Monday, December 9, 2013

Will Retention Become the New Poverty Intervention of Choice?

Michigan's House of Representatives is considering a bill to retain 3rd graders who don't demonstrate proficiency in reading as measured by the MEAP or whatever new state assessment will replace it. That's right, the legislature says that all 8 year-olds have to demonstrate reading at grade level but they don't have a clue yet as to how they will measure that, since they have placed adoption of the SBAC on hold for now.

And just where will most of the 3rd graders who get a "do-over" come from? Why from low income families and impoverished communities, of course. The chart below demonstrates the correlation between reading proficiency measured by the fall 2012 3rd grade MEAP and percentage of the school's students who are eligible for free-or-reduced lunch (a measure of poverty). The schools represented by the diamonds are from an eleven-county West Michigan area.



Reading is certainly important and most schools are doing their best with the diminishing resources they have to address and overcome the obstacles to success their students face every day. We certainly welcome the legislature's help with this matter but punishing children by retaining them and placing them at further risk of dropping out altogether is not the answer. Providing at a minimum adequate school funding to support the learning needs of each child is where the State House should be focusing its efforts.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In Response to Five Unanswered Questions in the SIG Data

Five Unanswered Questions in the SIG Data - Politics K-12 - Education Week

"So the U.S. Department of Education released summary data last week on the School Improvement Grant or SIG program. In a nutshell, the data showed that after $3 billion in stimulus funding, plus more than $1 billion in regular congressional appropriations, roughly two-thirds of SIG schools that were in the program for two years showed some improvement. But another third of SIG schools stagnated—or even slid backward.
"There are big differences of opinion over whether that constitutes "incremental progress" (U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's view) or whether that's a total disaster for the already controversial, much maligned SIG program.
"But almost everyone agrees that the data left out a lot of things that could prove pivotal when trying to make claims about the efficacy of the program..."
What was not pointed out was the success of Wyoming, Michigan's Lee High School (Godfrey-Lee Public Schools) during the three years it effectively employed a SIG grant after being notified in 2010 that it was on the dreaded list of persistently low-achieving schools (PLA). In short, the school went from the 9th percentile of all Michigan schools to 63rd percentile in just the first two years of the grant. During the third year it lost a few points but still leads most of the surrounding high schools in the rankings.
Also not pointed out was the fact that the staff, students and parents of Lee High School were able to do this in spite of being located in a one-square-mile school district of 1,900 that:
1. Has the 5th lowest property value per pupil in the State of Michigan.
2. Has the highest poverty percentage in the county for school-age children ages 5-17.
3. Has the second highest percentage of limited English language students in the state.
4. Has a student body that is 85% "minority."
5. Has a transiency rate by the end of 8th grade of nearly 50% of its students, where less than half of the students have been attending district schools for 3 or more years.
6. Has had to cut staffing and trim critical programs due to a 14% real dollar decline in the per pupil foundation allowance over the past ten years, including a $470 per pupil cut by the current Governor.
Despite the obstacles listed above, nearly 30% of students who attend the district are enrolled through schools-of-choice having decided that Lee High and our other schools have the programs and family-centered learning climate they want. In fact, the district's overall enrollment has ballooned by more than 33% since 2002 and Lee High School currently has the largest enrollment in its history.
And despite occasional accolades from Michigan Department of Education staff delivered to us second-hand, not one elected leader in this state or elsewhere has ever stopped by or even bothered to communicate "job well done."
And people wonder why our students and staff call themselves Rebels.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is Proposal A aiding in the destruction of Michigan's public school system? Was that the real purpose?

At one point or another lately, you've probably come across statements like the following:

“Proposal A fails to ensure either fiscal stability or financial adequacy for Michigan schools.”

“Most central city and low-income suburban districts are worse off under Proposal A, because slow growth in the per-pupil foundation allowance has been accompanied by falling enrollments.”

“The real value of every district’s foundation allowance has declined in each of the last two years.”

“Education revenues in Michigan are no longer keeping pace with the rising operating costs that schools face, and school districts across the state are cutting programs and services in response.”

“Schools facing higher costs must overcome an immediate disadvantage in their efforts to educate children to meet ambitious state performance standards. The Legislature should ensure that the basis for distributing revenues to schools and school districts reflect the actual cost of educating different students.”

“Districts with differing racial compositions have…fared differently under the finance reform….The districts with the highest share of African-American students have had the smallest foundation allowance increases since 1994.”

