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Last Sunday, January 23, I introduced you to Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, where I told you that

For the future of our children,
    we demand the following . . .

  * Equitable funding for all public school communities

  * An end to high stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation

  * Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies

and that the date of the event was July 28-31, 2011.

Starting today, I will begin to introduce you to some of the key people organizing the event, and explain why we are committing our time and energy to this important effort to save our schools.

Today I would like you to meet Katherine Cox.

From our About page you can learn that

Katherine McBride Cox, who grew up in Louisiana, initially began her career as a college English instructor. She recently retired after 35 years as an educator in Arizona where she was a classroom teacher, an elementary principal, and a high school principal. She developed a nationally recognized career education program for 5th and 6th graders called Window on the World. She taught self-contained gifted students for eight years and later worked with at-risk middle school students. She also served as an instructional coach, coaching other teachers. She serves on the Information Coordination Committee and the Blogging/Social Networking Sub-Committee.

I asked Katherine why she was volunteering in this effort.  She told me the following:

When No Child Left Behind was passed, I was not as wise as others.

Arizona is one of the most poorly funded states in the nation as far as K-12 education goes. I was glad that we would be getting additional monies.

It took me awhile to see that we had made a pact with the devil. Standards actually were lowered because the state had to make the new state tests easier  year after year in order to get enough students to graduate. The tests became meaningless, yet schools were ranked according to their test scores.

In order to get the excelling label, principals were telling teachers to drill and kill on the subjects tested – reading, math and writing – and to neglect science, social studies, p.e. and the arts. In the past, at least 75% of our students were on grade level or better. Now I could see that the top 75% of our students were getting a worse education than these students had received before NCLB.

As a high school principal, I could see a train wreck heading down the track. If freshmen had not had 4th grade geology – the rock cycle, including sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock or 5th grade human body systems -- were we supposed  to introduce these concepts for the first time to freshmen in biology and physical science classes?

Learning became tedious for students and teachers alike. No longer were we attempting to ignite fires in the minds of our students. I ended up retiring in December of 2009 and set up my website, In the Trenches with School Reform.

I began following teacherken on Daily Kos, as well as bloggers such as Anthony Cody, Nancy Flanagan, and Valerie Strauss. I continually said  in my blog – I’m tired of  talk. Others like me have been talking and explaining for years. It’s time to take action.

Anthony Cody and Victoria Young  made contact with me and eventually I was asked to join this group. I was delighted to be asked to help.

I had spent 35 years as a teacher and principal trying to make our schools better and better. For a long time, I believe I succeeded. After NCLB came along, it seemed that my life’s work had been for nothing. Everything I had helped build was dismantled. For what? I knew that we had fallen into the rabbit hole where everything is upside down and nothing makes sense.

I’m in this battle to take our schools back and make them better. But first we must wrestle them away from the likes of the Michelle Rhees and Bill Gates of the world – and the grip of the federal government.

Katherine is just one those dedicated to the well-being our our students and health of our public schools who has stepped up to the challenges we face.

We ask that you join us in supporting Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, July 28-31.

You can see who has endorsed us (and there you can find out how YOU can endorse us)

You can contribute to help us.

See how YOU can help us in this effort.

Thanks for reading.

Please consider helping let others know about this effort.

Help us Save Our Schools.

Peace.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 03:24 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  To teacherken - Thanks (6+ / 0-)

      Thanks for bringing this important issue to light at the Kos.

      sig...You just ran into a hardcore progressive who's just another working stiff with an MBA degree & therefore a vociferous labor union supporter [smile]

      by Democrats Ramshield on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 11:28:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I will suport and create (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken

      Dearest TeacherKen . . .

      I offer what I presented to late in reference to the earlier essay.  As a strong advocate and lifetime activist, I wish to share my eternal truth.  Violence begets violence.  This is no less true in the use of language.  Indeed, I experience that if our words are aggressive, we encourage aggression in return. In my work as an Educator, my students forever heard this utterance, otherwise known as Newton’s Third Law of Motion.  “For every action is there an equal and opposing reaction.”  Therefore, I personally do not choose to “demand” as is voiced in the Save Our Schools mantra.

