Friday, March 30, 2012

Spread the Word!

The following links will guide readers to some of the best resistance on the 'Net  to the new "reforms" our corporate-sponsored government is pushing.  Print a copy out and place them in the teacher's lounge, work room, or wherever messages are posted. Share them through emails or post links to them on your Facebook account as well.  Keep spreading the word.

If you have a Facebook account,  you could join one or all these groups: 
Children are more than test scores , Testing hurts kids  , or  Dump Duncan.  If you don't have a Facebook account, it might be worth opening one up solely to join these groups.  These groups are growing stronger exponentially through word of mouth, being sought out, and necessity.

The Pattern on the Rug
I find this article the definitive answer to "What's happening in education?"  If you read my article, Culture Change or Paradigm Shift, this is Ravitch's stronger, more universal perspective on where education will head without increasing opposition and change.

This is a must see! Empirical evidence that standardized testing is harmful to creativity, students' ability to problem solve, and why studying to "pass the test" is detrimental to learning.  Same case could be made for why all the incentivized teacher evaluations are creating worsening conditions in schools.  

If you only have 4 minutes, be sure to watch minutes from 1:40 to 4:40, then 9:30 - 10:00.
Sign up here as a statement against the direction government is heading.

Here's an excellent article to copy and put in the teacher's lounge:
Why Kids Hate School “While early formal instruction may appear to show good test results at first, in the long term, in follow-up studies, such children have had no advantage. On the contrary, especially in the case of boys, subjection to early formal instruction increases their tendency to distance themselves from the goals of schools, and to drop out of it, either mentally or physically.” —Lilian G. Katz, Professor Emeritus, U. of Illinois

Wait!  There's more good stuff!  Click the link below to continue the article.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why Union?

Arrived home from school yesterday and like many days, it was later than I had planned or hoped.  A pile of laundry awaited, as did fixing supper.  Besides hoping to get in some quality time with family, I wondered if I'd have the energy late that night to dive into the large stack of neglected papers needing graded.

No wonder when I grabbed the mail I sorted out the essential and threw a credit card offer and this flyer right in the trash.

But lately I have made the choice to actively stand for education. I dug this flyer back out.  After I read it, I wrote Mr. Leonard something to this effect:

Dear Mr. Leonard, 
I received your flyer in the mail today. Your flyer said you are... 
WORKING FOR TAXPAYERS...I'm projected to get a $50 refund next year.  Great.  If your projection holds true, it will help compensate for disallowing me my tax credit for classroom expenses you took away in 2011.   
WORKING FOR STUDENTS...  Hardly. Over the last four years, Governor Daniels, Tony Bennett, and you have dismantled public education and waged war on students' progress through harmful standardized testing and accountability practices for students.  Have you read any research about this? I implore you to do so. would be a good place to begin. 
(For those of you reading this thinking education was failing and we needed politicians to step in, that is just another lie these politicians are selling you.  On those so-called world tests, U.S. students living in middle income stable homes score at the top of the list. Our overall scores are low because the United States has the highest ratio of children living in poverty of any industrialized nation. Our government is failing children, not public schools.) 
WORKING FOR TEACHERS...  As a teacher, I am absolutely offended by the brashness of this statement.   Suffice it to say, Governor Daniels, Tony Bennett, and you have pushed education 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Teaching students how to think and essential skills is much harder and less rewarding due to your mandates.  I won't even get in to Right to Work legislation or the fact I have lost about 20% of my wages recently. 
WORKING FOR VICTIMS...  The stage collapse was a tragedy. How were you negligible for this?  Doesn't matter.  It makes a nice headline for your flyer. 
Mr. Leonard, instead of posting half truths and deceitful statements on this flyer (Does my tax dollars pay for this?) the least you could do is post the ONE real truth: 


Flyers like the one above are why unions are needed again as much now as they were when they first became active. With the weak-minded, the gullible, and the ignorant so easily persuaded by the misrepresentations of the assumed authority, it will take the collective, reasoned voice of a large group to make positive change.

