Democracies Need More Than One Kind of “Good” School

Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

This post is a revised and updated version of one I wrote June 2, 2010

[A good education] “teaches you how to ask a question… it is knowing what you don’t know….”

“Ideally, one should know who Shakespeare was and why Shakespeare was important to us…. At the same time, one should know who Toni Morrison is and why her voice and take on America is important to us.”

“An educated high school grad must read, compute, persevere, organize, and problem-solve well enough not just to attend college, but to graduate from college.”

[A good education should instill] “a love of lifelong learning.”*

No surprise that views of what makes a good education differ. Such opinions about what makes an education “good” have differed for millennia among religious leaders, Greek philosophers, and those rebels in the 13 colonies who shaped a democratic experiment in America. Not now, however, in a…

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Measured Progress and Its Temporary Test Scorers

Originally posted on deutsch29:

The standardized testing industry is taking over the American public school classroom.

Increasingly more class time is being devoted to preparing for and administering standardized tests in the name of “global competitiveness” and ensuring students are “college and career ready.”

Even though promoters of corporate reform idolize standardized testing to the degree that many seem to honestly believe standardized testing a flawless indicator of both student progress and teacher worth, there are many weak points to such a position.

For the time being, let us just consider one: The test scorers.

The constructed response portions of most standardized tests are graded by human beings.

Who are these people?

Temp workers with at least some college experience and who are hired en masse with little to no supervision– and whose college transcripts need might not even be verified.

Take the assessment company, Measured Progress. It directs individuals interested in temporary test…

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The Sunlight Governor redux. #netDE #eduDE #FOIA #SecretEmail

In light of Rep. John Kowalko’s FOIA to gain access to Governor Markell’s muddy e-mail usage, I just wanted to blast out a couple of humorous blasts from Governor Markell’s past:

Are You Part of the Hunger Games?

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Bonnie Margolin, a teacher in Florida, remembers a time before No Child Left Behind. She remembers when politicians did not tell teachers how to teach. She remembers when teaching was far more and different from preparing to take tests.

We are now trapped in The Testing Games. Like The Hunger Games, the odds are never in your favor.

“The obvious comparison is the idea that education is some form of competition. We know this concept is a popular one, just based upon the fact that our own US President named his education reform, The Race to the Top. In this race, states are encouraged to create education policies based on test scores. Student promotion, teacher evaluations, and school grades are all based on test scores. Funding is then tied to the student achievement. In simple terms, how well the students race decides how much money the schools get in funding.

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PARCC Tests in Louisiana: No Seals, No Security

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

This is very puzzling. Standardized tests usually arrive with seals or stickers so that no one can read them without authorization. In the case of the PARCC test administered in Louisiana, there were no seals or stickers. Students could flip ahead to the next day’s tests.

That has raised concerns among some critics of the test, and the related Common Core national academic standards, that the partnership test made it easier for students to get a head start the content of the next unit — or even for administrators to get a look and prepare a study guide for students.

Those concerns are only the latest to be aired in the most controversial and politicized public school testing period that Louisiana has seen in years. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s opposition to Common Core and the national tests, and a vocal but small test-boycott movement, put extra pressure on educators. Low…

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MUST READ: Revelations of a Disillusioned Reformer

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:


This is a remarkable and candid story of Jorge Cabrera, who joined the reform movement as a believer. He wanted to help the children of Bridgeport, where he grew up. He wanted better schools. He was a community organizer for Excel Schools.

And then he learned the truth.

“As I began my work in the “education reform movement” in Bridgeport, I noticed a plethora of ivy league educated “consultants” and “transformational leaders” that littered the often loose coalition of funders, new organizations and executive directors. From the beginning, it was clear that many of these new “leaders” that were emerging were well credentialed. They had graduated from prestigious universities and, it was presumed (though not by me), that alone qualified them to lead. Many were very young (recent graduates), energetic, unmarried with no children and little life experience. They often exhibited a cultish commitment to “the movement.” Their zeal…

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Teachers: Time for Civil Disobedience

John Young:

Comment Rescue from the blog post: seriously – we adults, in REFUSING TO PUT A STOP TO IT, are as bad as the plutocrats using our kids as profit centres….

