Steven Wise is no friend of Education

Steven Wise is no friend of education

Let me tell you about the months of coloration and input on the bill that Wise seems so proud of. It was the equivalent of forcing a four year old who has no love for vegetables to choose between squash and lima beans. I use a four year old in my analogy because the legislature has chosen to treat teachers like children. These same teachers when testifying who were overwhelmingly against the bill were filed in one after another only to be dismissed while another NFOE Michelle Rhee was given rock star treatment. John Thrasher perhaps the biggest NFOE around even cut off testimony, saying how many times can I hear the same thing; so much for democracy at work.

Wise says people are against teachers having tenure, well I bet they are against teachers losing their right of due process, which is what they actually have even more. He says they are for merit pay, well who isn’t, except education isn’t as simple as, fire bad teachers reward excellent ones. Study after study has shown has shown merit pay based on standardized tests does not work. It rewards the luck of the teachers draw (who is in their classes) rather than the teacher’s ability to teach. Yet Wise would have you believe differently. Do we want education policies decided on what sounds good (FCAT anyone) or tried and true research. Who should be making decisions for what’s best for kids, teachers in classrooms and parents (most of whom are likewise against the bill) or politicians who have already meddled with public schools almost to death.

Friends don’t let slick packaging and a snake oil salesmen’s tongue convince you this bill is good for education and it’s doing teachers and children a favor. It’s not on both accounts. It’s another attempt by those who hate public education to further cripple public education.

I would say urge your representative to vote against this bill except it was a done deal, regardless of what Wise would have you believe, as soon as Rick Scott was elected, it would be pointless of me to do so. Instead I urge you to remember this day the next time you are in a voting booth. Then please vote what’s best for Florida’s children.

Chris Guerrieri

Social Media and Saving Florida

From Sunshine State News.com

by Kenric Ward

Inspired by large protests in Wisconsin, government workers are setting the social-media network aflame with plans for public demonstrations in Florida on March 8.

“Category 5 starting in Miami-Dade County and it will not stop!” Mike Medina, a member of the Miami police union, wrote on Facebook.

“March 8 Tallahassee — greet the governor and legislators on opening day to let them know that you will not stand for changing our laws in favor of special interests,” urged Paula House Eisenhart in another posting.

Teachers, government workers and a host of progressive-labor organizations are rallying under the banner of “Awake the State” in response to Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $5 billion in budget cuts and in advance of the Legislature convening next month.

State Rep. Mark Pafford, who posted on the “Awake the State” Facebook and Twitter pages, declared:

“This governor and the legislative majority want to use worker against worker to reduce their corporate labor costs. Now is the time for action — as a member of Florida’s Legislature, I need your help. I need to know the People are angry and are ready to make a very clear statement. We need to work together, now.”

Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, advises users of the Facebook site to “make sure you change your profile picture to get more people aware of ‘Awake The State’ … this page is the modern vehicle to ensure we maintain our constitutional right to gather — and make change.”

“Awake the State” is serving as a rallying site for Florida teachers, who are particularly concerned about the school budget.

A group called “Fund Education Now” announced it had collected 5,000 signatures against what it called “budget cuts.”

The Scott administration responds that state funding for K-12 education remains intact, but that the expiration of federal stimulus dollars in June will lead to an overall reduction in funds.

Meantime, county affiliates of the Florida Education Association are calling on teachers to e-mail and phone their local state legislators to oppose proposed reforms to the state retirement system.

A Senate committee is scheduled on Tuesday to hear Senate Bills 1128 and 1139, which would require public-sector workers, including teachers, to contribute to their pension funds and extend the retirement age.

To turn up the heat on the Legislature, “Awake the State” is pushing for a series of demonstrations on March 8, the opening day of the 2011 session. A la Madison, a major worker protest is being organized at the Capitol.

Organizers reportedly are aiming to bring 8,000 demonstrators to Tallahassee on March 8. Other groups that cannot make it to the capital that day are planning to hold rallies in their local communities.

Announced one Facebook posting: “March 8th in Florida, pick up a sign, stand tall for teachers, police, firefighters.”

Mary Ryals, an associate instructor of business communication at Florida State University, said, “You bet I’ll participate in the ‘Awake the State’ rally in Tallahassee on March 8.”

Ryals said that Florida’s public-sector workers, like those in Wisconsin, are anxious about changes to their pension and health-care programs.

