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


Boys’ Life on YouTube, February issue preview

January 21, 2012

Every time I pick up an issue of Boys’ Life I think how much better students could perform if they just looked that this magazine once a month; you don’t have to be a Scout to subscribe, but why not live the adventures, too?

Will 30-second montages sell more magazines?  What more could/should Boys’ Life do on the web?

Here’s an example of the sorts of skills I wish my students had, again from the Boys’ Life YouTube offerings.  In “Cache Me If You Can,” these are young Scouts, I’m guessing ages 11 to about 13 from a Troop 6 somewhere in Colorado, out navigating a path through the woods using GPS and hand-held ham radios.  I fear most of my 16-18-year-old students would be challenged to do the stuff these younger kids are doing, if they could do it at all.

Of course, while those skills would make them better students more able to understand and use maps and charts, very little of those skills are listed in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.  I’m given neither time nor resources to teach them.

More, resources: 

  • A feature at the Boys’ Life site I really like is the “Wayback Machine,” which allows viewing of many issues of the magazine dating back to 1911 — actualy from March 1911 through December 2009.  Alas, the features uses Google Books, so viewing at the site is about all you can do — no copying of the great covers by Boy Scouts of America art director Norman Rockwell, no copying of articles with teachable skills for use as illustrations in lessons.   This would be a good research site for high school history projects — Scouts in time of war, Scouting and education, map use, youth in exploration, etc.

Pressure on Texas Board of Education to fix damage to social studies standards

February 18, 2011

Probably not enough pressure to get the board to act, but the Dallas Morning News turned a cannon on the Texas State Board of Education this morning, asking that they fix the damage done to social studies last year.

The paper’s editorial board keyed off of the Fordham Institute’s grading of state standards — Texas failed, with at D.

Here’s the editorial in its entirety — there’s more at the Dallas Morning News website and I encourage you to go read it there:

Editorial: Report offers new reason to rewrite standards

Just in case you think it’s only us warning about Texas’ new social studies standards, check out the awful grade that the respected Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave those benchmarks in a report released Wednesday.

A big, fat “D” is what Texas got for the history, economics, geography and cultural standards the State Board of Education approved last year for Texas’ elementary and secondary school students.

Some of that awful mark was for the way the standards are organized. Fordham researchers likened their confusing structure to a jigsaw puzzle. But much of the national organization’s critique was about how politicized the State Board of Education has made those standards.

We were particularly struck by Fordham’s conclusion that the hard-right faction on the board, which dominated the writing of the standards, made the same mistake left-wing academics have made in approaching such subjects as history and economics. The Fordham study puts it this way:

“While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the hard right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points.”

Oh, it gets worse. Back to the report: “The strange fusion of conventional left-wing education theory and right-wing politics undermines content from the start.”

For the record, Fordham is not a left-wing outpost of American thought. Its leader is Chester Finn, a former Reagan administration official and one of education’s most recognized voices. At the least, his organization’s critique is not a predictable one.

The institute echoes the complaint this newspaper has had since the 15-member Texas board rewrote the state’s social studies standards. Its hard-right faction at the time insisted on inserting its slant on those important subjects, such as suggesting Joe McCarthy wasn’t so bad, that international treaties are a problem and that the separation of church and state is misguided.

The warped view is why the revised board must go back and rewrite the standards this spring. And that should be possible.

Voters were so frustrated with the board’s work last year that they elected more moderate Republican members. Moderates now have enough of the upper hand to fix these standards before schools start planning for next year and before publishers start drafting new history and social studies textbooks.

Some on the new board may believe that rewriting the social studies standards will be too difficult. But surely Texas students deserve better than a “D” when it comes to what the state wants them to learn in some of the most critical subjects.

 

Texas fails among its peers

How big states fared on the Fordham Foundation report on social studies standards nationwide:

California: A-

New York: A-

Florida: C

Texas: D

National average: D


Sputnik – part of the series, “Cold War”

February 17, 2011

BBC’s 24-part series on the Cold War included an entire segment on Sputnik.  Kenneth Branagh narrated this episode.

Sarah Palin, you can start your education here.  On YouTube, it’s broken up into five parts, each less than 10 minutes long.

Cold War, Sputnik, Part 1

Sputnik, Part 2

Sputnik, Part 3

Sputnik, Part 4

Sputnik, Part 5



World history teachers, take quick note! Paleolithic sources

September 7, 2010

More accurately, sources on the paleolithic.

K. Kris Hirst at About.com blogs about archaeology at least weekly — I just subscribe to her stuff and get it when it comes.  So, file this under “I get e-mail.”

This week, she’s got stuff world history teachers could use on the old stone age.  See if this doesn’t pique your interest:

From K. Kris Hirst, your Guide to Archaeology

It’s the beginning of a new school year, and as every one knows, World History begins with the Paleolithic period–the Old Stone Age, the evolutionary moment from which all of our amazing human culture derives. Keep that trowel sharp!

Guide to the Stone Age
The Stone Age (known to scholars as the Paleolithic era) in human prehistory is the name given to the period between about 2.5 million and 20,000 years ago. It begins with the earliest human-like behaviors of crude stone tool manufacture, and ends with fully modern human hunting and gathering societies…. Read more

Control of Fire
The discovery of fire, or, more precisely, the controlled use of fire was, of necessity, one of the earliest of human discoveries. Fire’s purposes are multiple, some of which are to add light and heat, to cook plants and animals, to clear forests for planting, to heat-treat stone for making stone tools, to burn clay for ceramic objects…Read more

The Invention of Footwear
Believe it or not, we humans have worn shoes of one sort or another for some 40,000 years! Read more

The Ileret Footprints
Not as well known and much younger than the Laetoli footprints are the Ileret footprints, two sets of fossilized footprints of a possible Homo erectus or Homo ergaster discovered at the FwJj14E site, near the modern town of Ileret in Kenya. Read more

See what I mean? Go see what else she’s got.  Some of us are going into the third week, and are already past that lecture . . .


Educating for a creative society

June 29, 2010

Just as a reminder about what we’re doing in education, I hope every teacher and administrator will take three minutes and view this video (that allows you some time to boggle).

Surely you know who Tom Peters is.  (If not, please confess in comments, and I’ll endeavor to guide you to the information you need.)

Technically, Texas’s early elementary art standards are not so bad as Peters describes them.  But, check this document, from the Texas Education Code (§117.1. Implementation of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Fine Arts, Elementary).  Do a search of the Texas standards and count how many times students are expected to stay “within guidelines.”


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