Last few Texas TAKS Exit Level Social Studies students? Review here

April 11, 2014

Stealing this wholesale from my history class blog:  A few hundred students still need to take the old TAKS Exit Level Social Studies Test, in order to finish their high school diploma requirements.

Isn't the TAKS Test dead?  Not yet -- zombie like, it still prowls the nightmares of older students working to get a Texas diploma.  Test review and practice in this post

Isn’t the TAKS Test dead? Not yet — zombie like, it still prowls the nightmares of older students working to get a Texas diploma. Test review and practice in this post

You can do it; and if you’ve been out of class for a while, or if you just want to boost your score, here’s a review, and a few lines down here is a link to a place to take an on-line practice test which you can get scored.  The practice test questions should be mostly phased out by now, but the topics will remain.

It’s spring, and a young person’s fancy and earnest wishes turn to acing these tests to get a high school diploma.

From Mr. Darrell’s Wayback Machine:

Here’s a generalized, much truncated list of things high school juniors need to know, according to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).  This is a list from which the TAKS test questions will be drawn.

Earlier posts provided the definitions of each of these terms and phrases — check those out in your study, too.

We’ll add links to these terms as we find them — you may want to bookmark this post so you can find it again.

You can download a MicroSoft Word version of this study guide, essentially the same as here in a dozen posts, in one file that prints out to about 12 pages; click here to get the printed study guide.

Update 2012:  Go here to link to an on-line, TEA-released TAKS Social Studies Exit Level Test.

Things to Know for the Grade 11 TAKS Social Studies Test

People:

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • George Washington
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Clarence Darrow
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Henry Ford
  • Charles A. Lindbergh
  • Harry Truman
  • George C. Marshall
  • Joseph McCarthy
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • W. E. B. DuBois
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Rachel Carson
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Thurgood Marshall

Dates:

  • 1776 – Declaration of Independence
  • 1914-1918 – World War I
  • 1929 – Stock Market Crash (beginning of Great Depression)
  • 1941-1945 – World War II (U.S. involvement)
  • 1787 – Constitution written
  • 1861-1865 – Civil War
  • 1898 – Spanish American War, debut of U.S. as a major world power

Primary Sources (mostly documents):

  • Declaration of Independence
  • U.S. Constitution
  • Bill of Rights
  • 13th Amendment
  • 14th Amendment
  • 15th Amendment
  • Wilson’s 14 Points
  • 16th Amendment
  • 17th Amendment
  • 19th Amendment
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Supreme Court case from 1954)
  • 24th Amendment
  • 26th Amendment

Events:

  • Magna Carta
  • Bubonic plague
  • Columbian Exchange of food
  • English Bill of Rights (1789)
  • Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • American Revolution
  • Articles of Confederation
  • Philadelphia Convention (1787 – wrote the Constitution)
  • Federalist Papers
  • Bill of Rights
  • Nullification Crisis
  • Civil War (1861-1865, TEKS dates)
  • Thirteenth Amendment
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • Fifteenth Amendment
  • Spanish-American War (1898, TEKS date)
  • Panama Canal
  • Sixteenth Amendment
  • Seventeenth Amendment
  • World War I
  • Wilson’s Fourteen Points
  • Treaty of Versailles
  • Nineteenth Amendment (Women’s Right To Vote, or Women’s Suffrage)
  • Red Scare
  • Prohibition (of production and sale of alcoholic beverages)
  • (Scopes Trial)
  • Stock Market Crash, October 29, 1929 (TEKS date)
  • Great Depression
  • New Deal (FDR’s program to pull U.S. out of Depression)
  • FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)
  • Social Security Act
  • World War II (1941-1945, TEKS dates)
  • Pearl Harbor, “a day which will live in infamy” (December 7, 1941)
  • Internment of Japanese Americans
  • Battle of Midway
  • Holocaust
  • Normandy Invasion (D-Day)
  • (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) (Atomic bomb targets)
  • Truman Doctrine
  • Marshall Plan
  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in 1949)
  • GI Bill
  • Korean War
  • McCarthyism
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
  • Sputnik I (1957; TEKS date)
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Twenty-fourth Amendment (banned poll taxes, a civil rights issue)
  • Twenty-sixth Amendment (18-years old to vote)
  • Vietnam Conflict
  • (Watergate)
  • (Resignation of President Nixon)

Vocabulary

  • Colonial grievances
  • Unalienable right
  • Free speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Absolute chronology
  • Relative chronology
  • Demographic patterns
  • Subsistence agriculture
  • Market-oriented agriculture
  • Cottage industries
  • Commercial industries
  • Physical geographic factors
  • Human geographic factors
  • Population growth
  • Technological innovations
  • Telegraph
  • Scientific discoveries
  • Railroads
  • Labor unions
  • Big business
  • Farm issues
  • Minority group
  • Child labor
  • Migration
  • Immigration
  • Unrestricted submarine warfare
  • Prosperity
  • Bank failures
  • Dictatorship
  • Home front
  • Atomic bomb
  • Rationing
  • International trade
  • Political equality

