March 27, 2007

Curriculum-Development Group Urges Focus Shift to Whole Child

What else would you expect from a group calling itself the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s Commission on the Whole Child?

The definition of a successful student has to change from one whose achievement is measured solely on the basis of test scores to one who is healthy, emotionally and physically inspired, engaged in the arts, and prepared for employment in a global economy, a report says.

Is there another valid way to measure success besides test scores? I'm sure it's something squishy and subjective. And useless.

[T]he report, released this month, says educational practice and policy today are concentrated overwhelmingly on testing gains.

The reason why education practice and policy are "concentrated overwhelmingly on testing gains" is because when we started looking at such things we noticed that schools weren't doing a very good job at this, their primary charge.

But academic achievement cannot happen without significant emphasis on other factors, including student engagement, personalized learning, and skilled and caring teachers, it adds.

And they know this how? I would think the best way to achieve academic achievement is to focus on academic achievement. One good way to do that is to get feedback from tests of academic achievement.

Abd, er, you're not going to be too successful with the student engagement thingy unless you get the academic achievement thing right in the first place.

“The current focus on accountability has shifted focus away from whole-child education,” said Judy Seltz, the deputy executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based ASCD, which works to identify and share sound policy and best practices in education.

“We need to rethink what education of the whole child means and make sure every student has access to a rich and challenging curriculum that pays attention to other aspects,” she added, pointing out that research shows students who feel connected to their community tend to do better academically.


That's the good thing about our focus on accountability; it flushes out the chumps, like Judy Schultz, who are reduced to releasing reports that no one takes seriously.

35 comments:

Lauren said...

I have to start by confessing that I don't understand your hostility. I totally agree that some acountability is important.
I totally agree that testing allows many aspects of academic performance to me measured, monitored and compared.
But I am stumped by your question "Is there another valid way to measure success besides test scores?" Of course there is. For starters, things like graduation rates, college attendance rates, drop-out rates, arrest rates and unemployment rates are measurable indicators of a school system's success at range of important goals of public education.

KDeRosa said...

"[T]hings like graduation rates, college attendance rates, drop-out rates, arrest rates and unemployment rates" all correlate with and are highly predicted by third grade reading scores.

What those things tell me is how well you've taught the student to read by grade three.

You don't need to focus on the whole child, you need to teach him how to read.

Anonymous said...

"Is there another valid way to measure success besides test scores?" Of course there is. For starters, things like graduation rates, college attendance rates, drop-out rates, arrest rates and unemployment rates...

The problem with using these is that the lag is roughly a decade. If things start going wrong (say a school stops teaching entirely! The whole day is playing on the playground!), we won't know for about a decade. Which means we will have lost at least 1/2 a decade worth of kids (academically, at least).

Tests let one know that things are going downhill much sooner, when one still has a chance to correct things.

We can use all the things you mentioned to help calibrate whether the tests are measuring what we want to measure (assuming that they correlate), but we can't use them effectively to detect problems in time to fix them.

-Mark R.

Lauren said...

I agree with all these comments, but I think they support my contention. If all of this discussion is only about teaching reading in the early elementary grades, then I guess there is no disagreement. The trouble, as I see it, is that testing, and the "culture of testing", is not confined to teaching reading. Testing has expanded into all subjects, and dominates the school year, even in schools that have historically been quite successful. The focus on testing, at the expense of other, harder-to-measure success metrics, has distorted the education system.
If a school system previosuly sucked, then perhaps that distortion can only help, but in schools that are successful, and have been for many years, that distortion is harmful.

KDeRosa said...

I'm not following your logic at all, Lauren.

Testing in my state, Pennsylvania, lasts for three days (less than 2% of the school year). This can hardly be said to dominate the school year.

Schools that are supposedly educating their kids well should have no probem getting their students to pass these simple minimal standards basic skills tests without the need for extensive test prep. What possible distortions can these test introduce?

I do not see the downside (with the exception of schools engaging in extensive unproductive test prep) to this minimal amount of basic skills testing which serves as an external check on what is going on in the school.

How else would the public know that these basic skills are not being successfully taught to a wide proportion of students?

SteveH said...

"In coming weeks, the ASCD will hold community conversations in which school officials, parents, and people in the spheres of health, recreation, and the arts will identify their communities’ strengths and how they define education."