      I will participate in the March and every effort to Save Our Schools. I will protest.  I will eternally argue each procedure that hinders authentic education, assessment, and growth.  However, I will not ignore nay avoid the reality I experience when I approach a matter or a man with a demand . . . reactions that work against a productive actuality.  As Ernst Mach restated, "When two compact objects ("point masses" in phystalk) act on each other, they accelerate in opposite directions, and the ratio of their accelerations is always the same."

      Schools are transformed by policymakers, and, or Educators, everyday people, and pupils.  We can chose to create what we crave, or we can work in opposition to our objective.  Whatever we do will give birth to what comes.  Thus, I prose a peaceful a presentation, prose that invite legislators to rethink rather than rebel, resent, or reprimand us for what they will think vitriolic demands.

      I wish to Save Our Schools, not further separate our selves from those who wildly wield power, policy, and wealth.

      sos
      businesscard.aspx

      It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. - Ian Anderson.
      Betsy L. Angert BeThink

      by Bcgntn on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 02:13:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Morning Ken (10+ / 0-)

    Informative as always, ty

    "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." Arundhati Roy

    by LaFeminista on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 03:34:28 AM PST

  •  I will be around (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, ER Doc, blue armadillo, mapamp

    at least for next few hours

    in case anyone has any questions or concerns that I can address

    I will be doing other things, but will check on this at least once every ten minutes or so

    Feel free to comment, question, or complain as it suits you.

    And of course I would be delighted with tips, recommends, and if you choose to share this diary with others.

    Peace.

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 03:58:01 AM PST

  •  Tipped and rec'd... (6+ / 0-)

    "Corruptio Optima Pessimi" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 04:26:20 AM PST

  •  Isn't home life the key factor? (6+ / 0-)

    I'm the product of public schools. My son attends a public school. I've liked and admired the work of every one of his teachers.

    I live in an economically challenged area, though, and a good number of my son's classmates experience learning difficulties.

    Every year, when the newspapers publish area school rankings based on standardized test results, wealthier school districts score the highest, while poor school districts bring up the rear.

    Is that merely a coincidence? Doubtful. Is it possible that the rich public schools possess better teachers? Unlikely. In fact, if public schoolteachers were traded like pro athletes, I imagine you wouldn't see a bit of difference in those standardized test results.

    Now, please, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to "blame" parents. But I just can't escape the notion that home life and family life form the foundation of whether or not that little 5-year-old angel is going to fail or succeed on the path toward getting a high-school diploma and beyond.

    I think people such as Bill Gates are well-meaning but fail to see the reality of the matter.

    If I'm wrong, please educate me.

    •  it all depends on what you look at (8+ / 0-)

      richer public schools have higher test scores.  That does not always mean they have better teaching, since a good chunk of what comes out in test scores has more to do with socio-economics -  and thus knowledge and learning obtained outside of school - than it does with teaching.

      Which is one reason so many of us argue against using standardized tests (and a caution, many high stakes state tests are not standardized) or other high stakes tests as the measure of how effectively the teachers are functioning.

      Some of our key people teach or have taught in schools of high poverty.  Anthony Cody, who leads this effort, taught and served as a science teacher coach in Oakland CA.  

      It is often the case that richer districts pay significantly better, and thus are able to pick and choose whom they want as teachers.  That may mean a higher quality of teacher.  Further, as we put more stakes on what happens on tests it is not surprising that some teachers might prefer to be in situations where the test pressures are less severe because you start knowing the kids will do better.  That applies not only to economic class, but also English Language Learners and Special Ed populations.

      I agree that Gates may be well-meaning but misdirected, but not for the reasons to which you allude.

      Students from family backgrounds with less should have MORE enrichment opportunities, because they are less likely to have access to them out of school.  Their class sizes should probably be smaller, particularly at the lower grades, in order to give them more personal attention.

      There are many examples of success - beyond test scores - with students that might be more difficult to educate.  Deborah Meier demonstrated this at Central Park East in NYC, a teacher run school.  Lori Nazareno is doing it with another teacher run school in Denver.

      So, I will not respond on the issue of the tests, because they are such a problematic measure.

      I will say that there are things we can do to attract AND KEEP better teachers in the environments where our schools are most troubled.

