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Posts Tagged ‘CCSS’

Why SOME Kind of NATIONAL Standards are Needed

January 6, 2015 Leave a comment

Ars Technica blogger John Timmer wrote a post describing the reasons for the refusal of the West Virginia State Board of Education to adopt the  Next Generation Science Standards. It seems that the standards incorporate theories on global warming that are antithetical to the political realities of West Virginia. Consequently the State Board has decided to modify the findings of science and replace them with politically acceptable notions.

Timmer notes in the opening paragraph that West Virginia is not alone in their unwillingness to accept the findings of science:

(The Next Generation Science Standards) seem to have introduced state legislators to the reality that evolution and climate change are widely accepted by the scientific community. That has led to a showdown between legislators and the governor (Kentucky), the rejection of the standards in two states (Oklahoma and Wyoming), and a private lawsuit (Kansas).

Some progressive educators who oppose the Common Core State Standards see each rejection of those standards as a victory… and while the Next Generation Science Standards are not part of the Common Core per se, their rejection in some cases reflects the anti-intellectualism that is blatantly evidence in the actions cited above.

The notion that a State Board can vote to reject the reality that the planet’s temperatures rose over the past century is all the evidence I need to believe that some form of national standards developed by teachers and academics are needed. Otherwise students in KY, OK, WY, KS, and WV will enter college, the work force, and the voting booth without a solid understanding of factual information.

CBE Part V: Student Engagement Through Assessment

December 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Just before Christmas blogger Audrey Watters posted an essay titled “What is Competency Based Education” that defined that term as follows:

Rather than moving students together through materials for a fixed duration of a class, CBE enables students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. They are assessed along the way, and if they can demonstrate “competency” on a particular skill, they can move forward to the next. This is seen as an alternative to traditional models where students receive a grade — and credit — at the end of the course, but that grade can range from A to D, meaning that students have attained very different levels of understanding of the course materials.

I’ve used a set of questions she posed at the end of that article to write a series on the topic of CBE, which is the instructional backbone for what I call “Network Schools”. This post is part of that series.

Can students be engaged in determining “competencies”? How might CBE help give students more responsibility?

Student involvement in the determination of competencies would likely occur in the development of the screening assessments at some post-secondary institutions. For example, given their current ethos colleges like Evergreen, Hampshire, and Bard might engage their current students in such a process and some progressive employers might use recent entrants to their workplace help them devise screening assessments as well.

As noted in an earlier post, CBE schools would engage students and increase their responsibility by including them in the assessment process for determining mastery of “soft skills” and thinking skills. Just as the best employee evaluation systems incorporate peer review, CBE assessments would incorporate student reviewers on the panels that determine mastery of abstract and interpersonal competencies. This would reinforce the skills the students mastered earlier and increase their level of responsibility within the CBE school.

CBE IV: Writing the New Common Core and Assessments

December 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Just before Christmas blogger Audrey Watters posted an essay titled “What is Competency Based Education” that defined that term as follows:

Rather than moving students together through materials for a fixed duration of a class, CBE enables students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. They are assessed along the way, and if they can demonstrate “competency” on a particular skill, they can move forward to the next. This is seen as an alternative to traditional models where students receive a grade — and credit — at the end of the course, but that grade can range from A to D, meaning that students have attained very different levels of understanding of the course materials.

I’ve used a set of questions she posed at the end of that article to write a series on the topic of CBE, which is the instructional backbone for what I call “Network Schools”. This post is part of that series.

To repeat an earlier question, what is “competency”? Who decides? How is it different from current assessment decisions? (Is it?)

The development and defining of “competencies” and the means of assessing the mastery of “fundamental knowledge” (i.e. what is currently expected of students leaving eighth grade) would be determined by the teams developing the New Common Core (NCC). Ideally, robust state departments of education would develop the NCC using teams of classroom teachers, post-secondary content experts, and government funded psychometric consultants to assist them. In some instances, states might create alliances to accomplish this task… but under no circumstances should the NCC be developed through private funding or by for-profit corporations. The content required for the “fundamental knowledge” modules should be developed solely by educators and reviewed and adopted by democratically elected oversight board.

