In one of the most disingenuous ploys ever concocted, High Achievement New York, a self-identifed “coalition of teachers, parents, civic, civil rights and business groups who share a commitment to a brighter educational future for every child in New York” is advocating that the state stay with the Common Core standards and offer a seven step plan for implementing them. Here’s the first step of the groups plan:
- Renaming the Standards: Several states have dropped the “Common Core” moniker to put their own stamp on the standards, something Chancellor Tisch suggested last week. For instance, the standards in Arizona, Florida and Iowa are now known as “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards,” the “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards” and “The Iowa Core,” respectively. Survey after survey shows strong support for higher learning standards in ELA and Math, and annual assessments of college and career readiness, but support drops when those components are called Common Core.
One of the Uniserv reps I worked with in MD had a great aphorism for this kind of thing: “You can’t paint C-O-W on the side of a horse and expect to get any milk”… and re-jiggering these standards or shortening the time for summative assessments will not address the fundamental problem, which is the use of common core test results as the sole metric for determining “success” in school and now, in NYS, “success” as a classroom teacher. Nor will it address the fundamental assumption of the common core, which is that all children are expected to develop at the same rate intellectually in all content areas, an idea that is preposterous on its face yet implicit in the way the common core is presented. We won’t get better performance from a re-branded set of standards any more that we could get milk from a re-labelled horse.
I just read a maddening article by Natalie Wexler from the September 24 Washington Post titled “Why American’s Can’t Write”. Ms. Wexler’s reason for this situation?
Surely one reason so many Americans lack writing skills is that, for decades, most U.S. schools haven’t taught them. In 2011, a nationwide test found that only 24 percent of students in eighth and 12th grades were proficient in writing, and just 3 percent were advanced.
Ms. Wexler writes a well thought out explanation of how writing could be taught in schools, noting that the punctuation and grammar skills need to be developed incrementally and hierarchically and that teachers need to spend time reading and correcting increasingly lengthy pies of writing. She notes that the common core delineates the skills needed but implies that teachers might lack the capability to deliver instruction on those skills.
What Ms. Wexler fails to note is that writing is not tested effectively… and when it IS tested creativity and flow are far less important than consistency and format… because computers cannot “measure” creativity and flow nor can “readers” who must scan “essays” quickly in order to get tests graded quickly.
We are reaping bad writing because grading writing is complicated, slow, and expensive and we want to measure our students with standardized tests that are easy, fast, and cheap… We won’t get good writing until we are willing to provide the time needed to teach it effectively and the time needed to grade it well.
NYS’s new Commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, walked into a mess and seems to be doing her best to make things even worse.
First the mess. Governor Cuomo passed legislation that binds schools to an evaluation system that is heavily dependent on value added measurements (VAM) based on standardized test results. Parent groups in NYS, particularly those in middle class districts, launched a successful opt-out movement against the standardized tests, a movement that makes the use of VAM in many districts an impossibility. The Board of Regents does not wholeheartedly support VAM (see previous post) but their chairman champions it.
In addressing these concerns, Ms. Elia seems to have come up with solutions that will ultimately alienate everyone. She’s recommended trimming back on the length of the tests– which will arguably make their VAM applications less valid. She’s switched vendors from Pearson to Questar, a company that will devise a completely new set of tests— further diminishing the validity of VAM measurements. In doing so, she has completely sidestepped the real concern of parents, which is the effects of test-based accountability on the curriculum in their schools. As one opt-out leader noted, Commissioner Elia’s actions will NOT change their thinking:
“Half a disaster is still a disaster,” said Loy Gross, a co-founder of the parent activist group United to Counter the Core, who added shortening the tests was just tinkering around the edges of a very large problem.
“And no,” she added, “it’s not going to appease parents who will continue to opt their kids out of tests.”
Based on her previous performance in FL, Ms. Elia is unlikely to back away from using tests as a major component of teacher evaluation, contentiousness over standardized testing will continue indefinitely, and children and teachers will have to wait for another Governor to take office before the problem is resolved… and by then the full privatization plan may be implemented. I hope this prognosis is wrong!
