The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; It should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together. In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.
-- Eric Hoffer
This is a record of Dan Martin's Education Ride 365. In 2012 he set out to visit all 50 states and speak to educators, and ride 50,000 miles on the Cycle of Education. He did it! The ride is over but his blog remains as a record of the trip.
Education Ride 365
One Year --
50 States --
Goal: 50 States TX LA MS AL FL GA AR NM AZ NV CA OK KS CO WY MT ND SD NE MO IA MN TN OH PA MA IN ME NY NH VT RI CT WV OR WA AK KY ID UT NC SC IL WI MI NJ DE MD VA HI . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . |
Miles per Month; Goal: 50,000 Miles Total (roll over for details)
Education Ride 365: What We Get Out Of Young People Depends Upon What We (ALL) Demand Of Young People!
The Calvin and Hobbes cartoon below perfectly illustrates a very real conundrum. Adults in America want our schools to be the best in the world, but how many are really willing to make their children work hard enough to accomplish that?How can we have one without the other?
While the cartoon pokes fun at Calvin's unwillingness to pay the price for opportunity (excellence), adults I am speaking with while riding throughout the country seem aware that they are part, and perhaps the true source, of the problem.
A couple of days ago, in Edmond Oklahoma, I spoke with the man who is now living in a home my family first owned when it was built around 1982. I was an 8th and 9th grader when we lived there. During our conversation about the overall condition of our country, his son flew out of the house pronouncing he was late for class, but it would be o.k. because "the teacher is cool" about tardies. His father shook his head.
As his son drove off, this dad bemoaned the fact that he as a father is part of the problem. He explained that---like so many parents---he has always wanted his son to have a bit better life than he did. He believes that in the process of trying to achieve that goal he has produced a "soft" son who is emblematic of so many young people today. His son is 21, still lives at home, has very little drive, stays up until 5:00am playing video games on a regular basis, and essentially just does the basics to prove that he is generally on-track. He feels that he has taught his son that everything will basically just work out as long as he shows up and plays the game.
We as a society are putting tremendous pressure on educators to create a school system that is a world leader. Americans seem to expect to have schools that rate near---if not at---the top in world education rankings. Look at the competition:
Are parents in our country willing to demand that our kids "work harder" so we as a country get the results we expect? Or, are we simply expecting educators to work harder and smarter to somehow make up for the "soft" expectations so many have for their children?
Do we as a country really want the top performing academic students in the world?
Education Ride 365: Warning, This Prescription May Produce Dangerous Side Effects
Texas launched its statewide "STAAR" testing today as a replacement for its previous system, TAKS. The school accountability movement nationwide is almost exclusively based upon these types of standardized tests. I have discussed some of the pros and cons of these exams in previous posts and will certainly discuss them more in coming posts. Evaluating districts, schools, teachers, and students in this manner is not as commonsensical as it may seem. It is fraught with unintended consequences and ripe for abuse.
"Overall, 196 of the nation’s 3,125 largest school districts had enough suspect
tests that the odds of the results occurring by chance alone were worse than
one in 1,000."
The full article can be accessed here. Imagine the potential extent of this problem as teacher pay ('merit pay') is increasingly linked to these tests. Furthermore, consider the growing trend of publishing individual teacher results (the average performance of each individual teacher's students) as part of the public record, to be reported by the media for all to see.
Here is an interesting promotional video piece that accompanies the article cited above:
How ironic is it, too, that we are creating a system in which significant student gains are an indicator of dishonest behavior! Improve, just don't improve too much in one year lest a red flag fly high over your school/district!
Again, cheating is but one of many unintended consequences of an accountability movement intended to improve school performance for the betterment of our children. The motivation for high stakes testing is just...but like most any medicine intended to cure ills---> there are significant side effects. On balance, are we on track?
Education Ride 365: Too Much Talk, Too Many Miles, Too Dark, And Too Close
After arriving in Destin FL on Day 11 and spending the night in a Holiday Inn Express, I pulled out on Day 12 without really experiencing the beauty of Destin. I had a long ride ahead of me. And a long ride it was!
I was headed to the home of Bev and Steve McCarthy in the horse country of Ocala FL. As has become my practice, I left early with the intention of arriving before dark for safety reasons. Also per my practice, when it makes sense, I endeavored to travel the less traveled back roads.