“The average foundation allowance increase was greater for districts falling between the 20th and 80th percentiles of family income distribution than for the state’s poorest quintile of districts.”

“Enrollment decline overwhelmed the fiscal benefits of modest foundation increases in both central cities and low-income suburbs. In both groups of districts total real foundation revenue has fallen significantly since the adoption of Proposal A.”

“Proposal A facilitates (a population shift from rural and poorer urban areas to suburban districts, and from older suburbs to newer suburbs on the periphery of the state’s metropolitan areas), because school funding follows students as they move. At the same time Proposal A also forces reductions in educational services in districts where enrollment is declining. Newer suburban districts receive large infusions of additional funds to expand their educational offerings, while older urban communities must make staffing and program cuts. These school budgetary changes, in turn, influence households’ perceptions of the conditions of local schools. School closures and teacher layoffs can create negative perceptions that enhance the prospect that additional families will leave a community, creating a self-reinforcing cycle. For these reasons, Proposal A may not only respond to suburban sprawl, but encourage it as well.”

“In contrast to the school funding formulas in several other states, Michigan’s school aid is not adjusted for the different cost of living (and running schools) in different parts of the state, nor does it fully acknowledge the differential cost of educating different kinds of students (e.g., elementary versus secondary students, children with special needs).”

While you might think these findings were posted recently, they actually were written and published ten years ago by David Arsen, Professor of Educational Administration, College of Education, Michigan State University, and David N. Plank, Professor and Co-Director, The Education Policy Center, Michigan State University. (Michigan School Finance Under Proposal A: State Control, Local Consequences. The Education Policy Center at Michigan State University. November 2003).

Arsen and Plank recognized the significant faults of Proposal A even before the Great Recession and a $470 per pupil cut in the foundation allowance under Governor Rick Snyder. This blog post will begin my efforts to demonstrate that the results of combining Proposal A with schools of choice have been nothing more than poorly disguised purposeful efforts from the Engler days to damage public education and move towards greater privatization. And the current Legislature and Governor are playing right along.



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dick DeVos' Strategy for Privatizing Public Schools

"We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities. Many of the activities and the political work that needs to go on will go on at the grass roots. It will go on quietly and it will go on in the form that often politics is done - one person at a time, speaking to another person in privacy. And so these issues will not be, maybe, as visible or as noteworthy, but they will set a framework within states for the possibility of action on education reform issues."
| Strategy for Privatizing Public Schools Spelled out by Dick DeVos in 2002 Heritage Foundation Speech

Dick DeVos presenting his covert ideas for the privatization of public education during a 2002 speech to the Heritage Foundation.  Much of what he suggested is playing out today under the guise of so-called "choice," using tactics such as the following designed solely to turn everyday citizens against their public schools. He takes advantage of a growing anti-government mood by advocating an Orwellian strategy of twisting language to spread the fire:
"Communicate the message that school choice works and helps public schools." DeVos then qualifies his statement by asking the audience to quit using the term public schools and use "government schools" or "government-run schools" instead.
Then he sits quietly in Ada or any one of his other millions-of-dollars mansions working behind the scenes just as he suggested until he reaches his agenda: Private schools for some financed by public dollars and disintegrating, segregated, impoverished urban schools for the rest. In the meantime, more public money will flow into the coffers of his corporate friends running to the "rescue" of those poor kids "stuck" in their "government" schools.

And most citizens sit idly by and watch as their communities are led to the abyss.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Michigan School Funding Since 1994 - Short and Sweet

According to the Michigan Bulletin 1014 which provides detailed revenue and expenditure reports for all public school districts by school year since 1994, the following represents the short and sweet reality of per pupil funding through combined state and local sources (the most recent data is 2012):

1994 = $6,554 per pupil

2012 = $8,171 per pupil

However, had 1994's per pupil revenue at least kept up with inflation with no other legislated increases, the 2012 combined state and local revenue should have been $10,153 per pupil.

Instead of at a minimum keeping up with rising costs for operating schools, Michigan's legislature over the past eighteen years has chosen to effectively reduce public school funding in real dollars by nearly $2,000 per student.

Regardless of the Governor's claims, the pattern has continued this year.