Concepts/Issues:

  • Representative government
  • Revolution
  • Independence
  • Confederation
  • Constitution
  • Limited government
  • Republicanism
  • Checks and balances
  • Federalism
  • Separation of powers
  • Popular sovereignty
  • Individual rights
  • States’ rights
  • Civil war
  • Reconstruction amendments
  • Free enterprise system
  • Spatial diffusion
  • Economic growth
  • Traditional economy
  • Command economy
  • Market economy
  • Industrialization
  • Standard of living
  • Urbanization
  • Expansionism
  • World power
  • Reform
  • (Militarism)
  • (Nationalism)
  • Imperialism
  • Depression
  • Civil rights movement

Testing resistance in Colorado takes to the road

January 20, 2014

From Susan O'Hanian's NCLB Cartoons:   Every year, the Coalitition for Better Education raises grassroots funds to put up these billboards.  You can contribute.  You can go forth and do likewise in your state.

From Susan Ohanian’s NCLB Cartoons: “Every year, the Coalitition for Better Education raises grassroots funds to put up these billboards. You can contribute. You can go forth and do likewise in your state.”

Dr. Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education for Research, said at her blog:

The corporate types who hate teachers’ unions and public schools have been running a billboard and mass media campaign in New York and New Jersey.

But they are not the only ones who know how to frame a message.

Here is a fabulous billboard posted on a major highway in Colorado by critics of the nutty testing regime imposed by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.


How to tell testing is a monster in your local schools: “Test Menu”

June 18, 2013

This would be much funnier were it not so eerily close to stuff I’ve seen, even in great Texas school systems:

Details:

A :30 commercial created by The Canandaigua Film Society in Canandaigua, New York, to protest over-testing in schools in May 2013.

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More:


Holding teachers accountable, in reality

June 5, 2013

Scott McLeod at Dangerously!Irrelevant put together a video, with computer voices to protect the innocent naive genuinely ignorant and proudly stupid.

Teachers who watch this may cry as they watch America’s future slip away into the Tide of Mediocrity™ we were warned about, which NCLB mistook for high water.  Turn it up so you can hear the full sound effects.  That’s the level of mediocrity rising as the “official” fiddles.

W. Edwards Deming researched and wrote a lot about organization managers who don’t really have a clue what is going on in their organizations, and who lack tools to measure employee work, because they lack an understanding of just what products are, what the resources are that are required to make the desirable product, and how to processes that make those products work, or could work better.

That’s education, today.

Should teachers be “held accountable?”  Depends.  Effective organizations understand that accountability is the flip-side of the coin of authority.  Anyone accountable must have the authority to change the things that affect product, for which that person is “held accountable.”  Texas schools lose up to 45 days a year to testing — that may drop as the TAKS test is phased out, but it won’t drop enough.  45 days is, effectively 25% of the school year.  If time-on-task is important to education as Checker Finn used to badger us at the Department of Education, then testing is sucking valuable resources from education, way above and beyond any benefits testing may offer.

Today, Texas Governor Rick Perry has proposed laws sitting on his desk that would greatly pare back unnecessary testing.  A coalition of businessmen (no women I can discern) with a deceptively-named organization urges Perry to veto the bills, because, they claim, rigor in education can only be demonstrated by a tsunami of tests.

What’s that, you ask?  Where is the person concerned about the student?  She’s the woman with the leaky classroom, who is being shown the door.

Why is it those with authority to change things for the better in Texas schools, and many other school systems throughout the U.S., are not being held accountable? If they won’t use their authority to make things better, why not give that authority to the teachers?

Check out McLeod’s blog — good comments on his video there.

More:

Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star

Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star


Out near Longview: Small district defense of CSCOPE and good lesson plans

May 10, 2013

The nasty kerfuffle over a Texas lesson-planning aide, a comprehensive program called CSCOPE, may have evaded your radar.

Heck, most people in Texas aren’t even aware of this money-wasting teapot tempest.

CSCOPE Parent Portal logo

CSCOPE Parent Portal logo for a Texas school district. Click to see one way Grand Prairie ISD gives parents access to what’s going on in classrooms.

But the state’s attorney general (campaigning for U.S. Senate, hoping to please the Tea Party Commissars) makes threatening gestures towards CSCOPE from time to time, our leading Black Shirt member of the State Senate pushes bills to gut the lesson planning tools, and Texas’s education overseeing ministry, the Texas Education Agency, is conducting a three-month “review” of CSCOPE to make sure it’s politically correct and properly condemning of Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, agnosticism and atheism (if any can be found).  CSCOPE critics hope that the review will delay updating materials just long enough that school districts across the state will abandon it in favor of . . . um, well, kids can learn if they got books . . . er, um, well — “they shouldn’t be learning about Islam at all” (never mind the state standards that require that course unit).

Out of the east, near Longview, three brave school district officials from two school districts put up their hands to ask why the CSCOPE critics are standing naked.  It’s not much, but it’s about the toughest defense of CSCOPE put up by school officials — and of course, they risk investigation by the Attorney General Abbott merely by speaking out, according to CSCOPE critic harpies.

