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In a post on the Horace Mann League website, Jamie Robert Vollmer writes that when America’s public schools were established in the 17th century, their chief purpose was to teach basic reading, some writing and arithmetic skills, and cultivate values that served a democratic society. The founders of these schools <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/K12-Dept-of-edu-history.html> assumed that families and churches bore the major responsibility for raising a child. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, politicians, academics, members of the clergy, and business leaders saw public schools as a logical site for the assimilation of immigrants and the social engineering of citizens — and workers — for the new industrial age. From 1900 to 1910, public schools assumed responsibilities related to nutrition, immunization, and health. With each successive decade or so, the brief for public education expanded. In the 1950s, we broadened science and math education, added safety education, driver’s education, wider music and art education, stronger foreign language requirements, and sex education. In the 1990s, we added conflict resolution and peer mediation, HIV/AIDS education, CPR training, death education, America 2000 initiatives, inclusion, service learning, and many, many more. Vollmer lists each addition from the turn of the last century to the present. “The truth is that we have added these responsibilities without adding a single minute to the school calendar in six decades,” he observes. “No generation of teachers and administrators in the history of the world has been told to fulfill this mandate: not just teach children, but raise them.”
Given the educational zeitgeist stressing “differentiated instruction,” it’s remarkable that the impending Common Core Curriculum <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/standards.html> does not differentiate between native-born American students and English language learners, writes ESL teacher Arthur Goldstein in The New York Times. Prior to the Common Core, the ELA standard in his state has been the New York English Regents exam. Anyone who doesn’t pass this doesn’t graduate. So when his supervisor asks him to train kids to pass it, he complies. He teaches them to write tightly structured, highly formulaic four-paragraph essays in a style he would never use. Many of them pass. The only skill they acquire is passing the Regents, and he knows when his students go to college, they will take writing tests that will label them ESL and place them in remedial classes. What would make his students more college-ready would be a strong background in English structure and usage. The language skills they have in their first languages will almost inevitably transfer into English. Depriving them of the time and instruction for this is not to their benefit. Of course, Goldstein says, his kids can be assessed. But expecting the same thing from them as from those who have been speaking English all their lives is ludicrous. There can be no true differentiation unless assessments are differentiated as well.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, Bill Gates writes that publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them improve in their jobs or increase student learning <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/k12-school-reform-accountability.html>. On the contrary, he says, it will make it much harder to implement teacher evaluation systems that work. Advocates in New York, Los Angeles, and other cities contend that a good personnel system can be based on ranking teachers according to their value-added rating, then publicizing the names and rankings online and in the media. Yet shaming poorly performing teachers doesn’t make them more effective, because it doesn’t give specific feedback. Student test scores aren’t sensitive enough to gauge effective teaching, or diagnostic enough to identify areas of improvement. Because teaching is multifaceted and complex, a reliable evaluation system must incorporate other measures, like students’ feedback about their teachers and classroom observations by trained peer evaluators and principals. But putting sophisticated personnel systems in place will take a serious commitment. Those who believe we can do it on the cheap — by doing things like making teachers’ performance reports public — are underestimating the level of resources needed to spur real achievement.
The New York Review of Books <http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/feb/21/no-student-left-untested/> about the recent New York State decision to include student test scores in teacher evaluations, and the recent New York City decision to publish teacher rankings, Diane Ravitch writes that “the consequences of these policies will not be pretty.” Most testing experts acknowledge that rating calculations are flawed; <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/k12-Fed-Gov-Culture-of-Corruption.html> many good educators will be subject to public humiliation and leave the profession. Most educators in New York don’t teach tested subjects, so the state will also require districts to create assessments for every subject, and no one knows what these will look like. The state will mandate the hiring of thousands of independent evaluators, greatly increasing paperwork for overburdened administrators. Already stressed school budgets will be squeezed further to meet demands for monitoring and reporting. As for the tests themselves, students can be coached to guess the right answer, making it possible to raise scores and worsen education simultaneously. “Those who can’t teach and can’t improve should be fired,” Ravitch acknowledges. “But the current frenzy of blaming teachers for low scores smacks of a witch-hunt, the search for a scapegoat, someone to blame for a faltering economy, for the growing levels of poverty, for widening income inequality.”
Current discourse on teacher evaluations rates a system “rigorous” based either on how much of the evaluation rests on direct measures of student outcomes, or the distribution of teachers into the various performance categories, writes Aaron Pallas on the Answer Sheet blog in The Washington Post. If an evaluation system relies heavily on standardized tests — say, 40 percent overall — its proponents call it “rigorous.” Similarly, if an evaluation system has four performance categories — ineffective, developing, effective, and highly effective — a system that finds few to be highly effective is “rigorous.” But this notion of “rigorous” obscures the subjectivity involved in composite ratings assigned to teachers. The fraction of the overall evaluation based on student outcomes is wholly a matter of judgment. “Rigorous” also fails to acknowledge that the criteria for assigning teachers to performance categories <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/test.html> — for subcomponents or for overall evaluation — are arbitrary. One way to bring rigor would be ratings that incorporate uncertainty or errors in their measures. A teacher would be assigned the lower of two adjacent rating categories only if there were at least 90 percent confidence the teacher was not in the higher category. In most research, a common standard is to trust an observed effect only if that effect can be observed by chance under 5 percent of the time, relative to the hypothesis that there’s no true effect in the population.
