Teachers Expect District Court Relief!

Not only is the COMPASS teacher evaluation methodology greatly flawed using a value added metric designed by Dr. George Noell, but the legislation that outlined the termination process is likely to be ruled unconstitutional.


  It should not take a lengthy and expensive lawsuit to prove this point to legislators, but it has.  This is another of many instances where ignoring the expertise offered by educators in this national corporate reform takeover of public education has been costly and damaging to our children, our teachers and our public education system in Louisiana.  


Let's hope that our legislators will do the right thing for the citizens of this state this spring legislative session.  


District court will rule on teacher suit next month

State attorney agrees with LFT: Act 1 is flawed and imperfect
(Baton Rouge – December 20, 2013) A Baton Rouge district court judge said today that he will rule on January 8, 2014 whether one of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature education bills violates the state constitution. But in a surprise turn of events, an attorney defending the controversial law noted that it is “flawed” and “imperfect.”
“This law is harming professional educators right now,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said after court adjourned this morning. “It is obvious that, no matter how Judge Michael Caldwell rules in January, the legislature will have to revisit this law and try to correct its defects.”
The Federation alleges that Act 1, known to its supporters as the “talent act,” violates a section of the State Constitution that prohibits bundling multiple objectives in one bill. In addition, LFT General Counsel Larry Samuel argued, the act violates state and federal constitutional protections of due process for teachers.
Act one amended and reenacted nine statutes and enacted two entirely new statutes. It tied teacher salaries, tenure, promotions and termination to a new evaluation system. It changed the way school boards contract with superintendents, altered the general powers of school boards, delegated new authority to principals and superintendents and mandated different reduction-in-force policies.
The Act includes a process for termination of teachers that Samuel said does not allow teachers’ side “to be heard at a meaningful time in a meaningful manner.”
After being terminated, a teacher may ask for a hearing by a panel. One member is appointed by the superintendent, one by the teacher’s principal, and one chosen by the teacher.
Obviously, Samuel said, the panel is a panel stacked two-to-one against the teacher. Even so, he said, the superintendent still has ultimate authority to validate the firing no matter what the panel recommends. The panel is essentially powerless.
The teacher’s final option is to challenge the termination in court. Under the old law, a teacher could request a hearing by the local school board
Attorney Jimmy Faircloth, representing the Jindal administration, said he believes the hearing process constitutional. But Judge Caldwell asked him if the Act doesn’t make the superintendent both the “judge and the appellant judge,” which would not be allowed in the legal system.
Faircloth agreed, and said that he believes the law is both “flawed” and “imperfect,” but that its flaws do not rise to a constitutional level. The biggest problem, he said, is that many more teacher termination cases will wind up in district courts.
“The Federation agrees with that assessment,” Monaghan said, while maintaining that the law is unconstitutional.
Last March, Judge Caldwell ruled Act 1 unconstitutional. But the State Supreme Court vacated that decision and sent it back to the 19th Judicial District for a rehearing.
Judge Caldwell took the arguments by both sides under advisement, and said that he will render a decision on Wednesday, January 8, at 11:00 A.M.
- See more at: http://la.aft.org/press/district-court-will-rule-teacher-suit-next-month#sthash.1nhpcNhH.dpuf

Bill Gates Junks Failed Reform Model

Another told- you-so moment.  Gates can back out of mistakes with his own company, but look what he has done to education.  For a man who we thought was so smart, his shortcoming is that he doesn't listen to others.  A re-post.

Bill Gates Imposes Microsoft Model on School Reform: Only to Have the Company Junk It After It Failed

New school systems are stuck with a model designed to trash teachers, while Microsoft employees collaborate and work on teams.
 