Dear Reader, you can learn a lot from this opposite-editorial page article in the Longview News-Journal (I’ve added links for your convenience):

CSCOPE and Carthage ISD

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 5:46 pm

It is sometimes mindboggling how some controversies begin. Certainly, the wildfire that has swept across Texas concerning the CSCOPE curriculum has our heads spinning. Misinformation has spread rampantly and the truth backed by factual information has been difficult to get out in front of the folks that are taking small excerpts and lessons out of context. In some cases, the CSCOPE curriculum has been attacked with reckless, unsubstantiated accusations.

The shame is that CSCOPE should be a success story of how 870 public school districts, average enrollment of 2000 students, working together with the twenty Education Service Centers (ESCs) created a 21st century curriculum based on the state mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Prior to selecting this curriculum for CISD, an extensive investigation was conducted to assure that it was a good fit for our district.

CSCOPE curriculum/lesson plans were created by master “Texas” teachers, not a textbook company, not a testing company, and not a private, for-profit vendor. Multiple resources, including digital resources, were integrated into the curriculum, with suggested lessons that proved to be extremely beneficial to less experienced teachers. The framework allowed districts and staff to integrate localized lessons within the scope and sequence of the system. Approximately 50% of the charter schools (i.e. KIPP Academy, UT Charter School, Bannockburn Christian Academy and the Texas School for the Deaf) also use CSCOPE. Private schools, such as Catholic Diocese of Austin, Wichita Christian, Hyde Park Baptist and Cornerstone Christian Academy use CSCOPE.

What is my point? CSCOPE and our ESCs have been accused of promoting non-Christian and unpatriotic values based on a couple of lessons that were taken out of context, the targeted lessons were based on state standards created and approved by the State Board of Education. Due to several districts refusing to purchase another “new” curriculum, the creators of this “new curriculum” began a mass media blitz misrepresenting two lessons that addressed the state required curriculum standards.

Districts are mandated to teach the major religions of the worlds and the beliefs of those religions. Districts are mandated to teach heroism and terrorism. CSCOPE curriculum units have designed lessons that explore these standards, allowing students to investigate, compare/contrast, and analyze perspectives based on cultural influences. Example, the Boston Tea Party was perceived as an act of heroism from an American’s point of view; however, patriots of England considered this an act of terrorism. Islam, one of the major religions of the world, believes their God is the only God. These are the two excerpts taken out of context of the instructional units that have resulted in mass social media messages from those wanting to sell “their curriculum”, accusing the writers of CSCOPE and the ESCs of treason and promoting the Islam religion! Recently, a superintendent received threatening emails because the district was using CSCOPE.

Carthage ISD was not one of the first districts to embrace the curriculum; however, the revised state standards and new state assessment system demanded a new curriculum. CSCOPE offers a well-designed curriculum framework that is vertically aligned to the state standards (NOT the Federal Core Standards as inaccurately reported), the state assessment system and 21st century life-long learning goals.

CSCOPE insures the appropriate skills are taught in specific grades using multiple resources. The instructional focus is college and career readiness at all levels. School districts have the flexibility of using the curriculum as a sole source or as an alignment framework – CSCOPE lessons/units optional. Skills such as spelling, cursive handwriting, and math facts are found aligned in CSCOPE. Teachers have the flexibility to adjust the amount of time spent practicing these skills.

CSCOPE is a learning curve for classroom instruction. It is not driven by one textbook or worksheets. It embraces multiple resources, integration of technology and higher order thinking skills.

Similar to purchased curriculum there are mistakes within the lessons, those are reported and corrected. An internal system exists where teachers are asked for input on any element of CSCOPE. It is a proprietary curriculum and shares the same protection as other vendors’ products one must purchase to access the content. Districts sign affidavits, comparable to those required by the state for STAAR testing, to protect the integrity of the system, not unlike copyright laws. The cost is based on the enrollment of the district.

Parents can view the content of a lesson at a parent meeting; however, giving parents free access to the lesson plans and tests would destroy the validity of the assessments and negatively impact the intent of the instructional lessons.

The attack against the supporters and users of CSCOPE may well become the first step toward the state assuming total control of all curriculum and lesson plans for all districts. A bill has been filed to begin this process. That would be another attack on local control by the state.

Article by:

Glenn Hambrick, Ed.D., Superintendent, Carthage ISD

Donna Porter, Ed.D., Asst. Superintendent, Carthage ISD

Mary Ann Whitaker, M.Ed., Superintendent, Hudson ISD

More: 

Longview is under the green star, map from Sperling's BestPlaces

Longview is under the green star, map from Sperling’s BestPlaces


. . . and one test to rule them all . . .

October 18, 2012

The fundamental problem with standardized testing is that kids don’t come “standard.”  A teacher friend sent me this cartoon, summarizing the problem nicely:

One test fits all cartoon

If we use tests to cheat teachers out of a job, and to cheat students out of their futures, should we be surprised when students and teachers cheat on the tests?  Is that a mark of their innate sanity, if they do?

