Jesse’s Journey: Boycott in Seattle
Jesse’s Journey: Boycott in Seattle
Jesse’s Journey: Boycott in Seattle
Vol 5, No 3 (2014)
Accountable to Whom? Teacher Reflections on the Relationship Between Creativity and Standardized Testing in Ontario
Catharine Dishke Hondzel
This paper describes the reactions and emotions teachers experienced when asked to discuss the impact standardized achievement testing in Ontario has on creative classroom practices. Using an interview guide format, eight teachers were asked to consider their perspectives on, and practices related to fostering creative behaviours in children, and their own creative teaching methods in light of accountability legislation. The responses teachers provided varied from bitterness and disappointment with the way standardized achievement testing influences their schools and classrooms to acceptance and optimism for the children’s future academic success. The results of this examination are framed with reference to accountability legislation in Canada and the United States, and the potential lasting effects of a high-stakes testing environment.
Creativity; Standardized Testing; Accountability; Educational Reform; Ontario; Canada; Education Quality and Accountability Office; No Child Left Behind; Legislation; Teachers
The American education system has never been better, several important measures show. But you’d never know that from reading overheated media reports about “failing” schools and enthusiastic pieces on unproven “reform” efforts.
By Paul Farhi
Don’t Know Much About – History, Geography or Civics
By Alan Singer
In April 1943, as the United States prepared to invade Nazi dominated Europe and hopefully rebuild the continent on democratic foundations, the nation was shook, at least mildly, by a study that showed a tremendous “ignorance of U.S. History” by college freshman (Benjamin Fine, “Ignorance of U.S. History Shown By College Freshman,” The New York Times, April 4, 1943, p. 1). A survey of 7,000 incoming students at 36 colleges and universities across the country exposed a “vast fund of misinformation on many basic facts.” Adding to the national concern was that most of these students had studies either American history, government, or social studies while in high school. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the colleges and universities did not require a United States history class to earn an undergraduate degree. For a week, the issue made the front page of the New York Times and was even debated in the United States Senate. Then it quietly faded from public attention, until it reappeared in 1976, 1987, and 2002 when new test scores were released (Alan Singer, “Past as Prologue, History vs. Social Studies,” Social Education, 68 (2), February 2004, pp. 158-160.).
People somehow thought that saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school and singing the National Anthem at baseball games were enough to promote patriotism and respect for democracy, that is until the next Cold War or War on Terror scare.
In recent weeks, ignorance of United States history and the functioning of the U.S. government made the front pages again when a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics exam showed that among other academic weaknesses, “Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights” and “only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches.” Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who heads a group that promotes civics education, declared “Today’s NAEP results confirm that we have a crisis on our hands when it comes to civics education.”
In many ways today’s crisis is of the government’s making, both on the national and state levels. It is also a crisis precipitated by the actions of both political parties, the Bush Republican “No Child Left Behind” and the Obama Democrat “Race to the Top.” Both mis-education strategies stress continuous testing in reading and math at the expense of all other subjects, including history, social studies, and civics. Students, teachers, and schools are all evaluated solely on these tests items. NO CHILD ON TOP / RACE TO THE BEHIND has transformed many of our schools, especially in inner-city communities, into cold, dry, boring test prep academies rather than places were children learn how to learn and prepare to become active citizens in a democratic society.
According to a report by my colleague Andrea Libresco, after five years of No Child Left Behind 36 percent of the nation’s school districts had cut class time for social studies to focus on math and reading test preparation.
In New York State, civics education has been undermined by the virtual abandonment of social studies below the high school level. Standardized state social studies and history assessments have already been canceled for the fifth and eighth grades and may become optional in high school. Unfortunately, as State Educational Commissioner David Steiner conceded at a conference at Hofstra University on April 15, “What is tested is taught.”
