"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, March 31, 2013

New York's Race to Implement Common Core Before Revolt Breaks Out

Corporate ed reform schoolers across the country are in emergency mode to try to implement the latest testing deliver system, the Common Core, before parents and teachers and students can force a halt to the madness. In doing so, deformers make their desperation apparent as their agendas take precedent over learning or the opportunity to learn.

In New York, high stakes decisions will be made this year based on test scores for which teachers and students had no materials or time to prepare.  This is the perfect opportunity to bring this violation into the courts.  From North Country Now:

Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 8:39 am
New York’s largest teachers’ union is asking parents to join teachers in opposing the state’s use of what the teachers’ union calls “hastily implemented standardized tests for high-stakes decisions affecting students and teachers.”
For months, a statement from New York State United Teachers says, it has been pressing the state Education Department to acknowledge teachers’ growing concerns with the state’s implementation of new Common Core learning standards and new standardized tests that students must take in April.
“While NYSUT supports the ‘potential’ of the new Common Core learning standards and fully embraces the principle of accountability for students and educators, two-thirds of teachers said in a poll that their students lacked textbooks and materials aligned with the state’s new standards,” the union statement contends. “Even worse, many teachers say students will be tested next month on material that has not yet been taught, with the state still distributing materials and guidance to teachers as late as last month.”
NYSUT says that Education Commissioner John King Jr. and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, among others, have acknowledged student test scores “will plummet - likely up to 30 percent - yet New York is still permitting the scores to be used to unfairly labeling students and measure teacher effectiveness.”
“Teachers have repeatedly urged the state Education Department and Regents to use this year’s tests to measure the state’s progress in implementing the Common Core, not for high-stakes decisions affecting students and teachers,” said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. “They aren’t listening.” . . . .

Grammar/spelling instruction fever in the UK

How to improve grammar and spelling
Sent to the Telegraph (UK)
According to the Telegraph, Kent County “Teachers (are) 'to be given lessons in spelling and grammar'” (March 31) so they can better prepare 11-year-olds to take tests in grammar and spelling.
Neither the Kent County Council nor the UK Department of Education appears to be aware that there has been extensive research on this topic, and the results are very consistent: (1) Direct instruction in grammar and spelling produces very limited results. (2) Nearly all of our knowledge of grammar and spelling is acquired, absorbed, through extensive reading.
These studies have been appearing in scientific journals regularly for over the last 100 years. If they are correct, Kent County can fire the consultants and use the money to buy more books for school libraries.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Just a few sources:
Cook, W. (1912) Should we teach spelling by rule? Journal of Educational Psychology 3, 316-325.
Cornman, O. (1902) Spelling in the Elementary School. Boston: Ginn.
Elley, W., I. Barham, H. Lamb, and M. Wyllie. (1976) The role of grammar in a secondary school curriculum. Research in the Teaching of English 10, 5-21.
Hammill, D., S. Larson, and G. McNutt. (1977). The effect of spelling instruction: A preliminary study. Elementary School Journal 78, 67-72.
For more sources, please see:
Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Original article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9961510/Teachers-to-be-given-lessons-in-spelling-and-grammar.html