Additionally, teachers expressed alarm over reports of a legislative proposal to discontinue automatic dues-withholding from instructors’ paychecks. They fear that move could be the leading edge of a broader assault on collective-bargaining rights.

The Florida Education Association did not respond to Sunshine State News’ request for comment.

Rep. Pafford related that the “Awake the State” page on Facebook garnered more than 2,000 “likes” from readers in its four days online. “It’s a great vehicle for people to get on the same page and organize,” he said, noting that some 60,000 people logged on amid the heated controversy of the SB 6 teacher-tenure bill last session.

The second-term lawmaker said social-media networks facilitate activism and grass-roots organization across the sprawling state when Tallahassee “gets sideways” on issues. That organizing potential isn’t lost on public-sector unions, which are brainstorming in advance of the Legislature’s opening day on March 8.

Nearly 100 self-proclaimed Florida progressives gathered in Orlando on Sunday to strategize on ways to combat the Republican reform agenda at the 2011 Legislature. One of the “LegiCamp” sessions was a tutorial on using Twitter for political organization.

Pafford speculated that much of the activity on March 8 will be local, perhaps in deference to the fact that it’s a workday and, for most students, a school day.

Any widespread absence by government workers and teachers has the potential to stir a backlash among the very public they hope to court. Indeed, raucous demonstrations by public-sector unions could well boomerang among taxpayers who feel that government spending is out of control.

“The unions are fine with redistribution of wealth as long as it is coming out of our pockets and going into theirs,” said Punta Gorda tea party leader Robin Stublen, who testified last week in favor of pension-reform legislation.

http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/social-media-explodes-florida-teacher-protest-chat

If Teachers Were Paid Like Babysitters…

Maybe that’s all teachers should be until society gets its priorities straight. -cpg

by sittercityspeaks

We came recently came across a blog by a soon-to-be first-year teacher who was making the point that, despite complaints to the contrary, teachers are NOT overpaid. (Not sure who he’s been talking to, since we rarely hear that claim!) Nonetheless, here’s what he says he would make if teachers were paid like babysitters.

He starts by saying that all of this will be based on the average babysitter rate of $5/hour.

Note: The national average for babysitting is actually $10-12/hour for college-age babysitters. Check out our Rate Calculator to get a much more specific idea about what babysitters in your neighborhood are actually making.

Teacher wage per hour: $5 per hour for each student.
Average number of students per class: 22.
Average number of hours per day a teacher works: 7 hours.
Average number of days per year a teacher works: 180.

Class, let’s pull out our calculators.

Remember this? The calculator from hell.

The blogger continues…

22 students at $5 per hour = $110 per hour.
$110 per hour multiplied 7 hours a day = $770 per day.
$770 per day multiplied 180 days a year = $138,600.

He also argues that on top of this, most teachers put in an extra “three to four hours a day preparing, assessing, tutoring and participating in extracurricular events to ensure the success of their students.” Based on that, plus the fact that the average rate of babysitters is around $10/hour, his calculator should actually be well more than doubled… in the high $300,000s.

How’s THAT for a starting salary?

http://blog.sittercity.com/2008/03/21/teachers_babysitters/

How I would save our schools

I write about education issues a lot but a recent commenter on my work said I am pretty good at pointing out things that were wrong but I am a little light on solutions. I thought I was pretty good at putting ideas out there but if they thought differently let me clear that up. This is how I would turn around the four struggling schools, Jackson, Ribault, Raines and North Shore K-8.

The first thing I would do is start a come home campaign. At a recent school board meeting Becki Couch said there were over 3000 students who could be attending those schools but who had chosen to go elsewhere. I would try and get those kids back and I would do so by convincing them and their families that those schools would become academically rigorous and safe schools to attend.

The next thing I would do is make those schools safe and academically rigorous schools to attend.

I would tell the teachers that I trusted them and end arbitrary amounts of students they could or could not fail. I would have them teach the material and make it rigorous, which would mean that if somebody passed their class it was because they earned it and not because a teacher gave them a grade or pushed them through. I would tell the teachers they could go as slow as they felt their kids needed, they could reteach if necessary and that the pacing guide was a suggestion, nobody was going to get in trouble for being more than five days behind. After a few weeks I would move kids around and have groups that were quickly moving through the material and groups that needed extra time.

