"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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Friday, September 13, 2013

Common Core "Rigor" Nonsense Talking Points. Blah blah blah blah blah.

This is the definition of Common Core rigor.

Read this blog's Common Core definition of rigor.  From Beyond the “Rigor” Buzz: Myths and Truths about Rigor in Common Core Classrooms:

(MEW's comments are highlighted in yellow and contain links with further information)

Rigor is a popular education buzzword – especially right now with the implementation of Common Core standards. Politicians, corporate leaders, and educators at all levels have echoed some version of President Obama’s words from 2009: “It is time to expect more from our students.” Rigor is a key element of CCSS, and as students head back to school over the next few weeks, it’s being discussed in classrooms all over the country.

But what is rigor? Is it higher expectations for achievement? Is it harder questions and more homework?

No. But when many people think of rigor, they’re falling prey to some false beliefs about what rigor means in the classroom.

Common myths about rigor

Students must do more work. Oftentimes “more work,” including increased homework, really means low-level activities and repetition.
Students need to solve problems independently. Learning to figure out a problem is important, but that doesn’t mean the teacher shouldn’t offer support and help guide students in the right direction.

Rigor is just one more thing to do. Many educators view adding rigor to their instruction as an entirely separate undertaking.

The truths (and the good news) about rigor
Let’s look at how a few leading academics and educational foundations define rigor:
• “A demanding yet accessible curriculum that engenders critical-thinking skills as well as content knowledge.” – MDRC, a social policy nonprofit MDRC  has received Gates funding
• Students should “raise questions, think, reason, solve problems and reflect.” – Beverly L. Hall, 2009 National Superintendent of the Year  Beverly Hall was at the center of the teaching cheating scandal in Atlanta
• Students “should be asked to comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize, evaluate – using that knowledge.” – Education Trust  Education Trust received Gates money

The good news about these definitions is that rigor is not something extra you need to do, nor is it something that needs to be so rigid or difficult that children (and teachers) suffer. So what are some truths about rigor?

Rigor means more challenging work instead of just “more work.” Each student learns differently, but incorporating elements of differentiated instruction will challenge students at a level that’s comfortable for them.

Rigor means supporting students. Rigor happens somewhere between fully independent learning and spoon-feeding answers. Forming student groups and offering help builds a classroom atmosphere where students feel safe asking questions. Teachers can accept high-level responses or ask more probing and extended critical thinking questions: “Have you considered . . .?” “Why did you assume that?”  It doesn't matter if 3 x 4 = 11.  Just explain your answer and you will get credit: even if it's wrong.

Rigor means incorporating critical thinking strategies. When you incorporate critical thinking strategies into your classroom (e.g., scaffolding thinking, assessing thinking, group discussion), you’re automatically encouraging rigor. You’re engaging students, and moving them beyond basic recall tasks into higher-level thinking.

If you’re incorporating critical thinking strategies into your lesson plans, you’re already providing rigorous instruction. Engaging students, challenging them, and creating an environment that encourages curiosity and questions will provide students with skills like inquisitiveness, determination, and creative thinking – all skills they need to be lifelong learners. 
Here's my answer to this article of talking points not based on best practice, research or data.  I like my definition of rigor:

Missouri Education Watchdog
With all due respect, this is PR nonsense. The rigor you speak will leave students behind international peers in math by 2 years BY 8TH GRADE according to the lead validator, Dr. James Milgram. He was the only mathematician on the validation committee and refused to sign off on them because they are "substandard" standards.

The standards were found to be developmentally inappropriate for young children. Oops. I guess CCSSO didn't have that on its website. Here it is: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/25/gesell-institute-the-common-core-standards-are-wrong-for-young-children/

Dr. Sandra Stotsky also refused to validate the ELA standards. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/12/questionable-quality-of-the-common-core-english-language-arts-standards

Rigor doesn't mean what you state. Here is the definition of rigor from Merriam-Webster:

a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2) : the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3) : severity of life : austerity


Maybe  you'd like to visit this blog and leave your comments on rigor, Bill Gates and Common Core?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Local School Boards Not Needed. Will the US Dept of Education be Running Your School District?

He's BAACCCKKK. Tell your school district Arne Duncan should stay out of our states, districts and schools.  If your district takes Federal money, go ahead and abolish your school board.  A centralized system doesn't need/want local input. 

IMPORTANT! Some info about the new round of race to the top - district grants that are due on October 3rd. 

School districts who want to take federal money directly from the Federal Government and bypassing state agencies are listed below.  What taxpayers, parents and legislators must understand is with money comes enormous strings.  Why not just abolish state educational agencies and school boards if the Federal Government gives money directly to school districts?  Forget about the constitutional authority of state agencies and local school boards.  The US Department of Education is now directing local and state educational directives.  

Here is a list of school districts by state that have indicated that they intend to apply for RTTT-D funding: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-district/2013-list-intent-apply.pdf THERE ARE DISTRICTS FROM EVERY STATE on this list!

There is a state and local comment period -- start working on the mayors or town administrators to influence their comments!