Schools have a lot to learn from business about how to improve performance, Bill Gates declared in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. He pointed to his own company as a worthy model for public schools.     
“At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not.”
Adopting the Microsoft model means public schools grading teachers, rewarding the best and being “candid”—that is, firing those who are deemed ineffective. "If you do that,” Gates promised Oprah Winfrey, “then we go from being basically at the bottom of the rich countries to being back at the top."  
The Microsoft model, called “stacked ranking,” forced every work unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.
Using hundred of millions of dollars in philanthropic largesse, Bill Gates persuaded state and federal policymakers that what was good for Microsoft would be good for the public schools system (to be sure, he was pushing against an open door). To be eligible for large grants from President Obama’s Race to the Top program, for example, states had to adopt Gates’ Darwinian approach to improving public education. Today more than 36 states have altered their teacher evaluations systems with the aim of weeding out the worst and rewarding the best.
Some states grade on a curve. Others do not. But all embrace the principle that teachers continuing employment will depend on improvement in student test scores, and teachers who are graded “ineffective” two or three years in a row face termination.
Needless to say, the whole process of what has come to be called “high stakes testing” of both students and teachers has proven devastatingly dispiriting.According to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, over half of public school teachers say they experience great stress several days a week and are so demoralized that their level of satisfaction has plummeted from 62 percent to 39 percent since 2008.   
Now, just as public school systems have widely adopted the Microsoft model in order to win the Race to the Top, it turns out that Microsoft realizes its model has led the once highly competitive company in a race to the bottom.
In a widely circulated 2012 article in Vanity Fair, two-time George Polk Award winner Kurt Eichenwald concluded that stacked ranking “effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate." He writes, “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
This month Microsoft abandoned the hated system.
On November 12, all Microsoft employees received a memo from Lisa Brummel, executive vice-president for human resources, announcingthe company will be adopting “a fundamentally new approach to performance and development designed to promote new levels of teamwork and agility for breakthrough business impact.”
Brummel listed four key elements in the company’s new policy.
  • More emphasis on teamwork and collaboration.
  • More emphasis on employee growth and development.
  • No more use of a Bell curve for evaluating employees.
  • No more ratings of employees.
Sue Altman at EduShyster vividly sums up the frustration of a nation of educators at this new development. “So let me get this straight. The big business method of evaluation that now rules our schools is no longer the big business method of evaluation? And collaboration and teamwork, which have been abandoned by our schools in favor of the big business method of evaluation, is in?”
Big business can turn on a dime when the CEO orders it to do so. But changing policies embraced and internalized by dozens of states and thousands of public school districts will take far, far longer. This means the legacy of Bill Gates will continue to handicap millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers even as the company Gates founded, along with many other businesses, has thrown his pernicious performance model in the dustbin of history.

A Story of School Performance Score Intrigue!

Herb Bassett is a Louisiana teacher who can actually figure out what the heck State Superintendent John White is doing with School Performance Scores.  This story written by Herb is fiction based on reality.  Only the names have been changed to protect those students, teachers and schools screwed by White.

I have several questions about this scenario:

1.  How many principals could/would figure this out and actually waste time trying to game the system?

2.  How many principals will be so outraged that they will get his/her arse down to the Department of Education, BESE meeting December 3, 4, and 5th to testify on behalf of their schools?  I will be there as always wondering where they are.  The press will be there also, and I have a feeling that if principals showed up, they might actually write about this crap.  Then the public would know how their tax dollars are being STOLEN!

3.  Does U.S.Ed realize this shell game is going on in Louisiana or are they so busy poking their noses in state business mandating crappy national standards and high stakes standardized testing, which is forbidden by law, that they don't have a clue?  (personally, I think they know EXACTLY what is going on because educators all over the country communicate with them daily about this hoax.  I know I will send this to Arne and friends and follow up with a call asking if this is LEGAL!

4.  Will our state legislators and Congress people respond to this blog when I send it to them?  They are facing an election cycle soon and educators and parents are making a list and checking it twice!  Who will step up to the plate when the spring legislative session opens to file bills that will prevent this kind of "school uniform" crime?  I know I will be there testifying so they can't say "we didn't know."

5.  When will the State Attorney General or Legislative Auditor conduct a full investigation into the goings on of LDE and RSD?  I know I will send this to them and ask who is responsible for stopping ethical and criminal activities at LDE/BESE.  I know the Ethics Administration will take no action as evidenced by their refusal to intervene in the perceived conflicts of interest between several BESE members and the organizations from which they or their relatives benefit financially.  For example, The Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (run by BESE Pres. Chas Roemer's sister), Teach For America Louisiana directed by BESE member Kira Orange-Jones'.  The Council of Chief State School Officers (partner with NGO in creating Common Core) full time consultant contract with BESE member Holly Boffy.

6.  Was John White's recent noblesse oblige that will  evidently delay the coup de gras of COMPASS evaluation for teachers simply an attempt to delay the inevitable filing of lawsuits in that regard?  Will it provide him with a get-out-of-Dodge pass?  Will he try to follow in the steps of his predecessor Paul Vallas or will there be nothing left to salvage after he is thrown under the bus by his benefactors?  Oh, I forgot, his other predecessor Paul Pastorek was generously rewarded for his alligator tears au revoir.

8.  Is my opinion that this kind of manipulation of school performance scores, upon which federal and state funding is predicated, is illegal activity shared by anyone else?

The Tale of Camelot Middle School


This tale, while fiction, is based on the reality many Louisiana elementary and middle school faced this year under the new School Assessment System.


Camelot Middle School had one hundred students. Last year the school got a C.  The principal at Camelot Middle School, Mr. Humphrey, wanted the school to earn an A this year.

He knew that the school needed to earn 100 points to get an A.  Since the school had 100 students, each student needed to earn one point for the school.  Then it would get an A.