Graph from: http://www.governing.com/columns/public-finance/col-threat-defunding-education-slow-down-tax-cuts.html

Sunday, October 27, 2013

One teen’s standardized testing horror story (and where it will lead)

One teen’s standardized testing horror story (and where it will lead)


Kids today don't go to school in the same sense their parents and grandparents did. They go to "test factories" to produce data that politicians and reformers can use to label them and their schools as failing. This in turn allows the politicians to divert billions of dollars to their friends in the corporate sector to run their schools (into the ground) and sell them all kinds of new resources and support to allegedly help them turn their schools around. That is the 21st Century cycle of education. It's not about the learning anymore, at least from the non-educators' standpoint. It's about the almighty $$.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Influence of Student Variables on Academic Achievement

From research reported in the AASA Journal of Scholarship & Practice (Fall 2013):
In accord with the research on the effects of
socioeconomic status on school achievement,
eligibility for free lunch accounted for the
greatest amount of variance in achievement
on
both NJ ASK 5 Math and LAL scores.
Beginning with Coleman (1966), SES was
identified as the greatest predictor of student
achievement. In a meta-analysis conducted
with research dating from 1990-2000, Sirin
(2005) found that socioeconomic status
remains, at minimum, a moderate to strong
predictor of achievement.

This fact should be the ultimate basis of
any education reform. Policymakers who
would like to believe that external mandates
such as better qualified teachers, merit pay,
charter schools, performance pay, smaller
schools, vouchers, etc. are stronger predictors
of achievement must revisit the research. The
difference in test scores between SES groups is
due to SES itself. Mandates targeted at poverty
itself will likely have more of an influence on
achievement than any other variable(s).
 
Note: Emphasis added above.

www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/JPS-Fall2013.FINALv2.pdf

Monday, October 21, 2013

Just the Cold, Hard Reality About School Funding

Our district received it's state school aid payment today. The status report that accompanies the payment reminded us that in FY 1995, our foundation allowance per pupil was $5,365. Had this simply kept up with inflation, our current foundation allowance (according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics) would be $8,234.

But, it's not.

This year, owing to a very modest increase (before the state recoups the higher costs of a retirement system it's policies are bankrupting), our foundation allowance is $7,064, which is $410 lower per pupil than it was before Governor Snyder took the reins. That amortizes out to an average reduction the past three years of $450 per student, or approximately $828,750 less in general fund revenue each year to operate our classrooms and schools (without even considering the inflation rate).

No doubt we'll keep hearing Governor Snyder expound on how he thinks he has poured billions into public schools since taking office. Unfortunately, he resides in an alternate universe far removed from the realities of struggling public schools.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Let's Block All Learning Tools and Eliminate Classroom Distractions!

The following is satire. Or is it?


Dear administrators and staff:

It has been determined that our students are not responsible enough to allow for social-networking tools in the classroom. That was demonstrated by the inappropriate use of Twitter yesterday, coupled with frustration expressed by teachers on Facebook (no irony here). It seems that they are concerned about being unable to effectively manage their respective classrooms given the chance the additional technology tools might be misused by students who have not been taught their value or appropriate behavior. Thus the need to eliminate this learning tool and by logical extension, review the potential or actual problems with other learning tools in the classroom.

Since historically students have also misused paper in the classroom to write personal notes, draw inappropriate pictures of their teachers, express themselves using inappropriate language, create spitballs, or simply wad it up and throw it at each other, beginning today we will block students from using paper for any school-related activities. This will not only prevent misuse but will relieve teachers of any responsibility to effectively manage the use of paper in their rooms.

Since pencils, pens, markers, crayons, etc., without the presence of paper to employ them, might now only be a temptation to students to misuse these 19th century technological wonders, they will no longer be allowed in classrooms. This will effectively end the district’s innovative 1:1-BYOD policy of students bringing their own writing-drawing tools coupled with the teacher periodically providing them to those without. There may be other learning tools that need to be “blocked” as well such as the use of clay in art classes. We all know that students can wander "off task" while using clay resulting in an inappropriate object being formed. This usually leads to a lot of giggling or gasps disrupting the flow of learning. This is very difficult for the classroom teacher to monitor. While he/she is correcting one student, others working behind her may be off task in their respective creations.

Textbooks and reading materials are another potential distraction for students allowing their minds to drift off, hide other activities they might be engage in at their desks, or the ever-dreaded “reading ahead” instead of staying with the class or focusing on today’s assignment only. Therefore, it seems logical that we ban books from the classroom since it is far too difficult for any one teacher to ensure students are locked onto the required reading or book assignment. Once again, this will relieve the teacher of time-wasting classroom management activities and allow for more teaching and learning in the classroom.