As students decide what direction they want to head after they demonstrate mastery of the “fundamental knowledge”, post-secondary institutions and businesses would define the competencies and assessments required for entry and students would need to demonstrate mastery to their satisfaction. There would be no time limit imposed on the attainment of these competencies.

CBE Part III: Skill Modules or the New Common Core

December 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Just before Christmas blogger Audrey Watters posted an essay titled “What is Competency Based Education” that defined that term as follows:

Rather than moving students together through materials for a fixed duration of a class, CBE enables students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. They are assessed along the way, and if they can demonstrate “competency” on a particular skill, they can move forward to the next. This is seen as an alternative to traditional models where students receive a grade — and credit — at the end of the course, but that grade can range from A to D, meaning that students have attained very different levels of understanding of the course materials.

I’ve used a set of questions she posed at the end of that article to write a series on the topic of CBE, which is the instructional backbone for what I call “Network Schools”. This post is part of that series.

How might CBE’s emphasis on the “modularity” of skills shape teaching and learning? What does it mean to see knowledge as “modular” in this way? Does this mean that knowledge is seen as static? As decontextualized? Or only contextualized through a certain “order” of skills?

Yesterday’s post suggested that instruction in factual and hierarchical information would be provided asynchronously though computer technology and in classroom dialogue sessions facilitated by advisor-coaches. This “fundamental knowledge” required that students must master (i.e. what is currently expected of students leaving eighth grade) will become the New Common Core (NCC). Many critics decry the current Common Core, yet the practical reality is that before the Common Core was defined at a national level textbook companies and/or populous states with state-wide adoption textbook adoption policies defined a de facto “common core”… and that de facto “common core” was not based on research or the collective wisdom of teachers. The de facto “common core” it was based on content that would promote the widespread sales of textbooks which, in turn, created an environment where texts would embrace the latest fads sweeping the nation. This created a planned obsolescence of instructional methodology which, in turn, created a periodic demand for shiny new textbooks. Future posts will describe how the NCC is developed

In a CBE school, instruction that requires drill and memorization (e.g. times tables, phonics, some mathematical algorithms, etc.) would be decontextualized. Most of the  “fundamental knowledge”, though, would be presented in a context that helps students understand it’s relevance. As a student progresses and determines the direction they intend to head after their fundamental CBE instruction is completed virtually all of the instruction will be contextualized based on the skill modules developed by either higher education institutions or businesses.

Goodbye NCLB and RTTT. Hello Privatization.

December 18, 2014 Leave a comment

After the Republicans swept into office a month ago, it is now clear that both NCLB and RTTT are going to be eliminated AND there will be an increase in the maximum amount available for Pell grants AND the incoming House Education Committee leader is pledging full funding for special education. Yet there is no sense of elation among those of us who have advocated for their demise. Why?

Progressive educators are sitting in stunned silence because they se that the increase in the number of Republican State legislatures and the increase in Republican governors the path for wholesale privatization and ALEC-inspired legislation is clear.

Progressive educators are dismayed because they see that NCLB’s punitive approach, RTTT’s overreach, and the CCSS backlash has played into the hands of privatizers and ALEC… and they see that if the GOP DOES increase funding for special education it will warm the hearts of local property taxpayers and school boards who have absorbed costs for special education for decades.

Here’s a dystopian scenario for the next few months:

  • Urban school districts are turned over to States who then turn them over to for-profit “school management” firms
  • Suburban and rural school boards, parents, and taxpayers are thrilled by the increase in special education funding and are elated that their state tax dollars will be “saved” by the state’s takeover of urban schools
  • Think tanks and university education and economics professors funded by the oligarchs will issue data supporting the cost-effectiveness of the privatized urban school districts
  • Voters with no children in public schools and/or no children in URBAN public schools will indicate their support for these changes in focus groups and neither party will want to undo what the 2015-16 legislature has done
  • Public education will exacerbate the economic divide instead of serving as a means of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty.

After November’s election results, the de-funding of the loathed RTTT, the likely demise of the CCSS, and the plans to fully fund special education it is hard to envision a different scenario that the one outlined above…. but one needs to be developed soon or social mobility will be even more challenging in the future.