What I have learned since the birth of the Cycle Of Education is that my travel schedule is not predictable. Stopping for gas, for food, or for any other reason just about always leads to a conversation about the education-themed motorcycle and my mission---> Education Ride 365. I welcome the conversation, of course, and broaden it as much as possible to a discussion of education more specifically. I am interested in what Americans think of education. What do we want from our schools? Is continuous improvement something we really want from our schools? It sounds obvious, but do we really have a sense of what continuous improvement we want? Or, even what that means.
This was a day like many, when conversation on this subject dictated my travel schedule. One such conversation developed after I asked a local at a Hosford FL gas station where I could get the best local food in town. When I travel I try to stay away from franchise restaurants. I've found the best way to do so...and make good decisions about which local establishments are worthy...is to simply ask a local! On this day I was directed a few hundred yards off Highway 20, behind a stand of trees and not visible from the highway, to "Angel's Seafood By The Dam."
Over a most excellent fried filet of flounder, I struck up a conversation with the owners---Angel and Carlton Boutwell---about the education of their 10 and 13-year old daughters...as well as their views on education in general. Angel and Carlton were 16 when they married. Excepting a brief move to and stay in Georgia, she has worked at this establishment since she was ten years old....from doing the basics to now owning the place. They have some strong views on schooling.
When they married at 16, she was not pregnant but was ostracized at school none the less. She reports one teacher telling her outright, "you do not belong here." She felt so unwanted that she decided to drop out. He, on the other hand, graduated from the local high school. They are both intelligent, thoughtful, and articulate individuals. They both value education. They both have high expectations for the education of their daughters, as well as for a niece who lives with them.
Angel and Carlton feel---as do MANY folks I have met over the first three weeks of this journey---that our schools are lacking in discipline and structure. They feel that their school is too "touchy feely." Respect for educators, by both children and adults, is too low to maximize effectiveness in their opinion. They decried the practice in their local schools of the students calling their teacher by Mr. or Mrs. (insert) 'first name.' So I would be called "Mr. Dan" rather than "Mr. Martin" there. They felt that the principal should not be high-fiving the students and otherwise engaging them in a manner that is below the status and dignity of the office. There should be a distance between the students and their principal. Students should know that being in the principal's presence means something greater than a casual interaction. I had to gulp and tug on my shirt collar, as I am one of those principals who engages the students in ways they decried.
They celebrated the structure of the schools their daughters briefly attended in Georgia. They appreciated the ability grouping those schools employed. They feel---like MANY---that the obsession with standardized assessments and accountability measures is actually hampering our schools. One example Angel shared is how teachers are being stressed to the point of exhaustion and, as a result, a negative energy trickles down to the students in many ways. We are human after all, Angel asserted, so how can we expect the exhausted and stressed teachers she knows to consistently overcome that during interactions with students?
Beyond that, she asks, what are we teaching these students? How to take tests? I hear that a bunch. All educators do. She noted that when testing time approaches, the schools totally change their character in a last ditch effort to remediate and otherwise focus exclusively on pass rates. Students are pulled from classes. Special schedules are instituted. Etc, etc. I can attest to that tendency. As an administrator, I have been part of that practice.
I recently came across the political cartoon below:
Is this what we are doing with our standardized assessments and accountability systems in American schools?
BTW, I enjoyed my conversation with Angel and Carlton. Their food is really, really good. I respect them. If you find yourself around Hosford FL on Highway 20, two-miles east of 267, I recommend you eat at "Angel's Seafood By The Dam" ...just south of the dam!
I had several such lengthy conversations about education along my ride from Destin to Ocala on Day 12. So much so that I rode in 'deadly darkness' through rural lands into the night. A couple of hours after dodging a possum on a lonely rural road---which was the closest I've ever come to hitting a live ground animal on the cycle---I wearily pulled into the driveway of Bev and Steve McCarthy in Ocala, Florida.
Riding stats: Day 12---325.9 miles, 5 hours and 50 minutes of moving time, 5 hours and 55 minutes of stopped time, 55.9 moving average miles per hour, 27.7 overall average miles per hour, and 81.2 maximum speed.
School Accountability: Playing With Numbers To Meet Perceptions Of Expectations
The accountability movement in American education has had both positive and negative ramifications. In fact, there has been so much change in American education over the past two decades, it is easy to oversimplify most any analysis of it. As an educator, for many reasons, I am thankful for the increased expectations and scrutiny this accountability movement has ushered in.
