Public Education and the Prostitution of America

SAVING PUBLIC EDUCATION
I just posted this statement on Maureen Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog at the AJC. I decided to post it here, also, for readers to consider:
“If public education ever becomes the focus of those who are mainly seeking profit or monetary gain through the education of children and the work of teachers, we will have prostituted the public educational system for America envisioned by our idealistic and brilliant Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson. Moreover, in my opinion, that would lead to the prostitution of the highest ideals and ideas of America, itself.”
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Save America’s Public Education from Free Market, For-Profit, Education, Using Taxpayer Dollars

I urge every reader of “Mary Elizabeth Sings” to read the following outstanding column by Atlanta Journal-Constitution educational journalist, Maureen Downey.  Here is the link and an excerpt from her column follows:

http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/03/24/opinion-national-experiment-in-school-choice-market-solutions-produces-inequity/

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“The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all. Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.

It is also a miracle that such profit-seeking private companies and corporations, including publishing giants that produce educational materials and tests, have managed to keep the target of accountability on teachers and schools and not on their own backs.

Their treasure trove of funding – state and federal tax monies – continues to flow even as their materials, technological innovations, products, services, and tests fail to provide positive results. . . .

The United States still has time to reverse course, to turn away from the scary language of crisis and the seductive language of choice and accountability used in educational reform, and turn toward a fully funded and protected public education for our nation.”

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Here are some additional thoughts from me, which I posted on Ms. Downey’s blog, and Jim Galloway’s blog, today:

“Profit based education.  Free market education.  Limited education, imo.

We, as a society, can do better than those choices in educational delivery provide.

For example, there is more to making sound judgments than analyzing one-dimensional “facts,” of the moment. When we reach for a fuller understanding, we know that there will be more to every person’s story than facts, alone.

Part of this deeper understanding, which transcends harsh judgment of ourselves and of others, springs from realizing that historical and personal forces, to which we are all subjected, but subjected differently, will affect each life differently. Psychological background is part of the reason for these variances as well as biological differences, which many are just coming to understand. (Most homeless people are mentally ill, for example.)  We must try to see these various historical and psychological forces upon the lives of our fellow human beings, as well as upon ourselves, with compassion and insight, which I believe education of the highest order can provide, but, not education of a profit-based nature, which will have a different focus than enlightenment.”

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We Are All Connected

I posted the following on Maureen Downey’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog, “Get Schooled,” on March 1, 2015:

“To Those who do not see the issue confronting teachers in Georgia with the same eyes as I do:

This issue finally comes down to philosophy, not economics, not education, and not legalities.  It comes down to the question of whether we see ourselves, and see all other human beings on Earth, as equal to ourselves or whether we see some human beings as superior and others as inferior.

Like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr.,  and Jesus Christ, I believe that we are all equal in the sight of God, and, therefore, we are our brothers’ keepers.  I do not believe that we were meant to be isolated from one another on a planet in which “survival of the fittest” rules pragmatically and its mantra of  “Every man and woman for him/herself” becomes the philosophy of all living beings.  We are spiritually better souls, and smarter human beings in terms of sustaining human survival, if we pool our resources and if we understand that together, under God, we can change the trajectory of the world’s course from narrow self-interests to love of humanity, as a whole.”

 

Link: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/27/extraordinary-teacher-offers-extraordinary-look-at-her-job-we-need-to-support-rather-than-undermine-her-efforts/

 

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Is higher intellect, or higher spiritual consciousness, of more value to our survival as a species?

A small sample of the conversation regarding the comparative value of the arts or science in education, as well as a sample of a conversation regarding whether higher intellect or higher spiritual consciousness is of more value to our survival as a species, follows.  To read the various entries in the conversation, in full, go to the following link, which is linked to Maureen Downey’s blog, “Get Schooled,” on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/13/opinion-charter-schools-dont-belong-in-new-recovery-district-they-are-already-bound-by-perform-or-close-m

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OldPhysicsTeacher

OldPhysicsTeacher:

MaryElizabethsings, I’m sorry.  I looked at your, and Bernie31’s latest posts and thought you were talking to me.  I just scrolled down to Starik’s statement about how bad Jim Crow schools were and the fact that substandard pay was all teachers deserved, and I went ballistic.  Sorry  A significant amount of our math is due to Arabs.  A significant amount of our scientific knowledge is due to our African American citizens.  And a significant amount of our art, language, indeed, some of the best things of humanity, have been due to our gay community.  I was sick to read that trash.

@OldPhysicsTeacher You’re misstating my point…too many teachers are teaching because they can’t do any other work.  They lack the skills. Raise the standards of the profession and you justify raising the salaries.