      We know that we cannot solve the problems solely in school.  Which is why schools need to be rooted in their community, why we have to address issues like safety, nutrition, basic health care, and the like.

      What we in this effort are saying is that the direction of our national educational policy over the past two administrations is doing more harm than good, will leave more children behind, and further exacerbate the problems we are supposedly attempting to address.

      Peace.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 05:08:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks. (4+ / 0-)

        I agree completely with your first paragraph, and perhaps I didn't make myself clear initially when I was trying to say the same thing.

        Is it simpleminded of me to think that every school district should receive equal access to tax dollars? That's another advantage wealthier school districts have -- higher tax bases.

        Am I a socialist for thinking that?

        •  it is an issue we have never fully addressed (8+ / 0-)

          in most states the bulk of funding for schools is from local property taxes, and the state aid is per capita.

          One state, Hawaii, has a state wide district, although I do not know all the details of how that works for financing schools, but in theory that could level out the starting inequity.

          Johnson got the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB was the 2002 iteration thereof) in order for the federal government to be able to provide some additional resources to schools with large numbers of kids from lower socioeconomic status -  that is the Title I funds.  

          One can argue that governments should spend MORE per student for those places with less resources to start.  Unfortunately, even if you do that with tax dollars, it fails because the parents in the schools with kids from richer backgrounds almost always find a way of raising additional funds to advantage THEIR kids versus those from other places.    I'm not sure there is a way to effectively address that.

          We cannot fix schools in isolation.  We know that.

          We have a further issue of increasing economic inequity that if we don't address it will not matter.

          We are approaching banana republic levels of inequity.

          We need leaders willing to challenge the nation on this, and I think it requires a direct challenge.   Of the presidents in my lifetime the only one willing to do so directly was Lyndon Johnson.  I think the great loss to this nation, for all his personal flaws, was that Johnson was not succeeded by Bobby Kennedy, who perhaps understood this as well as anyone.  

          As far as whether you are a socialist, one can argue that we already have socialism - for the rich and corporations, who are effectively subsidized by the rest of us and who do not pay their share for the services and benefits they receive - while the rest of us are not merely in a situation of capitalism, but almost a state of nature in the Hobbesian sense -  and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

          I become more radical as I age.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 05:32:21 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  it is somewhat a chicken/egg conundrum (0+ / 0-)

    Why are the parents in poorer school districts living in the poorer school districts. Is it their intellectual capabilities that prevent them from getting that better paying job and moving into a better school district? Is IQ hereditary? Is it a dismissive attitude about education that gets passed down from parent to child through successive generations that has a profound effect on how well prepared a child is to start school as a five year old? A direct correlation between poverty and poor educational outcomes for children has been shown in study after study. NCLB certainly has not done anything to change the dynamic and has only made matters worse.

    Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

    by BMarshall on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 05:27:04 AM PST

    •  I think the questions you offer are simplistic (6+ / 0-)

      and far too easily used to blame people for the circumstances in which they find themselves.

      We have people who are discriminated against still in housing and hiring.

      We have families where the adults  have suffered educationally, either because of how poorly we have addressed their needs in this country, or how little was available to them in the countries they left, in part because they hoped for a better life for themselves and their children - just as the families from which most of us are descended came to this nation.

      We have had moments where at least part of this nation understood that it was not genetics or lack of will.  We saw that in the efforts of Lillian Wald in New York and Jane Addams in Chicago.  We saw it in the freedom schools in MS in 1964.   We have had the consciousness of the nation raised on inequity through the likes of Harvest of Shame, The Other America, and other things.

      Our attention is not, however, consistent.  And far too often we attempt to address symptoms rather than underlying causes.  Health care, nutrition, job opportunities, education -  all are important.  None can ultimately be solved in isolation.

      In the meantime, there are those who dedicate their lives to doing what they can, and others who offer parts of their lives - as I have seen with those who volunteer and the free health and dental events at which I volunteer.

      In the meantime, it helps if those who really understand the needs of students and schools were being heard in a debate that is reshaping our education based on false premises using either untried or failed nostrums and which will be counterproductive to its supposed goals at least as they are proclaimed.