For nearly as many reasons, however, the increased accountability politicians often trumpet smacks as underfunded mandates, stacked one upon another, such that the proverbial turnip is being squeezed hard in hopes it will yield blood. An example was the expectation under NCLB that 100% of students (regardless of the degree of their qualifying condition) would pass high stakes, grade-level assessments (without modifications) by 2014. So, a student with an IQ sub-75 was expected to pass standardized assessments that were also designed to "test" the top percentage of our students. It screamed flawed accountability so loud that it is almost disturbing politicians had schools making decisions for years based upon the fear that this would sting us by 2014 if we didn't reach the 100% bar. We all kind of knew the expectation was unreasonable and had to change, but for years school administrators were charged with speaking and making decisions as if it wouldn't.
Many Americans are convinced that education spending has increased dramatically since the 1980s. While recent tough economic times have somewhat moderated this perception (after all, how can we ignore recent dramatic education cuts in many states across our country....like Texas cutting $4 billion dollars in its most recent two-year budget, despite adding 68,000 new students over that time), it is important to understand that even before this wave of cuts the bulk of increases to school funding have been in the growth of special programs---> read, special education.
My personal experience as a public school student in the 70s and 80s was that I could pass without doing much of anything by virtue of possessing some intellectual capacity combined with a willingness to play the game. School was a series of short hurdles. Rigor was minimal. It was easy to float along with the mass in the middle. The school knew we'd pass the (then) low-stakes accountability assessments. That was just about enough.
Now that accountability assessments carry so much higher-stakes, one would think that a focus on the individual student has increased---and it has. However, my experience tells me this is a misleading fact. It is true that schools tend to be much more deliberate about studying data on each child and educators are getting better at disaggregating the data to provide students with targeted remediation in areas where they have a need. That is a positive development.
This positive development has been tempered by the realities of a country that prizes its military over its educational system. Increased accountability without increased resources results in a system where the appearance of success is almost important as the true measure of success. For example, schools in Texas are almost all consumed with meeting the marks. In particular, pass rates. Texas holds schools accountable by "sub-pops". If even one sub-population (Hispanic, African-American, Low SES, etc.) underperforms, the school rating can drop a level. Nevermind that some Texas schools are lily-white and wealthy, with no real sub-pops to worry about, while others are represented in each sub-pop and have a much greater exposure for "underperformance."
I would go as far as to say, at least at the bureaucratic level, meeting pass rates on standardized assessments drives Texas education these days. Principals and other campus personnel must allocate their tight resources in ways that maximize overall pass rates (especially of sub-pops) even at the expense of marginalizing students who either "can't" pass (read---> aren't projected to pass) or---on the other end of the spectrum---are very likely to pass. The "bubble kids", they are often called.
In the current system, a school better have good data on who their bubble kids are and how to get them to pass the assessment. Often, it can be a mere handful of students...or even a single student...who makes the difference between receiving one school rating versus the next lower one. Beyond knowing who these bubble students are, the school must have a sense of how many fall into which sub-pop...or even sub-pops. Because students are often part of more than one sub-pop (for instance an African-American who also happens to be low-SES and special education), it becomes even more of an imperative to address the needs of these students over those of a student who will only count for or against you in one category.
The result is often a much more targeted effort to remediate the academic gaps of some students over others.Schools are forced into this necessity by the mismatch of resources versus expectations in the context of a gotcha accountability system. It is self-preservation. In this context it is understandable. In the context of the continuous improvement of our schools for all students, it is an abomination.
I've barely scratched the surface on this topic and will further develop this analysis in upcoming posts.
Is Your School Properly Equipped For Discipline, Part III
One of the biggest challenges to running a successful discipline program is having "radar screens" that display information all professional personnel can access, share, and use in decision-making.
Campus administration needs these radar screens. Why--for instance--are most schools still creating, submitting, collecting, reviewing, acting on, logging, and otherwise dealing with discipline referrals on paper??? For around the cost of those three-part forms and the other outdated paperwork, your school can have the 21st century data-management solution EdClick offers.
Perhaps as much as anyone, Principals and Assistant Principals need radar screens on discipline.
They should have:
*a single radar screen they all share that displays all open referrals.