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Never have the stakes attached to testing been higher. If a student doesn’t reach proficient on a Common Core test where most students will not reach proficient (a passing mark set artificially high), the student is a failure, her teacher is ineffective, and the school is stigmatized. How to counter this madness?

Consider the following comments by teachers, posted on this blog:

“I would encourage all of my students to post pics of the questions or tweet the questions as they remember them. I did this several years ago when Indiana had just one graduation qualifying exam. I got reprimanded and transferred to a terrible inner city school, but the action did have some impact because the state had to admit that a great deal of the exam questions were wrong or too poorly worded to make sense. I realize that in today’s testing-mania culture I would probably have been…

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Earl Jaques pens an editorial (I think) and I red pen it here. #OPTOUT #SBAC #netDE

keep-calm-and-opt-out-15 has Rep. Earl Jaques Opt Out Op-Ed here:

My rejoinders are in RED:

I will come right out and say it: I do not agree with the movement for parents to opt their children out from standardized testing, you must hate parents and feel they have no right to control the education of their own child then. I have several reasons for that that I won’t bother to share because they are terribly inarticulate, but I want to acknowledge that while I don’t agree, I understand why some parents, teachers and advocates are pushing for this no, you don’t as evidenced by you calling them failures!. They are frustrated by a system that does not function as well as it should, with different versions of tests seemingly not seemingly, in actuality being rolled out every couple years and students and schools being labeled as failing when that might not DOES NOT reflect the entire picture.

These are all valid concerns but I will write here why they are not to me, and whether you believe that opt-out is viable or not, we all share the same common goals I bet we don’t…: We want our children to be successful, and for that to happen, we need to ensure that our schools are functioning well and our teachers have the resources they need to educate their students. I believe that standardized testing plays an important role in this because we have allowed our DOE to tie them to funds from the feds.

Is there too much testing? Absolutely. Is the testing itself bad, unproven and wasteful? Absolutely. But while much of the focus on standardized testing is on the federally required tests, a sizable amount is state- or district-administered. Smokescreen alert, bullshit alert, all the eggs are in the federal basket and Rep. Jaques knows it. That is why I joined with Governor Markell Thursday calling for a comprehensive review of all state/district testing and assessment look at me do something, anything to divert your attention! I even called you a failure at the press conference if you are of the Opt Out persuasion… I have asked Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, a former teacher, and Rep. Sean Matthews, a current teacher, to be part of that study group. I believe no, you don’t this could result in the biggest change and eliminate much of the pressure our teachers, students and parents are feeling today regarding testing. You will never find out because you will stack the task force.

I recently had the pleasure to attend a forum of the past Teacher of the Year winners a group selected by the DOE…just sayin’ . During that forum, I was able to ask several of them what they thought of the Smarter Balanced test. Each one stated that they like the test and believe we should keep it. I can’t say bullshit because I believe fully that THAT group did say that, but I can say not a monolithic nor majority view with great certainty.That is not to say there aren’t teachers who are frustrated with the assessment good one…this would be you lying, Rep. Jaques, but it is not a universally held opinion…nor is the opposite as you imply with your lame T.O.Y. story.

We must remember that the Smarter Balanced assessment is supposed to be a measuring stick – not a whip to induce pain on our children and teachers yes, YOU must remember that Rep. Jaques, we, know what it is. When I graduated from high school I had to compete with children from within our state. But today, our children compete against children across our nation – and even globally – for jobs and schooling opportunities. This is a garbage line and the one sentence in here that makes me think you did not write this op-ed. It’s based on flawed PISA analysis.

