Advice to a Parent Concerned about their Child’s Test Score

February 16, 2019 Leave a comment

My older daughter has a colleague who wants to talk to me about a concern she has concerning her daughter who makes the Honor Roll but struggles on standardized tests. I haven’t had a chance to talk with the parent yet, but the question gave me a chance to reduce my thinking about testing to writing… and this is what I came up with in “blog form” (as opposed to a polished op ed piece):

It is a shame that your daughter feels diminished because she does not do well on standardized tests, because they do not begin to measure what is most important. An aphorism that applies here is this: everything that can be measured is not important and everything that is important cannot be measured. Here are some important items that standardized tests do NOT determine:
  • Does your daughter enjoy learning for learning’s sake? Does she read on her own and avidly pursue things that interest her?
  • Does your daughter relate well to others… classmates and adults alike? 
  • Is your daughter engaged in the life of the school or the community (i.e. athletics, clubs, music, drama, church, etc.)
  • Does your daughter enjoy school in general? 
My hunch is that if your daughter is on the Honor Roll you can probably answer yes to all of these… and if that is the case… who cares about a test score? I am confident that she will get into college and, once there, will find a path that guarantees she will be learning for learning sake, be associated with like-minded people whose passion will energize her, and will fully engage her in the life of the school she attends and the community where she lives…. and most importantly, she’ll enjoy herself. 
 
BTW, once I was accepted into college and grad school, no one cared what my SAT or GRE scores were… they only cared about the quality of the work I submitted in my classes and my job performance… and once I found a college major and a career that interested me I had no problem finding my way in the world. I’m not sure how “finding my way in the world” is measured… but I don’t think it can be reduced to a number and I wouldn’t want the Educational Testing Service to design a standardized test for it.  
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The Beat Goes On: Oakland Joining Denver and LA Pushing Back Against Billionaire Reformers

February 15, 2019 Leave a comment

The first three paragraphs of Nick French’s Jacobin article provides a good overview of the national pushback that is underway:

Wherever there’s a battle over public education lately, a billionaire is somehow involved. Los Angeles, Newark, the “education reform” project as a whole — the ultrarich always have their hands in efforts to antagonize teachers.

One city they’ve now set their sights on: Oakland, where teachers are in the middle of union contract negotiations and just authorized a strike. Some teachers stayed out of school in one-day wildcat strikes in December and January, joined by many of their students. According to posts circulating on Facebook and Instagram, Oakland students have planned to call out sick in solidarity with teachers today.

Just like other teachers’ union battles these days, the contract fight pits students and working people against billionaire pro-corporate school reformers and the politicians backing them.

Slowly but surely the word seems to be getting out…. privatization is corroding public education and undermining the kind of instruction that teachers provide to children. MAYBE one of the political parties will realize that their “bi-partisan” support for the test-and-punish “reform” beloved of the billionaires and privatizers is hurting children, demoralizing teachers, and diminishing middle class jobs.

College Board’s Two Key AP Courses COULD Put Democracy on the Right Track

February 13, 2019 Leave a comment

As readers of this blog may hove noted, I often disagree with NYTimes columnist Thomas Friedman, who reliably supports neoliberal ideas about “school reform” and often reinforces the ideas set forth by Anand Giridharadas’ MarketWorld proponents. But I found myself nodding in agreement with his column today that supported the College Board’s assertion that two AP courses are needed to set a better course for democracy: Coding and the US Constitution.

The coding course focuses not on a specific computer language. Instead it focussed on the self-actualization that is possible when one learns how to DEVELOP uses for the computer as opposed having the computer dictate uses to students. Here’s the pitch the College Board used to attract a larger and more diverse enrollment in AP Computer Science:

What is it that you’d like to do in the world? Music? Art? Science? Business? Great! Then come build an app in the furtherance of that interest and learn the principles of computer science, not just coding, (College Board President David) Coleman said. “Learn to be a shaper of your environment, not just a victim of it.”

Both Mr. Friedman and College Board President David Coleman view the AP US Constitution course s being essential for future success. Why?

Every student needs to understand that, as Coleman put it, “our country was argued into existence — and that is the first thing that binds us — but also has some of the tensions that divide us. So we thought, ‘What can we do to help replace the jeering with productive conversation?’”

It had to start in high school, said (Stefanie) Sanford, (the College Board chief of global policy), who is leading the “two codes” initiative. “Think of how much more ready you are to participate in college and society with an understanding of the five freedoms that the First Amendment protects — of speech, assembly, petition, press and religion. The First Amendment lays the foundation for a mature community of conversation and ideas — built on the right and even obligation to speak up and, when needed, to protest, but not to interrupt and prevent others from speaking.”

This becomes particularly important, she noted, “when technology and democracy are thought of as in conflict, but are actually both essential” and need to work in tandem.

I completely agree with Mr. Friedman’s thinking about the essential need for informed citizens of the future to have a deep and fundamental understanding of both coding AND the constitution. In tandem they offer an opportunity to develop both convergent and divergent thinking and, most importantly, provide the skill sets students need to function in a democracy.

And while I generally oppose high stakes tests, I DO think that requiring all students to pass two AP tests like these would improve the pool of voters substantially. So here’s the question: which state will sign on first to make this happen?