Johnny was a 5th grade student at Camelot Middle School. If Johnny scored Basic on all his iLEAP tests, he would earn one point for his school.  Because Math and ELA are more important than Science and Social Studies, Johnny would earn 1/3 of a point by scoring Basic in Math, and another 1/3 of a point in ELA. Science and Social Studies would count for 1/6 of a point each.

Last year, Johnny did not score Basic.  He scored Approaching Basic on his Math and ELA tests.  Last year, that earned at least some credit toward the school's grade.

The Department of Education changed the rules this year.  Approaching Basic would no longer earn credit toward the school's grade.

If Johnny did not improve, he would not earn points for his school this year.

The Deparment of Education promised to give Bonus Points to Camelot Middle School if it could improve Johnny more than other students like him.  The school could get the Bonus Points even if Johnny did not raise his score to Basic this year.

"We have this amazing new machine called the VAMulator," claimed the Department of Education, "it will tell us if Johnny did better than other students like him. However, to earn Bonus Points, you must have at least 30 percent of your non-proficient students do better than the VAMulator thinks they should. You also must have at least ten non-proficient students."

"Great, I have exactly ten of those non-proficient students!"said principal Humphrey. "Johnny scored 250 last year on his Math test. What does he need to score this year to get Bonus Points?"

"You don't understand," said the Department of Education, "that is not how the VAMulator works.  To be really precise, we put all the data for every student into the VAMulator at the end of the year, and then it tells us how well each student peformed."

"Oh, I see," said principal Humphrey. "So I can look at Johnny's teachers' VAM scores at the end of the year to see if he earned the Bonus Points."

"You don't understand," said the Department of Education, "the U.S. Department of Education told us to twist some of the dials on the VAMulator when we calculate the Bonus Points. It gives us different results for the Bonus Points than for the teachers."


Principal Humphrey grimmaced and shuffled back to his office.  He was confused, but filled with resolve to help Johnny.  He reminded himself that he got into education to help kids, not earn Bonus Points from a machine.

Principal Humphrey thought about it for a while. "If the VAMulator is so good at predicting how  students will do, then I would think that about half of the students would do better than predicted and about half would do worse. This sound like a pretty good deal, since only 30 percent have to do better than expected."

Principal Humphrey hired a teacher's aide to work with Johnny every day to help him.

Two months into the school year the Department of Education announced a rule that special education students could earn double the Bonus Points if the VAMulator said that they did better than other students.

Susie was a special education student. She worked hard and scored Approaching Basic on her LEAP tests last year.  Principal Humphrey took the teacher's aide from Johnny and assigned her to help Susie every day so that she might earn the double Bonus Points. That would really help Camelot Middle School get an A.

Then in April, the Department of Education very quietly changed the rule.  It would not be special education students who would earn the double points, but students who scored Unsatisfactory last year.

Mr. Humphrey was exasperated.  He had worked so hard to help Susie so that she would earn the double Bonus Points for the school.  But Mr. Humphrey had seen many changes throughout the year from the Department of Education, so he was not surprised.

He did ponder why students who were Unsatisfactory last year would get double Bonus Points.

"I thought the VAMulator could tell if a student did as well as other similar students. Doesn't the VAMulator compare Unsatisfactory students to Unsatisfactory students?  I would think that if you put all the Unsatisfactory students together and compare them to each other, about half would be above average.  And if you put all the Approaching Basic students together, about half of them would be above average.  The double Bonus Points don't make any sense. I must not understand..." he thought to himself.

Mr. Humphrey realized that Bobby scored Unsatisfactory on his tests last year, so he took the teacher's aide from Susie and assigned her to help Bobby. The teacher's aide worked really, really hard with Bobby. There wasn't much time before the tests, but she and Bobby gave it their best effort.

By testing time everyone was tired and stressed, but all the students at Camelot Middle School tried very hard on the tests.  Principal Humphrey was proud of them because they were so serious about the tests.

The test results came in and they were fantastic!



Last year, Camelot Middle School had a very weak 6th grade. Those students moved on to Camelot Junior High this year. The incoming fourth grade class, however was very strong.

Camelot Middle School's proficiency rate jumped to 92 percent.

Principal Humphrey began totalling the points the students earned toward the school's score.

92 students scored Basic on all their tests.  Each earned a whole point for the school.  The school so far had a score of 92 points.

8 students, including Johnny scored Approaching Basic on all their tests. They did not earn any points for the school. All eight had scored Approaching Basic last year, so principal Humphrey was not too disappointed with them.

However, both Susie and Bobby improved this year all the way to Basic!

Principal Humphrey calculated. There were ten students eligible to earn Bonus Points, and each could earn points for ELA and for Math.  There were 20 test results to look at.

The VAMulator would surely give Bonus Points to Susie and Bobby since they reached proficiency.