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
29 Mar 2013
Kent County Council is enlisting expert help to tutor primary school teachers in preparation for the introduction of a new English exam for 11-year-olds later this year.
They have been brought in to give staff a grounding in grammar, punctuation and spelling and ensure they can teach literacy to a higher standard.
But the move has been attacked by campaigners who insist that classroom teachers should already have a firm grasp of the English language without the need for expert tuition.
The literacy consultants started work in August last year and will continue until August 2014 – earning between £51,000 and £54,000 each.
It comes amid concerns over standards of the three-Rs among some teachers.
Last year, the Government announced it was toughening up literacy and numeracy tests sat as part of teacher training – and clamping down on the number of permitted resits – amid fears previous standards were too low.
Currently, one-in-five trainees fail to pass both tests first time round.
Chrissie Maher, founder of the Plain English Campaign, said: "It's good for the kids, but bad if their English teachers don't know basic English.
"If they're not up to scratch they shouldn't be there. They should've been getting retrained.
"Grammar is a big issue and it's bad that these kids are being taught everyday grammar if the teachers don't know what they're talking about."
The move comes ahead of the launch of a new test in spelling, punctuation and grammar for all pupils in the final year of primary education.
In June, up to 600,000 children aged 10 and 11 will take the test and results will feature in official school league tables.
The tests have been designed to raise the bar for pupils, with an emphasis on the more intricate rules of English grammar.
A spokesman for Kent Council said the literacy course aimed to “consolidate teachers' subject knowledge and their understanding of the test content and format”.
"It also offers practical advice on how to teach these elements of English,” he said.
"As with every part of the teaching profession, continued professional development is crucial for maintaining the high standards of teaching that every child deserves and every parent expects."
Some heads have criticised the new test, suggesting it represented a throwback to the 1950s.
Derry Wiltshire, head teacher of Amherst School in Riverhead, Kent, said: "I think all children should learn basic grammar and should know it by the time they leave primary school, but teaching them what a subordinate connective is, is absolutely bonkers."
Peter Cornish, former head of St Matthew's Primary School in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said some teachers would “find it difficult” to get back into class.
He said: "It wouldn't surprise me if they (the teachers) didn't know some of the intricacies (of grammar).
"I think back when I was educated, you knew a lot of the grammar because that's what we were taught at the time, but when you went to teacher training college it was hardly ever mentioned."

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Attitude Toward Teaching

Put a check mark (✓) if you agree with the statement.
Put a cross (X) if you disagree with the statement.

Form A

1. To strive to teach well is to pattern after Christ, who was the Master Teacher.  There can be no higher calling.
3. Teachers are the nation's leaders.
5. Teaching develops the mind.
8. Dealing with youth tends to keep a teacher young, alert, and active.
12. Teaching requires more intelligence than most professions.
15. Teachers are the molders of society.
16. Teachers  do very well considering the small amount of co-operation they get from school boards.
19. Teachers are for the most part just average college students.
21. Teachers should not be taken too seriously.
22. Students would learn more if the teacher followed the textbook more closely.
23. Teachers depend too much on textbooks.
24. Teaching is too often used by women merely as a stepping stone to marriage.
26. Most teachers have exalted ideas of their own importance.
29. Teaching is an occupation requiring only mediocre ability.
30. Teachers are exceedingly egotistical. 
35. Teaching develops a cynical attitude toward life.
41. Most teachers are so careless in their dress that they look like bums.
43. Teaching is a lazy man's job.
45. Teachers are parasites.

Form B

1. Teaching is one of the best means of serving humanity.
3. The teaching profession performs more actual good for mankind than any other.
5. Teaching is one of the greatest stimulants to mental activity.
37. Teaching stifles ambition.
21. Teachers are too prone to give their own ideas and not enough facts.
16. Teaching is fairly well paid  for the training required.
20. Too many teachers like to teach but can't.
18. Women make the best teachers.
44. Failures in other lines of business usually become teachers.
43. The intellectual level of modern teachers is very low.
32. Most teachers are unfit for such a responsible position.
17. Good pupils make the good teachers.
38. Modern methods of teaching requires nursemaids, not teachers.
13. Teaching is the oldest and most honored profession.
42. The moral standard of the teaching profession is very low.
45. The teaching profession as a whole is untruthful and unreliable.

Miller, F. D.  The validation of a generalized attitude scaling technique.  Construction of an attitude scale toward teaching.  Purdue University Studies in Higher Education. XXVI, 1934, 35, No. 4, 98-110.

Notice: Attitude scales are recommended for research purposes and for group testing.  We believe that the available information and supporting research does not warrant the application of many of these scales as measures of individual attitude for the purpose of diagnosis or personnel selection or for any other individual assessment process. 

New Jersey Educators' WORST FEARS Come True

Tested to Despair in New Jersey

Proposed Regulations for Tenure Evaluations Confirm

 NJEA's Worst Fears

Did you really think No Child Left Behind was to improve 
education? Well, that's what happens when you don't read the fine print or pretend it just isn't there.