It appears that the safest, most efficient classroom is one where only conversation is allowed as long as it is managed in such a way as only one person is speaking at a time. Therefore, effective today, we shall return to the pre-1900’s when oral recitation was at the center of teaching and learning, and all other learning tools put away as to prevent those unneeded distractions and time-wasting classroom management activities.

The Superintendent

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Achievement Gap or Equity Gap?

P.L. Thomas, Furman University, reposts on the becoming radical blog site on how the achievement gap has become nothing more than a misnomer for the equity gap.

"First, and this is the most important aspect of the topic, the achievement gap is primarily a reflection of the equity gap that exists in the lives of children, and only secondarily a reflection of school quality and practices. 
"While politicians and the media misrepresent the achievement gap in order to demonize schools and teachers, we have ample evidence that addressing the whole life of the child is the only avenue to closing an achievement gap. 
"...the political, corporate, and media elite—who are using the “achievement gap” refrain to mask their true commitments to maintaining the current status quo of privilege and inequity—reject all evidence-based calls for addressing social forces as using poverty for an excuse. 
"If we start with a solid premise (the lives of children outside of school contribute about 60-80+% of measurable student outcomes), and then implement inequitable in-school policies (testing, labeling, and stratifying students in order to ask less of those labeled most in need), we should expect only one outcome—a persistent achievement gap.
"The political and corporate elite benefit from a constant state of education crisis because that perception allows them to point at the schools and distract us from their own failure to address the conditions of inequity that insure their privilege. 
"People living in poverty and trapped in a cycle of social inequity—specifically children—are not the agents of that inequity. The powerful determine the conditions of our society, and our schools reflect and maintain those conditions. 
"A persistent achievement gap is an accurate indictment of our schools as mechanisms of perpetuating inequity and privilege, but it is a greater indictment of the power of the cultural elite to maintain their privilege while claiming to seek equity." 

Achievement Gap Misnomer for Equity Gap, pt. 1 | the becoming radical

Achievement Gap Misnomer for Equity Gap, pt. 2 | the becoming radical

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just who are those GREEN school districts?

Michigan's new school accountability scorecard was revealed this August with a color coding system that rivaling anything the Department of Homeland Security could ever devise. Based on academic achievement growth, achievement gaps, graduation rates, and a few other factors, schools and districts were color-coded either GREEN, LIME GREEN, YELLOW, ORANGE or RED.


A super-majority of school districts were rated YELLOW, none were coded LIME GREEN, and only thirty-nine out of more than 700 districts (including charter schools which under Michigan law are considered "school districts") were GREEN.

A total of 3,397schools and 873 districts received scorecards. Approximately three percent of schools received a green scorecard, 15 percent received red scorecards and 82 percent received yellow, orange or lime green scorecards. ~ Michigan Department of Education news release dated August 20, 2013

It is interesting to take a look at some of the demographics of school districts that constitute the GREEN group:

  • 23% (9) are one room schoolhouses or operate on one of the Great Lakes islands
  • 85% (33) have a total enrollment of under 500 students each
  • Average enrollment for all thirty-nine districts is 205 students
  • 36% (14) have enrollments of less than 100 students
  • 41% (16) had been in operation for only one year
  • 31% (12) had NO scorecard data despite an overall GREEN designation
  • 67% (26) are charter school districts with fifteen (58%) of those in their first year of operation
    •  1 of those charter school districts was actually closed in 2011-12
    • Average proficiency in math and reading (3-8 MEAP) for the charter school districts was 24%
Our State Board of Education lauded this new scorecard as a better growth model for accountability than our old "ED Yes!" system. But one has to wonder how any traditional school district can ever measure up to the 2013 GREEN group given the descriptions, above.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Not Falling Behind, But Pulling Apart

A pithy but blazing indictment of the unjustified reform efforts that have done nothing to address the root causes of learning and opportunity gaps for our children. Only those politicians, business and educational leaders intentionally burying their heads in the sand can ignore this essay.

"Since the 1983 release of A Nation at Risk, policymakers have asserted that US students are falling behind their international peers, with dire consequences if we do not improve. The result has been three decades of increasingly high-stakes "standards-and-accountability" reforms, which rely on rigorous academic standards and test-based evaluation systems to hold schools and teachers accountable for student progress. As a comprehensive 2011 National Academy of Sciences report found, there is no evidence that this strategy has produced any meaningful improvement. Moreover, a series of recent reports suggests that we have been misinterpreting A Nation at Risk. Our education system is not so much falling behind as it is pulling apart, and the past decade of heightened accountability measures has likely further widened the gaps."