These “reforms” will make civics education, history and geography at best haphazard learning in our schools. According to Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, civic education is the most important subject talk in America schools and should have “moral primacy over other purposes of public education in a democratic society.” Brian Dowd, social studies K-12 coordinator in Massapequa, NY and co-chair of the Long Island Council for the Social Studies fears that “the Board of Regents,” by counting social studies again, “is about to put New York in ‘moral danger.'” The council is now conducting a letter writing and email campaign to press the state to keep current assessments and re-institute the ones that were suspended.
In the 1980s, Ry Cooder & The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces had a less-than-hit song called “Down in Mississippi.” It celebrated a state with some of the lowest economic and social indices in the country. My fear is that current national and state educational policies that stress reading and math test prep at the expense of everything else will not only undermine civic understanding, but leave us all “Down in Mississippi.”
Another disturbing thought is that people in power in this country may not want a truly educated population. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, both President Obama and former President Bush called it an act of “justice.” I asked an eleventh grade high school class in Uniondale, New York if they agreed and every student who spoke, and there were many, said “Yes.” I then asked how we define “justice” in the United States. There was general agreement that the key component is due process of law with the right to a trial. My final question was, whether you agreed with the killing of Bin Laden or not, do you think it can correctly be described as “justice”? Students were now not so sure. For me as a social studies teacher, the most important part of civics education is promoting this kind of uncertainty.
Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies, Hofstra University
Part 2 of Larry Stedman’s analysis of the failure of the standards movement, just published by Critical Education.
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.
We invite you visit our web site to review this and other articles and items of interest.
Vol 1, No 10 (2010)
Table of Contents
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
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.
What’s interesting here are the parallels among Russian, US, and Canadian educational “deforms”.
Kagarlitsky’s analysis of the Russian education reform scene is, unfortunately, short-sighted. For Kagarlitsky, these policies can be explained by pointing to incompetent government officials (particularly Andrei Fursenko) and others, who are fearful of an educated public, when, in fact, these policies result from application of the principle that public education serves corporate/capital interests, rather than public interests.
Kagarlitsky points out that Fursenko’s policies reflect “a systematic campaign aimed at downsizing public education as if it were a noncore, unprofitable business sector within a large company” seemingly missing the point that this is exactly how public education is being managed by the executive committees of the rich (governments) world-wide.
See two recent examples of how the corporate interest principle works in the USA and Canada (there are many, many more):
As Larry Stedman concludes, in a forthcoming two-article series examining standards-based education reform for the journal Critical Education,
…the changes we have seen in schooling and school culture were not only unavoidable, but were also the desired ones. What many of us perceive as a failure is, in fact, a success in managerial terms. A proficiency-driven, command-and-control, authoritarian type of schooling was, in fact, the goal of the reforms and serves capital’s interests well.
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
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
Teaching Critical Literacy Using Cultural and Political Vignette
NEA and AFT Spent Millions on the Demagogue Obama and Electoral Work: Is the Education Bailout Dead? “Janet Bass of the American Federation of Teachers says that despite these obstacles, the unions plan to keep up the pressure for passage. “We will fight for it as long as we can,” she says. “It’s not dead.” She’s right that there’s a chance the proposal could be revived next week, but betting money as Congress prepared to leave town for the Memorial Day weekend was that there just aren’t the votes to move it forward.
Drop-Out States Lead Flight From RaTT Shell Game: “About two dozen states are going back to Washington for another shot at billions in education grants under the Race to the Top program, but at least nine others with more than 7 million children are opting out of trying a second time.
For them, a chance at hundreds of millions of dollars wasn’t enough to overcome the opposition of teachers unions, the wariness of state leaders to pass laws to suit the program and fears of giving up too much local control.”
Masquerading as News, Press Attacks Teacher Benefits: “The days of teachers contributing nothing toward health care, however, may be waning. For the first time, teachers in Utica and Grosse Pointe will make monthly payments toward health care under contracts approved this spring. Livonia’s teachers agreed last year to make monthly health care payments and take furlough days. “If we didn’t accept those concessions, there would’ve been a huge cut in the educational programs for our students,” said Kenewell, head of Utica’s teachers union. “And if we protect programs for the students, we protect jobs. They’ve already cut some programs.”
