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Posts Tagged ‘Measurement’

This Just In: Recess Helps… A LOT! It Allows Children to Be Children and Not Data Points

August 16, 2019 Leave a comment

In yet another study that proves the sun will rise every day, researchers gathered data that proves the value of recess. “Becky” who writes for Your Modern Family reports:

…research is actually showing how schools with more recess have happier, smarter, and more focused students.   In fact, recess even helps students to be more friendly and social.

“Recess is the only place in school, maybe the only place in their social life, where kids have the opportunity to develop social skills with their peers,” says Murry, former chairman of the AAP’s Council on School Health.

And why was recess ever considered unworthy? If you guessed that it ate into time needed to prepare for standardized tests you’ve been a careful and diligent reader of this blog for the past eight years. And guess what country assures recess at all costs AND consistently outscores the US in international tests? FINLAND!

Strong research in Finland shows that children who engage in more physical activity and play do better academically than children who are sedentary.  From kindergarten through eighth grade, students in Finland spend 15 minutes of every hour in recess, enjoying unstructured outdoor play. During that time, they love to make up games, expanding their imaginations and creativity.”

15 minutes per HOUR… as opposed to our country that often tacks 15 minutes of recess onto the end of lunch period. For those who scoff that it would never work in our country, Becky has some news for you. A program called the LiiNK Project provided more recess for students and, voila, test scores went up!

A school in Texas took part in the LiiNK Project, where students in K-1 had four 15-minute recess breaks a day.   “Adopting LiiNK requires eliminating one hour of instructional time each day. That is a high risk for educators who believe more instruction leads to higher test scores. But research shows vast benefits to providing kids recess.”

“In districts that have adopted LiiNK, the teachers, administrators, and parents raved about its effects on students. The additional recess, they said, helped their kids focus better, misbehave less, and even lose weight. There were benefits for teachers, too. Sandra Hill, a third-grade teacher at Chavez with 18 years experience, said better-behaved kids improved her morale. She described the difference between teaching LiiNK kids and the kids at her previous schools as “night and day.”   “This year was hands down, the easiest year I’ve had with behavior.”

Cindy Griggs, a kindergarten teacher at Eagle Mountain Elementary, a LiiNK school in Fort Worth, described a similar change. Recalling her students’ behavior before LiiNK was implemented four years ago, she said, “They were always antsy, messing with the name tags on their desks, poking each other, rolling around on the floor.”

But now with the extra recess: “They’re able to get all that energy out. Coming in, they’ll just be sitting on the carpet zoned in and engaged for 45 minutes.”

A Texas college professor and elementary school Principal were given the last words on this topic, which included lots of links to lots of reports substantiating the value of recess and unstructured play:

Professor and associate dean at Texas Christian University, Debbie Rhea, launched the recess initiative, reminding her of her childhood.   “We have forgotten what childhood should be.   And if we remember back to before testing—which would be back in the ’60s, ’70s, early ’80s—if we remember back to that, children were allowed to be children.”

“Test scores don’t tell you everything you need to know about a child,” she said. “I hope people can understand that. In this age of accountability and testing, I think we’ve forgotten that we’re dealing with these little kids with their little hearts,and they need to be nurtured too.” – Principal Elizabeth Miller, Chavez Elementary School.

And here’s what is saddening to this retired veteran school superintendent: anyone who entered the teaching profession after NCLB has NEVER known of a time when “children were allowed to be children”.We now have a generation of teachers who know of nothing except accountability based on standardized testing… teachers who themselves were subjected to passing fill-in-the-bubble tests to prove they had the ability to deal with little kids with their little hearts. The sooner we move away from this “meritocracy” based on tests the better!

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Where Democrats Land on Charter Schools is Less Important Than Where They Land on Testing

August 14, 2019 Leave a comment

I was heartened to read an American Prospect article last month by Rachel Cohen indicating that virtually all of the Democrats running for President have taken a position in opposition to for profit charters. The positions range from Bernie Sanders, who echoes the NAACP language verbatim, to Beto O’Rourke, who issued a squishy statement saying that “there is a place for public nonprofit charter schools, but private charter schools and voucher programs—not a single dime in my administration will go to them.” Even Cory Booker, the man who brought for profit schools to Newark, is equivocating on his pro-charter stance. Here’s a twitter post he issued:

Sen. Cory Booker speaks in Newton, IA: “I’m a guy who believes in public education and, in fact, I look at some of the charter laws that are written about this country and states like this and I find them really offensive.”

