Sunday, April 26, 2015

#208 April 26, 2015- Testing and Reform Madness

In many ways it seems that an educator's job should be straightforward and concrete in nature. We should be keeping our students safe, our classrooms orderly and engaging, and instructing our students in the basic skills that they will need to have in order to become productive, happy members of society. Seems so simple on the surface, and all of us have a perception of what this should entail. Our perceptions may be based on our own experiences, the experiences of those close to us, and are also influenced by the culture we live in, and that is where the basic expectations we have for our schools, our educators and our students begins to get more complex.

Just look at what we expect of those who work and learn in our public schools and you can see why we find ourselves struggling to define what education should look, sound and feel like in our public schools. Suddenly even the basic statements that our schools should be safe, orderly and at the same time engaging become problematic. This is especially true when we are dealing with a diversity of cultures, experiences and expectations. What looks safe and orderly to one person may feel uncomfortable and rigid to another. I can think of countless examples of just how complex and confusing it can be to try and accomplish the impossible task of making the perfect environment, designing the perfect curriculum and honoring the needs of every student.

An engaging environment may seem chaotic to some. As an educator I've been instructed to make my room's walls colorful and welcoming for students, simple and plain so as not to distract my students, and to keep them relatively bare to avoid fire hazards. Clearly an impossible task if I am trying to follow all directives and do what's right for all my students. Any activity will lend itself to the strengths of a variety of learners. Some of my students excel in group tasks, some work well alone and struggle when partnered or grouped. Some students love to explore things in an active environment while others prefer to gain knowledge from books and paper/pencil tasks.

Over my nearly 2 decades of teaching I have struggled to develop a variety of approaches to teaching any given skill and to managing the needs of my students. Like every other teacher I know I can talk about experiences that those outside of education would never believe could happen. I've seen moments of incredible joy and moments of heart-wrenching tragedy on personal, community and even societal levels. Through it all I've come to believe in the power of public education and to respect the many different values, skills and expertise that everyone who walks through my classroom door brings with them. This is true whether they are a student, volunteer, professional educator, family or community member. I have come to the realization that it take a whole village to raise every child, and it also takes a wide range of ideas and strategies to reach every student.

Along the way I know that there have been students that I've had a real impact on. Students who I have seen grow and mature into tremendous people and citizens. I'm proud to hear about their accomplishments, no matter how "big" or "small" they may be. For some it is a high school diploma, an "A" in a subject that they struggled in, a college acceptance letter, or a job in a field that I knew they loved even when they were elementary students.

Yet, I also know that there are students who learned in spite of my less than perfect efforts, and even those who I missed along the way. These stories are every bit as powerful as the positive ones, but cause significant heartache and even the questioning of my abilities as an educator. Hearing about a former student in the news, or hearing that they didn't make it through school, were trapped in some negative path or otherwise failed to reach the potential that exists in every child is incredibly painful. Teaching is truly an emotional profession filled with all of the joy and pain that come with experiencing the struggles and successes of hundreds of students and their families over the years. 

All of that makes it profoundly disturbing to see what is currently happening to our public schools in America. In an effort to make our schools accountable to everyone we have made them less accountable to those who really need them. We hear all the time that our schools are failing, our educators are self-interested and unsupportive of students, and that we need to make "reforms" to schools to make them competitive, successful and to close the gaps that exist between groups of students. This isn't to say that we don't need to continually strive to improve the quality of our public schools, and that we don't see the same disturbing gaps between groups in our schools that exist in our society as a whole. However, if we recognize that reality, we must then work to identify ways to make positive change happen for all of our students.  

This is the ultimate question that everyone in public schools face on a daily basis, but it isn't really a new one for public educators. The challenges that poverty, mental health concerns, differing abilities and disabilities along with positives like the richness in diversity of culture, experience and background of our students all mesh together in our schools on a daily basis. The difficulties that our society as a whole is facing come into our classroom and impact the ways that our students work and learn together in a myriad of ways. Yet, we've always had poverty, we've always had different learning styles and diversity is one of the hallmarks of American society. What is different is the level of expectation that we are holding our students, educators and schools to.

Of course we should have high expectations for everyone in our public schools. We should hold ourselves to the highest standards and work to achieve the best of all possible outcomes for every student. That isn't an issue of contention in our dialog around public education in 2015 America. The issues at hand are; How do we achieve the best results for all students, and how do we hold those who work and learn in our schools accountable?