How does a teacher teach effectively when they don’t know the subject matter they’re teaching.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings

The statement of inherent intellect seems to resurface from, time to time, on this blog relative to the success of schools and students.  Here is what I wrote to Old Physics Teacher regarding this:

I believe the humanities, not science and math, will ultimately foster more peace on this Earth because we will understand better, through studying the humanities, our commonalities as human beings more than our differences.

Genetics is real.  I have never denied that, and I don’t fight against it.  I am simply stating that intellect is not the criteria for one’s humanity nor for one’s equality.  The soul has more to do with that spiritual understanding than does the intellect, and we both know that one cannot “prove” the existence of the soul.  One may not be able to expand one’s intellect, but one can certainly expand one’s soul, as we have seen in the case of Abraham Lincoln.

Bernie31

Bernie31

@MaryElizabethSings – My Dear as you well know the Old Thinkers always resort to the old Racist argument of “INHERENT INTELLECT”.

Which we all know is a False Flag to cover their INHERENT RACIST RACIST and BIGOTED THINKING! I saw it and ignored it. Not many responded as well for they too saw this another OLD THINKER spouting OLD THINKING VIEWS!

It is nothing but CRAP used to excuse the Inexcusable!

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings  

@Bernie31

Bernie, I wanted to respond, though, not so much as a rebuttal to the sad use of the words “inherent intellect” to disparage black people, but mainly because I believe that many people – of all races – have unfortunately come to consider one’s degree of intellect to be what determines one’s “degree” of humanity and equality.  I do not believe those perceptions to have merit, however, and I further believe that those who are consumed with impressing others with their own intellectual capacity, may find that they are limiting themselves in reaching a higher soul consciousness, which transcends the the consciousness of the intellect, alone.

OldPhysicsTeacher

OldPhysicsTeacher

@MaryElizabethSings  Absolutely true, but totally off the subject.  You could just as easily said, “people just need to learn to get along.”  It’s perfectly true, but will not help students to learn what is going to be tested for these ridiculous and totally worthless tests  Once again, I repeat, nothing teachers, politicians, trolls from either party. or administrators will increase the ability to learn of the average student.  No one else in the developed world believes every students can learn enough to get a REAL high school degree – much less the college degree every “educational research” is now proposing.  And we keep making the same mistakes over and over again here because we never learn from history.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSing

@OldPhysicsTeacher

I have always stated that every student is unique and learns uniquely, especially regarding rate of learning.  We must address this factor and public schools could improve from within.

The ideas I shared go so much deeper than “people just need to learn to get along.”

OldPhysicsTeacher

OldPhysicsTeacher

@MaryElizabethSings That brought a tear to my eye.  You’re absolutely right, and I “liked” your post and will defend it to my last breath.  BUT, this has nothing to do with what is going on in education.

The point that I have been laboring to make, and every I time I attempt, you “move the goalpost in another direction” is that we cannot get all students to be high school graduates as capable of the high school graduates of the 1970’s.  It ain’t gonna happen. You cannot do this.  There is not enough time or energy in the universe to accomplish it.  This is not hyperbole.  It is the 1st and 2nd law of thermodynamics.

I’m firmly in your court.  I would be pleased, as an administrator or superintendent, to allow you to grade your students as you please and award any diploma to any of your students as you choose without ANY questions and defend your decisions to the hilt!  I am completely convinced any student you passed would make a great citizen.  Unfortunately there are idiots in charge of the schools at the local, board, state, and federal levels who demand that you, me, and every other teacher bring the average student to a higher level.  I KNOW we can’t do this.  I KNOW this is stupid.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings

@OldPhysicsTeacher

We can all bring each student to as high a level as he or she has the potential to go.  This period of history has no bearing on that fact and never has had.  Blacks were suppressed in Jim Crow, which did not end until the 1970s, and schools were not fully integrated until that time.  Perhaps you are remembering simply your own experiences in school in the 1970s and earlier. However, society-at-large, and schools, were different then. Some were still segregated.  Human potential, however, has not changed, and we can still teach each student to his or her maximum ability to learn, just as we could then.  You say you KNOW we can’t do this.  I simply do not agree with that pessimism.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings

@OldPhysicsTeacher

Btw, thank you for the personal compliment to me.

OldPhysicsTeacher

OldPhysicsTeacher

@MaryElizabethSings @OldPhysicsTeacher  I’ll have to respond tomorrow.  My laptop is having trouble interfacing with the software on this site.  I’ve spent the past hour writing up an impassioned plea for understanding from the scientific side of the profession to the Liberal Arts side of the profession.  It went into 5 paragraphs… with pictures :-) and between the AJC site and my software it disappeared.  I’m tired and it’s late.  I write it over tomorrow in Word and copy and paste.

Just let me say, read it in its entirety before you respond.  I apparently haven’t worded my position well before and I want to make sure I translate science speak into  “artist speak.”