Diane Ravitch’s post late yesterday lamented the Regent’s decision to continue using VAM as a basis for teacher employment, referencing an article that appeared in the Gannett papers that explained the background behind the 10-6 vote to support the state law enacted at the behest of governor Cuomo. Two of the Regents quoted in the article clearly see the flaws with the system:
“Quite frankly, I have met with hundreds of people, and all I hear is the joy of teaching is being squeezed out of them as a result of this process,” said Regent Judith Johnson, whose district stretches from Poughkeepsie to Westchester County. She voted against the proposal.
Having worked in that region for five years I am confident Ms. Johnson got an earful! One Regent who was among those who held their nose and voted in favor of the proposal on the grounds that they were compelled by law to devise an evaluation system in accordance with the law, wanted to be on record for his skepticism:
“We have to express a lack of confidence in the current evaluation system,” said Regent Roger Tilles of Long Island, who voted for the rules. “We have to express a lack of confidence in the current growth model. We have to … call for changes to the evaluation system as it currently exists.”
Diane Ravitch, concluded her post with this question:
Has anyone in Governor Cuomo’s office figured out where they will find better teachers to replace those who are fired as a result of his eagerness to oust teachers?
Having just read about the ridiculous arrest of a student in TX who brought a home-made clock to school to show his science class in TX, I left the following response to Ms. Ravitch’s question:
Where will Cuomo find better teachers to replace those who are fired? If teaching to the test is the goal (and it clearly IS the goal of the Regents and Mr. Cuomo) they might look to hire computer programmers and security guards. Programmers know how to develop algorithms for tasks that are iterative and standardized: they can write the programs for the inexpensive computer tablets that will be issued to each child. Security guards can maintain order and arrest creative students who make things at home— like the young man in Texas who made his own clock. With this combination NYS won’t need as many old-fashioned “teachers”— you know, the kind that get to know each child and design differentiated lessons that meet their needs.
My concern is that some charter school owner might read this and take it seriously… because that seems to be the staffing configuration many virtual schools favor.
The NYTimes wrote an editorial today in opposition to the idea of privatizing tax collection. Why?
Private tax collection was tried in the 1990s and in the 2000s. Both times it lost money. It increases the cost of handling complaints and appeals at the Internal Revenue Service, and it is far less efficient than simply increasing the collection budget of the I.R.S.
Worse, it fosters taxpayer abuse. The debts involved are ones that the I.R.S. has not been able to collect, in part because the taxpayers are too hard-pressed to pay up. A private company is probably not going to have better luck unless it uses abusive tactics.
And yet, private tax collection is an idea that keeps resurfacing. Why? One reason is that it would be a cash cow for the four companies likely to win tax-collection contracts, two in New York, one in California and one in Iowa.
So… let’s change a few words:
Private tax collectionPrivatizing schools was tried in the 1990s and in the 2000sover the past decade. Both times it lost money. It has produced no evidence that it is any better than public education. It increases the costsaves no money and has not of handlingreduced complaints and or appeals for improvement. at the Internal Revenue Service,and it is far less efficient than simply increasing the collectionbudget of the I.R.S. each and every school in the country.
Worse, it fosters
taxpayerabuse. The debts involved are ones that the I.R.S. deficiencies and disparities in performance are the result of factors outside of school, factors that has not been able to collect, in part becausethe taxpayers are too hard-pressedseemingly unwilling to pay for. to pay up. A private companyprivatized school is probably not going to have better luck unless it uses abusive tactics like expelling students, cheating on examinations, or firing veteran employees in school districts.
private tax collectionprivatization of schools is an idea that keeps resurfacing. Why? One reason is that it would be a cash cow for the four companies likely to win tax-collection contracts, two in New York, one in California and one in Iowa.testing companies, Big Data companies, and deregulated for-profit schools.
The similarities are eerie… but probably lost on the NYTimes editorial board.