Category Archives: Testing

What is Capitalism Hiding?

What is Capitalism Hiding?

By Bertell Ollman

What exactly is it about capitalism that our rulers are trying to hide? The short list would have to include: (1) that the most apt label for our society-because it brings into focus how our society works (particularly in production, an area of life that most of the other labels ignore or obscure), for whom it works better, for whom it works worse, and its potential for change—is “capitalism”; (2) that the real rulers of this society are those who own the means of production, distribution and exchange, and reap the bulk of the surplus; (3) that the Government, whatever democratic foreplay goes on, serves their interests, hence is their Government and not ours; (4) that we, the rest of us who don’t live on profit, rent or interest, are workers (whether we are willing to admit it or not), because we are forced to seek work in order to live; (5) that the conditions of life and work for us workers are bad and likely to get much worse-while the wealth of the capitalists keeps growing; (6) that a qualitatively better life, a more humane, just, free, democratic, egalitarian and ecologically rational way of organizing society can be developed; (7) that those who benefit from the present order of society have consistently lied to us about all of the above; and (8) that once workers—in the broad sense of the term—break through these lies and half-truths, they/we can win.

Now the best way for the capitalists to hide all of these facts is to hide the first one, that our’s is a capitalist society, because once people learn this all of the facts that follow become easier to see and to grasp. In his book, In Praise of Folly, Erasmus tells the story of a man watching a play who all at once jumps onto the stage and tears the masks off of the actors to reveal who they really are. If you think of Marx as this man and the capitalists as the actors, you can begin to understand both what Marx does and why the capitalists are not too pleased with him for doing it.

From How to Take an Exam and Remake the World by Bertell Ollman (2001, Black Rose Books)

Special report on Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal

In the wake of the recent Atlanta Public Schools test cheating scandal, Critical Education has just published a special report examining the performance of Atlanta students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The report, written by Lawrence C. Stedman, an Associate Professor in the School of Education at the State University of New York at Binghamton and an expert on historical and contemporary student achievement trends, analyzes Atlanta students’ performance on the NAEP during the 2000s to assess the contention of former Superintendent Beverly L. Hall that students made “real and dramatic” progress during her tenure.

Critical Education
Vol 2, No 9 (2011)
Table of Contents

http://m1.cust.educ.ubc.ca/journal/index.php/criticaled/issue/view/30

Special Report

——–

A Preliminary Analysis of Atlanta’s Performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress

Lawrence C. Stedman, State University of New York at Binghamton

Abstract

The Atlanta Public Schools system has been rocked by a series of reports documenting widespread cheating on the Georgia state tests. Its reputation, and that of its leaders, has come into question. In response, former superintendent Hall asserts that, despite any cheating, the city’s students made “real and dramatic” progress during her tenure and cites the district’s trends on NAEP as part of her evidence (Hall, 2011). In this report, I analyze Atlanta’s performance on NAEP during the 2000s to assess this contention. I use diverse indicators: district trends, national comparisons, grade equivalents, and percentages of students achieving proficiency. My preliminary assessment is that Atlanta’s progress has been limited and, in many cases, slowed. In spite of a decade of effort, Atlanta’s students still lag 1-2 years behind national averages and vast percentages do not even reach NAEP’s basic level. Less than a fourth of its 4th and 8th graders achieve proficiency, a key national goal; in some subjects and grades, it is as few as a tenth. At current rates, it will take from 50 to 110 years to bring all students to proficiency. Such findings raise profound questions about current approaches to school reform, including No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. The emphasis on targets and testing is failing and has contributed to cheating across the nation. More fundamentally, it has greatly distorted teaching and undermined authentic learning. While test tampering is a serious problem, we need to re-conceptualize what we mean by cheating. Every day, test-driven, bureaucratically controlled institutions are cheating tens of millions of students out of a genuine education. That is the real scandal.


Editors’ Note

From time to time, Critical Education will publish time sensitive and topical field reports that analyze issues challenging the existing state of affairs in society, schools, and informal education. Our first field report is Lawrence C. Stedman’s analysis of student achievement in Atlanta Public Schools subsequent to the investigation that revealed widespread cheating on state tests. In spite of the findings of the investigation that cheating was widespread, then school superintendent Beverly Hall claimed schools had made significant real progress in student achievement. Stedman’s field report investigates this claim.

