Warring learning theories: Choose yours #WAPO #netDE #RTTT @RodelDE @GovernorMarkell #businessroundtableEPICFAIL

Warring learning theories: Choose yours
By Marion Brady

The rich philanthropists, hedge fund managers, state governors, big-city mayors, and syndicated columnists now shaping national education policy have reached a firm conclusion. The Number One factor in student performance is teacher performance.

Poverty, broken homes, lead and mercury poisoning, bad teeth, poor eyesight, language difficulties, hunger, low self-esteem, run-down schools, frequent moving, cultural differences, class size — well, yes, those are problems — BUT A TEACHER WHO IS REALLY ON THE BALL CAN LIFT THOSE SCORES!

So fire the worst, and put the rest on notice. Tell them to either get with it or get out. Bring out the market force carrots and sticks — merit pay, school grades, public humiliation, endless checklists, non-stop testing — and goodbye if they don’t work. Competition made America great, so pit kid against kid, teacher against teacher, school against school, state against state, nation against nation!

Keep that great teacher in mind as you read this post I got a few days ago from Dr. William Webb, director of The Center for Educational Options. Bill and his staff operate an alternative school in rural Henry County, Kentucky.

“…the students decided to acquaint themselves in a more mindful way with a small commons area located between our building and the high school. Working in teams of 4, the students were first asked simply to describe the area linguistically. They were mildly surprised to realize that a simple verbal description was not simple at all. The boundary of the area was established beforehand, and yet descriptions varied considerably from group to group. Landmarks that seemed important to one group were virtually ignored by another. Estimates of distance were wildly inaccurate. Words chosen to describe some aspect of the environment were imprecise and vague (“There’s a small hill a little bit behind our trailer that’s pretty steep.”). Listening to each group’s verbal descriptions, no one needed a curriculum or assessment expert to define the “lesson targets.” The important questions were obvious. How do we account for the differences in descriptions? How do we reconcile these differences to come to a shared “perception” of our environment? Why is it important to be precise in describing our surroundings? How do differing perceptions of our immediate surroundings influence the way we interact with each other? A host of other questions were asked and answered in the follow-up discussion to this “simple” exercise…

Moreover, student involvement during this discussion was profoundly different from the typical high school classroom interactions. Freed from the cognitive task of memorizing facts, our students argued and conceded and elaborated and prioritized and paraphrased and deduced and just about every other verb that the Bloom taxonomists say are important illustrators of learning. And they were doing it in the context of an authentic task with real-life implications.

Once the students had settled on a verbal description of the commons area, they were asked to draw a diagram of the area to scale. Not one student had any experience with that exercise. Most were math phobic, having been spectacularly unsuccessful in the math courses taught in the traditional classroom. But having spent the past few days thinking about their environment in a more mindful way, they were motivated to tackle this assignment. Armed with 50’ tape measures, they had little trouble measuring the lines that defined the area’s boundary.

But connecting those lines in a scaled representation of the area presented some challenges. One challenge was the way one adjacent building jutted into the space the students were detailing. In order for the scaled drawing to come out right, the angle that the building “interrupted” the space had to be accurately defined—and it wasn’t an obvious right angle. With no way to use a protractor, the students were stymied. Attempts to use their limited knowledge of geometry to find a mathematical solution were futile. Solutions on the Internet were too technical in their language to be helpful.

And then, in a flash of insight, one student (whose math skills had been assessed by standardized testing measures as being in the lowest “novice” range) ran into the classroom and returned with a block of modeling clay which he proceeded to shape around the building’s corner. Once he had “modeled” the angle in this way, it was a simple matter of transferring the angle to a piece of paper which could now be measured with the protractor. Voila!! The satisfaction this student felt at finding that solution and the affirmation he received from his classmates was a brand new experience. He felt smart. He was smart…

One other example:

As previously mentioned, the students were asked to draw a scaled diagram of the commons area they had chosen to investigate. This, of course, was a ratio and proportions exercise most likely introduced to students in elementary school. But our math-challenged students approached this assignment as if they had been asked to prove the Pythagorean Theorem. A freshman girl (let’s call her Kayla) with a neurotic aversion to all things mathematic, watched quietly while the other three (somewhat mathematically challenged) members of her group struggled to work through the steps for converting their measurements to the scaled drawing. After looking at their measurements and the size of the graph paper they were required to use, they decided that 8 feet of measured distance should be 1 inch on the drawing. There were dozens of measurements—2’9’’, 47’3’’, 9’4’’, etc. The teachers were no help. The students were on their own to figure this out.