How To Fix Detroit Schools? Get Rid of 2/3 of the Students: “Robert Bobb, Detroit schools emergency financial manager, said the 76,000 student Detroit district can only support 26,000 students unless it makes deep cuts in operating and long-term costs such as retirement and health care for employees.”
Ken Saltman on the “Portfolio Approach” in Urban Schools: “This perspective considers public schools to be comparable to private enterprise, with competition a key element to success. Just as businesses that cannot turn sufficient profit, schools that cannot produce test scores higher than competitors’ must be “allowed” to “go out of business.” The appeal of the portfolio district strategy is that it appears to offer an approach sufficiently radical to address longstanding and intractable problems in public schools”
Secret Regimented Standards for Imperialist War Education Revealed: “Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Lily Eskelsen, the vice president of the National Education Association, were also on hand to endorse the standards, with Ms. Weingarten calling the the AFT an “unabashed supporter.”
Ed Mcelroy, the last AFT President to file a report for an entire year (Weingarten files in Dec 2010) reported an income of $390,426.
NEA Hack Lily Eskelsen ($365,738 in 2009) on Regimented National Standards: “We believe that this initiative is a critical first step in our nation’s effort to provide every student with a comprehensive, content-rich and complete education. These standards have the potential to support teachers in achieving NEA’s purpose of preparing students preparing students to ‘thrive in a democratic society and a diverse, changing world as knowledgeable, creative and engaged citizens and lifelong learners.’”
Schools as Huge Markets Where Stealing is Commonplace: “According to the grand jury, about 75 percent of the San Diego district schools that were audited misused ASB funds for curricular and administrative purposes and for the benefit of faculty.”
Bloomberg Moves to Block NYC Teachers’ Wages: “This was not an ideal decision and it certainly does not solve all our budget issues,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement, which was released after he notified Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, about his decision. “In our conversation this morning, Michael Mulgrew and I agreed that we would go together to Albany and Washington to press our case to restore more education funding.”
CSU Stanislaus to Pay Twit $75,000 for Babble (no pole dance?): “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will receive $75,000 to speak at Cal State Stanislaus next month, an event that has become steeped in controversy and brought the small Turlock campus worldwide attention. Much of the scrutiny has centered on the former governor’s speaking fee, which the university has refused to disclose. The fact that Palin has received up to $100,000 for other recent appearances had stoked furious speculation and the kind of cloak-and-dagger intrigue worthy of a novel.”
Walmart Education–Cradle to Grave: “Wal-Mart estimates that about 50 percent of its employees in the United States have a high school diploma or the equivalent but have not earned a college degree. With the average full-time employee being paid $11.75 an hour, it was unclear how many of them will be able to take advantage of the new program. With the work credits and tuition discount, an associate’s degree for a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club cashier would cost about $11,700 and a bachelor’s degree about $24,000.”
The Secret Whole Language Project in San Ysidro High: “Now high schoolers such as Delgado at the top levels read the Diary of Anne Frank and talk about genocide. The idea was to challenge students sooner with tougher but still accessible readings that also sparked their interest — something that can be vexing with teens whose English is thin. Even finding books that are easy enough for English learners but interesting to teenagers is a challenge.”
Virtual Charter Schools Rule! “Nationally, there are an estimated 200,000 full-time virtual charter school students, said Susan Patrick, chief executive of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.”
Nice Job, PhD, Now Play Online Poker to Live: “The number of full-time faculty members at universities was around 51% in 2007, down from 78% in 1970, said Jack Schuster, a senior research fellow at Claremont Graduate University. That leaves many doctoral degree candidates stuck with adjunct work, which can pay as little as $2,000 a semester.”
Read the full RF Update here.