Then at the same time I would make sure the teachers and students had good learn environments. Rudeness, disrespect and violations of the code of conduct would not be tolerated and consequences would be swift and strict. If you came to learn you would have nothing to be afraid of. If you came to cut up or steal learning time from your peers or teachers then you would have a tough time. The adults not the children would be running the schools.

I wouldn’t dismantle the staffs but in my system everybody would be teaching. Academic coaches would have nearly full loads and even assistant principals would be expected to teach a class too. It would be all hands on deck and this would stop admins and psuedo admins from losing touch with the jobs that teachers do. It would also help keep classes smaller and hopefully allow us to have some electives.

I would tell my teachers to be prepared to work long hours. However I am not worried about volumes of data notebooks, two-page lesson plans and complicated board configurations. Put up a daily agenda and then go. Spend the time you have been doing those things the last few years figuring out how to connect with the kids and keeping the families involved. I would want my principals and A.P.s in the classrooms looking for quality instruction not word walls.

Then not only would I instruct my teachers not to teach to the F-Cat but I would tell them not to even mention it. About a week before it was taken the principals could have an assembly to discuss it’s importance and that would be it.

That is how I would turn around those schools. With our current structure in place that is what I would do but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have a wish list too.

I would like the kids to have six one-hour periods a day, with no A/B block. 90 minutes is way to long for many of our kids and teachers. If the students had class everyday I believe the transfer of knowledge would happen quicker. With A/B blocks, weekends, holidays and absences can lead to four, five and sometimes six days between class meetings.

After the first nine weeks kids failing a class would be required, not asked if they wanted to, to stay after school for tutoring.

Every student would have at least one elective each day so they could have a safe spot in their schedule. I would want the schools at a minimum to have art, graphics, shop, home economics, music/band, and drama.

If some kids would not get with the program I would suspend them for five days at a time, which could be shortened if a parent would come and spend the day with their child going to their classes.

There would be a zero tolerance policy for fighting and bullying. Kids that did so would be sent to alternative schools.

I would ban cell phones and high heels because neither are necessary for learning.

I would like to have several different curriculums that serve more of the kids needs including a skills acquisition program for kids not interested in college who would like to learn a trade.

Real summer school classes not grade recovery would be offered, where kids could get extra help, get ahead or make up credits.

I would like to have social workers and mental health counselors on campus. The social workers could provide wrap around services and the counselors could try and get to the root of some of the kids problems. Why kids do poorly in school often has nothing to do with school.

I would have monthly meetings with the community and businesses to discuss education issues and get their input. I would look for internships and mentors under every rock.

These last few suggestions are outside of what we do now but would be helpful.

The Middle Class pays for Rick Scotts tax cuts

Have you noticed how the middle class is supposed to foot Rick Scotts cuts? -cpg

from the Miami Herald

BY DAVID SMILEY, KATHLEEN McGRORY, CARLI TEPROFF AND JULIE BROWN

Hal Krantz says it has been years since he brought home a pay raise. After 16 years of teaching, the married Coral Springs Middle School instructor with a daughter in college is struggling to stretch his salary while meeting the soaring costs of healthcare, food and other necessities.

Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to compel public employees like Krantz to kick in as much as 5 percent of their paychecks into their pensions is causing quite a bit of angst. This is particularly true of teachers, who traditionally earn modest salaries offset by a broad benefits package, but also state workers, many of whom have not received pay raises in years.

The proposal is included in the budget that Scott will unveil Monday at a rally of tea party supporters in the Lake County community of Eustis.

Employees say the pension measure is the equivalent of a pay cut.

“We give up so much because we love this profession,” said Krantz. `Now they are cutting even deeper into our pocket.”

Around the nation, governments are reeling from the poor economy and falling tax revenues. Supporters of Scott’s plan, which would affect not just state workers but school employees and many municipal workers in the state retirement system, say it’s imperative to change gears to keep the state and the pension fund solvent.

They note that for many in the private sector, salaries have fallen, jobs have grown scarce and traditional pensions have long since been replaced by 401(k) accounts that require workers to sock away money for their own retirement.

They point out that other states have already taken the step Scott is proposing. New York, for instance, requires employees to kick in 3 percent of their salary toward funding their pension for a period of 10 years.

Scott estimates it will save the state, which is facing a multibillion-dollar shortfall heading into the legislative session, $2.8 billion over two years.

