Monday, April 4, 2011

Education Reform: A Basketful of Rotten Tomatoes

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Sandra in Brevard

March was not a good month for Michele Rhee, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, nor President Obama.

Rhee has stopped talking for the moment as investigations into testing irregularities on D.C. standardized tests move forward. President Obama's speeches last week on his vision for the improvement quality and quantity of standardized tests left many confused. Much was written regarding the disconnect between the President's views and those of the Department of Education. Oddly, Justin Hamilton, Deputy Press Secretary at the Department of Education, requested that one blogger make corrections to his blog since the facts had been misrepresented. Instead, Education Week blogger, Anthony Cody, requested that the government explain how the positions align. Hamilton's plan isn't working out too well. The supplied Department of Education clarifications make it fairly clear that more money is being dumped into redundant test development. Read Cody's original blog, Department of Education responses, and follow up at Living in Dialogue. Parents are resisting the spike in testing and taxpayers are not getting the necessary level of accountability on these efforts.

In September 2010, the new federal testing initiative was announced in a speech delivered by Duncan. I missed that piece of information until this week when the North Carolina Superintendent rolled out 52 new tests saying they were in preparation for the national testing to be rolled out in 2014.

The next blog or two will cover national testing and how the President and Congress intend to modify NCLB, which is up for reauthorization. It is a complicated story. For now, Katie Couric is a good place to begin. Sorry, no embed code was permitted. Please watch it here.

Read all of Sandra's Blogs at Grumpy Educators



  1. Sandra - Although I have not commented much on your excellent analysis in regards to education, I have been reading, and very much appreciate the time and effort you have made. My wife and oldest daughter teach in TN, and I still have relatives teaching in IL and MO. I have forwarded your columns to them. The main reason I have not commented is it is not my level of expertise, and I hope the commentary can remain objective, fact based, and on point.

    I also very much admire and respect you for not allowing the recent troll attacks to hamper your passion and concern for the education needs of our children.

    Keep up the excellent work. Thanks.....

  2. Marine, education isn't my strongest area of expertise either.. The nice thing about Sandra's posts is she breaks it down so ordinary people can understand it.. Or at least what's being done by a handful of people to undermine it.

    As for the troll, Sandra's resolve surprised me. He left some vicious comments on Grumpy Educators.. She didn't even flich.

    Her work is being noticed, by a lot of people, all across the country. Some with a little influence.

  3. USMC1949: I am glad to hear you are reading. If I remember correctly, you do audits and have expertise in accountability. You have expertise that is needed to evaluate this.

    If ordinary folk and parents do not start weighing in, then we are responsible for the outcome. Remaining objective, fact-based, and on point is my goal and if I stray...make a comment please. Write me privately if need be.

    Taxpayers and parents have a right to understand this clearly without surprises.

    I am a product of public education, right through university. I am grateful for that. Please extend my gratitude to your family members for the work they do every day for the children in their communities.

  4. GrumpyElder: Republican, Conservative, Democrat, and Progressive PARENTS are on the same side on this over testing thing. The common unity is the word PARENT, not politics. They care about their kids education, but are ignored. One mother from Louisiana wrote that when she called to find out if she could opt out, the person at the State level laughed.

  5. Sandra - Internal audits at the hospital enterprise level. That and revenue analysis to insure we are able to remain in business. Kinda why I have not been nearly as active. This HC bill and potential state & federal adverse affects has been keeping me pretty busy. Hoping to hang in there through next year, but retirement looks better every day.

    The only thing that might help is a knowledgeable neutral devil's advocate.

    We are in full agreement as to too many tests and teaching to the test. It seems that since the late 70's state and federal education bureaucrats need graphs to chart success or failure. They also like to high 5 themselves when at risk districts show minor improvement on the tests. I adhere to RIF. That is more difficult to graph.

  6. Just a little reminiscing. Back in the day (50's & 60's) we had the Iowa Tests of Basic skills. I think it had 5 sections. Reading, Math, Language & Vocabulary, Natural Science, and Social Science. There was no teaching to the test, and records were kept at the classroom and district levels to provide help in where a school was deficient or successful. Overall success was measured in graduation rates and percentages of students who went onto college. We also had PACT & PSAT exams as Sophomores and Juniors, but again no teaching to the test. Many teachers volunteered their time to tutor students during off hours. I do agree that overall students today are more knowledgeable in Science & Math, but I do not believe their overall general education is as good as what we received. I also see a much wider disparity today on the students who have grasped the material and those who have not. The divide seems to be so much wider. The all important invariable is parent partaicipation. I also see a problem in Inclusion and the absence of Tracking. I realize this is not a PC way to view education, but when a teacher has to remain at the pace of those unable or unwilling to participate, the overall level of education is watered down. Sorry parents but not all little Johnnys or Susies will succeed in College. Efforts should be made to track, but to also allow for movement within those tracks through Elementary and High School. Many kids are late bloomers, and some just never bloom.

  7. Sandra - You do remain objective, fact-based, and on point. It is I and a few others who tend to drift off focus when replying to needless partisan rants and rhetoric. If you hadn't noticed, I attract some very unsavory tag alongs.

  8. Hey Marine, When I figger out what an unsavory tag is/are, I'll give ya one.

  9. Sandra. There have been a lot of complaints about Fla. teachers receiving retirement money, without contributing to it. For comparison- I just received the Johnson and Johnson annual report. Their CEO, has received $23 million, into his retirement fund from J & J over the last 3 years. That is just part of his $23M annual compensation. I don't think retiring teachers need to back up to the pay window. God Bless them one and all.

  10. Gpabud - They are ever present. My Polo cologne/after shave must be what attracts them.

  11. Gpabud: Thank you for those words. I don't think enough gratitude is shown to hard-working teachers that must do as they are told. All I see are hundreds of millions thrown at testing and lots of educrats with businesses profiting.

    You are so right - no teacher should have to back up to the pay window.

  12. USMC1949: I think your auditing in the hospital sector applies...the school districts will not be able to stay in business under these conditions.

    Once the testing became the focus of instruction, overall general education went out the window. The focus was getting high scores on reading and math per NCLB rules. I don't know if the IOWA is still out there, but the Stafford is. So, I can't understand WHY new tests are being developed during a time of economic constraint. I guess in a post I can be opinionated. I think a great cost-savings would be to eliminate the least 30 years of failure and continued "crisis" is enough of a performance measure. I'm p.o'ed today.


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