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CHRIS SCHILLIG: Fixing what's 'wrong' in education

Alliance Review Published: September 1, 2013 4:00 AM

It's a cardinal rule of sales: Create the problem, and then provide the solution.

Ohio education officials did a good job of creating the problem last week when they released newly revamped report card data for state schools. The new district report cards jettison descriptors such as "continuous improvement" and "effective" and replace them with an A-F grading system in nine categories. Seven of the nine are based on high-stakes testing results. The other two are based on graduation rates.

Not a single category involves any qualitative measure of districts. The new report cards do not look at how many students are involved in music and art, how many participate in extracurriculars, or how many stay after school for tutoring. Officials rate schools without talking to a single student, parent, teacher or administrator. Supposedly objective, quantitative numbers rule all.

Even schools that fared well under the old (flawed) system find themselves struggling in some parts under the new (still flawed) system. Districts earned A's in some categories and F's in others, but no overall grade is forthcoming until 2015. Officials haven't even decided exactly how they'll compile overall grades, but like the bureaucrats at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," they give every assurance that they have top people working on it.

Meanwhile, parents and community members who are accustomed to report card formats can make their own judgments on districts with D's or F's in, say, "standards met" and "four-year graduation rate" and A's and B's in "disabled value added" and "annual measurable objectives." Likely, they will just assign traditional number values to each letter grade, add them and divide by nine, even though the state says that's not how it will be done in two years.

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Like the good salesmen they are, state officials haven't yet shared the solution, but are instead happy to let districts, kids and parents stew in the problem for a bit. When it arrives, the miracle cure will likely involve sanctions and penalties for persistently poor performing schools (even if these punishments go by more euphemistic and progressive names) and a continued reliance on charter schools that follow a for-profit model.

That's hardly a surprise. As a teacher, I used to scoff at colleagues who said the accountability movement was a plot to systematically dismantle public schools and open the doors for mega-rich handlers of politicians to plunge their greedy fingers into the educational pie. Now, those conspiracy theorists sound more like prophets.

The bottom line is this: Whether old report card or new report card, Ohio's results are based on the erroneous assumption that the only useful data is testing data, and that the accountability model is the only way to "police" education in America.

P.L. Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., presents a better alternative on his blog, "The Becoming Radical." He argues that students and the public would be better served if politicians target growing economic inequalities in the United States. The widening gap between rich and poor means that more students come to school hungry and without adequate health care. These issues directly affect their classroom performance.

Further, Thomas argues that accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing should be stopped, replaced by "a small and robust measurement system" that tests random samples of students and gathers descriptive (qualitative) information about districts.

He also believes that experienced teachers must be assigned to impoverished and special needs students just as they are to affluent, typically developing students; that teacher education should become more rigorous; and that current grading systems, like the A-F model that is so prevalent in our schools, should be replaced instead with models that provide rich, individualized feedback.

Significantly, Thomas says that the kind of crisis management model so prevalent in state and federal education mandates must be replaced with patience. Patience, however, isn't part of the paradigm where lawmakers and their rich puppetmasters are concerned, so the accountability model isn't going anywhere anytime soon. There's gold in "them thar halls," and millions to be made for testing companies who sell products that create the problem and charter school charlatans who sell the solutions.

I love my students and I love my school, but increasingly, I fear for both.

Chris Schillig is an Alliance area educator and journalist. Contact him at chris.schillig@yahoo.com or twitter.com/cschillig

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little_r_republican Sep 3, 2013 8:58 AM

Nice redleg...progressives and teachers will hate you!

Ian_Maserb Sep 1, 2013 2:18 PM

The Amish seem to do better with their schools.


redleg6 Sep 1, 2013 11:29 AM

Taken from: "National Council on Teacher Quality" nctq.org

State Policy Findings: Ohio

Delivering Well-Prepared Teachers....Grade for 2012.... D+

Policy strengths:

All new teachers must pass a pedagogy test.

Policy weaknesses:

Teacher candidates are not required to pass a test of academic proficiency as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs.

Elementary teachers are not adequately prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with the Common Core Standards.

Although teacher preparation programs are required to address the science of reading, candidates are not required to pass a test to ensure knowledge.

Neither teacher preparation program nor licensure test requirements ensure that new elementary teachers are adequately prepared to teach mathematics.

Although middle school teachers may not teach on a K-8 generalist license, not all must appropriately pass a single-subject content test.

Although most secondary teachers must pass a content test to teach a core subject area, some secondary science and social studies teachers are not required to pass content tests for each discipline they intend to teach.

The state offers a K-12 special education certification.

There are no requirements to ensure that student teachers are placed with cooperating teachers who were selected based on evidence of effectiveness.

The teacher preparation program approval process does not hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.


Article from: Courier Times | July 22

"America’s Best Educated Kids Don’t Go to School"

Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, compared home schoolers and public school students on the results of three standardized tests—the California Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford Achievement Test—for the 2007-2008 academic year. With public school students at the 50th percentile, home schoolers were at the 89th percentile in reading, the 86th percentile in science, the 84th percentile in language, math and social studies.

Socio-economic factors may have a lot to do with why home schoolers do so much better. Virtually all have a mother and a father who are living together. Nearly two thirds of fathers and 62 percent of mothers have a bachelor’sdegree or higher.

The explosive growth in home schooling has been fueled by dissatisfaction with public schools. We spend more per pupil than any other country, but among industrialized nations, American students rank near the bottom in science and math. … The United States is [the] only major country where young people will not know more than their parents ….

About 2 million children are home schooled. Since 1999, the number being home schooled has increased 7 percent a year. Enrollment in public schools fell 5 percent between2005 and 2010. …

When enrollment declines, funding is cut. Because teacher unions are so powerful, first on the chopping block are music, art and athletic programs. (In Buffalo, N.Y.,where teachers get free cosmetic surgery, music programs may be eliminated in half the schools.) These cuts make public schools less attractive, accelerating departures.

Teacher unions have made it all but impossible to fire bad teachers

Colleges of education are an "industry of mediocrity" that churns out ill prepared and underqualified teachers, the National Council on Teacher Quality said last month.

So much for the argument children learn more from the "credentialed professionals" in public schools. "Many parents these days have just as much education as teachers if not more," notes Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead.

Also false is the claim children schooled at home are poorly socialized ….Parents who home school spend about $600 a year on educational materials. This doesn’t include their labor, but contrasts vividly with the $10,560 per pupil spent in public schools in 2011.

Home schooling is a viable option primarily for two parent families

.But we can all benefit if we grasp the significance of this fascinating fact: Variation in the income and education of parents makes little difference in the superior performance of home schooled students.

Children with parents who have an income of $49,000 or less scored in the 86th percentile in core studies (reading, language,math), Dr. Ray found. Children whose parents had an income of more than $70,000 scored in the 89th percentile.

In families where neither parent was a college graduate, home schoolers scored in the 83rd percentile. If one parent had a college degree, the 86th percentile. If both, the 90th percentile.

Home schooling succeeds because its focus is on children, and because home schooling programs are flexible.

Public schools fail mostly because they’re run for the Benefit of Administrators and Teachers, not students,

but also because they are so rigid.

As long as we have Teacher Unions, public schools will stink.