This is all good news… but in the end it dodges the real problem with public education, which is the accountability model that is based predominantly on standardized test results. As long as schools are sorted into “success” and “failure” bins based on their test scores the teachers in public schools will be compelled to teach to the test and the students in most schools in this nation will be subject to curricula and instruction based on passing a test or facing some kind of political consequence that will reinforce two faulty premises: that students can get better test scores if they and the teachers apply themselves; and, if students attain higher test scores they will be successful later in life. Neither of premises have any basis in reality… yet both of them are ingrained in the voters minds.

It would be especially heartening if one of the candidates for President emphasized this point… but I sense that because doing so would require them to question the whole basis for school accountability they will avoid the issue altogether and testing— and sorting— will continued unabated.

Self-Directed Learning: A Place Where Libertarianism and Progressivism Intersect

August 2, 2019 Comments off

A series of articles in the libertarian Cato Institute’s July edition of Cato Unbound offers four essays that describe a point where libertarianism and progressivism intersect: the need to move away from our lock-step factory model of education in the direction of self-directed learning. The opening paragraphs introducing the essays describes the basic libertarian argument for questioning the status quo and re-thinking the voucher plans espoused by their iconic economist Milton Friedman:

Libertarians tend to support school choice. But for whom? In the voucher model, parents may choose among various private schooling options for their children and designate their vouchers to the schools they’ve selected.

But what if school itself is a matter of choice? And what does it look like when students and parents choose unstructured learning instead?Is this unconventional choice an option that libertarians should prefer? Perhaps: much about the conventional experience of primary and secondary schooling is the product of bureaucratization and standardization—and much of that comes directly from state involvement in education.

So what is the relationship between libertarian politics and unstructured schooling? How seriously should libertarians take the idea of scrapping school as we know it, and replacing it with child-directed learning?

As one who read and admired the thinking of A.S. Neill, John Holt, and Ivan Illich, there is an appeal to seeing public education as it exists today wither and disappear. Since the passage of NCLB, education policy has been dictated by the desire of politicians and parents to ensure that children graduating from high school meet “high standards”. But setting such standards without increasing funding or changing the age-based grade-level cohort scheme for schooling has proven to be an impossibility. The result is “failing schools” based on standardized test scores and increasingly dis-engaged students as today’s students find the lessons linked to test scores dispiriting and pointless in a world where they can get answers to questions that concern them directly with a Google Search or the use of an app. In the next few days I plan to explore the ideas presented in these Cato Unbound essays and offer some ideas on how we might change to current paradigm for schooling in a way that helps all children have an opportunity to learn more by directing their own learning.

Will NYS’s Review of Graduation Requirements End Regents Tests? Alas… I Doubt It

July 30, 2019 Comments off

A recent Chalkbeat article by Reema Amin reports that New York State will be launching a blue ribbon commission to look at graduation requirements. The commission, whose members have not been named, will examine four big questions, one of which is this:

How much does passing the state’s vaunted Regents exams improve graduation rates, student achievement, and college readiness?

Over two decades ago, when I was Superintendent in an Upstate New York district, the Board of Regents adopted a new set of graduation standards calling for all students to pass five Regents examinations on the pretext that doing so would signal that the high school graduates were ready for work or ready for higher education. The content supervisors in the district were not alarmed about the consequences for students, assuming that the cut scores for passing the Regents tests would be adjusted to ensure that more students would be able to pass. But several were concerned about the consequences for teachers, many of whom would need to change the content of their courses to focus on passing the test instead of focussing on important but difficult to measure skills like interpersonal communication, creative problem solving, and teamwork.

The committee examining graduation standards will have a tough sell if they choose to abandon the Regents, for there are generations of high school graduates who view the Regents as evidence of excellence even though study after study has shown, in Ms. Amin’s words:

…these assessments don’t better-prepare graduates for life after high school and can harm certain students, such as students of color from low-income families.

The four questions the committee will wrestle with are these:

what should children know and be able to do before they graduate;

how should they be able to demonstrate their knowledge;

to what degree does requiring the passage of Regents exams improve student achievement, graduation rates and college readiness;

and what other measures of achievement can signal high school completion.