We need a means to see how we compare with others. why? proof?  If we use this measuring stick correctly you seem pre-occupied with measuring things, then we can make the necessary changes to our educational system necessary changes? Like the constant, unending change we have shoved down the system’s throat since A Nation at Risk in 1983? Change for change sake? Really?  This is why HB165 and SB51 were TERRIBLE policies and why HB334 got a second specious vote? , ensure that we provide the necessary resources you and your General Assembly and our Governor have been nothing but a non-stop fail factory at this job…and you want me to believe that a test will make the resources appear? or even more so that opting out will make it worse?  Now that’s funny. , and above all provide the best opportunities for each and every child to succeed. One way to improve upon the existing system you haven’t met the burden of proof that it’s failing and neither has your puppet master is to create a method to evaluate these results to make them more informative.

That is how we should be addressing the concerns we are facing with standardized testing – by tackling the problems we perceive head-on. For those that think that SBAC is the problem, Opt Out seems pretty head-on , sir. Again, why are you disparaging and calling parents failures for doing what you say needs to be done: tackling the problem head-on?

The idea of “opting out” sounds appealing to some parents. No, it IS appealing. Removing their child from testing is a form of protest protection, a parental right above all others and a way for them to take ownership control, again a right of the situation. But consider the side effects are you deigning to suggest we haven’t?. Imagine a class of 25 students where five opt out of the tests. What message does that send to the other 20 children who have to take the test? That they have yet to figure out how deleterious the test and the misuse of the results are? But that there is still hope and time, and RIGHTS on their side…

How does that teacher convince students that the tests are important if a segment of the class has said they’re not worth taking? It doesn’t, and shouldn’t. If the tests are so awesome Rep. Jaques shouldn’t they sell themselves…shouldn’t the market forces lead children and parents in droves to take the test? It becomes that much more difficult to keep students focused on taking the assessment and this is bad how?, which also will be part of that teacher’s evaluation process Why???  Because you and your peers have abdicated your responsibility to kids by letting the DOE and their merry band of sycophants shove unproven reforms, notably ARTC that allows teachers to come into classrooms with 5 WEEKS training (TFA) and have permitted the scores of these tests to control component V of DPAS which controls the overall rating…insane. Fewer children taking the test means other children will need to do better to reflect positively on the teacher What? Why would that be? Oh, yeah, because you don’t care enough about the evaluation process to make it right or fair. Guess parents aren’t the only group you have disdain for these days.. That’s not fair to our hard-working teachers. Nice try, they’re on to you. Bellowing your anti-opt out rhetoric at union halls and all. They know you don’t care.

To be clear, I do not support test scores being part of the teacher evaluation system STOP: then introduce a bill to eliminate it…stop all other rhetoric and do that. To use an internet meme: pics or it didn’t happen. I have joined my colleagues in requesting an additional year be added before we allow test scores to be part of the teacher evaluation system as part of our state’s ESEA waiver process. Yawn, and it erodes your previous statement and exposes it as duplicitous.

Lastly, the consequences of opt-out policies remain largely unknown. Be afraid of the unknown, right?  Don’t dare to be different. Change is bad. In other states where opt-out policies are in place, opt-out rates are far from uniform across demographic groups, which could compromise the data we receive from the tests and jeopardize our federal Title I funding. Now you are parroting a basic, classless scare tactic. Nice.

I sympathize with those parents, teachers and advocates who have grievances with our current standardized testing system, no you don’t and I am committed to working with all stakeholders to tackle this problem to benefit our children and grandchildren. How? When? We disagree on the opt-out method, but we are heading toward the same goal. I’m pretty sure this is another lie.

Will the US Department of Education take your school’s Title 1 funds if you opt your student out of the SBAC? Short answer, no.

Originally posted on Seattle Education:


There is no federal or state law that requires financial penalties to schools’ Title I funds if parents refuse to allow their children to take the PARCC tests. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law did include a mandate that required schools to have a 95 percent participation rate on state tests or face sanctions. The intent of that law was to prevent schools from hiding subgroups of students from the accountability structure and was not aimed at preventing parents from refusing to have their children tested.