Normally, Kayla tuned out when presented with an assignment from a math book, engaging in all manner of avoidance (and class distracting) behaviors. But this was different…a problem, for sure, but not just a math problem. So, Kayla listened differently and she watched as different strategies were tried, and then—she got it! “We gotta make everything inches, and then we have to divide by 96!’’ She showed her group mates. It was a special moment and nearly impossible to describe. Normally a bit histrionic in her actions, Kayla seemed more centered, more authentic, in her excitement and enthusiasm at discovering this hidden skill. She was clearly enjoying feelings of competence that she rarely experienced in the school setting, let alone while doing math. She liked how it felt. She insisted on doing all the conversions herself, working without a break through part of her lunch period to finish…”

If that’s not a dazzling description of real learning taking place, I’ve never read one.

Several years ago, my brother and I wrote an instructional program titled Connections: Investigating Reality. It’s a how-to manual for middle and high school kids and teachers that uses firsthand, “right here, right now,” real-world experience to teach useful, complex ideas, ideas that deal with, but also go beyond, the usual school subjects.

We put Connections on the Internet, allowed it to be downloaded free of charge (no strings attached), and invited users to help us improve it.

Dr. Webb was the first person to take us up on our offer. I asked him to comment about Connections, hoping his account would help explain the radical difference a theory of learning can make. I’ve quoted most of his response. The whole of it is at

In his account, where are the teachers? “The students decided…” “Once the students had settled on…” “The teachers were no help.” “The students were on their own…”

The learning theory that has kids worldwide sitting for hours a day “covering the material” says that what’s taught should be broken apart into easy-to-remember fragments. The fragments should then be sorted by subject, then sorted again, and again, and again, down to a level of specificity that allows each fragment to be an item on a multiple choice test.

This is the learning theory that explains the “standards and accountability” fad. It’s the theory that explains why nearly every state has now adopted the Common Core State Standards. It’s the theory that explains why learner memory looms so large in testing, to the neglect of insight, imagination, and ingenuity. It’s the theory that explains why billions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on standardized tests.

Here’s a very different learning theory: The brain LIKES what it finds when the infant it inhabits is born. It LIKES complexity, likes the challenge of exploring raw experience in search of meaningful patterns, regularities, and relationships. In short, the brain likes the process of sense-making.

The first theory can’t explain why little kids learn so much in the first months and years of life, can’t explain Kayla’s sudden interest in learning, can’t explain the other student behavior Bill describes.

The second theory says it’s natural.

The second theory is why people who actually know something about educating believe in old-fashioned free play and old fashioned kindergarten. It’s why they believe in cutting teachers enough slack to let them do what needs doing, and why they cringe or roll their eyes when the new “reformers” preach about the need for “rigor” and for “raising the bar.” It’s why they opposed No Child Left Behind, now oppose Race to the Top, and oppose just about everything else related to education that the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been selling Congress and state legislators for the past twenty years.

The two theories aren’t compatible. There’s a choice to be made. If H.G. Wells was right, and human history is a race between education and catastrophe, that choice could be the most important one this generation can make.

Gee, who wanted to put this in the PZ plan for GHS…….

based on science and research, so of course, lets ignore it….

Scully’s comin’ back!!!!! #netDE #Dodgers #mlb #baseball #bestannoucerever

LOS ANGELES – Nearing the end of what most locals agree has been the worst Dodgers season in memory, one man had the capacity to soothe the discontent, if only momentarily.

Vin Scully told his television audience Friday night, “God’s been awfully good to me, allowing me to do the things I love to do. I asked him one more year, at least, and He said, ‘OK.’ ”

Scully will be 84 in November and the 2012 season will be his 63rd calling Dodgers games.

This is not an insignificant development in L.A., which for nearly two years has watched in horror the systematic torching of the Dodgers from the top down.