      That is part of what is involved in the effort that led to this posting today.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 05:39:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is important to ask the simple questions! (0+ / 0-)

        It is not a matter of blame unless we are talking about blaming teachers for the societal problems that belie the rhetoric of equal opportunity in education that our elected officials sometimes pretend to believe in during campaign season.

        You do not need to educate me regarding the answers to my "simple questions". Yes there are many variables that contribute to the reasons that families find themselves on the lower rungs of society. It is often cyclical and generational and those are issues that need to be talked about.

        I work every day with the struggling kids whose parents do not (know how?) to give the support at home that their children will need to overcome the disadvantage that they start out in life with. I do more than most teachers to fight for the time and programing necessary to help those kids find success in school and get excited about the possibilities for their own futures. From first hand daily experience I may know more than you do about these children and their families.

        Your superior attitude does not put me off......... just makes me less likely to join in a discussion with you.

        Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

        by BMarshall on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:11:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  By the way....TK (0+ / 0-)

          As a senior union building rep in a large district in NY, as a past union organizer for a progressive union in PA, as a fighter for the poorest and most disenfranchised children  in my school district, I am calling you out on your over zealous ego and the simplistic assumptions that you make.

          I might, in the past, have led people to read what you have to say. I will now steer people toward better reasoned voices.

          Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

          by BMarshall on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:16:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  methinks you are over-reacting (0+ / 0-)

            I was not being insulting.  The problem with the way the questions were phrased is they fall into the frame that is used to discredit meaningful reform on education.

            I apologize if it came across as other than that

            but you will do as you see fit

            I can tell you that the thrust of this particular event is to break out of the way education has been being framed in order to get the voices of teachers and parents included

            I am participating in the way I do because I was asked to.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:28:45 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I participate in the way I do (0+ / 0-)

              because, as old and (sometimes) cynical as I get, I can't give up on what I was taught to believe about my country as a child. The idea that we as a society believe in equal rights for all under the law and equal opportunity for all children is an ideal that, though unattainable, guides my work.

              You are right I over-reacted. Thank you for the time you spend working to make a difference in the lives of the children in your classrooms.

              In solidarity

              Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

              by BMarshall on Mon Jan 31, 2011 at 06:19:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for introducing (5+ / 0-)

    us to Katherine.  A woman who has been with a variety of kids in different ways.  The breadth of experience is a great asset!

    Leaving for church, but glad I had the chance to check in this morning.  

    •  thanks for reading (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries, bkamr, mapamp

      what is important about this effort is that it is not organized from the top down.

      We want support of existing organizations like unions, but we are not taking direction from them.

      It is because of the quality of people like Katherine and the others you will be meeting that this represents something very different.

      We are current and retired educators.

      We are teacher educators in universities and parent groups, including the most important group of charter parents in New York City.

      None of us seek to be "leaders."  All of us are responding to what we see as a real need, and an important moment.

      I am honored to be working with the likes of Katherine.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 05:48:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you Ken... My wife and I are planning a (6+ / 0-)

    trip to DC in the month of July to visit family and we will try to arrange it for that weekend.

    We both understand the need and importance of education and support your ideals, goals and efforts 110%. Thank you for the work you, and others are doing.  

    - Checking the links you provided above for how we all can help.....

    Hey Boehner and the Republicans: WHERE ARE THOSE JOBS YOU PROMISED????

    by LamontCranston on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 05:59:41 AM PST

  •  Our family will be there. Our son is in 8th (4+ / 0-)

    grade studying early American History and government, this year.  We're making DC our summer vacation destination, and will be timing it to be there for the march.

    Thank you for promoting this important event.

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

    by bkamr on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:00:13 AM PST

    •  and thank you for your support n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries, bkamr, mapamp

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:03:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  After the SOTU, I went to the Science Report Card (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mapamp

        site, and I was surprised.  

        During the testing period in the report, KY had the 2nd highest poverty level in the nation (Mississippi was #1).  

        BUT:

        On the Science Report Card, KY 4th graders' scores:

        1. The average score in Kentucky waslower than that in 0 states/jurisdictions
        1. Higher than those in 38 states/jurisdictions
        1. Not significantly different from those in 8 states/jurisdictions 5 states/jurisdictions did not participate

        In other words, KY 4th graders tied for FIRST in science scores with 8 other states.