".. how they define education."

As if they are really interested in definitions that disagree with their own.

Besides, it's a strawman. Like "balance", who could possibly be against the development of the "whole child"? Well, the devil is in the details. The problem isn't testing. Schools should laugh at all of the trivial standardized tests. In fact, schools do testing all of the time. Math tests. Spelling tests. They might use rubrics, but they do test. What they really don't like is accountability. What they don't like are specific grade-level standards for knowledge and skills. This ia all about low and fuzzy ideas of education, not testing.

As long as they can talk about the wonders of the "whole child", they can avoid all of the dirty details, like an effective math curriculum that leads to a proper course in algebra in 8th grade.

SteveH said...

"At the 200-student Quest High School outside Houston, students are actively involved in curriculum writing. They prepare, assess, and monitor their own wellness plans, including physical, social, and emotional health."

This is just beyond absurd. Self-defined wellness plans when they can't get the basics of education right. What is also beyond absurd is that these people don't seem to understand why many react so negatively to this sort of thing. It's not as if they are talking about setting up their own private or charter school. They want to impose this model on all kids. The arrogance is astounding.

Parentalcation said...

"Is there another valid way to measure success besides test scores?" Of course there is. For starters, things like graduation rates, college attendance rates, drop-out rates, arrest rates and unemployment rates are measurable indicators of a school system's success at range of important goals of public education.

Not only do those indicators have a 10 year lag, but they aren't all equal. With low enough standards a school could have a great drop out rate with a poor college attendence rate. Employment rates are great indicators of education as a whole, but any school has to share their influence with all the other schools (including colleges) that the student attended (and that particular school, still could of sucked if the other schools picked up the slack). Arrest rates are also highly dependent on so many other factors outside of school quality, such as the economy, enforcement of laws, etc... so this also is a very diluted measure of success.

This only leaves tests as a direct measure of school success, and remember the scores on tests are going to correlate with the influence that the school has on all the other diluted outcomes.

Eric said...

ASCD: The Whole Child: Healthy, Safe, Engaged, Supported, Challenged

"All children deserve a 21st-century education that fully prepares them for college, work, and citizenship. That means the basics of reading, writing, and math, of course. But we should expect more from our schools and communities. We also want our children to be healthy, safe, engaged in their learning, supported by caring adults, and involved in courses such as art and music."

While some might see progressivist hegemony, I would merely ask:

1. "How does ASCD ensure its policies meet the highest levels of scrutiny of any state, e.g. the Daubert criteria for vetting expert witnesses?"

2. "What priority is placed on reading and math in the proposed 21st-century education?"

3. "Have the Urban League, NAACP, and SCLC endorsed your policy? Upon what evidentiary basis?"

4. "What is the URL for the briefing materials supplied to the endorsers?"

allen said...

Lauren wrote:

For starters, things like graduation rates, college attendance rates, drop-out rates, arrest rates and unemployment rates are measurable indicators of a school system's success at range of important goals of public education.

All these measurements, as others have pointed out, are taken after a student leaves the public education system. There's no possibility of applying any improvements to the system for those kids.

Doesn't a consideration for professional responsibilities require that measures be taken to try to improve the shortcomings of the system for those kids? They're not just a test run for the system, they're people the system is supposed to educate.

If there's some technique that'll lower the arrest rate, dropout rate, unemployment rate previous to graduation or dropout aren't you ethically required to do use that method? Aren't you then required to identify that method by any reasonable means?

Oh yeah, what the heck's a "culture of testing"?

ms-teacher said...

fyi, in my district students take an assessment test every quarter, with the CAT-6 being administered at the end of the year, for a total of 5 testing times. The tests that are given to our middle school students cover the material that they are supposed to have learned for that quarter, which is aligned with California standards.

However, what is absurd to me is that my students in the intensive level are also required to take the district tests, even though theoretically what is on these tests, I'm not teaching them as I'm following the curriculum from the REACH program. Many of these students already have gone through a half a decade of school feeling unsuccessful and then we throw tests on them that doesn't measure what they've been taught.

The only part that I've seen improvement in is on grammar due to the fact that in the Reasoning and Writing component a lot of the time is spent on grammar.

