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Archive for January, 2012

Technology and Evaluation Redux

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

This CNN article posted on Naked Capitalism indicates that students who multi-task using technology have difficulty relating to classmates… and I can see technophobic teachers seizing on this kind of finding as evidence that using technology is counterproductive. From my perspective, this is further evidence of the need to change the current format of schooling. There is no explicit instruction in schooling on how to get along with each other, how to engage in dialogue, how to interact effectively in a group setting. Why? Because we are so focussed on determining how well each individual is performing in isolation… Indeed, when students DO interact with each other to help solve a problem it is called “cheating”.

ASCD’s blog featured a link to this update on School of One, whose founders have learned that HOW teachers interact with students is as crucial a variable as how teachers use technology. I love the url’s main descriptor: “mind shift”… that’s what’s needed to get technology used effectively in schools.

Three LA teachers wrote an op-ed article for the LA Times advocating an overhaul to the evaluation system in place. I completely agree with the five elements they want to serve as the basis for evaluation: reliable data (more than three years’ worth from a test specifically designed for the purpose of evaluation); student progress (as opposed to absolute scores); student accountability (the students need to have a stake in whatever assessment is used to gauge teacher performance); support in the form of appropriate staff development; and confidentiality (as opposed to the reprehensible publishing of scores done by the LATimes this past year. This part of the article was particularly on point:

An evaluation system for L.A. Unified must take advantage of all that has been learned; it should use multiple measures, including classroom observations by competent, trained administrators; classroom visits by content-area experts; carefully designed student input; and test data.

These are perfectly reasonable… but probably will be rejected because they cost too much (too many administrators will be needed) and take too long to put in place (developing the tests, field-testing them, and getting three years of data will take longer than any politician’s election cycle).

Meanwhile, many principals across the country are on record opposing the new teacher evaluation plans being implemented in response to Race to the Top. The plans are described as “untested” and “burdensome” and result in “20 times more work” than the existing formats… but they DO hold the teachers accountable: at least the 21% of the teachers who can be measured using standardized achievement tests!

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Public Education’s Return on Investment: $1.53 for every $1.00

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Public schools DO add value to the economy! When I was preparing school budgets, a study like this one in Virginia Beach VA wold have found its way into a board packet and into a public presentation on the budget. People don’t realize that salaries earned by school employees get spent locally, construction and major renovation projects add jobs to the local economy, and many of the small maintenance jobs are completed by local contractors. Local schools shouldn’t be employment agencies, but their effect on the local economy is too often overlooked… as many communities across the country are discovering as budgets get slashed.

The obsession with standardized testing is leading to the demise of play in pre-schools, according a 2009 article published in Scientific American that was recently posted on Coos Networks. The sad fact seems to be that well educated parents want their children to “learn” in pre-school and un-educated parents buy representational toys or use TV to amuse their children. The result: no play and no opportunity to develop their imagination. A year-old monograph from the American Academy of Pediatrics reinforces these findings. My grandson Lyric has more fun with a stick and a coat hanger than he has with his explicitly designed toys.

School Choice? Not anything close to the salvation for public education. This essay, cross posted in Common Dreams from a teaching tolerance blog written by Maureen Costello, debunks the  notion that choice– and charter schools, it’s direct descendent– results in ANY improvement in public education. There isn’t a single argument in this that I disagree with…

The Nation astutely notes some of the shortcomings of Obama’s plans for public education in an article by Dana Goldstein. A paragraph in the middle of the essay captures the problem with Obama’s plan:

But here’s the rub: what Obama didn’t say is that he supports using student test scores to judge which teachers are effective. His administration has tied significant financial incentives to that priority, so states and districts are scrambling to create many more standardized tests to evaluate each and every teacher, including teachers of nontraditional subjects such as art, music and physical education, as well as teachers in the early grades, right down to kindergarten.

The article also notes that this was the first time Obama did NOT mention pre-K education in a State of the Union address. Why? Because it costs too much. The same reason we don’t use more sophisticated metrics and the whole reason we can’t pull kids out of poverty.

Finding tutors with time to get to high-poverty schools is a challenge, but one that can be overcome with technology as reported in the NYTimes. This may have applications in the North Country of NH where I’m consulting… trying to find ways to link schools with each other and with the community.

The digital divide mirrors the economic divide as described in this article posted on the ASCD blog. The divide is exacerbated in rural areas where dial-up is the most you can hope for and bandwidth is absurdly narrow… The problem, once again, is resources!

Catching up

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

My consulting jobs had me on the road early in the morning the last couple of days so I’ve getting behind in posting links. I’ll catch up on some tonight and hopefully catch up completely tomorrow.

According to an article in Ed Week many states are encouraging kids to graduate early  but for the wrong reason: to save money! My white paper on Waivers includes a section on an easy way to see if students are ready to graduate early. The abandonment of the Carnegie unit is a great idea… but the concept of mastery has to work both ways. What states and districts should do is take the savings from early grads and pump them into remedial and/or extended year courses for students who struggle… or pre-K programs…

The Washington Times ran an article suggesting that good teachers who transfer to high need schools should receive a $10,000 bonus, taking a bad idea from economic developers and trying to apply it to schools. The primary problem with this approach is this: highly effective teachers who already work at high-need schools should be eligible for bonuses and benefits, too, and not just newcomers. It is a complaint existing businesses rightfully level when an economic development commissions throws money and tax breaks at new businesses while ignoring the needs of businesses already in place.

Raising the drop-out age is the latest panacea to the persistent problem of keeping high school students engaged . Earlier this week The NYTimes featured an article that calculated the effects of dropping out on an individual and on  society… The fact is that 3rd grade teachers can identify the students who are likely to drop out… but we don’t want to spend the money or the time to act on the information when we get it…

The Ugly Truth About School Choice, according to an Alternet article sent by my older daughter, is that it’s an astro-turf project funded by the Koch brothers… the article is a little over the top… but only a little…

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