“It’s only fair that if you’re going to have a pension plan, you’re going to do just like the private sector does,” Scott said.

Florida’s pension system is currently funded by state and local governments contributing the equivalent of between 9 and 10 percent of an employee’s income toward retirement. In the case of high-risk workers like police and firefighters, the percentage is higher.

Scott has talked of a 5 percent buy-in by employees — basically splitting the difference with the state.

How generous is a state pension?

For most employees, after 30 years on the job, the annual stipend is equal to 48 percent of the average of that employee’s highest five years of pay, according to the pension fund web site. The average recipient retires around age 60, at which point he or she can begin to collect.

There are currently 655,000 active members of the Florida Retirement System and another 304,000 retired workers receiving benefits. Up until now, those enrolled have not had to contribute any money to their plan.

“It’s a pretty radical thing when you start talking about taxing state workers 5 percent of their salary in one year, when the majority of state workers haven’t seen raises in five years,” said Daniel Reynolds, national president of the National Federation of Public and Private Employees.

“While we are all reading and hearing about pension reform proposals with great interest, we don’t know what is going to happen,” BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal wrote in an e-mail. BSO employees are in the state system, as are Miami-Dade police.

“Everybody is on edge right now,” said John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association.

Rivera predicted Scott’s plan, as well as the possibility that new hires could be forced to buy into a system resembling a 401(k), would make staffing the Miami-Dade Police Department problematic.

“They’re going to make an already impossible job that much more unattractive,” he said.

Some civil servants feel as though Scott’s proposal vilifies them.

“This whole issue gets to be a cruel myth blaming state employees for the budget deficit,” said Paul Hunt, a former Coral Gables social worker who retired in November after 17 years. “These are people who have worked honestly in the community, giving good service, and often taking lower wages now so they could retire with a sense of security.”

Broward Superintendent Jim Notter said the cuts would not only affect the district’s 15,500 teachers but cause more hardship for its lowest-paid employees, like bus drivers. “I believe in a time of economic crisis, it borders on insanity to further take money out of good employees’ pockets,” he said.

In Miami-Dade County, a first-year teacher earns $38,500; a 22-year veteran earns $68,225. For that starting teacher, the 5 percent contribution would be about $163 a month.

Unions have already vowed to fight the proposal, said United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz. “What Rick Scott is really saying is let them eat cat food.”

Miami Herald staff writer Laura Figueroa contributed to this report, which includes information from members of HeraldSource, part of the Public Insight Network. To learn more about the network or to join, visit MiamiHerald.com/insight.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/06/v-fullstory/2054211/battle-shaping-up-over-pension.html#ixzz1DK4SqAs9

Teaching as a Service Industry

From the Guardian.co.uk with a Nod to Mike Klonskys Small Talk Blog

by Paul Thomas

Management and labour are hurtling towards an impasse, and a work stoppage looms. Workers are seeking public support by emphasising the importance of benefits for workers, specifically longterm healthcare for conditions caused by the profession that do not appear until later in life.

This may sound for many like the possible scenario for a teachers’ strike, backed by a powerful teachers’ union. But if this were a teachers’ strike, in 2011, we could anticipate little support for those teachers – not least because of the propaganda created by Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for “Superman” and the rise of false prophets of education reform (Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee).

However, above, I am speaking about the possible NFL strike that hangs over this coming Super Bowl weekend: a struggle between billionaires and millionaires, which, indirectly, shines an important light on the rise of teacher and teacher union-bashing in the US. Adam Bessie, on Truthout, identifies how the myth of the bad teacher has evolved:

“In this political season of faux anti-establishment anger born of very real economic desperation, public educators have become the villain du jour, their reputations collateral damage in the war against ‘big government’. In a remarkable sleight of hand, the super rich who imploded the economy, manufacturing the recession which now enrages the public, have successfully misdirected the public’s justifiable anger away from them and toward teachers.”

While few people have begun to demonise and criticise either the billionaire owners or the millionaire players (represented by a union) in the NFL, the education reform landscape is built on a false premise – blaming teachers and unions for school failures – that lacks credibility and masks the overwhelming source of education failures: namely, poverty.

