment. I have to wonder where they are now and what on earth they're doing to support themselves.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:50:34 PM PST

  •  Sadly, NCLB has made it to higher education. (17+ / 0-)

    The vogue is now to instill a "culture of assessment" on college campuses.  The end result:  more standardized testing, and more pointless busy-work for faculty in order to ingratiate the managers.  I would fear that there will be nobody around capable of higher-order reasoning in a decade if I were not confident that this vogue will go the way of all vogues.  But then it might be replaced by something even more appalling.

    -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

    by gizmo59 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:54:23 PM PST

  •  A collegue at work recently read (13+ / 0-)

    The Innovator's Dilemma.  In it, the author explains that all innovations simplify processes down to "what is good enough for most people."

    So he goes from main frame computer down to tablet computer by explaining that the market desired a product that was 'just good enough' to get most jobs done.'  

    So while the technology began in the "Howitzer" phase, it eventually evolved to a handgun.  

    He believes the same will happen to education.  We have large universities where students physcially attend class, hear lectures, ask questions, etc... eventually, on-line, just-in-time models will emerge as just good enough for most of the market.

    It will drive costs down, yes.  But will this expand minds?  Are we losing something in the process?  Makes you wonder.

    Perhaps we could replace 75% of everything universities deliver to undergrads with some version of TED.  But how valuable is the 25% that we lose?

    I don't have enough data and experience to answer that for myself.  I'm only going with my gut and feeling that the present day innovation we experience isn't exactly happening on line, just yet.  So I'm still envisioning my kids in a traditional, college setting.  Hopefully with in-state tuition, close to home.

    •  When it comes to computers theres another prob. (5+ / 0-)

      Innovation in computer software has another insidious effect:  

      It teaches people to be bad at computer software.

      Computer software is unique as a labor saving device in that the labor it is saving you from is thinking rather than physically exerting your body.

      So the better the software is at its job the more it insulates you from the details of what's going on and the more ignorant of how a computer works it makes you become.

      Which becomes a problem for the next generation of software because the people who write it didn't grow up having to know much about their computer to use it.

      Once upon a time you HAD to know at least a crude basic level of commands to issue and how to write very simple software to just operate a computer.  The effect is that most people didn't bother having one.  While it's good that more people can use them now, it came at the cost of most of them having no clue how anything works, and worse yet, the systems these days ship without providing even the ability to learn more without buying add-on software to do it.  (Which if you don't know what you're doing, you won't even know that this is what you'd have to do to start learning what you're doing.)  Once upon a time all computers shipped with some type of programming language by default.  Not anymore.

      When they do decide later on to start learning how to write software, their teachers end up having to start from scratch with them.

      The problem is made worse by the legal morass of intellectual property when it comes to copyright and patent law.  When copyright and patent laws were first made, the demarkation between the two was simple: copyright is for text you write which is an inherently passive work that sits there until a human reads it, while patents are for active things that do stuff on their own.   The problem is that when it comes to writing software, that line of demarkation is nonexistent.  All software is BOTH text you can read AND and active thing that does a thing.  So software companies get the luxury of picking and choosing whether to file a patent for a thing their software does or to file copyright over the software (usually they do both at the same time).  The effect this has is that it becomes increasingly more and more illegal to learn how your computer works in a school setting.  You end up having to learn a lot of it from your employer later on instead.

      •  well, I am going to jump in on this (11+ / 0-)

        and agree only in part

        let me set up my remarks by noting that before I became a teacher I was in data processing in a variety of capacities for more than 2 decades. that my experience goes back to 1401s and punch card technology, that I was a certified systems professional and am technically still a certified data processor, that I helped write the 1985 CDP exam because I had the highest score in the nation on the systems analysis portion of the 1984 exam, and at that point I probably knew as much about the different Cobol compilers around the country as anyone in the nation

        In the earlier days we were quite limited in storage, so we did lots of shortcuts. That led to the supposed crisis in 2000 because of using yyddd formats for dates (which when packed took only 3 bytes of storage) - smart professionals used other methods - a fixed offset from some date in the past, for example, so that the so-called y2k problem would not exist.

        But we also understood about backup and recovery.

        We could not afford to send out software that was full of bugs (are you listening, Bill Gates?)

        It was rare to receive purchased software only in executable form, and most good programmers and all systems programs could reach machine-level code to see what was actually going on in the computer.

        OF course, most software then was far less complex than the average email or word processing or spread sheet program is today.  Remember, memory was very limited.  People learned to be very terse and precise in their coding to save memory, and this often meant we were far more likely to identify problems with the code before it went live.

        I have seen far too many expensive pieces of software today that are buggy.  I agree that the user is quite limited in being able to figure out problems.  i used to be able to take purchased software and debug it and tell the vendor what was wrong, because we were sent source code that we compiled on our own machines.  Now you get executable code in a black box format with no real way to examine what is going on, supposedly for proprietary reasons.  

        But sharp computer folks can almost always find a hack to get around problems -  being known as a hacker used to be a good thing some three decades ago.

        I have reached the point in my own life where I no longer care to get into the internals, but want only to know what I need to in order to apply software to the task at hand.  I paid my dues for several decades.


        "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

        by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:06:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't see the part where you disagree. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CA wildwoman

          You open by saying you only agree "in part" so I started searching your comment for the bit where you disagree and I couldn't find it.

          (Oh, and on an unrelated note, the system of marking dates from seconds-since-epoch didn't entirely get rid of the problem, it just kicked it down the road to the year 2034, which is when a 32 bit twos-complement signed integer will no longer be able to count seconds since Jan 1, 1970.)

          •  but that was only one solution to yyddd (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            CA wildwoman

            some used a fixed offset of days from some arbitrary date in the past - say 01/01/1901

            of course some of them forgot that 2000 would be a leap year even though 1900 was not, but that was a separate problem.

            "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

            by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:19:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That still doesn't fix the problem. IT just kicks (0+ / 0-)

              it down the road a lot further.  ALL date formats based on any Von Neuman machine will inevitably store the date in a format that has a fixed number of limited dates it is capable of representing.  The problem will always be there in some form and it only "goes away" due to the fact that the solar system won't last forever and therefore any finite timekeeping that, while still being finite at least lasts longer than the earth will last is probably good enough.  Basically the seconds-since epoch problem coming in 2034 will be solved by switching from storing the time in 32 bit numbers to storing it in 64 bit numbers (which is already starting to happen in modern OS's), which are capable of storing a number of seconds longer than the earth will last.  Still finite, but good enough for most things.  (I'm not being snarky when I say "most things" because in some astronomy calculations you do actually need to calculate things occurring in longer timescales than the lifespan of the earth.)

               (Basically, I find the seconds-since-epoch to be far superior just because the Western calendar is so ugly in how it works and when the computer calculates things in its own head it makes far more sense for it to just keep track of time as a single number.  It can be scaled to seconds if that's the accuracy you need or scaled to days if thats the accuracy you need, but in either case it's the same concept:  Don't bother dealing with the crap about some months being 30 days, some 31, and one being 28 except once every 4 years when it's 29 except it's not exactly every 4 years and sometimes it's still 28 even though they year is divisible by 4 and so on and so forth. - just ignore all that messy stuff until the moment you want to translate the time back into something human readable, or you want to take input from a silly human who insists on using that messy system - only for doing that translation do you deal with the messy human calendar.  The rest of the time you think of time as a simple scalar number.)

        •  Actually, that's not true as to a sophisticated (0+ / 0-)

          enough programmer binary is just as good as source code.  Perhaps you haven't seen how it was discovered that Sony used the same "random" number for all their PS3 encryption keys making it possible to use simple algebra to get them?

          As for systems not having tools like a compiler and assembler, thank goodness for the GNU project and gcc (and mingw32, etc).  In fact, that kind of thing is exactly why Richard Stallman started the Free Software Foundation and GNU project in the first place.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:39:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  don't be so sure (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Throw The Bums Out

            going back to my day dealing with 2nd generation hardware and software a number of us knew how to create self-modifying software that was not easily traceable in the source code, and thus for practical purposes untraceable in the binary -  when did you take the dump, before or after it modified itself?

            "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

            by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:43:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I wouldn't be so sure, how about cracking software (0+ / 0-)

              that is not only heavily obfuscated and self modifying but actually uses it's own custom bytecode and virtual machine system which is also heavily obfuscated and self modifying with dozens of layers of encryption and obfuscation?  Ever hear of StarForce?  That is the equivalent of trying to debug a nes game running on pocketnes running on a gba emulator running inside dosbox only every single layer is heavily obfuscated and almost completely written in self modifying code.  Of course, it helps that now you can waste 512MB-1GB of RAM on the obfuscation/encryption/self modification part alone.

              You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

              by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:00:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Most modern systems explicitly forbid (0+ / 0-)

              self modifying code.  As in they break assumptions the OS makes about how to handle multitasking scheduling so if the hardware has such instructions they are deliberately disabled by adding them to the list of things that will cause a fault and get trapped by the OS.

              •  Actually, no they don't as that would make most (0+ / 0-)

                modern web browsers unusable as they use dynamic recompilation to convert javascript code into native code.  The same is done with Java and Flash both of which would be impossible without self modifying code.

                You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

                by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 10:55:38 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  You are really stretching the truth there (0+ / 0-)

            when you used the phrase "just as good as".  That phrase implies it doesn't take any longer to understand binary code as to understand source code, and it implies that only seeing the binary code doesn't make things any harder to follow.  That's absolutely incorrect.  Even if you are dealing with a programmer who can understand the binary you lose all the naming of things.  Variables in disassembled binary code no longer contain English names (unless you were really lucky and got your hands on a debugger-usable version of the binary that therefore has the symbol table in it but that's typically not what gets distributed as the final product now is it?)