(also, just so everyone knows, I have information posted on the DI conference for this summer at my blog.)

Eric said...

If there's some technique that'll lower the arrest rate, dropout rate, unemployment rate previous to graduation or dropout aren't you ethically required to do use that method? Aren't you then required to identify that method by any reasonable means?

Absolutely. Failure to do so ought to disqualify educators from receiving state funds raised for education as provided by the education clause of the state's constitution. (Assuming the education clause was adopted in the belief that public education would promote good citizenship.)

Of course, opponents of corporate hegemony might hold differently, regardless of the rule of law.

Tracy said...

But academic achievement cannot happen without significant emphasis on other factors, including student engagement, personalized learning, and skilled and caring teachers, it adds.

From my understanding of DI, this is right.

Obviously an unskilled is not able to effectively teach kids, and an uncaring teacher would not teach kids.

DI depends highly on student engagement - I think I read in some of the materials that the criteria was that students should be responding about 10 times a minute.

Personalised learning is also an important part of DI - kids have to be placed in the lesson sequence based on their existing knowledge.

allen said...

Failure to do so ought to disqualify educators from receiving state funds raised for education as provided by the education clause of the state's constitution.

"Ought to" being the salient phrase there being, until fairly recently in historical terms, nothing in the way of an effort to determine much of anything. It's not difficult to understand how the idea of testing would be inherently unappealing. If you can get away with vague assurances and edu-crap jargon then having your performance measured objectively is liable to be pretty threatening.

Of course, opponents of corporate hegemony might hold differently, regardless of the rule of law.

Uh, right. All hail the anti-corporate anti-hegemons.

Parentalcation said...

Personalised learning is also an important part of DI - kids have to be placed in the lesson sequence based on their existing knowledge.

I think placement based on aptitude is more important, but obviously being placed in the right level as well also plays a part.

Tracy said...

Personalised learning is also an important part of DI - kids have to be placed in the lesson sequence based on their existing knowledge.

I think placement based on aptitude is more important, but obviously being placed in the right level as well also plays a part.


As I understand DI, a kid who already knows the alphabet would not be placed into a lesson where they are retaught the alphabet, regardless of whether they only learnt their alphabet because of hours determined work by their parents or if they soaked it up like a sponge.

But yes, the speed at which a kid moves through the lessons is also important.

Eric said...

All hail the anti-corporate anti-hegemons.

Just a guess, but I think it's more like, "Whoa dude, you've got some bad corporate hegemonic stuff here..."

If you can get away with vague assurances and edu-crap jargon...

Are you suggesting that state-supported schools of education might prefer to hire new faculty who publish in the Review of Edu-Crap to those who carefully evaluate curriculum and pedagogy against the expectations of the education clause in the state's constitution? Would the trustees of such an institution fail to notice?

Aren't ed school graduates prepared to discuss the connection between the Madison, WI reading scandal and "critical examination in Education and Power of the ways in which technical/administrative knowledge and discourse circulated at multiple levels in education and the larger society and on its 'relative autonomy' from simple economic needs was interpreted as well as an opening to later Foucauldian discussions of disciplinary power and micro-politics?"

What could be left to add, but, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that scholarship is going on in here!"

Independent George said...

You got peanut butter on my corporate hegemony.

And you got corporate hegemony on my peanut butter.

Hey...

allen said...

Are you suggesting that state-supported schools of education might prefer to hire new faculty who publish in the Review of Edu-Crap to those who carefully evaluate curriculum and pedagogy against the expectations of the education clause in the state's constitution?

I didn't think it was all that well concealed. Of course there's a preference for faculty that produce impenetrable, meaningless publications. It's Gresham's Law operating in the academic realm. Whatever expectations are implied by the education clause of the state constitution are irrelevant since they're not enforced.

Would the trustees of such an institution fail to notice?

On the evidence, yes. But that's understandable. The primary market of the ed school - school districts - have no obvious preference for highly-talented teachers. The ed school faculty then has no external professional discipline. As long as the newly-minted teacher is clutching a teaching certificate the ed school's done its job. Consequently the trustees decisions are based not on the skills and knowledge imparted by the ed school but on the unpunished conceits of the ed school staff.

Aren't ed school graduates prepared to discuss the connection between the Madison, WI reading scandal...