Not Falling Behind, But Pulling Apart: Race to the Top Reflects Broader U.S. Education Problems | LFA: Join The Conversation - Public School Insights

Friday, September 13, 2013

Study: Michigan cut school funding more than 33 other states since '08 | The Detroit News

Study: Michigan cut school funding more than 33 other states since '08 | The Detroit News

"Michigan has cut investment in K-12 schools by 9 percent since 2008, a deeper cut than 33 other states, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C."

Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

"States’ new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less.  The reduced levels reflect not only the lingering effects of the 2007-09 recession but also continued austerity in many states; indeed, despite some improvements in overall state revenues, schools in around a third of states are entering the new school year with less state funding than they had last year.  At a time when states and the nation are trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, this decline in state educational investment is cause for concern."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Michigan Top-to-Bottom Ranking - Just Another Indictment of Poverty

Michigan came out with its 2013 rendition of "which schools are struggling with poverty-related issues and which aren't." Disguised as a ranking system designed primarily to fool the public into thinking some schools are intentionally crappy while others are the creme dela creme, it really is nothing more than another blinding flash of the obvious.  Did we really need another expensive system for identifying which schools and districts have higher rates of poverty than others? Perhaps someone should tell the Department of Education that data already exists.

Click on the chart to enlarge.

The chart correlates the percent of children ages 5-17 in each school district with the overall index used to rank Michigan's public schools.  The indices from 2,567 mostly traditional, community-based public schools were used along with the poverty data from their respective school district. Only charter schools were used if they constituted an entire district or it was obvious which district they were located within.

The Pearson R-factor for this chart is -0.584 indicating a strong correlational relationship between the two sets of data. The red line illustrates the correlational trend.

In the next chart, schools are grouped by deciles based on their respective Michigan Top-to-Bottom ranking for 2013 (from 0 to 99th percentile). The chart illustrates the average poverty percentage for children ages 5-17 in the districts comprising each decile. It is abundantly clear that lower poverty districts rank higher on the TTB and vice-versa for higher poverty districts.

Click on the chart to enlarge.

Poverty percentages for each school district come from the United States Census Bureau, Small Area Estimates Branch, 2011 SAPE with a release date of December 2012. The school top-to-bottom indices are from the Michigan Department of Education website for School Accountability.

You can view and/or download the table of data used in this post at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B52YM9XKVrcdMnVaWFBFUV81Yjg/edit?usp=sharing

Below are four charts from a previous post of mine back in March 2013 (originally on the Posterous blog site which has since gone defunct). I add them here just to continue the demonstration of how poverty strongly correlates with achievement. They represent 515 Michigan traditional community school districts from the Fall 2013 MEAP assessments. Once again, you can click on any chart to enlarge it for better viewing.





The data here and in other, more rigorous research is irrefutable and damning. So, the question is when are we going to quit wasting time collecting data that only tells us the obvious and spend more time and other resources on ending poverty and overcoming the effects of inequity in school funding?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Just the Facts from OECD

Percent of child poverty in OECD countries, 2009



Did you know? 

U.S. teachers spend between 1,050 & 1,100 hours a year teaching – much more than in almost every country.

"Despite high overall levels of spending on education, teacher salaries in the U.S. compare poorly. While in most OECD countries teacher salaries tend be lower, on average, than the salaries earned by other workers with higher education, in the U.S. the difference is large, especially for teachers with minimum qualifications." ~ p. 8

"On average, primary school teachers in the U.S. spend almost 1,100 hours a year teaching, while lower secondary teachers teach for about 1,070 hours, and upper secondary school teachers spend about 1,050 hours. With the exceptions of lower and upper secondary teachers in Argentina and Chile and lower secondary teachers in Mexico, teachers in the U.S. teach for many more hours than other countries average: 782 hours for primary education, 704 hours for lower secondary, and 658 hours for upper secondary). Notably, while the number of hours of teaching per year tends to decrease with each education level in most OECD countries, the number of teaching hours in the U.S. is roughly the same in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education." ~ p. 9

"In general, the ratio of students to teaching staff in U.S. schools does not depart dramatically from the OECD average. In pre-primary education, the ratio is 14.6 (OECD average: 14.4), although the ratio of pre-primary students to all contact staff (11.4) is below the OECD average (12.3). In primary education, U.S. schools have a lower-than-average student teacher ratio of 14.5 (OECD average: 15.9).