This is an active, dynamic "pending list" Assistant Principals can use to quickly assess their discipline case load and develop a strategy for working it.
Where the Principal is not involved in the day-to-day working of discipline cases, this pending list gives him/her a valuable radar screen on the AP work load and the nature of discipline cases occurring in the school.
They should have:
*screens that give them insight into the student as part of the process of assessing and acting on discipline matters.
When deciding on discipline consequences, the more information (context) the better! The decider should have:
1) ready identifiers that flag students with special designations. Special education, 504, ESL/ELL and other such designations should be considered crucial context in each discipline case.
2) access to notes the teacher and/or other professionals have collected on that student over time. "Student Notes" is a valuable feature EdClick offers in its Discipline Manager to do that and more.
3) a complete discipline history of the student that shows prior referrals in their entirety, plus the consequence assigned and the record of fulfillment.
They should have:
*screens that allow them to easily e-mail parents and staff to notify them of discipline consequences assigned and request classwork for students in more serious trouble.
Adults who submit referrals on students deserve to know that the matter is being handled and (usually) in what way it will be.
Parents should be notified when their young person is involved in discipline matters at school.
Assignment collection from teachers for ISS, AEP, DAEP, or whatever else rarely works as well as it will if you choose an automation solution like EdClick's Discipline Manager!
They should have:
*screens for each disciplinary consequence showing who is assigned, on which day, for how long. These are roll sheets (essentially) for each type of disciplinary consequence the school uses. It might be: Lunch Detention, After-School Detention, Friday Night Reflections, Restitution, In-School Suspension, Out-of-School Suspension, Disciplinary Alternative Education Placement.
Web-based data management allows administrators to add students to appropriate lists as a seamless part of assigning a consequence.
Lists are informative and easy to work with. They can be customized for any particular discipline system.
When students serve they are easily credited. When they fail to serve, escalation of the consequence can be assigned directly from that roll screen.
Campus administrators deserve every "radar screen" on discipline we can provide them. Discipline Manager offers this. It is a powerful tool designed to "enable campus administration for the 21st Century!"
More "radar screens" to good discipline in upcoming posts!
Is Your School Properly Equipped For Discipline, Part Duex!
In a healthy discipline program, the "radar screens" that keep personnel informed and actively participating in the school's discipline program extend out to parents too.
One such radar screen is documentation:
*Does your school collect data over time, in a "electronic repository" that can be used by the school to, for instance, create discipline histories allowing parents to view patterns of behavior, interventions attempted, consequences assigned, consequence follow-through, and so much more? This is a radar screen on their child that parents deserve to see readily.
The technology EdClick offers schools does this--->efficiently, easily, and inexpensively.
Another component of an effective discipline system that gives parents a radar screen on their child's overall behavior is regular communication pushed out by the school, especially when it relates to the child of that parent.
*Is a documented attempt at contacting the parent of each student involved in each discipline matter part of your school's discipline program? If so, does it happen...even most of the time...really?
The technology that EdClick offers schools does this--->efficiently, easily, and inexpensively.
Bring a little automation to the task of running your data-dependent school! In the process, create radar screens parents can use to get a truer picture of their child's contribution to the disciplinary climate of your school!
More "radar screens" to good discipline in upcoming posts!
Is Your School Properly Equipped For Quality Discipline?
One of the biggest challenges to running a successful discipline program is having "radar screens" that display information all professional personnel can access, share, and use in decision-making.
Over the coming days I will review a number of these "radar screens" that are particularly essential to any quality discipline plan.
One of them is Special Education. Consider:
Does your campus do any of the following----
*assign students to discipline without determining if they have a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) in place and reviewing it to assess the appropriateness and compliance aspects of the disciplinary consequence?
*assign special education students to disciplinary consequences without easily, systematically notifying special education personnel with a need to know.
*assign students to In-School Suspension (ISS) without appropriate Special Education support of these students while they are in there. For instance, there is no ready access to the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) ...or the student is not receiving services as required for any other reason.
*rarely, or at best inconsistently, document academic and behavioral matters regarding the day-to-day progress of the more challenging students, whether they be Special Education or not.
*not have a system in place for professionals with a need to know to readily study notes and histories of other professionals in an effort to make more informed, efficient, and holistic decisions regarding each individual student.