Cheating scandals in schools have become almost commonplace. Campbell’s Law is often invoked as the explanation: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” No Child Left Behind has led American schools down a path seeking ever higher test scores, aspirations that are unreasonable and, based on the best judgment of measurement experts, unattainable. In spite of the unreasonableness and unattainability of the goals set by distant policy makers and capitalist corporate interests, educational professionals are pulled down this path and do what they can or what they are told to do to demonstrate improvement in learning. Anyone paying attention to the ever increasing importance of standardized testing as the main means of evaluating students, schools, teachers, and principals will understand how cheating could be come widespread. Indeed, the investigation of the cheating scandal in Atlanta revealed a culture of fear, intimidation, and retaliation, which created a conspiracy of silence among educational professionals fostering deniability with respect to cheating. That teachers and administrators cheat should come as little surprise when educational policy creates unreasonable demands and then holds those educators to account through threats and intimidation. Cheating of this kind is not about trying to hoodwink any one; it is entirely about seeking to avoid the wrath of a system that will assuredly blame teachers and administrators for perceived failure to perform. It is about gaming the system, not about harming children. We should be left wondering why we have an educational system that backs educators into a corner that leaves them with little choice but to engage in actions even they find unethical.

The public is outraged by cheating, especially in its obvious forms, like in Atlanta where teachers and school administrators altered student test results by changing wrong to correct answers. Most people would agree that changing answer sheets is cheating, even if there are good explanations for why it might be done. But there are softer, maybe even acceptable forms of cheating, ones that reasonable people would argue may or may not actually be cheating. Is it cheating when schools and districts manipulate the pool of test takers by excluding groups of students? Is it cheating when teachers are exhorted to focus on students who are on the cusp of moving to ‘proficient’ at the expense of time spent with other students, either those who are failing miserably or obviously succeeding? Is it cheating when instructional time becomes intensive test preparation? Is it cheating when the subjects that are tested push out subjects that are not tested?

What counts as cheating is contextual and necessarily dependent on our perception of who or what is being cheated. When teachers and administrators change answers it isn’t students who are cheated, it is the system. (Stedman’s analysis clearly demonstrates that whether the students’ answer sheets were changed or not, NAEP results show a school system in which children are not doing very well.) The response to this sort of cheating is ever increasing surveillance and policing of test administration and scoring. Increased monitoring is less likely to prevent cheating and more likely to alienate teachers, principals, and students. Whether answers are changed or not, students are cheated by the much larger context of test driven teaching that limits what they know and can do. It is the test driven educational reforms and simplistic notions of what a good school is that cheat students out of a quality education.


Results don’t matter in Obama’s “Race to the Top”

The New York Times reports today on Montgomery County (MD) Schools’ highly regarded teacher evaluation system. The district’s Peer Assistance and Review program is not acceptable under Obama’s “Race to the Top” plan, because it does not make student test scores the key factor in teacher evaluation.

The program uses several hundred senior teachers to mentor both newcomers and struggling veterans. If the mentoring doesn’t work, the PAR panel — made up of eight teachers and eight principals — can vote to fire the teacher. And PAR has resulted in 500 teachers leaving their jobs over the past 11 years.

Despite a successful professional development approach to teacher evaluation as well as evidence of student learning success in the district, the program will be ditched for a new statewide scheme, which is not yet developed, but meets the Obama’s demand that all aspects of schools be marketized.

Unfortunately, federal dollars from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program are not going where Dr. Weast [Montgomery County Superintendent] and the PAR program need to go. Montgomery County schools were entitled to $12 million from Race to the Top, but Dr. Weast said he would not take the money because the grant required districts to include students’ state test results as a measure of teacher quality. “We don’t believe the tests are reliable,” he said. “You don’t want to turn your system into a test factory.”

Race to the Top aims to spur student growth by improving teacher quality, which is exactly what Montgomery County is doing. Sad to say, the district is getting the right results the wrong way [i.e., not the neoliberal way, linking test scores to teacher evaluation to federal bribes].

It does not seem to matter that 84 percent of Montgomery County students go on to college and that 63 percent earn degrees there — the very variables that President Obama has said should be the true measure of academic success. It does not seem to matter that 2.5 percent of all black children in America who pass an Advanced Placement test live in Montgomery County, more than five times its share of the nation’s black population.

The Rouge Forum 2011: Call for Papers

The Rouge Forum 2011: Call for Papers

Education and the State: A Critical Antidote to the Commercialized, Racist, and Militaristic Social Order

The Rouge Forum 2011 will be held at Lewis University. The University’s main campus is located in Romeoville, IL, which is 30 minutes southwest of Chicago, IL. The conference will be held May 19-22.

