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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The $320,000 Teacher Lie

Here's the article.  It sounds wonderful.  Elementary school teachers who teach kids more than preparing for the "TEST" and teach them "patience, discipline, manners, perseverance" have students who grow up to make $320,000 more than kids who don't learn these traits.  Further, the study show that test scores have very little effect on the amount of money the kids make in their future. 

Sounds great in light of the Test 'Em Till They Drop (Out) mentality our government has been proposing.

BEWARE!  This is a smokescreen!  The article is not about paying teachers $320,000, it is about how most teachers won't need to be paid more than minimum wage.  The governments can then save millions of dollars on what currently takes up at least 50% of most state budgets (public school budgets).


Hidden in the final sentences (where readers likely will not continue to read), you will read this:

They can pay their best teachers more, as Pittsburgh soon will, and give them the support they deserve. Administrators can fire more of their worst teachers, as Michelle Rhee, the Washington schools chancellor, did last week. Schools can also make sure standardized tests are measuring real student skills and teacher quality, as teachers’ unions have urged.

Here's what I see as a stage-setting: 
  • Wholesale firings will become the norm. 
  • Student test results will be used even more to assess teacher performance.
  • National standards will be required by states in order to receive any significant federal funding (extortion).
  • A national standards-based test will become the instrument of assessment.
  • THEN, national scope and sequencing of curriculum will enter the picture.  All schools, grade levels, and disciplines will be on the same calendar regardless of the location in the country.
  • The "effective teachers" will record their lessons. "Teachers" (paid barely minimum wage) will push play in their classrooms and provide tutoring to their students, based on the recorded presentation (probably in a Microsoft program - so Gates can make his money).
  • The "teacher as curator" (as Jeff Jarvis predicted and hoped for at TEDxNYED 2010) will make it so the income of a para-pro is what teachers will make, and the teacher/creators will make a living wage, and likely not have a classroom of kids as the record their lessons for national consumption.
  • Teaching will not be, or even need to be, a profession.  Perhaps an associates degree might be required, because teachers won't need to think.
I hope I'm wrong.  But one of my strengths according to personality inventories and skill inventories is that I can take information from a wide variety of sources and find the connections that make it all make sense. 

I hope I'm wrong.  This is a very pessimistic view of where we are heading.  As George Will said, "The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised."

I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Reality Check: To Test Or Not To Test (or what to test or why to test) etc.


Let me start with some things I think we must come to grips with:

  1. Testing isn't going anywhere, and is likely going to increase.
  2. There will always be an unfair advantage for some students when all students are tested with the same measurement instrument.
  3. There will always be those who use test results for purposes the tests were never intended to measure.
  4. The arguments for and against testing in education (like many things in education) sway too far to the extremes.
My Situation:
  • I teach in a school whose city at one time had the distinction of having the most millionaires per capita in the United States.  We also led the nation in divorce rate and Coca Cola consumption at that time.  We (Dalton, GA) are the Carpet Capital of the World.  We no longer hold any of those "honors.
  • When the flooring industry was growing, the need for workers increased (basic economics and human capital). This created a dilemma for the community.  There were young people available to do the jobs (according to one of the wealthiest men in the business), but because the young people came from millionaire families, the jobs were "beneath them."  Therefore, workers from outside the area were needed.
  • The decision was made to recruit people with textile skills.  They came from Mexico.  There was also a rather large poultry industry in our area, which made it more appealing for Mexican families to migrate to our community.
  • When I began teaching in Dalton in 1996, and did my student teaching in the Spring of 1995.  During my student teaching the Hispanic population was listed as "other" meaning it was less than 2% of the total population
  • I received my rosters for the upcoming school year, and at the time of this writing I have 126 total students.  80% are Hispanic, 11% are White, 5% are African American, and 4% are Asian.  I teach on the ELL team, so I realize my numbers are skewed, but not much.  We are a school system of about 68%-70% Hispanic, and we are growing because we are a city district, and in hard economic times people move into the cities (not to the suburbs or surrounding counties).
My Dilemma:
  • I love my students.  I have taught over 5000 students in my 15 years (spent 5 years teaching an Exploratory Computer class and taught nearly every student in the school for those years).  I am teaching little brothers and sisters of earlier students.  I actually will be teaching a child of one of my first students in a year. 
  • I want the best for my students, and I want them to gain those "unfair advantages" when it comes to opportunities.  I want them ready for college (if they choose to attend).  I feel bad for my students who want to become mechanics or home construction workers (contractors), and other high level "service" careers because most of these classes have been removed from our offerings.  So I believe I have the obligation to begin preparing my 7th graders for the likelihood they will need to attend technical college to get the job they want.
  • I also want my students to enjoy their school experiences.  I like school.  I liked school, though not everything about high school was good for me, it was still a good experience.  I want my students to enjoy learning, and to get that opportunity they need to get in classes with the better teachers.  It's a reality anywhere. I suppose that's the argument for firing "bad teachers" that is all the rage among the Michelle Rhee types.
  • It would be naive to think that student test scores do not influence scheduling, and in order to decrease drop-out rates I have to do what I can to get my kids' scores as high as possible.
  • It would be a derelict of duty to neglect the task of preparing my students to take tests (not just the 7th grade CRCT) but their future tests that will determine their opportunity to get into college.
  • So I have to prepare my students for testing.  I have to be sure that they possess the necessary skills and knowledge to score well.  I have to motivate students, not by test scores, but by helping them see that without high test scores they will be systematically and intentionally denied opportunities to pursue their personal happiness in life.
My Approach:
  • In order for me to accomplish my goal of preparing my students for the best they can attain in life, I have to prepare them for tests I don't believe in.  I have to get beyond this fact.
  • I have to get my students to believe and understand that in order to win they have to play the game better than the ones who created the rules. To me, that is the sad state of education in America.
My Hope:
  • I hope that one of my students will one day have the influence on policymakers, or become a policymaker who will have the outlook and sense enough to know we are working with children, and we are stealing their innocence and love of learning because of what adults think education is.