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Was George Washington petty?

In response to Jay Bookman’s article on George Washington on President’s Day, February 16, 2015, I wrote the following words:  (The link to Bookman’s article on Washington can be found here:  http://jaybookman.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/16/even-the-warts-on-american-history-are-a-beautiful-thing/

MaryElizabethSings: 

“What truly is sanctimonious is judging Washington to be petty based on his letters involving the runaway slave, Ona Judge when Washington lived nearly 3 centuries ago.  To do that is to judge him by 21st century standards, without depth.  Washington was a morally upright man by his standards.  He believe in sacrificing himself as the servant of the people, as their leader. He was nearly killed in battle several times but was extremely lucky or blessed.  He served the nation even when he was old (for his inherited genetics) and died only 3 years after leaving office.  He, no doubt, believed that Ona Judge was unfaithful and disloyal to her master or mistress but that comes from how he lived out his own life in service to the people, before himself.

More about George Washington’s values and mind which I had penned far below:

Washington, said Jefferson, had the best judgment of all of the Founders as far as the parameters of which Washington’s mind could see.  Jefferson knew that Washington had a good, intelligent mind but that Washington did not have the brilliant mind of either Jefferson or Hamilton but, perhaps as a result of that, Washington was more steady in his analysis than either of his brilliant subordinates.  Jefferson did state that Washington had all of the assets of a courageous leader, and that he was a truly good man.

I believe Jefferson had sized up Washington’s mind pretty well.  Judging from that assessment of Washington’s mind by Jefferson, I can easily see how Washington might have written those letters about Ona Judge, from the moral standpoint, of his time, regarding the moral duty of service to the master.  That fact, however, should not negate in anyone’s mind that Washington, also, wanted slavery abolished in America over time, as I had previously documented through Washington’s statements in Ron Chernow’s Pultizer Prize winning biography of George Washington.”

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MaryElizabethSings:

Understanding George Washington with nuance:

From the Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Washington: A Life,” by Ron Chernow (page 800):

“He (Washington) saw with some clairvoyance, that slavery threatened the American union to which he had so nobly consecrated his life. ‘I can clearly foresee,’ he predicted to an English visitor, ‘that nothing but the rotting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.’  Beyond moral objections to slavery, he had wearied of its immense practical difficulties. . .Because of natural increase since 1786, the Mount Vernon slave population had soared from 216 to 317, of whom Washington owned outright 124. . . .Writing to Robert Lewis on August 17, 1799, Washington reflected on the baffling conundrum posed by excess slaves: ‘To sell the overplus (of slaves) I cannot, because I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human species.  To hire them out is almost as bad because. . .to disperse the families I have an aversion.  What then is to be done?  Something must or I shall be ruined (financially).’

He possessed ‘a thorough conviction that half the workers I keep on this estate would render me a greater net profit than I now derive from the whole.’ That he owned fewer than half the slaves himself perhaps set the stage for the most courageous action of his career.  If he emancipated his own slaves in his will, he would satisfy his conscience, set a sterling example for futurity, and still leave a viable plantation behind.  In 1799 a convenient convergence of economic and moral factors enabled Washington to settle the issue that had so long gnawed at his mind.”

A thinking person, must ask, “Could the slave Judge have been Martha Washington’s slave and could Martha Washington’s desires have affected George Washington’s reaction to the runaway female slave?”  Moreover, could the courageous actions of female slave, Ona Judge, in first running away from the Washington plantation and later in bargaining for her freedom with Washington after his and Martha Washingtons’ deaths have, ultimately, been the final moral factor which caused Washington to free all of his slaves after his death?

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Mary Elizabeth Sings:

Today, nearly 3 centuries ago, the first president of the United States, George Washington, was born on February 22, 1732.

In honor of his formidable contributions in birthing our nation, I quote the following words from Ron Chernow’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Washington: A Life,”  pages 802 & 803:

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“By freeing his slaves, Washington accomplished something more glorious than any battlefield victory as a general or legislative act as a president. He did what no other founding father dared to do, although all proclaimed a theoretical revulsion at slavery.  He brought the American experience that much closer to the ideals of the American Revolution and brought his own behavior in line with his troubled conscience. . . .

In another visionary section of the will, Washington left money to advance the founding of a university in the District of Columbia, possibly under government auspices, where students could observe government firsthand and shed their ‘local attachments and state prejudices.’ This phrase was more than a mere restatement of Washington’s nationalism: it spoke to the way his own life had transcended his parochial background. . . .Now he pledged his fifty shares of the Potomac River Company to the new university in the capital and his hundred shares of the James River Company to Liberty Hall Academy in western Virginia, which later became Washington and Lee University.  He also left twenty shares in the Bank of Alexandria for a school, associated with the Alexandria Academy, to educate orphaned and indigent children.”

