Former Math Teachers Defeats Their Own Argument! Comment Rescue!

It’s been an interesting weekend in terms of comments on the blogs.  The below was seen on Who’s Minding The Children in an article about student data.  The commenter was someone called Former HS Math Teacher.  I have no clue who this individual is, but their story is very interesting.

Story time.

While teaching, I primarily taught 11th and 12th grade (with a few 9th and 10th graders thrown in for fun). A very large number of my students were in the process of applying to college and taking the SAT. It was a pretty common topic of discussion between me and my students.

My school, which primarily served low SES students, was attempting to support students in this process as best as we possibly could. Two teachers in the school took on a much larger part in this – specifically myself and the English Department chair. We did everything that we could for our students in this regard. We built an SAT prep curriculum for our students, tutored them after school daily, reminded them of every deadline, helped them navigate choices for colleges, among tens of other things. We took the concept of in loco parentis about as far as it can be taken, at least in regards to the college application process.

Many of our students were extremely disappointed throughout the process, especially with their SAT scores. Their in school success was not correlating to success on the SAT or in college applications.

“I’m a straight A student! Why can’t I pass the SAT?”

Of the 350 juniors who took the SAT that year, there were only 3 that achieved a score above a 1550 (largely considered the college-ready score).

I find myself needing to make the following statements so that I don’t get entireIy torn apart:
I have no personal interest in the pro-reform movement. I find myself generally neutral towards it.
I believe that a strong public education system is important for the health of a community (and vice versa).
I believe that teachers must be empowered to make decisions about their students.
I believe that curriculum should not be limited to a textbook.
I believe that using test data punitively for schools and teachers is degrading to the profession.

Given all of those qualifiers, though, I do believe that there is importance in our students taking standardized tests. While the trend on your blog and many like them is to utterly disagree with absolutely everything that DEDOE and Mark Murphy state, there is value in the claim that, “Test scores provide invaluable information to help improve schools.”

In the case of my students, had we had data that was appropriately aligned to college-readiness information, teachers would have been able to adjust their formative and summative assessments appropriately. We could have appropriately adjusted our curriculum so that students received grades more indicative of how they were performing relative to their peers across the country. In this case, DCAS was not an aligned test and did not provide teachers with the information that they needed. (Slight tangent – throughout the state, students who received a 4 or higher on the math portion of the DCAS only had about a 50% chance of receiving a 500 or higher on the math portion of the SAT. Had it been an aligned test, then students receiving a 3 or 4 would have had a near 100% chance of receiving a 1550 or higher).

While we might believe that SBAC or PARCC is overbearing on students, standardized tests are not as terrible as you might believe. The information they provide schools can be quite valuable. While it may not provide information as immediately as we would like, when used appropriately they can provide teachers with a metric for how students are performing in a classroom as compared to a college-readiness benchmark. It also helps students’ future teachers with gaining background on their incoming students.

As an aside, I’m not sure how bringing up all of the data that teachers have access to is helpful. Should teachers not have access to this data? Also, I’m unsure of your background as it relates to teaching, but school employees only have access to the data that they might need to perform their job. For example, I did not have access to IEPs and 504s of students who were not my own (as is the law).

I took the SAT in high school.  I was average, not too far below, not high enough to get into Harvard.  But this teacher only had three out of 350 students pass based on the state score of “proficiency”.  And they were a math teacher.  I’m not sure what the timeline is on this, but if I took a guess, it would have to be in the past 15-20 years which would put us in the era of “new” math.  While new math has it’s proponents and opponents, based on this story, I would have to wonder how all these latest “reforms” in education work out for the students.  It seems like they are the ones that suffer the most.  Yes, this was a low-income school.  But maybe the problem isn’t the curriculum.  Maybe it isn’t the teachers.  Maybe it’s the low-income.  Depending on the city or state, this could mean many things.

This teacher obviously saw a troubling trend with students at their school so they decided to implement a plan, along with an English teacher, to get the students scores up.  Only 3 out of 350 made the mark.  How many did so the year before and the year after? Without that information, it’s kind of like throwing darts in the dark and hoping you hit your target.  Did the students do poorly in spite of the educational tinkering by the math and English teacher or because of it?  If anything, this post proves to me that if you mess with education curriculum too much it can have disastrous results.

The Wolf of Delaware Part 1.5: Comment Rescue and The Wolf’s Intentions

Hope For Our Students had a brilliant comment on Part 1 of The Wolf of Delaware that I thought deserved it’s own post.  This is what Hope wrote:

“Globalization of the world market” translates to the U.S. invitation to join the Organsation of Economical Cooperation and Development (OECD) which today has 34 country-members (the United Nations has 193); so hardly a global market. The percentage of <18% may seem small, but *”OECD member countries account for 63 percent of world GDP, three-quarters of world trade, 95 percent of world official development assistance, over half of the world’s energy consumption…”

The rest of the summary is a corporate sales pitch using inaccurate PISA comparative test data to influence education policy makers of the need for education reform. This sales pitch has been regurgitated by education reformers ever since. Today, we know the data in the original reports was inaccurate for many, many reasons. Most importantly, the OECD recanted it’s original claim that poorly performing teachers and low standards were the most likely reason for poor performance of students in the United States. In 2013, the OECD issued this statement, “We know the best way to improve test scores is to lower child poverty rates and build a sense of “community” within a country’s citizenry”,

As far as the “Wolf” is concerned, he believed the sales pitch and bought the elixir from the traveling salesman like many, many others did at the time (within both parties). The problem is, he is still swearing by the product which he now knows was a hoax and it makes him look more foolish than ever. The question is, when did he stop being a victim of false advertising and perpetrator of the swindle on Delaware families? I am hopeful, The Wolf Part 2 will answer that question.

