[regional_school] Re: Excellent Article

  • From: Keith Rankin <keithwrankin@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Regional School <regional_school@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 5 Dec 2011 23:38:38 -0500

We've had decades of "Reform," perhaps what we need is Revolution.
About a month ago, I asked my students this question: "Why didn't the 
revolution in education happen in 1439?" and then the follow up question: "What 
high school did Frederick Douglass go to?"
In other words I was asking them: After Gutenberg invented moveable type, why 
do you predominantly go to school to have someone read to you (ie. Lecture) in 
order to learn?
What was pointed out in this blog could be bring down the whole educational 
"house of cards." Last year when NYSED published the list of college and career 
readiness Rochester scored lowest in the state at 5%. When I looked deeper, I 
found that the state was combining students' scores on two standardized tests 
(80%+ on Math and 75%+ on English) and then correlating this to how students 
perform in college. 
My question then is: If the state found correlations between the performance on 
these two tests and success in college, and if these tests lacked the same 
relevance as the ones detailed in this article, then what are these tests 
really accomplishing? And particularly from a social justice perspective? 



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From: wcala@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To: regional_school@xxxxxxxxxxxxx; ccse_core@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [regional_school] Excellent Article
Date: Mon, 5 Dec 2011 20:10:02 -0500

Answer Sheet" Blog -- December 5, 2011 By Marion Brady A longtime friend on the 
school board of one of the largest school systems in America did something that 
few public servants are willing to do. He took versions of his state’s 
high-stakes standardized math and reading tests for 10th graders, and said he’d 
make his scores public. By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His 
now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. 
Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer 
miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school board 
responsibilities. The margins of his electoral wins and his good relationships 
with administrators and teachers testify to his openness to dialogue and 
willingness to listen. He called me the morning he took the test to say he was 
sure he hadn’t done well, but had to wait for the results. A couple of days 
ago, realizing that local school board members don’t seem to be playing much of 
a role in the current “reform” brouhaha, I asked him what he now thought about 
the tests he’d taken. “I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote. “The math 
section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to 
guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our 
system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block 
of reading instruction. He continued, “It seems to me something is seriously 
wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit 
hours toward a doctorate. “I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees 
and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of 
complex data related to those responsibilities. “I have a wide circle of 
friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its 
contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which 
does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on 
to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was 
necessary in their profession. “It might be argued that I’ve been out of school 
too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, 
the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test 
that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some 
practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly 
be true of the test I took.” Here’s the clincher in his post: “If I’d been 
required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost 
certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college 
material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for 
the level of ability that the test said I had. “It makes no sense to me that a 
test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little 
apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning. Who decided the kind of 
questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they 
have to defend their decisions? As subject-matter specialists, how qualified 
were they to make general judgments about the needs of this state’s children in 
a future they can’t possibly predict? Who set the pass-fail “cut score”? How?” 
“I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in 
particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who 
lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.” There you have it. In 13 
words, a concise summary of what’s wrong with present corporately driven 
education change: Decisions are being made by individuals who lack perspective 
and aren’t really accountable. Those decisions are shaped not by knowledge or 
understanding of educating, but by ideology, politics, hubris, greed, 
ignorance, the conventional wisdom, and various combinations thereof. And then 
they’re sold to the public by the rich and powerful. All that without so much 
as a pilot program to see if their simplistic, worn-out ideas work, and without 
a single procedure in place that imposes on them what they demand of teachers: 
accountability. But maybe there’s hope. As I write, a New York Times story by 
Michael Winerip makes my day. The stupidity of the current test-based thrust of 
reform has triggered the first revolt of school principals. Winerip writes: “As 
of last night, 658 principals around the state (NewYork) had signed a letter — 
488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use 
of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.” 
One of those school principals, Winerip says, is Bernard Kaplan. Kaplan runs 
one of the highest-achieving schools in the state, but is required to attend 10 
training sessions. “It’s education by humiliation,” Kaplan said. “I’ve never 
seen teachers and principals so degraded.” Carol Burris, named the 2010 
Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York 
State, has to attend those 10 training sessions. Katie Zahedi, another 
principal, said the session she attended was “two days of total nonsense. I 
have a Ph.D., I’m in a school every day, and some consultant is supposed to be 
teaching me to do evaluations.” A fourth principal, Mario Fernandez, called the 
evaluation process a product of “ludicrous, shallow thinking. They’re expecting 
a tornado to go through a junkyard and have a brand new Mercedes pop up.” My 
school board member-friend concluded his email with this: “I can’t escape the 
conclusion that those of us who are expected to follow through on decisions 
that have been made for us are doing something ethically questionable.” He’s 
wrong. What they’re being made to do isn’t ethically questionable. It’s 
ethically unacceptable. Ethically reprehensible. Ethically indefensible. How 
many of the approximately 100,000 school principals in the U.S. would join the 
revolt if their ethical principles trumped their fears of retribution? Why 
haven’t they been asked? 

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