Ironically, the new push against teachers’ unions, cloaked in discourse about the damage done by “bad” teachers, comes from Democrats. For example, Arne Duncan, speaking on behalf of the Obama administration in Little Rock, Arkansas on 25 August 2010, focused on teacher quality:

“The big game-changer for us, however, in terms of both formula and competitive programmes, revolves around the issue of teacher quality … Nothing is more important and nothing has a greater impact on the quality of education than the quality and skill of the person standing in the front of the class – and there is so much that needs to change in the way that America recruits, trains, supports and manages our teachers.”

But the political attacks on teachers and unions, which come from both the left and the right, would likely not resonate as much as they have done, if it were not for the celebrity tour on the back of the documentary Waiting for “Superman”, whose message has been perpetuated by celebrity reformers. Two of those, Bill Gates and Geoffrey Canada, share an entrepreneur status that suggests expertise on everything simply because they are wealthy. (Possibly, also, this is what protects NFL owners and players from social ridicule in their fight.)

Both Gates and Canada also use compliant media adroitly to promote their unsupported claims. Canada appeared on the Colbert Report as part of his tour, specifically reinforcing the idea that teacher accountability is central to school reform. “We’ve got to hold the adults responsible … We’ve allowed our schools to fail these kids with no consequences,” Canada told Colbert’s audience.

Gates, again due to his incredible wealth and corporate success, commands media attention – media that rarely question his claims. Take, for example, the Newsweek interview by Daniel Lyons with Gates and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. While the entire interview perpetuates misunderstanding about education reform, the focus on teacher quality and the role of unions exemplifies the claims of the new reformers – even as it exposes those claims’ lack of credibility.

In August of 2010, the attack on teacher professionalism was intensified when the Los Angeles Times published teacher quality analyses based on value-added methods (VAM). The charges against teacher quality and teachers’ unions elicited several stringent rejections (here, here, and here), but most challenges came from educators themselves – and, of course, received little media coverage when compared to the attention lavished on Gates, Rhee and Canada.

The message has solidified: US public schools are failures because we have too many bad teachers, and we have too many bad teachers because teachers’ unions use their excessive power to keep bad teachers in jobs. But it doesn’t end there.

By October 2010, the narrative developed further, to take in that our teaching core is weak because “[c]ountries with the best-performing school systems largely recruit teachers from the top third of high school and college graduates, while the United States has difficulty attracting its top students to the profession, a new report finds.” The formula was growing complex, but there was a pattern to the proposed solutions: usurp teachers’ union control and fire bad teachers; then restock the depleted teacher core with recruits from among top US students.

Ultimately, this PR campaign by corporate and political leaders has been effective, even if it remains inaccurate. Teacher quality represents only a small percentage of achievement, and there is little evidence that teacher quality is the greatest issue, or even one of the main problems, facing student achievement in public schools.

A provable problem with teacher quality, however, is teacher assignment. Peske and Haycock show that students in poverty, students of colour and ELL students are in classrooms with the least experienced teachers, who are often uncertified or underqualified. Of course, teacher quality does matter in terms of what happens once students are within the walls of schools, but we seem blind to the longstanding tradition of assigning the most experienced and best-qualified teachers to the elite students, who already experience major advantages in their lives outside of school.

That the evidence-based inequity of teacher assignment is ignored, while the myth of the bad teacher is perpetuated, is evidence of the motivation behind the new reformers – an unspoken commitment to the status quo of this social inequity that benefits the very people so keen to lay charges against teachers and unions. And the rants against unions are just as suspect as the claims that bad teachers are crippling schools. Two examples expose the flaws in union-bashing.

First, the new reformers hold up Finland as the model for education reform – while failing to identify two crucial facts: that Finland has low childhood poverty (about 3-4%, compared to over 20% in the US) and that Finland’s teachers are nearly 100% unionised. Consider, also, South Carolina, a high-poverty state with a reputation for having a weak education system. South Carolina joined the accountability era at the beginning, taking “A Nation at Risk” seriously and creating standards, testing and accountability in 1984. Despite nearly three decades of precisely the process supported by the new reformers, South Carolina finds itself still ranking at the bottom of education in the US. The real dynamic here is that South Carolina remains a high-poverty state – the true cause of low test scores – and also that South Carolina is a non-union state, with no union contracts for teachers and no tenure.