*not easily print reports to assess patterns of disciplinary referrals and/or consequences. For instance, what percentage of days assigned to ISS are accounted for by Special Education students?
The professional staff of any school could benefit from having more radar screens like those provided in Discipline Manager to address all of the Special Education challenges above...and more.
The Special Education "radar screen" is but one of many Discipline Manager has in a web-based application that is easy to use and affordable...by any account.
More "radar screens" to good discipline in upcoming posts!
Speaking of bringing the cycle of education to life---school is back to life for a new year! In fact, the first couple of honeymoon weeks have passed. Students are settled in. The volume of discipline cases is no doubt increasing.
I remember this time well. As a teacher and administrator I experienced it in the classroom...across campus...and anywhere else students were present. I have witnessed this post-honeymoon uptick in discipline issues at both elite and struggling campuses. If you work in a school, you can no doubt relate...the honeymoon is over for 2011-12.
Young people are fond of testing their boundaries. Adults must be consistent in setting and regulating them. Doing so early and consistently will pay off later...from now to--and hopefully through--when the seven-month itch sets in!!!
Trends: Even Bob Dylan Is Probably Shocked By How Rapidly The Times They Are A-Changin'!
In the manner of those beyond a certain age, I am fond of thinking about all the ways life is different now than it was just a few years ago! Many reading this can go back further than my recollection of sitting by our dial phone for hours waiting for that certain someone to call. (Just about the time you couldn't take putting off a bathroom run...the phone would ring when you were clear across the house!)
Before voice mail, we relied on very unreliable micro-cassette recorders to (when it worked or another family member didn't tape over it) save voice messages for us. Before that, there was no choice but to wait by the phone for extended periods of time just to make sure one didn't miss "that" important call!
Nowadays, many of us actually get nervous if we leave home without our cell phone! We are constantly "plugged in." What if something were to happen like you run out of gas or need to reach out to someone immediately?!
The story below documents the trend of a dying art form from a near bygone era! The practice of writing and reading cursive is so pre-21st century that it has become perfectly cryptic to many of our young people. Most schools that are still teaching the art of writing in cursive have cut way back on its emphasis.
Here are a couple of interesting quotes from the full article you can access from The New York Times by clicking the image below:
...."many districts now teach cursive only in third grade, with fewer lessons."
“Schools today, we say we’re preparing our kids for the 21st century,”
said Jacqueline DeChiaro, the principal of Van Schaick Elementary School
in Cohoes, N.Y., who is debating whether to cut cursive. “Is cursive
really a 21st-century skill?”
With schools focused on preparing students for standardized tests, there
is often not enough time to teach handwriting, educators said.
“If you’re a school or a teacher, you can bet that if kids are being
tested on it, that it’s going to receive a priority emphasis in your
STAAR: The Latest On Texas' New Assessment Tool From The Texas Education Agency
As previously reported in several posts on this blog (see keyword at left:"STAAR"), Texas will have a new accountability assessment system beginning in the spring of 2012. This assessment system will replace TAKS.
Below is the first page of a five-page letter to administrators from the TEA regarding the latest in this development process. Much of what is on the first page is background and resources that I have blogged about before. However, beginning about two-thirds down page one (subtitled "Test Administration Policies") the TEA has provided quite a few specifics previously unreleased to the public. This is valuable, timely information that all educators in Texas should begin to get familiar with.
Trends: Lost In Accounts Of Worst-Case Examples--->The Majority Of Public Schools Work Well And Are Improving
The school reform movement is in full force in America. Increasing accountability---for educators and their students---has been the trend for the past couple of decades. On the whole, Americans have a perception that our school system is broken, even though most are pleased with the performance of their local public schools. Movies such as "Waiting For Superman" project an over-simplified picture of American public schools, painted in broad strokes, as inefficient bastions of entrenched interests such as teacher's unions. They portray the worst of the worst as if those examples are representative of our entire system.
There are MANY great public schools in America. In fact, I would propose that MOST public schools in America are either good...or improving. There are certainly exceptions.
Interestingly, many of the most vociferous opponents of public schools were themselves educated in private schools. The article below explores that aspect of this trend.
A few quotes:
"Those who call themselves reformers are a diverse group, men and women
of every political stripe and of every race and ethnicity.