"Meanwhile, at the secondary level, the student-teacher ratio in the U.S. is higher-than-average for both lower secondary education (U.S.: 14.0; OECD average: 13.7) and in upper secondary education (U.S.: 15.0; OECD average: 13.0)
" ~ p. 10

Friday, August 9, 2013

Who's REALLY Representing YOU?

Who's really representing YOU in Lansing? Here's a partial list of current and former Michigan legislators that are members of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). What is ALEC? Glad you asked.





ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Now go check out the list at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Michigan_ALEC_Politicians.  You may or may not be surprised but at the least, you'll be informed.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A State Moves Closer to Equity-Based Education Funding and Away from Corporate Model

At least one state get's it. Will Michigan ever?

"California's shift to a new weighted student funding model represents just the most recent example of how Democratic state policymakers here are charting a different course in education policy than the Obama administration and Congress.

"As I noted in a post last week, California and Washington have taken distinctly different approaches to achievement gaps that increasingly are most closely associated with economic inequality. Rather than focusing on firing "bad" teachers and closing schools, California has moved to direct more resources to low-income districts and increase local decision-making, with sanctions a last resort after support and technical assistance have failed.

Other examples of the divergence between California and Washington abound. "


California Moving Away From Washington's Corporate Education Reform | John Affeldt

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Poverty Growth in Greater Grand Rapids, 1980-2010

The following slides illustrate the 30-year growth of poverty from within the core city throughout the suburbs since 1980. Each dot represents twenty persons living below the federal poverty line and colors illustrate major race/ethnic groups.








Sunday, July 7, 2013

Here we go again!

As schools slide into the red, could it be time for countywide school districts? | Detroit Free Press | freep.com
Flanagan predicted that countywide districts or his hybrid option could save millions — money he said could be used to teach students. But little, if any, research supports his position, a fact that’s drawing concern from educators and others.
Here's another good read: Consolidation debunked again

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mackinac Center's school rankings reminder of inequities


Nonetheless, the Mackinac Center analysis is an important recognition that — contrary to what most people believe — raw tests scores are a terrible way to evaluate educational effectiveness. 
That's because scores are dramatically skewed by sociodemographics. Not a little, but a lot. It's like comparing crop yields from the loamy fields of Iowa to the desert sands of Arizona, and chalking up the differences to farming skills.
The fact is, test scores are much more a reflection of students' lives outside of school versus an indicator of whether teachers are working hard or the quality of the curriculum.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bank Street - Educational Revolution

Bank Street - Educational Revolution

"It is no longer enough to list the mind-numbing effects of high stakes tests or reveal how teachers’ hard-won knowledge about kids, schools and curriculum has been replaced with a fanatical faith in the free market and the bottom line. Scholarly research, numerous studies, and reasoned argument have not prevailed over those who scream crisis, substitute test scores gaps for income gaps, and blame unions, teachers and non-charter public schools for the nation’s ills. Nor have we halted the transformation by exposing the profit motive behind so many of the educational reforms. And although we must persevere, it’s not enough to describe how these reforms have turned public education into a grim, wasteland littered with mediocre charter schools, a wasteland where teaching, at least in the hands of “innovators” like Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College, resembles dog training, and curriculum and learning are reduced to test prep. These strategies are not working. We need to be more ruthless in our resistance."

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Getting to Better Schools

Getting to Better Schools by Ben Levin - The Literary Review of Canada

The success of our education system is not just a matter of what schools do. Student outcomes in education are deeply affected by factors outside the school, such as good health care for children and supports for parents that allow them to help their children grow and develop. Access to good jobs with decent pay and benefits for parents, and to adequate housing, are important for children. Environments that respect diversity and support different kinds of students (and families) are also helpful in ensuring that all young people have the possibility of a good outcome from their schooling. So the growing income inequality in Canada, especially when it is linked to such things as immigrant status, is clearly a threat to the quality of our schools.

