Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gilbreth on APHistory Standards and American Exceptionalism

Edward M Gilbreth in his pieces for the local paper generally stays out of politics. However, one recent column is an exception. He narrows his concerns to some responses to Sherry Few's (and others) objections to AP History guidelines published by the College Board.
According to a recent Newsweek article, a former New Jersey history teacher, Larry S. Krieger, with 40-year classroom experience, sounded the loudest alarm of revisionist history. He has since joined forces with opponents of the Common Core curriculum. Critics claim it's no coincidence that College Board President David Coleman previously had a hand in writing Common Core's math and English benchmarks and that they have similarities.
It hasn't taken long for this furor to get red-hot with politicians, including the National Republican Committee (RNC), taking the lead. Private or not, the College Board takes public dollars and there's a move in Congress to halt federal funds until the curriculum is revised. 
College Board officials, who also run the SAT exam, say it's all a big misunderstanding.
Its website contends the number of historical references actually has increased and that thousands of teachers motivated the changes by expressing "strong concerns that the course required a breathless race through American history" that sacrificed opportunities "for students to engage in writing and research." 
Conversely, the Newsweek article says Krieger is convinced that the failure to mention most of America's greatest historical figures by name means that they won't be on the test and therefore won't be taught. He also contends the new curriculum has "a consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters." 
Krieger told Newsweek he is particularly upset by the absence of discussion of the valor or heroism of American soldiers in World War II. Instead, he cited this from the framework: "Wartime experiences such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values."
Critics have targeted New York University Professor Thomas Bender as influential in the changes. A National Review article by Stanley Kurtz claims that the redesign process actually took root in 2006 at a conference attended by Bender. He describes Bender as "the leading spokesman for the movement to internationalize the U.S. History curriculum at every educational level" and as a "thoroughgoing critic of American exceptionalism." 
There's that term "American exceptionalism" again. Some love it; some hate it. Some believe America is truly exceptional in overall exceptionally good ways - far better than any other country in history. Others see just the opposite - that we're an exceptionally bad country and have achieved our status through exceptionally bad means - and that we now need to hang our heads in shame, retreat from the world stage and apologize in unison. Accordingly, our rise to exceptional status must somehow be morally invalid, and that our good works mean nothing because they originated from bad. Make sense?
Well, not to this daughter of a marine veteran of Iwo Jima. "Questions about American values" will always occur in a society with free speech; however, free speech in the AP History classroom is generally controlled by the teacher. How about some research on the hardships faced by ordinary citizens in a war agains pure evil?

A New York Teacher's Disgust with Common Core Standards

 As reported by Diane Ravitch last month
"Common Core was imposed on teachers by non-educators. We were fed a lot of mistruths along the way, as well. However, there would be no backlash if the CC founders gave us an educationally sound reform package.
We are rejecting CC primarily because the standards in ELA are un-teachable and un-testable, abstract and subjective thinking skills - essentially content free, the math standards are the SOS shifted around in developmentally inappropriate ways using unnecessarily confusing pedagogy, and the tests tied to teacher evaluations have become the epitome of educational malpractice. 
Furthermore, the notion of producing educational excellence with standards that cannot be changed, altered, deleted, or improved, is insult to our profession. And until the ESEA is dealt with by Congress, we are stuck inside a very deep hole, whether we support the CC or not."

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Berkeley CSD's Kovach's Indictment a Travesty

Does anyone believe that Berkeley County School District's communications director Amy Kovach dreamed up on her own the district's support of the Yes4Schools campaign in 2012? Really?

It's a dirty not-so-little not-so secret in every school district in South Carolina that every possible asset is used to push approval of school referendums. I challenge you to prove otherwise.

Why pick on Amy? According to the news story,

Already accused of improperly trying to influence the outcome of an election, Berkeley County School District's communications director now faces a second charge related to the same 2012 Yes 4 Schools referendum.
Amy Kovach, 43, was indicted by a Berkeley County grand jury Tuesday on one count of forgery, a felony that carries a fine and up to five years in jail. 
"To say that I'm shocked would be a gross understatement," Kovach's lawyer, Jerry Theos, said after the indictment was announced. "The Attorney General's Office didn't advise me in advance that they were seeking an indictment. They have not provided me ... with a copy of the indictment. I have no idea what it would be based upon, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support the charge." 
According to the indictment, Kovach created a false, backdated invoice from the district to the Yes 4 Schools campaign in November 2013 in "an attempt to establish that she had intended to have public funds repaid to the county" that were spent on campaign materials. The invoice was for less than $10,000, according to the indictment.