With "LiveSchool," Total Surveillance and Compliance Are Just a Swipe and Click Away

"The best practice is to record data in the moment. Why? Because it will be immediately available to your colleagues, and it ensures that no behaviors-good or bad-go unrecognized." --LiveSchool promotional material

How does a KIPP or other corporate reform school teacher, with a 60-80 hour work week, keep track of every word spoken, every snort or snicker, every fake fart, every trip to the bathroom and how long it took for every student, every failure to "track" the teacher, sit like a robot, or mindlessly nod yes like a Jim Jones acolyte in the jungles of Guyana?

Well, it took a former KIPP teacher and a former KIPP COO to turn this kind of a dystopian possibility into the technological gold mine.  Think of it:  everywhere there are poor kids in corporate reform schools, there is a need for constant surveillance and total compliance:
KIPP is one of 9 Nashville schools already using LiveSchool. The Achievement School District, a nationally recognized initiative dedicated to turning around Tennessee’s lowest-performing schools, is another prominent client. In the last eight months, use of LiveSchool behavior tracking software has surged, from 3 to 45 schools.
Here's more from the FAQs at LiveSchool:

Can I record multiple behavior points at once?Yep! LiveSchool offers the most efficient interface on the market for recording behavior data, period. You can record multiple behaviors for multiple students in one fell swoop. 
Our school has its own behavior rubric already. Can we import it to LiveSchool?You bet. If you already have school-wide behavior management systems, LiveSchool can help you automate and streamline them. That includes importing your behavior rubric as is. 
Can we run "student bank accounts" using LiveSchool?LiveSchool has a full-featured behavior bank for your school. We have heard amazing stories about what goes wrong with paper-based behavior bucks. Step into the 21st century by moving your behavior "cash" to a centrally managed bank that puts teachers in control. 
What is LiveSchool's "deposit" feature?By enabling LiveSchool's "deposit" feature, you can create a strong incentive for students to bring home weekly behavior reports to their parents. Here's how it works: students bring home weekly "paychecks" to be reviewed and signed by a parent. The student returns the signed paycheck to a teacher, who deposits the check into the student's account in LiveSchool. Students don't earn their rewards points unless a parent signs!
App developer and former KIPP teacher, Matt Rubenstein, was recently successful in shaking loose $1.65 million from a Nashville venture capital group for further development and marketing of LiveSchool:
The product, created by former KIPP teacher Matt Rubinstein, allows teachers to track student behavior in real-time saving them on average two hours of data entry per day, according to the company. 
“The research is in,” said Rubinstein. “When student behavior improves, scores go up. Schools across the country are looking for tools to help track and improve behavior.” 
Joining in the round were the Nashville Capital Network along with its affiliated Tennessee Angel Fund; Solidus Company; Rick Theobald, former COO at KIPP Nashville; and Steve Butler, technology executive and a former board member at STEM Prep Academy in Nashville.

The possibilities are endless, according to the whales who are backing this venture:
With more than 3 million teachers in about 100,000 U.S. public schools, the market for classroom management tools is $500 million to $1 billion, Chambless said. "There is a tremendous opportunity for LiveSchool's core product to capture a meaningful market share." 
LiveSchool benefits teachers by shaving time spent on logging in data — a task that took his colleagues at KIPP about two hours a week, Rubinstein said, adding that the prototype at KIPP led to teachers tracking twice as much data, leading to more information for parents and administrators. 
The software allows students to better understand what's expected of them and rewards them for good behavior through "behavior bucks," which can lead to field trips and other incentives. It also builds financial literacy for students as they manage their accounts and determine how to spend earnings.

Gives Freire's banking model of educational repression a whole new dimension, in hi-def, yes??

Friday, March 29, 2013

Why We are Occupying the Department of Ed AGAIN!