Responding to the first question will require consensus building among employers, post-secondary admissions counselors, and high school educators. Reaching consensus will be difficult but attainable. It is the metrics that will challenge the committee… for doing any kind of portfolio review is a laborious, time-intensive, and— therefore– costly process that the committee will likely find too daunting.

I hope I am wrong… but I think the Regents will survive yet another review in the same way that the entrance examinations to elite NYC high schools and SATs hang on despite evidence that they are not valid screening assessments. Like the entrance exams and the SATs, the Regents are a cheap, fast, and seemingly precise measure of “academic knowledge” that are “proven”— especially in the minds of those who succeeded on them in the past, who are those who will be making the decisions for the future.

Do We Really Need a Change in the US Citizenship Test?

July 20, 2019 Comments off

I must confess that though I am an advocate for government in general, and believe we should have faith and trust in the intentions of our government leaders, I find this announcement that we are changing our citizenship test to be chilling. The only implication that I can draw from this is that we are admitting too many people who speak broken or accented English… and my concern is that those with accents from countries with White majorities will be accepted while those from other nations will be rejected. This may be the only time I see the value of standardized tests completed on a computer… but even then the algorithms can achieve what I perceive as the REAL intent of this change.

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What Trump is Teaching Our Children… and What Schools Are Teaching Our Children

July 18, 2019 Comments off

What Trump is Teaching Our Children“, Charles Blow’s column in today’s NYTimes, decries the lessons our children are learning from our current President’s conduct. It describes the lessons parents try to instill in their children and contrasts those lessons with the lesson President Trump is teaching:

…He is everything we teach our children not to be. In Trump’s world of immorality, the lessons being taught undo all the principles parents struggle to instill.

He is teaching our children that there is no absolute truth, there is “alternative fact.” It’s not what you say, but how you say it and how vociferously you can defend it.

He is teaching little boys that women’s bodies exist as playgrounds for privileged men, and that there is no price to be paid if you are popular enough or rich enough.

He is teaching little girls that if they are ever victims of sexual assault by a popular, wealthy boy and deign to reveal it, they will likely to come under withering verbal assault.

He is teaching our children that the color of one’s skin does indeed supersede the content of one’s character. He is teaching them that there is a skin-color hierarchy in which whiteness is perched on top.

He is teaching the black and brown children that their citizenship and connection to this country is tenuous and fractional, not like white children.

He is teaching them that it is a perfectly normal to separate some children from their parents, put them in cages, and argue that they don’t need soap, or toothbrushes or have the lights turned off so that they can go to sleep.

He is teaching them to never acknowledge an error, that apologies are for suckers, that what’s right is whatever you say it is.

And, here’s the thing: The children growing up in enormous portions of American households accept, defend and even applaud Trump’s behavior. What lessons are those children absorbing? What behaviors will be modeled on Trump’s example?

In an ideal world public schools would be reinforcing the behaviors parents want to emphasize, things Charles Blow describes in his opening paragraphs:

We try to teach them to always tell the truth, to be kind and generous, to be brave enough to do the right thing even if others aren’t as brave.

We try to teach them empathy and compassion, that caring about the less fortunate betters society and is also self-edifying.

We teach them to have self-respect and to respect others. We teach them that everyone is equally worthy and valuable, no matter who they are, what they look like, how much or little they have or to which God they pray, if they pray at all.

We teach them to be gracious and thankful and not to brag or bully. Also, don’t lie, cheat or steal.

And public schools DO reinforce these behaviors in their conduct codes and in the expectations they have for student decorum. But the way we “measure” student and school performance makes the lessons more difficult. If a school or student is deemed “failing” and students are categorized based on their “ability” it sorts students and schools into pecking orders whereby groups are “superior” to others. We can never create a world where everyone is equal… but we can create a world where everyone has the same set of opportunities over time to master skills and learn about themselves. The best way public schools can teach children that “…everyone is equally worthy and valuable, no matter who they are, what they look like, how much or little they have ” is to set up a system based on that premise… and not a system where the children raised in affluence attend “high performing” schools and children raised in poverty attend “failing” schools.

What the SAT REALLY Measures

July 13, 2019 Comments off

This Vox video gives an excellent overview of the history of the SAT and concludes that the ultimate consequence is to serve as a sorting mechanism to reinforce the status quo in terms of economic inequality. It’s well worth the 8 minutes it takes to watch it!

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