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Posts Tagged ‘Testing’

A ROUGH DRAFT FOR HS REFORM I: Blow Up High School by Offering Vouchers for Students…

May 26, 2020 Leave a comment

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden lately, and in doing so am spending a lot of time mulling over how to take advantage of the pandemic crisis to introduce some new ways of doing high school. Based on my personal and professional experience high schools are the worst part of the education system in our country. Here’s why:

  • TRACKING: High School drives the final nail into the equity coffin by segregating students into tracks based on how rapidly they’ve learned up to the point they enter ninth grade and how much control their parents wield.
  • COLLEGE OVER-VALUED: Students who aspire to college get 90% of the attention and time of guidance counselors and teachers because guidance counselors and teachers know how college works and see it as the only way to attain economic well-being.
  • CONTENT OVER-VALUED: There is an aphorism that elementary teachers teach children and secondary teachers teach subjects…. and high schools are set up to reinforce that aphorism. It is unrealistic for a high school teacher to know and care about the lives of 100+ students assigned to them in 4-5 classes but completely realistic for them to be well-versed in one subject area that they can teach to students and assess their progress using some kind of “objective test” that can be rapidly graded. This emphasis on content, in turn, can lead to a siloing whereby no single teacher gets to know and care about an individual student. And the cult of AP testing only exacerbates this emphasis on content over character development.
  • SOCIAL SKILLS UNDER-VALUED: Working on teams, getting along with people from other socio-economic, racial, and ethic groups, and developing healthy relationships with individuals are all part of the hidden curriculum in high schools… but, in many (if not most) cases, high schools are reinforcing tribalism instead of harmony.
  • PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE UNDER-VALUED: There is a premium on the development of abstract skills like the ability to solve complex quadratic equations but no value placed on the ability to put together a nutritious meal from left-overs, to develop and manage a budget, or to complete the paperwork needed to buy a house, start a small business, or apply on-line for a job.

Here’s a solution to all of this: end high school once students pass a basic competency test and give them a voucher for education four the next four years or until the age of 20, whichever comes first. The competency test would be initially administered when teachers certify the student is ready, which ideally would be before the student’s 16ht birthday. The competency test would include:

  • The US Citizenship test: Clearly every graduate should know how the government works if they are to vote intelligently.
  • A Consumer Awareness test: A “consumer awareness” test could be developed by ETS– who would be happy to have a new assessment to replace the SAT which is being phased out. This test would help avoid the debt trap that currently ensnares millions in our country.
  • A Health and Nutrition test: Public schools ostensibly educate students about nutrition and health through the school lunch program and various mandated health courses but there are no high stakes tests associated with either area.

By giving STUDENTS the funds to pursue more education it will emphasize the importance of making prudent financial decisions and underscore the importance of developing a transition plan to go from a world where every hour is scheduled by adults to a world where the student is a self-regulated adult.

Two more elements of the blown up HS will follow in future posts:

  • Mandatory Community Service
  • The Development of a Individualized Post-Graduate Work Plan which includes a personal budget

Covid-19 Positive Consequence: NYC “Elite” High Schools Cannot Use Screens

May 25, 2020 Leave a comment

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This NYDaily News op ed piece by three social justice advocates describes one of the positive consequences of the pandemic: NY high schools will need to revamp their admissions criteria. Because schools were closed from March 15 onward and the Regents and other standardized tests were cancelled, all of the traditional means of selecting students for the elite high schools in the city will not be available for next years eighth grade students. This provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the current criteria in a fashion that will eliminate the de facto economic and racial segregation that results from the use of tests as the primary metric for admission. As the writers describe, such a change would benefit all high schools:

Reforming and eventually eliminating screened school admissions would do more than fix a deeply inequitable process. It would also improve student and school performance. While the evidence on peer effects and tracking is mixed, research generally finds that middle- and low-performing students benefit from learning with higher-achieving students. Siphoning the highest-achieving students into selective programs limits these interactions and draws resources — high-quality teachers and honors courses, for example — away from regular schools. What is more, as some evidence has shown, racially and economically diverse classroom settings benefit all students and reflect our country’s democratic values.

Change of this magnitude seemed politically impossible six months ago… but after the pandemic many ideas that seemed impossible are now being examined as realistic alternatives to the dominant paradigm.

Bill Frist’s Empty Platitudes Provide Pablum Where Protein is Needed

May 19, 2020 Leave a comment

The Hill provided former Tennessee Senator Bill Frist with a forum to offer his insights on how to solve the exceedingly thorny issue of how to improve public schools in the wake of the pandemic. Alas, instead of offering a specific prescription, Dr. Frist offered up a long list of platitudes that would sound good in a stump speech but cannot be translated into action. He echoed the call for universal high speed internet, decried the impact of the economic divide on student performance, and called for more vocational programs that prepare students for entry into high paying work…. all items that are on every voters (and every union leader’s) checklist. And how will this be achieved?

This crisis will exacerbate the many ongoing education policies and funding debates among adults. The economic recession will likely demand deep cuts in state and local budgets. Policymakers may be tempted to underfund or alter education policies that have helped advance student achievement. That would be a mistake. In our polling we found voters want policymakers to prioritize and protect education investments, especially teacher pay.

Policymakers and local leaders also should resist rolling back structural reforms, like annual assessments, school accountability, and curricular reform that have helped improve student outcomes. To provide students with the best support and know what they have learned, we need to protect assessments to quickly measure learning loss and create personalized learning plans for students. Transparency about school quality and student readiness remain critical.

