Category Archives: Testing

New Book: Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom

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We am pleased to announce a new book just published by Peter Lang, Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom: A Community of Students, Teachers, Researchers, and Activistswhich E. Wayne Ross co-edited.

Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom delivers critical counter-narratives aimed at resisting the insatiable greed of a few and supporting a common good for most. The book reflects the efforts of a hopeful community, the Rouge Forum, which has been working against perpetual war, corporate education reform, the destruction of our natural environment, increasing poverty, and social inequalities as they fight to preserve democratic ideals in a just and sustainable world. Written teachers, researchers, and activists, this collection is a tapestry of social justice issues woven in and out of formal and informal education.

The Rouge Forum has endured for two decades, a group of educators, students, parents, organizers, and activists who persist in working for social justice, democratic education and a common good. Founded by social education teachers, scholars, and activists, the Rouge Forum moves like waves that, once set in motion, are unstoppable. This remarkably inclusive community has been sustained with hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Rouge Forum website, annual conferences held throughout the United States and Canada, and many of the original founders continuing to ride the waves of change.

The Rouge Forum is uniquely inclusive. Educators, scholars, students, writers, union organizers, artists, and many more gather each year for dialogic interaction and learning together. Membership crosses cultural, national, racial, and class boundaries in the struggle for a just and sustainable world.

Rouge Forum conferences aim to foster dialogue among participants rather than stand-and-deliver speeches. Panel and roundtable discussions are encouraged. As one student said after presenting on a panel at the 2014 Denver Conference, “As we went one by one, you could tell that our confidence continued to rise. When we completed our panel, the crowd kept the conversation going with questions …about our ideas…on how to have dialogic discussions and [build] communities….” She continued saying that the participants were not asking questions about what they knew, how much they had prepared for their panel presentation, instead they wanted to know what those students thought. She ended by saying “…this experience was one for the books.”

This book was written for those who fight for democratic ideals and work against perpetual war, the destruction of our natural environment, and increasing poverty and social inequalities. As the world watches the skewed mass media portrayal of the 99%, the people of the Rouge Forum stand together to delivering a counter-narrative.

Contents:

Nancye McCrary & E. Wayne Ross: Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom: A Community of Teachers, Researchers, and Activists

Nancye McCrary: The Last Teacher

Staughton Lynd: What Is to Be done?

Susan Ohanian: Against Obedience

Alan Singer & Eustace Thompson: Pearson, Inc.: Slashing Away at Hercules’ Hydra

Faith Agostinone-Wilson: Relation of Theory and Research to Practice in Social Justice Education – On the Urgency and Relevance of Research for Marxists

Four Arrows & Darcia Narvaez: Reclaiming Our Indigenous Worldview: A More Authentic Baseline for Social/Ecological Justice Work in Education

Rich Gibson: Why It Is Possible and Imperative to Teach Capital, Empire, and Revolution – and How.

Dave Hill: Class Struggle and Education: Neoliberalism, (Neo)conservatism, and the Capitalist Assault on Public Education

Doug Selwyn: Social Justice in the Classroom? It Would Be a Good Idea

Patrick Shannon: Poverty, Politics, and Reading Education in the United States.

Glenabah Martinez: Counter-Narratives in State History: The 100 Years of State and Federal Policy Curriculum Project

E. Wayne Ross: Broadening the Circle of Critical Pedagogy

Leah Bayens: Social Justice Education Outside the Classroom: «Putting First Things First»: Obligation and Affection in Ecological Agrarian Education.

Tara M. Tuttle: «Barely in the Front Door» but Beyond the Ivory Tower: Women’s and Gender Studies Pedagogy Outside the Classroom

Paul Street: Our Pass-Fail Moment: Livable Ecology, Capitalism, Occupy, and What Is to Be Done

Brad J. Porfilio & Michael Watz: Youth-Led Organizations, the Arts, and the 411 Initiative for Change in Canada: Critical Pedagogy for the 21st Century.

Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom, is the second book published in the Peter Lang book series Social Justice Across Contexts in Education.

Read the read the preface and introduction here.

Non-graded student assessment growing (and progressive) trend in Western Canada, says UBC Prof

Schools boards in Alberta and British Columbia are trending toward non-graded approaches to student evaluation for students in primary and intermediate grades. Non-graded assessment policies have recently been adopted in Calgary, AB and two British Columbia districts, Maple Ridge and Abbotsford.

Institute for Critical Education Studies co-director Sandra Mathison, who is Professor in the Measurement, Evaluation, and Research Methodology program at University of British Columbia calls
gradeless evaluations ‘progressive’ in an article in the Vancouver daily The Province.

