Establishing Sound Educational Policy for Future Generations

I also posted, on February 11, 2014, another response to an article written by Professor Peter Smagorinsky, on Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Maureen Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog.  Below are my words of response.  The article by Professor Peter Smagorinsky can be read through the following link: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/feb/11/reduction-people-data-and-its-dehumanizing-effects/ .

“Last evening from 7 – 7:30 p.m. I watched public television’s broadcast entitled, “On the Story,” which highlights significant legislation that Georgia’s legislators are considering while they are in legislative session this year.  Last evening one of Georgia’s legislators, as well as an educational researcher who had earned a Ph.D, and an elementary teacher discussed the pros and cons of the Common Core Curriculum, with moderator Bobbie Battista.

One of the panelists (not the elementary teacher) quoted data which stated that today in Georgia, 40% of Georgians must hold a college degree in order to obtain most available jobs in Georgia, but that in a few decades, 80% of Georgians must hold a college degree in order to qualify to hold most of the jobs that will be available in the state at that time. The implication was that legislators and educators must prepare 80% of Georgia’s elementary and secondary students to be college ready when they graduate from high school, especially in the coming years.

I could not help but remember the bell curve of IQ among all people that I was taught when I was in grad school, and also remember the range of students and their individual intellectual abilities during my 35 years of teaching. To try to force 80% of all high school students (including those who will have dropped out of school because the curriculum taught was too difficult for them to master) is educationally unrealistic, in my opinion. We would serve our students, and our state more effectively, in the future, if we educate each student to his or her optimum capacity to learn relevant curriculum, and that we also make a concentrated effort to provide the types of jobs, including service jobs to others, as a part of our future investment in the state.  We should also be aware that presently only about half of those students (50%) who enter college will actually earn a college degree.

This type of hasty educational decision making, i.e. 80% of students in the future must have college degrees to have a job, which is based on limited data and limited experience with students, is what can happen to educational policy passed by Georgia’s legislature when educational leaders, who have worked directly with students for decades, are not afforded the voices which they deserve at the table of determining educational policy for future generations of the masses of students in Georgia.”

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Additional relevant comments on Ms. Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog on Feb. 11, 2014:

Another poster:
(To) MaryElizabethSings:

“I did not see that panel discussion, but ‘college’ now includes Tech school – were they including Tech schools in that 80%. If so, that’s a reasonable goal. If not, well, you’re right. That’s crazy talk!”

Mary Elizabeth Sings’ response to that poster:

“No mention was made of tech schools, only of college degrees. The definition of a college degree was not discussed. However, as you and class80olddog have pointed out, including tech school would make more sense with 80% criteria.”
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An additional poster’s comments:

“. . .Data is important but not more important than the human aspects of students. We cannot forget the needs of each individual child. We do need more individuals at the county level to crunch the data and take this job away from the teachers. Let us teach and then provide us the data we need to analyze to improve instruction. There needs to be more county tests on units that are taken on computers, IPADS, etc. so we can do our job as teachers. We are now expected to do too much while the administrators at the county level just dictate more and more requirements to us. They need to be more involved in the data collection process and they need to be spending less time dictating and more time analyzing.”

Mary Elizabeth Sings’ response to the additional poster’s comments:

“Excellent, well thought through points, above, with obvious practical experiences in the classroom to back up your astute analysis.

Moreover, you have grasped the wave of the future in that you have placed the gathering of needed data in its proper place and perspective. Data must become streamlined to be available to teachers with instantaneous speed through computers in order to help teachers do what they do best – reach each student’s emotional and academic needs.”

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Posted by MaryElizabethSings:

“Thank you for your excellent article, above, Dr. Smagorinsky, and thank you, also, to Maureen Downey for publishing it on her blog.”

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Posted by MaryElizabethSings:

“‘Again, that is a leadership decision. Its not inherent in standardized tests.’
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More deeply, the pendulum push toward more and more standardized testing is the result of political pressure placed upon educational leaders to adopt a business model instead of an educational model within public schools. It is the direct after effect of the political movement, of several decades running, to privatize as many public service areas as is possible. We see that trend most recently in the movement to privatize the U.S. Postal Service when the U.S. Congress having passed a law in 2006 in which the U. S. Postal Service must – within the next decade – produce the funds to sustain the full benefits to its employees for the next 75 years. No other public service area has been penalized to that degree and that is the reason – the only reason – that the U. S. Postal Service is in debt.

Standardized, and end-of-level testing, of students’ skills, achieved, should be used only as an instructional aid to accurately diagnose where each student is functioning to facilitate the correct instruction delivered to each student. Every student can achieve mastery if instruction is delivered where each student is functioning at point in time, irrespective of grade level demarcations. Students will always learn at differing rates because their ability levels differ.

Testing should not be used for a job threat to teachers or for the purposed of extending increased salary as an incentive, as is done in a business model. There are too many variables within each student’s developmental history which standardized testing cannot uncover for these test results to be used, with accuracy and with validity, in determining who is a poor teacher and who is an excellent teacher. Education is a humanistic profession, and teachers must be assessed through humanistic analyses, mainly.”

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