More From Tim Brown

The owner went bankrupt and refuses to sell. The undermanned team had its second losing season in 11 years in 2010, and is in danger of experiencing consecutive sub-.500 seasons for the first time since the late 1980s. In what is being described as a loose boycott, Dodger Stadium is two-thirds empty many nights.

The fight between Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball – Commissioner Bud Selig wants him out, McCourt stubbornly resists – promises to linger longer, perhaps for years.

What’s left is Vin, the last reason to believe in the Dodgers and the barrier standing between McCourt and a fan base that grows ever more disenchanted.

Scully would challenge such a romantic and heroic notion. His talent is surpassed only by his humility.

In this era of turmoil, however, the Dodgers are OK as long as Scully says they are. The Dodgers will survive if Scully says they will. They will emerge one day – free of McCourt, composed and competitive – when Scully grins and his eyes light up and he finishes a story about a man and a game and a memory.

His presence is too big for them to fail.

And while it seems unfair that Scully must near the close of his career slogging through somebody else’s muck, he would not view it that way. They mow the grass, line the field, turn on the lights, and the baseball follows. So Scully does, too, not in spite of the muck, but above it.

“I have the same responsibility every day,” Scully told me several months ago, when the Dodgers were becoming something no one recognized, “which is to be as accurate, as prepared, as informative as I can possibly be on that given day, period.

“Whether it’s war time, peace time, my responsibility is between those lines. Anything else would be a distraction. Anyone who is really interested will have read about it, heard about it. What I want to give them is what they tuned in for – the game.”

It’s what the Dodgers have left. Lucky for them.

Our research shows that the common-core standards do not represent a meaningful improvement over existing state standards. #CChere2SAVEus #not #fail #netDE #RTTT @RodelDE

In Common Core, Little to Cheer About

The United States has long resisted a national curriculum, but that’s changing. More than forty states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have signed on to adopt a set of voluntary curriculum standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Two years ago in this publication, Morgan S. Polikoff and I endorsed the nascent move toward a national curriculum, saying that it would likely bring greater efficiency and coherence, better accountability, and a stronger set of assessments to our educational system. (See inset below.)

I was betting that a national curriculum would give us something like a fresh start in the standards-based-reform business. A national curriculum, I thought, would let us leave behind the mistakes and inadequacies of existing state standards and give us an opportunity to build a curriculum full of strong content that was solidly aligned to improved assessments. The result of such an effort would be a stronger, outcomes-oriented educational system that serves all of our young people, in every state and at every income level.

In short, I hoped that new national curriculum standards would be better than the state standards they replaced, and that new student assessments would be better, too.

I wish I could say that our progress toward common-core standards has fulfilled my hopes. Instead, it seems to me that the common-core movement is turning into a lost opportunity.

By Andrew C. Porter & Morgan S. Polikoff

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a Commentary by Andrew C. Porter and Morgan S. Polikoff. It was originally published on edweek.org on June 11, 2009.

After a history of more than 25 years, the national-standards movement seems to be at peak intensity. In April of this year, representatives from 41 states met under the auspices of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to work toward the establishment of common guidelines in mathematics and English language arts. As of the first week of June, 46 states had formally agreed to join in the effort.

Even though the 50-state, 50-standards system that has emerged out of standards-based reform has increasingly come under fire from researchers and policymakers, there has as yet been little investigation of the extent to which these many sets of standards differ, one from another.

We wondered whether the current state standards might be so alike as to already constitute a de facto national intended curriculum. If this were true, national standards, though not difficult to implement, might not even be needed. On the other hand, if state standards documents cover widely different content, there might be greater need for a push toward consistency. In either case, national standards would be more efficient and probably of higher quality than the hodgepodge in place now.

Recently, three doctoral students at the University of Pennsylvania—Jennifer McMaken, Jun Hwang, Rui Yang—and I mapped the extent to which the common-core standards are aligned with current state standards and with various U.S. and international assessments. Using a nationally recognized content-analysis procedure, the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum, we compared common-core math standards with math standards in 27 states and common-core English language arts standards with English language arts standards in 24 states. We used all the data available from a state partnership coordinated by Rolf Blank at the Council of Chief State School Officers and maintained by John Smithson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. What we found was unexpected and troubling.

