Sunday, April 12, 2015

#206 April 12, 2015- The Stone Age of Education

It seems that everyone, no matter what side of the aisle, what political ideology, or what other thinking influences their thinking, agrees that education is vital to the success of any given individual and to our society as a whole. You'd think that this would mean that we would be entering a "golden age" for our students, educators and schools. After all, if education is so important shouldn't that mean that we will finally commit to fully funding and otherwise fully supporting the work that educators do in our public schools? Shouldn't we finally see the full attention of our nation focused on improving educational outcomes for all students regardless of zip code or demographic? One certainly would think that given the amount of debate and the attention that education gets from our political and economic leaders that this would be the case.

Unfortunately, this current wave of educational "reform" is falling short of the lofty expectations that its rhetoric sets. Instead of creating an environment where public education is fully supported and public educators are given the respect and resources that their professional expertise merits, we are seeing a wave of privatization and accountability efforts that threaten to destroy the educational systems that serve our most at-risk communities. These so called "reforms" miss there mark for a number of reasons.

There is no real definition of what education is, or the role it serves in our society. All this talk about education seems to center on education as a resource, or as a tool, to increase economic opportunity. Yet, there are other ways to define education and other ways that education is valuable beyond economic measures. To ignore these other aspects of education reduces our vision for what an educated citizen is, can and should be.

We have no way to measure "success" with any degree of accuracy. Because we have made education a commodity, we are seeing efforts made to quantify what a well educated student is. This means that we are seeing a rise in testing and other means of quantifying success for our students, educators and schools. These measures are used to define success and become a weapon to wield against our public schools. We forget that test scores are only one measure of a student's knowledge and accomplishments. Unfortunately, the drive to quantify education has resulted in some real confusion about what exactly constitutes success and what results should be considered truly valid and meaningful.

Students at the charter schools, led by Eva S. Moskowitz, outperform their public school peers but their methods and culture are not for everyone.|By KATE TAYLOR

There is no doubt in my mind that we are seeing a movement in education, centered around testing and standardization of curriculum, that harms our students and is aimed at destroying our public schools. The efforts to hold public educators accountable are unreasonable, not because they ask us to demonstrate our students' progress, but because they ask us to do so in ways that use invalid measurements. 

You won't believe how convoluted — and, frankly, ridiculous — this teacher evaluation process is.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced Thursday the testing window for schools to administer the new Badger Exam would be delayed because the online delivery platform is not...|By Erin Richards

I'm not a fan of McTests. My formal training is in pedagogy, and I'm a certified teacher in my home state. Even without my experience in college and my practicu

The question to ask (and one that I haven't heard answered in any meaningful way) is, why are our most powerful and wealthy citizens not putting their own children through these assessments?

They sent them to a school that doesn't give high-stakes standardized tests.

The wrong people are making the most important decisions. It is glaringly obvious, professional educators are not making educational policy. Instead of using the expertise and knowledge that our educators have, too many decisions are influenced by corporations or others who have only financial interests in the processes that are created.  This means that the best interests of our students, families and communities are ignored and the needs of the stockholders and wealthy elite are magnified (even though their children may not even attend public schools). Money has corrupted our educational policy making process and the impacts are significant. 

Bush's No Child Left Behind Act and Obama's Race to the Top grant program means testing giants are raking in the dough.

Lobbying has helped fuel a nearly $2 billion testing industry.

A ventilation outlet for a disillusioned, dejected, and obfuscated late-20's Wisconsinite. Opinions...|By Wisconsin Soapbox

Pearson Education, the British-owned, for-profit education publishing and high-stakes testing service, rakes in tens of millions in profits at all levels of the...

We fail to recognize the challenges that our students, families and educators face in the educational process. We have done a great job of defining problems that our students and schools face. We have also clearly identified achievement and opportunity gaps in our schools. What we have failed to do is to act in any meaningful way to address these concerns. Those who work in our schools see the needs of our students first hand, we know what they need, and we work to find ways to positively impact their lives. Unfortunately, too much of our societal and political discussion around education misses the mark and focuses on making cosmetic changes when we need much more radical changes in our entire society.

We've long known that children from affluent families get a head start that can translate into a long-lasting advantage, especially when it comes to academic...

Robert Putnam, the author of "Bowling Alone," looks at how kids are experiencing the brunt of inequality and all of its missed opportunities, and what that means for learning.

We don't support our public educators. In fact we do the exact opposite. Here in Wisconsin public educators have been vilified and demonized. The struggles of our students are blamed on us, while our resources have been drastically reduced. The dialog around schools and education is increasingly negative. We also can't ignore the impact that the loss of collective bargaining rights for public educators has had. Losing the protections that our contracts offered us has reduced our ability to advocate for our students without fear of retaliation by over stressed (or sometimes antagonistic) administrators. We are seeing our workloads increase and our supports dwindle. The result is an exodus of veteran educators and a diminishing number of new educators entering the profession.

Wages for education (and health services) workers went up just 1.9 percent over the past year, less than the national average. Why's that? "Low-wage workers...

As teacher training enrollment drops, we wanted to know: Why do some teachers stay in the profession?

Not a week goes by without a national news story proclaiming the latest sins of a public school teacher. People love to like, share, and comment on any story that exposes even the smallest wrongdoing on the part of an educator. I get it, I do....|By Abby Winstead

With campuses already preparing to lay off teachers, eliminate entire majors and cut off scholarships, students and teachers are gearing up for a budget battle.

Overall, our most prolific voices for reform are misleading the general public and harming a vast majority of students. The public debate around education is centered on failure and finding blame. This is a recipe for disaster. Those of us who work in classrooms with students know that the students we work with have the potential for greatness. Yet, this potential will not be unlocked by standardized testing, rigid standards and standardized curriculum. Human beings don't perform well in these types of stressful and regimented environments. The creativity and enthusiasm that exist around learning need to be supported and nurtured, and educators have the knowledge and training to make this a reality.

That’s the conclusion of a growing number of researchers who argue that 30 years of test scores have not measured a decline in public schools, but are...

In a stroke of whimsy or irony, two new studies about American education have been released in time to get the most media coverage during School Choice Week. The first, from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), looks...

There is hope for the future. More and more people are realizing that our current direction in education is the wrong path for our students, public schools and our society in general. The privatization and standardization of assessment and curriculum are only going to widen the gaps that exist in our society along pre-existing demographical lines. The efforts to resist these trends are growing at a grassroots level. One movement that is gaining traction across the nation is the opting of students out of standardized tests.  

The movement to boycott standardized tests and reform test-based accountability systems current being implemented across the country is growing. Though...

There are other ways to support your public school and to work to insure that they remain a resource that is available to all students. In the end we need to remember that efforts to privatize only will serve to further the stratification of our society. It is up to all of us to get accurate information and to stay active in making sure we protect and promote this cornerstone of democracy.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . Voters in Madison confirmed their commitment to Madison's public schools with an overwhelming 82-18 margin of victory for the school-funding referendum. It's great to see such support for our schools and a recognition that because of the state level funding cuts, our schools need the financial support of the community.

Madison voters passed a $41 million school-funding referendum Tuesday at the polls.|By Channel 3000

We were fortunate to have two strong mayoral candidates, unlike our neighbor city to the south.

Mayor Paul Soglin and Ald. Scott Resnick have run energetic campaigns but outside events have overshadowed the race.|By Dean Mosiman | Wisconsin State Journal

The Bad . . . While in some ways it was a victory to have forced a runoff election, it would have been a real success to oust Emanuel.

CHICAGO -- Four more years of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Ugly . . . The truth is sometimes painful to deal with. Yet, on both a personal and public level we all have an obligation to do our best to promote open and honest communication about challenging issues. This is something that we learn as we grow and mature into responsible adults. Unfortunately, some people fail to fully develop this part of themselves. This is problematic in general terms, but the consequences are magnified when these individuals find their way into positions of power and influence. We see the impact of this in many ways.

There are some who feel that any effort to promote a real understanding of American history is unpatriotic and needs to be silenced. Yet, if our history is distorted and politicized we lose a valuable opportunity to change the trajectory of our society. If we forget or ignore what has happened it becomes virtually impossible to learn from the errors our past contains, and we will fail to apply the lessons that we could learn.

The Texas Board of Education's conservative members went on the deep end. As the one of the largest buyers of textbooks in the country, the board changed and...

History is one area where misrepresentations and untruths abound, and politics is another. It is here where this failure to accurately represent our thinking and to be truthful about our beliefs and objectives has immediate and visible impacts.  Propaganda and hyperbole has always been a part of politics. Telling partial truths, or flat out misrepresenting one's ideology isn't new, but we are seeing the full impacts of these actions becoming very real for many of us.  This is true on a national level where efforts to restrict the power of our government impacts all of our lives.    

Turns out cutting the IRS's budget has real-world consequences.

Here in Wisconsin we have learned the hard way that elections matter. One major issue is that those we elect are not campaigning on issues that they end up acting on. Voters have elected people to represent them based on incomplete or incorrect information. 

Scott Walker's 9-year tenure in the state assembly had been largely unremarkable. Then a pension scandal rocked Milwaukee County in 2002, and...

We also have seen how a lack of integrity can be a vehicle for promoting outcomes that sound good to voters, but have a hidden agenda behind them. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has become a venue for electioneering and political manipulations instead of a source of justice for citizens. The idea of having justices elect their chief justice may be an acceptable practice, but the motivation here in Wisconsin was probably less about improving our system and more about expanding the power of the conservative majority that currently controls our state government.

WMC Spends $600,000 to Demote Chief Justice as Criminal Probe of Walker Campaign Looms
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has unleashed a $600,000 ad blitz to strip Wisconsin's independent Chief Justice of her title just as the court...

Wisconsin Supreme Court Election Raises Concerns About Partisanship
Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, out-of-state money has poured in, and harsh advertisements have...|By MITCH SMITH

The abuses of power and the misleading of voters has allowed conservatives to gain a stranglehold on our entire system. Once in power these "leaders" have changed the way decisions are made and done everything possible to eliminate any voices of dissent from the process. The results haven't been positive, and we face an immediate future with little hope for influencing change.

The three-member board voted 2-1 to prohibit staff from work related to climate change, even if it's only responding to emails on the topic.|By Steven Elbow | The Capital Times
UW-Madison says budget uncertainty cost campus two top medical research candidates : Wsj
One candidate, Anne Sales, was chosen for a new endowed, tenured faculty chair in nursing and is said to have cited Gov. Scott Walker's $300 million budget cut...|By Dan Simmons | Wisconsin State Journal

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