Now, let’s step back from all the separate but overlapping claims about teachers, teacher quality and teachers unions. If we look at them together, we discover that two powerful yet contradictory messages exist in the larger public discourse promoted by the new reformers: contradictory messages that allow one message to mask the other. Political and corporate leaders seek to speak about teaching as if it is a profession, while expecting those professionals to function as a service industry. The narratives offered by Obama and Duncan, Waiting for “Superman” and organisations such as Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and Teach for America argue for the best and the brightest to implement mandated, common core standards, so that their students can take national tests for which those teachers will be held accountable. And all that while teachers are required to waive their first amendment rights, right to due process, and work for salaries that are less than a regular NFL fine.

Beneath the political and corporate veneer espousing teaching as a profession lurks a simple fact: the corporate and political elite wants teaching to be a service industry. Worse yet, they have their wish, because teaching is now a service industry, ultimately devoted to perpetuating an economic system based on social inequity and a venal consumer culture.

So, let’s return to the NFL dispute. Corporate, political and public sentiment is against teachers’ unions, framing unions as the source of all that ails public education; this narrative now holds firm. But virtually no one has cried foul when it comes to the unionised labour struggle of millionaire NFL players pitted against billionaire team owners. This may seem contradictory, but I believe it is not.

Corporate America benefits from the NFL thriving and from the de-professionalising of teaching – regardless of the union element. Outcries about bad teachers and corrupt teachers’ unions are not about educational reform, but about guaranteeing that teaching will become permanently a service industry in which schools are reduced to the sole purpose of producing compliant workers.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/04/usdomesticpolicy-schools

Blog monitored by thought police

Disclaimer, sometimes my stories are almagamations of things that happen to me and my peers, the blog mentioned below is an example. Does this mean I have a fan at the school board buildin? -cpg

Regarding your blog dated January 9, 2011, titled “My 19 year old sophomore says, Jail is Cool”, I am writing to remind you that school employees may not disclose “personally identifiable student information” regarding students without the written consent of the student’s parent (or the student once he/she turns 18). Under FERPA, personally identifiable student information includes any information that either alone, or in combination, is linkable to a specific student that would allow a person to identify the student.

I write simply to remind you of this requirement. I will be out of the office beginning tomorrow through Monday, however if you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact me next week. Thanks.

Sonita Young
Executive Director, Policy and Compliance
Duval County Public Schools

My response:

Thanks for the heads up but just so you know it was actually (as often my blogs are) an amalgamation of experiences I and my peers have had throughout the years and wasn’t describing any student in particular.

Do you think I should put a disclaimer on it or other blogs where I talk about the trials and tribulations of teachers and students? let me know what you think and thanks for looking out for me.

Chris

The Juggernaught, corporate America’s take over of education

From the Washington Posts Answer Sheet

By Marion Brady

“Juggernaut.”

Picture a huge, ancient chariot being pulled through narrow city streets, carrying a crude idol of a god. So massive is the chariot, citizens are crushed under its wooden wheels.

The current education-change experiment, begun in the 1980s at the urging of corporate America, is a juggernaut. The god it carries is The Standardized Test.

On board the chariot, surrounding the god and enthusiastically waving the standards and accountability banner, are the president of the United States; the secretary of education; nearly all the governors of the 50 states; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Business Roundtable; the Gates, Broad, and Walton foundations; hedge fund managers; publishers of test and test prep materials; a few big-city mayors; and celebrities such as Michelle Rhee, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeb Bush.

The chariot riders , true believers, take it for granted that learning isn’t a natural act, that it happens only under threat, and that high-stakes, standardized tests provide that necessary threat. Their money, name recognition, political power, public relations skills, and easy access to the mainstream media, are used to steadily increase the number of worshipers of the Standardized Test God.

But the chariot has stalled, so questions must be asked.

And of those questions, the most important one for America is this: Can standardized tests measure “higher order” thinking skills—measure not merely memory of something read or heard, but measure student ability to infer, categorize, hypothesize, generalize, synthesize, value, create, and so on?

In short, can machine-scored test questions attach useful, meaningful numbers or letter grades indicating the quality of the complex thought processes upon which our survival and success depend?

Most educators say “No.”

But federal education policymakers say “Yes,” and have handed near-absolute power to the Standardized Test God. It’s fair, then, to ask them to explain and defend their action to educators whose agreement and cooperation they need if the chariot is to move on.

Establishing a reasonable schedule for a public exchange of views on the issue is appropriate and necessary. Here’s how that can be made to happen:

For four days, between July 28 —31, anti-standardized test educators from across America will meet in Washington, D.C. to stage a protest.