        Middle Scores were not as high, but still ...

        In 2009, the average score in was:

        1. lower than those in 7 states/jurisdictions
        1. higher than those in 23 states/jurisdictions
        1. not significantly different from those in 16 states/jurisdictions 5 states/jurisdictions did not participate

        In other words, KY 8th graders were in 8th place in the nation.

        Mississippi scored last on the science scores for both grades. The other high poverty level state that tied with KY for the dubious honor of scond poorest state in the nation was Louisiana.  They too performed poorly, and LA was 38th.

        In addition, the gaps between white, economically advantaged males as a sub-group and all other sub-groups is narrower than the national averages, too.  

        I'm not sure what to make of KY's performance.    

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

        by bkamr on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:46:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  will you be reaching out to AFT ? & NEA? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, mapamp

    or is this intentionally not a union-based event?

    I know that AFT has its big summer events in DC about two weeks before this date.

    It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

    by sayitaintso on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:17:33 AM PST

    •  fair questions (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, mapamp

      we are already in contact with both unions, with national leadership, but also through state and local bargaining units.

      We want their support.

      We are determined that this remain in our control.

      The AFT raised the issue of the event to which you refer.  In response we can note that the annual conference of National Board Certified Teachers (and a number of us in the leadership are ourselves NBCTs) will overlap in DC with our event.

      We are also in discussions with other unions that while not of teachers have a strong commitment to public education.

      We hope for endorsements.  We would like support.  We will listen to what they have to offer in the way of suggestions.

      But this is an independent effort, that is collaborative among teachers, parents, and others.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:43:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a product of public schools (0+ / 0-)

    I think they are great given the proper resources, and I believe everyone has the right to a quality education.

    That being said, I can't get behind the anti-testing position. Tests are useful because they are the only way to evaluate in any sort of systemic standardized way whether the student really learned given material, or didn't learn it.

    A lot of the objections you post above are problems with the makeup and type of tests rather than the existence of tests. If you want elementary school students to learn 4th grade geology, add 4th grade geology to standardized tests.

    NCLB certainly has flaws, but I don't think demanding some kind of accountability from school districts is one of them.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:21:52 AM PST

    •  feel free to repeat your argument (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      limeyswife, Mostel26, mapamp

      but you are wrong that they are the only way to determine what students have learned.  There is a wealth of research, in this country and elsewhere, that demonstrates otherwise.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:26:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not wrong (0+ / 0-)

        How do I as an independent party understand if the education provided by your school district is worth the millions of dollars taxpayers are shelling out for it?

        Of course teachers and school districts are going to tell me "Yup, we provide a world class education!". What tool can I use to verify that this is actually true other than testing by a neutral third party?

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:38:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  lots of ways you simply refuse to accept (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mostel26, mapamp

          that's your choice

          but just because you refuse to accept them does not mean they don't exist.

          We've had this discussion before.

          Feel free to have the last word in this exchange.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:41:21 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Re (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mostel26

            but you are wrong that they are the only way to determine what students have learned.  There is a wealth of research, in this country and elsewhere, that demonstrates otherwise.

            but just because you refuse to accept them does not mean they don't exist.

            So this is what we are reduced to, handwaving away the problem by airily referring to unspecified "research" and claiming that the problem is that I refuse to uncritically accept your claims on faith.

            That might work here in this friendly forum (or not), but the rest of the world demands results and some kind of justification as to what they are getting for their millions of dollars in property, sales, and federal income taxes.

            If you have an alternative vision of a regime for how we can evaluate whether a particular teacher/school district is or is not doing a good job, I'm all ears. Post it. But all I've heard for months has been why NCLB and testing regimes are flawed and are the worst thing in the world. In the process, you leave us taxpayers who are footing the bill with just "trust us". I don't trust anyone, nor should I be required to do so for a critical area such as whether my tax money is being used to effectively educate the next generation of students.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:00:55 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There are tons of books/articles (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mapamp

              On using observation and portfolio based assessment as a MORE valid measure of performance than standardized tests.  I don't want to contribute to a threadjack, but you can research those topics to see what Ken is mentioning.  