Our research shows that the common-core standards do not represent a meaningful improvement over existing state standards. To be sure, when we consider state standards in the aggregate, the common-core standards present a somewhat greater emphasis on higher-order thinking. But the keyword here is somewhat; the difference is small, and some state standards exceed the common core in this respect. And, in terms of mathematics and English language arts curricula focus, the results are just as disappointing: The common core has a greater focus than certain state standards, and a lesser focus than others.

What all this means is that the common-core standards don’t seem to build on what we’ve learned through decades of research and experience. The common core is not a new gold standard—it’s firmly in the middle of the pack of current curricula.

Even more surprising was what we found when we compared the common-core standards with the national curriculum standards of several countries whose students regularly beat the pants off U.S. youngsters on international achievement tests like the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.

“I wish I could say that our progress toward common-core standards has fulfilled my hopes. Instead, it seems to me that the common-core movement is turning into a lost opportunity.”

Reformers, myself included, have been saying that U.S. schools need to teach more higher-order thinking skills if we’re going to catch up with other countries’ educational systems. But curricula in top-performing countries we studied—like Finland, Japan, and New Zealand—put far less emphasis on higher-order thinking, and far more on basic skills, than does the common core. We need to ask ourselves: Could our enthusiasm for teaching higher-order skills possibly have gone too far? Clearly, both basic skills and higher-order thinking are important, but what is the right balance?

Finally, I had hoped that along with a national curriculum, the common core would prompt us to develop better, more scientifically sound ways to assess student learning. In particular, I hoped to see assessments that are better aligned with the curriculum, that give teachers and administrators more useful information, and that are just plain better at measuring student progress.We may yet get such improved assessments. But what I know so far about the work of the two multistate consortia developing the assessments isn’t promising. It sounds as if the new assessments may ignore state-of-the-art research and technological advances, settling for tests that are much like the ones we already have. Meanwhile, innovative work on assessments that’s been going on in the states has ground to a halt while everyone waits to see what the consortia come up with.

If new standards don’t bring us better curricula than what we already have, don’t help us catch up with our international competitors, and don’t lead to better assessments, then all the hoopla over the common core may turn out to be much ado about nothing.


The only good news from the Dodgers season to date: the best announcer ever is coming back in 2012!!!!!! #Vin #mlb #Dodgers

LOS ANGELES (AP)—Vin Scully had the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans feeling good even before the team’s six-run rally in the seventh inning.

The Hall of Fame broadcaster told television viewers Friday night that he will return to the broadcast booth for his record 63rd year in 2012, brightening an otherwise dreary season for the bankrupt franchise.

“The winning and losing doesn’t bother me,” he told reporters in a stadium elevator after the Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 6-1. “It’s just a love of people. I just don’t know what I would do (otherwise).”

Scully, who turns 84 in November, calls all nine innnigs of the team’s TV broadcasts and the first three innings of his games are simulcast on radio. He works all the home games and select road games.

“My barometer has always been goosebumps,” Scully said, citing plays made by Rockies third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff(notes) that excited him. “It’s a meaningless game, but it still thrilled me. It’s still there. As long as it’s still there.”

Scully held up some chocolate chip cookies on the air sent to him by a woman in Woodland Hills and joked that they were clearly a bribe to get him to return. He said he decided a week ago after discussing it with his wife.

“That’s good,” slugger Matt Kemp(notes) said after being informed of Scully’s announcement. “He’s the face of the Dodgers. He’s seen it all. If he was to leave, I think everyone would miss that voice.”

Winning pitcher Ted Lilly(notes) called Scully “a franchise player.”

“There are a lot of us who are very excited to hear it,” he said.

Scully shared his news with viewers at the start of the sixth inning. One inning later, the Dodgers exploded for six runs, helped by two balks from Rockies pitchers.

State releases school ratings, completes the Texas Two Step! #netDE

State Releases 2011 School Ratings

Release Date: Aug 26, 2011 7:29 AM  ShareThis

Delaware’s Department of Education today released its first set of annual school ratings since the state raised requirements for student proficiency in core subjects and streamlined school rating categories.