At least two weeks before they arrive, the U.S. Department of Education should post ten illustrative or model questions on its website, two each for five different “higher order” thought processes of their choosing. The ten questions, when answered, will produce numbers that compare a particular test-taker’s performance with that of all others answering the question dealing with that particular thinking skill.

On the website, following each question, provision should be made for dialogue—for a conversation between experienced educators and policymakers in Washington.

To set wise policy, out of that dialog must come a clear answer. Can machine-scored standardized tests measure human thought processes precisely enough to allow standardized tests to shape America’s future ? Yes, or no?

The ten model questions posted by the USDOE should meet two criteria.

First, they must be 100 % machine scoreable and reliable. This is essential, for sooner or later, taxpayers will want to know why they’re paying billions of dollars to corporations to score single examples of school work (work taxpayers will rarely or never see), when those same taxpayers have already paid teachers to score a far richer and more visible stream of work?

Second, each USDOE sample questions must yield a useful, meaningful score. It must say, for example, that in a practical, real-world situation—a situation familiar to the test taker—the test-taker-taker’s inference, hypothesis, generalization, value judgment or other complex thought process deserves an “8” rather than a “7,” a “9,” or some other score.

At a meeting I attended on Aug. 2, 2008, in Titusville, Florida, prior to his election, President Obama recognized me, asked about my more than five decades of teaching experience, and accepted my question about his future administration’s openness to the input of experienced educators on matters of education policy.

To his credit, he didn’t promise me that such would be the case; his answer came later when, to the great disappointment of many educators, he chose the cliché-prone Arne Duncan to head the Department of Education.

After the election, in a much smaller meeting with Secretary Duncan near Orlando, Florida, my raised hand went unacknowledged, but the secretary said that, although present standardized tests were flawed and in need of major improvement, there would be more of them.

Any trace of logic in that policy escapes me. Why are billions of dollars being spent to buy and administer tests the Secretary admits are flawed? What purpose is served by numbers and rankings that yield no reliable, useful information?

I agree with the late, highly respected paleontologist, biologist and historian Stephen Jay Gould who near the end of his book, “The Mismeasure of Man,” summed up what everyone who’s given more than a moment’s thought to the matter knows: “Human uniqueness lies in the flexibility of what our brains can do. What is intelligence, if not the ability to face problems in an unprogrammed manner?”

The situation calls for action. Now. Students, strongly supported by their teachers, parents, grandparents, and all others who care about the future of education and America, should join The Bartleby Project initiated in 2008 by John Taylor Gatto.

Serious students, strongly supported by their teachers, parents, grandparents, and all others who care about the human condition, should join the Bartleby Project initiated in 2008 by John Taylor Gatto.

In an afterward to his book, “Weapons of Mass Instruction,” Gatto invites readers to join him in what he calls “an open conspiracy” to destroy the standardized testing industry.

If destroying the standardized testing industry sounds like an extreme action, you don’t understand the problem.

Gatto’s argument can be accessed at: http://www.newsociety.com/titleimages/TI004012_OI001098_23.pdf

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http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/the-bartleby-project.html

What if Doctors were treated like Teachers

From the Huffington Post

by Shaun Johnson

A good friend and colleague who is now in Chicago first gifted me with this parable. It’s been in my thoughts lately as my wife pursues her medical degree. In fact, she and I have talked about this at length, and when making comparisons between how physicians and teachers are treated, she is just as astounded.

Parallels are occasionally noted between medical training and education, especially the capstone clinical experiences present in both professions. Let us pretend that physicians of all specialties were held to similar measures of accountability and enveloped with the same kinds of discourses that we see in education reform debates. What might that look like, and how would the general public, in addition to doctors, feel about that?

It would not take a skilled social scientist to observe that, despite exceptional achievements in treating disease and diagnostic technologies, for example, the medical profession is failing. It has failed in its tasks to disseminate good information about health, quash misconceptions, fight corporations and health lobbies that keep people sick, and prevent high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, particularly in low-income populations. What do we do about this? Well, I have a few proposals listed in no particular order:

•We must begin to hold all physicians accountable, regardless of specialization, to certain quantifiable measures of health, namely cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight, and BMI. All patients assigned to a physician must meet specific annual minimum standards of health. Bad doctors will be those who do not meet their patients’ annual minimums, and they may be subject to certain penalties if the health scores of their patients do not improve in a reasonable amount of time.