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Announcement Tomorrow from Daddy Duncan


The Race To The Top (RTTT), or as I like to consider it, the Sell You Soul for the Almighty Dollar Grant finalists for Round 2 of the competition.  I'm sure my state (Georgia) will be a finalist, and likely be awarded because our government leadership (another oxymoron?) has little in the form of good ideas for anything, and since education is so far down their list of true concern, we have all but surrendered to the power of the national leadership (another oxymoron?).

Seems that the prefix "oxy-" should mean "many."

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Quote from Martin Buber at the Bodies Exhibit

From R. Murry

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Standing in 100 degree heat to see this exhibit. Hoping it will be chilling. [Get it?]

From R. Murry

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Jodi Beggs: How Video Will Likely Create Rather Than Kill the Classroom "Star"

Very interesting proposition, especially for college level. But it is happening in these "poorly conceived" online courses we are seeing in offerings from most states. Their purpose is wrong, the design is benign, and the classes I've seen are unimpressive.


From R. Murry

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Fireworks 2010 - Pops in the Park Chattanooga

About 30 minutes until fireworks

From R. Murry

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Sitting on the Walking Bridge in Chattanooga for Pops in the Park. And it has just started. Grand ol' Flag playing.

From R. Murry

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Gulf of Mexico, BP, and Bitter Water

Okay, I'm just playing here.  But...

Revelation 8 (The trumpets of the Apocalypse):

 10The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— 11the name of the star is Wormwood.[a] A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.

An article from iCNN

Scientists say:

Gulf of Mexico sea floor has been fractured “beyond all repair” and our World should begin preparing for an ecological disaster “beyond comprehension” unless “extraordinary measures” are undertaken to stop the massive flow of oil into our Planet’s eleventh largest body of water.


A great star:

Blazing like a torch:

Fell from the sky:
BP's stock has gone from a year high of $60/share in late April to the mid $20/share range this week-the low for the year. (You have to trust me on the picture below.  Taken from Market Watch site)

I've never mixed crude oil into my water, but bitter sounds about right.

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The Reason Behind Common Core

Education Week reported the contest for testing companies has begun, and $350 million is up for grabs in the "How much can we exploit from the lives of our young people" challenge.

In an effort to make it sound as if they are going to make changes in the way students are assessed, the competing "consortia" (new buzz word that sounds really smart) claim that there will be components

 ...to provide participating states with formative-assessment tools and data-management systems to help administrators and parents access student-performance information over the course of the year and to help teachers intervene and adjust instruction as it occurs.

They will then have a culminating "computer-adaptive" assessment at the end of the year.  Oooohhhh.  Using computers instead of bubble sheets is such a great advancement in assessment measures.

Here's my favorite part:

And although both consortia would use some form of selected-response questions on their year-end accountability measures, they underscored that their states would explore the use of “technology enhanced” items that gauge higher-order critical-thinking abilities, rather than rely solely on multiple-choice questions that don’t lend themselves to measuring those skills.

Such abilities might be measured, for instance, by using items that require students to interact with on-screen features, such as a graph.

NO WAY - You mean all I have to do is teach my kids to read a GRAPH and that's considered "higher-order critical-thinking abilities!? I've been working way too hard, if "interacting with an on-screen graph" is considered "high and critical"  That's all we're getting for $320 million dollars of federal grant money!? 

Oh, my bad...It's going to be shown on a computer screen.  Now I understand the difference.

My second favorite part of the article:

Education Week obtained the three proposals from the consortia in advance of the application deadline, after officials at the Education Department said they could not make the applications immediately available online. The education department also received a fourth application, from a Texas-based organization called Free to Be, but that application listed no states as consortium members, a required eligibility criterion for the competition.

Experts familiar with the applications noted the similarities between the two larger consortia’s submissions.

“They look a whole lot alike,” said Scott Marion, the associate director of the Dover, N.H.-based Center for Assessment and a consultant to officials in both the SMARTER Balanced and PARCC groups. “They started with very different visions and ended up converging.”

Let me translate, if I may be indulged...There are three companies who want this money (a fourth, from Texas, who can't get other states to buy-in). To get the money, they must show how they would do things differently.  So what did they end up with, the same ideas, that are really no different than what we are already doing, except it is on a computer instead of paper.  Now that's reform we can all believe in.

Mr. Marion consulted with the competing consortia, and wonders why there is converging ideas. I want to know more about Scott Marion.  I know nothing of him, but I wonder what connections he already had to Harvard University, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, The Walton Foundation, The Broad Foundation, and others trying to take over public education for personal gain.

Diane Ravitch explains the Billionaire Boys Club and the fraud that is occurring in public education.

Have we forgotten the sage advice - Follow The Money?  It's the paradox of public education.  For years educators have argued that they are underpaid, yet other are getting wealthy off the business of public education in America. 

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