Rahm Emanuel’s Non-Apology Apology for Being a School Privatization Cheerleader

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

Rahm Emmanuel’s greatest sin was that he was complicit in wasting the opportunity the Obama administration had to inject serious ARRA funding into public education. Instead of using the millions to, say, build and renovate schools or provide broadband to schools across the nation Emmanuel, Duncan, and Obama used $$$ to fund Race To The Top which effectively reinforced all that was wrong with NCLB and accelerated the privatization movement.

Source: Rahm Emanuel’s Non-Apology Apology for Being a School Privatization Cheerleader

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A Shortfall in Gambling Profits Dedicated for the Funding of NH Kindergartens Put Public Education Advocates in a Box

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

Concord Monitor reporter Ethan DeWitt wrote an article the appeared in today’s Valley News indicating that there is a serious revenue in the gambling revenues that could result in a shortfall of funding for Kindergarten’s across the state.

The game pulled in $8.3 million in sales in its first few months – Fiscal Year 2018 – and is projected to garner just under $15 million in Fiscal Year 2019, which ends in June, according to figures provided by the Lottery Commission on Monday.

But after expenses and prize payouts, those numbers diminish to $1.5 million of net profits in its first year, and $2.3 million in its second, according to the commission. That’s the money that ultimately makes it into the state coffers for kindergarten.

Those profits — exacerbated by several rejections of keno in major cities and towns — are far below the estimated $11 million needed to provide the minimum additional adequacy under the keno bill. The shortfalls mean the state will be picking up the tab for the rest, and that school districts are unlikely to get more than the minimum.

The consequences appear to be innocuous… but the Governor is concerned enough that he sent an email to all Superintendents alerting them budget only $1100 per student— the minimum amount allowed by law– as they prepare their budgets. Moreover, given New Hampshire’s notorious inability to raise any supplemental revenue and their past practice in fulfilling funding promises it would not surprise me if the State did not keep its commitment to meet the minimum figure.

And here’s what I find despicable: the schools in communities who rejected the keno “opportunity” might find themselves at a point where they might feel compelled to support gambling so that they can get sufficient funds for their Kindergarten children. While this has been a de facto reality at the STATE level, the NH legislatures unwillingness to mandate a statewide gambling program pushed it down to the local level. When faced with revenue shortfalls due to the lack of Keno funds and angry voters whose taxes are increasing, school boards in towns who failed to adopt Keno might find themselves in an awkward position. But then in New Hampshire, where so called “sin-taxes” on alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling are the major source of revenue, voters who drink, smoke, and gamble are prized. Those who earn money, not so much.

 

$5,700,000,000 Down Payment for Wall COULD be Spent Differently

February 11, 2019 Leave a comment

We are about to have another government shut-down because President Trump and the GOP are insistent that we spend $5,700,000,000 as the down payment on the completion of a wall— an  old-school physical structure, not a high-tech drone surveillance version— between Mexico and the United States. While there is no crisis being caused by those seeking a better life in out country, the POTUS has manufactured one and his party loyalists have supported him. And here’s what I find maddening: neither the President nor his party seem to think we have enough money for social services or the re-building of our infrastructure, but they are holding the entire functioning of the government hostage in an effort to build a $5,700,000,000 physical structure to address a wholly manufactured “crisis”.

NYTimes columnist Nick Kristof has provided those of us who believe the $5,700,000,000 could be spent on different programs with a handy list of alternatives. In examining the list he provides, it is clear we DO have the money we need to address the serious problems that plague the poorest citizens in our country and the world… but we are making incredibly stupid choices on how to spend it.

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Heartwarming Story About a District that Took On ExxonMobil… and WON!

February 9, 2019 Leave a comment

Earlier this week Diane Ravitch posted good news from Jeremy Mohler, the Executive Director of In the Public Interest, a nonpartisan organization that fights privatization of public assets. As Diane Ravitch reported:

Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish School Board has a $30 million budget deficit and teacher shortage. Its school buildings and buses are crumbling. Ninety-seven percent of its students, the majority of which are black or brown, qualify for free or reduced lunch. Teachers and school employees haven’t had an across-the-board pay raise since 2008.

Yet, ExxonMobil has received $700 million in local property tax exemptions from the parish over the last 20 years.

Not anymore.

Earlier this month, the school board narrowly voted against giving ExxonMobil two property tax breaks totaling about $2.9 million over a decade, one for a refinery and one for a chemical plant. Both facilities have already been built, which left some school board members scratching their heads.

I would be a lot more receptive for a new project, something that’s going to bring in new business, new jobs,” one board member said.

Here’s an idea: why not give ExxonMobil half of what it has received annually— roughly 17,500,000 and use the other half to fund the East Baton Rouge Parish Schools. I daresay the school district would bring in some new jobs with that additional money and if they had the money to spend they might generate demand for more small local businesses like grocery stores, hardware stores, and department stores… but probably East Baton Rouge has provided subsidies for Walmart and Lowe’s and are now wondering why there aren’t any decent fukk-time jobs for folks who live in town. Oh well, at least they can buy cheap groceries and building materials.

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