From the Answer Sheet 

Valerie Strauss

Key education activists protesting in D.C. next week

Education activists opposed to corporate-based school reform are converging on Washington D.C. next week for the second annual United Opt Out National event on the grounds of the U.S. Education Department. Among those who will be speaking at the event are education historian Diane Ravitch, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, veteran educator Deborah Meier, and early childhood expert Nancy Carlsson-Paige.
The four-day event — to be attended by teachers, students, parents and others — will start on April 4th and include a march to the White House in an effort to get the attention of President Obama, who has been a big disappointment to people who thought he would push progressive school reform policies. Instead, his Education Department has pushed a corporate-based reform agenda that includes an accountability system based on standardized tests — against the advice of assessment experts — and initiatives that have fueled the privatization of public education and attacks on teachers.
The Opt Out event is part of a growing revolt against standardized test-based school reform. Students have staged protests in different states; school boards across the country have passed resolutions against high-stakes tests;  teachers staged a strike in Chicago and in Seattle refused to administer a standardized test they say is flawed; principals, superintendents, researchers and others have signed petitions urging an end to the abuse of high-stakes testing; a growing number of students are opting out and refusing to take standardized tests.
The event next week will bring together some of the leading voices in the anti-reform movement. A full schedule of the event is here.
For more answers check out the United Opt Out Web Site's list of speakers and their reasons for Occupying the Department of Education. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013


From Corpus Christie's Caller.com by Ray McMurrey:

 — Exiting Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott caught headlines before leaving office in 2012 when he claimed that high-stakes testing in Texas has become a “perversion.” Thank you Robert Scott for telling the truth.
Testing begins this week and the perversion is upon us. The public school calendar has 180 instructional days, 45 devoted to testing and countless others invested in test preparation. Current high-stakes testing undermines student learning and the general health of children. . . . .

The Fight in Chicago to Stop Mass School Closings: Model for the Nation

From SubstanceNews:

Thousands march, 127 arrested in massive March 27 Chicago Loop protests against school closings, Emanuel dictatorship

More than 3,000 teachers, parents, students and other citizens rallies and marched against school closings in Chicago on March 27, 2013, and 129 were arrested during civil disobedience to protest the largest number of public school closings in U.S. history, according to a number of Substance reporters and other sources who were present at the events. The rally, marches, and sit-ins, are a continuation of the protests that began when the current "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools, Barbara Byrd Bennett, announced in October 2012 that she had secured an extension of the deadline required by state law to announce the closing list for the 2013-2014 school year.
Protesters filled the block alongside Chicago's City Hall (right in the above photograph) and numbered in the thousands despite the attempt by Rahm Emanuel's out-of-town Chief of Police, Garry McCarthy, who ordered the police to downplay the size of the protest in a move reminiscent of the days when the Nixon administration was downsizing official estimates of anti-war protesters against the Vietnam War. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.On March 27, 2013, the protests, coordinated by the Chicago Teachers Union, others unions, and a broad range of community groups and faith-based entities, began the final assault against the mayor's drive to privatize and sabotage the public schools in the nation's third largest school system.
Press reports begin below here

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dr. Jon Saphier and the Lie That Keeps on Paying Off for His Company

Massachusetts is just one state that has approved Jon Saphier as a licensed vendor to peddle his "Research for Better Teaching" (RBT) to teachers and school leaders across the state.  Saphier's consultants, in fact, are in action tomorrow in at the RBT Conference Center in Acton, MA.  Big bucks.

At the tap root of Saphier's expensive advice is a very old and withered lie that Saphier keeps alive, told so often by Saphier, himself, that it is impossible to know if he has come to actually believe it.  From the preface of The Skillful Teacher . . . (2008):
Of all the things that matter for having good schools, nothing is as important as the teacher and what that person knows, believes, and can do. . . . Teacher effects dwarf all others on student learning.  
Below is a more recent YouTube video where he says the same thing within the first 60 seconds:

What this lie does, of course, when applied liberally to eager or desperate school principals and superintendents who are paying big bucks in Saphier's expensive "professional development" sessions is to provide justification for expecting from teachers what other factors besides teaching makes impossible to achieve.