But there is one thing that characterizes a surprisingly large number of
the people who are transforming public schools: they attended private
Which raises the question: Does a private school background give them a
much-needed distance and fresh perspective to better critique and remake
traditional public schools? Does it make them distrust public schools —
or even worse — poison their perception of them? Or does it make any
Personalized Education: Standard's-Based Accountability's High Stakes...Indeed
Ronald A. Wolk is the founder and former editor of Education Week and the chair emeritus of the board of Editorial Projects in Education. His commentary, "Standard's-Based Accountability's High Stakes," was recently published in Education Week. It is an interesting read.
"Going forward, it would be unwise and unnecessary to bet everything on
standards-based accountability. The stakes in such a gamble are so
enormous that we are morally obliged to consider, simultaneously (bold font added), the
second course I’ve described and embark on a parallel strategy of
creating a new, innovative system."
..."Personalized education would be the engine of that new system. This
change in approach would be rational and would shape virtually every
aspect of schooling."
The bullet points in the article image below list some key specifics to the much longer article that can be accessed by subscribers of EdWeek.org
Accountability: Parents In Florida May Receive Grades From The Teachers Of Their Children
This is something most of us educators have dreamed of...holding parents accountable...but what if you actually had to assign grades? Consider the implications of that!
I doubt this gets much traction---and at any rate it is proposed only through third grade---but it is an intriguing topic many of us would like more attention paid to---->the need for active, informed, and constructive parental involvement in the education of young people.
Well, the same exists for California schools. "The California School Guide
is the Los Angeles Times' database of test scores, demographics and
reader comments about California's public, charter and private schools."
Click here to access the LA Times "California School Guide" web page
At first, the title of the website below was a bit off-putting. "Data First" rang in contradiction to "Students First", a mantra of properly focused educators. Can both come first? Are they mutually exclusive? Can one come first without the other? Mere semantics?!?
No matter....this is a powerful website with a bunch of rich information designed to improve schools. As they describe it:
"Data First was created with the idea that data matters.
Education data, used well, can help school board members and everyone
else who cares about education to make good decisions – ones based, not
on the loudest voices or the latest theories, but on the facts about
what students need and how they are currently doing."
"...designed to guide people through the questions they
should be asking about their schools, and point to the data sources
that offer answers."
"...to link visitors to data they can use about
schools, and to teach them how to use it better."
"...Data First is brought to you by the Center for Public Education – an initiative of the National School Boards Association."
In an earlier set of posts (1,2,3,4) I highlighted the progress towards adoption of common standards for math and reading across our country. As of a few weeks ago, 43 states had approved the common standards and 5 more are expected to. There are only two maverick states regarding common standards--- Texas and Alaska.
Now that the common standards effort is so far along, attention has shifted to the common assessments that will test the common standards. The web page below provides a bit more context and links to the two proposals being promoted.
The other comes from the ETS' Center for K-12 Assessment & Performance,
the same folks who have already produced graphic and Power-Point
depictions of the two consortia's testing proposals. (All of these
resources, along with the newest report, "Coming Together To Raise
Achievement," are available at the Center's publications page.)"
Many social media on the internet now provide a forum for speech of all kind, including some examples we might wish away.
"Is ignorance bliss?" I asked myself this question for days before I wrote this post. Or, "is forewarned forearmed?"
So many other questions about it had me leaning against writing about the topic. After discussing it with a number of other educators, however, none of whom were aware the website below and others like it exist, I decided to post about it.
Indeed, there are other such websites. And the likelihood that there will be more with rising participation is very high. The internet gives individuals a stage (and a huge potential audience) to voice their opinion on people, places, and things. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Guilty by opinion. Praised if lucky, uh, I mean deserving. It is all so public.
Much like the teacher-ratings for individual teachers many states are now publicizing (I wrote about it in a blog entry-- In The News: California Teacher Ratings Released; New York Teacher Ratings Release Delayed), this can feel downright personal and, I bet, can often be off-the-mark! In fact, though those official ratings in the LA Times might get seen by more people, the types of comments that can be left on sites like the one below can certainly produce as least as much damage even when viewed by fewer people.
So, in considering whether to post on this topic, I came down on the side of.......when in a mine field, isn't it best to know as much about the situation as possible? What can we as individuals do to best navigate this mine field? What are the implications for education professionals, campuses, and districts? Clearly it is better to consider these questions sooner rather than later.