*http://usoecd.usmission.gov/mission/overview.html

I am very much inclined to agree with Hope in just about everything they wrote, with one major exception.  I do not think the Wolf was a victim of false advertising.  I think he was very much aware all along of the sales pitch.  Let’s not forget, Tough Choices was released in 2007.  The Wolf and his buddy over at Rodel were knee-deep in education reform two years earlier.  But I think the roots of this began before that.  He was just positioning himself to be at the right place at the right time when it did come around in full swing.  More on that later…

The Truth About Education Reform, Charter Schools, Standardized Testing & Big Profits @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @ecpaige @TNJ_malbringt @DeDeptofEd #netde #eduDe #edchat

In a recent article in Politico magazine, entitled “The Plot Against Public Education: How Millionaires and Billionaires Are Ruining Our Schools”, writer Bob Hebert gave an excellent breakdown of how the education reform began and who profits the most from it.  As I’m sure we all know, it’s not the students or the teachers.  Billions of dollars have been wasted on this “reform” with no increase in results over time.  It all started with Bill Gates and has spiraled downhill from there.

Tonight is the Wilmington City Council meeting, and Delaware Secretary Of Education Mark Murphy will be in attendance to discuss the priority schools with the council.  Someone should give each council member a copy of this article so they know what the true endgame is here.

I’ve posted a link to the article, and a big thanks to State Representative Paul Baumbach for posting it over on Delaware Liberal.  The below quote are two questions that parents should be asking themselves at this point in time.

Those who are genuinely interested in improving the quality of education for all American youngsters are faced with two fundamental questions: First, how long can school systems continue to pursue market-based reforms that have failed year after demoralizing year to improve the education of the nation’s most disadvantaged children? And second, why should a small group of America’s richest individuals, families, and foundations be allowed to exercise such overwhelming—and often such toxic—influence over the ways in which public school students are taught?

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/10/the-plot-against-public-education-111630.html#ixzz3FfXytA7C

State Rep Candidate Steve Newton Educates The News Journal About the Truth Behind Standardized Testing @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat #netde #eduDE

This is why I really wish Steve Newton lived in my district.  I would vote for him, and go to each home in my district and convince them why Steve is the right choice to represent families and students in Legislative Hall.  It isn’t about Republican or Democrat anymore.  Those lines blurred a long time ago in Delaware when it comes to education.  It warped into legislators not doing the right thing for kids in return for political favors.  There are some who are not afraid to speak out about the education reform and all the fraud that has come with it.  Steve will, in my most fervent hope, join them in crusading against the shame our Delaware education has become.

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/editorials/2014/10/02/school-tests-teaching-us/16607495/

Steve Newton’s response:

The WNJ editorial board COMPLETELY misses the point on testing:

“Just what is it that we Americans don’t like about school testing? Is it too tough on our children? Is it too tough on the education establishment, especially teachers? Or is it a plot to totally federalize our school system, report cards and all?

“The answer probably is: All of the above.”

Actually, folks, the answer is far more fundamental: high-stakes testing transforms our schools from public education to workforce training establishments. What we lose in the myopic insistence on standardized testing is the impetus to value every child, to let every child grow and find new ways, to give a hand up to every child who has ever overcome obstacles just to show up in our classrooms with or without her homework.

No test can capture that moment when, in an English class, an abused child first sees himself and his life in a Shakespearian play.

No test can assess the impact on the child who has always struggled with reading as he becomes the first trumpet in the middle school marching band, and realizes that there are modes of self-expression at which he can excel.

No test can assess the impact of a teacher who does the best she can every single day with the little girl who never has her homework and never wants to talk, because that teacher knows there is one overworked parent too busy trying to pay the rent to keep “involved” parent hours for homework.

I could do this all day.

It’s not that the tests are too hard. It’s not that they’re somehow too tough on teachers. It’s not even that they lead to a Federal takeover.

High-stakes testing is systematically destroying the very strength of the American educational system–and there are strengths within that system, for all it faults and creaks and groans.

I know whereof I speak, because I have designed content standards, I have written and graded test items, I have been on the other side, and I understand that the high-stakes testing people are 110% sincere, just like anybody else trapped within the confines of a cult.

They BELIEVE that “assessment drives instruction” is the 11th Commandment. They BELIEVE that if we don’t impose the factory-like schools of Shanghai on our students that the entire American system will collapse. They BELIEVE that testing, rigorously applied, can wipe out the inequalities of poverty, and sand down the edges of all those square-peg children that corporate America wants to jam into those round holes. They are religious fanatics.

Assessment is critical to teaching, just like medicine is critical to health care. Yet if a doctor suddenly develops the belief that every patient, regardless of his or her malady, requires massive doses of antibiotics, then something is wrong.

Public education in America is NOT a business and children (along with their test outcomes) are NOT a product.

I’ll say this one last time for the two people still reading this screed: the Americans who are resisting high-stakes testing are NOT afraid of them, they simply understand what the education bureaucrats and corporate reformers don’t: they will destroy, not fix, our educational system.