Whose Math Standards Does Common Core Use?

Pioneer Institute Study Finds 
Common Core Standards Weren’t Properly Validated

Five of the 29 members of the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign a report attesting that the standards are research-based, rigorous and internationally benchmarked. The validation report was released with 24 signatures and included no mention that five committee members refused to sign it, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.
What were the problems?
According to the Pioneer Institute press release, no member of the Common Core Validation Committee had a doctorate in English literature or language –and only one held a doctorate in math. (He was one of only three members with extensive experience writing standards.) Two of these three refused to sign off on the standards.
“Since all 50 states have had standards for a decade or more, there is a pool of people out there experienced in writing English and math standards,” said Ze’ev Wurman, author of “Common Core’s Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House.” “It’s unclear why so few of them were tapped for the Common Core Validation Committee.”
Wurman describes two studies conducted by members who signed the Validation Committee report in an attempt to provide post facto evidence that supported their earlier decisions. In both cases, the research was poorly executed and failed to provide evidence that Common Core is internationally competitive and can prepare American high school students for college-level work.
One study, conducted by Validation Committee member and Michigan State University educational statistician William Schmidt and a colleague, explored whether the Common Core math standards are comparable to those in the highest-performing nations and what outcomes might reasonably be expected after Common Core is implemented.
Wurman describes how even after Schmidt and his colleague rearranged the logical order in which concepts would be taught to make Common Core look more like the math standards in high-performing countries, there was still less than a 60 percent congruence between the two. Their initial results also found no correlation between student achievement and the states that have math standards most like Common Core.
After engaging in highly unconventional steps to increase both the congruence between Common Core and the international standards and the correlation between Common Core and student achievement (based on states whose standards were most similar to Common Core), Schmidt and his colleague wrote that they estimate congruence “in a novel way… coupled with several assumptions.” They acknowledge that their analyses “should be viewed as only exploratory… merely suggesting the possibility of a relationship,” yet such caution disappears in their final conclusion.
Wurman’s research also uncovered that basic information was coded incorrectly for Schmidt’s study and shows examples of concepts introduced in high school under Common Core listed as being taught in seventh grade. 
Other studies have come to very different conclusions. Stanford University mathematician R. James Milgram, the only member of the Validation Committee with a doctorate in mathematics, said that Common Core is two years behind the math standards in the highest-performing countries. Milgram also wrote that Common Core fails to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. 
Ze’ev Wurman is a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and a former senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Development, and Policy Development. In 2010, he served as a commissioner on the California Academic Content Standards Commission that evaluated Common Core’s suitability for adoption in that state.
Pioneer’s comprehensive research on Common Core national education standards includes: Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM; How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk; Common Core Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade; The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers; National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards, and A Republic of Republics: How Common Core Undermines State and Local Autonomy over K-12 Education. Pioneer produced a video series: Setting the Record Straight: Part 1, and Part 2, and has earned national media coverage.

Posted April 24, 2014 by Christel Swasey in How the Common Core Initiative Hurts Kids, Teachers, and Taxpayers

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Pay Attention, CCSD: It's Teacher Pay, Stupid

Yes, Kay Haun's Letter-to-the-Editor solution will be expensive, but so is the edublob! In the recent Charleston County School District's pay raise, administrators got 75 percent of the funds! Does anyone believe that will improve student outcomes?
Attract teachers 
Our state Senate Committee on Public School Teachers could save lots of time and money if it simply did what it really takes to get and keep effective and inspiring teachers. 
Increase S.C. teachers' pay dramatically, and do it right now. 
The most important factor in producing students who can compete in the world has always been each individual teacher. 
It's not beautiful buildings, laptops on every desk, hordes of support staff and administrators. Socrates never had a classroom; he taught on the porticos of Athens without textbooks. 
A good teacher is intelligent, creative, self-confident. Want to know how to evaluate our teachers? Ask the students - they know exactly which of their teachers knows his stuff, can control the classroom, and provides challenging and interesting lessons.
Worried about paying too much to ineffective teachers? No problem. As more and more bright and talented young people come out of college and see a competitive salary waiting in the teaching field, they will come. And the chaff will be winnowed inexorably.
Many would love to go into teaching as a career. It's a wonderful experience for those who have the right combination of skills and smarts. 
But they have to be compensated and recognized as valuable contributors to their communities. Also, they should direct the support staffs and administrations in their schools. 
They should determine the core learning standards as well as learning materials. Wonderful results would occur. 
Kay M. Haun
West Liberty Park Circle
North Charleston
 Amen.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Summerville School Administrators Need to "Get a Grip"

First, Summerville High School suspends a student for writing an essay about killing his neighbor's dinosaur with a gun. You can't make this stuff up.