When school personnel consider these questions sooner rather than later, potential problems can be more easily defused and this potential "threat" can actually become an opportunity!!! That is the ticket!
A few questions and suggestions for you to consider:
Do criticisms of your school or the administration by personnel mean that
these employees (often teachers) understand but disagree, or does it mean they don't understand? In other words, is better communication within the school needed?
Could comments on TeacherVoice about your school provide insights and a starting point for important discussions with the staff?
If there are one or two
disgruntled comments, is that representative of the entire staff? You may choose to ask
the staff. If the answer is yes, maybe you should do something about
it. If the answer is no, maybe you should encourage your teachers to join in the TeacherVoice discussion and tell the positive side of the story.
Is there a channel for complaints from staff within the school, and
do you take it seriously? If not, you're nearly forcing people with
problems to make them public.
Do prospective teachers check you
out on TeacherVoice or similar sites (almost certainly, they do)? If
so, you'd better know what's being said about you. If it's inaccurate,
take steps to fix it. If it's embarrassing, take steps there too.
Google your school periodically to see what's being said about you.
you have a positive environment in the school, you might encourage your
staff to post comments. If these sites can improve the reputation of
the school, you'll likely be able to hire better staff members than
otherwise. That's good for the school and will be good for the other
Take your story to the Web. Have an informative and up-to-date
website. Keep the community informed through newsletters, blogs and the
rest. By taking the information initiative, it's more likely that your story
will be told. If sites like TeacherVoice bring to light that something
needs to be fixed, announce plans to fix it on your website. (You
needn't refer to the complaints as the impetus to make the
Thank you Dr. Tennant for your contributions to the end of the post!
In The News: Parent-Trigger Law (and Parent Empowerment)
In California there is now a "parent-trigger" law whereby parents can mandate school shutdowns or charter-school conversions through a petition drive. Under the state's new
"parent-trigger" law, the
signatures of at least half the parents at a campus are required in
order to launch the changes.
After an effort to use this provision recently, some parents are rescinding their signatures to convert McKinley
Elementary into a charter school that would operate outside the direct
control of the Compton Unified School District.
Parents are increasingly empowered in our school systems. Is this a positive trend? Like everything else, it is no doubt a mixed bag. What can we as educators do to accentuate the positives of parent empowerment while minimizing our exposure to the negative aspects?
Beyond simply exhibiting excellence in general, building capital in advance of "issues" seems to be one of the most effective ways to ride the wave of an increasing level of parent empowerment in our school systems. One of the more important ways to build this capital is through helpful, consistent communication between the school and parents. Is your school doing enough in this critical area of operations?
In The News: Ranking American Schools Internationally
This is a re-post from November 11, 2010 to accompany the post directly below it here. I am re-posting it to revisit my comments and invitation for your comments regarding international assessment rankings.How serious are we about this competition? A recent editorial in the NY Times begins as follows:
48th Is Not a Good Place
Editorial Published: October 26, 2010
"The National Academies, the country’s leading advisory group on science
and technology, warned in 2005 that unless the United States improved
the quality of math and science education, at all levels, it would
continue to lose economic ground to foreign competitors.
The situation remains grim. According to a follow-up report published
last month, the academies found that the United States ranks 27th out
of 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with
degrees in science or engineering, while the World Economic Forum
ranked this country 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in
quality of math and science instruction."
My Comments: Young people in America go to school fewer hours than students in many countries. Their schooling is based on a calendar adopted during agrarian times to allow young people time to contribute on the family farm and other such economic endeavors.
Beyond these and many other structural impediments to maximizing student success, young people in America hear many mixed messages about the value of education and school. It is important, but...
This is especially true when it comes to assessments, particularly standardized assessments.
My question is this: Is there a disconnect between what our expectations for student success are as a nation versus the price Americans are prepared to pay to achieve those academic goals? Are we as a country prepared to introduce young people to the rigor necessary to be a front runner, rather than 48th? Will American culture in the twenty-first century allow us to reach this end? Are adults prepared to make the conditions right for this competition? What do adults really want from education in America?
Should we push students as hard as we need to in order to compete with the top ranking countries, or do we "just give them a break...they are only kids?" We'd like to think there is a middle ground, but then are we competing with the highest ranked countries?