While the changes in the ratings system, consolidation of categories and a reset of the state’s Annual Measureable Objectives (AMO) make a direct comparison to last year’s ratings more difficult, the new ratings provide a sustainable baseline to measure schools against the state’s higher expectations for student performance. The shift from seven to three rating categories, which separates school ratings and school improvement statuses, also brings more clarity around school performance.

In 2011, 137 Delaware schools earned “superior” ratings, 32 were rated “commendable” and 37 were rated as under “academic watch.” Last year, 66 schools were rated “superior,” 17 schools “commendable,” 46 schools “academic review,” 0 schools “academic progress,” 26 schools “academic progress – under improvement,” 0 schools “academic watch” and 37 schools “academic watch – under improvement.”

Under the new accountability system, schools are classified in one of three categories:

  • Superior means that the school is “above” targets
  • Commendable means the school “meets” targets
  • Academic Watch means the school is “below” targets

While the ratings provide a view into a school’s overall performance, a school also can receive an additional status of “under improvement” if it failed to meet annual yearly progress performance targets for two or more consecutive years in a specific area or areas. Those areas can include: participation in reading or math; performance in reading or math; or issues around other academic indicators, such as graduation rate or attendance rate.

A total of 66 schools have been designated “under improvement” this year, 32 of which made adequate yearly progress but are frozen in that status until they do so for two consecutive years. The other 34 did not make AYP.

Federal law and Delaware regulations require that certain corrective actions be taken by schools designated as “under improvement.”

In addition to simplifying the school rating system, the Delaware Department of Education — with the support of the state’s districts and charter schools and at the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Education — applied for a reset of its Annual Measurable Objective (AMO).  “AMO” refers to the percentage of students within a school who must be proficient in reading and mathematics on state standardized tests each year as required under federal No Child Left Behind regulations. Under the 2001 law, all students must demonstrate proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2013-2014.

The “reset” changed the interim AMO “steps” or target percentages schools must meet but still adheres to the requirement that 100 percent of Delaware public school students in grades 3-8 and 10 demonstrate proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2013-14.

The change to the AMOs was the result of the introduction last school year of a new statewide assessment and higher proficiency standards, which raise the bar for what level of mastery is considered proficient. Other states also were granted similar resets due to changes in their state assessment or other policy changes. 

The state followed a federal formula to determine the new interim steps, which moved schools’ reading target for 2011 from 84 percent to 50 percent of students being proficient and the math target from 75 percent to 49 percent.

 

Why the two step? Well, check out this action from the aptly named saloon, “the Broken Spoke”  This dance offers lots of action, spinning in circles and you end up right where you started…..

Is it Research – or Propaganda? (via Seattle Education)

Is it Research - or Propaganda? There's a lot of brand new education research coming out nowadays, and it's telling our policymakers that privatization is good for education. Class sizes are going up? That's okay, because research shows that class size has little impact on student learning. Charter schools are competing with your neighborhood schools? Hey, many of them outperform public schools! And this is good research. Great research. In fact, it's the best research money ca … Read More

via Seattle Education

From the folks at Gawker, more Matt Damon intrigue #NetDE

Matt Damon, Education Department Engage in Bitter War Dance

It turns out that the Obama administration was quite concerned about Matt Damon’s very YouTube-able appearance at the Save Our Schools rally in Washington a few weeks ago.

It’s easy to see why: The rally, which was organized in part to protest the Education Department’s support of “education reform” policies like greater standardized testing, merit pay, and so on, was being drowned out in news attention by the last-minute debt deal coverage, and a celebrity like Matt Damon could have the power to break through.

Now, as the Washington Post reports, Education Secretary Arne Duncan was truly worried about this, and offered to meet Damon several times before the speech. Nicely planted story from the White House, here:

It turns out that people in the Obama administration made several attempts to reach actor Matt Damon just before he spoke at last month’s Save Our Schools rally in Washington D.C., blasting education policies that focus on high-stakes standardized tests.

According to two people familiar with the efforts, the administration tried to arrange a meeting with Damon and government officials, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, before the July 30 march. The sources declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

In fact, Duncan was willing to meet Damon at the airport when he flew into the Washington region and talk to him on the drive into the city, according to the sources. Damon declined all of the requests.

The reaction to this story neatly showcases the split among liberals on education reform.

