Department of Education to Raise High Stakes…Even Higher

By Wayne Jebian

Arnie Duncan and the United States Department of Education appear to be sold on the concept of VAM (value added model), so much so that they are taking the concept to the next level. The idea behind VAM is to crunch students’ standardized test scores to separate “good” from “bad” teachers.

In public debate, VAM is often discussed in the context of fixing failing schools and raising individual student achievement. However, if Education Secretary Arnie Duncan has his way, the use of VAM will mean that elementary school students will also be deciding issues of federal funding for graduate and professional teaching programs. The stakes in high stakes testing are about to get a whole lot higher.

The DoED released its proposed new rules for teacher preparation programs on December 3, 2014. The public was given until January 2, 2015 to comment on fiscal aspects of the new rules, and until February 2nd to comment on issues of substance. The timing of the document is one of its major problems. The brevity of the comment period, plus the fact that it straddled final exams, Christmas, Hanukah, customary vacation periods, New Years, the beginning of school, and the Super Bowl, strongly suggest that it was engineered to minimize actual public comment.

The second and larger problem is that the new rules’ reliance on bad science eclipses any legitimate concern about bad teachers. Test scores are affected by many factors, and there are many influences more important than the individual teacher, such as the family situations of the students and the general income level of their neighborhood. The use of VAM could be seen as a disincentive to work in a poor neighborhood for the individual student of education when seeking work. However, the new rules also invite a whole host of consequences.

Now, a college or university’s professional education program or school of education will be graded according to these same VAM statistics derived from school kids’ test scores. If these rules are implemented, in addition to being responsible for their teachers’ job security, the children will be determining the eligibility of graduate schools to receive federal TEACH grant money. If student VAM statistics reveal that a school of education is producing “bad teachers”, then under the new rules, it can be cut off. According to the report, “These proposed regulations would limit TEACH Grant eligibility to only those programs that States have identified as ‘effective’ or higher.”

The American Statistical Association has warned against an over-reliance on VAM for educational policy. The many shortcomings noted by the ASA include the following: “VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores, and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.”

But Secretary Duncan appears not to have received the memo. With VAM the central instrument in assessing the quality of teachers, and now, the schools that educated them, test scores will be a crucial factor in the mandate that the new rules lay out: “Establish the required areas States must consider in identifying low-performing and at-risk teacher preparation programs, the actions States must take with respect to those programs, and the consequences for a low-performing program that loses State approval or financial support.”

What’s at stake is an unprecedented level of federal involvement in higher education. What is described is the possible takeover or elimination of teacher education programs, just as is happening with public schools in urban districts. Those are some very high stakes, resting on the backs of young students’ test scores. And in all likelihood, the federally-driven reform machine’s encroachment into higher education will not end there.

“Just Call Me Old School”

By Leslie Oxedine Kelley
I have worked in Title I schools my entire career. I too have kept a clothes closet and a drawer full of personal hygiene products and another of school supplies. I had two marvelous principals before this age of ladder climbing, politically correct sheep. One man took money from his own pocket to send the PE teacher shoe shopping for a family of six kids (on school time no less). The other gentleman gave a mother his own money to take her kids to the doctor. These same men never said more to me than, “you are doing a great job”, “There’s been a little problem and you need to fix it.” and, “I hired you as a professional. Handle it”. Those are quotes I recall more than 20 years later. Those were my first two public school jobs. I was so spoiled by their support that after them I struggled with the new breed of administrator. How I missed them, as did everyone else.

Dr. Jay Arnold passed away after many of us had moved on. His funeral was like a family reunion. We got so loud greeting and loving one another after years apart, then crying for our loss, that the funeral home attendants asked us to go outside. About 40 people went out. Dr Arnold (and Harry Fuller before him) fostered that love by setting the tone in our buildings. Both men treated the faculty and students with genuine concern for our well being. They cared about all of us…more than their own career, political correctness or any flippin data. I loved my job then and I would have gone to great lenghths to do anything those men asked of me.

I know there are MANY teachers out there just like this and I hope administrators as well. It has just been my personal experience to have worked for principals who are bound up in the political mess public education has become. I would LOVE to meet the one who says, “to hell with the games. This is what our kids need…regardless of what outsiders think we need.” then hunkers down, unites the community (at least within the schoolhouse), and loves kids again. I understand love doesn’t cure everything, but it sure goes further than this “OMG public education Is failing and it’s all YOUR fault” attitude prevalent today. Just call me old school.

Jia Lee Calls for “Teachers of Conscience” to Take a Stand

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“Remember that fear is natural, but there is greater fear in knowing what will happen if we don’t take a stand.”  

– Jia Lee 

Special Education teacher Jia Lee took some time out of her busy schedule last Saturday to talk to War Report about her experience testifying in front of the Senate Education Committee in DC on January 21, 2015. During her testimony, Lee called for her fellow teachers to be “teachers of conscience” and join her in refusing to administer detrimental high stakes tests to students. Lee’s bravery and dedication to her students is inspiring.

“As people start to awaken and see that we can no longer keep our heads down, I believe that people will force democratic decision making through a variety of means: opting out/refusal, legislatively and changing how we engage around issues of public education. Even if the federal government reauthorizes ESEA with the same or similar testing mandates, teachers, parents, students and concerned community members are learning that this can’t work. While we opt out and refuse compliance to the standardization of our communities, we will start to see people engaged in highlighting our vision for public education.”

What do you think of the stand taken by Jia Lee and other teachers of conscience?

Please read the full interview, share, and comment. Originally published on Living in Dialogue. 

http://www.livingindialogue.com/jia-lees-national-call-action-let-teachers-teachers-conscience/

Marshawn Lynch, Carl Heastie and the Media: Is the New Speaker As Tough as the Seattle Running Back?

Ed In The Apple

Marshawn Lynch is the all-star running back for the almost two time Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Lynch grew up in Oakland, attended the University of California, Berkeley, and left after his junior year to play professional football, first in Buffalo, now in Seattle, and, ” … his teammates joke that he loves chain restaurants … [and] is also known for his frequent community involvement. In 2013 he was featured in Red Bull’s campaign ‘Athletes Give Back’ when he put together a very successful food drive for his home town.” However, he has always been reticent to speak to the media, The NFL fined him a number of times, at the required press availability at the Super Bowl Lynch showed up and answered every question with “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”

The room, full of media, asked him question again and again knowing full well that he…

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Naison Rants!

Once you understand how much money there is to be made from dismantling public education, filling schools with tests, and making neighborhoods ripe for gentrification by closing schools and opening charters, you will see why both political parties buy into and promote the School Reform Myth . Not only have the School Reform measures endorsed by both parties failed to reduce gaps in educational achievement and income by race and class, they have magnified those gaps. I defy any economist to show me evidence which shows that the US has become a more egalitarian society since the passage of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Whether you look at child poverty, income distribution, or wealth gaps by race, the US has experienced the largest redistribution of wealth upward in modern history in the very years School Reform has been at its peak.

We have more children living in poverty, lower wages, and a higher percentage of national income controlled by the top 1 Percent than we did in 2001, or 2008. Yet our elected officials continue to push their toxic mix of National Testing, Charters, and Test Based Accountability as though it were some kind of anti-poverty program rather than a huge opportunity for profit by publishers, software manufacturers, real estate investors and “educational entrepreneurs.”

It is time to pull the mask away and see the profound corruption that lies at the heart of dominant School Policies- whether they are pushed by Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, Rahm Emmanuel, Michael Bloomberg or Barack Obama.

– Mark Naison

Metro Nashville 911 Call to Action!

“Last night, the communications subcommittee of the MNPS school board discussed a policy that would give school board representatives the ability to use the district’s communication infrastructure (e.g., robocalls, etc.) to communicate directly and effectively with constituents. Three school board members–Elissa Kim, Tyese Hunter, & Sharon Gentry–inexplicably voiced opposition to this policy. (See below for a copy of the policy.) The only reasons I can see for them opposing this is they, 1) don’t believe elected officials should communicate with their constituents, and/or 2) don’t like the board member proposing the policy, so they are objecting for personal reasons. Whatever their reason/s for objecting, I find an elected official’s desire to limit communication with constituents very disturbing. I urge you to email these school board members and tell them you want your school board member to have access to every possible communication method so he/she can effectively communicate with her/his constituents. Their email addresses are as follows: tyese.hunter@mnps.org, elissa.kim@mnps.org, sharon.gentry@mnps.org. Their twitter handles are @hunter4schools and @kimfornashville. Please share this post on your page too. Thank you! (This policy will likely come up for a vote at the next board meeting.)”

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Dear Governor Andrew Cuomo – A Fifth Grader Speaks Out – Maggie’s Letter

Excellent student letter to Gov. Cuomo. I sincerely hope he reads all of the mail he is getting from students.

Poetic Justice

Two days ago, I published a letter from Josh – a fourth grader from NYC. That one letter has gotten over 13,000 views from all over the globe. I truly believe IT IS TIME for STUDENT VOICES to be heard. Today I received this letter from the parent of Maggie – a fifth grader from Central NY State. I am honored to share Maggie’s letter with my readers.

Maggies letter 2 2 2015Maggie is the fourth Student Hero presented on this Poetic Justice blog. She, too, is bold and brave and not afraid to put her opinions in writing. I truly hope that Maggie’s letter will be read by many and will encourage other students to voice their opinions in writing to the governors of their states.

As Maggie writes:

“Please read this letter completely and thoroughly until you (Governor Cuomo) get my gist. I am not the only student who doesn’t appreciate you…

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Dear Mr. Cuomo – A Fourth Grader Speaks Out

Brillant piece from Poetic Justice and a brave young student activist. Thank you for allowing War Report to reblog this piece.

Poetic Justice

This is going to be my third blog about a Student Hero. My newest hero is Josh – a fourth grader from NYC who has a legitimate beef with Governor Cuomo. Here is the very persuasive letter he wrote to the governor: 10407630_10153047556870798_3534263753656568750_n He is my hero because he is bold and brave and not afraid to express himself in writing. He is also my hero because he wants his words shared with the world. Josh happens to be the son of a filmmaker. Josh expressed his desire to impact the world with his own words just as his father impacts the world with his movies. His dad agreed to post his letter on Facebook and included his own fatherly rant with the posting. In the rant, his father stated:

…for full disclosure josh will never take a standardized test not while im around to make sure he doesnt. but we…

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