The parents in the states of New York and New Jersey have been fighting back against the Common Core Standards for the last year and the corresponding  PARCC battery of tests which is our SBAC set of tests in Washington State.

But let’s start at the beginning.

It is illegal for the Federal Government to specify a national curriculum or national test.

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The Individual versus The Collective

Originally posted on Minding My Matters:

On Thursday, March 12, I was part of a panel of educators, parents, and local union leaders who spoke at a press conference announcing the resolution on educational leadership in Delaware that the Christina and Red Clay Education Associations adopted. In subsequent days I have heard a number of comments, but the one most pervasive concern with the resolution that I’d like to address today is that in every organization there are folks who do not deserve the reputation of the collective. (Obviously I’m paraphrasing here.)

Unfortunately, the opportunity to address this concern myself in person has not presented itself. I would like to take a moment of personal privilege to first publish a portion of my speech from Thursday night and then give an analogy that I hope will not only make sense but also help others to understand, if not agree with, my position. Disagreement is completely acceptable…

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Smarter Balanced Offers Tips for Monitoring Students on Social Media

Originally posted on deutsch29:

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) offers the following tips to SBAC schools for monitoring students on social media. The excerpt below is from a single-page document entitled, “Guidance for Social Media Monitoring During the Field Test.”

The SBAC-suggested keys to successful social media “test security trolling”?

1) Set up a school social media site, and encourage students to join.

2) Search social media sites by keyword.

Click on the document below to read for yourself. (Click on image to enlarge.)

SBAC Social Media

There is more to this letter than is shown in the image above. The full document can be read here.

Also, here is the section of the letter missing from above. Click on image to enlarge:

SBAC social media 2

The sneakiest component of this “monitoring” is the potential use of a school social media site to track students without their knowing.

School social media sites should include disclaimers that those “following”…

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Rep. Earl Jaques called my son a failure today. #eduDE #netDE

Here’s his quote:

“To me, opt out is admitting failure,” said Jaques. “[It’s] saying, oh, I can’t measure up. I’m not good enough to be able to take this test. I can’t pass that test. That’s not the American way.”

Rep. Jaques, my son has Autism. He is taught by professionals that are demonized by these tests. My son has more tenacity and courage to get through a day that you have exhibited in your life.

My son is not a failure. How dare you call him one.

Respectfully, you need to resign. You are a disgrace to your office, colleagues, and the parents of all children who are the rightful decision makers for their children. Your arrogance and petulance is embarrassing.

3 Months Later

Originally posted on Those In Favor:

Hey, where did those last 3 months go?  Let’s see, what’s transpired since my last post.  Red Clay and Christina went out for referendums in February.  Red Clay’s passed, Christina’s was mauled by a bear.  Red Clay did a FANTASTIC job of marketing, advertising and selling their referendum to their residents, students and staff.  Christina…did not.  Red Clay celebrated on Feb 24th.  Christina did not. Christina inked a deal with DDoE to retain control of their three “priority” schools through 2015-16 keeping all staff and leadership but adding assistant principals to each school who will *not* report to the principal they work under.  Instead they will report directly to DDoE.  Can’t see that causing any problems.  Plans to redistrict Christina out of Wilmington are moving forward but they still hinge on the General Assembly to rewrite the laws.  If that does happen, Red Clay gets 3 new inner-city schools from…

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An Open Letter to My Students: I Am Sorry For What I Am About To Do To You

Originally posted on Crawling Out of the Classroom:

To all of my precious students,

I am sorry for what I am about to do to you.

This week, I am going to have to give you a new test. It’s called PARCC. There will be five separate tests, on four separate days, and my guess is that most of you will hate them.  My guess is that one or two of you will be brought to tears because they will make you feel like you are not smart enough.  My guess is that several of you will give up part way through the test and just start clicking around on the screen. My guess is that some of you will look around at the students sitting next to you to try and figure out if they are also as confused as you are in the hopes of knowing that you are not the only way feeling this way…

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Welcome to Relay Medical College & North Star Community Hospital

Originally posted on School Finance 101:

Arne Duncan has one whopper of an interview available here:

Related to his new push to evaluate teacher preparation programs using student outcome data:

And his Whitehouse press release can be found here:

Now, there’s a whole lot to chew on here, but let me focus on one of the more absurd hypocrisies in all of this.