"Each LEA included in an application must provide its State at least 10 business days to comment on the LEA’s application and submit as part of its application package: (a) the State’s comments or, if the State declined to comment, evidence that the LEA offered the State 10 business days to comment; and (b) the LEA’s response to the State’s comments (optional). Similarly, each LEA included in an application must provide its mayor or comparable official at least 10 business days to comment on the LEA’s application and submit as part of its application package: (a) the mayor’s or city or town administrator’s comments or, if that individual declines to comment, evidence that the LEA offered such official 10 business days to comment; and (b) the LEA’s response to the mayor’s or city or town administrator’s comments (optional)."

This grant application also requires the signature of the head of the teachers union in the district-- they are sealing this one airtight. "Required signatures for the LEA or lead LEA in a consortium are those of the superintendent or CEO, local school board president, and (where applicable) local teacher union or association president."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Fallacy of the Purple Squirrel

Public education gets the blame for producing dumb students and not providing business with qualified candidates. The ball is 100% in the school's and teacher's court right? Hold on a minute. Let's look at some U.S. business hiring practices that may also be contributing the problem. And then let's ask the geniuses at the Business Roundtable what they are going to do to fix their end of the problem.

The lament from business is "Oh boo hoo, we can't find any good candidates with the skills we want. The public education system just sends us dumber and dumber kids."  They then point to cherry picked statistics, like PISA and TIMMS score comparisons with other countries, to prove that those statements are true. But let's take a moment to examine their statements.

The moats, fortified walls and iron gates of ancient fortresses are easily overcome defenses compared to today's equivalent, the Human Resources department which can keep out even the bravest warrior and most qualified candidate for a position. When a company says they can't find any "good" candidates, consider the purple squirrel. The Urban Dictionary says this about purple squirrels, "For all practical purposes, there is no such thing as a 'Purple Squirrel'; not in nature and not in the job market. It is a metaphor used by recruiters to identify the unrealistic expectations of a client company." The purple squirrel is the bane of the modern recruiter. They can find excellent candidates, yet the company still won't fill the position.

The purple squirrel, or perfect candidate, comes preloaded with exactly the right qualifications and experience, and is willing to work for the lowest salary. In today's job market, as more workers become unemployed, companies become more selective and move ever more slowly to fill positions. They hold out for the perfect candidate who can perform a wide range of skills but who is going to be economically competitive with the workers in other countries who; a) have a lower wage scale and b) have not racked up enormous college debt trying to find that magic mix of skills that will get them past the HR department screening and whose salary expectations are high due to the need to pay off that debt.

Companies must also be concerned about legal liability in an environment where EEOC guidelines provide every potential candidate with fodder for a possible law suit. They become risk averse to hiring anybody with the slightest blemish in their careers making them even pickier in their assessment of possible candidates. All of these concerns fall under the HR definition of a "good" candidate. Its getting easier to see why there might not be so many of them.

There is another business practice that may be affecting the quality of candidates who are applying for advertized jobs (where recruiters are not involved). Some companies advertise a job at a certain salary and then, after they get enough responses, start beating down the applicants to see who'll work for the least amount of money. Its easy to see how highly qualified job applicants who've been through that process a few times conclude that it's not worth their time to respond to advertisements for job openings. Employers give the appearance of wanting lower quality candidates by offering correpsondingly low salaries, so guess who shows up for their job interviews? The low quality candidates.

Common Core standards are advertized to make students ready for college and the global job market. They seem to promise employers that purple squirrel which, is it any surprise, makes businesses all vociferously support the standards.

In all my research on common core I have never come across a report done by the US Chamber of Commerce that defined what specific skills businesses want students to master. They have studies that say that businesses can't find candidates with the skills they want, but those skills are never named.

Beth B. Buehlmann, Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber's Center for Workforce Preparation before the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness had the only definition I could find. They say candidates are illiterate, and here is how they define literacy.
The definition of literacy has changed over time and will continue to change. One hundred years ago, "literacy" was defined simply as the ability to write your name. In the new high-tech, highly competitive 21st century workplace, literacy means the ability to read, write, compute and solve problems, communicate, listen, and perform basic tasks. The National Institute for Literacy finds that almost 50 percent of American adults have low literacy skills making it difficult for them to do many of the tasks required to carry out work and family responsibilities.
Beyond the foundation skills of basic literacy — reading, writing and arithmetic — the meaning of workplace literacy has expanded as workplaces have changed. Technology has had a particularly profound impact on today's workplace skills requirements. New technologies, information, and competition will make today's state-of-the-art products and processes obsolete tomorrow. It has been estimated that jobs will be wholly restructured every seven years. Few working Americans will be able to remain competitive in their existing jobs without continually learning new skills.
I challenge the Chamber to define a single set of skills that all their members would agree represent the skills they want workers to have. That list would either be very short in order to get 100% consensus, or would take the average person until age 40 to complete. Public education therefore represents a cross section of all those wants with a sampling of skills from many areas that can be covered in 12 years. Is it any wonder then that we aren't producing students that match their desired skill set?

The problem of matching job candidates to job openings is a complicated issue that could stand some improvement by ALL parties --- the schools, the student / job applicants, AND employers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

We Must Have Testing Parody Video

It's making the rounds, but in case you haven't seen it, this video is a funny take on a serious problem.


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