I wonder who the cartoonist was, and what other gems may be lurking out there by the same person?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Daniel Rhee.


823 Texas school boards say they are “anti-testing”

October 12, 2012

Political consultant and columnist Jason Stanford out of Austin Tweeted an interesting note today:  823 school boards in Texas now have passed resolutions opposing “over-reliance on high-stakes testing.”

From the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) website:

Testing Resolution Update

Submitted by Alberto Rivas on October 11, 2012

As of October 11, 823 school districts representing more than 4.3 million students have notified us that they’ve adopted the testing resolution opposing the over-reliance on high-stakes testing. That’s 80 percent of Texas school districts and 88 percent of all Texas public school students.

If you believe the current testing system is strangling our public schools, imposing relentless test preparation and memorization and is stealing the love of learning from your students, then we encourage you to present the resolution to your board for consideration. You can use the sample resolution as written or modify it to meet your needs.

See the list of districts that have adopted the resolution.

Here’s the text of the sample resolution:

WHEREAS, the over reliance on standardized, high stakes testing as the only assessment of learning that really matters in the state and federal accountability systems is strangling our public schools and undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into a broad range of learning experiences that better prepares our students to live successfully and be competitive on a global stage; and

WHEREAS, we commend Robert Scott, former Commissioner of Education, for his concern about the overemphasis on high stakes testing that has become “a perversion of its original intent” and for his continuing support of high standards and local accountability; and

WHEREAS, we believe our state’s future prosperity relies on a high-quality education system that prepares students for college and careers, and without such a system Texas’ economic competitiveness and ability to attract new business will falter; and

WHEREAS, the real work of designing more engaging student learning experiences requires changes in the culture and structure of the systems in which teachers and students work; and

Whereas, what occurs in our classrooms every day should be student-centered and result in students learning at a deep and meaningful level, as opposed to the superficial level of learning that results from the current over-emphasis on that which can be easily tested by standardized tests; and

WHEREAS, We believe in the tenets set out in Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas (TASA, 2008) and our goal is to transform this district in accordance with these tenets; and

WHEREAS, Our vision is for all students to be engaged in more meaningful learning activities that cultivate their unique individual talents, to provide for student choice in work that is designed to respect how they learn best, and to embrace the concept that students can be both consumers and creators of knowledge; and

WHEREAS, only by developing new capacities and conditions in districts and schools, and the communities in which they are embedded, will we ensure that all learning spaces foster and celebrate innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication and critical thinking; and

WHEREAS, these are the very skills that business leaders desire in a rising workforce and the very attitudes that are essential to the survival of our democracy; and

WHEREAS, imposing relentless test preparation and boring memorization of facts to enhance test performance is doing little more than stealing the love of learning from our students and assuring that we fall short of our goals; and

WHEREAS, we do not oppose accountability in public schools and point with pride to the stellar performance of our students, but believe that the system of the past will not prepare our students to lead in the future and neither will the standardized tests that so dominate their instructional time and block our ability to make progress toward a world-class education system of student-centered schools and future-ready students;

THEREFORE BE IT

RESOLVED that the ___________ ISD Board of Trustees calls on the Texas Legislature to reexamine the public school accountability system in Texas and to develop a system that encompasses multiple assessments, reflects greater validity, uses more cost efficient sampling techniques and other external evaluation arrangements, and more accurately reflects what students know, appreciate and can do in terms of the rigorous standards essential to their success, enhances the role of teachers as designers, guides to instruction and leaders, and nurtures the sense of inquiry and love of learning in all students.
PASSED AND APPROVED in this _____ day of _____________, 2012.

823 school districts in Texas, looking out for 4.3 million students.  The Texas Lege mostly represents the Tea Party against the People of Texas these days; don’t look for quick action.

Is your school district one of the 823?

More:


Test “priming”: Malcolm Gladwell on how to push test results, and why tests might not work

July 31, 2012

Who is the interviewer, Allan Gregg?

From the YouTube site:

Malcolm Gladwell in an interview about Blink explains priming, and re-states some of the examples of priming from Blink with CC (closed captions)

Here’s a longer excerpt of the interview; from TVO (TVOntario)?

Discussion:  Gladwell appears to confirm, for testing results, the old aphorism attributed to Henry Ford:  “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Gladwell seems to be saying that the student’s view of his or her abilities at the moment the test starts rules in a significant way how the student performs — worse, for teachers, it’s the student’s unconscious view of his or her abilities.  As a final shot in class, I have often had students predict their performance on state tests.   I have them write what they think they will scores.  Then I ask them to predict what they would have scored, had they applied themselves seriously to study of history — and of course, almost always the students have a fit of honesty and predict their scores would have been higher.  Then I ask them to pretend they had studied, and cross out the lower predicted score and replace it with the higher predicted score.  At the schools where I’ve taught, we do not administer the tests to our own students, and such exercises are prohibited on the day of the test.  Too bad, you think?