 

Venture Capitalist Update

December 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Lest anyone think this blogger and others are paranoid about the intentions of Venture Capitalists I offer two articles for your consideration today and a recently completed study tomorrow.

Brett Dickerson’s blog post, “Investors Ready to Liquidate Public Schools” describes how legislators in Oklahoma plan to liquidate public school assets like school buildings and pension funds. How will this happen? Dickerson suggests they will use the Bain Blueprint:

  • Offer to buy out a profitable company that has little or no debt.
  • Silence the work force by tricking them into thinking life will be better with the new owners.
  • Once the purchase is complete, fire the workforce.
  • Liquidate the pension fund.
  • Liquidate the company for the cash value of its paid-for property.
  • Leave the host community in financial ruins.

Translated to public education it works like this:

  1. Compliant legislatures reduce funding for public education.
  2. Weakened by fewer funds, the schools who serve the poor and have more social problems to address begin to struggle the most, first.
  3. Use compliant, big corporate media to convince the public that the underfunded schools that serve the poor are wild, dangerous places. Editors love “teacher knocked out by student” stories.
  4. Once the public is convinced that those scary urban “jungle” schools are hopeless, pass legislation that allows corporate charters to take over and convert public property to their profitable use.
  5. Pass laws that allow charters to be black boxes where the public has no idea how their tax money is being used.
  6. Charters regiment children of the poor in ways that prepare them to be compliant service workers who don’t expect to have a voice.
  7. Use big corporate media to convince the public that charters are doing better even though they are not.

If this sounds familiar, you’ve been reading about Newark, NYC, Columbus OH, Milwaukee WI, etc, etc. Dickersons suggests this CAN be stopped IF educators, concerned parents, and concerned community members can rally to maintain local, democratic control of public schools.” he enumerates several “Ifs” that need to occur:

IF educators can successfully counter the investor propaganda that parents are the only true stakeholders in a child’s education, then raiders can be opposed successfully. The oldest to the youngest and richest to poorest members of every community are the true stakeholders in public schools and public education.

IF local, democratically elected school boards can stay empowered to make decisions for the local public schools, then this raider process can be resisted.

IF all stakeholders can successfully press legislators to listen to them instead of paid, professional lobbyists hired by large, investor-owned charter corporations, then we can resist the raider attempts.

Forbes magazine writer Randall Lane’s article in the latest edition of that magazine offers five inter-related policy actions our nation could take to move us to the top five in the international ratings: teacher efficacy, universal pre-K, Common Core standards, blended learning (incorporating technology into how students are taught) and school leadership (training and empowering principals). Lane had two researchers determine the cost to implement these five policies with the help of multi-billionaires who gained their wealth through shrewd investment or inheritance. The cost for implementing these “five big ideas” turned out to be $6,200,000,000,000 spread over 20 years. BUT, the wealth managers determined that if these were implemented successfully it would yield a payback of $225,000,000,000,000 spread over 80 years. Details on how these figures were derived are blurry, but Forbes seemed to give them credibility… probably because they think that wealthy people are better than, say, school superintendents or business officials, at doing calculations involving public school policy  Finally, Lane had these five concepts and the funding realities reviewed by “leaders” of  “four key constituent groups”:

…the federal government (represented by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan), state government (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo), the teachers unions (American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten) and local school boards (D.C. public schools chancellor Kaya Henderson).

Needless to say, THIS deck is hopelessly stacked. Three of the members, Duncan, Cuomo, and Henderson, are “reformers”. Furthermore, I would argue that the DC Board of Education is hardly “representative” of school boards across the country. The head of the NSBA would be a better representative of the issues facing school boards than an urban school superintendent whose district depends on congress for its funding…. but Forbes is showing its anti-democratic colors by choosing the “CEO” instead of the elected Board. Finally, pitting the three reformers against the AFT union head (as opposed to the NEA’s newly elected head or a progressive education advocate like, say, Diane Ravitch) assured that they would reinforce the “union vs. reform” meme and get some kind of politically bland pushback, especially since one of the issues the group was going to discuss was how to spend a boatload of money…. and when Forbes put this group of three “reformers” and one union president eager for money together in one room, they got a lot of platitudes and slogans…. and no acknowledgement that in order to improve schools we need to improve the lives of children before they set food in school and during the time they are in school.