If it "takes a village", some higher degree of consensus on the village goals may be a necessary precondition to achieving the desired end. What is our true measure for school success in America? Are we prepared to ask of students (and adults) what is expected for this country to rise to the top academically? Is this the true measure of our schools' success?
Well, common in most places. When the Governors of our 50 states met a couple of years ago to discuss adopting common-standards across our country, all but Texas and Alaska expressed interest. Now 43 states have adopted them. More will likely follow. Texas and Alaska...going rogue!
Click here to see the Education Week article this graphic is from.
"The Transition Plan for House Bill 3
contains a detailed description of the process the commissioner of
education will use to develop and implement the provisions of House
Bill 3 (81st Texas Legislature, 2009), as required by Section 68 of the
The transition plan has sections
covering the development of the new State of Texas Assessments of
Academic Readiness (STAAR™) program; the development of new performance
ratings for Texas public schools; federal requirements for assessment
and accountability; accreditation, sanctions and interventions; and
financial accountability. Although HB 3 and this transition plan focus
on assessment and accountability, two appendices include summaries of
actions taken across other provisions of the bill. A Rulemaking
Schedule summarizes State Board of Education and commissioner of
education rulemaking required by HB 3. A Status of Implementation table
summarizes the implementation status of the bill."
"The state assessments will continue to be based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the standards designed to prepare students to succeed in college and careers and to compete globally. However, consistent with a growing national consensus regarding the need to provide a more clearly articulated K–16 education program that focuses on fewer skills and addresses those skills in a deeper manner, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is implementing a new assessment model for the STAAR tests for elementary, middle, and high school.
The majority of the new STAAR assessments will test content students studied that year, as opposed to testing content studied over multiple years. Doing so will strengthen the alignment between what is taught and what is tested for a given course of study.....for more click: STAAR: A New Assessment Model
Distributed by the Texas Education Agency October 15, 2010 TO THE ADMINISTRATOR ADDRESSED:
SUBJECT: Resources for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR)
This letter provides school districts and charter schools with important information about the State
of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), the new state
assessment program that will replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge
and Skills (TAKS) in spring 2012. For grades 3–8, the STAAR
program will assess the same subjects and grades that are currently
assessed on TAKS. At high school, however, grade-specific assessments
will be replaced with a series of 12 end-of-course assessments: Algebra
I, geometry, Algebra II, English I, English II, English III, biology,
chemistry, physics, world geography, world history, and U.S. history.
Attachment A provides an overview of the STAAR program.
Texas Education Agency with the assistance of Texas educators has
developed a number of resources related to the STAAR program. These
resources, which are available on a new STAAR webpage at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/, include the following:
attributes. This chart compares TAKS and STAAR based on the primary
features of the state assessment program and provides a quick overview
of the major differences between the two programs.
curriculum. The assessed curriculum documents show the reporting
categories (referred to as objectives on TAKS) for each assessment as
well as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) that are
eligible to be assessed. The eligible TEKS student expectations grouped
under each reporting category are divided into those that are
considered essential for academic readiness and those that are
considered supporting. See Attachment A for details about the specific
distinctions between readiness standards and supporting standards.
blueprints for the grades/subjects and courses assessed. The test
blueprints show the reporting categories, the number of questions and
TEKS student expectations assessed in each reporting category, and the
number of questions on the test overall. All blueprints are final with
the exception of U.S. history, world history, and world geography. The
preliminary blueprints included for the assessments for these courses
will be reviewed by Texas educators in early 2011 prior to finalization.
December 2010, a plan required by the Texas legislature will be posted
to the Texas Education Agency’s website at
http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/. This plan
detailing the transition from TAKS to STAAR will include specific
information about topics such as the STAAR test designs, the assessment
requirements for graduation, the measurement of college readiness,
standard setting, and plans for meeting the assessment needs of English
language learners and students receiving special
education services. Additional STAAR resources will be provided
throughout this next year, including explanatory material similar to
that found in the current TAKS Information Booklets. These resources
will be made available on the STAAR webpage as they are finalized.
If you have questions or need further clarification about this information, please contact the Student Assessment Division.
Texas Education Agency Assessment Contact Information Department of Assessment, Accountability, and Data Quality, Criss Cloudt, Associate Commissioner Division of Student Assessment, Gloria Zyskowski, Deputy Associate Commissioner (512) 463-9536 email@example.com