To answer these questions we have created complex systems and multiple tools that are supposed to serve the purpose of monitoring student progress and to hold schools accountable for providing the best possible opportunities for our students. Yet, we have continually "failed" to achieve the results we seek. Despite the intense focus on improving outcomes and closing achievement gaps for students over the past decades, we have seen the gaps remain the same or even widen in places. In fact, the progress that was being made as we moved out of the legalized segregation of our schools has been reversed by an overemphasis on testing, standardization and a return to a system of schools that are at least as, if not more segregated than they were in the pre-Civil Rights Movement period of our history.

I've only been teaching since the mid-1990's, but in this relatively short time period I have begun to feel the full effect of the "reform" efforts on my own teaching, and have seen the effect that it has on my students. The problems that have been identified by standardized testing and the gaps that were "revealed" (although anyone paying attention knew they existed prior to the wave of testing that grew out of legislation like NCLB) spawned an effort to "reform" or "fix" education so that we could both compete on a global scale, as well as offer equity in opportunity for all students here in America. These reforms were instituted by "experts," usually from outside the community of professional educators and hinged on quantifying student progress in order to measure the competence of all involved in the educational process.

The resulting onslaught of evaluating, testing and standardizing our public schools has undermined public confidence in our schools and weakened any efforts at really reforming our practices, policies and educational procedures. We have moved from a relatively unstructured system of educator licensing and evaluation to an incredibly complex system that threatens to collapse under its own weight, even before it is fully implemented. Educators now spend hours entering "data" and "evidence" about their work, rather than actually working to improve their practice. All of this is made possible by the efforts to demonize and scapegoat public educators for the failings of a system that is societal in nature. We no longer assume that educators are working hard and doing their best, but instead operate under the premise that we need to monitor their every move and question every action and decision they make.

Not only are we changing how we evaluate educators, but we are also changing how we educate and train them. No longer are educators trusted to make decisions about curriculum or about how to manage their classrooms. Instead we are now given programs, scripts and guidelines that restrict our options when working with our students. Layers and layers of bureaucratic red tape, checklists and requirements have been added to our jobs and the result is less time focused on students and more on "checking the right boxes."    

Last Wednesday, my son, like so many youngsters around the country, began his second year of instruction at a local middle school tucked away in suburban southern California. Though the name...

This false accountability has lead to some unfortunate and harmful events. Educators shouldn't cheat on tests, but they also shouldn't be put in the situation where the tests they are administering are such high stakes in nature. If we try and run education like a business, we will end up with our educators acting like businessmen. Is that what we want and need for our students? Educators rarely, if ever, enter the field for money and linking our students' performance to financial gain is wrong for so many reasons. 

Watch the hilarious video.

here is no doubt that cheating occurred in Atlanta Public Schools (APS), and that it was systemic, pervasive and involved dozens of educators across many schools. The fact that there was extreme pressure placed on educators to obtain higher...

This increased emphasis on testing and accountability has changed the climate in our schools and negatively impacted our students. In order to maintain the confidentiality of the students I've worked with over the years I will refrain from offering specifics, but I can think of countless examples of tears, frustration, feelings of inadequacy and other negative impacts that testing has on individual students. Throw in the lost teaching time, the extra expenses caused by testing to schools, the failures in technology and inane/inaccurate questions, and the fact that I rarely learn anything new about my students and testing becomes more than just an inconvenience. It is destroying our schools and harming our students. This type of testing is designed to identify weaknesses and to have a number of students fail, not to improve outcomes or increase equity.  They occur under a veil of secrecy and are divisive, intimidating and coercive.

We’re being silenced and intimidated to protect an industry that is of dubious quality and obscene...

The companies that create the most important state and national exams also publish textbooks that contain many of the answers. Unfortunately, low-income school districts can’t afford to buy them.

The other piece of the puzzle is the standardization of our curriculum and the profiteering that occurs due to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Once again we see an educational necessity turned into a weapon to be wielded against public schools and public educators. Just like we need some assessments to guide our instruction and evaluate our students, we know that we need to have some standards to base our evaluations on and to insure that our students are progressing. The problem isn't entirely in the standards, but rather in the way they were created (without meaningful educator input), their developmental appropriateness (especially at the younger grades), and the tying of their implementation with a series of assessments and curriculum that are sold to schools and that pad the pockets of companies who have little investment in the success of actual students.

I’d rather be a noble unicorn than a mindless puppet. Dan Juneau, late of the sometimes evil empire known as the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry,

This letter was written by a first grade teacher in upstate Néw York: She writes: (Un)Intended Consequences Today was the first day of the NYS ELA tests. I must state right from the outset that my ...
A teacher in upstate New York wrote me to say that the state English language arts test for 8th grade (written by Pearson) contained a passage that his students had read a week earlier---in a Pears...

