Monday, March 28, 2011

Tab Sweep

A few things worthy of your time:

  • When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real? -- Real investigative reporting from Jack Gillum and Marisol Bello. If this had come out two years ago -- in particular if Deb Gist's office had successfully investigated it -- Race to the Top and the whole ed reform landscape would probably be dramatically different. Unfortunately, there was no Joseph Wilson in this affair.
  • Measuring poverty in education policy research -- Bruce Baker illustrates that the gap in achievement between students receiving free lunch and those qualifying for reduced lunch can be almost as great as the difference between reduced lunch and those receiving no aid, despite the fact that free and reduced are commonly lumped together in educational statistics. Another example of how we don't even try to use the data we've got effectively, and why schools which appear to have similar populations may face significantly different challenges.
  • I am Educator, Hear Me Roar! An Interview with John Kuhn -- Anthony Cody gets some great lines out of this Texas superintendent:

    I pointed out to her that I had given myself a 10% pay cut and would be cutting positions soon, and I asked if anyone at Pearson (the firm that makes the test) would be taking a pay cut. I told her she was "saving the test but not the teachers."
    ...if the test-and-label philosophy really worked, then you would think there would be far worse teaching going on outside the core classes, but there isn't generally. Why? Because good teachers are motivated by passion and a moral sense of mission, not by the threats of absent bureaucrats.
    ...We are going to burn up this engine by making education a place where only hyper-competitive type-A individuals can feel comfortable, while all of those wonderfully kind and dedicated, supportive people who were born to teach abandon the classroom in search of a kinder profession where their skill sets are valued.
    We know that poverty, illness, crime, and addiction in the home all have a direct impact on the educability of our students--when legislators fail, schools fail. But we only blame the second domino to fall--it seems very cynical to me.
    ...historically we did education right, and now American education is writhing in hideous deformity on the experimenters' table while other countries do it right. And it's a vicious cycle: the more they mess things up, the more eagerly they then come at us with more clumsy surgeries to "fix" us.

    The narrative I cling to is also simple, but it doesn't make anyone rich. It would also make for a remarkably boring book. In my ballad, kids are still the victims, but bureaucracy is the enemy. Legislators too afraid to accept responsibility for the persistence of poverty, crime, poor health care, and methamphetamine addiction are the villains, eager only to place blame and not willing or able to actually fix things. And the passionate, beleaguered teachers picking up the pieces in their classrooms day after day are the heroes. My story plays out over years, with a million tiny acts of heroism, each one too small on its own to matter much--but when all of them are put together, how they speak powerfully of a life well-spent! These are the teachers I am sticking up for. And my story doesn't have a Hollywood ending. 100% of my kids don't go to a four-year college. Some of them become house framers or work for our local oilfield companies. But they grow up and raise families and go to church and serve on the school board. They are successes in every sense of the word. And there are others who aren't. Some of my students have gone to prison. Some struggle with addiction. My ballad isn't tidy.

    But, the nice thing is, I don't have to leave out inconvenient details when I sing my ballad. The assumption that the school reform movement doesn't permit negative outcomes requires you to believe that they fix kids when the hard, unmentionable truth is that they cull them. And I take the culled ones and do the best I can with them. And I'm good with this arrangement because you can't spin the story when you stand before God. God sees through the omissions and knows that the reformer above runs a magnet school and that I take all comers. He can convince the politicians and his readers if he wants to. I'm good with that. I'll soldier on.

  • Why did they fire the Providence Teachers? -- The Socialist Worker's take on the current situation.

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