  • If you’re, say, a pro-education reform, anti-teachers unions careerist at The New Republic, you see Damon as a cowardly moron who’s too scared to debate Arne Duncan: “If Damon feels he doesn’t know enough about the issue to survive a meeting with Duncan with his convictions intact, then he has no business speaking at a rally.”
  • If you write for the anti-education reform FireDogLake blog, you’re more likely to see the weasel Duncan as trying to talk Damon down before he was likely to bring a heap of bad press on Duncan’s lil’ operation. “What’s even more interesting,” David Dayen writes, “is that the teachers who organized the Save Our Schools march were suddenly invited to a meeting with Administration officials the day before the march. I assume this occurred once the Education Department realized they couldn’t get to Matt Damon. The teachers declined the invitation, and asked if they could meet after the march. They were told no. Obviously they wanted to blunt the criticism, not engage on the policy.”

So is Matt Damon a coward, or is Arne Duncan a mischievous hack? You must choose, now

I guess they’re all suffer fom ID10T errors……… #edreform #netDE

 

 

No Child Left Behind on steroids – The Answer Sheet – The Washington Post

 

Posted at 01:24 PM ET, 08/25/2011

No Child Left Behind on steroids

This was written by William J. Mathis is the managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a former Vermont school superintendent.

This post is about a plan advanced by the Council of Chief State School Officers in June as a replacement for the school accountability system in No Child Left Behind.

A few weeks ago Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that he would grant states waivers from key provisions of NCLB as long as they embrace education reform that he favors.

 

By William J. Mathis

The Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) plan for replacing the No Child Left Behind accountability system, hinted to be the recipe for states to win a waiver from the Education Department from the worst provisions of the law, not only retains the most ineffective pieces of NCLB but magnifies them. Contrary to all we have learned, it suggests to additional mandates and testing.

Americans are now well aware of at least four main drawbacks of NCLB, none of which are remedied in the CCSSO plan: (a) the huge inequities in funding and opportunities to learn (b) the neglect of out-of-school and environmental factors, (c) an inordinate and unbalanced emphasis on testing which leads to narrowed and dumb-downed curriculum, and (d) the ineffectiveness of turnaround strategies.

As longtime educator Larry Cuban has noted, despite 20 years of state-based and federal top-down accountability mandates, there is not a single example of a successful urban district reform generated by this type of scheme.

The CCSSO touches on a couple of useful and sound ideas, but the bulk of their plan signals that the authors have learned little from the past decade’s voluminous research. The chiefs’ roadmap provides “references” yet almost all of these can be characterized as speculative documents. Thus, major educational policy would again be determined by ideology rather than research and experience.

The CCSSO organizes its plan around nine principles and processes (its roadmap is organized differently):

 

1) College and Career Ready Standards

State curricular alignment to uniform national standards (the Common Core) with annual performance benchmarks would be required. Instead of all students reaching proficiency by 2014, all must be proficient on the new standards by graduation. Adequate Yearly Progress, known as AYP, is replaced with an “on-track” interim measure or “school effectiveness targets.” This simply continues the same flawed NCLB practice albeit flowered with new euphemisms. If the standards are truly “rigorous,” then — absent a substantial increase in resources and opportunities­ — all students in all groups will not come close to “success,” while Duncan’s “slow-moving train wreck” careens on toward its destiny.

 

2) Annual Determinations for Each School and District

This represents no real difference from the current model except a growth aspect is required. As naturally attractive as growth scores are to most everyone, the measurement limitations make this almost impossible. For example, the objectives at grade seven are not the same as the objectives at grade 8. Subtracting one from the other subtracts apples from oranges. To compound the problem, when it comes to testing higher order skills like reasoning and problem solving, the entire “standardized” system gets very unstandardized. Growth models can be very useful but they don’t have enough power to justify attaching high stakes consequences. As one prominent psychometrician wagged, “There are three ways to do growth scores and all of them are wrong.”

 

3) Focus on Student Outcomes

CCSSO suggests that more tests in more grades and subject areas are needed. Other measures would also be necessary (college entry, remediation rates, etc.). As reading and math tests narrow the curriculum, the chief’s solution is to expand testing to other curriculum areas.

