Posts Tagged ‘Evaluation’

Shameful Shunning of Nobel Prize Winners: Evidence of Anti-Intellectualism in an Evidence Free World

December 26, 2017 Comments off

I read with deep dismay a recent NYTimes article by Sarah Bowen and Mark Nance, associate professors of sociology and political science, respectively, at North Carolina State University. Both are visiting researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and both had the opportunity to attend the Nobel Prize Award ceremony this year, a ceremony where eight of the 12 individual laureates were American. But Ms. Bowen and Mr. Nance were distressed to learn that President Trump was turning his back on this opportunity to display patriotism and support for the educational opportunities in our country. They write:

As Americans, this was an especially good year to attend. An impressive eight of the 12 individual laureates were American. Watching the ceremony, it was easy to feel patriotic. The laureates on stage represented decades of persistent, innovative work. They showed the intellectual power of the United States’ educational system and the transformative research it produces. We thought about the thousands of students who had passed through their labs, classes and office hours. While the awards are given to only a select few, we know well that each laureate represents an entire intellectual community.

But this year, the American Nobel laureates were shunned by President Trump. Breaking with recent tradition, he refused to invite them to the White House. This is difficult to understand. If you’re interested in building up and blaring out American greatness, why not show off what’s already great about the country? In this scenario, the laureates are like the proverbial canaries in a coal mine. The contrast between their warm celebration in Stockholm and their cold reception back home is a harbinger of the United States’ future irrelevance.

It’s clear to me why Mr. Trump decided to shun the American Nobel laureates. To have them come to the White House he’d have to acknowledge the “…intellectual power of the United States’ educational system and the transformative research it produces” and in doing so reject the longstanding narrative of “failing American schools” that so-called reformers use as the basis for privatization. To have them come to the White House he’d have to acknowledge the America doesn’t need HIM to make the nation great, it needs to build on the intellectual greatness of its colleges and universities. And Ms. Brown and Mr. Nance point out another problem Mr. Trump would face if he invited the Nobel Laureates:

Finally, two of the eight American laureates this year are immigrants. In fact, since 2000, 39 percent of prizes awarded in physics, chemistry or medicine have gone to immigrants The Trump administration’s hostility to immigrants and refugees is well documented. It deports children brought to the United States by their parents, children who have never known another home. It hammered away at the ill-considered travel ban until it squeaked — for the moment — past judicial review. It even tried to block a girls’ robotics team from Afghanistan from entering the United States for a competition. 

In short, Mr. Trump’s decision to shun the Nobel laureates, to deny them an opportunity to receive as much praise in America as they received internationally, exemplifies the anti-intellectual bent of his entire administration. And that anti-intellectualism is NOT the way to greatness. It will fulfill the prophesy of a Nation at Risk. It will ensure that our students are left behind internationally and our nation will become second rate. Instead of excoriating public schools and our excellent post-secondary schools our leaders should be bolstering them and pointing out to its citizenry that they ARE the best in the world.

“Baby PISA” Standardized Tests Support Global Education Reform Movement, Reinforce Status Quo, End Childhood

December 10, 2017 Comments off

I read the last sentence of the first paragraph of Mercy College professor Helge Wasmuth’s recent essay on the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) latest brainchild— a standardized assessment for preschoolers— and felt cold shiver.

Have you heard of Baby PISA? If not, you are in good company, as little information has been shared with the global early childhood community about the latest venture of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Unfortunately, it is a fait accompli.

It is a fait accompli because it is now a part of OECD’s widely publicized test battery called the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA. For the past 15 years the PISA results have been used as part of the “reform” movements arsenal to “prove” the ineffectiveness of public education. What the PISA tests have really proven, though, is that demographics and ZIP codes matter, especially in our country where there is wide disparity in spending on schools and the demographics between districts. Typically administered in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades, OECD is now planning to expand PISA to preschoolers through the use of something called the “International Early Learning and Child Well-Being Study.or IELS.They have encountered some pushback in their efforts, though. As Wasmuth reports, some countries have decided to withhold their support:

While the original plan called for participation by three to six countries in the northern and southern hemispheres, a number of early childhood communities have already successfully registered protest, urging their governments to abstain. (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, and Denmark are among them.) The only outliers are England—Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not taking part—and the United States.