Susie would get Bonus Points for her ELA and Math scores. Those two would be ten percent of the 20 test scores that the VAMulator would consider.  That ten percent would earn the school one whole point.  (0.1 * 10 = 1)  Principal Humphrey thought it was ironic that Susie earned more in Bonus Points than she did in regular points (1/3 of a point each) for ELA and Math.

Bobby did the same, but he was Unsatisfactory last year so he would get double Bonus Points. That would earn the school 2 Bonus Points. (0.2 * 10)

Principal Humphrey looked at how the other students had performed on their teachers' VAM scores.  He felt certain that five more students would earn Bonus Points.  That brought the Bonus Point total to eight.  The score would be 100 and Camelot Middle School would get an A!

In the middle of the summer, the Department of Education announced that students who moved to Basic would not earn Bonus Points. "These students earn regular points for their schools by scoring Basic, so the school has already been rewarded for making progress with them," said the Department of Education.

Principal Humphrey exclaimed, "What a crappy system!  If Susie and Bobby had scored a little lower, my school would have gotten a higher score. Now Camelot Middle School will only get a 97 B."

Principal Humphrey was right.  Bobby got 2/3 of a point for the school by scoring Basic in ELA and Math, but the school had to forfeit the two Bonus Points he had earned.  If Bobby had only scored Approaching Basic the school would have gotten two points instead of 2/3 of a point.

At the end of the summer, the Department of Education finally sent the VAMulator results to principal Humphrey.  He had been correct about the students meeting their targets.

He opened his school score expecting a 97, but was surprised to find it was a 92.

Principal Humphrey called the Department of Education. "Where are my school's Bonus Points?" he asked. "We worked so hard."

"You don't understand," said the Department of Education. "You have to have ten non-proficient students to get Bonus Points."

"But I do," fumed principal Humphrey.  "I even hired a teacher's aide to help them make wonderful achievements.  We even moved Bobby from Unsatisfactory to Basic!"

"Ahh," said the Department of Education, "there is your problem.  You now have only 8 non-proficient students, not ten.  Congratulations on your excellent work, we are very proud of you"

Principal Humphrey wept.


Changes made to the formula have led to real increases in student achievement,” said Superintendent John White...




Putting The Brakes On Common Core




Several readers commented that the writer should publish widely, so I am re-posting easy to understand piece about Common Core.

http://skeptophilia.blogspot.com/2013/11/putting-brakes-on-common-core.html

Putting The Brakes on Common Core

If you want to get a near-violent response from 98% of current public school students, about 75% of teachers, and unknown (but probably large) percentage of parents, administrators, and various other folks associated with education, all you have to do is utter two words:

Common Core.

It's a funny thing, really.  On the surface, it seems like such a good idea -- creating a set of uniform standards, high ones, that establish what students at every level should know and should be able to do.  Of course, there's the immediate knee-jerk reaction from both the Right and the Left -- Right-Wingers resent the intrusion by the federal government into what rightfully should be state or local decision-making, and Left-Wingers hate the infringement that the new mandates will have on the freedom of teachers to teach as they see fit and as their students might need.

What I've found, though, is that lots of people from all sides, and (sadly) many of the people who comment the most loudly on the Common Core, are ignorant about what it really is -- and ignorant, too, about what deeper, more subtle problems this movement engenders.  So maybe it's time for some facts, before we get to the opinions (but don't worry, those'll come sooner or later).

The English and math standards -- the ones currently driving the changes we're seeing K-12 in 46 of the 50 states -- can be viewed here (links to the English and math overviews, which contain additional links to the complete standards).  And even a careful reading will probably leave you little room for disagreement with any of what the standards, in their most general framing, say.  As most of my readers know, I've been a vocal critic of current trends in public education, and have not hesitated to speak my mind on the subject -- but it's hard to see how could you argue against statements like the following, from the English standards:
Through reading a diverse array of classic and contemporary literature as well as challenging informational texts in a range of subjects, students are expected to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspective. Because the standards are building blocks for successful classrooms, but recognize that teachers, school districts and states need to decide on appropriate curriculum, they intentionally do not offer a reading list. Instead, they offer numerous sample texts to help teachers prepare for the school year and allow parents and students to know what to expect at the beginning of the year.
Likewise, the math standards seem equally commendable:
The standards stress not only procedural skill but also conceptual understanding, to make sure students are learning and absorbing the critical information they need to succeed at higher levels - rather than the current practices by which many students learn enough to get by on the next test, but forget it shortly thereafter, only to review again the following year.
Aubrey Neihaus, a specialist in teacher professional development, has some gentle but firm words for the naysayers on her website, I Support the Common Core:
One thing that  frustrates me the most when I’m reading the mainstream media’s handling of the Common Core is conflation. Too often, well-intentioned journalists publish pieces that never explain that the “Common Core” is a set of learning standards (see the rest of the title of the document: “State Standards”). This inaccuracy (and perhaps ignorance) leads to a conflation of learning standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Sometimes, teacher evaluation systems and data collection are also thrown in for good measure. We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? An article professing to be about the “Common Core” when it’s really about another element of education. 
But therein lies the problem, doesn't it?  As a veteran teacher -- 27 years in the classroom, and counting -- I have seen over and over again that you cannot unhook the standards from the curriculum, from the instructional methods, from the assessments, from how the data are used.  So however noble-minded Ms. Neihaus's wish is, that we evaluate the Common Core based on the standards alone and not on how they are being implemented, that is a fallacious approach (and may be impossible in practice).