 

 

 

 

 

Army Brats, CCSS, and Poverty

December 4, 2014 Leave a comment

An article posted in yesterday’s Fayobserver.com (from Fayetteville, NC) reminded me that one group of students who will clearly benefit from having common standards across the country are the children of military personnel and the children of parents whose occupations or financial situations compel them to relocate. According to the best estimates available, roughly 15% of the population moves from one residence to another each year with the largest percent of transience occurring among 20-40 year olds— the age of most parents. An Education Week article from a decade ago described the effects of changing schools on military children:

According to the Military Child Education Coalition, approximately 800,000 military-connected students make an average of six to nine school changes between kindergarten and high school graduation (Keller, 2003). Approximately 13 percent of these students attend schools run by the Department of Defense. Due to targeted programs aimed at reducing the negative affects of mobility, DOD students tend to have high academic achievement. However, 75 percent of military-connected students do not attend DOD schools and encounter similar challenges faced by other students who transfer frequently between public schools.

The potential impact of mobility on students’ education is significant. Students who move often between schools may experience a range of problems such as:

  • lower achievement levels due to discontinuity of curriculum between schools,

  • behavioral problems,

  • difficulty developing peer relationships, and

  • a greater risk for dropping out.

The Fayobserver.com article highlights some of the challenges cited in the Education Week article but its primary focus was the Chamber of Commerce’s desire to see improvement in the Cumberland County NC schools. Why? Because the quality of school districts serving military bases will be a factor in determining base closures in the future and Cumberland County’s economy is dependent on Fort Bragg. But their schools are not populated solely by the children of military personnel. They also house a different kind of student:

(Superintendent) Till said the biggest educational challenge he sees is that “a lot of our poor children are faceless. No one advocates for them.”

Many, he said, are from families where poverty has been a way of life for generations.

The schools will do their part but the problem is one that needs to be addressed by the community, he said.

Till and (Ft. Bragg Garrison Commander) Sanborn both said attention needs to be paid to redeveloping neighborhoods in the city that languish as families push ever farther out in pursuit of new schools they believe are the best options for their children. Sanborn said that has meant longer commutes and more traffic for military personnel.

Meanwhile, he said, “what’s left behind are kind of forgotten neighborhoods that aren’t being invested in.”

Sanborn said the community has to “come to grips with how to reinvest in forgotten neighborhoods to bring back vitality…. Everybody has to pull together with a common goal.”

This is not the kind of message Chambers of Commerce want to hear because “reinvesting in forgotten neighborhoods” implies increased taxes and, on a macro level, implies that the economic system in place is inequitably allocating resources. But when a military commander delivers the news it does not come across as an excuse. The military personnel on the panel at this Chamber of Commerce meeting also endorsed the CCSS:

Sanborn said military kids and families need assurance that what they learn in one school is portable if they move, that they’ll get full credit for past learning and that courses will dovetail.

(Retired Major General Bennie) Williams (who was also Chief of Staff in Baltimore City Schools) said high standards are needed to produce students who are ready to work, join the military or go to college upon high school graduation.

He said far too many high school graduates can’t qualify to join the military because of low literacy skills, poor fitness or criminal records.

“I’m concerned about the educational system here in North Carolina,” said Williams, who now lives in Fuquay-Varina. “What I want is simply rigorous common standards like in the military. I want benchmarks.”

As a result of legislation passed this summer, North Carolina plans to end its participation in the Common Core standards after a commission reviews each standard and recommends possible changes. Till said he believes few real changes are likely.

While many bloggers– including me– excoriate the source of funding for the Common Core State Standards (the billionaire privatizers) and their primary use (to devise high-stakes standardized tests), it is difficult to refute their value to the thousands of students who change schools each year, many of whom are NOT the parents of military personnel or professionals but rather the faceless children raid in poverty. Common standards are an urgent need as is the need to invest in “forgotten neighborhoods” that dot this country. We developed a free and reduced lunch program, an interstate highway system, and a host of other social programs to address military preparedness. Maybe the need to eliminate poverty can be added to that list.