These so called "reforms" have increased the tension in our schools and changed the public dialog about public education. They point a finger at the existing system and claim it is failing, while at the same time not offering viable solutions, and actually opening the door to the destruction of our public school system through privatization of our schools and other systems like vouchers. We know there are problems and we know we need to do better, but professional educators need to have a voice and to have influence in the changes that are made. Instead we are seeing educational leaders and others with decision making power take positions that directly or indirectly support those who would eliminate public education. 

Multiple Choice: The normal schedule at your child’s school will be disrupted for several days while the school administers a standardized test to all students. You think the test is a pointless wa...

Our families are beginning to see the need to take action. I'm proud to say that my school had one of the highest percentages of students opt out of our most recent statewide exam. Agree or disagree, these actions force us to discuss what is happening around public education in Wisconsin and nationally.

Some parents are opting their children out of the state’s new standardized achievement test, largely to protest what they see as excessive testing and the use of scores to judge teachers and schools.|By Erin Richards

Educator unions are beginning to see the value in addressing these issues in addition to the more traditional workplace and benefit issues they have dealt with. We know that individual educators are already acting in defense of their students and they are pushing their unions and professional organizations to follow their lead.

PAULA DOCKERY: They earned the right to say, ‘I told you so!’

Often painted as obstacles to improving schools, the unions now find common ground with conservative leaders and education reform advocates.|By KATE TAYLOR

In the end we can all agree that we need to continue to work and improve our educational system. The differences emerge in just how we accomplish this. We need to make sure that we are aware that some voices in the debate have little interest in having a majority of students succeed. There are many voices that speak only for individual students, small groups, or even private business entities. This explains why the current, corporate driven "reform, has failed to meet the needs of students and close existing opportunity and achievement gaps. Instead of focusing on students they are intent on driving an agenda of privatization and educational privateering.

The time is ripe for a new wave of reform to emerge. One where educators (and their unions), communities, advocacy groups, families and students unite to push our public education system in new directions and to new heights of success. As a nation we have the resources and the abilities to make this happen. Now it is up to all of us to become informed and engaged to truly reform all of our schools to insure opportunity and equity for all.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

#207 April 19, 2015- Education as a Measure of Society

Americans pride themselves on living in the nation that is the biggest and best at everything. We are an intensely competitive culture and have difficulty accepting anything less than top level success in every endeavor we embark on. We also take great pride in the role of being a world leader, whether in economic, political, military or any other aspect of human activity. We have set ourselves up to be the "center of the free world" and the proverbial "city on the hill" that every other nation is supposed to look up to as a model for equality, justice and freedom.

Unfortunately, this competitive culture and this image of America as the ultimate source of all that is good and right in the world sets us up for some unrealistic and even harmful expectations and outcomes. America is a nation built by humans and our past, present and future will always be shaped by the imperfect nature of human beings. We may espouse lofty values, we may intend to achieve lofty goals, but in the end we will struggle with the challenges that every culture and nation in the history of the world has encountered. The real measure of our nation's progress towards the goals of "liberty and justice for all" is in how we respond to these challenges and what we do when we fall short of the expectations laid out in our founding documents.

It is in overcoming the challenges that divergent ideas, diversity in population and existing in a world that is volatile in nature that we truly see where we stand as a society. When we measure our progress towards equity and social justice we can see that we have a long way to go, and that the path we must follow is not an easy or direct one. Yet, at the same time we have the resources, the tools and the abilities to achieve great things as a nation. In the end it becomes a matter of really defining who we are as a people and what we truly stand for. What does it mean to live in a nation where all citizens have equal rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?"

There are many places where we can observe and measure our progress towards a truly socially just society. One of these is in the area of education. We know that education is a vehicle that provides opportunity for social, political and economic advancement on an individual, group and societal level. Our national rhetoric is filled with platitudes about the value of an educated citizenry and the potential for education to lift any individual to success. We have developed a system of public education over the years that is unusual on a world scale and that has the potential to provide equity in opportunity for all citizens regardless of demographic. While faced with many struggles and experiencing frequent setbacks, our nation's public schools have always been an integral part of the effort towards social justice.

Control over the way that education is delivered is one mechanism that has been used historically to control the citizenry of a society. This is why the drive to integrate our schools, to provide schools that are equal in resources and to insure that every student has access to education has been at the center of Progressive movements throughout our history. It is why Wisconsin's state constitution explicitly makes public education a priority. It is why public schools that are accessible to all students are so vital to the continued progress of our society towards equality and justice.