Let me give you an example from my own classroom.  In my AP Biology classes, we are currently studying statistical genetics.  I teach this topic as a process -- typical problems involve calculating the likelihood of a trait showing up in the offspring, given a particular type of gene and certain information about the parents.  This decision (the standards for the topic) drives the instruction (how I present it), the assessment (how I design the problem sets and tests to see if the students have met the standards) and even the data (how I weight and score those assignments and tests).  If my standards were different -- if, for example, I valued the students learning large numbers of terms, and memorizing examples of each genetic inheritance pattern, every single part of instruction would be different because of that decision.

So you can't tease apart the standards from the other pieces of the puzzle, and somethinghas got to drive the decision-making.  And the unfortunate bottom line is that in this case the assessments are the driver -- because the data they generate are being used not only to evaluate students, but to evaluate teachers, administrators, schools, and entire school districts.

Diane Ravitch, whose stance on education I greatly admire, has said that she cannot support the Common Core because it is foisting an untested schema of education on schools by fiat, with the Race to the Top money as a carrot (although it bears mention that my school district's share of the RTTT money was about $50,000 -- one year's salary for a first-year teacher, counting insurance and other benefits).  Much as I often agree with Ravitch, I think she doesn't go nearly far enough.  However the standards themselves sound good, the Common Core's implementation has been chaotic, with toxic effects on students, staff, and parents.  And lest you think that my including the parents is unjustified, a friend of mine with two daughters just last week sent a letter to her younger child's principal saying that she is calling halt to the time the girl spends on Common Core homework a night.  An hour after dinner, every night, just for the math homework, is excessive...

... especially if you're in third grade.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing has summarized the reasons for their opposition to the Common Core standards, but by far the most damning is that the greater rigor in the standards has translated into unrealistic and poorly-constructed tests:
In New York, teachers witnessed students brought to tears (Hernandez & Baker, 2013), faced with confusing instructions and unfamiliar material on Common Core tests.  New York tests gave fifth graders questions written at an 8th grade level (Ravitch, 2013).  New York and Kentucky showed dramatic drops in proficiency and wider achievement gaps.  Poor results hammer students’ self-confidence and disengage them from learning. They also bolster misperceptions about public school failure, place urban schools in the cross hairs and lend ammunition to privatization schemes.  If a child struggles to clear the high bar at five feet, she will not become a "world class" jumper because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled "jump higher," or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach.
The sad truth is that the powers-that-be have sold out the public education system to corporations like Pearson, Educational Testing Service, and CTB/McGraw-Hill, who have a long history of poor-quality products, scoring errors, and general incompetence.  The corporate test-designers are now making the decisions regarding what gets taught, and how -- and the teachers and their students get dragged along behind, with as much decision-making power as a leaf in a windstorm.

Lest you think that I'm overstating my case, here, I recall vividly the last time I went through a sea change like this one -- when then New York State Commissioner of Education Richard Mills launched his ill-conceived "Raise the Bar" revamping of the Regents Exams, the high school exit exams required for graduation.  One of the changes in my subject was that there were now four labs that were mandated -- labs that had to be performed, by every student studying biology across New York State.  The four "state labs" are uniformly poorly written, and one of them has glaring factual errors, a problem I brought to the attention of the science specialist at the New York State Department of Education.

This initiated an increasingly hostile exchange of emails, with her defending the labs and claiming that in any case I had missed the deadline for commenting on them, and my stating that I didn't care about deadlines but that I wasn't going to teach my students something that was scientifically wrong.  I enlisted the help of Dr. Rita Calvo, professor of Human Genetics at Cornell University, who was entirely in support of my position.  All of our efforts were fruitless.  Finally I became angry enough that I said to the science specialist, "Do I understand correctly that the bottom line here is that you are telling me that I have to do this lab, mistakes and all, for no pedagogically sound reason, but simply because you're in charge and you say so?"

And she wrote back one line:  "You got it."