Another exercise I’ve found useful for boosting scores is to give the students one class period, just over an hour, to take the entire day-long TAKS social studies test, in the on-line version offered by the Texas Education Agency.  Originally I wanted students to get scared about what they didn’t know, and to get attuned to the questions they had no clue about so they’d pick it up in class.  What I discovered was that, in an hour, clearly with the pressure off (we weren’t taking it all that seriously, after all, allowing just an hour), students perform better than they expected.  So I ask them to pass a judgment on how difficult the test is, and what they should be scoring — almost unanimously they say they find the test not too difficult on the whole, and definitely conquerable by them.

What else could we do with students, if we knew how to prime them for tests, or for writing papers, or for any other piece of performance on which they would be graded?

With one exception, my administrators in Dallas ISD have been wholly inuninterested in such ideas, and such results — there is no checkbox on the teacher evaluation form for using online learning tools to advance test scores, and administrators do not regard that as teaching.  The one exception was Dorothy Gomez, our principal for two years, who had what I regarded as a bad habit of getting on the intercom almost every morning to cheer on students for learning what they would be tested on.  My post-test surveys of students showed those pep talks had been taken to heart, and we got much better performance out of lower-performing groups and entire classes during Gomez’s tenure (she has since left the district).

Also, if psychological tricks can significantly affect test scores, surely that invalidates the idea that we can use any test score to evaluate teacher effectiveness, unless immediate testing results is all we want teachers to achieve.  Gladwell said in this clip:

To me that completely undermines this notion, this naive notion that many educators have that you can reduce someone’s intelligence to a score on a test.  You can’t.

More:


Junk science in education: Testing doesn’t work, can’t evaluate teachers

July 29, 2012

Diane Ravitch, who once had the ear of education officials in Washington and would again, if they have a heart, brains, and a love for the U.S. defended teachers and teaching in a way that is guaranteed to make conservatives and education critics squirm

Cordial relations with Randi Weingarten may not rest well with our teacher friends in New York — but listen to what Dr. Diane Ravitch said at this meeting of the American Federation of Teachers.

  • “Teachers are under attack.”
  • “The public schools are under attack.”
  • “Teachers unions are under attack.”
  • “Public schools are not shoe stores.  They don’t open and close on a dime.”
  • “‘Value-added assessment,’ used as it is today, is junk science.”

If you care about education, if you care about your children and grandchildren, if you care about the future of our nation, you need to listen to this.


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AFT HQ description:

Diane Ravitch, education activist and historian, rallied an enthusiastic audience at the AFT 2012 Convention with her sharp criticism of education “reform” that threatens public schools.

It’s all true.

More Resources and News:


Some stuff teachers don’t need in education

May 20, 2012

Tip of the old scrub brush to Valerie Strauss, who blogs about education issues at The Washington Post site; she borrowed it from Daily Kos.

What teachers don’t need (but are getting anyway)

By

This was written by Paul Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina. A version of this first appeared on dailykos.com.

By Paul Thomas

Just days ago, I completed my 28th year as a teacher — 18 as a high school teacher of English followed by 10 years as a professor of education.

And I am excited about the coming semesters because, as I have felt every year of my teaching life, I know I failed in some ways this past academic year and I am confident I will be better in my next opportunities to teach.

As a teacher, I am far from finished — and I never will be.

I want to make a statement to the many and powerful leaders in education reform, all of whom have either no experience or expertise, or very little, as teachers:

I don’t need standards to teach. I need students.

If You Have Never Taught, You Simply Don’t Understand

Governors, policy wonks, and think tanks, I don’t need the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Secretary Arne Duncan, I have no interest in racing to the top, when that means the top of the pile of my fellow teachers trampled by the policies you have created and promoted.

Bill Gates, I don’t want a dime of your billions; in fact, I am not even interested in what you do (I have always used Apple products) as long as you drop education as your hobby.

Michelle Rhee, I have no interest in my students having mouths forcibly shut by me. I am here to hear their open minds and mouths.

Pearson, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, and every company seeking to sell me anything to support my implementing CCSS or preparing my students for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, state high-stakes tests, or the SAT, I am not interested in buying anything. No software, no hardware, no textbooks, no worksheets. Nothing.

Professional organizations and unions, I need you to stop racing for a place at the table with the reformers and corporations noted above, and instead, seek ways to support my autonomy and agency as a professional so that the autonomy and agency of the children in our schools can become the primary focus of universal public education for free people.

And, finally, to anyone who thinks you know what I should teach and how, please seek a place at the front of a classroom filled with other people’s children, teach for a few years, and then let’s get together and talk. I am eager to be collegial in the pursuit of community as a key part of teaching and learning.

Then What?

Becoming and being a teacher is a constant state of becoming. A teacher must be always a student and scholar of her/his field(s), her/his pedagogy, and her/his students.

What the people and groups identified above seem not to understand is that for my eighteen years of teaching high school English, I probably taught about 2,000 students; thus, I taught about 2,000 different classes. And not a single measurable outcome of any of those students predicts much of anything about my effectiveness or if I’ll succeed with any future student. Some of the students who appear successful did so in spite of my failures. Some of the students who appear to have failed were provided my very best as a teacher. Almost all of the good and bad I have created as a teacher are not measurable or apparent in manageable ways.

