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Thursday, August 15, 2013

It starts with cutting the arts...


Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Thomas Jefferson - See more at: http://online.ben.edu/blog/education/the-political-opinion-14-quotes-on-education-from-americas-famous-politicians#sthash.SGmSv1nq.dpuf


Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Thomas Jefferson - See more at: http://online.ben.edu/blog/education/the-political-opinion-14-quotes-on-education-from-americas-famous-politicians#sthash.SGmSv1nq.dpuf
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Thomas Jefferson - See more at: http://online.ben.edu/blog/education/the-political-opinion-14-quotes-on-education-from-americas-famous-politicians#sthash.SGmSv1nq.dpuf
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Thomas Jefferson - See more at: http://online.ben.edu/blog/education/the-political-opinion-14-quotes-on-education-from-americas-famous-politicians#sthash.SGmSv1nq.dpuf
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Thomas Jefferson - See more at: http://online.ben.edu/blog/education/the-political-opinion-14-quotes-on-education-from-americas-famous-politicians#sthash.SGmSv1nq.dpuf


A lot of people spoke to me about my last entry regarding the common core state standards.
You can read it here. 

Here are some highlights and additional thoughts:

1. The common core state standards (CCSS) were not written by educators and are being criticized, as the federal government is forbidden to mandate, direct or control a school's curriculum. Read the law here.  Powerful folks who want to end public education are using them to get parents to think suburban (and all) public schools are failing their children and opt for vouchers. Read more here.

2.  The CCSS are an excuse for pulling instructional time away from the arts, foreign language, and physical education in the name of test prep. This is also part of the plan to upset parents and push them away from public schools. Do not allow even a minute of time to be reduced from these important content areas in the name of the CCSS. 

Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education. Read more about his concerns on the CCSS here.


His advice includes:

"Don’t narrow your curriculum.
Don’t cut arts, music, sports, recess, field trips, debate teams, or other programs in order to align with the Common Core. Nothing is more core than a child’s interest and passion. A well-balanced, broad curriculum that meets the needs of each child is a much better bet for your children’s future than one devoted to two subjects standardized and prescribed by people who have no knowledge of your community or your children."

3. New York state was the first to align their state tests to the CCSS and their scores just came in. These tests were designed for a 70% failure rate. The politicians in NY told parents and schools to expect this, and that is just what happened. 

" ...no responsible teacher would create a test with the expectation that 70% of students are sure to fail. It would not be hard to do. You might, for example, give students in fifth grade a test designed for eighth graders (Which is exactly what happened. Read about it here.) . Repeat in every grade and the failure rate will be high. Or you might test students on materials they never studied. Some will get it, because of their background knowledge, but most will fail." Read more here. 

4.  Pearson is the test company who designed these tests and in most states some or no test questions are released for teachers or parents to see. Student open ended responses and essays are NEVER released. As Todd Farley writes in his book, Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry, and in his blog on The Huffington Post, scorers spend mere seconds scoring our kid's writing, and now they have automated essay scoring.


Farley writes, "Provocative thoughts in those essays? The automated scoring programs failed to recognize them. Factual inaccuracies? The scoring engines didn't realize they were there. Witty asides? Over the scoring engines' heads they flew. Clichés on top of clichés? Unbothered by them the scoring systems were. A catchy turn-of-phrase? Not caught. A joke about a nitwit? Not laughed at. Irony or subtlety? Not seen. Emotion or repetition, depth or simplicity, sentiment or stupidity? Nope, the automated essay scoring engines missed 'em all."

Perhaps they don't release them because they aren't really graded. They are given a score and no student, parent or teacher ever gets feedback. Not a single comment.



5. The common core state standards are being sold as "higher standards," but for high achieving districts, like mine, they can actually lower standards and student experiences in the classroom. For example, my 8th grade English students write essays and free writes on issues like second amendment rights, how the case of Loving v. Virginia may apply to the legalization of gay marriage, Guantanamo and indefinite detention, and the death penalty. I earnestly purchased a number of CCSS reproducible workbooks this summer to prepare for the CCSS, and was dismayed at the low interest level and lack of expectations for critical thinking in them. For example, one assignment asked students to write an argumentative essay on if middle school students should wear uniforms.  

It seems to me that if I change my teaching to follow this lead, students and parents will want to put their kids in private schools. In addition, this is quite a money maker for the publishing business. Check out this search for common core 8th grade English books on Amazon. 

6.  High stakes standardized tests are given in public and charter schools. Charter schools are performing worse, in nearly all cases, than their public school counterparts. Read about NY charters here. When a state allows charter schools, it to turns public money over to private entrepreneurs, who will operate schools with little or no oversight. Charters and privatization will not solve our country's problems and are allowing politicians to avoid the real issues like poverty.

6. My children have attended two different public school districts, and have had an overwhelming number of positive experiences in them. No one rejects my kids from attending their school. No one will expel them if they test poorly. They have learned to read, write, to understand math & science, to speak a foreign language, to question, to think critically, to get along with others, to participate in sports and intellectual, competitive clubs. Their art teachers have selected their work to show, their instrumental music & choral programs bring tears of joy to audience members. Teachers help them before school, at lunch and after school when needed. They are not simply handed worksheets or left to watch videos that attempt to teach them content. 

I expect this from our public schools. We all should. 

Watch education historian and NYU professor, Diane Ravitch, on some older, but still timely interviews here.  Also, Dr. Ravitch will be at the Philadelphia Free Library at 7:30pm on 9/17.  Tickets go on sale on 8/23. See you there?

Please post a comment or write me at: daschcwartz24@comcast.net
Let's start a movement to support our public schools. If we don't they may not always be here...

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Thomas Jefferson - See more at: http://online.ben.edu/blog/education/the-political-opinion-14-quotes-on-education-from-americas-famous-politicians#sthash.SGmSv1nq.dpuf








1 comment:

  1. As a student (many years ago!), I was anxiety ridden when it came to tests and quizzes. The pressures that I put on myself as a young learner were internal, I have little memory of an outside force (other than parental expectations!), demanding that I excel and perform on state assessments.

    Now, as an educator myself, my goal is create an environment that puts children at ease, allows them to freely think and express themselves, and provides them with a nurturing environment in which to grow and mature into young men and women. Putting pressure, unrealistic expectations, and demands on my students is something that I proud myself on NEVER doing, and when they do feel anxiety, I believe it is my job to help them cope and move past it in a healthy way.

    As I learned from a workshop run by psychologist Dr. Robert Brooks, I believe that I am a charismatic adult in many of my student's lives (http://www.drrobertbrooks.com/monthly_articles/1212). With the onslaught of Common Core I am struggling to maintain a balance of what I KNOW and BELIEVE to be the "core" of my teacher heart vs. what is expected from the state. My anxiety is back, along with dread, irritation, and frustration that the central mission of educators is being lost in a sea of assessments, money, and bottom line -corruption.

    I will continue to plod through and fight to be the charismatic adult that I know my students need me to be. I appreciate and applaud your own mission to bring us together as a united front. Your blog is informative, insightful, and filled with passion. Your students, your children, your family, and your friends are blessed to have you walking by their sides.

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