This spirit of top-down micromanagement, and disdain for the opinions and experience of the rank-and-file teacher, is still in evidence today.  Just last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan created a firestorm when he responded to criticism of the Common Core with a dismissive, and rather insulting, claim:
It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary.  You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.
The implication, of course, is that the only reason you could criticize the Common Core is if your own kid showed a drop in scores -- and the only reason for that is that your kid isn't as smart as you thought (s)he was.  Seriously, Mr. Duncan?  There couldn't be another reason that scores drop, such as that the test questions are poorly written, like the idiotic "talking pineapple question" on the 2012 New York State eighth-grade reading assessment?  There couldn't be another reason to criticize the standards, like the research of Tom Loveless, which found that the rigor of the standards has little effect on student achievement?
Loveless notes that there are three main arguments for having all public schools teach the same subjects at the same level of rigor and complexity. First, students will learn more if their learning targets are set higher. Second, students will learn more if the passing grade for state tests are set higher. Third, students will learn more if lesson plans and textbooks are all made more complex and rigorous through required high standards...

(N)one of those arguments holds enough validity to risk all that money and effort...  states with weak content standards, as judged by the American Federation of Teachers and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (notideological bedfellows), had about the same average scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests as states with strong standards.
Schools will undoubtedly weather this chaos, as will teachers -- with the exception of the increasing number of teachers who, tired of the frustration and the atmosphere of distrust, are finding other jobs or retiring if they can.  But I fear for the students -- because, after all, we only get one shot at them.  They move through the system and out, and with luck, into careers and college and productive adult life, still with their curiosity and love for learning and enthusiasm intact.  The test-and-data driven model we are currently using is already showing signs of crushing those delicate mental constructs, of turning kids into anxious, think-inside-the-box exam bubblers who worry more about why they got an 84 instead of an 85 on the test than they do if they actually can apply what they learned -- or (amazing thought!) enjoyed learning it.

I can only hope that enough of us are getting angry about the whole thing that maybe, maybewe can stop the whole thing in its tracks.  Not throw it out, necessarily; as I said, the standards alone aren't necessarily bad.  But for crying out loud, let's see what's happening with implementation before we simply plunge on ahead.  Let's remember that all of us -- teachers, administrators, parents, and members of the state and federal departments of education -- are supposed to be on the same side.

The side of the children.

A Closer Look At Common Core in English/Language Arts

A repost from a fellow blogger.

The Common Core in English/Language Arts: A Critically Literate Reading

In her guest post on this blog, The CCSS: Knowledge is Power, Cindy Mershon recommends that all educators take a critical literacy approach to the reading of the Common Core State Standards. She recommends we seek to answer the following questions as we read:

Who is/are the author(s) of this text?
Who are we hearing from in this text?
Who are we NOT hearing from in this text?
How might this text be different if someone else had written it?
Why did the author(s) write this document?
Why did the author(s) write this document in this way?
What message do you think the author(s) wants us to take away from reading this document?

I decided to give this reading of the CCSS a shot. Here are the answers I have been able to cobble together from my reading of the CCSS and other sources.

Who are the authors of the CCSS?
The lead authors of the CCSS are David Coleman and Susan Pimentel. David Coleman has a background in management consulting. He once tutored children while a student at Yale. Susan Pimentel is a lawyer who specializes in standards driven reform.

Does the fact that authors of the CCSS have extremely limited experience as educators matter? One CCSS critic, Sandra Stotsky, a career educator and one of the authors of the highly regarded Massachusetts standards says, “[TheCCSS’] misplaced stress on informational texts (no matter how much is literary nonfiction) reflects the limited expertise of Common Core’s architects and sponsoring organizations in curriculum and in teachers’ training”(emphasis mine).

Who are we hearing from in the CCSS for E/LA?
Clearly we are hearing from David Coleman, who has rather famously said in reference to approaches to teaching literature that focus on students relating to the text, “As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a s**t about what you feel or what you think.”

Who else are we hearing from? The Gates Foundation has spent millions in funding the development and the promotion of the Common Core. Bill Gates is, of course, the chairman of Microsoft. Gates’ education efforts are led by Alan Golston whose online biography says he has an MBA and has a background in finance, health care and education. The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, led by long time education reformer, Chester A. Finn, and proudly listing former Bush era Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, as a Board Member, has worked throughout the country cheerleading for the implementation of the Common Core.

Who are we not hearing from in the CCSS for E/LA?
Teachers, principals, parents and students.  As Anthony Cody reported in Education week, “the two ‘Working Groups’ that actually wrote the first drafts of the standards do NOT include a single classroom teacher. You can see for yourself on this list provided by the National Governors Association. The two ‘Feedback Groups’ include only one classroom teacher.”

There was a standards review process that involved a large number of teachers. One teacher characterized his participation in this way: “My input was politely heard. I vaguely recall some wording tweaks from the CCSS folks, but my main issue - that the standards could be a guide to be used creatively and professionally rather than another big ‘accountability’ list - wasn't really part of the review agenda” (see Anthony Cody’s full interview here).

