Wednesday, August 31, 2011

800! 800! Everyone at 800! Cake or Death?!?!

From the Press Enterprise newspaper,

"Almost half of schools in California and in Riverside County are meeting the state's goal of an Academic Performance Index of 800, according to data released today by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson."

Ok well then about half better shape up or ship out by 2013-2014. Three years baby.

"Torlakson announced that a record 49 percent of California schools met or exceeded the state's Academic Performance Index target, even as the federal No Child Left Behind Act's formula threatened to label 913 newly identified campuses as failing.

In all, 55 percent of elementary schools, 43 percent of middle schools and 28 percent of high schools met or surpassed the state API target of 800."

Why such dismal rates for high school? Aren't the "bad" kids dropped out already? Yes and no. Dropout rates factor in, as does the initial administration of the CAHSEE. And plus, burn out factors in, as kids at this age are generally disenfranchised by the education institution. They know it is a pointless exercise mimicking something "good", they smell something fishy but can't quite put a finger on it. They know if they purposely fail, it does not affect (effect? affect? I'd miss that question on the test. Epic fail.) them one bit. It does however, matter for the school. Tired of Mr. X marking you tardy? Tired of Mrs. Y's incessant yammering about atoms? Tired of your parents waking you before dawn to go rot in a dark box devoid of stimulus every day? Fail the test and the school just might disappear.

"I applaud the hard work our students, teachers, parents, school employees and administrators are doing to improve -- even in the face of severe cuts to school funding," Torlakson said. "At school after school, and among every significant ethnic group, California's students are performing better than ever. The failure here is in our politics, not our public schools."

Um no. The failure is that politics are in schools. They run the unions, the curriculum, the corporation-run testing system, get the idea.

"The six Inland districts with the highest API are: Temecula Valley Unified (859), Menifee Union Elementary (843), Murrieta Valley Unified (843), Lake Elsinore Unified (833) and Corona-Norco Unified and Redlands Unified, (815 for both).

The five districts with the most improvement are Nuview Union Elementary (38 points), Banning Unified (24 points), Alvord Unified (23 points), San Jacinto Unified (21 points), Lake Elsinore Unified (20 points) and Romoland Elementary (20 points).

"Year-in and year-out, Riverside County's students are improving faster than most other students in the state. This new data bears that out. Among the state's 16 large counties, our students scored the fourth-largest gain on this year's state Academic Performance Index," Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenn Young said in a news release. "We scored the third-largest API gain over the span of the last dozen years, and in the English Language Arts portion of the federal AYP testing, we led all large counties in improvement over that extended period."

Redlands Unified posted a 15-point improvement on the API. Colton Joint Unified and San Bernardino City Unified both improved by 14 points.

Despite gains, the continued rise in No Child Left Behind standards put more schools on the state's Program Improvement watch list, according to data also released today. Program Improvement requires a number of steps to help struggling students and voluminous, time-consuming reports to the federal Department of Education."

You gotta love it. Some schools vastly improve, only to be sanctioned with program improvement, doom-and-gloom status.

Both the state API and federal AYP are based upon results from the statewide Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, which showed nine consecutive years of rising scores among California students, and from the California High School Exit Examination."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

William Torrey Harris thought that the "system which proposes to let the individual work out his education entirely by the greatest possible mistake."

I take the middle road here. If it were fully up to me to direct my education as a child, I'd have never learned math, that's what calculators are for, right? I didn't realize I needed math, even though I was told so, until adulthood. I took math courses though, of course, as it was required in school. But seriously, did I need algebra? Aside from the elementary "3 + X = 5" things of daily life, I've yet to see its purpose in my life.

To say a teacher or government or whatever knows best, knows not to make a "mistake" and instead directs education, is quite silly.

'nuff said. Wow a brief post!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nanny State -Test Them Toddlers!

As I often do, a response to a Huff Po article....

To win money from the federal government's early childhood Race to the Top contest, states are encouraged to implement "kindergarten entry assessments," according to new guidelines released Tuesday by the Education Department and Health and Human Services. But U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan emphasized that the stakes won't be as high as they are for older students.

"We will never ask 3-year-olds to take bubble tests," Duncan said on a call Tuesday with reporters. "That would just be ludicrous."

Yeah? Well 2nd graders in my state used to (perhaps it is still the same...) just circle the right answer and the teachers transcribe it to a bubble test so it doesn't look like a bubble test but it is.

Assessments are one component of the $500 million Race to the Top -- Early Learning Challenge. States have until Oct. 19 to submit applications, which are then scored by outside reviewers -- though Duncan noted he has the authority to override the reviewers' decisions if he deems it necessary. States will vie for grants ranging from $50 to $100 million.