I wasn’t concerned about meeting anyone’s standards or preparing any student for a test or making sure any student was prepared for the next grade, college, or the workforce.

And I never will be.

Instead of standards, testing, competition, labeling, ranking, and sorting (all the cancerous elements of traditional schooling and the current accountability era), as a teacher, I need to offer my students authentic learning opportunities in which they produce artifacts of their understanding and expertise. My students need from me my authoritative feedback to those authentic artifacts.

I have no interest in competing with my fellow teachers for whose students score highest on tests so I can earn more money than my colleagues. I don’t, either, want to join forces with my in-school colleagues to outperform other schools in order to compete for their customers. I couldn’t care less how my state’s schools compare with other states or how U.S. schools compare on international tests.

Absolutely none of that matters.

While not unique to Howard Gardner, we have a very clear idea of what it is teachers should do in the pursuit of learning. Gardner’s “The Disciplined Mind” examines a conception of education not distracted by accountability.

Teaching and learning must be primarily collaborative, a community of learners.

The goals of learning must be the broad and clear — although always evolving — defining qualities of the fields of knowledge we honor in academia.

Every history course, for example, would pursue, What does it mean to be a historian? Every science class, What does it mean to be a scientist? Every writing class, What does it mean to be a writer?

Teaching and learning are the collaborative pursuit of questions. Anything else is indoctrination, dehumanizing, and antithetical to democratic ideals and human agency.

Humans never will—and never should—learn the same box of knowledge. Humans never will—and never should—learn in linear, sequential ways.

And there is no need for any of that anyway as long as we seek to be a community instead of barbaric individuals committed to the conquest of goods at the expense of others.

I don’t need standards to teach. I need students.

(My becoming a teacher can be traced directly to the wonderful and rich influence of my mother, and that influence is inextricable from the powerful and enduring influence of my father.)

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I don’t expect anyone to agree 100% with Prof. Thomas’s views — but anyone concerned about education, about job training, about their children, or about our nation, will listen.


Would you even know a good teacher, if she pushed your kid to great achievement?

May 17, 2012

Yes, that’s Rod Serling‘s shadow, and that’s the “Twilight Zone” music you hear.

Consider the curious case of Carolyn Abbott in New York City (links added):

Carolyn Abbott was, in one respect, a victim of her own success. After a year in her classroom, her seventh-grade students scored at the 98th percentile of New York City students on the 2009 state test. As eighth-graders, they were predicted to score at the 97th percentile on the 2010 state test. However, their actual performance was at the 89th percentile of students across the city. That shortfall—the difference between the 97th percentile and the 89th percentile—placed Abbott near the very bottom of the 1,300 eighth-grade mathematics teachers in New York City.

How could this happen? Anderson is an unusual school, as the students are often several years ahead of their nominal grade level. The material covered on the state eighth-grade math exam is taught in the fifth or sixth grade at Anderson. “I don’t teach the curriculum they’re being tested on,” Abbott explained. “It feels like I’m being graded on somebody else’s work.”

The math that she teaches is more advanced, culminating in high-school level algebra and a different and more challenging test, New York State’s Regents exam in Integrated Algebra. To receive a high school diploma in the state of New York, students must demonstrate mastery of the New York State learning standards in mathematics by receiving a score of 65 or higher on the Regents exam. In 2010-11, nearly 300,000 students across the state of New York took the Integrated Algebra Regents exam; most of the 73 percent who passed the exam with a score of 65 or higher were tenth-graders.

Because student performance on the state ELA and math tests is used to calculate scores on the Teacher Data Reports, the tests are high-stakes for teachers; and because New York City uses a similar statistical strategy to rank schools, they are high-stakes for schools as well. But the tests are not high-stakes for the eighth-graders at Anderson.

By the time they take the eighth-grade tests in the spring of the year, they already know which high school they will be attending, and their scores on the test have no consequences. “The eighth-graders don’t care; they rush through the exam, and they don’t check their work,” Abbott said. “The test has no effect on them. I can’t make an argument that it counts for kids. The seventh-graders, they care a bit more.”

The state tests, she believes, are poorly equipped to assess real mathematical knowledge, especially for high-performing students. “They’re so basic; they ask you to explain things that are obvious if you’re three years ahead,” she says. The Anderson students “understand it at a different level. They want to explain with equations, not words.” But the scoring of the free-response items on the tests emphasizes a formulaic response, with the scoring instructions often looking for a single keyword in a response to garner credit.

“They’re not accepting answers that are mathematically correct,” Abbott notes, “and accepting answers that aren’t mathematically correct.” And the multiple-choice questions?  “Multiple-choice questions don’t test thinking,” she declares. Knowing how to answer them is “just an art.”

Ms. Abbott?  Oh, yes.  She is ranked the worst math teacher in New York City.

Read more of this fascinating, troubling case* at Aaron Palas’s blog at the Hechinger Report.

_____________

* Working hard to avoid using the term “colossal cluster f***.”


