Sunday, February 19, 2012


Today's SQUINTS was prompted by a collision in the rhetorical parking lot, of K-12 reform ideas coming from every quarter, many being expressed in all-or-nothing terms with absolute assurance of ultimate truth.  

But rather than more rhetoric, submit the proposition to a test; after all, is that not the current educational coin of the realm?

Take the Test

Below is a series of propositions.  Keep your own score, but your fate, unlike the fates of teachers being evaluated with standardized tests and VAM, is in your own hands.

True or false?

The best definition of learning is the memorization of dates, facts, formulas, etc., drilled until they become part of permanent memory and can be retrieved on demand.

Charter schools represent freedom of choice, while public schools have become examples of socialism.

The best way to improve teachers’ performances is with monetary incentives tied to test score performances of that teacher's classroom.

Value-added assessment of teachers -- looking at period-to-period changes in test scores -- is a valid way to assess school performance even if a teacher doesn't teach a grade tested, or subject matter tested, because it reflects the school's overall quality.

Charter schools are intrinsically less prone to non-educational influences and the most altruistic because they aren't linked to local or state governments or other topside groups.

NCLB standardized tests are valid and reliable because they are constructed by university schools of education and master K-12 teachers.

Michelle Rhee and Bill Gates have demonstrated the most nuanced and philosophically diverse understanding of US K-12 education, and its need for self-determination, with Rhee a pinnacle of classroom excellence and honesty; both should be candidates for Nobel Prizes.

The best performing schools in the US are private sector-sponsored K-12 charters, the worst, private and religious K-12 schools.

The very best way to develop learning in K-12 classrooms is to script common curricula, script lesson plans, and script the way a classroom is managed to assure reliability of the lessons created there.

Our university schools of education are at the top of the intellectual and ACT/SAT scores' heap in recruiting into their degree programs students who will become America's teachers.

NCLB was the noblest piece of educational legislation written in the last century, with practical and realistic goals, and carefully thought out processes for improving K-12 classroom education.

The myth that some American corporations are massively profiting from proliferating standardized testing is just that, merely sour grapes from public education defenders and advocates.

The sure-fire way to improve our classrooms is to fire the bottom ten percent of all teachers each year for the next ten years; put a stake in the ground for evidence-based accountability not unlike the goals the US private sector uses.

America's public schools have been in the forefront of every effort to introduce and integrate technology into our K-12 classrooms.

Public K-12 schools have some of the best managerial talent in the US in their principals and superintendents, trained at the highest levels of organizational and managerial theory, equivalent to advanced management or public administration degrees.

America's elementary and secondary education gurus have spent decades working on alternative models for testing K-12 learning, and finally demonstrated via countless classroom experiments that present standardized bubble tests perform best in measuring K-12 learning.

The rumor that one of the agendas of present "K-12 reform" is to undercut public K-12 education is just that, a rumor, started and mistakenly pushed by some in our private sector to protect their access to human resources from our public systems.

The configuration of our public K-12 schools was determined a century ago, heavily influenced by the Carnegie Foundation, with the goal of matching every child with a classroom experience that mirrored their individual attributes.

Standardized tests are the gold standard for assessing learning and teacher performance because they accurately and reliably measure hard performance, evidence-based learning.

Public K-12 education's administrators must pass rigorous testing, professional board assessments, and show high performance internship experience before they are allowed to manage a school or system.

Proven over and over, the very best method of creating K-12 learning is putting the teacher -- the sage on the stage -- in the front of the classroom with absolute control of its students and proper discipline.

America's K-12 public schools and their leadership have led all other organizational forms and venues in flattening organizational designs, and including the classroom teacher in school strategies, operations planning, and assessment designs.

America's teachers' unions were formed without real purpose and have simply been parasites feasting on school taxpayers' dollars.

For their levels of education and the need for its maintenance, public K-12 teachers are actually some of America’s best compensated professionals.

The USDOE Secretary Arne Duncan has been an unstinting and inspiring champion of public K-12 education, eschewing hypocrisy, and recognizing and supporting those schools' needs to creatively and entrepreneurially devise curricula that fit their cultures, design their own assessment models, and be protected from political influences.  He also has a future in stand-up comedy based on his recent performance on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

Your Score?

If you judged all 25 of the statements to be "False," you are a winner.  But if you recorded a "True" on any of this list, you may need to put the other oar back in the water, get out more, or cultivate Google.  A few are tricky, but every item above has been challenged or refuted by legitimate research, or by properly informed critical assessment, or by empirical testing, or is orchestrated and frequently paid propaganda.

But the more important implication of this roster of propositions is that a frightening proportion of the list is considered true or is faked being true, and forms the basis for much of present K-12 reform strategy.  

The assumptions rooted in the above statements are going unchallenged by many education professionals who may ultimately be gored by them, with most of our public K-12 bureaucrats and educators either cowering, or dissembling with parents and taxpayers who are depending on their judgment and courage.

The Education World Is Grey

Full circle to the focus of today's SQUINTS, the K-12 education world does not consist of zero/one outcomes and black/white thinking.  US education has always been riddled with nuance, starting with its birth in the early US as elitist, through its mechanization and homogenization in the early 1900s, to counter movements during the latter 20th century that swung too far in other directions setting up K-12 public education for present attacks.  

There are good schools in some dimensions that also sustain inadequate performance in others, or simultaneously serve well some categories of students but short others.  There are schools that work in one local or educational culture that will fail in another.  There are public schools that have told NCLB to take a hike and are exceeding in performance our private K-12 academies. There are charter schools that are achieving, ones that are failing beyond any level that would be permitted in a public format, and ones that are profiteering at taxpayer expense.  

There are school administrators who come close to being Mr. Chips, through some qualified but aspiring to emulate Machiavelli, to some that might belong in our penal system.  There are teachers who won't make it as rocket scientists, or who don't wring out the highest standardized test scores, but who do perform learning magic in classrooms that require empathy, patience, and unstinting emotional commitment to their occupants.

Most importantly, there are multiple definitions of, and kinds of learning, some not yet even properly defined, that require equivalent diversity of testing and other assessment to make the full education process work.    The very nomenclature hypocritically promulgated by the reform gauntlet, "standardized testing," has never been standardized as the term properly defines controls that create needed equivalence for testing hypotheses and reaching conclusions about human groupings and complex learning.  

Do the Reformers Need Reform?

Current K-12 reform has our public K-12 schools being driven, like a herd of cattle, using standardized testing and VAM as a cattle prod, unproven common curricula for standards, and state ratings for grading, to what may ultimately be slaughter of an American system of education, that was basically still working though in need of improving the breed.  Simultaneously there are public K-12 systems so lame -- this blog emanates from one -- putting bricks and mortar ahead of learning, and so self-righteous or lacking morality they are condemning children’s futures and merit that earlier meat ax.

Current reform strategies have labeled the best through the worst of the US public K-12 breed as common reform fodder, zero/one, to be intimidated into excellence.  Funny thing, bullying is being decried by our society, but alive and prospering in both the worst of our K-12 systems, and paradoxically, in their worst reform enemies.   The latter two sides may deserve each other; but the fallout and devastation as in any war impacts mostly the innocents.

The answer to the question stated in the above subtitle, with no hint at all of nuance:  Yes.

No comments:

Post a Comment