What the research tells us, in fact, is that teacher effectiveness constitutes the most important school-based factor to variations in test score achievement (Goldhaber, Liddle, Theobald, & Walch, 2010), with the exact percentage depending on the methodology used to measure it. [

Goldhaber (2002) found that teacher characteristics account for 8.5 percent of the “variation in student achievement,” while another analysis published, too, in a peer-reviewed journal (Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004) found that “7% to 21% of the variance in achievement gains is associated with variation in teacher effectiveness” (p. 240).  

What we know,  as well, is that that other factors, both in-school and out-of-school, have much more influence on student achievement variations than do teachers.  Goldhaber and his colleagues (Goldhaber, 2002) found that additional factors involving family background, peer composition, and other social capital influences make up sixty percent of the variance in student test scores. 

References for sources just cited:  
Goldhaber, D.  (2002).  The mystery of good teaching. Education Next, 2(1).  Retrieved from 

Goldhaber, D., Liddle, S., Theobald, R., & Walch, J.  (2010).  Teacher effectiveness and the achievement of Washington students in mathematics (Working paper no. 2010-6.0).  Seattle, WA:  University of Washington, Center for Education Data & Research.  Retrieved from http://www.cedr.us/publications.html

Nye, B., Konstantopoulos, S., & Hedges, L. V.  (2004). How large are teacher effects?” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(3), 237-257.

So, please Dr. Saphier, stop lying.  And please, State of Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, stop endorsing Saphier's lie.  If you need additional research, try this one just published in the April issue of Pediatrics that demonstrates previously undocumented evidence that prematurity and maternal education have highly significant impacts on subsequent infant development and early school achievement as measured by test scores (my bolds):

. . . . Led by Bryan Williams, PhD, lead researcher and associate professor at Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, the team monitored live births to Georgia-resident mothers ages 11-53 and the test results for all three components of the Criterion-referenced Competency Test (CRCT) for first graders in Georgia public schools. The aim was to determine the association between late preterm births – birth between 36-37 weeks' gestation – and first grade standardized test scores. The findings suggested that preterm birth and low maternal education increase a child's risk of failure of first grade standardized testing scores.

 "While socioeconomic conditions are frequently blamed for the "achievement gap" in educational testing, the role of prematurity in educational achievement should also be explored," explains Williams. "Our findings demonstrate that a child's academic success is much more of a function of birth history than who educates them. It is difficult to argue that a child born at 28 weeks will perform well on a standardized test by simply having a better educator." 

Williams and his team explored additional factors such as maternal age at birth, maternal education, maternal race/ethnicity, child race/ethnicity, sex of the child, and year of birth. Findings of the study suggested that, along with preterm birth, the strongest risk factor for failure of each of the three components (math, reading, and language arts) was low levels of maternal education.

 "Strategies should be implemented to promote maternal academic achievement and full-term gestation," says Carol Hogue, PhD, Terry Professor of Maternal and Child Health at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. "This also includes proper education of the consequences of early elective inductions and the importance of addressing known risk factors for preterm birth." 

"Given the fact that the fetal brain grows by nearly one third in the last five weeks of pregnancy, it is not surprising that any injury, such as prematurity, at this stage can lead to neurodevelopmental delays," explains co-author Lucky Jain, MD, Richard W. Blumberg Professor and executive vice chairman for the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. "The surprising finding in this study is the extension of these delays into early school age." 

The developmental risks associated with late preterm births were once thought to be minimal. However, studies have demonstrated that even infants who are at the margins of prematurity suffer disproportionate rates of clinical neurocognitive problems. These late preterm infants may be susceptible to early and long term academic failure. 

"Given our findings, it is reasonable to believe that prematurity could have an even longer and more substantial impact on school achievement as a child progresses through grade levels, says co-author Anne L. Dunlop, MD, MPH, associate professor at Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. "This information supports recommendations for pregnant mothers to wait until 39 weeks or greater to deliver, when possible, and further underscores the importance of identifying and implementing interventions to address the problem of preterm birth in the United States."