Who are the outside viewers? Educators? pshaw. Likely corporate bullies from textbook and testing conglomerates. Hey Arne, yeah let's accept GA's application, they mentioned the state test, other standardized assessments by the Testing company, and exclusive use of the Textbook companies texts. Yeah, they get the RTTT money. TN? No- they mentioned reading of novels, and rubric based portfolios in addition to THE text and THE test.

The $500 million competition is part of a larger $700 million package announced by the Obama administration to continue RTTT, which began as part of the stimulus package. States that lost previous rounds of RTTT, which focused on implementing Duncan's favored K-12 reforms, will be able to compete for the remaining $200 million.

"The overarching goal of the challenge is to make sure many, many more children enter kindergarten ready to succeed," Duncan said.

The Education Department worked with Health and Human Services to develop the guidelines. "We can't outcompete the rest of the world unless we can out educate the rest of the world ... unless our children get a healthy start in life," HHS chief Kathleen Sebelius said.

I'm all for smart little kiddos entering kindergarten. I worked in a school where kids had never heard the ABCs or counted or even held a crayon or pencil. They didn't know their own name, just "baby" or "mija/o" or whatever. I'm not kidding. BUT....when does it become an encouragement for the downtrodden to prepare their kids for school (a good thing) into government intrusion into our lives with progressive-style "do good" control and manipulation (a bad thing)? With the nanny state telling us how to raise our toddlers and fining us or what have you if we don't raise them how the state, the "experts" tell us to? As who knows what hair-brained ideas they will manufacture.

The assessment component of earlier draft guidelines drew criticism from early childhood experts. "Assessment is the third rail of early childhood because children develop at very different rates, young children especially," said Yasmina Vinci, executive director of National Head Start Association, an early childhood advocacy group, according to Education Week. "You have to be very careful as to what that would look like and for what purposes. It should not be for the purposes of classifying the children. It has to be observational."

Well every assessment I've encountered, and throughout history, has been for informational/observational purposes, sure, but more specifically for categorizing kids. The 100% proficient by 2014 NCLB mandate. IQ tests and vocational training/educational pathways of the past (and still kind of present). And yes toddlers all progress differently. I think of myself, I was a year or two ahead of myself by age 2 in language skills, but I could not walk. (It was found to be because of one eye being legally blind, no depth perception). But if some governme-educational guru observed me right before my diagnosis, I'd be categorized as a freak and marginalized in the system.

Duncan and his colleagues responded to that scrutiny by stressing that they are not calling for multiple choice standardized exams. "We're talking about assessment in the broad context," said Jacqueline Jones, Duncan's early learning adviser. "We want to make a distinction between specific tests and an assessment process, which is an ongoing process of collecting information about children's behavior."

Behavior? Holy moly. This goes back to my research from Ravitch to Gatto and beyond about education becoming overrun and controlled by psychologists who through Prussian, eugenic, and Progressive models, found a way to control and shape society at their will. They were there to "fix" societies ills like retardation, ADHD/"school is boring", poverty, race......

So in collecting info about children's' behavior, will we find any child that claims school is boring, or hits Billy when he stole the toy, or who challenges the teacher's knowledge etc etc....and "fix" them? What kind of behavioral information are we collecting and why? Can't we just let kids be kids and let, gasp, parents, well, parent? I know, I know, then the nanny state would lose its ever tightening grasp on us dummies, throwing their totalitarian collectivist utopia askew. I mean geez, what if a parent teaches their child about creationism or evolution (whatever the school is against), or about the Founding Fathers, or how to read without sight words, or...... helter skelter pandemonium, I tell ya...a mass of independent minded, intellectual free thinkers. Progressive Armageddon folks.

States can earn the most points -- 75 out of a possible total of 300 -- for developing systems that publicly rate early learning programs. The ratings system as well as assessments are listed as the competition's two "competitive priorities."

States need to show which early childhood plans they will implement and how they will do it, with the proposals counting for more points than states' track records. States can earn points for things like "past commitment" to early learning; spelling out a comprehensive reform plan; aligning existing services; developing and promoting a ratings system; tying education to health initiatives and enhancing personnel.

Wait, now I have to explore this....tying education to health initiatives? More big brother in our life perhaps? I'm all for health but I think we all know fresh fruit is better for you than a fried donut but darnit, if we want to eat ourselves into a diabetic coma, as wrong as that is, let us. We know better, yes.

The final criteria were posted after the agencies read over 300 comments on a draft version. Most of the changes, Jones said, involved reducing states' burdens. "We have choice built in now," she said. "Many said it was too much to do."

Officials released the early childhood criteria just as winners of the earlier RTTT competition are implementing their plans. Since receiving their money, all of the winning states have filed amendments to their education plans, seeking to delay deadlines for implementation.

Duncan said he is not changing the rules to the new competition based on states' attempts to delay using their winning funds. "This is work we're trying to get folks to do in different ways than they have for the last few decades," Duncan said. "We're much more interested in getting this right than in rushing through something that perpetuates the status quo. We're hoping that the impact on the early childhood states is as transformative as it was in the K-12 work." is it NOT perpetuating the status quo when it has to be "okay-ed" by the status quo?

Beverly Falk, who directs CUNY's graduate programs in early childhood education, said she's not sure $500 million is enough to make a big change. "It's not sufficient, but a very positive beginning step of reversing the underinvestment in young children and families that has been characteristic of this country for many years."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Schools and How The World Came To Be

An epiphany on the creationism/evolution debate in schools...don't teach either. Promote self-directed learning and love of knowledge and when the question comes up/gap in the textbook is there, say, "go research it and form your own opinions kiddos". Wow. Such an easy solution!

Questions to those complaining about education / politicians ideas / ed reform

I have some questions to most folks out there, but generally "liberals" regarding education.

1. If, theoretically, vouchers get an "ok, go" and more theoretically, do actually "pay" for private school, what is "wrong" with that? Aside from the "tax money should not fund religious schools" debate?

2. What threat do charter schools have? If they're corrupt or low performing or what have you, people will leave the school and it will shut down.

3. What is so bad about parental choice in schools?

4. What is so bad about homeschool? Why is it such a "threat"?

5. Why is more federal control of education a good thing?

6. Why is Race To The Top a good thing? (When you say NCLB is a bad thing? I think they're quite similar.)

7. WTF....regarding the 100% proficient idea of NCLB regarding testing...

Monday, August 15, 2011

This is about the "resegregation" of schools where students attend their neighborhood school instead of busing to a school with an exact formula of race A, race B, economic status X and Z....

I am against schools enrolling solely on geography. So you'd think I was against this proposition.
I'm surely going to be blasted for this. As a teacher.... teachers are miracle workers. Saying that re-segregating schools, i.e. the "poor black kids" attend one school, "poor white kids" another and "wealthy asians" another... means that the "bad" kids will perform poorly in school cause' they don't have what the rich kids have. Yes, that's part of it. But many many schools have taken the worst of the worst and made them the best. So saying that resegreation hurts schools, is saying essentially "it makes teaching too hard when you get the bad kids." So much for miracle workers.

Here's my "evil" solution.

Hire the best and only the best teachers. Don't hire or tenure based on popularity, looks, relatives in the district, butt-kissing tactics, or networking. Hire based on qualifications, performance, and the like. Teachers that improve test scores and attendance, and have a "following" of former students... hire the mentors, the heroes, the experts, the motivators, the inspire-ers. Hire those "way up" on the "Good to Great" (a book, look it up!) leadership scale.
And while we're at it, heck pay them a little more. They earned it.
Align funds better. Rid of categorical spending and allow all money to go into one fund and have transparency. Post your budget monthly and allow the public, parents, all stakeholders to vote on it and have a say in how their tax dollars are spent on their children. And rid of those random "here's a million dollars, spend it all in one month or it is gone" kind of gimmicks that come about where teachers and staff waste money on stupid things because, well, it's free money.
And allow students to attend whatever public/charter school they damn well please to. If a school "sucks" so much that everyone leaves, good....shoulda' seen it coming and fixed it.

I'm sure I'll be tar and feathered for these ideas, told I am anti teacher, anti student, anti education, anti union.... you name it. Bla bla bla. I just tell it like it is because gasp I care about education and can see through all the b.s. to the real problems and solutions at stake.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Families: An Individual Unit of Threat

Families: An Individual Unit of Threat.....
William Torrey Harris is a man I believe I've spoken of for the William Torrey tag for an intro.

He proposed that the right type of moral education could not be found in the home nor private tutors; only in public schools could scholars learn the disciplined behavior necessary for life in a civilized society. Progressive leaders believed that they understood society best because they understood psychology, sociology, and pedagogy. Given their "superior understandings" of everything social and economic, they had the power to control schools.

This means that the nanny state knows best, a Progressive idea that the elitists in power know best because, well, they do. They have the elite education, experience, money, and IQ qualifying them to manage the masses. Really, I think it is a fear of loss of control. If families raise their children i.e. by taking them to church, teaching them morals, and God forbid, homeschooling. they are not regulated and are a threat. Those in power threaten such ideas by saying those not raised by the state are ignorant, unsocialized, self-ostracized members of society that need to be controlled to "fit in" and be "civilized".

Progressives wanted to create a Utopian society free of crime, poverty, and social ails. To do so, individualism had to be replaced with collectivism. Education was not for the good of the child but for the good of the community. Family, not under control, could detract from such a goal, being a free and individual unit of control.

George Counts said, regarding progressive style schools, "it is activity with a purpose; it is activity with a strongly collectivist bias; it is actively devoted to the promotion of the welfare of the surrounding community; it is, in a word, to a very large degree, socially useful labor."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reading Is Boring.

From a little bit of my two cents... Ok, a lot, and I will meander about, but here goes.

Students like to read in first grade and do well. It's a novelty, a new talent that they gladly embrace. By 4th grade they detest reading as the author points out, and scores plummet. Why?

Many schools do not allow reading outside the textbook or mandated curriculum. Or they do, but there's no time for it. I dare you to find a Language Arts textbook and read some stories. As Diane Ravitch has pointed out in The Language Police, we basically whitewash literature. lists some of the things Ravitch found to be banned from books, so that stories cannot include the following (plus many many more)some being just silly, others making stories dull, and others that just....well you'l see: bookworm ,busybody, the elderly (must use "older people), fanantic, Founding Fathers, insane, majority group, Middle east, polo, senior citizen, sect, tomboy, yacht.

And topics/ideas's where I find it the most interesting.....imagine stories without....Women portrayed as teachers, mothers, nurses, and/or secretaries, Women as more nurturing than men, Men playing sports, working with tools, Men and boys larger and heavier than women and girls, Girls as peaceful, emotional, warm (but too aggressive is banned too), Boys as strong, rough, competitive, African-Americans in crowded tenements on chaotic streets; in big, bright cars; in abandoned buildings with broken windows and wash hanging out; or living in innocuous, dull white-picket-fence neighborhoods (so where do they live? Leaving just skyscrapers or mansions I suspect.), Native Americans performing a rain dance, Native Americans living in rural settings on reservations, Native Americans portrayed as people who live in harmony with nature, (so let's deny their culture....), Hispanics who are warm, expressive, and emotional, Older people in nursing homes or with canes, walkers, wheelchairs, orthopedic shoes, or eyeglasses, Older people who are retired, are at the end of their careers, have lived the most fruitful years of their lives, or are engaged in a life of leisure activities, Older people who are fishing, baking, knitting, whittling, reminiscing, rocking in chairs, or watching television.

Ok that alone, and my links alone are but a partial list. Yet they paint an unrealistic portrait of the world outside the classroom. I'm not promoting racist or sexist literature but also not unrealistic literature. The Old Man and The Sea would be dwindled down to about a paragraph since old...I mean elderly....I mean...those of advanced years are not allowed to fish. The Lewis and Clark story would probably also be a paragraph long.

Add in the idea of sight words and a set vocabulary and wow....not only is the old man and the sea restricted to "a grandfatherly figure sets out to complete a goal, performing sports activities on a body of water" . Upon completion of the goal, the grandfatherly figure (does not rest) consumes a non offensive beverage and (does not dream)." But now you must insert the sight, using actual California sight words antique

Let's rewrite the story.

A grandfatherly figure, equal in stature, looks, and age to everyone else, sets out on a sporting adventure on a body of water. The grandfatherly figure struggles but not because of his age. He goes out at night for sport, and the line he uses breaks. He is seeking his amphibious goal and lets go of its grasp. He finally succeeds and brings home a creature equivalent to a shark but not quite since the grandfatherly figure was not fishing. The townspeople do not think it qualifies as great as the grandfatherly figure would wish. The grandfatherly figure retires to his nice home and decided to be slightly less active. A townsperson whom honors him brings , without the grandfatherly figure's request but for mere kindness, a non offensive beverage in appropriate quantity and an item to read. The end.

Admittedly, I found the classic version of the story kind of dull, I humbly admit. But I read it and appreciated it. And if Hemingway's story must be made into the paragraph I wrote above, it is doing an injustice to our culture, history, humanities, intellectual pursuits and so much more.

Imagine a story (which I find more interesting) such as Antigone, Lord of the Flies, The GRapes of Wrath, re-written to fit textbook specifications. Just imagine. There would be little to no story, nothing would really make sense or reflect reality. The story would be pointless.

And we wonder why children find reading boring.