            If you claimed that there exist some people who can make use of the binary code I'd agree.  But when you claim that those people will find the binary code "just as good as" the source code, that's total bollocks.

    •  The Cult of Information (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alabamaliberal, teacherken

      that Theodore Roszak described in his 1970 classic of that name sheds a harsh light on why so many people think we can do without the 25%. I don't believe we can.

      I am also reminded of T.S. Eliot's "The Rock" in which he writes:

      Where is the Life we have lost in living?
      Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
      Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
      There's something very Pareto-like about all this: most companies generate 80% of their profits from 20% of their products. Analogously, it would be the 25% we lose that would most likely be most beneficial for all of us.
  •  What's your take on the AP course revisions? (4+ / 0-)

    I agree with your criticism of the amount of course content; I've heard AP classes described as "a mile wide and an inch deep". For that reason, I am not having my oldest rush into AP classes. My oldest can take AP US History next year (sophomore year) or wait until junior year to take it, which is when the revision takes effect.

    "Love binds us all."-willb48

    by be the change you seek on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:05:56 PM PST

    •  I didn't encourage my kids to take the AP exams. (7+ / 0-)

      although they did take AP classes.  Unless there is no way to afford four years of college, I feel that acquiring a lot of college credit in high school in order to graduate college early is foolish.  To me it's like trading a year of youth for being able to retire a year earlier.  College is such a unique experience in one's life that I don't see what the rush is to graduate and get a job.

      That said, I understand that especially in this economy there are plenty of people who simply can't afford any more college tuition than the minimum they can get by with.  That's something our society should grapple with, since college costs here are much higher than in many other developed countries.  We need to decide that an educated populace is important to our economy, our security and our health as a country.

    •  I had specific criticisms of AP US Govt & Politics (8+ / 0-)

      even before AP folks started moving towards a standardized curriculum, which I do NOT like.  That was that the free response questions did not take into account good writing, and there was far too much material to be considered, particularly given the universe of Supreme Court cases that could appear either in the multiple choice half of the test or in the free response questions.

      I did not have a problem with requiring teachers to submit syllabi for review to ensure they were of the appropriate rigor and completeness.  That by the way was a direct result of the explosion of AP courses for schools to get higher ratings on the Challenge Index created by Jay Mathews of the Washington Post Company (the results of which used to appear nationally in Newsweek and for the DC area in the Post itsel).

      I worry that the standardization of curricula is going to mean AP teachers have far less flexibility in doing things that engage the particular students before them.

      I have had a principal I know raise the possibility of creating some new AP courses in social studies and hiring me to teach nothing but AP.  I think I can provide far more rigor and challenges without having to consider preparing them for the AP test.

      And I know from the times I have read AP tests for the College Board that there are a lot of students who are not learning at a college level - when on a 6-point rubric for a free response question more than half the answers get 1 point or less, and yet you are committed to a 50%+ pass rate on the exam, there is something wrong happening.

      Don't know if my answer is completely responsive to your question, but that is what I have to offer.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:13:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the response. AP World History (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        got revised last year & AP US History is supposed to be revised in a couple of years & I was just wondering what you had heard about those revisions.

        PS - Best wishes for strength & speedy recovery to Leaves in the Current.

        "Love binds us all."-willb48

        by be the change you seek on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:05:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I remember at my high school (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in the late 90's, we had AP US History, Biology, Chemistry, and Computer Science, but not English.  The teachers refused to move from their own well-tested honors curriculum to the AP's standard curriculum.  

        I didn't understand them at the time, but I do now.

        Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

        by nominalize on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:22:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  a couple of notes (0+ / 0-)

          1 - increasingly more selective colleges/universities are either limiting getting credit or not even allowing credit for AP -  Dartmouth just joined the latter category

          2 - many prestigious PRIVATE schools (eg, Dalton in NYC) have refused to do AP, and some public schools are moving in that direction, trusting that their faculty can provide rigor and depth without the driver of the AP tests (or even the IB tests)

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:37:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I will say, though, (0+ / 0-)

            that my AP computer science teacher definitely did NOT teach to the test--- he was the JV basketball coach, and as soon as the season started, he focused on that and let us play Duke Nukem on the LAN.  

            Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

            by nominalize on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:23:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I suggest reading the comments at the link (12+ / 0-)

    provided in the diary (here), particularly the one from "Kit."

    NCLB may have indeed made things worse, but "teaching to the test" is far from the main culprit.

    As a litigator in a major New York City law firm, I often supervised new associates who had graduated from the most prestigious law schools in the country.  Based on that experience, my conclusion is that the ability to write intelligently (or even intelligibly) ceased being taught long before the 2002-03 academic year.

    We must drive the special interests out of politics.… There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will neither be a short not an easy task, but it can be done. -- Teddy Roosevelt

    by NoMoJoe on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:16:00 PM PST

    •  I don't completely disagree (5+ / 0-)

      I think we can trace this back at least to 1983 with the release of A Nation At Risk, which started the ever-intensifying emphasis on test scores at the expense of real learning.

      But I assure you, in 18 years in public secondary school classrooms, things got much worse even with the brighter students beginning in the 02-03 school year, when NCLB went into effect.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:16:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Way before that. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, T Maysle, LarryNM

      I started teaching in 1963, had children who went through school in the 70's and 80's and resumed teaching in the 80's.  It's been going steadily down hill throughout that period.  I fault lack of sustained, serious reading, as much as anything.  But the distractions of popular culture have also played a role.  Guess those two are related!

  •  today (6+ / 0-)

    It seems to me that there was never any reading pushed
    it was prepping for tests when my sons were in school.
    When i was in high school we read classic stuff, Canterbury Tales,Moby Dick,Red Badge, Call of the Wild,after Moby Dick we were encoraged to read Melville's short storys and turn in book reports for extra credit I choose Billy Budd.
    After Call of the Wild i fell in love with London's stroies,
    And can't read enough.
    The video game shit is a major distraction,but books are fun
    Hunter S Thompson kept me reading when i was doing things
    nudge nudge..wink wink

    In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

    by lippythelion69 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:20:43 PM PST

  •  I teach in Georgia so (5+ / 0-)

    I actually don't expect too much from high school students. Nor, for that matter, beginning graduate students.

    It would be nice if they knew how to write, some reasonable amount of "real" mathematics, a bit of logic, and social/history things. High school level (even AP) courses tend to be a bit behind the times in STEM even when they are well taught.

    If they know how to work hard, study and apply themselves, they'll do fine.  Part of our job as professors is to teach the finer points of thinking and more current content.  (This is especially true in Math and Computer Science where ultimately the students have to "teach themselves" and we can only guide them).

    But it does sound like we'll have to reach lower to get the students up to speed.

  •  Its already happening in the university (21+ / 0-)

    Nothing that Teacherken says comes as any surprise to me. I just retired as a tenured faculty at a land-grant business school. I have been seeing  things getting worse for a long time. The past 4 or 5 years just continue the pattern.

    However, as much as I detest it, I don't want to make NCLB not the only culprit. IMO, big class sizes will drive all teaching organizations to expand their use of multiple choice tests for high stakes evaluations.

    It is the cheapest and, according to some misguided folks, the 'fairest' or 'most objective' form of assessment. My view is that its only fair to the extent that every student takes the same crappy assessment. Its not anywhere close to fair if the goal is to accurately assess their level of preparation, aptitude or accomplishment.

    At the university level, things are little different from K-12. With multiple classes with 80 or more students, I am a masochist if I ask for essay submissions. Actually, I am a masochist, but the vast majority of my colleagues are not. Most of you haven't seen anything like the lemmings' march to the optical test scoring office around midterms.

    Even when I assign essays, I don't sit down and give detailed feedback and comments on every paragraph or sentence. Not on content ... let alone grammar. I read the essays quickly, I write a general assessment and I may add specific notes to things done especially well or poorly.

    Recently, I started to experiment with making video recordings of my comments. I would video the paper under a desktop camera and make comments as I added written markup. I put that on a secure video sharing server that was at my disposal.

    That didn't change my basic workload, but it allowed me to get additional value from my grading time. While I was scribbling arrows and highlighting phrases or sketching on diagrams, I was giving a running commentary of the reasons why I was doing it. I think I was able to cram 15 min of normal comment writing into about 5 min of multimedia comments.

    Not sure how many students actually watched the videos. A few thanked me for it. Most just complained about their grade.

    Then I retired early so I can try to do things that don't get my colleagues mad at me.

    Maturity: Doing what you know is right - even though you were told to do it

    by grapes on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:27:53 PM PST

    •  I'm jumping around and reading only smatterings (0+ / 0-)

      as I've got to get away from the computer soon, but I like this:

      Even when I assign essays, I don't sit down and give detailed feedback and comments on every paragraph or sentence. Not on content ... let alone grammar. I read the essays quickly, I write a general assessment and I may add specific notes to things done especially well or poorly.
       because it's more important to see their writing for the idea expression and then give them feedback. As a writer myself, I never know what I think till I 'see what I say' so the use of online peer groups is the best way to get them to write and "see what they say" at the same time...just like we do here on DK.  

      Now I really have to go get in the shower!

      I can do everything but earn a living.

      by alabamaliberal on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:23:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        if the teacher does not work on phrasing, usage, structure,grammar etc when will the student have the opportunity to learn it?