And Wasmuth also notes that there is virtually no support among early childhood educators,who find the assessments intrusive on the instructional process, worthless in terms of informing instruction, and likely to result in the lockstep standardization that PISA values.

The impact on our field will be disastrous—maybe not immediately, but soon enough. OECD is a powerful and influential institution. Everyone should be clear about their goals of creating a common framework with benchmarks and assessing learning outcomes.  Early childhood education will be reduced to what can be measured: literacy and numeracy.

Ultimately, the field will fall even deeper into the clutches of GERM.  Many countries will feel compelled to do well on the IELS, and the easiest way to do that is to align the curricula to what is measured. Pedagogical compliance will follow, along with teaching to the test—especially in countries, such as the U.S., with many private providers of early education, who will use their outcomes to win new customers. As in the case of the Common Core, a new market will be created, “Aligned to IELS” the new trademark.

The quest for predictable outcomes leaves no place for the hallmarks of early childhood—for uncertainty, experimentation,  surprise, amazement, context, subjective experiences.  OECD values and measures what can be measured, but not necessarily what is important.

In short, the use of standardized assessments will reinforce the status quo in schooling by linking educational outcomes to age cohorts and using the bell curve created when normative assessments are designed to sort and select students at an early age. And the end result of this assessment will be a further diminishment of childhood.

All of the above is inevitable if we do not resist. We must widely discuss the IELS and critically follow its implementation. We must protect childhood’s unpredictable, unique, and wondrous nature—before it’s too late.

DeVos/Trump USDOE’s Penchant for Negotiated Settlements on Civil Rights Requires Oversight and Follow-up… Which are in Short Supply

October 7, 2017 Comments off

Thursday’s Politico Morning Education News Feed by Benjamin Wermund with help from Caitlin Emma and Michael Stratford described the Trump/DeVos USDOE’s penchant for negotiated settlements in civil rights cases. The Politico writers report:

The Trump administration has ended more than 700 civil rights investigations through a negotiation process concluded with so-called “302 agreements.” Under these agreements, the school agrees to make changes and the Education Department ends the investigation but says it will keep an eye on the school to make sure it falls in line.

Politico indicates these “302 agreements” are not a new feature, but the increase in their use is notable… and every indication is that their use will accelerate in the months ahead.

The (Trump) administration had resolved 706 civil rights complaints this way as of Aug. 29, according to records obtained by POLITICO. Under the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights resolved 462 cases this way through all of last year, according to the records. In 2015, it resolved just 387 complaints this way. The Trump administration had begun negotiations on, but had yet to resolve, 168 more cases as of Aug. 29. The bulk of them – 130 negotiations – started after Candice Jackson, the department’s acting civil rights chief, issued a June 8 memo telling civil rights investigators to take a smaller scope in their investigations. The memo also gave regional civil rights offices more autonomy by scrapping a requirement for the D.C. office to sign off on cases.

The Trump?DeVos USDOE  administration is spinning the increase in “302 agreements” as a means of achieving expedited settlements, settlements that do not result in resolutions being dragged out for years.

“The Office for Civil Rights is working to make sure that justice is no longer unduly delayed for students who have filed civil rights complaints,” Liz Hill, an Education Department spokeswoman, said. “OCR is pursuing a longstanding tradition of reaching voluntary resolution agreements with institutions willing to address civil rights concerns that ensure appropriate policy changes and remedies in individual cases.”

Politico quoted civil rights activists who were distressed over the pace of “302 agreements” because they felt such agreements diminished the depth of the investigations and assumed a higher degree of innocence on the part of institutions…. and there is ipso facto evidence of such handling.  As Politico noted in earlier reports:

DeVos’ Education Department had closed more than 1,500 civil rights complaints at the nation’s schools – including dismissing more than 900 outright – in the two months since her acting civil rights chief took steps to reduce a massive backlog.

As one who is concerned with the pending budget cuts to USDOE in the name of “efficiency” I wonder how the USDOE can possibly “keep an eye on the school to make sure it falls in line” given the marked increase in “302 settlements”. My hunch is that not only will they be unable to monitor these settlements, they will be unable to investigate future ones… and I don’t think the Trump/DeVos administration sees this as a “bug”… they view it as a desirable feature.