At the same time, it is also why we are seeing a push by conservatives to undermine and destroy public education here in Wisconsin and around the nation. An educated population is one that pushes back and doesn't accept the status quo. An educated population challenges all aspects of a society to grow and change. This means that an educated population becomes a threat to established norms and to practices that undermine the stated values of our national identity.

The current climate around public education reflects this ongoing struggle. We see opportunity and hope, but this is too often thwarted by a system that too often promotes stability and stagnation. Conservative "reformers" are using the rhetoric of freedom and justice to keep a stranglehold on our schools and to maintain their status in a society that is changing significantly demographically and that want to see our nation live up to its lofty goals.

These reformers tap into existing preconceptions and thinking in many ways in order to exert their influence. The use the competitive nature of American society to undermine confidence in our schools. By comparing the test scores of our students to those of schools from other countries they create a sense that America is falling behind. Yet, they don't share the information that when you compare scores from similar backgrounds and circumstances American students do very well internationally.  They confuse the public and use economic language to make it appear that our public schools are not "good investments" when in reality they are one of our most important national resources. They use the language of freedom, opportunity and equity when their policies end up having the opposite effect on those that are impacted.

A few key ways that educational "reforms" harm our entire society.

Standardization doesn't equal equality. Few educators will argue that we shouldn't have standards and that there are important concepts and ideas that every student in America should be exposed to. At the same time, the dialog around the Common Core has become increasingly constraining for educators. As a teacher I've been exposed to countless hours of professional development designed to help me understand things that I already knew. I've been told that the new ideas are more "rigorous" and "challenging" for my students, but have yet to see how this is actually true.

The Common Core State Standards are not inherently bad for education, but their implementation has been horrendous for students, educators and schools. Instead of being a unifying force that provides guidance for educators and students, the CCSS have become a vehicle for profit and control. Companies are making millions off of new curriculum, books and other resources while educators are left with reduced budgets and less freedom to truly meet the needs of the students in our classrooms.

California flipped education-reform script, knowing sanctions/test-driven accountability helps no one. Here's how|By Jeff Bryant

Assessment isn't true accountability. In our drive to compete on all levels, we have to find a way to "keep score." Testing provides numbers and data that can be used to compare our students and to make our schools "accountable." This has resulted in a barrage of standardized tests that have negatively impacted our schools in multiple ways.

-Schools are spending money on tests, not on things that really impact achievement like staff, materials and supports for students.

The more I look at the Common Core approach to reading, the more it seems to be a shill for publishers like Pearson to sell new "Common Core" aligned textbooks, workbooks, and online packaged learning programs....

-Tests are biased and result in invalid or inaccurate results. Then these results are used to drive budgets, evaluate educators and create policy. Our achievement gaps are real, but closing them through increasing test scores is not a way to improve equity of opportunity. Being told that improving test scores is closing gaps is disingenuous at best and outright deception at worst. We could be working in so many other ways to improve educational outcomes for our students.

“…the Opt Out movement is a vital component of the Black Lives Matter movement and other struggles for social justice in our region. Using standardized tests to...

-Testing takes time away from instruction, don't provide meaningful information to educators and are damaging to students. I could provide countless examples of the struggles that I've observed with my own students, and I'm only one educator among many. This year has been especially problematic with inaccurate or misleading questions, failures in the technology, and confusion about the future of the current tests.

A parent reported in an email to me that questions from the ELA tests are plastered on Facebook and other social media, despite Pearson's efforts to monitor students' comments on FB or Twitter. Whi...

True accountability exists when educators, families and students are in regular, open and meaningful communication about a student's progress. Test results can be an important part of this process, but shouldn't be the only one. We need to trust those who work most closely with a student and not impose unnecessary and harmful assessments in order to achieve false accountability.

Choice shouldn't mean segregation. "Reformers" love to use words like choice and freedom to justify their policies, but the reality is that the choices and freedoms that are created are not universal. Those who already have choice and freedom are seeing their rights and privileges increase, while those who don't are often seeing their options limited by "reforms" like vouchers and school choice.
Professors at Duke have traced a troubling trend of resegregation in North Carolina's school system since the first charter schools opened in 1997.

Education policy should be democratically developed. Too often we are seeing the "data" and other information used to drive policies that are either ineffective, unnecessary, or counterproductive. Real education reform happens at a very personal level and is centered on the student. Implementing large scale programs and changes often misses the mark, even if the ideas sound good in public dialog, or the committee room. Expanded technology in schools is one example where large scale programs have fallen short of expected outcomes. Here in Madison we have heard from many citizens and educators that we need to approach technological expansion carefully, but this advice isn't always heeded. 