Proposals for papers, panels, performances, workshops, and other multimedia presentations should include title(s) and names and contact information for presenter(s). The deadline for sending proposals is March 22. The Steering Committee will email acceptance or rejection notices by April 1. The proposal formats available to the presenters are as follows:

Bringing together academic presentations and performances (from some of the most prominent voices for democratic, critical, and/or revolutionary pedagogy), panel discussions, community-building, and cultural events, this action-oriented conference will center on questions such as:

  • Transforming the notion of “saving public education” to one of creating education in the public interest, what does teaching and learning for a democratic society look like?
  • How do we educate the public and our youth to understand the implications of “saving public education” through corporate and militaristic practices, such as standardized examinations, zero-tolerance policies, charter schools, and corporate donations?
  • How will educational initiatives supported by the Obama Administration and many other politicians impact teachers, students, and communities across the US?
  • What does education for liberation look like compared to the more socially reproductive/dominating education we see in many of our nation’s schools?
  • What debts will future generations, including the students we may teach, carry because our financial, governmental, and military endeavors have not been concerned with public goods?

SUBMISSIONS
Proposal Formats

Individual Proposal: (45 minutes)
The Rouge Forum welcomes individual paper proposals, with the understanding that those accepted will be grouped together around common or overlapping themes, Presenters will have approximately 45 minutes to present or summarize their individual papers. Individual paper submissions will be considered for panels with the same topic/theme. If you would prefer to present your paper/research individually you should consider the alternative format proposal. A 300-500 word abstract of the paper will be peer reviewed for acceptance to the conference.

Symposium Proposal: (90 minutes)
Presenters are also welcomed to submit proposals for a symposium. A symposium is typically composed of a chair and discussant and three to five participants who present or summarize their papers. Each symposium is organized around a common theme. Each participant will have between 15 and 45 minutes to present their papers, depending upon the number of participants involved in the symposium. A 300-500 word abstract of the symposium will be peer reviewed for acceptance to the conference.

Panel Proposal: (90 minutes)
A panel discussion is another venue available presenters. A panel discussion is typically composed of three to six participants who discuss their scholarly work within the context of a dialogue or conversation on a topic or theme related to the conference theme. Typically, each panelist is given 10-15 minutes to discuss the topic, present theoretical ideas, and/or point to relevant research. A chair should be identified who introduces the panel and frames the issues and questions being addressed. In addition to the chair, we encourage (but do not require) organizers of panels to include a discussant who responds to the comments of the panelists. Individual proposal submissions will be combined into panels with the same theme/topic. A 300-500 word abstract of the panel discussion will be peer reviewed for acceptance to the conference.

Alternative Format and Special Interest Groups (90 minutes)
Alternative proposals that do not fit into the above categories, such as workshops, performances, video and multimedia presentations, and round-table dialogues, are encouraged. We also welcome proposals for the organization of special interest groups. A 150-250 word abstract of the panel discussion will be peer reviewed for acceptance to the conference.

Email proposals to conference coordinator Brad Porfilio porfilio16@aol.com, by March 22, 2011.

Additional information on Rouge Forum 2011 is available at rougeforumconference.org

New issue of Critical Education: “Why the Standards Movement Failed: An Educational and Political Diagnosis of Its Failure and the Implications for School Reform”

Part 2 of Larry Stedman’s analysis of the failure of the standards movement, just published by Critical Education.

Why the Standards Movement Failed: An Educational and Political Diagnosis of Its Failure and the Implications for School Reform
Lawrence C. Stedman

Abstract

In the first paper, “How Well Does the Standards Movement Measure Up?,” I documented the movement’s failure in diverse areas—academic achievement, equality of opportunity, quality of learning, and graduation rates—and described its harmful effects on students and school culture.

In this paper, I diagnose the reasons for the failure and propose an alternative agenda for school reform. I link the failure of the standards movement to its faulty premises, historical myopia, and embrace of test-driven accountability. As part of the audit culture and the conservative restoration, the movement ended up pushing a data-driven, authoritarian form of schooling. Its advocates blamed educational problems on a retreat from standards, for which there was little evidence, while ignoring the long-standing, deep structure of schooling that had caused persistent achievement problems throughout the 20th century. Drawing on reproduction theories and analyses of the neoliberal reform project, I make the case for repealing NCLB and Race to the Top and outline a progressive framework for reconstructing schools.