As states and districts begin the work of turning common academic standards into curriculum and instruction, educators searching for teaching resources are finding the process frustrating, reports Catherine Gewertz in Education Week. Teachers and curriculum developers find themselves in a bind: Their current materials fall short, and few good new ones exist to fill the void. These frustrations are unfolding during unprecedented activity to build knowledge about the standards and prepare resources for them. States and districts are convening educators to discuss the fundamental shifts required, and advocacy groups are holding workshops and posting documents and videos on the internet to illustrate new ways of thinking and teaching. <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/Home_Teachers.html> Yet these messages haven’t reached everyone, and the resources and discussions taking shape online can be tough to locate. Moreover, a report by the Center on Education Policy found districts divided about how much curriculum change was truly required and reluctant to move forward, in part because of inadequate guidance from their states. And even as resources are helping shape curriculum, they don’t address a felt need to have lesson plans available immediately, said Mike Shaughnessy of the Council of Teachers of Mathematics: “Teachers want something right away, but I say, ‘Look, this is going to take some time. We have to stay the course.'”
A report from the New Teacher Center examines teacher-induction policies across the country, finding no single U.S. state has perfected its induction policy to ensure provision of high-impact, multi-year induction support for all beginning educators. Half of states don’t require beginning educators to receive induction or mentoring support <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/newteacher.html>. The report summarizes existing policies in each state related to 10 criteria it deems critical to universal, high-quality induction and mentoring support for beginning educators, enumerating policies, statutes, regulations, and standards on new-teacher induction and mentoring. The report also stresses that efforts to improve new-teacher induction, as well as teacher effectiveness generally, must address teacher working conditions — including the critical role of school leadership, opportunities for teacher leadership and collaboration, and customized professional development — all of which greatly impact teachers’ chances of success. While all schools and students can benefit from more effective teachers, the power of high-quality induction has special significance for hard-to-staff schools that serve low-income and minority students. High-quality induction programs help provide the specialized support needed for new teachers in these challenging professional environments. They also can help transform these hard-to-staff schools into strong professional communities where educators want to stay and work — and where they can be successful practitioners.
Learn about School Uniform Policies <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/dresscode.html>, Benefits of School Uniforms, Dress Codes, Culture, Sexual and Social Politics, Fashion and Slumming it. Read about school uniforms: arguments pro and con, implementation issues, and benefits and disadvantages. Do the kids with Spiked hair know that’s the institutional look from leaving a mental ward? Do the kids know that Baggy, falling down pants that’s the look of prison uniforms? “Regional clothing from our locale” including “bling bling ice ice, grills” and “hoochie hoops.” school dress code and school uniform
Surveillance <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Technology/Surveillance.html> Software that will Monitor, Students, Employees, Dissadents and Protestors.
Predictive Technology <http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Technology/predictive.html> The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is out this month with a broad agency announcement soliciting “innovation research proposals in support of the development of new software-based biometric modalities” that go beyond the current focus of passwords for identity validation.
The differences between South L.A.’s neighborhood schools and well-funded charters have encouraged thousands of South L.A. parents to withdraw their children from traditional public schools over the past decade, writes Dana Goldstein in a profile of Crenshaw High School on the Zócalo Public Square website. Working- and middle-class African-American families still live in the neighborhood that surrounds the school, but for the most part, their kids do not attend. Eighty-one percent of Crenshaw’s students live in poverty, and 12 percent come from homes where no English is spoken. The school is ranked among the bottom 10 percent of high schools nationwide. Yet a remarkable reform movement has taken hold there, Goldstein writes, driven by veteran teachers frustrated with administrative turnover. With funding from the Ford Foundation and the federal School Turnaround program, Crenshaw is pursuing a reform model distinct from the more popular strategies in the “accountability” playbook. Its turnaround focuses on creating a new curriculum to show students how education can improve their lives and their struggling neighborhood. Crenshaw’s model is rooted in solid research on why kids drop out of school: because they find it boring, because they don’t see how it connects to the world of work, and because they would rather be earning money. What’s controversial is that it asks students to think critically about the social forces shaping their lives, and to work actively to improve their neighborhood.
A new report from the Center for Public Education examines credit recovery programs, which give students who have fallen behind the chance to “recover” credits through different strategies, often online. There is no federal definition of credit recovery, although credit-recovery classes are supported by several government funds. Similarly, there is no coherent definition among states that cite credit recovery programs in statutes or administrative code. Different programs allow students to work over the summer, on school breaks, after school, on weekends, at home on their own, at night in school computer labs, or even during the school day. Some have mandatory prerequisites, such as a minimum attendance record for the original class, a specific class year, or minimum number of total missing credits. Some do not. There are three main kinds of programs: fully online, blended, and in-person. The report doesn’t offer an analysis of what works best, since so little is known. Instead, it introduces questions: Who is taking credit recovery programs? How far behind are the students taking them? Do they catch up, or continue to fall behind? When do those needing credit recovery start falling behind? What is the failure rate for credit recovery classes as compared to traditional classes? How do students who re-earn missed credit fare on statewide exams, compared to students who pass the first time? How do students who earn diplomas after credit recovery fare in postsecondary education or employment? And how does this compare to available data on GED recipients, traditional graduates, and dropouts?
Remedial without a cause: Two new studies released by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College find that large numbers of community college students are being placed unnecessarily into remedial courses, reports Inside Higher Ed. The research analyzes data from a large, urban community-college system and a statewide two-year system, finding that up to a third of students who placed into remedial classes on the basis of the COMPASS and ACCUPLACER tests could have passed college-level classes with a grade of B or better. The studies used student-level information from the institutions to examine if the tests predicted student success, comparing their accuracy with indicators culled from high school grades. The urban community college study found placement exams to be better predictors of success in math than in English, and more predictive of who is likely to do well in college-level course work than of who is likely to fail. The research on the state system found the tests to be poor at predicting future college grades, with the COMPASS accounting for only 5 percent of the variation in student grades. However, several unresolved questions remain. The researchers caution that the validity of placement tests depends on how they are used, and it is not clear which remedial classes to waive for students with strong high school GPAs.
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