If a prominent urban school leader told you he couldn’t recall being informed that half his city’s schools may have allowed the gross mistreatment of students to occur, would you believe him? And even if you did, would you still want him in charge of your children?
Now imagine that the leader in question is not just prominent locally, but nationally as well. Imagine that this individual has appeared on the cover of iconic news magazines and been interviewed on Oprah’s iconic couch. And imagine that this person has come to embody a singular approach to determining the effectiveness of schools and teachers — the rationale for which would be challenged if the allegations of mistreatment were ever proven to be true.
Would you want to know if any actual wrongdoing had occurred?
This is not a hypothetical question, but an actual one we can apply to the nation’s capital, and to our nation’s most visible school reformer, Michelle Rhee. (read more…)
I got an interesting phone call from my mom the other day. Like most of America, she has been swept up in the stories of the cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools. “How could teachers do that kind of thing?” she asked. “It’s shameful.”
The answer to her question is actually pretty simple: Teachers cheat on standardized tests because the stakes are ridiculously high. Failure is literally not an option.
You see, educational policymakers at the state and national level have spent the better part of the past decade trying to “improve education” by tying teacher evaluation and compensation decisions directly to the scores that students earn on end of grade exams even though the multiple-choice tests that we currently give to our students — and that we use as cudgels to shame practitioners — measure little more than the ability to recall basic facts and information.
Need proof that our assessments are largely irrelevant? (read more…)
A new generation of education leaders aims to change what has been dubbed the “Colorado Paradox” — the inability of the education system to generate a native population of highly-skilled and educated professionals to meet the needs of local industry.
Colorado imports most of its intellectual power. Reports indicate that Colorado has one of the highest number of college graduates per capita, yet it ranks 30th nationally in graduation rates — only 1 in 5 of its ninth-graders proceed to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree. The state also ranks 48th in K-12 education funding. In seeking to understand STEM education leadership, locally and nationally, I spoke with several colleagues. Notably, none of them can claim the status of Colorado native.
Noah Finkelstein relocated to Colorado from the coasts, having been raised and resided on both. From the Gamow Physics Tower overlooking the Boulder campus of CU, Finkelstein, physics professor and co-director of the Center for STEM Learning, takes a bird’s-eye view of STEM education. (read more…)
Lately, I’ve been preparing presentations and webinars about a progressive, student-centered results-only classroom and feedback over grades. As I carefully construct each slide, the common core invariably works its way into the narrative. It’s clear that Common Core State Standards are a reality in public schools — at least for a few years, until the bureaucrats and publishing companies lobby for something new. So, as I discuss technology integration, collaboration and formative assessment, the impact of standards and high stakes testing must be addressed. My steadfast message is that creativity and autonomy should not be compromised, at any expense, especially teaching to the test.
Ultimately, as I hammer away at the keys of my MacBook explaining how I think this looks, my mind wanders off the task to education reform. Although this phrase is overused by people like Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan, who believe accountability is real reform, the word is still important, especially when it refers to valid change. (read more…)
It wasn’t that long ago that suggesting America’s schools had become test-obsessed was a lonely endeavor. Although organizations like FairTest and campaigns like Time Out From Testing have been decrying the flawed logic behind high-stakes tests for years, the reality is that for the past decade, many of us kept our complaints reserved for the privacy of the parking lot.
People vented. Policymakers nodded. And absent any real noise, the tests continued.
In 2008, however, the election of Barack Obama seemed to augur a new era. All along the campaign trail, the Illinois senator suggested a clear understanding of the ways a single measure of success can distort an entire system and narrow the learning opportunities for children. Then he made history by becoming the nation’s 44th president — and unveiling a series of education policies that further entrenched America’s reliance on reading and math scores as a proxy for whole-school evaluation. (read more…)