Teacher ratings can’t tell good teachers from bad ones – back to the drawing board?

March 4, 2012

Corporate and business people who have lived through serious quality improvement programs, especially those based on hard statistical analysis of procedures and products in a manufacturing plant, know the great truths drilled by such high-quality statistical gurus as W. Edwards DemingThe fault, dear Brutus, is not in the teacher, but in the processes generally beyond the teacher’s control.

Here’s the shortest video I could find on Deming’s 14 Points for Management — see especially point #14, about eliminating annual “performance reviews,” because as Dr. Deming frequently demonstrated, the problems that prevent outstanding success are problems of the system, and are beyond the control of the frontline employees (teachers, in this case).  I offer this here only for the record, since it’s a rather dull presentation.  I find, however, especially among education administrators, that these well-established methods for creating champion performance in an organization are foreign to most Americans.  Santayana’s Ghost is constatly amazed at what we refuse to learn.

Wise words from the saviors of business did not give even a moment’s pause to those who think that we can improve education if we could only get out those conniving, bad teachers, who block our children’s learning.  Since the early Bush administration and the passage of the nefarious, so-called No Child Left Behind Act, politicians pushed for new measures to catch teachers “failing,” and so to thin the ranks of teachers.  Bill Gates, the great philanthropist, put millions of dollars in to projects in Washington, D.C., Dallas, and other districts, to come up with a way to statistically measure who are the good teachers, the ones who “add value” to a kid’s education year over year.

It was a massive experiment, running in fits and spurts for more than a decade. We have the details from two of America’s most vaunted and haunted school districts, Washington, D.C., and New York City, plus Los Angeles and other sites, in projects funded by Bill Gates and others, and we can pass judgment on the value of the idea of identifying the bad apple teachers to get rid of them to improve education.

As an experiment, It failed.  After measuring teachers eight ways from Sunday for more than a decade, W. Edwards Deming was proved correct:  Management cannot identify the bad actors from the good ones.

Most of the time the bad teachers this year were good teachers last year, and vice versa, according to the measures used.

Firing the bad ones from this years only means next year’s good teachers are gone from the scene.

Data have been published in a few places, generally over complaints of teachers who don’t want to get labeled as “failures” when they know better.  Curiously, some of the promoters of the scheme also came out against publication.

A statistician could tell why.  When graphed, the points of data do not reveal good teachers who constantly add value to their students year after year, nor do the data put the limelight on bad teachers who fail to achieve goals year after year.  Instead, they reveal that what we think is a good teacher this year on the basis of test scores, may well have been a bad teacher on the same measures last year.  Worse, many of the “bad teachers” from previous had scores that rocketed up.  But the data don’t show any great consistency beyond chance.

So the post over at the blog of G. F. Brandenburg really caught my eye.  His calculations, graphed, show that these performance evaluations systems themselves do not perform as expected:  Here it is, “Now I understand why Bill Gates didn’t want the value-added data made public“:

It all makes sense now.

At first I was a bit surprised that Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee were opposed to publicizing the value-added data from New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities.

Could they be experiencing twinges of a bad conscience?

No way.

That’s not it. Nor do these educational Deformers think that value-added mysticism is nonsense. They think it’s wonderful and that teachers’ ability to retain their jobs and earn bonuses or warnings should largely depend on it.

The problem, for them, is that they don’t want the public to see for themselves that it’s a complete and utter crock. Nor to see the little man behind the curtain.

I present evidence of the fallacy of depending on “value-added” measurements in yet another graph — this time using what NYCPS says is the actual value-added scores of all of the many thousands of elementary school teachers for whom they have such value-added scores in the school years that ended in 2006 and in 2007.

I was afraid that by using the percentile ranks as I did in my previous post, I might have exaggerated or distorted how bad “value added” really was.

No worries, mate – it’s even more embarrassing for the educational deformers this way.

In any introductory statistics course, you learn that a graph like the one below is a textbook case of “no correlation”. I had Excel draw a line of best fit anyway, and calculate an r-squared correlation coefficient. Its value? 0.057 — once again, just about as close to zero correlation as you are ever going to find in the real world.

In plain English, what that means is that there is essentially no such thing as a teacher who is consistently wonderful (or awful) on this extremely complicated measurement scheme. How teacher X does one year in “value-added” in no way allows anybody to predict how teacher X will do the next year. They could do much worse, they could do much better, they could do about the same.

Even I find this to be an amazing revelation. What about you?

And to think that I’m not making any of this up. (unlike Michelle Rhee, who loves to invent statistics and “facts”.)

You should also see his earlier posts, “Gary Rubenstein is right, no correlation on value-added scores in New York city,” and “Gary Rubenstein demonstrates that the NYC ‘value-added’ measurements are insane.”

In summary, many of our largest school systems have spent millions of dollars for a tool to help them find the “bad teachers” to fire, and the tools not only do not work, but may lead to the firing of good teachers, cutting off the legs of the campaign to get better education.

It’s a scandal, really, or an unrolling series of scandals.  Just try to find someone reporting it that way.  Is anyone?