Mathison said removing early grading could help stop kids from studying strategically just to get As.

“Having a letter grade or a percentage grade … fosters competition and a sense that you have to be better than other people, and detracts from the idea that what you are doing in school is learning something.”

This afternoon in an interview on CKNW AM 980’s Sara Simi Show, Mathison pointed out that teachers have an incredible stores of knowledge about students that is not communicated to parents or students through traditional report cards. With the introduction of non-graded assessments, “teachers will have an opportunity to say a great deal more about what their students have accomplished and what students need to continue working on than is currently the case.”

Mathison characterized traditional report cards as focused on efficiently communicating simple reports of students achievement. She said that the use of grades or percentages produces an “overconfidence” in the actual meaning of summative indicators such as letters grades or percentages, which are “devoid of the specifics that would help students know where they are and what they need to work on.” Traditional report cards, “also limits the information to parents as well,” Mathison added.

A key issue in the success of non-graded assessment policies, according to Mathison, is the willing of parents and schools to engage in dialogue with one another about both the process and substance of how to best evaluate student learning.

Stream or download the Mathison’s CKNW interview on non-graded student assessment here.

Evaluating Education: Great Schools Project v Fraser Institute

A great example of how fact becomes fiction, and in return how fiction becomes fact, a process critical theorists generally call reification, is the Fraser Institute’s annual ranking of schools in British Columbia. Yesterday, on 17 June 2013, the Fraser Institute published its rankings of secondary schools in BC. The Fraser Institute’s annual School Report Card is based on a single indicator in BC– “results of the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) exams in Grades 4 and 7 and provincial exams in Grades 10, 11, and 12.”

Fact becomes fiction: Individual students’ test scores on the controversial and hotly contested (by the BCTF, ICES, etc) FSA exams are aggregated and turned into a rating along a scale from 1 (worst) to 10 (best). A fiction of the quality of a school is generated out of the fact of individual students’ test scores.

Fiction becomes fact: The individual schools are then rank ordered, pitting school against school to capture the competitive nature of education, at the school level, in BC. The fiction of quality is represented as fact within the annual research-based School Report Card. The Fraser Institute exploits a fairly easy, common process.

Of course, there are many alternatives for evaluating education or judging the quality of schools. One of the most comprehensive alternatives has been taken up by the Great School Project, headed up by a group of experienced, insightful educators and researchers.

The purpose of the Great Schools Project is to develop methods to assess schools that support students, communities, and the public education system, so that we can provide the best education possible for every child—so that we have a useful answer to that Mum’s questions: How is our school doing? How well is our school meeting the needs of my child? It’s also an attempt to live up to our responsibility to move beyond simply criticizing — to make concrete proposals we believe will improve the public education system for kids.

Working methodically to offer productive ways of judging quality, the Great Schools Project has offered a set of Principles that ought to be at the base of any evaluation system.

A Call to Review Standardized Testing in Canada

REAL ACCOUNTABILITY OR AN ILLUSION OF SUCCESS?: A CALL TO REVIEW STANDARDIZED TESTING IN CANADA

OTTAWA, ON (February 16, 2013) – The Action Canada Task Force on Standardized Testing has just released a report analyzing the place of standardized testing as an accountability measure in Canadian K-12 education systems, using Ontario as a case study focus. “A review of standardized testing in this province and others is not only timely – it’s urgently needed,” says Sébastien Després, a 2012-2013 Action Canada Fellow and co-author of the report. Després explains that when standardized testing was established in Ontario two decades ago, the Royal Commission which recommended the creation of the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and the adoption of standardized testing in the province had also recommended that a five-year review be undertaken. Almost twenty years later, this review has yet to be done. Després concludes, “As things stand, the current testing system may or may not be facilitating the achievement of the education system’s range of objectives. A review of this accountability measure should be a top priority.”

Teaching is often said to be “the second most private act in which adults engage” (Dufour 1991) since it tends to take place behind closed doors, away from the view of many stakeholders. In its essence, however, teaching is a public and political act, and is fundamental to the continuing development of a citizenry that drives Canada’s global competitiveness and social and economic prosperity. Recognizing the importance of education, many jurisdictions have turned to standardized testing as a means of ensuring accountability for results. In some circles, this measure has become controversial, as stakeholders – and the public as a whole – are polarized as to whether standardized testing is an appropriate way of evaluating students and the overall effectiveness of education systems in light of their objectives and curricula.