        "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

        by teacherken on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:00:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree ... it's what I should do (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The problem is class size and steady erosion of support. I haven't had a TA in years.

          Actually, I had one (exactly one) class where I thought it was done properly.

          Our technical writing masters' program started a program with the business school. They assigned a really good masters student to work with me for the semester.

          I had a class of 50 students in purchasing. I worked out a rubric for the assignments with the professor in charge of TW. I assigned 3 essay projects. I read them for content. The masters student reviewed them for grammar and spelling. If he thought there were issues, we huddled.

          He got credit. I watched writing actually improve. Tech Writing program had better prepared graduate. Wins all round.

          They stopped the program the next semester because some other writing lab on campus got mad because they thought the program was poaching on their turf. Of course, they never offered to help me.

          The system is severely broken on more levels than I can describe in less than a book. I'm starting to have too much fun to care about writing it. Any other faculty member could probably do as  well.

          If you want to read one perspective, get this book.

          Maturity: Doing what you know is right - even though you were told to do it

          by grapes on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:43:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Just downloaded the book to my kindle. (0+ / 0-)

            Thank you So MUCH - I am fond of Self-Development and College Writing by my buddy Nick Tingle, now retired from UC Davis.  

            The thesis he did such a beautiful job of illustrating is the struggle that the transition to college causes in the student...where they have 12 years (or more) in a high school environment where they are taught not to be creative and think for themselves, and then they are suddenly asked to live in a university environment and the first classes where they are challenged to write are the ones where that transformation begins. It's hard on the teacher as well as the student.

            I can do everything but earn a living.

            by alabamaliberal on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:20:01 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I make the kids read out loud (0+ / 0-)

          and that tends to help more than anything. But the other thing that worked for me was peers reading their writing.

          I used something called Comment Press which used to be a wordpress template. It's cool because you can comment at the paragraph level.

          And I swear by Visual Thesaurus

          I can do everything but earn a living.

          by alabamaliberal on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:15:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Ken, I am so sorry, (8+ / 0-)

    actually I am sorry to the entire teaching profession, who have/had/are putting up with NCLB and it's derivatives.  

    Ross Perot, got elected to the TX State School Board and started this mess.  It started after I graduated, but two years later the first testing started.  Bush II, got it from there and with the usual Republican wisdom spread it to the four winds.  And the roots took hold and are chocking out the public school systems.  There are times I wish I could go back in time to correct wrongs, as this is one of them.

    To all of the teachers on Daily Kos, I am sorry.


    "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

    by doingbusinessas on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:31:38 PM PST

  •  We don't do much intellectual work at the college (27+ / 0-)

    level either.

    Most of us today are adjuncts barely paid a living wage (adjuncts teach a majority of college courses for undergrads in this country). We work semester to semester, without an office, and with annual income of between $12,000 and $30,000 for a full load that tenured faculty earn four to five times as much to teach. Most of us have to have other work to live, meaning verrrry long hours in our work lives and far less time available outside the classroom to our students; we continue to teach despite the very low pay and stressful conditions because we believe in learning and in our students.

    We don't have the keys to the copier. We don't get access to departmental materials. We often don't know what we're teaching (or how many courses) until days or even hours before the first student walks in the door. Sometimes the opposite happens and we "lose" a class we were supposed to teach when enrollments don't come in as expected—sometimes the week of the semester start. Oops! You lost half your work and half your teaching income. Sorry. Good luck in your remaining class this semester, and hope you can find something to fill the time!

    We answer to what is an increasingly MBA-driven administrative culture, even at the privates. I taught at two separate big-name NYC private universities (there aren't too many, so you know who the suspects are) and found the experience to be similar to what you are describing.

    "Metrics" and "benchmarks" often only tangentially related to mastering the discipline and information, sometimes for accreditation purposes, sometimes in response to institutional research (internal bean counter and prestige measurer) outcomes. Minimum N exams with minimum N questions, using one of the following prescribed formats, minimum N minutes group time, and N pages of essay writing, courses titled and material to be covered decided not by instructors or academics at all, but in order to match the product offerings of major publishers (Cengage, Pearson, etc.) with whom there are large existing contracts. And do set aside unpaid after hours time for the students that play sports; they will miss a third of class days this semester and you'll sign to indicate that this is okay and that you will do what it takes to help them pass—and if you don't, it'll come down on your head when your teaching ratings suffer. This is important; sports add to the bottom line in terms of drawing enrollments.

    Even more worrisome, I sat in on a meeting in which an entire social sciences department was on the chopping block due to a lack of profitability and an inability to contribute to the university's bottom line. What about the majors? The grad students? The tenured faculty (much less adjuncts) at issue? Well—Hard Choices Would Have to Be Made.

    The department ended up being saved. But in fact it was a serious discussion, brought to a head by MBAs in administration, about the fact that STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine) fields earn cold, hard cash through patents and grants and spinoffs, humanities fields pay their own way with massive enrollments (how big is the average undergrad English department?), but some fields in the social sciences are just investments with a low ROI (no patents, no masses of paying undergrads packing the seats) and ought to be eliminated.

    What's a major university without economics, sociology, anthropology, etc.? One that doesn't ask what is happening in society and doesn't see those sorts of questions as valid foci of research.

    Interesting, that—and probably, structurally, in the larger view of the social system that we have and the education discussion here—no accident.

    -9.63, 0.00
    "Liberty" is deaf, dumb, and useless without life itself.

    by nobody at all on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:42:06 PM PST

    •  Then there's that awful idea of (0+ / 0-)

      offering higher salaries to faculty who could earn gobs more money in the private sector in such fields as molecular biology, computer science, etc. to hire and retain them.

      •  It's funny— (4+ / 0-)

        at least half of my work hours have always gone to teaching. When I was in NYC (where the schools pay more than double for adjuncting than they do in the flyover states) it was maybe 20-30% of my income, despite the time and headaches involved.

        Now, even though I'm in a flyover state and doing contract work and my income has been radically slashed, teaching is an even smaller percentage—maybe 10-15% of my income, despite still being about half of my work life many semesters.

        The tenure-track jobs just aren't there; all departmental growth in the last two decades at most institutions has been a matter of swelling the ranks of instruction with adjuncts, who are cheap and can be contracted and released on a dime. I've literally been called the night before the semester begins to ask if I'd take on a new class about a new topic the next morning, and I've had three classes at the start of a semester and had two of them pulled out from under me due to low enrollment at the end of the first week of teaching.

        But I say yes to most of the courses I'm offered. Why? Because I'm a damned good classroom instructor (most adjuncts are—the tenured faculty tend to be wrapped up in their research and departmental service commitments) and the students need me. Given my real world professional experience in addition to my academic life, I believe I can teach the things I teach better than most out there, and I believe it's important that these things be taught to those that are willing to hear them.

        But my wife isn't so sanguine about it. She wishes I'd just stop doing it already—high stress, long hours, high risk (yes, students try to bribe you with all kinds of things, including female students, and with inappropriate things—and it always makes you nervous when you have to turn it down and/or report it), and very little pay, no benefits, and no stability, which impacts all the rest of your work and financial life.

        She used to teach, too—she was determined to be on the tenure track—but the reality of higher education, once she was in the departmental roles and doing the semester after semester teaching, simply drove her out. Now she's not just jaded, she won't talk to academics in general and is very torn about the fact that her own husband still wants to work in that environment.

        -9.63, 0.00
        "Liberty" is deaf, dumb, and useless without life itself.

        by nobody at all on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:28:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I know there are college professors (12+ / 0-)

    who feel that high school teachers have not done their job, and high school teachers who feel the same about elementary school teachers. My wife teaches kindergarten.

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:47:34 PM PST

  •  "it's enough if they can make change, and read (6+ / 0-)

    street signs for deliveries."

    I'll not give the attribution for that, but it was a man, convinced of his superiority, explaining his future plans for conquered populations.

    Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

    by Jim P on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:15:24 PM PST

    •  well, Marie Antoinette had similar opinions (0+ / 0-)

      and she was not alone of her gender in holding such opinions.

      But man or woman,  we know how that worked out for them that time...

      The Bill gets paid,  one way or the other.

      don't always believe what you think

      by claude on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:53:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As I wrap up my day (21+ / 0-)

    as an elementary arts teacher, a "Specials" teacher, I see in my inbox 3 separate emails about upcoming circumstances related to testing that will take students out of my classroom and into a setting designed to prepare them for the asinine new STAAR™ exam. This is the latest standardized brainchild of Texas Education Agency, replacing TAKS, which replaced TAAS, which replaced TEAMS, which replaced TABS.

    FUck all of this nonsense. I am so sick of testing. I teach in a fantastic charter school. I love my job, though I am huge on Public Ed and not a fan of charters. Our kids are not cherry picked, a true lottery, all from poor zip codes. We have great financial support and huge community support. Our test scores rival or beat the very top District schools in the state.

    I we want to make schools functional and to maximize student learning, here are my top suggestions:

    Recess: PK-12 kids need a solid 1 hour block during the day to play. They also need a morning and afternoon recess, even if it is only 15 minutes. Let kids get bored at recess because it is so long. They will come in ready to learn.

    Food: States and Districts should pull food service contracts from vendors and suppliers like Sysco and roll that money into hiring cooks to make food from scratch. Yeah, that is expensive. There is wasted money to be found to pay for this. Look at your expenditures for textbooks ( that largely suck) and related supplementals for starters.

    PE: Kids should have mandatory PE experiences where they are required to be physically active for a full hour each day.

    Arts: that's a plural. Every school should have a full time Music, Art, and Theater teacher at the elementary level. AT the Middle and HS level schools should have divisions in Music to include Vocal, Symphonic, and Band AT LEAST.  It is a proven fact that Arts Education enhances learning in Science and Math. If School to every dollar spent on test prep for Science and Math and spent it on the Arts, and made them a requirement, scores would far surpass the current requirements. It's not even a close call.

    The one thing we can learn from Republicans is to start taking over the school boards and local elections. If progressives replicate that in the name of turning this shitbox around, we would make big progress.

    The place was utterly dark—the oubliette, as I suppose, of their accursed convent.

    by bastrop on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:15:57 PM PST

    •  question on the arts (0+ / 0-)

      As nice as vocal, symphonic, and brass-orchestral music are, would it not (also) be important to teach music using more... modern equipment and styles?   I suppose it would be the same for the other arts, as well--- there's a lot that can be done nowadays with computer-based art.  

      Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

      by nominalize on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:30:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  AMEN and more AMEN! (0+ / 0-)

      Also, thank you for advocating everything you describe and for describing so SUCCINCTLY your charter's enrollment criteria and results.

      With support for everything you've advocated here, I want to say that you clearly do something that I have seen over and over again here at Daily Kos, teachers essentially saying:

      FUck all of this nonsense. I am so sick of testing... Our test scores rival or beat the very top District schools in the state.
      I take this to mean you value good, reasonable tests, but that the overuse or unreasonable use of testing, and especially BAD tests, are counter-productive. Would that be a fair assumption?
  •  My dad taught college English for 40 years (12+ / 0-)

    and retired in 2000.   And already (well pre-NCLB) he was becoming frustrated by what he felt was marked deterioration in the skills and behavior of entering students.  It's not that he was an across-the-board curmudgeon -- he was active in the civil rights movement, and supportive of student political involvement against the Vietnam war, in favor of divestment from apartheid South Africa, and so on.  But he was disgusted by the idea that even upper-division students would be so lacking in seriousness as to habitually disrupt class with side conversations and phone calls, or routinely dispute lackluster grades in the face of clear criteria and explicit feedback.  

    Perhaps it is human nature to feel that the world has ALWAYS been going to hell in a handbasket.  But I was seeing it too, in my teaching at the HS and JH levels.

    We can't put it all on counter-productive curricular measures.  There are some basic social dynamics of courtesy and motivation that haven't been conveyed to way too many unlucky young people.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:25:43 PM PST

    •  Well I remember that kind of crap from (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      when I was in high school and that was well before the "zero tolerance" insanity started and from the looks of it things have gotten worse.  In both my experience at school and experience working with schools teachers may be good, bad, or average but administrators are often the worst to deal with.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:48:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you for making the point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that the problem teacherken describes has gone back long before NCLB and A Nation at Risk.

      A Nation at Risk came about because of what your father saw.

  •  Thank you for writing so eloquently and (8+ / 0-)

    honestly on this important topic. I've followed your writings here for many years.
    Another indirect effect NCLB has on learners that Teacherken eludes to is the exodus of excellent and creative teachers from the field and the non-entry of so many potential others.

    I received my Sec Ed degree in unified science with a biology endorsement in '04, the year NCLB was to be enacted in high schools, as promised by GWB when re-elected. I decided to hide out doing academic research, gain cred as as a "scientist" before teaching, and hope it would soon blow over. I've now earned my Master of Science in biology, and could be available as an "HQT" (Highly Qualified Teacher), but I know too many teachers - teachers whose hands are tied, in classrooms too large, in schools that are underfunded, with administrators and a system that disrespects and marginalizes them, and who have tried to change the system and failed. Play the game as it is or get fired, I've been told. Why would anyone want to do that?

    "You do not have to be good...You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." -Mary Oliver

    by hwy70scientist on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:26:03 PM PST

    •  I'm so sorry, I have a correction to ask for ... (0+ / 0-)

      Teacherken doesn't 'eludes to' anything - I think the word you meant to use here is 'alludes' ?

      Thanks for the informational comment - Indeed, we lose too many good teachers because of the Bullsh*t imposed on education from outside.

      Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

      by CA wildwoman on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:41:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Truth. My impulsivity and lack of english (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CA wildwoman

        education catch up with me periodically. "Alludes" is what I meant.

        I tested out of all English courses in college and was able to make time for one honors advanced lit course (and only because I took physics in the summer). My ed degree was a five-year degree with no foreign language requirement and no electives. These grievances, however, belong in another diary.

        Thank you for a lesson well-received that will not be forgotten.

        Tit-for-tat... You did end your comment with a preposition. :D (Just teasing, thanks.)

        "You do not have to be good...You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." -Mary Oliver

        by hwy70scientist on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:05:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah I tend to do that- I like preposition endings (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          My college experience was a lot like yours, though they did make me take a writing class to graduate.

          I hated it, but ended up realizing I needed it after all & was glad I did it.
          College ended a lot of my superhuman personal expectations, thank goodness. Then my kids really taught me humility.

          Our daughter just started her first teaching job as a HS mild moderate Sp Ed teacher - I'm so proud !! And she struggles with dyslexia, not diagnosed until she was in her credentialing program. Her forte is figuring out coping strategies. During her schooling I proofread her papers, but never wrote them for her - fortunately she was never scared to write even with her terrible spelling.

          Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

          by CA wildwoman on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:34:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Yup, all ignorance and corruption (10+ / 0-)

    from the get go. And don't think that mathematics is getting any better because of all the attention on exams. Because there is only one way to ensure a high level of success on standardized mathematics exams: make the problems very predictable, and then teach the problems. In some cases, use the same problems every year, where the teachers see the exams each year. Students can be good at mathematics, but if they are unfamiliar with the specific problems, they (and you!) will be at a huge disadvantage, so you skip the drill and ignore the inside test information at your great peril. Then they make the teachers' raises and jobs dependent on the outcomes.  If you're lucky, you get numbers that look ok, but represent nothing. And you get to teach another year. And the kids get to college, and either they see the same sort of emptiness they've seen for 12 years and think it's just grand, or they are unable to cope with being asked to understand what they are learning. This is our system.

    Good point about your 129 students. And an obvious point, yet our "education leaders" are incapable of the simple arithmetic it takes to see that even 10 minutes of individual attention per student represents over 20 hours of your time. Nope, even that's not good enough. You're to give them individual after school instruction, call their parents, take them out to McDonald's. Then maybe the likes of Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and Charlie Rose will find you sufficiently worthy to let you keep your job. For another year.

    Bold at inappropriate times.

    by steep rain on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:27:02 PM PST

  •  no one blames the HS teachers (7+ / 0-)

    one things about all those social science professors who are losing their jobs or adjuncting for ridiculously poor wages is that we tend to be liberal and understand the evils of NCLB et al.. I have never heard any colleague say "what the heck are those HS teachers doing?" where as we have often questioned the testing the students go through.

    We empathize with the HS teachers. We dont blame them.

    I cant tell if its a West End musical or Marxism in action.

    by Evolution on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:42:07 PM PST

  •  This discussion matches what I have (10+ / 0-)

    been seeing in my intro classes at the university level.

    Over the last 5 years the grades on the exams I have been giving have been steadily declining, despite the exams being more or less the same over that time.  At the same time, I have been finding students more and more strident with their demands, and expectation, of being told, in advance, what exactly will be on the test.  Don't get me wrong, students always asked....the difference is that now I get the feeling that students actually expect to get an answer.

    I see all of this as the beginnings of the 'no child left behind' generation reaching my classroom.

    "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

    by Empty Vessel on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:56:13 PM PST

    •  One of my co-worker's daughter got taught (4+ / 0-)

      this lesson the hard way this past fall.  The instructor said chapters 1-x will be on the test.  The daughter thought it meant the topics that were actually discussed in class time.  She studied those items and was surprised to find other topics on the exam.  These additional topics were in the chapters the instructor told them the exam would be over.  She learned real fast what was expected of her and neither of her parents gave her any sympathy over the lower grade.

    •  There is an increasing sense of entitlement in (0+ / 0-)

      kids in school.   But that mirrors society where getting rich by being clever is more valued than getting rich by being smart.

      We will never be free from fear as long as we fear the NRA.

      by captainlaser on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:52:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A dissenting opinion. (0+ / 0-)

    I'm of the opinion that while language skills are important, the proper solution to the problem is to emphasize them as their own separate topic and NOT to muddy the ability to grade separate topics separately.  Yes, NCLB is a stupid way to do things in general.  But what you're advocating is to give someone a bad MATH grade because of skills that aren't math.  And to give someone a bad HISTORY grade for skills that aren't history, and so on.  

    Do you think it would be right to go the other way around and say, "Well, since STEM subjects are so important, let's make knowledge of math and science necessary to do well at a creative writing class?   Here, as part of your English writing test, write an essay on how the quadratic equation works and why it works like it does.  Oh, I'm sorry ... your English skills are great in this essay and your writing is top notch, but you still got the facts of the quadratic equation wrong so I'll mark down your score on this ENGLISH test for the fact that you're bad at math.  After all, math is important so we have to emphasize it in other subjects too."

    A test in subject A should try as hard as possible to be testing only for knowledge about subject A and not also subject B.  If subject B is very important, then the solution is NOT to falsify the data abut how good the student is at subject A by mixing subject B into the testing of A.  The solution is to test B as well as A independently.

    Its just the basic simple experiment design principle about separating the variables in your tests.  If you're testing for two different things at the same time, don't publish the results as if you were just testing for one of them.  It's not honest.

    If you create a situation in which student A who is better at history than student B gets a lower grade for history than student B because student B is better at writing skills, then your test is not really a history test and the data of the test results is not telling the truth.

    •  Most tests necessarily constructed of words (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CA wildwoman, JanL, lazybum

      and therefore inevitably function first as a reading test.  

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:13:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  you are attributing to me positions I do not hold (5+ / 0-)

      please do not do that

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:21:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is the logical conclusion of what you said. (0+ / 0-)

        You advocated the idea that someone should be marked down for poor english on a test that isn't testing the subject of english.

        •  actually I did no such thing (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp, captainlaser

          I simply noted that quality writing - which is essential in the social studies - is ignored in the scoring of the test and thus to prepare my students for the test in a sense I have to teach them to write badly.  To be more specific, it is a waste of time to write a topic sentence or a conclusion, both of which are considered part of good social studies writing (independent of what is done is English) because no credit is given for them in scoring the free response question, and thus students are wasting time in writing them.  Now, I had students who did so fluently as part of their writing process, but others struggled to craft the topic sentence and that hurt them because they would run out of time before hitting all the points on the rubric.

          I will also note that in talking to college professors of Government -  and there were a number of them who like me were scoring those responses - it was almost unanimous that they would mark down essays on their tests that were not properly organized - for them you needed clear statements of the topic and proper conclusions.  Thus the writing being done on that AP test was NOT appropriate preparation for college-level work.

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:42:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Or in scientific writing. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            See below.

            Even in science courses, you need to be able to express yourself coherently.  And if you are going to do science for a living, you need to know how to read and write.

            My "Global Warming" seminar is less about Global Warming than it is about scientific literacy and being an intelligent citizen.  I warn my non-science students that in three years, they will be sitting in a suit behind a Congressman and whispering advice in his ear at a Congressional hearing.  They better know more science than the average American.

            We will never be free from fear as long as we fear the NRA.

            by captainlaser on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:56:49 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  In my High school (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, CA wildwoman, JanL, lazybum, claude, lgmcp

      Every classroom had a sign that said "every class is an English class."  

      Courtesy of FB, a bunch of us middle aged folks who've gone our separate ways for 30+ years are back in touch. We all remember those signs, and we all recognize the value that approach has had for us in our lives.

      •  in my life, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, lgmcp

        every moment has a sign flashing "This is a learning experience!!"

        Education and learning merely start in school,  where one is supposed to learn how to learn.

        Of course,  many of us have made a lifetime's living doing things for people who are very good at only one thing and think that's all they need.

        don't always believe what you think

        by claude on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:03:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  What is history about if not writing and reading? (7+ / 0-)

      After all, history is a story. AP Government

      Every teacher should ideally be a teacher of reading and writing, except maybe the math teacher (and even they can do a little) and science and social studies can be incorporated in English as well. The separation of subjects as though everything has it's little compartment is huge problem.

      As an English/Reading teacher, I teach science and history all the time still and I expect those teachers to expect critical thinking, reading, and writing to be of some importance, ideally. Common Core seems to be helping with that, as imperfect as it is.

      •  The problem is that the grades (0+ / 0-)

        don't actually deal with this notion that the subjects are not separable.  The grading system CLAIMS to be scoring the students in different subjects.  If as you say this is impossible, then stop grading as if it was.  Give one overall summary grade instead of itemizing it by subject.

        •  Not really. (0+ / 0-)

          The grade from one class to another can still be different even if the standards are the same (as they will be in Common Core - history now has the same standards as I do in English, just different content; math is still different, but everything else is following the literacy standards for now and Science and SS will still do so later, though I believe some elective standards are coming).

          What a student does in one class and how they react to content may differ - a student may demonstrate more understanding of the standards in one place or another. Some students can perform to standards in all subject areas and topics and settings, and some can perform differently in one class or another.

          I agree that grading is an imperfect system (plenty still depends on the teacher, and, in theory, it shouldn't). But there's nothing to say that the subjects can't use literacy standards.

    •  Ok, so how do you test writings skills using (0+ / 0-)

      either a multiple choice test or computer grading software (which is already crippled due to the fact that computers can't read cursive writing worth a damn at all)?  Answer: you can't so they won't do it.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:52:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is an argument against using (0+ / 0-)

        multiple choice to grade English skills.  An argument I'd agree with.

        That is NOT an argument that has anything to do with what I was talking about, which was allowing English skills to be a reason to mark someone down on OTHER tests in other subjects, a practice that essentially falsifies the accuracy of a person's grade at some other subject.

        •  you are assuming those are English skills (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          denise b

          they are not - they are essential skills for writing in the social studies

          the ability to clearly organize and present ideas is essential in social studies

          it is, by the way, why some of my students told m they learned more about writing well in my class than they did in some of their English classes

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:44:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  What constitutes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, lgmcp

      being "better" at history? Being able to recite facts? How can you assess someone's understanding of history if he can't develop ideas and argue them in an organized and coherent manner?

      We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

      by denise b on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:35:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  please respond to what I actually said. (0+ / 0-)

        instead of an argument I never made.

        •  gee, isn't that how I responded to you? (0+ / 0-)

          you seem to be quite inconsistent in what you are posting on this thread.

          as a result I think I will not take further time to respond to you.  Fire awah

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:45:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  The emphasis on facts (0+ / 0-)

        is a crucial part of the reform debate in education. E.D. Hirsch, began his movement for reform because, as with so many college educators, a significant number of his incoming students lacked basic knowledge:

        The particular incident that shook Hirsch to his intellectual foundations was the assignment of a passage on Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House... "The community college people could not read it, because they had no idea who Lee was, who Grant was, what the context was - and in Richmond, Virginia!"

        Parents, university teachers, and community members have worked over the past decades to establish more emphasis on factual knowledge because so many high school graduates in the United States seem to lack it.

    •  If you wrote about the quadratic equation, (0+ / 0-)

      and your essay was all wrong about the quadratic equation, you would get poor grades for your argumentation, and rightfully so--- writing isn't just about the style, it's also about the content.  

      And vice versa.  Ask John Kerry or Al Gore how important it is to deliver the content properly, not just to deliver it.

      Each field has its own conventions of what is proper for content delivery, and those conventions are taught and checked in writing assignments.  The writing IS part of the subject, in every subject it's in.  There's no point separating it out, because there is nothing to separate.

      Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

      by nominalize on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:37:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Whoosh you missed the point. (0+ / 0-)

        the point is that in my example this WASN'T a math class.  Giving a student a poorer grade on an English skills test based on the fact that that student isn't very good at what was taught in math class is falsifying that student's record.  Because the grade the student got will say this:

        English: C

        as opposed to what it would say if it was honest which would be this:

        Average of English and Math: C

        I would assume this would be pretty straightforward and clear.  So why is it acceptable to go the other way around and downgrade people in other subjects for poor writing skills when there's already a separate grade for that?

        Any argument of the form "but you can't really measure the skills separately though!  It's not possible to really do that." must also be accompanied by the statement "And I therefore do not think it is right to issue grades in the subjects separately" in order to get sympathy from me.

        As long as the report card is claiming the skills are judged separately (which it implicitly IS doing), then it had better be telling the truth about that or else the system of grading has to be changed to reflect reality if what it currently is claiming it is doing isn't actually possible.

        •  It goes in the other direction, too (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          which was my point, that you missed completely.  Writing non-fiction in a composition class includes a heavy rhetoric part, and that includes starting with true points, and arguing based upon them.

          Getting the math right is part of the skill if you're writing about math.  It'd be like writing an essay on the history of aviation and starting off with a beautiful sentence describing how Amelia Earhart invented the airplane, and that's why aviation took off in America.   You'd lose points for arguing from faulty premises.

          As long as the report card is claiming the skills are judged separately (which it implicitly IS doing)
          Well, no, it isn't, and if there is any implication that it is, it's because you have added it.  Part of chemistry is expressing yourself like a chemist.  Part of history is expressing yourself like a historian.  And so forth.  

          Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

          by nominalize on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:28:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I guess it depends on the School District (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Back In Blue, CA wildwoman

    My daughter graduated last year from a CA District and other then a handful of classes where the teacher spent a few days  going over material that was covered by the test, there was no teaching to the tests. The tests are so basic that no special prepping  is required to pass them. The kids who took all IB and AP classes typically take the subject tests years after they took those classes. For example my daughter took the Chemistry No Child Left Behind Test, two years after she took Chemistry and the Math test which only covered beginning Algebra when she was taking Calculus

    The best students in good Districts are not being hurt by the new standards as they are way beyond them. At my daughter's high school 95% of  her school passed the CA High school Exit Exam in 10th grade, which gives you an idea of how undemanding these new standardized test are.The kids being hurt are the one who struggle to gain basic mastery of the material, not the gifted students.

    •  So then why waste any time and money on (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the tests at all?  Why not devote the time and money to the students who are struggling to gain basic mastery?

      I'm teacher and the teachers in any school can tell you who is struggling, if they'd just bother to ask. What we need is the resources to help them, not to waste the resources on a test that will only tell us what we already know.

      The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

      by helfenburg on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:04:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not defending the tests (0+ / 0-)

        I think they are huge waste of time and money. I was just pointing out contrary to what this Diary references, I don't believe the best and the brightest are going to be hurt by the new tests, as they are largely irrelevant to them.

  •  The only way to teach writing (7+ / 0-)

    The only way you will get good writing is if Students take English/Composition classes where they have to write papers every week or two throughout the course of the entire year. And you have only do that if teachers have small class sizes that allow them to grade all of those papers.

    •  at secondary level issue not class sizes (7+ / 0-)

      but total load on the teacher

      the late Ted Sizer argued that secondary teachers should have no more than 85 students in all their classes.  One can argue if one is really teaching writing the number should be about half that because of how much assistance students need.

      My heaviest load ever was 196 students in 6 periods.  Social Studies should involve writing, but I think you can see the problem I faced.

      In my current setting in an inner city middle school with 7th graders, I only have 67 students on the roles, and practically on any day I would be lucky to have 55-58 of them show up.  Which is good because of how much they are high need students.  Which doesn't matter because DC is test score crazy, and the kind of writing they have to do in order to succeed on the tests is not necessarily good writing, but is easier to assess and score.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:24:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My experience... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CA wildwoman, Mostel26

        I confess that in my AP history classes, the teacher acknowledged that she did not have time to assign term papers because of the shear volume of material she had to cover. So she taught to the format of the essays that the AP exams tested on along with in class essays required for her own in class exams. However, it was also understood that the school itself required intense writing instruction in its English classes, so the AP history teachers could rely on the fact that their students were acquiring those skills in parallel.

      •  I'm so sorry again, but it's attendance rolls ... (0+ / 0-)

        I tend to proofread automatically, which is why I can't type very fast. Seems to be my last functioning brain cells ...

        Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

        by CA wildwoman on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:58:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The purpose of education in America is: (8+ / 0-)

    To incubate a better grade of serfs for the owners of the ownership society. Standardized, sorted, and disposable.

    Meanwhile, the products of the home schoolers, the private academies and prep schools, the progeny of the scions of the Ivy League schools will be in charge.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:10:19 PM PST

    •  I can't remember (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, JanL

      the last time I heard of school being a place where students learn to find and express themselves. I think it was way back in the 60s.

      God knows what it would do to the work force of the Military Industrial Complex, if everyone took up dance or guitar or sculpture instead of STEM.

      •  That's how they made hippies (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Letting kids find and express themselves. Can't have that.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:40:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  guess you were never in any of my classes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in the 18 years I taught before I retired

        I challenged my students

        it was not at all unusual that students who were science geeks went home and talked about my class, whether it was government, US History, World History, Social Issues, or Comparative Religion

        many teachers find ways to make those connections for students despite the increasing rigidity of what comes down the hill as education policy.

        I would tell them if you tell me HOW to teach, then I am not responsible for what they learn and how they do on tests.

        If you leave me the f&*(k alone they will do well enough on external tests and actually learn much more because of how I engaged them.

        One year I had 126 out of 129 who took the state test in government pass it.  All 3 who failed the test had failed all  quarters with me.  So had 10 who passed the test-  they had to retake the course to graduate, but not the state test, which was a stupid test with many bad questions but which was not that hard to pass.

        "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

        by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:48:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We call it "No Child Left Ahead" in my house n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA wildwoman
  •  In our rapidly changing environment... (10+ / 0-)

    The most imortant thing any teacher can teach their student is how to learn.  I think that we rely too heavily on teaching to memorize rather than teaching to understand.  When you truly understand something, it is easy to modify that understanding when the technology changes or when a rule no longer applies but when you only memorize, you have to relearn it fom the beginning.

    Look at how our technology has changed over the last thirty years, or twenty or even the last ten...  What is being taught in college today is likely to be obsolete by the time kids graduate  (depending on the subject matter of course).  

    If they understand the subject matter, it will be easier to build upon that understanding.  If they memorized the information, it will be useless.

    "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

    by Buckeye Nut Schell on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:22:34 PM PST

  •  The saddest thing (11+ / 0-)

    is that so many students now think education is just a bunch of bullshit tests.

    I teach Freshman Comp I and II to students who know they're not prepared for college. They were drilled on five-paragraph themes with different colored inks for the different parts of the paper, and told that's what they'd be writing in college. It's no wonder they hate writing.

    I'm also back in grad school, and most of the high school teachers I've met in my classes are desperate to move on to teaching at the college level.

    But now they're coming for us. Our funding is now based on how many students graduate, and there are rumblings of merit pay along with an increasing mania for "assessment" and "accountability."

    And almost all of it comes from people with little, if any, experience teaching.

    There are days when I have to force myself not to think about the future of my profession, because it's like contemplating the slow, inevitable death of a member of the family.

    Beware the man of one book.

    by fiddler crabby on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:27:08 PM PST

  •  One of the differences between the ER (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA wildwoman, jayden

    And the classroom is that most of us spent 16+ years in the classroom and fall too easily into the trap of thinking we know how teaching should work as a result. A lifetime of baseball watching doesn't make you into an MLB player, but somehow that's not the comparison people make.

    OTOH, that shared experience does give us each some anecdotal points of reference.

    I'm very curious to hear your thoughts on the Common Core.  Reactions among teacher friends are very mixed. When I hear people who are committed to it or were involved in the development talk about the rationale and the goals, it all sounds good.  But then I read other things that make it sound stifling and boring.

    It's interesting to hear your thoughts on how teaching to the test infiltrates even AP classes. I remember AP American History as the class that taught me the most about reasoning and constructing an argument, and also did the most for my writing.

    IB does seem to avoid some of the traps   My kids are in a 7-12 school that does IB middle years (with adjustments and compromises to meet state standards) and then diploma for 11th and 12 th.  it's a public school that's selective but committed to recruiting a range of students, not just the top kids. I find the level of work quite impressive -- lots of emphasis on reasoning, writing, building argument, examining evidence. Seems to require a lot of commitment from the teachers, so I'm not sure how scalable it is.  But most education seems to be headed in exactly the opposite direction, which I'd very depressing.

    •  not a fan of common core (9+ / 0-)

      but it will take too long to explain here why

      let it suffice to say that neither teachers nor the relevant professional associations were properly involved in the original drafting

      and the thrust is moving towards high stakes tests based on common core which will further pervert education

      lots of problems within common core, including the assumption that all students mature across all domains at the same pace, which is an even greater perversion of what we know about human growth and development than already exists in our cohort approach to education

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:35:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'd rec this comment a thousand times if I could. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, jayden, JanL, LarryNM

        Here's an excellent, recent, anecdotal diary by kavips on Common Core's failings in english.

        "You do not have to be good...You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." -Mary Oliver

        by hwy70scientist on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:44:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  And if the common core standards are inadequate, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        how do we go about changing them?  Where is the authority that created them?  HOw do we provide feedback, unwanted though it is, of course.

        An example of how inadquate CCSS are, in elementary school in language arts/English and even in the art curricula, there is no mention of audio-visual medium, e.g. film and video - methods of production, aesthetics, nothing - not even a mention, in the 21st century?

        Quite an oversight, I would say.

        The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

        by helfenburg on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:10:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Another Common Core ripple... (0+ / 0-)

        combined-grade classes in our district's elementary schools are being ditched.

        Not because of any evidence against their success or benefits... the discussion that brought the combined-classes into being in the first place had a lot of discussion around what would be educationally superior... but because the new Common Core based-materials our district will be using only come in single-grade chunks.  (as opposed to the 2/3 and 4/5 curriculum choices that were previously available to our teachers.)

        And here we'd been so thrilled when my daughter, who has autism, made it to 2nd grade into a 2/3 class because we could count on the default being a two-year experience with the same teachers and a relatively stable cohort of classmates for two-years!  Our girl craves stability, sometimes it's the only thing that keeps her going.  We are doing our best to scramble and re-create as much of it for next year as possible, with the help of some amazing teachers.

        And all that fallout doesn't even have anything to do with the Common Core content, just the side effects of the materials structure!!

        If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

        by AnnieJo on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 09:48:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Common Core standard tries to do good (0+ / 0-)

      but is way too vague and is trivial to implement in a manner that "meets the standard" without doing so.  In other words, there are way too many loopholes in the standard for it to actually be useful unlike a real standard like say the RFC standards published by the Internet Engineering Task Force as if they weren't written extremely well you wouldn't be able to even get on this site due to incompatible implementations of the standard.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:08:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  They aren't learning to write in college either. (7+ / 0-)

    I was a graduate student and teaching assistant at a large public university in the late 90s. My students were both undergraduates and lower level graduate students and most of the classes I taught had projects that involved a substantial amount of writing. The writing was generally awful. I expected the grad students to be a lot better, after all they already had a BA under their belt, than the undergrads but they typically were not.

    I had to go to the professors I was working for and ask them what the hell I was supposed to do with these papers because if English grammar and usage were part of the grade at least ¾ of them would get a C or worse. I was told that my mandate was to grade them on content because I was supposed to be teaching them architecture and not remedial English. I thought the ‘not my job’ approach was sad, nonetheless, as teacherken mentions with the 3 minutes vs. 5 minutes to grade something, if I had corrected grammar and usage errors everywhere I saw them I would have doubled my time spent grading, which I wouldn’t have been paid for.

    The ‘content only’ grading approach yielded some strange results. I had several students who were not native English speakers and were not fluent to the degree someone pursuing a graduate degree should be. Nonetheless, in reading their papers I could tell they grasped the material so they earned good grades per the rubric we were grading under. However, relative to reality, i.e.: the workplace, these students were screwed because they can’t communicate in standard written English.

    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

    by Joe Bob on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:15:46 PM PST

  •  it's been showing up for the past 4 years (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hwy70scientist, jayden

    I teach college, specifically Sociology, and my students have suffered in their critical thinking, writing, reading, and application skills and it is getting worse every year....

  •  And this is why (4+ / 0-)

    you are our teacher, ken.

    Thank you.

    Tom Smith Online
    I want a leader who shoots for the moon. The last time we had one, we got to the moon.

    by filkertom on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:36:05 PM PST

    •  glad to be of service (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      filkertom, marina, hwy70scientist, jayden

      am finding out that not only was the original of this At Academe widely distributed, but some influential people are taking the link for this and pushing it out there

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:37:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Right on the money (5+ / 0-)

    You have summed up NCLB, RttT and all of the other alphabet soup of education reforms. I teach AP Language and Composition this year. Currently, we are discussing articles on education. I asked them what the purpose of education is. They answered, "To improve. Show growth" etc.

    I asked, "On what? What is growth? Whose test? What does that mean?" They couldn't answer, and truthfully, neither could I. I know what the powers that be think it means.I just happen to not agree.

    I think that is the question for our time: determining what it means to be "educated" in the 21st century.

    I teach them to think, communicate clearly, and challenge each other's thinking. Today a student said that mine was the only class that made her think. I apologized, because that's not the way it should be, but that's the way it is, and it's only going to get worse.

    "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way" Juan Ramon Jimnez

    by Teiresias70 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:55:30 PM PST

  •  So glad my children were not as effect by NCLB (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, hwy70scientist, jayden, JanL

    My older daughter was subjected to very little of NCLB.  She was taught to compose a paper in logical clear manner with correct grammar.  Draft, edit, repeat.  Lots of practice.

    My younger daughter had a learning disability and we got her out of public education for high school.  She had enough trouble and NCLB just added to it.  She couldn't take those tests to save her soul, they did not reflect what she knew but there she sat for a week taking them not to mention the waste of instructional time teaching to the test.  She went to a Quaker school for kids with processing problems.  She had a much better learning experience than if she didn't have a disability and stayed in public school.  It's a disgrace that we are destroying our public education system and subjecting kids to 12 years of this crap.

  •  Real learning must be chased down. (0+ / 0-)

    That's what I've come up with. Perhaps real learning isn't for the masses - if it is, we'll have to find a lot more passion for it as a country. We've not taken it away from the masses, but we've never opened it up for them. Not really.

    I came of age before testing was big (graduated HS in 2001), though we were still tested anyway and I took many AP tests and classes. I don't recall the writing being particularly poor - though only a few teachers really taught me how to write in my life before college, one of them was a history teacher - and my teachers did get bonuses if we passed the AP back then ($100 per student who scored a top score). But I went to a tiny, very wealthy school and all my teachers had long gotten tenure, which meant something back then. I think that's what really mattered: They all taught exactly as they wanted and didn't give a crap what anyone thought. That meant some were terrible, but it meant most were awesome and passionate about what they did. Now it's a long race to the middle so far as I can tell.

    That said, I can't say we were right before. The poor school in the bad part of town where I grew up churned out students who couldn't read. They did. That's not a lie crafted by the people ruining education - just a truth twisted into something awkward and ineffective. I think many other countries do it better, both the education and the teacher training and even the testing. Maybe someday we'll get it right, but I'm not sure our universities, except the tops, are much better than our high schools. I'm in a PhD program that still has awful writers -- all educators -- and people who have stilted vocabularies and poor grasps of proper argument and critical thinking skills.

    P.S. I am an English teacher. But a very tired one by 9pm at night, so excuse any errors.

    •  going to strongly disagree (0+ / 0-)

      real learning is for everybody

      and what we SHOULD be doing for our students is teaching them HOW to learn, not merely preparing them for tests that largely measure WHAT they have learned

      it does not matter what one's interests or occupational goals are, one has to be able to learn

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 01:01:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wasn't saying what should be - simply what is. (0+ / 0-)

        In the world, as it is, if you want to learn, you have to chase it down. It will not come to you.

        I'm not sure how you bring it to the masses. It's nice to say everyone will read on grade level or everyone will really learn, but if they aren't motivated to and don't want to (and that's not a teacher thing or a parent thing, but a society thing), they won't learn.

        I think everyone is ABLE to learn. I don't think everyone does.

        •  Essentially: I can teach a student how to learn. (0+ / 0-)

          But I can't make them want to. I can help motivate some, certainly, but I've yet to find a way to get all of them. If you have, you're one in a million. I don't know any teachers who can with every student and every population.

          How do you make the horse drink?

  •  I have been teaching since 2004. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, hwy70scientist

    In that time I have seen a similar, significant change in expectations and performance from middle school students.  The kids we have today have spent their entire school career under the shadow of NCLB high-stakes standardized testing.

    The negative effect shows, significantly.  They aren't that curious or creative.  There's significantly more learned helplessness and a quest for the "right" answer.

    And these are just the general ed kids I teach.  If anything, the special ed kids (mostly mild to moderately learning disabled) have more questions and more curiosity, simply because they've a.) had smaller group work, b.) they've been encouraged to look deeper into the text and c.) we've been able to be more creative with them.

  •  The plutocrats worship numbers, not critical (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, JanL, LarryNM, achronon

    thinking or cogent clear communication skills.

    Just look at the garbage statements that spew from them every day.
    Their life's work is manipulating numbers & people for their own monetary benefit.
    Money is numbers & power to plutocrats, so of course educational funding must be linked to the numbers they choose. They don't need 'no stinkin' art or music unless they can sell them for money.
    Clear communication & well informed decisions are their enemies - the masses are more pliable when confused.

    Thanks for sharing this information - it needs wide distribution.

    Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

    by CA wildwoman on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:43:18 PM PST

  •  Great diary, thanks. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, jayden

    "Let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation....It's how we are as Americans...It's how this country was built"- Michelle Obama

    by blueoregon on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:59:32 PM PST

  •  passed this along to my daughter's principle. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, jayden

    well put... and I see what is happening at the university level....scientists who can't write well can't be successful....

    "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan." final words of R Holbrooke

    by UTvoter on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:31:08 PM PST

  •  No librearies in all those schools? (0+ / 0-)

    What is wrong with those that are making the decisions? What is their goal? To make us a country if illiterates again?

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:44:05 PM PST

    •  Believe it or not, there is a venerable and (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      T Maysle, jayden, denise b, LarryNM

      well-known private university in Manhattan that has seen some legendary faculty and thinkers of the 20th century teach there that shuttered their research library while I was in NYC during the 2000s.

      They are literally a Ph.D. granting institution without a serious research library. They'll tell you that they have one; all you have to do is use their computer system to find the materials that you want, then place a request so that they can be shipped from a warehouse and you can then pick them up at a small desk in a building primarily used for computer labs. Or, you can visit the other New York universities and use their research libraries instead, where they're so behind the times as to think it's a good idea to waste hundreds of thousands of square feet on dead trees.

      It wasn't about money—they're in the process of redeveloping an entire block of Manhattan into a new campus center (or were, when I was in NYC—it's probably done by now). Last I heard, the shiny new architectural wonder was to have lots of room for gyms and sports and "amenities" because that's what undergrads need and what drives enrollment and, thus, dollars. Not, you know, an education at a proper university with a library or anything so quaint as that.

      That's where we are these days—academy sans library but with great revenue driving "features" is on the way.

      -9.63, 0.00
      "Liberty" is deaf, dumb, and useless without life itself.

      by nobody at all on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:02:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I remember the APUSH exam! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, teacherken

    I took it in April of '08, (or whenever the spring exam is given, I forgot. I scored 4/5 though! woo!), but I could sense my teacher's disappointment about his lack of freedom to orient the class towards intensive knowledge, rather than having to rush through it all.

    Great diary! Tipped and rec'd.

    "Who's the more foolish, the fool, or the fool that follows him?"--Obi-Wan Kenobi

    by punkRockLiberal on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:57:20 PM PST

  •  Scary. Can hardly wait to see what our courts, (0+ / 0-)

    legislatures and executive branches look like in a few more years as our newer "grads" continue to take things over.

  •  For what it's worth.. (6+ / 0-)

    I am not a professor, but I do teach in a shop at a university. In the almost nine years I have been there I have watched the students go through our theater scene shop, and I have watched the critical thinking skills and the math skills drop almost to non-existent. A couple of years ago I had to teach students fractions and refresh some of their geometry skills. In the last semester we have had a wave of youngsters come through that cannot read a tape measure or a ruler....  It is as if the world is flat, and measuring devices fell off the edge. Suddenly there is a language barrier. It is surreal.

    We knew this was coming, it's been discussed, and no one blames the teachers. It's scary though.

  •  Thank you. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, lazybum, captainlaser

    I know I've shared this before, but here is the number one horror story from my days studying history.

    My senior year, I was finishing my last history courses. They were all senior level, just about everyone was going to be graduating within the year. Our term paper was to be peer reviewed with an airing of our arguments by our peer reviewer. When this day came, one of the student's had "written" a paper that went something like this:

    "Quote" conjunction "quote." Preposition, "quote," conjunction, "quote."
    This went on for the entirety of the paper. Luckily for him, we still had plenty of time before the final paper was due.

    Sadly, he said that he didn't know that what he had done was wrong.

    He had no voice in the entire paper. There were almost zero original thoughts (as much as can be expected in undergrad history, but still).

    He was a bright kid, shy, but still bright. How could it possibly be that it wasn't until one of his final courses that he was told his writing was, well, not writing? Yes, he is but one student. Perhaps there weren't any others like him in our department. But somehow I doubt it. You don't string together quotes for your final paper in one of your last history courses. This should have been nipped in the bud back in high school- hell, middle school.

    But this behavior was passed along all the way through college! I genuinely felt sorry for him. He deserved better, but with what this article says is true.

    Our system is built to pass along this type of behavior. And it is a gargantuan problem.

  •  It's the Bidness of Edukation (0+ / 0-)

    Con Artists, Charlatans and other assorted Phonies in service to the Kleptocracy by pretending to deal with the few real problems while creating a torrent of others.

  •  College is going that way as well. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Where I work many of the young new hires with BS degrees in chemistry or electrical engineering.  Can not compose a sentence. And I thought I was bad with my shitty spelling from an edumacation in the 1960's and 70's.

    •  So long as we're sharing ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, captainlaser

      I increasingly find that folks in their 20s coming into my company cannot write.  And they need to write in this work.

      One comes to mind ... bright kid.  Went to a good university.  Was editor of the nationally known, well-respected campus newspaper.  Did a prestigious fellowship.

      CANNOT write.

      Thinks he can ... uses lots of words, lots and lots of words.  Big words.  Buzz words.  Jargon words.  Sentences stretch across lines and down pages.  

      It's incomprehensible.  Turgid.  Unreadable.

      And he doesn't know he can't write -- he thinks he's a good writer.

      Why did no one ever tell him?

      My HS English teachers would have eviscerated those paragraphs, again and again, until he learned to do better.

  •  Roommate is a HS teacher (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh, teacherken

    She's ticked because the NYS Regents exams have been dumbed down over the past 10 years or so.

    I read her honors class essays and weep.

    •  let me offer an observation from my distant past (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I had been a teacher intern for 6 months in a Quaker high school in New Jersey in 1974.

      A few years later while my then girl-friend and now spouse was at Harvard I applied for a job at Harvard Business School teaching writing using their case study method.  I did not get either of the two jobs.

      I remember interviewing with the head of the program and he asked me what I thought of the essays - we had had to correct etc several that were apparently real papers as part of our application process.

      I said that in the junior-senior class in Great Issues in American History it would have gotten a B-.  He then told me it was better than 90% of the papers I would see were I teaching the course.

      Many business types cannot write, and oh by the way do not think very clearly or express their thoughts as cogently as they think (are you listening Bill Gates?) which is why they often have to hire liberal arts types (from English, Philosophy, Social Sciences) to do their writing for them.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:22:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I didn't specify, but roommate teaches honors (0+ / 0-)

        English in a suburban high school. So, I'm not sure how business students' writing skills equate to the standards expected of current honors class English students in high school. Also NYS Regents exams are given to high school students.

        Were you meaning to reply to another post?

  •  Ken, thank you so much (4+ / 0-)

    for this. I've been in the midst of this problem ever since I got dragged kicking and screaming into teaching dev. studies writing at my alma mater. I lasted long enough to get furious at the situation that was a constant there - students who could not write because they could not read because they had no "concept imagery" skills.  Because they are working for the teacher, not for their own edification and illumination. They are writing for the teacher, pure and simple. I solved this to a degree by making their peers their audience using the web, and got squeezed out of a job by the (no longer there) incompetent administrator who just wanted me to weed out the smart ones and let the rest fall through the cracks. Of the 125 students I had, I suspect less than 10 ever completed their coursework. I have found that the only ones who get the kind of support they need are the student athletes and then not unless they are both self-aware and brave enough to risk MIND SHAME by asking for help. Tutors are available but there's still a stigma even for the athletes.

    I cry every time another one slips through the cracks.

    I tried to show the university what I was learning about the tools that can be useful in that situation. One of my favorites was the tool which I highly recommend to any and all.  

    Gotta run. I have a women's basketball game today - my girl Ronneka Robertson, from the backwaters of Louisiana, is now a starter. I held onto her for dear life and we used the VT to help her 'see' the words in her mind. She is my success story.  So far.  

    I can do everything but earn a living.

    by alabamaliberal on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:12:14 AM PST

  •  the whole situation at the university level (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, captainlaser

    is far worse than you can imagine.

    we are corporatizing even our public institutions, especially our public institutions.

    my department actually hands out demerits to those of us who require the reading of books in our writing classes.

    we have reached this insane level.  our department was reorganized from the very top: the university provost who became president.

    formerly we required thinking and were an American Studies department

    now we are a profession writing department which means we don't study anything but how to produce writing for the corporate structure.  period.

    this means the standardized curriculum is content free and is structured around producing canned writing assignments.  they learn how to produce solipsistic writing that expands nothing about their vision of the world.  its easy and they give the classes high evaluations because as one of my students told me: I was told I could get an A without attending class.  He failed my course because he thought he was in one of those sections.

    I am trying to work past 65 in order to not be poor in my old age, but I have absolutely no power to fight any of this.

    Even the most highly respected professors in the humanities on my campus have absolutely no power to challenge this system and are running for corners of the institution.  

    Donate to Occupy Wall Street here:

    by BlueDragon on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:33:08 AM PST

  •  Thanks, Ken. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Linda Wood

    I have inherited your children into a first-year seminar course at my University (and you know which one that is).  I was appalled to find that less than half of those students could write a 1000 word essay each week after reading a scientific paper.

    I had 20.  I had 20,000 words a week to mark, return for rewrite, and re-mark.

    I am a full professor in a research university.   The students think that I am mean.  They call my course "writing intensive" although the University does not recognize it as such.

    After four years, I see those students and they thank me for being mean.  But I also know that I am an anachronism.  I know my teaching colleagues think I am crazy for putting that much time into a course.

    Teaching matters.  And it is very, very hard work that is underappreciated.   I don't judge high school teachers for the mess that NCLB has created for us.  I just think that it is unfair for bright students to not have been challenged because of teaching to a test.  We can fix this.   We can give our best students a more challenging educational experience.  We can make our students competitive with overseas students.

    But not by doing what we are doing now.

    We will never be free from fear as long as we fear the NRA.

    by captainlaser on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 07:45:01 PM PST

    •  Hell, I am trying to challenge my current students (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood

      who are very much at risk inner-city 7th graders, some who read at about a 3rd or 4th grade level.  Getting them to write 5 sentences is a struggle.

      What many people do not seem to understand is the very real difference in clarity of thinking between SPEAKING your ideas and WRITING them.  In speaking one can modify as one is going on as a result of visual and auditory cues.  Often, even on the phone, one has the advantage of knowing the specific audience to whom the remarks are intended, which assists in how one can phrase, and perhaps even allow one to offer less than complete thinking, knowing the audience knowing you will be able to fill in any gaps.  In writing, even with a target audience in mind, the expression must be complete and organized.

      Sometime I write to clarify my own thinking.  Often one sees some of that in what I post here.

      At other times what I write is a more complete expression of a worked-through though process, which is why it is subject to revision and editing, to ensure that it functions and communicates as I intend.

      In our society of instant gratification the idea of revision is something that seems almost alien to many of those I teach and far too many of those I encounter in adult interactions.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 06:54:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  All of the expressions of outrage, (0+ / 0-)

        concern, and condemnation of the effect of NCLB in the comments to your diary, including yours, are nearly identical to the writings of teachers, parents, and university faculty who have observed this decline in college preparedness since before NCLB, over a period of nearly 40 years. Some of the writers commenting here have made that point, that they personally have seen this problem for much longer than the period since NCLB.

        If you are making the case that things are worse, not better, since then, I am paying attention and am willing to learn about it from you. But if you are making the case that this problem is the fault of NCLB or A Nation at Risk to begin with, I disagree, and I am concerned that you are in a position to know that's not the case.

        I'm also interested to see you making the case for the teaching of skills and background knowledge while also expressing your doubts about the Common Core State Standards. It's my understanding that the teachers and university faculty who have worked so hard to develop those standards have stated their reasons for doing so in nearly identical language to your comments in this diary's discussion.

        The disconnect between the Common Core standards and their implementation, state by state and district by district, is thankfully being discussed in diaries here at Daily Kos, but concentrating on NCLB as the cause of the decline in educational progress I think ignores the fact that district by district implementation, in the attempt to achieve improved outcomes, has been a factor there also during this decade of worsening outcomes.

        •  you are missing part of what I am saying (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Linda Wood

          first, for context, we are seeing a pattern that goes back at least to 1983 with the release of A Nation at Risk.  I do not deny that.

          Second, we are as a direct result of NCLB seeing children arrive at high school with no meaningful social studies, little meaningful science, and little experience of effective writing, because none of these were being tested for adequate yearly progress.  Add the pressures of what is now being imposed on high schools and there is no way we can make up for those deficits.

          But part of my piece, which was written upon request for a publication that goes to college professors, is to warn them not only about what they will be seeing in their students, but what is coming down the pike for them.  You now have governors who want to rate professors by how much money the students they taught are making.  There are serious proposals to rate colleges of education by the test scores of the students taught by their graduates.

          The madness that we have experienced in K-12 will continue to spread.  My friend Pasi Sahlberg of Finland has appropriately labeled all this as part of the Global Education Reform Movement, whose acronym is GERM, because it is spreading its infection everywhere.

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 09:08:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Children Are Being Taught, "Test Writing," (0+ / 0-)

    I am not opposed to all testing, and I am certainly not opposed to high standards.

    However, what happens with high stakes testing is that the test-especially in poor and struggling schools-replaces the curriculum.

    The writing tasks on our state tests are very specific ones. Students are taught how to analyze the prompts and how to craft very formulaic paragraphs to answer them.

    It is not a bad skill, particularly for struggling students. However, it is extremely unfortunate when this becomes the only kind of writing that goes on (and I could replace writing here with reading).

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