More, Resources:


March 4, 2012

Ed Darrell:

You wanted evidence that Michelle Rhee’s plans in Washington, D.C., were not coming to fruition, that the entire scheme was just one more exercise in “the daily flogging of teachers will continue until morale improves?”

G. F. Brandenburg ran the numbers. It isn’t pretty.

Click the top line, which should be highlighted in your browser, to see the original post; or click here.

See more, next post.

Originally posted on GFBrandenburg's Blog:

It all makes sense now.

At first I was a bit surprised that Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee were opposed to publicizing the value-added data from New York City and other cities.

Could they be experiencing twinges of a bad conscience?

No way.

That’s not it. Nor do these educational Deformers think that value-added mysticism is nonsense. They think it’s wonderful and that teachers’ ability to retain their jobs and earn bonuses or warnings should largely depend on it.

The problem, for them, is that they don’t want the public to see for themselves that it’s a complete and utter crock. Nor to see the little man behind the curtain.

I present evidence of the fallacy of depending on “value-added” measurements in yet another graph — this time using what NYCPS says is the actual value-added scores of all of the many thousands of elementary school teachers for whom they have…

View original 255 more words


Northland Poster Collective dead; long live Ricardo Levins Morales

September 25, 2011

Great posters with provocative aphorisms came out of the Northland Poster Collective.  Alas, Northland called it quits in 2010.

One of their best artists, Ricardo Levins Morales, continues the fight at his own site.  Morales is the guy who made this work, on the importance of standardized student tests:

Testing, by Ricardo Levins Morales

Testing, by Ricardo Levins Morales

Earlier I questioned whether Einstein actually said that.  I don’t think he did — but I love the poster and the sentiment, all the same.  I haven’t been able to verify the quote in Alice Calaprice’s The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, for example.

In my classroom the air conditioning often did not work last spring, at testing time.  When we’d open the windows, we’d get visitors — usually bees, but birds on at least two occasions.  The student in the picture has her priorities right.

The poster is just $10.95.  Teachers, if a dozen of these appeared in your school, it might make a difference.


“Is our media learning?” Test scores require raises for public school teachers, don’t they?

September 10, 2011

Mike the Mad Biologist makes the case succinctly and clearly (teachers, observe his methods):

That shudder you felt was the Earth wobbling as an . . .

. . . education story actually covered U.S. students’ academic achievement during the last few decades accurately. I’ve made the point before that the claim of stagnating test scores for U.S. students is demonstrably false–in every demographic group, there has been a rise in achievement (and the minority-white achievement gap is closing to boot). Shockingly, in a Slate report on Steven Brill’s new book Class Warfare, Richard Rothstein sets up Brill with this:

The case they make for their cause by now enjoys the status of conventional wisdom. Student achievement has been stagnant or declining for decades, even as money poured into public schools to improve teacher salaries, pensions, and working conditions (reducing class sizes, or hiring aides to give teachers more free time). Teachers typically have abysmally low standards, especially for minorities and other disadvantaged students, who predictably fall to the level of their teachers’ expectations. Although teachers’ quality can be estimated by the annual growth of their students’ scores on standardized tests of basic math and reading skills, teachers have not been held accountable for performance. Instead, they get lifetime job security even if students don’t learn. Brill observes a union-protected teacher in a Harlem public school bellowing “how many days in a week?,” caring little that students pay him no heed and wrestle on the floor instead.

Protecting this incompetence are teacher unions, whose contracts prevent principals from firing inadequate (and worse) teachers. The contracts also permit senior teachers to choose their schools, which further undermines principals’ authority. Union negotiations have produced perpetually rising salaries, guaranteed even to teachers who sleep through their careers. Breaking unions’ grip on public education is “the civil rights issue of this generation,” and some hard-working, idealistic Ivy Leaguers and their allies have shown how.

And then knocks him down with:

Central to the reformers’ argument is the claim that radical change is essential because student achievement (especially for minority and disadvantaged children) has been flat or declining for decades. This is, however, false. The only consistent data on student achievement come from a federal sample, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Though you would never know it from the state of public alarm about education, the numbers show that regular public school performance has skyrocketed in the last two decades to the point that, for example, black elementary school students now have better math skills than whites had only 20 years ago. (There has also been progress for middle schoolers, and in reading; and less, but not insubstantial, progress for high schoolers.) The reason test score gaps have barely narrowed is that white students have also improved, at least at the elementary and middle school levels. The causes of these truly spectacular gains are unknown, but they are probably inconsistent with the idea that typical inner-city teachers are content to watch students wrestle on the classroom floor instead of learning.

The question we need to ask is “Is our media learning?” (to steal a phrase from Little Lord Pontchartrain).

Maybe they are . . .

Brill, God bless him, proposed to shake up public schools in America a few weeks ago in a long article in the Weekend Wall Street Journal.  His solution?  Make AFT local leader Randi Weingarten superintendent of New York’s public schools.

Actually, his story was much better than his advocacy.  But I hope to get more commentary on that proposal, and this continuing War on Education and War on Americans, soon.


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