Provided we do not treat language as a passive medium that simply links words, ideas and objects. Instead, we understand that language has power. Discourse is an active political force, composed of conventions or “practices which systematically form the objects of which they speak” (Foucault, 1972: 49). (*)

allen said...

Oh yeah, what do curriculum-development groups who don't focus on the whole child focus on?

Lauren said...

KDeRosa said...

I'm not following your logic at all, Lauren.

yes... that happens to me a lot...


Testing in my state, Pennsylvania, lasts for three days (less than 2% of the school year). This can hardly be said to dominate the school year.

I'm in Massachusetts, where MCAS takes more time than that. But the impact is not the test days at all. It is how the curriculum gets distorted. The tests are fairly basic; most children should pass, some should place in the higher level, and some (ideally just a few) will not pass. Despite that, the test creates a lot pf pressure on teachers to "teach to the test", and do test prep which takes away time from anything that doesn't directly impact this year's test. A project that might encourage a student to be more interested in some history topic or science topic is scrapped in favor of basic reading comprehension training. In a town with failing school, that may be good, but this happens even in good schools with good teachers.
Why does this happen?
Every year the Boston Globe publishes comparative test scores and rates every school system in the state. Home buyers use that information when searching for new houses. Tax payers and voters respond to it. The school committee responds to them. The superintendent is keen to always have those numbers increasing. The principals meet with all the teachers and review every single test question and how to better-address that next time. And that is in a town where the schools do well! The shcools have alwasy been great, and yet valuable teacher time is spent trying to squeeze a few more points out of the kids.
So even teachers who's students do fine are under constant pressure to improve those test scores.


Schools that are supposedly educating their kids well should have no probem getting their students to pass these simple minimal standards basic skills tests without the need for extensive test prep. What possible distortions can these test introduce?

True, passing the tests isn't a problem. It is the race to constantly improve the test scoresthat is the problem because that does NOT translate into better-educated students.


I do not see the downside (with the exception of schools engaging in extensive unproductive test prep) to this minimal amount of basic skills testing which serves as an external check on what is going on in the school.


Well, that is exactly the problem: the test prep.


How else would the public know that these basic skills are not being successfully taught to a wide proportion of students?


And that is exactly the conundrum: I agree that tests do provide a necessary way of identifying when students are being systematically under-served. But for students who were already being well-educated the tests are absolutely, positively, unambiguously reducing other educational oportunities.

Thanks for taking the time to listen and respond to my comments. AS I said earlier, I enjoy your blog... but then again, I also get the ASCD newsletter email every day. :-)

Eric said...

for students who were already being well-educated the tests are absolutely, positively, unambiguously reducing other educational oportunities

Ask that the NCLB reauthorization incorporate growth models. In fact, norm-referenced tests (rather than criterion referenced tests tied to curriculum) are adequate to calculate annual growth, quicker to administer, and don't encourage curriculum narrowing.

Short cycle assessments tied to curriculum are still important for improving instruction, but for district & building report cards, annual growth models are more appropriate.

Eric said...

trustees' decisions are based not on the skills and knowledge imparted by the ed school but on the unpunished conceits of the ed school staff.

Thus implicating the trustees (and ed school deans) in misfeasance. Now, lets apply this to U Wisc in Madison.

The Madison public school district superintendent will be retiring. He touts success in closing the race gap, and may be planning to take his show on the road post-retirement. He caught the wave of "Reading First scandal" publicity and solicited his US Representative and Senators to get an answer from US Ed regarding the denial of Reading First dollars to his district. Bloggers dispute his home-grown program qualifies for Reading First or has actually narrowed the gap. Moreover, Wisconsin's state tests are suspect ("Pangloss Effect").

Meanwhile, a prestigious ed school sits nearby. Would the US Rep and Senators be well-served by soliciting comment from the ed school? Choose one:

Yes: The ed school's program of studies and faculty hiring practices doubtless reflect the desire of Wisconsin citizens to ensure schoolchildren receive high quality education. Faculty and graduates meet the highest standards of professionalism and are qualified to serve as expert witnesses when courts adjudicate claims of education as a "fundamental right." They can demonstrate a track record of providing timely and effective advice to Wisconsin school districts.