This is probably the biggest conceptual fallacy in the chiefs’ plan. The previous system did not work, so doing more of it is not exactly a logical conclusion. We should, instead, look to areas of greater promise. Schools are not single-handedly responsible for or capable of over-coming all adverse conditions. Setting aside ideological proclamations, we have to face the fact that the differences in social capital is a deeply documented, incontrovertible and sober truth. Any plan with promise for success must simultaneously address social and school issues. The chiefs’ ignore this vast framework.

 

4) Continued Disaggregation of Sub-Groups

This principle calls for the continued break-out of scores by race, language status and poverty and that these sub-group scores continue to be part of the accountability process. Since all students must reach the new standards, the effect is no different from NCLB. In time, all schools fail.

Perhaps the greatest danger of this thinking is that it continues “the myth of the shining of the light.” That is, if we just shine the light on low scores, things will improve. We have been shining the light on poor sub-group performance for 10 years while we neglected to provide effective and sufficient resources and assistance to solve the problems. Illumination of problems, without providing solutions, may provide sustenance to the failure proclamation industry but it does nothing to solve learning problems.

 

5) Timely Reporting of Actionable and Accessible Data

This goal is laudable and necessary but has the ring of tokenism. The Institute of Education Sciences reports that the collection and use of data has little evidence of being an effective reform strategy. While additional “input data” and “returns on investment” information may represent new data collections and reporting burdens for schools and/or states, it is not at all clear as to how this will improve children’s learning.

 

6) Deeper Diagnostic Reviews

State summative tests, because they are designed to have the most power around the cut score, cannot provide useful diagnostics for teachers. They are general survey tests. “Deeper diagnostic reviews” would require the collection of more detailed assessment data. Increased reliance on standardized tests comes at the price of decreased attention to higher order skills, experiential learning and activities designed for advancing the common good. It’s also poor pedagogy. Such a narrow and singular definition of the purposes of education is basically incompatible with the needs of the twenty-first century.

 

7) Building School and District Capacity

While there would likely be broad consensus favoring increasing the capacity of schools, the roadmap interprets this point as increasing the precision of identifying schools. Specific recommendations are absent other than such phrases as “. . . hold providers of supports and interventions accountable. “ The report says states should be motivational and not just punitive, yet the focus of the section (pp32-33 of the roadmap) is top-down and directive. Students cannot be expected to learn more unless they are given greater opportunities to learn, and these opportunities depend on increasing school and district capacity. The chief’s plan falls well short on this criterion.

 

8) Targeting Low Performing Schools

Instead of NCLB’s progression through stages of increasing sanctions, the lowest scoring five percent (or more) of schools in each state will be subject to “significant interventions.” Sadly, a review of the literature about the current “turn-around” or intervention strategies shows a remarkable lack of success. Those hoping to find better intervention models will be disappointed. Instead of actions that help children by addressing the community and school needs in our most economically and socially marginalized communities, the emphasis is on changing governance and staffing.

 

9) Innovation and Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is laudable in most every enterprise. “Innovation” in our schools, however, has come to simply mean change, which can be either good or bad. It therefore requires a bit of caution. Moreover, when reform “churn” hits a school, the effects can be extremely disruptive to reforms that are just beginning to take root.

Sadly, the CCSSO plan does not demonstrate a command of the research literature, just as President Obama’s Blueprint for Reform never found a sound evidentiary footing. The chiefs would be well-served to review the recent National Academies report that finds no evidence that such high stakes, test-based models are successful. Accordingly, if this CCSSO plan is widely adopted, the evidence says it will, most likely, also be unsuccessful.

 

Thanks for not taking that call, Matt. #edreform #SOS @arneduncan @RodelDE @GovernorMarkell

How badly did Arne Duncan want to talk to Matt Damon? – The Answer Sheet – The Washington Post

How badly did Arne Duncan want to talk to Matt Damon?

It turns out that people in the Obama administration made several attempts to reach actor Matt Damon just before he spoke at last month’s Save Our Schools rally in Washington D.C., blasting education policies that focus on high-stakes standardized tests.

According to two people familiar with the efforts, the administration tried to arrange a meeting with Damon and government officials, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, before the July 30 march. The sources declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

In fact, Duncan was willing to meet Damon at the airport when he flew into the Washington region and talk to him on the drive into the city, according to the sources. Damon declined all of the requests.