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Mary Elizabeth’s Response to another poster:

Today is the day to shine light on the considerable contributions that the Father of Our Nation contributed to the creation of this nation.  All that you write is true, and all that columnist Jay Bookman wrote earlier about George Washington was true. We know that slaves were not “servants, who had some moral duty of slaves’ service to master”; however, we must be conscious of that fact that we live today, not three centuries earlier.  As I had written earlier, what is in quotes above was probably George Washington’s perception in that he considered himself to be the servant leader of the people of our nation so that his focus was on self-sacrificing service.  One does not need to “blame”; one needs to see.  The fact stands that George Washington did free his slaves when no other Founding Father did so, no doubt, because as America’s first president and role model for this nation’s future, he wanted to set the example to all later generations that slavery was not consistent with the ideals of why America was founded and must be eliminated because slavery was not what this nation should accept.  One can see that he had the qualities of a great leader, as Jefferson had stated of Washington. If we are self-aware, we acknowledge that all of us have paradoxes within our own natures.

P.S.  According to Washington’s biographer, Ron Chernow, the fact was that George Washington legally could not free the slaves of his wife, Martha, nor could she.  Her slaves were the property of her estate and were distributed to her relatives upon her death by trustees of that estate.  One does not know the reason that George Washington did not free his slaves until his wife’s death, but one reason might have been so as to not disrupt the status of her life until his wife’s life was over. He loved her, according to Chernow.

Martha Washington, as I think you know, went through legal procedures to have Washington’s slaves freed before her death because she feared that some might have killed her before her time had she not freed them early.  Washington, as I recall, made his Will iron-clad legally so that NO One would be able to interfere with his wishes regarding the freedom of all of his slaves upon his and Martha’s deaths.  As I said earlier, he knew his actions would be a role model for our nation’s future.

 

 

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THIS ‘n’ THAT On Education

State Superintendent of School Woods:”In our pursuit of accountability, we cannot allow ourselves to dehumanize our students and teachers. The handprints on the walls of Trion City Schools serve as a constant reminder that students are individuals with individual hopes and dreams – and individual needs and challenges. Only working together can we achieve our goal of teaching each child based on their individual needs”

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Beautifully stated by State Superintendent of Schools Woods.

Yes, “in our pursuit of accountability, we cannot allow ourselves to dehumanize our students and teachers.”  I will go further to state that, if we ever do that to students and teachers, we will have crushed the very raison d’etre of education, itself.

I must repost my post from the last thread here:

“Profit-making has NO place in public education.  Whenever profit is the main focus, then there will be too much priority on competition, not cooperation.  Whenever profit is the main focus, and competition is the outcome, then cut-throat tactics surface. Cut-throat tactics have NO place in the public education of children.”

http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/13/is-georgias-school-superintendent-now-a-goodwill-ambassador-rather-than-policy-leader/

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 Teacher, Mrs. Fouraker: “I believe in cultural literacy, the fact there are certain things every citizen of the United States should at least be exposed to, in order to truly understand our culture and succeed in our society.”

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I totally agree with Mrs. Fouraker’s statement, above. Not enough value is placed on cultural literacy in education in today’s world, but society will swing back to understanding that literacy is probably more important than understanding science and math for human beings to create a peaceful, educated world.

I agree with Mrs. Fouraker’s thoughts expressed in her letter to legislators.  I was a high school English teacher before I earned a M.Ed. as a Reading Specialist. As a Reading Specialist, I learned how to be a reading diagnostician to insure better the individual success of every student than I had understood as an English teacher.  Reading skills affect every curriculum area, including mathematics.  I agree with those who praised the Iowa Test of Basic Skills because that test gave a grade-level reading score for every student regardless of the actual grade level that student was assigned.  One diagnostic test, such as the ITBS, should be enough testing in schools (for the year) to chart the academic growth of every student from year to year in basic reading and math skills. However, educators must be trained in how to utilize those test results to know how to instruct with precision to each student’s ability to comprehend what they are reading in every course. Reading-in-the content-area should be a part of every teacher’s curriculum course requirement.

Next,  more on the political aspect of WHY so much testing has been initiated in the United States in education in the past dozen years.

MaryElizabethSings:

Those who have political savvy understand that the libertarian Republicans of the past 40 years who have wanted to privatize most “government” public service agencies and institutions (by cutting government, including cutting government employees, to the bare minimum), have followed the goals of the powerful and wealthy political ideologues of power in America.