Sébastien Després, a lecturer in Anthropology and Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland, explains that standardized testing regimes are costly and time-consuming enterprises that can have an important impact on the classroom experience. “We know that not all students are motivated by marks and academic achievement. We also know that when these things are prioritized over others, instruction can become boring, and kids become disengaged.” The report also explores how standardized testing can impact teaching as a profession, and echoes earlier studies that show how an over-emphasis on test scores can diminish teachers’ role in determining the content and methods of instruction, casting teachers as efficiency experts who carry out instruction determined by someone else.

Standardized testing can also shift attention away from the presentation of the full breadth of a given province’s prescribed curriculum, to a narrowed focus on what they measure: literacy and numeracy. This is recognized by the EQAO, who in a recent report highlighted that “What gets measured gets attention.” Task Force member Marie-Josée Parent arranged for specially-commissioned artwork by Montreal artist Josée Pedneault and a short animated film featuring drawings from Winnipeg artist Ben Clarkson to accompany the report, a nod to the damaging effect that standardized testing regimes can have on the teaching of the arts, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and a list of other skills and competencies prescribed by provincial curricula. “Recognizing that the means by which we strive to make our education systems transparent necessarily have an impact on these systems is a good first step in a bold direction,” says Després, “and we are hopeful that this recognition will go a long way in occasioning a change in priorities from a focus on test scores to a focus on the ultimate purposes of education.”

To view the report in its entirety, visit: http://www.testingillusion.ca

 Task Force Twitter feed
 Task Force Facebook page

Foundation Skills Test (FSA) on our minds in British Columbia

With the administration of the FSA scheduled for next week in BC’s elementary schools, combined with the growing dissatisfaction with its value, coverage of the issues of assessing students and evaluating schools has been in the news. The impending provincial election has ramped up the discussion as the NDP party, favoured to win the election, offers its views on the FSA, in particular, and student assessment and evaluation more generally.

Recent stories in the Vancouver Sun highlight the potential changes that might occur should the NDP win the election. While there are conflicting comments from various parts of the NDP party (Adrian Dix, leader of the NDP has suggested a sampling rather than census testing procedure while Robin Austin, NDP education critic has suggested expanding the testing to other areas) what is clear is that the conversation about student assessment and accountability in British Columbia has shifted. The NDP are responding to the BCTF’s longstanding opposition to the FSA (and more especially the ranking of schools based on the FSA results), but also a growing critique of the testing program from parents, school trustees, and the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.

The dialogue about what next should be rich and lively, as not everyone agrees on where to go from here. At the moment, the NDP is suggesting a sample of students be tested, rather than the census testing that has been in place since 1998. The BCCPCA believes that educating parents about the test is more appropriate, although they provide little sense of how current practices can alter the school rankings, which they see as detrimental. The Great Schools Project, a group of concerned educators, offer a comprehensive platform for student assessment embedded within a more comprehensive plan for evaluating school quality.

Starting Monday, BC’s 4th and 7th graders will begin taking the FSA, but perhaps for the last time in its current form.

Great Schools Project Teach-In: Thinking Differently About the Quality of Schools

The first of what may be many teach-ins organized by the Great Schools Project was held on Saturday, December 1st at the SFU Surrey campus. A group of 50 concerned teachers, parents, researchers, education activists, graduate students and administrators turned out for a morning of discussion about how we might get beyond simple, easily gathers indicators to broader, more complex ways of thinking about evaluating school quality. The discussion was primed by a short presentation from Alfie Kohn, an internationally recognized critic of many aspects of schooling.

Kohn’s presentation was followed by a presentation of the Great Schools Project’s thinking to date, including a set of principles and a toolkit for thinking about school evaluation.

If you are interested in discussing these ideas in your school, organization or community contact Sandra Mathison at sandra.mathison@ubc.ca

Standardized Testing in Canada: Real Accountability or an Illusion of Success?

Action Canada public dialogue taking place Friday, November 30th, from 8:00am to 9:30am. Moderated by Tom Clark (Chief Political Correspondent and Host of Global TV ‘s The West Block), the theme we will be exploring is:

 Standardized Testing in Canada: Real Accountability or an Illusion of Success?

Focusing on British Columbia’s K-12 education systems, our guest speakers for this session include Peter Cowley (Senior Vice-President Operations and Director of School Performance Studies, The Fraser Institute), April Lowe (Grade 3 Teacher, Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School), and Joel Westheimer (University Research Chair, Sociology of Education, University of Ottawa).

This event will take place in the Asia Pacific Hall of Vancouver’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue (580 West Hastings Street). Following this session will be two more dialogues hosted by other Action Canada Task Forces: “Teaching Questions Not Answers” (at 9:30am) and “Who Cares about Young Caregivers (at 11:00am).

This event is free, but registration is required: Vancouver Public Dialogue

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

-Sébastien Després and the Action Canada Task Force on Standardized Testing