There were also no early childhood teachers, researchers or experts on the team writing the CCSS.

How might this text be different if someone else had written it?
One thing is for sure, if the most experienced standards writer in the country, Sandra Stotsky, had been involved in the writing, the emphasis on reading informational text would have been entirely different. There would have been much more emphasis on reading literary texts. You can read Stotsky’s criticisms here.

If literacy experts, Kylene Beers and Robert Probst, had been involved, student voices would have been more valued in the creation of meaning from text and that CCSS favorite “close reading” would have included some of what we have learned about student transactions with text since 1937. You can read about their perspective in the excellent book, Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading. You can read my discussion of their approach to close reading here.

If early childhood literacy specialists, Elfrieda Hibbert and Katie Van Sluys, had been consulted, there would have been no change in the Lexile levels of text reading for children through third grade. Hiebert and Van Sluys posit that there is plenty of research evidence to show that the pre-CCSS levels are appropriate for children and that we need to focus on fluent, comprehending reading at these lower levels for younger children. You can read my full summary of their article here.

Another thing that is clear is that if some early childhood educators had been involved, the standards for K-3 children would look very different. As early as 2010, when the Standards were still in draft form, the Alliance for Childhood issued a statement that said in part, “We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children now being written by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The draft standards made public in January conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades.” You can read the full statement here.

Dr. Carla Horowitz of the Yale Child Study Center was quoted in The Answer Sheet blog in the Washington Post as stating, “The Core Standards will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.”  And child psychologist, Dr. Megan Koshnick told the American Principals Project that, “Instead of thinking about what’s developmentally appropriate for kindergarteners, [CCSS proponents are thinking college] is where we want this kindergartener to end up, so let’s back track down to kindergarten and have kindergarteners work on these skills from an early age. This can cause major stress for the child because they are not prepared for this level of education.”

If noted educational historian, Diane Ravitch, had been involved in writing the standards, the standards would have been truly voluntary for the states to adopt and they would have been pilot tested to see if they were effective before a national roll out. You can read about Dr. Ravitch’s concerns here.

Why did the authors write this document?
This document was written in response to the perceived concern that the USA’s students were losing ground to students in other nations and that this was a threat to the economic security of the country.  Part of this concern was driven by US student performance on international tests, like PISA, where the country has been scoring in the middle of the pack for many years now. The thought was that a rigorous set of national standards would raise achievement levels and insure that the country could maintain its place as a world economic leader.

A further reason for writing the new standards was that the authors’ research indicated that students were not “college and career ready.” Over the past several decades college level reading material has been getting more difficult, while middle school and high school texts have become less difficult. By increasing the “text complexity” of what children were required to read in grades 2-12, the authors hoped that students would complete their K-12 education “college and career ready.”

What message do you think the authors want us to take away from reading this document?
The authors want teachers to believe that the standards identify what children are supposed to know and be able to do by the end of each grade level. By ensuring that children meet these standards the authors believe that students will be “college and career ready” and that our students will be competitive on a global stage. The authors further want us to believe that this is the “correct” core knowledge that children should attain at each of these grade levels.

I use the word “believe” in the paragraph above, because the authors of the CCSS are asking all of us to take it on faith that these standards will create the desired results. There is no evidence to support this.

Extra Credit Question

What is my “reader response” to this close reading of the CCSS in E/LA (apologies to David Coleman who doesn’t give a s**t how I feel)?
I am not opposed to standards. In fact, when I was a teacher I demanded the highest standards of myself, even though I did not always achieve them. When I was a supervisor, I demanded the highest standards from the teachers I worked with and most of the time I got just that. I am opposed to standards that were developed with minimal input from teachers, teacher leaders, literacy and early childhood experts, parents and students. I do object to standards that fly in the face of sound and long standing literacy research. I do object to the rapid implementation of untried and untested standards. Finally, I object to standards that will drag the country further into the “test and punish” mode first instituted by No Child Left Behind and currently being reinforced by Race to the Top.

Unlike David Coleman, I do give a s**t about how teachers feel and think. I also care what children feel and think. That is because I am an educator. So tell me, how do you feel and what do you think about all this. Your input is welcome.








Common Core Information

Yesterday I presented an argument against the Common Core Initiative to the Mandeville Republican Women's Club at Beau Chene Country Club.  My presentation will follow, but here is a list of references and links that I promised to provide.


Comparison of Louisiana English Language Arts content Standards at all grades to Common Core based on a contract service by a company named WestEd.  Notice the micromanagement in the ADDED bits, the DELETED items and how much will remain the same:


Prescribed texts in Common Core:



Grade Literary Information
4             50% 50%
8             45% 55%
12              30% 70%


Grade To Persuade To Explain To Convey Experience
4             30%                 35%               35%
8              35%                  35%        30%
12              40%                  40%        20%



How several parents and a teacher (me) uncovered data sharing and false claims by Supt. John White:  and that saga has been ongoing. . . 