About 12 to 15 years ago, these powerful conservative ideologues targeted public “government” education as THE public institution next to dismantle and make private (for profit, in large part, using education tax dollars).  The game plan was to “expose” the “failure” of the public schools by testing every student often as a part of No Child Left Behind (President George W. Bush’s creation).  The goal set for public education by these conservative politicians was to have 100% of students on grade level in 10 years.  Those ten years have come and gone and that unrealistic education goal has not been achieved (as I knew it would not be when it was set by politicians, instead of educators, who know little about the individual academic development of children).

The cynical political idea was to use those poor test scores to disparage public “government” education and public school teachers.  Well, they have achieved that goal, but they have only destroyed not built education because they do not understand that the educating of young minds should not be following a business model of statistics and test scores for the purpose of dismissing teachers and changing the very nature of the educational “leading out” process. Maybe many of these politicians have meant well, but they have not had any sophisticated instructional knowledge and they have been wreaking havoc on our public schools in trying to turn them into a business model for profit.

True story:  Last evening, I noticed that a link (as a comment) had been placed on my blog’s entry about how to achieve instructional delivery for students who are functioning on different grade levels in the same grade.  I decided to preview the link before I decided whether to authorize its publication on my blog.  It started out very well done with visually showing teachers how to set up differing groups in their classes.  Then, it gave curriculum objectives and lessons for teaching those objectives through activities.  The video was produced in state-of-the-art visual and vocal expertise.  However, I was wondering how this program aligned itself with vetted state Boards of Education curriculum requirement, so I dug deeper. That private educational production company had held an outdoor outing to promote its “educational” product, just as business does in marketing.  One of the sentences from a person of authority said to the owners of this business, I hope the outing will make you a good PROFIT.  I trashed the link so that readers to my blog would not be exposed to such blatant profiteering at the expense of public education.

http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/10/a-teachers-plea-to-georgia-lawmakers-lessen-testing-so-we-can-return-to-teaching/

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From: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/10/a-teachers-plea-to-georgia-lawmakers-lessen-testing-so-we-can-return-to-teaching/

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MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings 

@ScienceTeacher671

My best way to answer that is to restate what Jerry Eads wrote to Maureen about the tests, themselves, a day ago on this thread (Jerry is an expert in test making):

“The misunderstanding is that we think these tests actually measure anything important enough to doom otherwise good students with graduation denial with absolutely (not almost) no data supporting the tests’ viability. So, we’re not asking too much or too little of kids with them, we’re asking the wrong things. Whether or not students are being prepared adequately to be productive citizens is always an important discussion. The answer, however, is not a few incredibly poorly made fifty minute minimum competency tests. Even if someone cares nothing of other human lives, one could be concerned about the enormous cost to society for the (again) arbitrary and capricious denial of a high school diploma.”

Moreover, as a certified Reading Specialist and teacher, I know how students passed enough courses to receive a high school diploma, yet failed to pass one of the sections of the GHSGT.  Here is how I explained that to ‘Living-in-an-outdated-ed” a day ago:

“Students may pass courses because they understand enough of the content, listen in class, and do their homework, but some of their literacy levels may be low enough that they to not understand test-written questions on standardized tests because their backgrounds, and their parents and grandparents backgrounds, have not been literate backgrounds (This has nothing to do with their innate intelligence, btw.)”

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings

@ScienceTeacher671

My best way to answer that is to restate what Jerry Eads wrote to Maureen about the tests, themselves, a day ago on this thread (Jerry is an expert in test making):

“The misunderstanding is that we think these tests actually measure anything important enough to doom otherwise good students with graduation denial with absolutely (not almost) no data supporting the tests’ viability. So, we’re not asking too much or too little of kids with them, we’re asking the wrong things. Whether or not students are being prepared adequately to be productive citizens is always an important discussion. The answer, however, is not a few incredibly poorly made fifty minute minimum competency tests. Even if someone cares nothing of other human lives, one could be concerned about the enormous cost to society for the (again) arbitrary and capricious denial of a high school diploma.”

Moreover, as a certified Reading Specialist and teacher, I know how students passed enough courses to receive a high school diploma, yet failed to pass one of the sections of the GHSGT.  Here is how I explained that to ‘Living-in-an-outdated-ed” a day ago:

“Students may pass courses because they understand enough of the content, listen in class, and do their homework, but some of their literacy levels may be low enough that they to not understand test-written questions on standardized tests because their backgrounds, and their parents and grandparents backgrounds, have not been literate backgrounds (This has nothing to do with their innate intelligence, btw.)”

Finally, the absurdity lies with the fact that the students are given 5 chances to pass the test and can be given a “variance” if their score was within “a certain percentage,” after the 5th attempt, yet they cannot be given that “variance” after 3 attempts or even 4 attempts – even when they passed courses in that same curriculum area.  Who is playing God in the State DOE to assign that number of retakes to the arbitrary (?) number of 5?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@ScienceTeacher671

My plea was to have citizens realize that generational poverty – in which literacy has not been a priority in families in Georgia for generations but that survival has been their priority because of poverty – has impeded the reading comprehension skills of many students because of the formalized structure of the English language placed within standardized test items.  Nevertheless, many of those same students who failed those GHSGT could tell you the answers to many of those same curriculum test questions (math included) if the questions were phrased in colloquial English or asked through verbal, not written, language.

ScienceTeacher671  

@MaryElizabethSings

 Sounds sort of like “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings  

@ScienceTeacher671

To the contrary, I always had the highest expectations of every student I ever taught and every student I monitored in a school.  I simply wanted the wisdom to know what was impeding each student’s full development to his own potential so that I could address it, or show teachers how to address the problem(s), with competency, care and instructional precision.

 

MaryElizabethSings  

@redweather

Because I loved teaching college level vocabulary and the ideas contained in comprehension passages found on practice SATs, rarely were my students bored or inattentive and I didn’t have discipline problems.  Many might have thought that subject matter might bore some students, but I will give testimony to the fact that if a teacher loves her subject matter, has an enthusiastic desire to communicate that knowledge to her students and watch them grow into their own understandings of that content (as well as loves her students), students are rarely bored or inattentive.  That has been my experience.

However, as many know, during the first few weeks of each quarter, I made certain that every student I taught was functioning high enough in verbal skills to at least pass the Advanced Reading course.  If not, through having analyzed the standardized reading test scores of those students who were failing my weekly vocabulary tests, I could assess who was presently misplaced in Advanced Reading. Then, I spoke with the students, the parents, and the counselors, and had those misplaced students rescheduled for our Personalized Reading course, taught by another Reading Specialist until those students could master the curriculum in Advanced Reading.  Many, later, did qualify for Advanced Reading after they had progressed in their verbal skills.  I do not recall any student or parent rejecting my suggestion for a movement to Personalized Reading because I shared the data and my reasoning with students, their parents, and the counselors before moves were made.  So, having all of my students well placed was another reason that my students were rarely bored or inattentive to the curriculum I taught them.  In fact, truthfully, they were hungry to learn the content.  That’s what having every student well placed according to his or her correct instructional level will do.

http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/05/did-states-high-school-graduation-test-hurt-students-was-it-a-bad-test/

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Use Test Data Appropriately in an Educational, not Business, Model for Public Schools

The following comments should be of value to those of Georgia’s Legislature, especially to the members of Georgia’s House and Senate Educational Committees, as to how to insure that all students in public schools throughout Georgia meet with success.  The comments were posted on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s educational blog of educational columnist Maureen Downey (see link: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/01/30/new-georgia-school-chief-visits-two-failing-schools-state-grades-dont-tell-the-full-story/) on January 31 and February 1, 2014:

 

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings

@living-in-outdated-ed

Data must be analyzed with insight and balance. Data should be used primarily for instructional diagnostic purposes not to cast blame in an unrealistic mindset of simple answers to complex problems.

Another poster:  

@MaryElizabethSings

No argument that data ought to be analyzed with insight and balance, and that it should be used for instructional diagnostic purposes. I’d remove the “primarily” qualifier, however. To limit the use of data to purely diagnostic applications enables teachers/departments/schools with entrenched resistance to evidence-based best practice to continue to resist improvement, blame the kids and parents, and fail year after year. This is by no means the only variable, but it is a strong contributing factor in many cases of failing schools, and it is utterly unacceptable in the 21st century. It is naive to believe that simply providing training, showing the way, and encouraging teachers to use the data they are provided will spur all of them to do so.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings  

@ the other poster

Your words sound reasonable, but what you are proposing is setting up a business model for public education in which teachers are blamed for lack of progress based on data, which by definition, is limited in scope and depth in understanding the expanse of educational problems.  I have more faith in the ability of teachers to change their tactics than you do.  I am not condescending to teachers and I would never try to force change upon them with which they could not concur would help to improve students’ performance.  That is not consistent with the teaching process of “leading out.”  Yours, imho, is the tactic of the dictator, and that business model tactic would change the humane nature of the entire school environment.

https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/use-an-educational-model-not-a-business-model-for-public-education

 Another poster:

@MaryElizabethSings

You are of course entitled to your opinion, ma’am. My current staff and colleagues in previous schools I’ve led would differ profoundly, as would the parents and students, and that’s all that matters to me. Interesting to see how you draw such enomrmously broad conclusions about my leadership style and presume to assess it, although you have no administrative experience of your own nor have you ever met me or watched me work. You know that I am a charter school leader, and that colors every single pronouncement you make from your secluded armchair of retirement through your jaundiced eye of lockstep defense of the status quo. Not every teacher needs to be in the public school classroom–that’s a simple fact. Too many people who damage children continue to have access to them. I have tremendous faith in the ability of MANY teachers to change their practice. I also have 25 years’ experience in the classroom and the administrative office and I know that there are also some who will absolutely refuse to do so, even when confronted with specific data over years at a time demonstrating that what they are doing is simply not working. What they are doing, most of the time, is trying to teach all the students a single lesson plan without taking into account any possible differences in skill levels and prior knowledge. Their position is, “I’ve been teaching [fill in the subject] for XX years, and if they don’t learn it, it’s not my fault.”  I’ll tell you what, Mary Elizabeth–after you’ve put in ten+ years leading schools and working as a principal with a faculty, I’ll be glad to talk administrative policy with you. Until then, I am not going to attempt again to engage with someone who (1) knows very, very little about contemporary school leadership dynamics; and (2) is completely biased against school choice. It’s just not worth the effort.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings 

@ the other poster

You have some sweeping generalities in that long post.  And, you make quite a few erroneous assumptions.  I have worked 25+ years in school leadership.

As an Instructional Lead Teacher in a model innovative school of multiaged groupings and continuous progress format, without walls, I worked directly under the Principal as the implementer of his vision.  I did not teach students during that decade.  My office was between the outer office and that of the principal.  My state certification included being a Supervisor of Reading and a Data Collector (which required that I evaluate other teachers), as well as being an English teacher and Reading Specialist.  As an ILT, I evaluated other teachers and I worked with teams of teachers in the school to build their understanding of how to assess student placement correctly and how to instruct to that specific placement.  All teachers turned in their end of level tests throughout the year to my office for me to analyze each student’s score in reading and mathematics.  Together we built a magnificient public school.  I was fortunate that that knowledgeable principal chose me to be his right-hand person to help implement his educational vision.

When I transferred to the high school level after he retired, those principals with whom I worked made me a schoolwide Reading Chairperson to assess all students in the school in reading skills.  I wrote a reading informational book for teachers to use reading in the content areas, which I distributed to all curriculum Department Heads.  I gave teachers workshops in how to use those teaching strategies in their classes.  I worked with all English teachers in the high school to test all 1800 students in the school on the Nelson or Nelson Denny Reading Test and I interpreted those results for all of the school’s teachers.  I gave individual training and solicited individual input from every teacher about how those strategies were working in their classrooms.  I worked with all counselors as Chair of the Student Support Team and trained them as to how to utilize the results of our In-House reading tests for more pinpointed placement.  I urged them to share those test results with parents.  I gave many parent workshops in order to educate parents in this ongoing process to help every student succeed in an environment of mutual support.  For the efforts, my county’s Department of Instruction nominated me to be a candidate for Teacher of the Year of a major corporation.  The corporation selected me as one of their Teachers of the Year based on my work and results.

I have no idea how you function as a school leader, but I do know that your posts to me have been less than egalitarian in spirit and that your words in your post, above, read so mandatory as to be dictatorial, imo.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings

@Lynn43

How long, Oh Lord, how long?  When are the people who read this blog going to realize that there is a wise instructional option to social promotion and that is teaching each student where he is functioning on every curriculum continuum, regardless of his grade level.  Students who are misplaced for instruction will often refuse to do the work as a mask for being misplaced and thereby not grasping the material.

More diagnostic data is needed for each student (in a student’s developmental history on computers) to determine the truthful facts about each student’s progress or lack thereof.  We must stop making assumptions about why students fail and, instead, turn to diagnosis with test data to know for certain why given students fail, as the medical profession does with sick patients.

Wascatlady

Wascatlady 

@MaryElizabethSings

 Mary Elizabeth, I agree with you.  But there is NO WAY this course of action will EVER be funded in Georgia, nor supported in any way.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings 

@Wascatlady

Never say never, Wascatlady.  My last high school before I retired received a grant from the state of Georgia for $25,000. in 2000 to implement a form of this plan which I designed to be implemented in that high school just before I retired.

Quidocetdiscit

Quidocetdiscit 

@MaryElizabethSings

Mary Elizabeth,

We are doing our level best to meet the individual needs of our students, but as I am sure you know from experience, that gets very difficult when you have a class where some are reading at a 5th grade level and some are at a K-1 level.  We make use of parent volunteers, Title and EIP instructors, flexible groups, small group instruction, para pros etc. to do all we can to differentiate instruction, but now, thanks to the new “accountability” rules put into place to make us do a “better” job, we are actually having MORE trouble reaching all our students since our students are now “locked in” to certain classes with particular teachers for a particular percentage of the year – so our ability to flexible groups has been curtailed.  So, once again, the bureaucracy designed to “improve” education is actually making things worse. I am so utterly sick of it!  If a school does their job well, and is succeeding, then the big wigs need to leave them the heck alone and let them do what they do best!  Or even better, go into the succeeding schools and find out what they do well rather than spending all the energy with the same “one size fits all” approach to educational improvement  that they push us to apply to student learning.  If a school is succeeding, then they do not need to be hammered with all these “reform” measures that do nothing but make my job even more difficult!

