Public school educators are played for chumps

I just watched Diane Feinstein during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. She may be right, and she may have strong arguments for what she says; but it is futile. We are in this situation because democracy does not work without an educated electorate.

Public school purposes have been hijacked. Educators now focus on value-added scores, correct answers on multiple-choice tests and closing test-score gaps. What a waste of time — 5 hours each day, 180 days per year.

Whatever you do, don’t model and teach the six virtues of the educated person (sarcasm). Public school educators’ responses?

Update on “chumps:”

This morning’s headline in the AC-T was,

Showing signs of improvement: After all-time low, Buncombe schools boost grades on annual report card.

30-minutes later, I read former governor Bev Perdue’s “NC Spin” column headline describing scores across the state:

School performance grades down – listen to our teachers!

The second headline explains some of the good news in the first headline, but you have to understand norm-referenced testing to see the causal relationship. Fewer test questions answered correctly by the whole student population (the poorer test performance reported by Perdue) moves the bell-shaped curve to the left. Evidently, many Buncombe County students percentile scores were higher than they would have been the year before — not because they answered more questions correctly (although they might have), but because the whole curve was moved to the left.

Twenty minutes later, I read another “NC Spin” column, this one by Phil Kirk, former State School Board chairperson, legislator and cabinet secretary. He made the following claims about the principal salary scale in NC:

For as long as we can remember, principals were paid primarily based on how many years they had served as principals, degrees and the size of their school.  It didn’t matter in terms of pay as to whether the principal was outstanding, mediocre, or weak…..hard to believe but that was the tradition even though it makes no sense and is not supported by any credible research.

Just as the legislature is wisely moving away from paying teachers based solely on how long they have lasted in the profession and how many advanced degrees they have, pay for principals is now based partially on growth in student performance.  What a novel idea to reward effectiveness!

He then described one of his definitions of “effectiveness:”

Because Governors Hunt and Easley gave me the opportunity to serve as Chairman of the State Board of Education for six and one-half years, I visited 750 schools in all 115 local school districts. While I don’t claim to be an expert in educational leadership, I could generally size up the effectiveness of the principal after about 15 minutes of touring the school with him or her and listening and talking about their daily challenges, successes, and disappointments.

Then he described a different definition of “effectiveness:”

As BEST NC says, “Research suggests that a full quarter of a school’s impact on student learning can be directly attributed to the school leader. . . “

Of course a principal might have an effect on student learning. In some schools it may be strong; in others it may be weak–just as longevity in school administration might improve a principal’s effectiveness, and other times it might not.

Which is it former State School Board Chairman Kirk? Is principal “effectiveness” demonstrated in a 15-minute walk-around, or is it demonstrated in student test scores (which is what BEST NC means by student learning)?

This is why the social science paradigm for improving schools and making policy is a dead end. It all depends on your definition of “effective.” In this example Phil Kirk has two conflicting definitions. He uses the definition that supports his biases, and then he uses another for his other biases. There’s not much “science” in that.





#1 Mark J Steger on 09.04.18 at 8:29 pm

Unfortunately, the choice isn’t between “closing test-score gaps” and teaching the Six Virtues. (By the way, I’d choose to do both.) I suspect that if the people who brought us Kavanaugh win, what we’ll be getting in schools isn’t the Six Virtues, but American Exceptionalism.

#2 casey on 09.06.18 at 5:54 pm

If you teach the six virtues, test score gaps will close as much as they can within a testing system based on the bell-shaped curve. As one who has traveled the world, your take on American exceptionalism is different from those who have not traveled the world. In those travels you experienced and developed understanding, imagination, strength, courage, humility and generosity.

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