While we teachers fight the battle of public education in the classroom, we need the union representatives monitoring Mr. Leonard's Indiana Legislature and fighting for us.

Finally, while union reps fight for us at the state level, the union can truly only be as effective as the activeness of the union members themselves. I used to ask myself, "What has the union done for me?"  The new question I ask myself is, "What am I doing to help the union?"  When I ask that question, "union" means my fellow workers.   I hope you will join us by being active.  Click on the flyer above.  Copy down the email address, and let Mr. Leonard know if he's working for you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Perils of Obedience

Sitting at my desk an hour after the students have all filed out.  Considering doing what the state and our administration are asking me to do and what I really want to do to help my students.  A red binder sits in front of me listing hours of documents I need to complete proving I have reached a "Level 3" proficiency. These things I will need to show my principal in order to get a good review; stakeholder matrices, dashboards, and other meaningless items.  Or, I need to enter yet another batch of data into Pearson Inform.  Data that is repetitive, superfluous, and will never be used.

I'm considering reteaching a skill to some students who need a second chance, but the black binder points out I am already behind our corporation's curriculum mapping pace and cannot take time to reteach.  I must stick to the map.  Teach them. Test them. Fail them. Move them on.

A video I hadn't seen in years kept playing through my mind; The Milgram Experiment, it was called. Volunteers participated in an experiment they thought was to find out if pain can motivate learning.  In it, an official experimenter (E) orders a teacher (T) to give a shock to a learner (L) for incorrect responses.  The teacher is a volunteer who believes he is shocking the other volunteer, though in actuality, no shocks were given. The learner is actually an actor behind a wall pretending to be in pain.

As wrong answers continue, the shock increases in intensity until the learner begs to be released.  Finally, after severe shocks, the learner become silent, presumably unconscious.

Milgram polled students and colleagues, "What percentage of 'teachers' will shock the learner with the maximum 450 volts, even though the learner has begged the teacher to stop?"  Their estimate averaged 1.2%.

In repeated trials, teachers shocked learners with the massive blast 60 to 65% of the time.

Milgram's true purpose was to test the "teacher". When faced to obey an authority figure whose directives conflicted with their conscience, what would people do? Milgram had this to say about the results of the experiment:
"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.  Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."
 And so it goes in education today.

I have the tools of the destructive process on my desk. No wonder I am stressed and  demoralized.

Am I to be the state's agent?  No way.  But unlike the experiment, I cannot get up and simply walk away.  Instead, I wrote this down.  And now I share it with you.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Two Quotes for HCCSC Teachers


“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”

Howard ZINN

"Civil disobedience. . . is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. 

Crawling the Web March 25th

Real reform in this area would involve creating small enough classes that allow teachers to forge relationships with their students’ families and share actual examples of student work, and giving families the time and tools they need to actually make sense of their individual student’s strengths and needs– rather than faulty graphs and percentages that mislead (or even intimidate) credulous parents into a certain course of action (or, more likely, inaction).
"An 18 year-old special needs child (but someone who still apparently had to pass one of the January tests) just kept looking at the test and putting his head on the desk. (My husband was a proctor in the room.) The student asked his teacher (a new teacher of 2 years), "Miss XXXXX - am I stupid?"" 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crawling Around the Web

I've labored the last few weeks writing articles about local issues for Huntington teachers to consider.  This morning I waited out a little rain by browsing the web. I barely got around the fringes before I realized nearly everything I have written has already been written.  In many instances, these ideas have been written, well-written, many times already.  

It's a great big world out there. Honestly, sometimes changes come a little slower in small rural towns.  It is comforting and encouraging to read that others have already been fighting where we are now headed.

Save money by eliminating useless testing

School board sends state legislature resolution to dump flawed state system:  (Let's vote in a school board this fall bold enough to do the right thing!)

Why are we suddenly so interested in teacher evaluation?

It is because of the belief that poor teaching is the reason American schools are failing. The perception that our schools are failing, however, is based only on American students’ international test scores. Rarely mentioned is the finding that middle-class American students in well-funded schools score at the top of the world on these tests; our overall scores are unspectacular because we have the highest percentage of children living in poverty among all industrialized countries.

The problem is thus not teacher quality. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Insider Information on How Standardized Tests are Scored

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Test Scorer

Entire article linked above. Favorite parts below.

 I recently spent four months working for two test-scoring companies, scoring tens of thousands of papers, while routinely clocking up to seventy hours a week. This was my third straight year doing this job. While the reality of life as a test scorer has recently been chronicled by Todd Farley in his book Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry, a scathing insider’s account of his fourteen years in the industry, I want to tell my story to affirm that Farley’s indictment is rooted in experiences common throughout the test-scoring world.1

 Test scoring is a huge business, dominated by a few multinational corporations, which arrange the work in order to extract maximum profit. I was shocked when I found out that Pearson, the first company I worked for, also owned the Financial Times, The Economist, Penguin Books, and leading textbook publisher Prentice Hall. The CEO of Pearson, Marjorie Scardino, ranked seventeenth on the Forbes list of the one hundred most powerful women in the world in 2007.

 Test-scoring companies make their money by hiring a temporary workforce each spring, people willing to work for low wages (generally $11 to $13 an hour), no benefits, and no hope of long-term employment—not exactly the most attractive conditions for trained and licensed educators. When I began working in test scoring three years ago, my first “team leader” was qualified to supervise, not because of his credentials in the field of education, but because he had been a low-level manager at a local Target.

Remarkably, for a company entrusted with assessing students’ educational performance, messages from Pearson contain a disturbing number of misspellings, incorrect dates, typos, and missing information. Pearson’s online video orientation, for example, warns scorers that they may face “civil lawshits” from sexual harassment. Error-free communications are rare. I was considering whether this was a fair assessment, when I received a message from Pearson with the subject “Pearson Fall 2010.” The link in the e-mail took me to a survey to find out my availability—for the spring of 2011.

 I imagine that most students think their papers are being graded as if they are the most important thing in the world. Yet every day, each scorer is expected to read hundreds of papers. So for all the months of preparation and the dozens of hours of class time spent writing practice essays, a student’s writing probably will be processed and scored in about a minute. Scoring is particularly rushed when scorers are paid by piece-rate, as is the case when you are scoring from home, where a growing part of the industry’s work is done.

At 30 to 70 cents per paper, depending on the test, the incentive, especially for a home worker, is to score as quickly as possible in order to earn any money: at 30 cents per paper, you have to score forty papers an hour to make $12 an hour, and test scoring requires a lot of mental breaks.  So every night, while scoring from home, I would surf the Internet and cut and paste loads of articles—reports on Indian Maoists, scientific speculation on whether animals can be gay, critiques of standardized testing—into what typically came to be an eighty-page, single-spaced Word document. Then I would print it out and read it the next day while I was working at the scoring center. This was the only way to avoid going insane. I still managed to score at the average rate for the room and perform according to “quality” standards.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Because sometimes it's the little thing that finally pushes you over the edge...

Started preparing my taxes for the year and found this:

Indiana Tax Law Changes

(May 12, 2011)

Governor Mitch Daniels signed House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1001 and HEA 1004 on May 10, 2011, enacting several changes to Indiana’s tax laws.  
Changes Affecting Individuals:
  • The $250 deduction for school teacher expenses is disallowed.
  • The deduction for higher education expenses is disallowed and the deduction for student loan interest is limited.

On a happier note, today is Dr. Suess's birthday.  Let's honor him a minute with a few of his own words: 

Then the Grinch slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant, 
Around the whole room, and he took every present!
Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums! 

Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos' feast! 
He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast! 
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash. 
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash! 

And the one speck of food That he left in the house 
Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.