Why Teacher Bashing is Dangerous

The increasingly polarized education policy debate is not just about whether teachers feel the sting of public criticism or whether school budgets suffer another round of cuts. It’s not even about the hot-button issues getting all the attention like merit pay or charter schools.

What’s at stake is more basic: Whether the right to a free public education for all children will survive as a fundamental democratic promise in our society, and whether the schools and districts needed to provide it are going to survive as public institutions.

Read the entire Washington Post article here.

National Common Core Standards – an interesting publication from Fordham

An interesting new publication from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the National Common Core Standards (and the coming national assessments). The major question this paper hopes to address: How does the adoption of common core affect curriculum and instructional implementation?

In brief, the paper suggests the creation of a coordinating council (made up of governors, legislators, and school officials) to keep track of Common Core implementation as it goes forward and facilitate inter-state communication, as well as monitor and report on progress.

A short video explaining the paper:

The paper itself:

Keystone exam update

Graduation Requirements / Keystone Exams
Information from PDE, October 2010

There are 4 testing options:

  1. Use keystone exam as course finals – counts as 1/3 of course grade
  2. Use keystone exam as stand-alone tests – no impact on final course grade – students must be proficient
  3. Develop local system of assessment – must be externally validated by state
  4. Use AP or IB exams where appropriate

Two stage implementation

  1. Current 7th and 8th graders (class of 2015 and 16) must demonstrate proficiency on 4 exams (Alg1, Lit, Comp, Bio)
  2. Current 6th graders (class of 2017 and beyond) must demonstrate proficiency on 6 out of 10 exams in 4 areas: 2 English, 2 math, 1 science, 1 social studies

… a FAQ and clarifying materials will be forthcoming

Who should participate this year?

  • PDE invites all districts to consider participating – those districts will receive data on how students performed on the new exams and this will provide a good sample for PDE to set cut scores
  • If a district plans to use keystones, and has students in grades 7/8 enrolled in algebra 1, those students must take the algebra 1 exam (however, cut scores won’t be set until after school ends, so the results can not be calculated in final course grades); the exam will be “banked” for graduation requirements

When should exams be given?

  • Local districts will decide when students are ready, typically at end of course
  • PDE recommends Eng Comp at end of grade 9 English, and Lit at end of grade 10 … but these are only recommendations
  • For schools with integrated mathematics programs, PDE recommends Algebra 1 at the end of year 2, Geometry at the middle of year 3 and algebra 2 at the end of year 3 … again, only recommendations
  • Administration windows will probably be January, May, August – exact schedule TBD
  • There will be no modified keystones developed for special needs students

when will exams windows be open?

  • Early may 2011 – exact date TBD
    • operational Algebra 1, Literature, Biology
    • field test English comp, Algebra 2, Geometry
  • Both paper / pencil and online modes will be offered; schools can give one or the other, or a combination
  • Window will be very tight in order to score and report normative data before school closes
  • There will be some constructed response questions that need to be scored
  • In November 2010, districts will be asked whether they will administer keystones in May and whether they want to administer using paper or online (or both); be aware that computers will have to be prepped for online testing – tech assistance will be provided by DRC (November’s decision does not “lock” anyone in for future decisions)
  • In Spring 2011, districts will be asked if they intend to develop local assessment system (although that does not lock anyone in for the future)

What is the local assessment validation process and timeline?

  • A committee is currently working on criteria for validation
  • PDE will provide approximagely18 months to develop local assessments and submit them; districts can continue using local assessments as long as PDE is notified

In 2012-13, PDE plans to replace 11th grade PSSA with keystone exams for purposes of AYP, therefore ALL students will be required to take the Algebra 1, Literature, and Biology Keystone exams; there is currently no new information on federal approval

Diane reminds us not to confuse motion for action.

“…one, federal control and direction of education policy have largely replaced state and local control, a decisive and historic change that can be credited to (or blamed on) President George W. Bush and NCLB; two, the models for Race to the Top—Chicago and New York City—indicate that our schools will see a great deal of change in the years ahead, but not much improvement in the quality of education, if any. To the contrary, the search for higher scores is likely to promote a significant narrowing of the curriculum, cheating, teaching to the test, and other negative outcomes. To the extent that our students learn less history, science, civics, geography, foreign languages, and the arts, their education will be far worse than it is today.”

The whole article from Diane Ravitch here in EdWeek.

How to present data

If you’ve never seen Gapminder … you really should check it out. It’s one of the clearest graphical representations of world data that you’ll find – and it’s easy to use and highly interactive.

Now there’s Gapminder Desktop – making it even easier to save and display graphical information. Watch this charming explanation from Hans Rosling and you’ll be hooked.