              •  Observation... (0+ / 0-)

                ...and portfolio based assessment by who, and using what standards? School departments cannot be trusted in this regard, just like any entity cannot be trusted to evaluate its own performance. The answer will always be "Yup, everything is great!".

                Additionally, these methods simply cannot evaluate whether actual information is actually being imparted to the students' minds. Only testing (of some kind or other) can demonstrate if students actually know the material. A teacher can produce a great portfolio, get great evaluations from administration, but the students still may not know the material!

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:11:57 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Also (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mapamp

              Go to you local public high school for a day. Contact your local board and ask if you can go in and see what your tax dollars are funding. Talk to students, talk to teachers, talk to admin, talk to parents.

              •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

                And the answer I will get from all of these people no matter what school district it is, even the worst district in the country, is "Yup! Your tax dollars hard at work! We provide high quality education here!" regardless of whether it is true or not.

                Administrators and teachers are incentivized to lie about how good their school system is.

                Students and (many) parents are incapable of understanding whether they are receiving a quality education or not.

                None of these players are capable of providing an unbiased and accurate opinion of whether the school system is performing or not performing.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:24:42 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  So how many are not working hard? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mapamp

                  What is your guess on this?

                  Administrators and teachers are incentivized to lie about how good their school system is.

                  What percentage of school systems do you believe are not working hard to teach students?

                  •  Who knows? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Mostel26

                    How am I supposed to know? Without data, I can't even hazard a guess. Which is precisely the problem.

                    Also, I don't care how hard they are working. What I care about is whether they are producing results. I'd rather hire a lazy expert who produces results than a dogged hard worker who just can't seem to get it done.

                    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                    by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:57:45 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  But you're ignoring (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      mapamp, edresearcher
                      1. The tests already show that America is at the top of all measures when one disaggregates the data for poverty. Our suburban schools are on par with any other nation's scores.
                      1. Worker productivity in this country has exploded over the past few decades. This has been done with the graduates of our school systems.
                      1. Our nation produced a disproportionately high number of Nobel Prize winners without using high stakes standardized tests to evaluate school systems.
                      1. How do you account for home factors vs. school factors that influence achievement judging the instructional content delivery of teachers?
    •  Don't confuse tests with assessment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, mapamp

      Assessment takes many forms. There are a variety of ways to measure if an individual comprehends facts, concepts, the relationship among concepts, and generalization of concepts. A single standardized score does not represent a child's broad, functional knowledge. Rather, a standard score probably measures .10 of a persons' knowledge base. (don't take this 10% statistic as valid-it's my educated guess)

      Standardized tests measure a small piece of what we understand as knowledge and the learning process. They do not provide information we need to plan effective instruction or interventions. They do not tell us what a child has mastered under what conditions or new things a child is learning. They do not indicate how to scaffold instruction for what level a child is learning at, i.e., acquisition,  application, or at the generalization levels. Assessing these areas must be non-standardized or we will not know how children think, problem solve- or make progress.

    •  Testing does not actually measure what they know (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew, Mostel26, mapamp

      First of all, you've swallowed the testing/accountability koolaid developed by companies who see huge dollar signs in the education arena and a captive audience.  (Have you looked recently at a historical stock chart for McGraw-Hill--a lot better than the S&P's performance since about 1995; and you don't think it's a coincidence that the Bushes and the McGraws were friends, do you?)

      We got a man on the moon and had most of the developments to take the world into the digital age in this country without high-stakes standardized tests.

      Why hasn't high-stakes standardized testing delivered anything in 10 years (except lining the educational testing corporations' pockets)?

      Testing only measures the number of questions a student can answer correctly, not necessarily what they "know".  In math, this means that if they can plug the numbers properly into some recipe or guess which bubble to pick correctly, people think they "know" math.  Teachers who are under a lot of pressure over scores mostly teach recipe math ("Just learn these steps and get the right answer").