Bishops Blast Common Core: 


Costs of 

Can This Country Survive Common Core's College Readiness Level?: By Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram


Dr. Milgram on reform math vs. traditional math:





Here is the link that shows the standards are copyrighted and owned by the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers:


Myths and facts

From the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS): "The purpose of this piece is to point out a further weakness in the Standards: that the CCSS sweeping efforts to change the balance of literary vs. informational (expository) texts is in error and is not based in research or in real world experience."

Dr. Grant Wiggins who was contracted to assist St. Tammany in designing its curriculum, creator of a Understanding By Design, on Common Core math standards in his blog on Algebra and comments afterward:


grantwigginssaid:September 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm
I think there is no doubt that the way algebra is taught is needlessly abstract, making it highly unlikely that middle schoolers will grasp the point of algebra, its value, and its meaning. I always ask algebra teachers this question: do your students know what algebra does that arithmetic can’t do? Do your students know what analyses algebra enables that can’t be done with basic arithmetic? If the answer is no then it is very unlikely that the mindless plug and chug will last or permit understanding, hence transfer.

grantwigginssaid:April 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm
Agreed! And having all 8th graders take Algebras I, a related idea, is also dumb, especially given the developmental readiness issue that such a current course runs roughshod over.


 
 
So what has Common Core brought us?
Scared and frustrated parents and students, frightened and overworked teachers, confused and concerned administrators and local school boards, huge financial worries for all those concerned with local public schools, unknown burdens into the future on U.S. taxpayers, and huge profits for those pushing Common Core and PARCC testing, charters and vouchers. 
 
Common Core is nothing more than a majestic federal marketing plan to “divide and conquer,” create turmoil,  and take over a $500 billion industry (Forbes magazine),  having the U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for corporate investment and profits. Hard to say who the biggest losers are, but it’s likely all U.S. public school students.
 
Not just in Louisiana, but it would appear the “Common Core coalition” is falling apart all over the country.
It’s not easy keeping track; this information changes almost daily:
 
Originally 4 states decided not to sign onto Common Core:
 
·         4 states did not initially sign on, and are still out of Common Core:  Alaska, Texas, Virginia and Nebraska.
                (One source I found yesterday says Nebraska originally signed on, then signed off.)
 
At least 11 other states are considering legislative action, leaving Common Core, and/or writing their own standards:
 
·         1 state, Minnesota, signed on only to Language Arts, stating that the Math standards were not rigorous enough.
 
·         1 state, Iowa, governor signed Executive Order to write their own “Iowa standards;” and a petition is circulating to put on the ballot “rescind Common Core.”
 
·         1 state, Michigan, voted “not to fund” Common  Core standards; waiting on further votes.
 
·         1 state, Maine, governor signed an Executive Order saying Maine’s children will not be held to Common Core or face any consequences…
 
·         2 states, Kansas and Missouri, are described in media as legislature is “under consideration to withdraw from Common Core.”
 
·         1 state, Louisiana, one representative, Rep. Cameron Henry, has stated he will file legislation to withdraw from Common Core and PARCC.
 
·         1 state, Georgia, has filed Senate Bill 203 to consider withdrawing that state from Common Core.
 
·         2 states, Tennessee and Wisconsin, have been holding legislative hearings “to consider dropping out of Common core.”
 
·         1 part of New Hampshire, the city of Manchester, “rejects Common Core and will develop their own.”
 
At least 7 states have dropped out of the Common Core-aligned high-stakes testing, usually the PARCC:
 
·         7 states officially dropped out of PARCC: 
Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah and Indiana
·         1 state, Tennessee, is holding legislative hearings to drop out of PARCC.
 
There is media coverage of a lot of unrest in other states about Common  Core and PARCC:
·         South Dakota
·         Idaho
·         South Carolina
·         Florida
·         Connecticut
·         California
 
Student privacy concerns:
 
·         Oklahoma – has already passed a bill requiring “parental consent to share all information on students.” This is a direct result of Common Core.
 
Daily media reports from nearly all other states makes the above information change from time to time.

5 Reasons to Drop Out of Common Core:


Professor Tienken on Common Core:  video Dr. Tienken spoke before Kappa Delta Pi at a Tulane a University a few weeks ago:


Why Exxon's Rex Tillerson's Support of  Common Core Built on False Premises:


The truth about global comparisons:



These  are state report cards from 2012. Toggle the drop-down menu to Standards, Assessments, and Accountability. You will see the ranking where Louisiana is rated #2 (97.2) only behind Indiana (97. and the U.S. average is 85.3  http://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2013/state_report_cards.html


NAEP long term trend reading and math show steady progression: