Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Connecting the DOTS

Start a conversation about the systematic dismantling of public education and it is hard to find a starting point.   What is destroying public education is much  like Hydra, the multi-headed beast from Greek Mythology. When one head was cut off, two more would grow back. Where does one begin to counter the attack of a multi-headed beast?  

Here's a timely reminder from Steven Krashen who was speaking of the infamous "Pineapple Questions":  

The problem is not bad test items, the problem is the massive and unnecessary testing that is killing our children and stealing money from our citizens. Even if the tests were perfect, I would be against them.
I understand the need to expose these bad items and I am all for it. But we need to make it clear that we are not just saying, "Please sir, give us better tests." 
Thoreau: There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.


Here's a must read this week, and one to be sure to pass along. Tim Skelar's Blog, Teaching and Learning in Hostile Times  This week's feature article is Move Along.  Nothing to See Here.  Not only is the article a great overview of the systematic destruction of education, but some thought provoking comments follow.

The American public system of education is being systematically, and purposely destroyed. This is not a statement from someone who routinely sees crop circles. However, I feel like we are in the middle of a crime scene surrounded by yellow tape and the "liberal media" is standing on the outside with a bull horn announcing, "Move along!" "Nothing to see here!" 

Cui Bono? The Question Rarely Asked, Let Alone Investigated
Anthony Cody challenges other reporters who are sponging up the "Failing schools, Charter schools are the answer, Common Core will solve everything,  Teachers are the Problem," and other myths to first ask, "Who Benefits from this?"
I want to make a special plea here to John Merrow and other journalists. Reporters hold a sacred public trust and fill a role no one else in society can. Before the rest of the public is even aware that something ought to be done, they must be informed that there is a problem. We need some real reporting here. And that means taking some risks.
Read Weekly Update: Some good news, Teach for America, Inc.- the sham and Jesse Turner on poverty here.
Teach For America is actively intensifying racial and class inequality, and the destruction of education as an essential public good along with the continued decimation of unions – two institutions that are primary determinants of a democratic society.

Bob Sikes blog: Hilary Rosen Michelle Rhee and Barack Obama's AFT NEA Support

Schools Matter:  This is one to bookmark and read daily.
Dump Duncan  Spread the Word

The Essence of Teaching | Reflections of a First Year Math Teacher  One of my personal favorite bloggers.
Truth be told, I made more in 1991 than what I now make as a first year teacher, not adjusting for inflation.  While I sometimes worry that I am not being financially responsible to my family in my career change, I believe I offer my two young sons insight into what it means to follow your passion, to serve others, and to persist through challenge, in spite of the vociferous attacks waged upon teachers, or their unions.
 South Bronx School blogger  is a smart blogger telling it like it is in the state of New York.  (Should be expect anything less of an advocate from the Bronx?)  Be sure to check out Right Now in New York
My Sons Scores are Available Already.  Another blogger that gets a lot of good commentors as well, makes the site a respite from the insanity of the world.

Blog Talk Radio
@ THE CHALK FACE | WTDY Talk Radio 1670

Breaking the Silence: LGBTQ Curriculum in Public Schools at

The Perils of Standardization Testing

The Treehorn Express: Poignant Passages

Sun Sentinel:  Student Honesty Pledge on FCAT enrages parents

Science Blogger Finds Problems With FCAT Questions

An example:
A glossary of definitions (Appendix C) is provided for test item writers to indicate the level of understanding expected of fifth grade students. Included in that list is the following definition:

Predator—An organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms.

By that definition, cows are predators because they obtain nutrients from plants. The plants are predators too, since they obtain nutrients from decaying remains of other organisms. I have yet to find anyone who thinks that this is a proper definition of a predator.

New York Daily News: Students required to take nine hours of dummy exams

Is Accountability Undermining American Eduation
At its best, was the U.S. educational system known for producing memorizers and test-takers or was it known for producing innovators?
IREAD - 3: intentional Social Segregation?
What might be more broadly at issue here is attaching even the idea of retention to a single performance on a single assessment.   A further concern for educators in Marion county is the fact that there are over 40 languages spoken by the residents.  What is narrowly assessed then is English Language competence and so nearly amounts to a kind of “nationalization” exam.
 These aren't your father's report cards

Have Test Publishers Become Unquestionable Authorities

The story is an absurd tale of a talking pineapple, who challenges a hare to a race. The storymust be read to comprehend the controversy.
The questions that follow make even less sense. Students are asked
1. Why did the animals eat the pineapple? 
a. they were annoyed
 b. they were amused
 c. they were hungry
 d. they wanted to

2. Who was the wisest?
 a. the hare 
b. moose
 c. crow
 d. owl
Pearson, the largest test publisher in the world, has said that company policy forbids them from commenting.
This story is remarkable for several reasons. First of all, the patent absurdity of the questions. In today's data-driven world, the scores these student achieve could be used to end a teacher's career.

An one commentor left this: These tests must be made public if teachers' careers and students' diplomas are riding on them. 

Nonsense on top of Nonsense

Pineapple Questions on NPR

Talking Pineapple Question on State Exam Stumps Everyone

Protests and Resistance to Testing and Standardization

Ed Reform Protests Pick Up Steam

New York Times:  Dear Govenor, Lobby to Save a Love of Reading
Instead of Pictionary without the champions we decided to play a new game: “take the third-grade English Language Arts practice test” that our son had brought home from school as his vacation homework (if that is not an oxymoron, it should be).
By asking young students to spend time taking tests like this we are doing them a double disservice: first, by inflicting on them such mediocre literature, and second, by training them to read not for pleasure but to discover a predetermined answer to a (let’s not mince words) stupid question.

Petition to end reliance on high stakes testing in New York

The New York Times School Book: With test week here, some parents considering Opting Out

United Opt Out: A child is forced to test, where is mainstream liberal media?
At United Opt Out National, we encourage opting out of high stakes testing because we support public schools. We support real learning and real teaching and a whole and equitable education for all children.  High stakes testing is not just any test – it is a test used to punish students, teachers, schools and communities.  It is a test that profits billionaires and neglects children – denying students real learning.  It is a test that is being used to privatize public education.  Also, we believe that everyone has a moral obligation to protect children from the harmful tactics currently being used by corporate education reformers – high stakes testing being only one of the tactics.

Share your stoires at take a stand against high stakes testing
My 3rd-grade son brought home a “vacation homework packet” that was over 50 pages of excerpts from past NY State ELA and Math tests.

Need an idea for a flyer to pass out?  Here's one.

The Cost of PARCC and Standardized testing

If you are like teachers in our district, we have lost a huger percentage of our wages over the last few years.  Yet, the state will bespending BILLONS on standardized testing as reported by pioneer institute in this document.

Accountability and Merit Based Pay

Tenure, Merit Pay

ALEC, DeVos, Rhee, Bush and  Privatization of Public Education
Help Write the Ending to ALEC, from Education Votes
Keeping the spotlight on ALEC’s power grabs is an important step in loosening its grip. The Center for Media and Democracy offers tools on its truth-seeking website,, that everyone can use to better understand how ALEC operates and to track ALEC-sponsored bills in their state.
Meet the Enemy, by Lois Weiner

A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education (A primer on ALEC if you aren't familiar with them yet.)

ALEC Disbands Task Force Responsible for Voter ID, 'Stand Your Ground' Laws | The Nation

I Don't Understand Michelle Rhee by Diane Ravitch

Indiana residents take notice.  Jeb Bush will be selling his charter schools to the state legislature.

Charter Schools
Libertarian Charter School Indianapolis
 Money made from Challenge Foundation Properties is used to invest in building more charter schools. Indiana is one of the group’s main targets.
Paper: Feds Game Millions to Failing Charter Schools in Ohio
 A newspaper reports that more than $4.8 million in federal stimulus money went to Ohio charter schools that have since closed and millions more went to charter schools accused of mishandling hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The newspaper says 21 of 121 defunct charter schools received stimulus funding.
Washington Post Opinion Writer:  I went to One of the Best DC Charters and Found I Was Unprepared for College

Other News

Not often something good comes from the Heritage Foundation, but perhaps some conservatives are finally making a true conservative stand:  Exit National Standards

Washington PostMontgomery-superintendent-sharpens-critique-of-national-reforms

Good stuff here that's been around awhile but keeps resurfacing.

Conformity Experiment - Solomon Asch Conformity Experiment  Read this, then read
Class War and the College Crisis: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education « Andrew Gavin Marshall  (they are quite complementary.)
It [is] crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack – not by Communists or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.
How Well Are American Students Learning:  A Brookings Institute Report
Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards—not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states—the study foresees little to no impact on student learning. That conclusion is based on analyzing states’ past experience with standards and examining several years of scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). 

By requiring the use of multiple-choice, standardized testing for assessment purposes, the federal and state governments are intruding upon the prerogative of teachers to teach what they want in the manner they see fit. These requirements echo the attempts of Frederick Taylor and other practitioners of what Taylor called "scientific management" to control industrial workers around the turn of the Twentieth Century. Forcing teachers to address content that can be measured in standardized tests and to avoid more analytical material hinders learning. Doing so also devalues the profession of teaching in the same way that scientific management devalued the role of skilled craft workers in American factories.
Read the entire article about Taylorism at.
Taylor is the Classroom: Standardized Testing and Scientific Management

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