      Standardized tests--particularly the multiple-choice variety--simply aren't a good measure of a student's ability to think mathematically.  Believe me--I saw this a couple of semesters ago when I was taking an upper-division math class at the large technical university near me.  One of the American students remarked as we were waiting for the professor about the assignment that was due, "I'm ok with the problems if I have seen one like them, but I just don't know how to get started if I've never seen anything like it before."  And that was from a math major.  The foreigners were much better problem-solvers.  The math teachers in the US don't feel like they can take the time risk letting students take the time to think about a problem.  Frequently, the teachers are pressured by the administration to teach a certain way and concentrate on high-stakes test scores.

      Why are we wasting so much money on this system?  Accountability?  Teachers need to be accountable to their students, to the students' families and to the communities who pay most of the bill, not to the federal government.

      Then how will we know if teachers are doing their jobs?  I'll answer that with a question:  Why are we (in NY) paying $70 billion a year to support the state DOE??  The teachers go through hoops in my state to get (properly) certified (I'm not talking about the various shortcut/short-change backdoor pseudo-certification methods).  They should be treated as professionals and act like professionals through collaboration in the classroom.  The state DOE should do their job and visit schools to see what is going on.  (Oh, but that might be a problem because they might see what terrible shape some schools are in--money spent on standardized tests instead of books, supplies, building repair, staff...)

      Lastly, you should know that students in Finland take almost NO standardized tests; Finland's school system is the envy of much of the rest of the world.  We keep sending delegations over there, but it seems that we don't really want to learn from them (because they're not saying what we wanted to hear?)  read it and weep (I do):  http://www.eschoolnews.com/...

  •  I'm planning on being there (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, mapamp

    I'll get my head wrapped around this in a better way in June, but I have a vision of bus loads of interested parties meeting up in the Philadelphia area and rolling down to DC as a group. I'm signed up on the web site for the event, but I would like to coordinate as best I can from up here.

  •  teacherken, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Mostel26, mapamp

    I signed up in the Advocacy section. I'm disabled, but I know how to write. Florida desperately needs help with education. Will be talking w/SOS down here to see what I can do. T and R as always. Hope you are well.

    When you stop Learning, you Die.

  •  Taking on the system... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mostel26

    Ken,

    Thank you (and the other people spearheading) so much for working to bring people and ideas together to create a platform, if you will.

    I'm a pre-service teacher (middle-school math)--late start career-changer type, parent of 2 teenagers (ms and hs)--one of whom I homeschooled precisely to escape testing for a year (4th gr)because she was becoming so uptight that she couldn't learn.

    I've read a lot of (non-fiction) stuff, mostly about educational issues, but not all, and I have been trying to synthesize some ideas primarily from works such as "Taking on the System", "Don't Think of an Elephant" and "Made to Stick".

    I think what happened is that the "reformers" have grabbed the microphone (attention of the media), and they have come up with sound bites that are easy to remember (you know the drill:  "Teachers: lazy," "unions: bad," "accountability," "raising achievement," blah, blah, blah), and they have repeated them, ad nauseum (ours).

    People blogging in the ed sector have been really insightful, but it is too cerebral for many people who can't be bothered to take the time and dig a little deeper to understand just how complicated the education picture is in the US.  I think we need some "sticky" ideas (short, catchy, but with a little more "truthiness" than the reformers' sound bites) as a counter-argument.  I have been trying to come up with some.

    So far I have:

    "We did not test our way to the moon."

    "We did not test our way into becoming the premiere inventors of the world."

    "The high-stakes testing programs costing our country BILLIONS have not made our children more competitive."

    "High-stakes tests have not helped us educate our way out of poverty since poverty rates in the country are at an all time high."

    Obviously, everything can be tweaked.  I'm thinking we need somthing really catchy about money wasted (since following the money trail is the BIG factor in what has been happening with education since
    NCLB was passed, particularly lately).

    What do you think?

    --MRM

    •  Participation.. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, Mostel26, mapamp

      BTW, I'll be goin' to DC in July :)

    •  not sure you can win that kind of argument (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mapamp

      because the people who advocate for the testing regimen frankly are not listening.

      You can try.

      But they have refused to listen to the testing experts so far.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:05:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Easier messages to grasp (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mapamp

        I don't think you can "change the minds" of the deformers (many of whom are looking to make money)--but don't you think you need to win over the general public to some extent?  People I talk to think testing is so obviously nessary...

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