First, Duncan seems to think the world of medical education without apparently having the first clue about how any of it actually works. In his view, it’s really just a matter of intensive clinical training (no academic prerequisites required) and competitive wages (a reasonable, though shallowly articulated argument).

Second, Duncan also seems to think that a major part of the solution for Ed Schools can be found in entrepreneurial startups like Relay Graduate School of Education. The Whitehouse press release proclaims:

Relay Graduate School of Education, founded by three charter…

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Friday Story Time: Deconstructing the Cycle of Reformy Awesomeness

Originally posted on School Finance 101:

Once upon a time, there was this totally awesome charter school in Newark, NJ. It was a charter school so awesome that its leaders and founders and all of their close friends decided they must share their miracle with the world in books on the reasons for their awesomeness, including being driven by data andteaching like a champion!

The school’s break-the-mold – beating the odds – disruptively innovative awesomeness was particularly important during this critical time of utter collapse of the American education system which had undoubtedly been caused by corrupt self-interested public school teachers (& their unions) who had been uniformly ill-trained by antiquated colleges and universities that themselves were corrupt and self-interested and generally in the business of selling worthless graduate degrees.

In fact, the undisputed awesomeness of this North Star Academy could, in theory, provide the foundation for a whole new approach to turning…

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The Biggest Lie Told About NCLB/ESEA and CCSS:

Originally posted on Who's Minding the Children?:

The biggest lie ever told by pro-education reform policy makers is that the motivation behind the education reform mandates are to improve achievement gaps, not just some, but all of them.  African Americans, Asians (I know…), Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, illegal alien-Americans, European Americans with special needs, Christian Americans, Jewish Americans, Buddhist Americans, Muslim Americans. The truth is, the purpose of education reform is to close the achievement gap of American-Americans compared to Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada, New Zealand, and all the other country-members of the OECD on thhe PISA test.   While one might ask, what’s so wrong with that?  Nothing, in an ideological sort of utopian sort of nirvana way.

However, here’s the truth, unless we are willing to eliminate child-poverty and all the societal ills connected to poverty; health/wellness prenatal nutrition, physical and mental wellness for babies and toddlers, early education interventions, affordable housing, substantial…

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REFUSE to surrender our children’s rights. OPT-OUT. How?

Originally posted on Reclaim Reform:

Mr. Rogers knew. Mr. Arne Duncan, certain governors, legislators, school boards and school administrators seem to be ignoring our and our children’s basic rights.

Whatever race or combination of races we and our children are, we have basic human rights.

Mr Rogers and Arne Duncan

We and our children do not surrender our basic rights as Americans as we enter a school building.

Civil rights apply to all Americans. How can we stop the labeling and monetizing of our children when they are forced to take high stakes tests that none of us as parents were ever forced to take?

The wonderful people at United Opt Out National give us the paperwork to complete to defend our children and our children’s basic human rights.

Whether we are one of those “white suburban moms” that Arne Duncan insulted or are someone he chose to marginalize and ignore, we have legal recourse by filing a valid Civil…

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Help! Leader of United Opt Out Under Attack in Colorado

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Peggy Robertson, the leader of United Opt Out, is under attack. In this article in the “Denver Post,” administrators warn that she might lose her job if she doesn’t give the test. Even union leaders express ambivalence about supporting her.

Peg has Ben a hero of the Opt Out movement. She has been fearless and outspoken. She belongs on the honor roll of the blog as one of the indispensable voices who support children.

Please write letters and tweets to the Denver Post and tweet your support for Peg.

The Denver Post is @denverpost

Peggy Robertson is @pegwithpen

United Opt Out is @UnitedOptOut

Stand with Peggy and UnitedOpt Out!


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