Measuring knowledge and skills — Really?

My students say we define “educated” in terms of knowledge and skill because these can be measured by tests. Really? How do tests measure knowledge or skill?

They don’t. Student answers indicate whether a specific learning is present or not. Test answers are like on-off switches, not yard sticks. Just like virtue, knowledge and skills are “measured” with teacher judgment. They are just more difficult to gauge than virtue. I love irony.

Losing the war? It’s our own fault. Part 1

In the Foreward to Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education (EC: RTAOPE) Deborah Meier wrote:

And we need resistance to the continuing assault on public education that reduces schools to market-driven factories that select and sort our students, distorting visions of communities of learning and growth and activism. We can’t internalize the norm that’s out there and can’t accept that this is “the way things have to be.” We mustn’t adjust to injustice, losing our visions, our hope and our active resistance. (pp. x-xi)

I’m on the side of resistance because I agree with Meier.

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Are they smart or not smart?

A school board member wrote an email to his friend about taking the Florida tenth grade standardized test:

I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62%. In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

The friend is Marion Brady, who wrote the blog (updated by Valerie Strauss). Continue reading →

Poll: “Parents back standardized tests”

When pollsters question people who know very little about the topic of the poll, we say they are polling an “uninformed population.” This poll is an example.  Although parents don’t know the difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests, and they don’t know why we give the first and not the second, they “back standardized tests.”

From hearing policy makers talk about test scores, I already know uninformed people back standardized tests. I love irony.


Are we “educated” or “schooled” in schools?

Here is a 3-question quiz.

1.    If a person with college degrees spills coffee in a public restroom, will he/she clean it up?

a. Yes      b.  No      c.  It depends on what was learned in school.

2.     If a person, who scores high on standardized tests, spills coffee in a public restroom, will he/she clean it up?

a. Yes      b.  No      c.  Not enough information.

3.   If an “educated” person spills coffee in a public restroom, will he/she clean it up?

a.   Yes      b.  No     c. It depends on how you define “educated.”

“C” is the correct answer for all three. Here’s why. Continue reading →

Philosophy “matters” more than curriculum

The title of the Education Week blog, “Curriculum Matters,” is a play on the two meanings of “matters.” It addresses all kinds of curriculum issues (matters); and because curriculum influences everything in the school, it “matters” above all else.

That is why blogger Catherine Gewertz described how principals are being brought up-to-date on the implementation of the new Common Core curriculum.

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— “We are a public school, not a private school.”

At a recent school board meeting Asheville Middle School parents and students expressed concern about school safety. The principal gave this explanation for their concerns:

We are a public school, not a private school, and I think there are some people who are looking for a private school experience in a public school.  (AC-T, 5/13/2012)

That is true. Many parents want their child’s public school to be like a private one. That is the idea behind charter schools. Legislation exempts charters from oppressive state and district regulations, hoping they will be more like private schools.

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Teachers create opportunity for all

From Preston Clarke, Assistant Principal, Watauga High School, NC

I recently had the opportunity to observe a team-taught, English inclusion class.  The two teachers worked well together, but what made this class special were their preparation and commitment to engaging all students.

The class was held in the technology lab, so students could work on smartboards. Students were put in groups and given cameras.  They were expected to videotape their work.

I was impressed with the confidence the teachers had in their students, many of whom were not high achievers. I couldn’t tell who was enjoying the lesson more — the teachers or the students. I have observed in other classes with low-achieving students, and teachers sometimes seemed frustrated.  The current emphasis on high standardized test scores pressures them to prepare low-achieving students for the test.

That is why some teachers decide not to incorporate the kind of creative activities tried by these teachers.  This lesson demonstrated the teachers’ courage and imagination.  I was also impressed with their passion and commitment to all students.

You don’t need to read it

Concerning ways to help students succeed in school, Benedict Carey, (NY Times, 9/6/2010) wrote:

Advice is cheap and all too familiar: Clear a quiet work space. Stick to a homework schedule. Set goals. Set boundaries. . .

And check out the classroom. Does Junior’s learning style match the new teacher’s approach? Or the school’s philosophy? . . .

Such theories have developed in part because of sketchy education research that doesn’t offer clear guidance. Student traits and teaching styles surely interact; so do personalities and at-home rules. The trouble is, no one can predict how.

The last sentence applies to all psychological and educational research.  Their findings can’t predict what will happen in any real world situation.

Cut the Crap

Concerning how we learn academic material, Carey put it this way: “The more mental sweat it takes to dig it out, the more securely it will be subsequently anchored.”

It is simple — just model and teach the six virtues, the third of which is strong character — the topic of this article.  Those who know the six virtues of the educated person don’t need to read it.

Public school ignorance that has nothing to do with test scores

I attended Catholic schools, and so did Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s Hardball. Last night, I saw what happens when a person who knows nothing about American public education talks about its failings. Continue reading →