The Los Angeles Unified School District has canceled further plans to use expensive curriculum that was part of a $1.3-billion effort to provide iPads to...|By Los Angeles Times

Just like accountability in educational outcomes should be driven by the needs of our students and specific to them, so too our educational policies should be based out of classrooms and schools. This means that the ideas and input from all stakeholders needs to be solicited and actively sought. Once information is gathered, there must be process that allows for constant communication and that honors the input in meaningful ways. 

We also must recognize that our families, educators and students have a voice on existing policies. When they speak they should be listened to. It may be challenging and uncomfortable for those in decision making positions, but at the same time these voices provide an impetus for change and accountability for the system.

This spring, 237 students in the Madison Metropolitan School District have been excused from a new standardized test.|By Pat Schneider

Educators should be respected and trusted, not vilified. Our current system ignores the professional expertise that our educators have, and often puts the blame for unequal outcomes exclusively on their shoulders. The most disturbing trend that I've witnessed is that this has become more prevalent, not just in public dialog (where conservative politicians have made a habit of bashing educators) but in professional development sessions and other professional settings. We are being told (by individuals who don't work in classrooms) that we are doing the wrong things, in the wrong way and that our efforts are not satisfactory. Instead of attacking educators, professional conversations should focus on improving our practices and supporting our efforts. It's no wonder so many experienced educators are leaving the field.

Interference from above and commercialization are driving teachers out of the profession.|By Steven C. Ward

The constant churn affects schools' ability to provide all students with skilled teachers. But professor Richard Ingersoll says schools can fix this without...

The attacks on unions hasn’t helped the morale of educators, or positively impacted the efforts to improve education. Instead of being a true, good-faith, effort to actually improve education, destroying the power of educator unions was simply a political move. Educator unions have the potential to give another voice to the discussion about improving schools for all, but without them educators will be reluctant to dissent, even when policies are clearly not in the best interests of students. Educators have been actively speaking out against excessive testing, standards that aren't developmentally appropriate and other important issues. To lose that voice is damaging for students, families and schools. 

The company that manages one of three Detroit charter schools that may form a union has told teachers at the school they're walking away from the school they...

Systems should work for all. We know that our public schools haven't been places of equality for all students. We know that we need to make changes to improve our schools. Educators want to be part of a system that provides equitable access for all and creates an environment where the opportunity for student success is optimized. Families want to feel confident that the system will work for their child(ren). The current state of unrest has caused confusion for all who work and learn in our schools.

In the end we have an obligation to make our public schools work, and work exceptionally well, for all citizens. We have the all the pieces to make this happen, we just need to have the will and desire to achieve the desired outcomes of equity and social justice. 
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . The second MTI Bowl-athon was a success. Thanks to all who organized and participated. Another great example of educators working to help their community and going above and beyond the "call of duty."

Teachers bowled for a good cause Sunday afternoon.|By Jennifer Kliese

This is good news, but should be taken with a grain of salt. They will continue to try and find ways to undermine and attack public education. We should celebrate the fact that their willingness to do so does have some limits.

MADISON (AP) -- The chairman of the Assembly Education Committee says it appears unlikely that...

Despite Walker's claims that every governor sees their approval ratings drop during a "tough" budget cycle, I'd like to think that the citizens of Wisconsin are finally beginning to realize just who and what our governor is.

Gov. Scott Walker has enjoyed decent job performance ratings since the Marquette Law School poll began in 2012. But, it was all bad news for him in the|By Marti Mikkelson

The Bad . . . We pay for what we value and the current political leadership in Wisconsin clearly doesn't value public education. The full impact of their decisions have yet to be felt across the state, but we are closing in on some incredibly challenging times for public schools here. While it is bad now, it will get worse unless changes are made.

Spending per pupil in Wisconsin is down $1,038, compared to $1,242 in Alabama, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports.|By Pat Schneider

As the Joint Finance Committee hearings on the proposed state budget wrap up later this week, funding changes for Wisconsin's K-12 public education system...

The cuts include about 110 positions, about 72 percent of which come from staffing based at schools.|By Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal

The Ugly . . . Student loan debt is just one more indicator of how distorted, unsustainable and unethical our current economic system is. How can our economy grow, our middle class survive, and our economically disadvantaged citizens gain the advantages of a college education when so many are saddled with huge debts after graduation?

Is there relief in sight?|By Nicholas Rayfield

Governor Touts Tax Breaks for Wealthy and Corporations While Remaining Mum on Common Sense Relief for Hardworking Borrowers Seeking Education and...

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