Now an eighth-grade boy at a Summerville middle school [unnamed] has been suspended for listing the gang of 14 students who have been bullying him, labeling it "People to Kill," and dropping it in the hall for a teacher to find.

According to DD2's Pat Raynor,
The principal brought the student into her office and asked him to tell her who had been bothering him. He mentioned the same names as those on the list, according to the report. The student said he made the list to relieve stress and didn't plan to hurt anybody. He said he meant to throw the list away.
The deputy notified the student's parents. They told him he didn't have access to any guns, according to the report. 
The student was suspended until a disciplinary hearing, District 2 spokeswoman Pat Raynor said Wednesday.
All the parents of the 14 students on the list were also contacted.
Don't you wonder what was said to parents of the gang of 14 bullies?

Do you wonder why the teachers didn't already know the student was being bullied? Or, if they did, why nothing was done?

How about wondering why the student felt he couldn't tell anyone what was going on? Consider that we're talking about a 12- or 13-year-old boy.

Gee, DD2 nipped that Columbine in the bud.

Not.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Common Core? It's Done

As Diane Ravitch recently concluded:

Common Core is not simply a toxic brand, as some of its defenders believe. It got one of the greatest send-offs in history, adopted by 45 states even though no one was sure exactly what it was. It came wrapped in such grandiose claims that it was bound to flop. There was no evidence that Common Core standards would improve education, raise test scores, narrow the achievement gaps, make children globally competitive or college and career-ready.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this fiasco, it is that process matters, evidence matters. Money can buy elections, but money alone is not enough to buy control of American education. A change as massive as national standards requires the willing and enthusiastic by educators, parents, and communities. Arne Duncan and Bill Gates thought they could bypass those groups, if they funded enough of their leadership organizations. They thought they could design the standards they thought best and impose them on the nation. It is not working. As New York high school principal Carol Burris said recently about Common Core, stick a fork in it, it's done.
The question remaining is whether education officials in South Carolina will keep this flawed program by simply re-branding it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

What Not to Know About Common Core

Why would South Carolinians take the word of an Associated Press writer to educate themselves on Common Core?

Yet that's exactly what the P & C bruited in its above-the-fold headline, "What to know about Common Core," on Labor Day. The article's first sentence is majorly misleading, if not plain wrong: "Common Core education standards have already been adopted by 40 states and are opposed by conservatives across the country."

Perhaps reporter Seanna Adcox thought pretending only conservatives oppose Common Core would gain it more support among newspaper readers. That scheme would suggest she's just arrived here from Mars. That's the kind supposition. The unkind idea would be that Adcox has no idea of the vociferious opposition that has arisen in liberal circles around the United States.

When the lead sentence of an article purporting to contain knowledge is fatally flawed, stop reading.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Respect Teachers' Labor, Too!

While the rest of the world seems to have decided that what's wrong with education is its teachers, teachers, unionized or not, are not at rest on this Labor Day.

Teachers, as professionals, do not get overtime pay, yet most of them are at work more than sixty hours per week. Think of the typical high school English teacher, or any teacher, for that matter, who assigns essays and papers to students. Most have student loads of 100 to 150; that's 100 to 150 papers for every assignment. What percentage of those teachers will sit down tonight (if they haven't already done so) and grade papers for hours? A low guess would be half, and the other half are planning their lessons for the coming week.

A creative teacher's mind is always at work figuring out what to do with his or her students on so many levels. And everyone who's ever sat in a classroom thinks he or she can expertly tell a teacher what he or she has done wrong. Baby boomers are retiring in droves, and they are the last generation whose numbers were boosted by the lack of opportunities for college-educated women.

While English teachers work the same long hours as executives for half the pay, if that, and American society gives little respect to any job that doesn't pay well, HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

Who would be a teacher?