Critical Education: How Well Does the Standards Movement Measure Up?

Critical Education has just published its latest issue—the first of a two part examination of No Child Left Behind policies and the standards movement by Lawrence C. Stedman.

We invite you visit our web site to review this and other articles and items of interest.

Critical Education
Vol 1, No 10 (2010)
Table of Contents
http://m1.cust.educ.ubc.ca/journal/index.php/criticaled/issue/view/21

Articles
——–
How Well Does the Standards Movement Measure Up? An Analysis of
Achievement Trends, Academic Course-taking, Student Learning, NCLB, and
Changes in School Culture and Graduation Rates

Lawrence C. Stedman

Abstract

This is the first of two papers examining the standards movement. In it, I review data from NAEP, the SAT, the international assessments, transcript studies, and NCLB assessments, as well as surveys and case studies of changes in curriculum and pedagogy. The picture is a bleak one. Over the past quarter century, achievement has stagnated, dropouts and aliteracy have grown, and large minority achievement gaps have persisted. The quality of student learning remains poor. School changes, stratified by class and race, have constricted instruction and harmed students and teachers. NCLB has made things worse, not better. Even in the two areas where the movement has achieved some success—lower grade math achievement and high school academic enrollments—the gains were largely superficial, other forces such as teaching-to-the-test and social promotion contributed, and serious deficiencies remain.

In the second paper, “Why the Standards Movement Failed,” I examine the educational and political reasons for the failure—including its misconstruction of pedagogy and links to the neoliberal reform project—and propose a progressive alternative.

Education for Dangerous Citizenship

I’ll be at the University of Texas at San Antonio in November giving a talk as part of the Educational Leadership & Policy Studies Distinguished Lecture Series.

The talk, titled “Education for Dangerous Citizenship”, will draw from some of my recent work with Rich Gibson (e.g., “The Education Agenda is a War Agenda” and “No Child Left Behind and the Imperial Project”) and Kevin D. Vinson (“The Concrete Inversion of Life””: Guy Debord, the Spectacle, and Critical Social Studies Education” [pdf]). The UTSA talk will cover some of the foundational ideas for a book Kevin and I are currently writing titled Dangerous Citizenship: A Theory and Practice of Contemporary Critical Pedagogy.

Thanks to Abraham DeLeon for organizing things at UTSA.

Here’s the blurb:

Education for Dangerous Citizenship: War, Surveillance, Spectacle, and the Education Agenda

We live in an era in which leaders have delivered on the promise of perpetual war and where the primary role of “public” schooling is social control. In the contemporary milieu of advanced capitalism, the fusion of surveillance and spectacle produces, maintains, and propagates controlling images that enforce prevailing societal norms by disciplining the thoughts and behaviors of individuals and groups. How might educators respond to the mechanisms of the state used to ensure direct and ideological social control? How might we resist increasingly color-coded social and economic inequality? And might we subvert an education agenda that is a (class) war agenda?

Rouge Forum Update: Happy Labor Day and Back to School Edition

Rouge Forum Update: Happy Labor Day and Back to School Edition

Reminder: Nominations for the Rouge Forum Steering Committee go to Community Coordinator Adam Renner at by September 15th.

Mayday Is the Real Labor Day! Here’s a Fine Poem Anyway:

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying
We’ll have freedom, love and health,
When the grand red flag is flying
In the Workers’ Commonwealth

ABC News “Crisis in the Classroom” with Arne, Michell Rhee, and AFT’s Weingarten Sucking up

Let’s Leash Arne and Barack

Putting a Noose on the Core (Regimented/Nationalist) Curriculum–States Take Bribe to Push More Tests: The Department of Education on Thursday awarded $330 million to two groups of states to design new standardized tests to replace the end-of-year reading and math exams used over the past decade to measure achievement under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The new tests, which are to be aligned with the common academic standards that nearly 40 states have adopted in recent months, are to be ready for the 2014-15 school year, the department said.

In Detroit, School Will Open but Where are the Teachers to Be? Hundreds of teachers without job assignments for the fall converged at a Detroit hotel Monday seeking a classroom spot before students return to school next week.Detroit Public Schools issued layoff notices to about 2,000 teachers earlier this year as it grapples with a $363 million budget deficit and declining enrollment. While some teachers had already been brought back, hundreds without assignments were asked to report to the Hotel St. Regis on Monday, the first day of school for teachers.