The bedrock promise of public education is that all students have access to an excellent education. Our work and investments need to support that mission, regardless of whether they adhere to the contours of a pre-COVID world.

From the sound of things in these closing paragraphs it will take less money, higher teacher pay, and more tests… two “ideas” that are mutually exclusive (lower budgets and higher pay) and one that has NOT proven to be helpful in addressing the divide in student performance (testing). The post-pandemic public schools cannot look or operate the same as the “normal” pre-pandemic schools because they are going to be required to adhere to medical guidelines and budgets that make such a thing impossible. The time for TRUE reform is now. Dr. Frist’s pablum is not helpful.

College Board’s Preposterous Solution to Online AP Testing Equity

May 18, 2020 Leave a comment

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A NYC charter school teacher describes the predicament facing one of her hardworking AP English students that is a proxy for a host of problems students like her face repeatedly throughout their lives. It seems that this star pupil’s free 60 day internet service is going to come to an end before the administration of the AP tests she has worked all year to prepare for. Seeing this problem, the teacher called the College Board to see if they would help find away to help. Their solution? Go to a McDonalds parking lot to take the test!

The teacher bemoaned the College Board’s intractability on this issue… but this is just another example of how intractable rules have impacted immigrant students like the one the teacher profiled, including the possibility that DACA, the one HELPFUL rule that would open the door to citizenship for this hardworking and academically talented student, might be thrown out by the SCOTUS.

“Maslow Not Bloom” Captures Conflicting Views for Future of Public Schools

May 17, 2020 Leave a comment

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The New York Daily News published an op ed article written by four NYS teachers of the year who want to make it clear to readers that technology IS beneficial to teachers but it is no substitute for what a human teacher can provide. In an early paragraph in the article the teachers offer a phrase that captures the ongoing conflict regarding the purpose of school: Maslow vs. Bloom. As one who views the world in a wholistic fashion I would find myself on the Maslow side of this spectrum, which is where these teachers land. Given the announced appointees to Governor Cuomo’s task force for the future of public schools, it appears that the Bloom adherents will have a much stronger voice. The teachers, though, are urging a different perspective, one based on developing self-actualized learners:

To teach our students those kinds of skills, we recognize we can’t do it alone. We need more counselors and psychologists to help students address the stresses and pressures they bring with them to class. We need smaller class sizes. And if we are to use this opportunity to learn a lesson about how we can improve the way we deliver instruction digitally, we need to ensure there is equity in access to technology both at school and at home.

The biggest challenge of course is that these things cost money, and every school district across the state is now bracing to make cuts, not new investments. If there ever were a time for federal and state policymakers to deliver for schools, it’s now.

These four teachers want to be certain the future is not algorithmic but rather humanistic. Computers can provide a Bloom education much more inexpensively… but I hope the public wants more than automatons who can respond to computer generated prompts.

Axios Assessment of Pandemic Impact and Potential Changes is Thoughtful and On Target

May 10, 2020 Comments off

Axios writers Kim Hart and Alison Snyder assessment of the impact of the pandemic on public education and the possible changes is thoughtful and on target. Hot and Snyder force the possibility of major changes given the findings of a recent survey conducted by the National Parents union indicate that “32% of parents want schools to revert to the way things were before the pandemic began” and an astonishing “61% said schools should focus on rethinking how to educate students and should come up with new teaching methods as a result of the COVID-19 crisis”. That astonishing opportunity cannot be wasted! The article then highlights four broad changes that “experts” foresee:

  • A redefinition of assessment, moving away from standardized tests and toward mastery learning
  • More power in the hands of students and parents, as they realize that aspiring to college may not be the best direction for all children. At the same time, public schools are seeking input from parents on what schools should look like when they DO reopen.
  • More personalization, meaning using CAI to pace student learning and the curriculum itself as opposed to relying on a fixed curriculum
  • A deeper appreciation of the inequities that exist, which Hart and Snyder note are not limited to internet access but also include “the availability of a parent to steer at-home learning“.

Each of these changes are interconnected and, if taken together, would move schools away from the outdated factory model that persisted for nearly a century. There is, however, one caveat that Hart and Snyder do not downplay:

Despite the opportunities to make changes, there will be a strong pull toward the status quo because people are longing for a return to pre-pandemic life, especially for parents of K-12 students.

And they followed this caveat with this quote from Todd Rose of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and co-founder of Populace, a think tank: “People are craving normalcy — the last thing they want is disruption even if that would be good for them.”

As noted in many earlier posts, normalcy is undesirable in the case of public education and unattainable in the future given the fiscal and medical challenges schools will face. Here’s hoping the changes Mss. Hart and Snyder describe come to pass.

Peter Greene on Why Bill Gates is a Very Bad Choice to Help NYS Schools

May 9, 2020 Comments off

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Education writer and public school teacher Peter Greene offers a clear eyed and objective analysis of Bill Gates’ failures as a school reformer. He cites several major flops, all of which have been detailed in this blog over the years: the small schools initiative: a VAM initiative in FL; several tech-based initiatives; and the Common Core. But Mr. Greene rightfully identifies Bill Gates’ biggest failure in this single sentence near the end of the article:

It’s not quite correct to say that Gates has always failed in his educational projects; he has managed to infect much of the education establishment with his belief in a narrow definition of success and a thirst for “data.”

Bill Gates’ Foundation has done good work on many fronts, particularly in the field of international public health. But after reading Peter Greene’s analysis one wonders why Governor Cuomo is making him the face of his Redesign Team… that is unless the team intends to use some form of standardized testing to determine the success of students on a structured curriculum that avoids the inclusion of any content that cannot readily yield data.