Asked about the efforts to reach Damon, Education Department spokesman Justin Hamilton said in an email, “We often reach out to people who care deeply about education reform. To dramatically improve the way our children learn and to prepare them for success in college and career, we need as many passionate voices engaged in this effort as possible.”

Damon flew to the teachers march on the day of the event from Vancouver, where he has been filming a movie called “Elysium.” He came at the request of his mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a child development expert and professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., who was involved with the rally.

Damon refused to meet with administration officials before the march.

His criticism of Obama administration policy has clearly been on the White House’s radar.

Damon spoke out earlier this year on education reform. In a March interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, he said President Obama had disappointed him on a number of issues and criticized an administration-encouraged initiative to link teacher evaluation to the standardized test scores of students. It’s a bad idea, and Damon said so.

Two months later, President Obama noted Damon’s dissent. In his comic address to the White House Correspondents dinner in May, Obama said:

“I’ve even let down my key core constituency: movie stars. Just the other day, Matt Damon — I love Matt Damon, love the guy — Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance. Well, Matt, I just saw ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ so…right back atcha, buddy.”

Fast forward to July. Leaders of the teachers march, who had tried for months through letters and blogposts to get the attention of the White House, were, on July 28, suddenly invited to a meeting with administration officials for the next day, the day before the march. The offer was declined, the leaders said, because they were busy with an education conference at American University and preparations for the rally. They asked if administration officials could meet with them after the march, but the answer was “no.”

Why was the administration so keen on meeting with Damon and march leaders just before the event?

I’ve said before that it is fair to wonder if the sudden interest was akin to the administration’s efforts last summer to blunt criticism of Obama policies when a coalition of civil rights groups released a framework for education reform. In the few days before the framework was released, administration officials met with some of the coalition leaders, and a few of them backed off their criticism.

If that was what the officials had in mind with their outreach before the teachers march, it didn’t work.

I thought we were bringing jobs TO Delaware….at least that’s what all of @GovernorMarkell ‘s press conferences are “allegedly” about…. #NetDE

Jobs picture grim in Delaware | The News Journal | delawareonline.com

Delaware’s jobless rate ticked up to 8.1 percent in July, even as a report from the state’s Labor Department showed that private employers here added 2,200 jobs during that month.

 Economists say it’s generally unwise to put much stock in one month of jobs data because of statistical volatility, and a three-month trend still paints a bleak jobs picture for the state. 

State employers have dumped 2,600 jobs since April. Surrounding states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania have experienced some volatility but have added jobs over that period and growth remains positive year over year.

That’s not the case in Delaware, where employment is down 3,000 jobs, or 0.7 percent, since last July.

Employers added jobs through the first half of the 2011 but job creation has stalled through the spring and summer, with job losses in Delaware’s battered construction industry leading the decline.

Delaware has also lost 900 government jobs since April; private-sector employers have shed 1,700 jobs, including 1,100 in construction.

“It certainly looks like the labor market in the state has weakened pretty significantly just from the start of the second quarter,” said Marisa DiNatale, a director and an economist at Moody’s Economy.com. “That’s different from a lot of the surrounding states that actually look a little bit better.”

DiNatale said July’s numbers could signal the beginning of a labor recovery but poor economic signals — an ailing stock market and dampened consumer and business confidence figures — offer a more pessimistic outlook.

Labor officials use two different surveys to track employment at the state level: a survey of Delaware businesses and a separate household survey, which captures the employment status of people living in Delaware but potentially working elsewhere.

The household survey showed that 800 fewer Delawareans were working in July from June and 34,500 who want work remain jobless.

Weekly hours worked inched up to 33.4 hours, from 33 hours but average hourly wages fell to $21.83 from $22.41 a year ago.

George Sharpley, senior economist at the Delaware Department of Labor, said that could reflect a new composition of Delaware’s jobs economy.

Restaurants and other food services have added more jobs than any other industry, Sharpley said, while Delaware has lost jobs in higher-paying sectors like finance.

Sharpley said Delaware has seen “downward wage pressure” since the recession began. “It’s not a good thing,” he said.