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings 

@Quidocetdiscit

In many ways, I agree with your points, Quid.  I especially agree with this sentence you wrote: “Or even better, go into the succeeding schools and find out what they do well rather than spending all the energy with the same ‘one size fits all’ approach to educational improvement  that they push us to apply to student learning.”

Your post actually reaffirms what I have continuously stated:  There will always be students functioning on different grade level curriculum in the same grade level because all students do not learn at the same rate to mastery.

When I post, the audience I am trying to reach are those in administration at the county office level and at the school level.  I want those in administration first to start believing that what I am writing is true and that the ONLY way they are ever going to help every student meet with success is to design schools that can have flexible scheduling with teachers having much more input about the continuous placement of students in the groupings throughout the school, or at least throughout the department.

Thank you for what you do daily to teach students.  I know what obstacles teachers must overcome and one of the most blatant which I read about on this blog are adults who have spent a professional lifetime in other careers telling teachers how to teach.  Their arrogance is incredible.  Don’t let any of this deter you.  Keep your eye on the prize, and that is each student.  Why not get a group of teachers together to talk with your administrator about letting teachers have time blocks together (without students) so that they can plan instructional delivery for, say, 150 students, together)

In the meantime, I hope this will give you some additional techniques for dealing with students who have multi-level instructional needs in the same grade level:

https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/ways-to-teach-students-who-are-functioning-on-different-instructional-levels-in-the-same-grade/

Another poster:

@Wascatlady

Diagnostic, data-driven instruction is what is used in Massachusetts.  It began when the MCAS assessment system was implemented after the state curriculum frameworks were drafted. The drafting/review team included many teachers. I was one of the MCAS readers for ELA exams while I was a classroom teacher.

With statewide data warehousing, it is possible for teachers to review student performance data in ELA and math going back for several years and pinpoint within a specific classroom, down to the student and standard levels, exactly where students have excelled and where they have struggled.
The Student Longitudinal Data System here in Georgia provides a similar level of detailed analysis over time. The key is ensuring that teachers have access to the SLDS and are trained to use it. Although GA teachers are not given access to released testing items in sufficient time to use them for purposes of instructional adjustment, the way that Massachusetts teachers always have been, they do have the Online Assessment System item bank to be able to generate their own diagnostic assessments using items developed in Georgia by fellow teachers and the State.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings  

@ the other poster

Thank you for this current information regarding teacher use of testing items on computers.  I can envision personnel hired within a school to generate such updated testing instructional items on computers for teachers, so that the teachers themselves do not have to spend hours of their own time plugging this info into the computers.  After the computer resource person for the school updates the instructional testing data for each student, teachers would be able to pull this diagnostic information up for a whole class in a matter of seconds.  Likewise, if teachers were allowed to plan together in a team approach for a group of 150 students in several teachers classes (while the students are outside in P. E. activities), the developed computer program would allow the teachers to team- generate instructional groupings that are homogeneous in instructional need, across several classes and even across several grades.  As the teachers move students in their section of the building to other teachers’ classes for instructional pinpointed groupings, teachers overall would have much less differentiation to cover within their individual classes. (Five heads are better than one.)  Teachers need the administrative flexibility to be able to structure this grouping design within the school, using the computer data as the intial genesis of the groupings with verbal input added.  One last point:  Confidential I Q scores should also be a part of this mix of data on the computer programs because students with lower IQs will, in general, not be able to move through concepts to mastery level as quickly as those students whose IQs are much higher.  Because IQ can vary from year to year to some extent, these scores likewise should be confidentially updated.

Another poster: 

@MaryElizabethSings

 I hired a Director of Data Operations to oversee these processes and free teachers up to use the information to refine their teaching. Our student information systems vendor has been engaged to do the data entry legwork so teachers don’t have to. The Director will train instructional staff on how to generate the types of reports teachers need to be able to identify specific students in need of specific remediation so that teachers are able to group students accordingly. The Director also will produce reports so that instructional leadership administrators are able to analyze data and see trends to share with the teaching staff.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings  

@ the other poster:

Excellent.  This computer access to test data should also be implemented in traditional public schools across Georgia, which have value beyond simply relying on test results (which I described above in complimenting State Superintendent Woods’ balanced approach to educational processes).

Woods believes in running schools throughout Georgia within a family-type, loving, joy-filled school environment, which I refer to as an “educational model,” as opposed to a “business model,” for public education.

For more detail, see link below:

https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/use-an-educational-model-not-a-business-model-for-public-education/

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