But Who Gets Laid off And How if, predictably, The Kids Don’t Show Up for the DPS Mess? The “Special Authority” provision of the contract allows the district to protect itself from incurring a deficit in the event student enrollment drops significantly, resulting in the district having more teachers than it needs to staff classrooms.

More Corruption in Detroit Schools–a Principal, an Accountant, and a Cop: A former principal, former school accountant and a former police officer will face felony charges in connection with embezzling nearly $150,000 from the Detroit Public Schools, officials announced today.

Connecting the War/Education Lies: As schools began to open for the 2010-11 year, two lies that need to be connected were kept apart in the for-profit media. On August 30, 2010, ABC News “This week,” chaired by Christiane Amanpour offered the usual tripe about educational reform, virtually praising the White House Race to the Top (RaTT) project. Washington D.C.’s school tyrant, Michelle Rhee, joined Obama errand-boy Arne Duncan and the American Federation of Teacher’s boss Randi Weingarten in a celebration of reform under the guise that “We are all in this together for the children.”

Read full update here.

New issue of Critical Education: “Dialogic Pedagogy: : Looking to Mikhail Bakhtin for Alternatives to Standards Period Teaching Practices”

Critical Education has just published a new issue.

Visit http://www.criticaleducation.org to read:

A Dialogic Pedagogy: Looking to Mikhail Bakhtin for Alternatives to Standards Period Teaching Practices
Trevor Thomas Stewart

Abstract
Instructional practices in American schools have become increasingly standardized over the last quarter century. This increase in standardization has resulted in a decrease in opportunities for teachers to engage in student-centered instructional practices. This article discusses how the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin can serve as the foundation for educators who are seeking alternatives to standards period teaching practices. A Bakhtinian view of language can be the basis for the creation of a dialogic pedagogy, which can help teachers and students navigate the complexities of teaching and learning in the secondary English classroom. More importantly, perhaps, Bakhtin’s theories can serve as a framework on which educators might build their arguments supporting the implementation of alternatives to standards period skill and drill instructional activities.

Forthcoming articles from Critical Education include:

Erica Frankenberg & Genevieve Siegel-Hawley:
A Separate Education: The Segregation of American Students and Teachers

Nicole R. Harper:
Education Beyond Institutionalization: Learning Outside of the Formal Curriculum

Cory D Maley:
Meet Them At The Plate: Reflections On The Eating Of Animals And The Role Of Education Therein

Jacqueline Darvin:
Teaching Critical Literacy Using Cultural and Political Vignette

Rouge Forum SuperBowl SchmooperBowl Update

Suberbowl Cartoon
Spectacle Schmectacle: Remember the March 4th Strike!

Check Out Miami’s Paul Moore on the Superbowl:
“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.” John Berger

On the Little Rouge School Front:

A Rouge Forum Broadside on March 4th, Resistance, and Fear

Call For Proposals–Rouge Forum Conference August 2-5, 2010

Critical EducationCall for Manuscripts: A Return to Educational Apartheid? >: “This current series will focus on the articulation of race, schools, and segregation, and will analyze the extent to which schooling may or may not be returning to a state of educational apartheid.”

Whose School? Our School? Occupations in Glasgow: “Parents in Glasgow occupied yet another primary school this week; the latest in a series of school occupations which have taken place over the past year.”

Harvard Initiates Educational Leadership-Business Partnership (this is new?): “ The Harvard doctorate broadens the reach of traditional programs by collaborating with the Harvard Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, he said. The first year of studies is devoted to a rigorous core curriculum. The next year, students chose from a slate of courses at the three schools–such as “Managing Human Capital” at the business school or “Marketing for Non-Profits and Public Agencies” at the Kennedy school.”

What They Do With The Kiddies After High School–Pedagogy With Those Fun Loving Marines

Arne Duncan: “Atta Boy Detroit Bobb (Broad): “Duncan praised Bobb and what he’s done in the district, calling him “a breath of fresh air.”

SF City College Cancels Summer Sessions: “Thousands of students who expected to make up missed courses or simply move their education forward will have to put those plans on hold this year because City College of San Francisco is canceling its popular summer session.”
Read more:

LA Times Exams the Explosion of Charters in the Second Largest School District: “Los Angeles is home to more than 160 charter schools, far more than any other U.S. city. Charter enrollment is up nearly 19% this year from last, while enrollment in traditional L.A. public schools is down.”

Read the full RF Update here.