Simply substitute "U.S." for "Canada" and the story remains the same.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

China Is Just as Desperate for Education Reform as the U.S. | TIME.com

China Is Just as Desperate for Education Reform as the U.S. | TIME.com


While Americans often worry that hordes of Chinese engineers will eat their economic lunch, the Chinese look to the U.S. for the model of how to educate a 21st century workforce.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Huge achievement gaps remain in Michigan high school performance"

“Though Michigan has seen some gains in achievement on the ACT in recent years, we’re still not making major gains in student learning among our high school students,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the nonpartisan Education Trust-Midwest, a nonprofit organization that works to raise performance and close achievement gaps in Michigan. 
“We still have a lot of work to do, particularly around better supporting teachers to prepare all students to succeed after high school, no matter who they are or where they live,” Arellano said. “In the coming months, our state has some critically important opportunities to do that, including around a new developmental educator evaluation and support system, and the resurrection of college- and career-ready standards.”
Ms. Arellano appears to support a "bigger stick" and tougher standards approach to closing achievement gaps, particularly for the twenty-percent of Michigan students living in poverty conditions (32 percent in our district). Once again, someone in a position of influencing policy, who has never really experienced what it is like to live in a high-poverty school district, has missed the boat on what it will take to solve the achievement gap problem: equitable funding to support extensive, job-embedded teacher training and development, resources and materials, up-to-date buildings and science labs, technology, and smaller class sizes.


I would suggest instead of dusting off old worn-out talking points, folks like Ms. Arellano simply spend time in these traditional urban-poor school classrooms, particularly those with high concentrations of limited English proficiency, and learn what it will really take. Get out from behind your writing desk within your ivory tower and join us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to survive our education battles - Class Struggle

How to survive our education battles - Class Struggle - The Washington Post

"What we rarely acknowledge is that our schools have gotten better over time. Test score averages have not risen much lately, but that is only one measure. A bigger slice of our young population — including the poor or disabled — is learning more. Dropout rates are at historic lows. The sophistication of high school classes is breathtaking to those of us who grew up in the middle of the last century. Foreign experts note that Americans have won 48 percent of the Nobel prizes in science, medicine and economics. They study our schools to see how we have inspired such creativity."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Obvious Move to Take Over Our Public Schools

Independent research in recent months has documented that the nation's wealthiest philanthropic foundations are steering funding away from public school systems, attended by 90 percent of American students, and toward "challengers" to public education, especially charter schools. 
By 2010, $540 million -- fully 64 percent of major foundation giving -- was directed to these private groups, including KIPP, Teach for America, the NewSchools Venture Fund, the Charter School Growth Fund, and the D.C. Public Education Fund. 
The extent to which these groups will go to supplant the public school system is deeply disturbing.
Despite the growing number of studies showing that charter schools are generally no better -- and are often worse -- than their public school counterparts, "the state and local agencies and organizations that grant the charters," The New York Times reports, "have been increasingly hesitant to shut down schools, even those that continue to perform abysmally for years on end."
This disconnect between the claims of "reformers" bent on privatization and demonstrable outcomes in student performance has been enabled, in large part, by the nation's mainstream media, which has been sold a bill of goods about so-called "school reform." As a result, the agenda of the nation's public school system is at risk of being bought out by a relatively small number of corporate billionaires and their tax-sheltered foundations whose privatization models do more to raise profits than student performance.

I encourage you to read the full article: Diann Woodard: The Corporate Takeover of Public Education

Saturday, June 1, 2013

America’s Education Spring: A Growing Revolt Against ‘Reform’ Mandates - NEPC


Kirp declared that mounting evidence from school reform efforts in major U.S. metropolitan areas reveals “it’s a terrible time for advocates of market-driven reform in public education. For more than a decade, their strategy – which makes teachers’ careers turn on student gains in reading and math tests, and promotes competition through charter schools and vouchers – has been the dominant policy mantra. But now the cracks are showing.”
In ever-greater numbers, however, students are also leading the resistance. A recent article in The Nation reported on the growing student resistance movement driven by grievances over austerity budgets and systemic racism.
 From all corners of the country – North Carolina to Philadelphia to Louisiana to Chicago – students as young as eight years old are organizing and taking part in a variety of actions including zombie protests, school walkouts and sit-ins, and acts of defiance like the recent rant by a high school student in Texas that went viral over the Internet when he castigated a seemingly indifferent teacher for dispensing education in “packets” rather than engaging the class in meaningful, relevant learning.
In many places, teachers and parents are supporting rebellious students and even joining in the protests. Grassroots parent groups, in fact, have been the driving force behind efforts to beat back school voucher proposals in Tennessee and parent trigger legislation in Florida.