•It will be mandatory for the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as all of the major governing bodies in medicine, to set a goal for reaching universal health and well-being in the United States. That is, a target year will be identified in which every person will achieve the ideal values in cholesterol, blood pressure, and BMI. Future targets may include assessments of mental health. A specific interval of time will also be determined to assess all patients for these values. Although pharmaceuticals may be used to stabilize or improve health outcomes, the patient must not be on any medications at the time of assessment unless approved by an official of the administrative body of the national health assessments.

•Quantifiable variables will be utilized to evaluate all practices and hospitals. All of this information will be made public. Additionally, medical schools will be evaluated based on the quantifiable health of patients in the care of their graduates. Medical schools will subsequently be ranked based on the health outcomes of their graduates’ patients regardless of specialty. Given more advanced statistical models, these numbers could ultimately be used to assess the impact of pre-medical programs at the undergraduate level.

•In certain high needs areas, such as family practice, emergency medicine, or in practices in low income areas, alternative routes to being licensed will be provided. Moreover, data will determine what skills are necessary to impart in the curriculum of such programs. For instance, if a certain community prevails in specific medical conditions over others, then time will not be wasted covering rare conditions so that alternative programs can operate expeditiously.

•Barriers to participation will be lowered in certain instances, in the form of direct subsidies or significant tax exemptions, for the opening of small hospitals or short-term care centers by private organizations or motivated members of the community.

•Any hospital or practice is subject to a turnaround plan if minimum health requirements are not met. Should the facility not meet those requirements of minimum annual health, the entire staff will be terminated and reconstituted with more competent practitioners. Moreover, staff may be required to enroll in continuing medical education in advanced and remedial level re-licensing courses, including basic physics, chemistry, and biology.

•In addition to in- or out-of-network information and basic demographics, an online data warehouse will be established that will provide all health data and outcomes for every licensed physician in the United States, regardless of specialty. The individual physician’s education, license information, and health outcomes of patients will be listed. Should in-network physicians be deemed unfit for local health care consumers, the Federal government, with matching funds by health providers, will offer subsidies for consumers to see other practitioners.

•Finally, a certain percentage of any and all physicians’ patients will be assigned to them, care of those who qualify will be fully covered by providers. This will ensure adequate racial, income, and overall demographic diversity of clientele. The annual minimum health outcome data of these patients will also be included in the physician’s overall quality.

Did I miss any? What if we indeed held doctors and other professionals to the same bloat and condescension that we currently hold teachers? I can predict some of the responses that physicians might make: “We can’t control what our patients do or eat outside of our offices to maintain minimum levels of health. Also, these variables — BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure — are limited and don’t adequately measure a healthy person. And one other thing, you can’t expect us to be evaluated based on all patients equally, regardless of family history, poverty, and other complications.” As an educator, my sentiments exactly!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shaun-johnson/treating-doctors-like-teachers_b_812096.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=ge

Just what direction is the system moving in?

The system is moving in the right direction, Professor James Crooks wrote in the Folio Weekly about our school system because of reports that our graduation rates were improving and that the district has reported a decrease in discipline problems. The good professor however left out a couple of important things.

First there is the fact that the formula for graduation rates was dramatically changed recently, which led to our bump. It gets worse than that however. I have six kids in my classes who I have never met and despite me reporting them to the attendance team several times they have yet to be withdrawn, extrapolate that county wide and that could be thousands of kids who have effectively dropped out but have stayed on our rolls. Nor does he mention the loophole that prevents kids who enter adult education classes (GED, etc.) from being withdrawn, which probably counts for about a five percent improvement in out rates.
(http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2010/12/is-duval-countys-graduation-rate.html)

His claim that discipline has improved is also laughable. He failed to mention how the average teacher (probably because he doesn’t know any) would completely disagree with the statement that discipline has greatly improved. However what has improved is teachers ignoring bad behavior and enduring toxic learning environments. It’s common for administrators to “with quote marks” say, if a teacher writes to many referrals, his or her evaluation, performance pay and even job can be in jeopardy.

Professor Crooks with all due respect in the future when you write about Jacksonville why don’t you stick with the climate, the golf courses or special neighborhoods like Fernandina Beach or Avondale because you obviously have no idea what is happening in our schools and when you regurgitate statistics issued by self serving parties you do our city and it’s children a disservice.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher