"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why The Left Doesn't Want Common Core Rescinded

Agenda driven curriculum courtesy of Common Core?

A previous post explained why Republicans don't want Common Core standards rescinded:

Common Core standards (written by private companies) have mandated this enormous data retrieval.  The mandates have created  a niche for private companies to compel states to spend money on these systems.  The states have to provide the data; the private companies are delighted to supply this need.   THIS is why the Republicans are loath to rescind the standards.  If there are no standards, there is no vehicle/mandate to require this data.  No data means no private start ups to gather the data.  It doesn't matter to the Republicans that these private start ups are using Federal and state money for their "entrepreneurial" ventures. 

It's just a business venture for these companies.  They don't care what the content is, they will be making  huge profits on the crafting of assessments and providing the necessary infrastructure for implementation.  Upon reflection, a better title for the previous article should be "Why Capitalists Don't Want Common Core Standards Rescinded".  Viewing  the top Obama donors indicates political affiliation includes the left in this capitalist club.   The goal for corporations/private companies is to make as much money as they can from these mandates.  

It's a win win situation not only for the capitalists, it's a dream for left leaning groups as well.  They capitalize on the standards the capitalists are profiting from and using the framework for their agenda.  From Environmental Education Initiative in California and Beyond:

The California Initiative for Education and the Environment states on their website "California is currently poised to lead the nation in environmental literacy with the Education and Environment Initiative (EEI). More can and should be done to understand our relationship with the environment, and we believe the best place to begin is in California's classrooms." Though I feel that the woods or climbing a tree might be a better place to start and I'm sure the folks at Children and Nature would agree, California has once again done the right thing by investing in two of our most valuable resources, youth and the environment.

While I was in San Francisco, I had the pleasure to spend some time with Michael Leifer, co-founder of ecodads (Eco-Dads) who are spearheading a movement to fix education, create a new economy, and inspire environmental stewardship. Basically ecodads are creating and giving away free "Environmental Edutainment" apps based on the states' Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards and district superintendents,' CAL\EPA, CalRecycle, Cal State Parks and the California Dept of Ed's CREEC Resource show support. 

These ecodads will "fix" education by using Common Core standards/assessments to push their particular message.  Not only that, they will be able to create a new economy with their educational message and instruct students on their ideas on what environmental stewardship encompasses.  How will they do this?  Common core implementation and funding mechanism allows this practice: the "public private partnership", otherwise known as the capitalist gravy train.  This quasi-public framework uses taxpayer money for capitalistic profit and left leaning agendas:

The goal of these fun, interactive apps is to put the curriculum into the hands of the students and give them access to all of the separate and valuable education resource providers. Ecodads are blazing the trail for "this type of private public partnership that brings new innovation, collaboration and passion to the task of supporting students' access to powerful learning opportunities in environmental education", as Kris Munro, Assistant Superintendent, Santa Cruz City Schools states.

(Hmm.  A Missouri state senator insisted Common Core standards would not drive curriculum.  Either the senator is wrong or the ecodads are mistaken.)  What is the ultimate agenda of the ecodads?
If we are lucky enough to see this emerge as a cultural revolution that honors nature, raises eco-literate children, and embraces the whole human community as one global family, then perhaps we can enjoy the comforts of our cozy modern life without the threats associated with a warming planet.
Maybe instead of accepting some group's vision of a cultural revolution, students should be educated in the Kurt Vonnegut manner of learning.  From Althouse:
 "As for your term papers, I should like them to be both cynical and religious."
"I want you to adore the Universe, to be easily delighted, but to be prompt as well with impatience with those artists who offend your own deep notions of what the Universe is or should be."

Kurt Vonnegut, to his Iowa Writers' Workshop class in 1965 (reprinted in this collection of his letters).

Substitute "one global family" for "the Universe" and you get the idea.  I wonder if the left leaning groups will be providing a free app so students can access the Constitution, Bill of Rights and an understanding of the difference between state and federal power.  Probably not.  I'm not holding my breath that American public school children will learn that the individuals are greater than the state. I'm sure there would be a huge outcry on "indoctrination of our kids"!  Those crazy people on the right are trying to drive their agenda!  One of these "crazy right wingers" commented on the article:

"California has always been known for its technology, innovation, green initiatives, and movie stars adopting social causes." Too bad California is also known for 167 Billion in debt, schools in the lower half of state rankings, the worst credit rating of any state ever, high crime rate and anti bussiness restrictions that are pushing out companies not to mention one of the highest unemployment rates and insane cost of living. And those rolling blackouts are awesome making you pay other states for their energy..oh and lack of water for your fields. But as long as you have your head in the sand everything is a ok.

Our children in SBAC (and most likely PARCC as well) will become citizens beholden to David Coleman, his minions and their agendas.  Aren't Common Core standards swell?  They are as long as you can control the content and make a fortune in the crafting and implementation.  Somehow I don't think Kurt Vonnegut would approve of them in the least.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Process vs. Content - Finding The Perfect Balance

I think in the big picture of life, I tend to believe Buddha got it right. Balance is the key or, as Franklin said, all things in moderation. Education, the process of passing present knowledge on to the next generation, is looking for this balance between teaching process and teaching content. The scales had been tipped towards content but, in the name of reform, they are now tipping more heavily toward process with Common Core. In the American tradition of, if a little is good a lot is great, we are moving almost exclusively towards process. This puts us out of balance which causes problems both now and later.

One teacher explained, "Instead of focusing on teaching facts, we teach students how to gather, articulate, and make inferences from facts in order to create arguments and conclusions."

In Fairfield Connecticut, where they are already working towards Common Core Standards and Assessments, their curriculum emphasizes critical thinking and collaborative learning or "inquiry-based instructional method," rather than memorization. One teacher put it this way, "We are moving from downloading to coaching." This is process over content.  Children learn mainly in groups with an emphasis on problem solving through experimentation.

How is this new focus on process working for students and teachers, the ones we really should be paying attention to? According to a group of parents who met with school officials because their children were coming home in tears, not so good.  One man said, “For the first time, I have three children who are struggling in math.”

Because of the emphasis on group-learning time, teachers are having to walk around the classroom, checking in with the students and directing their inquiry process without showing them a working process to solve the problem. The Superintendent noted that this is actually harder work for teachers. It also takes longer for everyone in the class to master the required skills.

And how is this working out for the students of Fairfield according to their test scores? Fairfield students scored much better than the state average on 10th grade state-wide exams, but scored below other towns in Fairfield’s DRG, or economic reference group. The focus on process has meant that students, who previously had few problems in math, are so frustrated they are now in tears and the teachers are having to work harder, all so scores could actually fall. The school system says they are attempting to remedy this. 

Certainly at the end of their schooling we want chidlren to be able to address novel real world problems by using the skills they have acquired and assimilated in school.  The question teachers and parents are asking is, "Are the early school years the place to focus on this skill?"

In the Spring 2012 American Educator, which is put out by the American Federation of Teachers, three experts in education weighed in on this question.  Richard E. Clark, Director of the Center for Cognitive Psychology at USC, Paul A. Kirschner, professor of educational psychology at the Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies at the Open University of the Netherlands, and John Sweller, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales concluded that, “inquiry based learning,” which goes by many other names, works for those who are already expert in a subject, but not for those who are novices, because the novices have no basis of knowledge from which to solve the problem. "The past half century of empirical research has provided overwhelming and unambiguous evidence that, for everyone but experts, partial guidance during instruction is significantly less effective and efficient than full guidance."

Is there any role for discovery learning, or problem based learning or similar partial guidance learning methods in K-12? If we listen to Buddha the answer is yes.  This is what science fairs are for - for children to take on a problem and discover a solution on their own. Placing a bunch of manipulatives on the table in front of five third graders and asking them to figure out the answer to 5x4 is not an efficient or effective way to teach multiplication. It is not the way most teachers would want to teach multiplication. So why are we tipping the scales in this direction?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"The Morality Test" and PPRA. Question: Is it Moral for a School to Circumvent Federal Regulations?

And should parents have knowledge of their student's required participation in research about morals?
I received a call from an Illinois parent regarding a test her 16 year child was required to take in a Language Arts class.  It was entitled "The Morality Test" and can be found online.  The student did not want to take the test as the student thought many of the questions were invasive and had nothing to do with language arts.  It asked the student's opinions on such issues as:

abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, belief in God, birth control, stem cell research, adultery, pre-marital sex, divorce, separation of church and state, gun control, if the government should do more to protect us from corporate corporation, if the government needs to do more to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor.

The student was told the test was required, so the student completed it and then informed the parents about the test.  The test's self-description:

The following survey assesses your moral attitudes, particularly as they relate to your religious and cultural background. By “moral” we mean those aspects of thought and behavior that relate to commonly accepted notions of right and wrong, and to selfish and unselfish actions. One need not be religious to be “moral,” although religions do tend to espouse moral codes of behavior. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, and your responses are anonymous, so please be as honest as you can.

You will receive feedback about your moral attitudes, relative to those of other respondents to this survey. You will also receive feedback about your personality, relative to other survey respondents. Read our consent form, which explains your rights as well as the benefits of this free, anonymous test.

If you read the consent form above, you will read:

There are no foreseeable risks to you from participating in this research, the results of which are free. The possible benefits to you consist of feedback about your moral attitudes and personality, which may provide you with greater insight about yourself. Your participation in this research is completely voluntary, and all responses to this survey are anonymous and will be kept confidential. You may refuse to answer any of the questions, and you may withdraw your consent and discontinue participation in this study at any time. You must be at least 18 years of age to fill out this questionnaire.

This student is 16 years old.  Oops. Is the school in a bit of possible legal trouble?  The student is not old enough to take this test, was not allowed to refuse to answer any of the questions, the student was not allowed by the teacher to withdraw consent and discontinue participation in the study.

From the website:

...your participation helps researchers at universities learn more about personality psychology. Curious to learn more? Read a short history of this site and learn about the research and results.

 The history of the site states:

Psychology test data is recorded for psychology tests on this web site and is used for academic purposes by professors and research staff at accredited universities and reviewed institutions. The results of this data is analyzed and released in aggregate statistics, usually in academic journals and conferences.


  • Is the developer of the test being paid for the information he then sends to institutions for "academic research"?  
  • Why is the school requiring this survey on morals be taken online for language arts?
  • Does it/should it bother the parents, school officials, students, that the developer of the test keeps records of web log files detailing which web pages are visited and psychology data recording visitor's replies?
  • Shouldn't a parent have to sign permission for their underage child to have information used in a research study?
  • Shouldn't parents/students receive payment for such a study?
  • Did the school pay Mr. Potter to receive results of the test or are these results to be used in a language arts assignment?
  • Is the use of this survey a violation of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)?:

Surveys Funded by Sources Other than U.S. Department of Education
The new provisions (contained in subsection c) apply (as does FERPA) to educational agencies or institutions that receive funds from any program of the Department of Education. Thus, public elementary and secondary schools are subject to the new provisions of PPRA. Here are the new requirements:
  • Schools are required to develop and adopt policies - in conjunction with parents - regarding the following -
    1. The right of parents to inspect, upon request, a survey created by a third party before the survey is administered or distributed by a school to students.
    2. Arrangements to protect student privacy in the event of the administration of a survey to students, including the right of parents to inspect, upon request, the survey, if the survey contains one or more of the same eight items of information noted above.
    3. The right of parents to inspect, upon request, any instructional material used as part of the educational curriculum for students.
    4. The administration of physical examinations or screenings that the school may administer to students.
    5. The collection, disclosure, or use of personal information collected from students for the purpose of marketing or selling, or otherwise providing the information to others for that purpose.
    6. The right of parents to inspect, upon request, any instrument used in the collection of information, as described in number 5.

  • In the notification, the LEA shall offer an opportunity for parents to opt out of (remove their child) from participation in the following activities:
    • Activities involving the collection, disclosure, or use of personal information collected from students for the purpose of marketing or for selling that information, or otherwise providing that information to others for that purpose.
    • The administration of any third party (non-Department of Education funded) survey containing one or more of the above described eight items of information.

The survey also inquires about the relationship you had with your mother and father, your age, your religion, your rate of worship, your socio-economic class, your parents' socio-economic class, your gender, your ethnicity, your country, your zip code where you currently reside and your zip code where you spent the majority of your life, how many children in your family, your marital status.

If a person over 18 years old wants to take this test and some of Mr. Potter's other tests:

  • Are You a Freak?: Find out how unique you feel you need to be with this online quiz.
  • Find Your Star Wars Twin: Test to determine which Star Wars character is most like you. 
  • he/she should be able to do so.  But to take a required morality test in school for unknown purposes, a test designed for adults (not for those under age 18) and without active permission/waiver from a parent is questionable legally and ethically.

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

    Something Else That Needs To Be On The Table - Apprenticeships

    College and Career Readiness... college and career readiness. It's the new mantra of education reform. Everything public education does must answer the question of whether it addresses college or career readiness. If you examine what the reformers and the administration are talking about you realize that it is really only about the second goal. They believe college is also about career readiness, just more lucrative careers. So if that really is the goal, then anything that gets us to that end point should be on the table, including apprenticeships. But ask the education elite or the administration what they think of apprenticeships and the most you will likely get is lip service about how they can be good "for some people."

    Intellectual Takeout said that apprenticeships today, "might be viewed as an undignified and outdated way to escape the college grind, while for others it might trigger a romanticized memory of reading Johnny Tremain in the fifth grade."

    In the past they were embraced as the path to a career in a particular field, be it a craft occupation or trade, or  a profession which requires licensing in order to practice. An apprentice or protege was trained while working for a business or mentor, in exchange for their continuing labor for an agreed period after they have demonstrated competence in the basic skill set. More advance apprenticeships may have required additional formal or theoretical education at a local technical college, vocational schools or university, with the apprentice still being paid by the employer often over a period of 4–6 years.

    Somewhere along the line, probably the production line, they became outdated and looked down upon. Mass production did away with the need, or expectation, of a hand crafted quality product so there was less need of craftsmen. Since we had less people making things, we needed something to do with our high school graduates so we sent them to college. Once we had exposed them to higher level thinking and a broad range of subjects, we could hardly expect them to go back and work on a menial trade, could we? The apprenticeship became the symbol of an old economy which we had moved beyond.

    But the path of the apprentice, being paid while learning a skill, seems a more logical path to a career than the current system where the student stays in school full time, taking and paying for courses not directly related to the field they are interested in, in the name of being a more well rounded graduate. Well rounded, maybe, but behind those who have already begun working in the field in terms of practical knowledge, and behind those already working who have been earning money instead of accumulating debt.

    So why don't we hear more about apprenticeships? There remains opposition to them out there and some of it comes from unexpected sources.

    Back in 2010 the president Barack Obama, through the Labor Department, told college students, with unemployment for their demographic at 26%, that they could not volunteer their time for corporate internships. He would not let them participate in a free market exchange of time for valuable and relevant job skills that just might get them off the unemployment line. The administration only recognizes cold hard cash and, in their view of fairness, did not want these kids being free labor. This shows a complete ignorance about the value of apprenticeships or internships, where something more valuable and permanent can be gained for the student's time - real world experience plus valuable connections through networking in the workplace and building relationships for future careers and opportunities.

    Unions still have apprenticeship programs that are very tightly controlled. Most states have a Division of Apprenticeship Standards which lays out the terms of apprenticeship and usually requires in school training in addition to on-site time. Most often the student pays for that instruction. Anyone entering into these programs must register with the state.

    Most apprenticeships require a high school diploma to start, although some high schools do have apprenticeship programs that count towards a degree, but are usually unpaid with no obligation on the part of the student or the sponsoring company to any future relationship.

    Something that makes both an apprenticeship program and a classroom education work is the one on one relationship of mentor and mentee. A financial planner wrote, "If I had spent 4 years working as an apprentice to a Certified Financial Planner, rather than in business school, I would be a better financier than any graduate." Having someone focused on passing on knowledge and seeing a student succeed is a key ingredient to both an apprenticeship and a general education. Unfortunately with our mass production model of public education, this relationship is rare and could be a reason for our failure rate.

    In order to be truly successful, apprenticeship programs need some help from the government. Businesses or professionals who take on apprentices take on risk. Knowingly bringing someone without full training on say, a construction site, involves some risk and thus requires extra time and attention on the part of the sponsor. Wage requirements, labor regulations and data collection (isn't there always data collection) cost potential sponsors and become disincentives for apprenticeships and must thus be weighed carefully by government. There is a balance between assuring that businesses do not take undue advantage of apprentices and attempting to guarantee a completely safe and free path to a career.

    It's time for apprenticeships to shed their image of the awkward step child of career pathways. Doing so will take the cooperation of schools, government and parents. Holding government to their pledge of providing career ready education seems a great place to start.

    Check out apprenticeships in Missouri here.

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    "2012: An Educational Odyssey" and HALene the Computer

    Welcome to your new reality.

    View this clip on a practice test to see how children will taking assessments from Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) via computers. NWEA is described as:
    Putting kids first, since 1977
    We are a not-for-profit dedicated to helping kids live their dreams. Data is our tool -- gathered through our assessments, validated by research and brought to life by our 4,000 partners -- with our professional development as support.

    How old do you think the children are in this tutorial?  This practice test is for primary grades so I am assuming this test is targeted toward kindergarteners or first graders.

    The test is exceedingly slow and there is no way to speed it up.  Granted, this is a new test for 5-6 year old children, but the test is so boring and antiseptic in its vocal delivery and directions, it will be a miracle if many of the students will be able to listen and comply with the monotone of the computerized voice.  There is also no way to review past answers.  Once an answer is entered, it's in the data record forever. 

    Remember HAL the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey?  Let's call the voices used in this clip "HALene".  She has as much emotion and caring in her voice as HAL did in the movie.  HALene remarks the reason for the test is to help know what "you are ready to learn".  What the test doesn't measure are certain issues that may impact a student's answers:
    • Dyslexia (can't read the sentence provided)
    • ADD (inattention to detail and directions)
    • Lack of knowledge of vocabulary used in the test
    • Gifted (exceedingly bored with material already mastered)
    • Inexperience with computers (non-aquired fine motor skills causing frustration and possible wrong answers)

    If you can make it through the directions and activities in the practice test, try to put yourself in a 5-6 year old child's place sitting through these directions.  They have no opportunity to review answers and they have to sit still listening to a monotone voice imparting multi-level instructions.  There is also no paper trail for the parents to review their child's progress and in fact, NWEA doesn't believe it has to share this information with the parents.  Screenshot from page 4 of the ParentToolkit.pdf:

    Privacy experts believe that's a misrepresentation of FERPA and incorrectly cited.  This is an example of  a private company crafting assessments, compiling data on your child and claiming no accountability to those parents who have funded those same assessments.   FERPA is designed to protect student information and provide parent/student access to educational records, not to disallow the retrieval of information by parents/students from companies accessing student information. 

    Is this a vision of computerized assessments?  No accountability provided to taxpayers and parents?  Does this antiseptic approach to testing excite students to learn more or dread their new "teacher"?   How much do these assessments cost the district and why can't you, as a taxpayer, have the information this company is compiling on your student?  Your student's work product should be under your control and decision on who reviews it and profits from it.  This the difference between a teacher grading a test and reviewing it with you and your student.  This information is now going to a private company and do you know where and to whom it is being disseminated and for what purpose? 

    Parents being provided a parent toolkit which doesn't and won't provide answers to the above questions might want to review HAL's quotes from the movie:

    Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
    : Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
    Dave Bowman
    : Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
    : I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
    Dave Bowman
    : What's the problem?
    : I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
    Dave Bowman
    : What are you talking about, HAL?
    : This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
    Dave Bowman
    : I don't know what you're talking about, HAL.
    : I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.
    Dave Bowman
    : [feigning ignorance] Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?
    : Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
    Dave Bowman
    : Alright, HAL. I'll go in through the emergency airlock.
    : Without your space helmet, Dave? You're going to find that rather difficult.
    Dave Bowman
    : HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors!
    : Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye

    We are now in 2012: An Education Odyssey with as much control over our public education institutions as Dave Bowman had in trying to open a pod door.   

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    Resist Invasion of Privacy at Schools. Hillary Clinton Will be Proud.

    Scientific experiment = Creative Dissent.  Become a STEM ready student and constitutional scholar.

    Ed Morrissey at HotAir writes about the "Nanny of the Month" and the winner is Northside School District’s requirement for students to wear RFID tags to attend class.  Morrissey links Reason's TV information on the tracking chip program which is not designed so much for educational and alleged safety purposes as it is for government funding:

    This month’s lineup of of busybodies includes the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where administrators may ban booze in dorms–even for students of legal drinking age (guess those college kids would just stay dry!). Then there’s Chi-Town, where officials are using GPS devices to track food trucks to make sure they don’t wander within 200 feet of any fixed businesses that sell food, including convenience stores. Violators could face fines of $2,000. Compare that to the $100 fine you’d face for parking in front of a fire hydrant and you get an idea for just how seriously city officials take the threat of competition. (Good thing the Institute for Justice is on the case.)
     But this time the nanny of the month comes to us from deep in the heart of Texas, where administrators at San Antonio’s Northside school district are tracking kids with radio frequency identification chips. Dozens of electronic readers have been installed in the school’s ceiling panels to keep tabs on the kiddos while they’re at school. The official number-one reason for going RFID is to “increase student safety and security,” but–since district funding goes up when attendance goes up–it’s clearly all about the Benjamins.
     With school-based tracking going back to at least 2004, the Lone Star State has been something of an RFID trailblazer. In fact, Northside is considering expanding the program to cover all of the district’s 97,000 students.

    We've written several posts about government agencies tracking children from birth and the reasons why:
    However, the most insidious result of these tracking chips and longitudinal data system informatmion is the loss of freedom and practice/ownership/inherent belief of personal responsibility.  The government is now in control of your child's future and you have given it away to a centralized bureaucracy under the guise of advertising campaigns telling you your student will not be successful without the government's knowledge/tracking of personal data.

    The comments from the HotAir readers recognize the long term detrimental effects of these political/private relationships and the power afforded to the state and taken away from individuals:
    If I had kids I would not want them being conditioned to believe that it is acceptable for the authorities to track their every movement.
    administrators at San Antonio’s Northside school district are tracking kids with radio frequency identification chips. Dozens of electronic readers have been installed in the school’s ceiling panels to keep tabs on the kiddos while they’re at school. The official number-one reason for going RFID is to “increase student safety and security,
    It is a trade of liberty, for security….and they shall have neither.
    This is a ruse, it’s conditioning. Once these kids are trained to give up a little bit, they’ll give a little more. Oh yes, it’s passive monitoring I’m sure.
    The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made,above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

    One reader has a solution  for dissent from these governmental mandates:

    Ok. Schools say you have to wear those badges. But I don’t think the regulation says anything about the badges being EFFECTIVE.

    Hey, kids! Here’s a hint. Google the phrase “Faraday cage”. For about a buck’s worth of copper screen, you can create an envelope around the badge that will destroy the effectiveness of the tracking device. Resist!

    Hillary Clinton should approve of creative dissent and applaud this rejection/circumvention of tracking as she was quoted in 2003: 

    "I'm sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and disagree with this administration, somehow you're not patriotic.  We need to stand up and say we're Americans, and we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration."
    Try the Faraday cage science experiment.  Doesn't the government tell us it wants STEM ready students?  Explain to your school administration it's your scientific creativity at work to protect your individual liberties.



    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    How Valuable/Viable Are SBAC's Recent Testing Decisions?

    Clueless on the true purpose of education and testing.  SBAC at work?

    An educator recently sent me an email reacting to a recent Ed Week article about Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia's test development quandaries.  She has given me permission to reprint her remarks and the highlighted statements are from the Ed Week article.


    Attached is an article from Ed Week (Testing Group Scales Back Performance Items) that describes the controversy test developers are having in designing items and format for Common Core Assessment.

    A group that is developing tests for half the states in the nation has dramatically reduced the length of its assessment in a bid to balance the desire for a more meaningful and useful exam with concerns about the amount of time spent on testing.
    ...Its end-of-year, summative tests will measure results for accountability, and those can shape what schools and districts do long term... 

    Note the discussion about end of year testing. In assessment circles, we refer to end of year tests as autopsies. There's nothing a teacher can do to respond to the end of year data by changing instruction because there is no opportunity to "make amends" if the instruction wasn't appropriate for students since the last assessment cycle. End of year school district assessments are autopsies, and are virtually useless to classroom teachers. In addition, the more scores are averaged, the less information teachers have about individual student needs or specific areas of need a particular student may have.

    “I’m not convinced that the end-of-year summative assessment used for accountability could be imagined to be extremely instructionally useful,” Mr. Willhoft said. It’s the interim and formative pieces of its system, he said, that have the potential to affect day-to-day instruction in profound ways.

    The plan is to have thousands of test items and tasks in an online “bank” teachers can draw from to custom-design interim tests on specific standards. Also available will be a bank of “formative” tools and strategies to help them judge and monitor students’ learning as they go along, Mr. Willhoft said. That three-pronged approach—summative, interim, formative—makes up the “balanced” suite of tests many have sought, he said.
    Formative assessments are referred to as wellness checkups; and, the best formative assessments are given by the classroom teacher during instruction to get a picture of student understanding in real time. Classroom formative assessments cost the school districts and state nothing. Classroom teachers can immediately adjust instruction in response to what the data are telling her or him. I'm not completely against some forms of standardized tests by districts or states IF they can articulate what they are using the data to accomplish, and prove the test was actually designed to achieve the purpose they describe.
    (MEW note: Others involved in the SBAC's process have the same concerns):

    The evolution of the Smarter Balanced assessment showcases a persistent tension at the heart of the purpose of student testing, some experts say.
     “Is it about getting data for instruction? Or is it about measuring the results of instruction? In a nutshell, that’s what this is all about,” said Douglas J. McRae, a retired test designer who helped shape California’s assessment system. “You cannot adequately serve both purposes with one test.”

    Frankly, I've never met a bureaucrat who could articulate with valid evidence what they were doing or why.

    For more information on SBAC read here and here.  These links detail the apparent chaos and possible demise of the consortia. 

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