No: There exists no governance provision to encourage the ed school to serve the interests of Wisconsin. Faculty are absorbed in their own research interests unrelated to improving achievement of Wisconsin students. The local AAUP chapter scrupulously safeguards their activities as academic freedom advancing a scholarly market of potential benefit to mankind. Moreover, the institution's prestige is not lessened by its efforts to ensure the vitality of its irrelevance.

If "Yes," Congress will be well served to have Wisconsin faculty input on the Madison vs Reading First controversy. If "No," UW ought to publish a disclaimer, lest any UW graduates get hired by states seeking competent educational policy advisors.

rightwingprof said...

"You got peanut butter on my corporate hegemony.

And you got corporate hegemony on my peanut butter.

Hey..."

With lines like that, you really should be blogging.

allen said...

Thus implicating the trustees (and ed school deans) in misfeasance.

Misfeasance? Sure. But only in the strict, legal sense. On a more practical level, how else are the trustees supposed to act? Where are the longitudinal studies that relate teacher efficacy to ed school? Where's the district preference for hiring graduates of that/those schools? What's the name of the ed school that's a synonym for high quality teacher education? What's the name of a super-star ed school prof whose presence at a college confers the aura of quality education and cutting-edge research, who's always at risk of being hired away by another ed school? Where's the ed school equivalent of the Fields medal?

If that's the world inhabited by the trustees how do they avoid misfeasance?

Meanwhile, a prestigious ed school sits nearby. Would the US Rep and Senators be well-served by soliciting comment from the ed school? Choose one:

Yes, of course. Inasmuch as public education arises from the political process, and never rises above politics, the opportunity for legislators to saddle a parade of Doctors of Thinkology with the responsibility for whatever remedy ultimately is baked into law is too good to ignore. There's a bonus in that the political remedy might actually help resolve the problem for which it was crafted.

Faculty and graduates meet the highest standards of professionalism and are qualified to serve as expert witnesses when courts adjudicate claims of education as a "fundamental right."

This "fundamental right" must differ in some regard from an "inalienable right" otherwise why use a different phrase? And why would faculty and graduates of schools of education have any special voice in a debate about a fundamental right to education? If there were a fundamental right to air travel I wouldn't expect pilots to have some special expertise in the legal foundations of such a right. I'd expect them to fly the damned planes.

They can demonstrate a track record of providing timely and effective advice to Wisconsin school districts.

I think we can all agree that demonstrations of effectiveness go a long way towards establishing credibility. Unless of course some more urgent consideration diminishes the importance of such demonstrations.

If "Yes," Congress will be well served to have Wisconsin faculty input on the Madison vs Reading First controversy.

Congress is well served to have the Wisconsin faculty input regardless of the value of their input. Notice how that recapitulates the value placed on a high quality teacher education program by school districts?

If "No," UW ought to publish a disclaimer, lest any UW graduates get hired by states seeking competent educational policy advisors.

If the quality of the education UW grads get were measured such a disclaimer might be worthwhile. As it is, how does anyone know whether a graduate is competent, incompetent or somewhere along the spectrum?

eric said...

Where's the ed school equivalent of the Fields medal? ... how do [trustees] avoid misfeasance?

The Baldrige Award would be a good approximation of the Fields medal, and trustees could insist ed school deans submit Baldrige applications and address opportunities for improvement identified in the Baldrige feedback report.

why would faculty and graduates of schools of education have any special voice in a debate about a fundamental right to education?

Presumably the expertise for litigating the fundamental right arises from some training and/or experience; hopefully, schools of education might have a some idea of what's involved. In ajudicating fundamental rights, courts may require expert testimony. Ed schools might be a source of the required expertise. Not that they would be above challenge from anyone who chooses to become knowledgable.

Professional ethics codes typically require disclosure of limitations, such as lack of training. Have the ed schools in Wisconsin incorporated the implications of fundamental rights analysis into their teacher and administrator curricula? See: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/lc/committees/study/2006/SSAF/files/IM_00-08.pdf

Superintendent Rainwater's claims seem suspect. If the district were sued, (e.g. NAACP v Madison), plaintiffs have a prima facie disparate impact case which might be defended on the grounds that Madison's reading program remedies the affects of past discrimination. But if Ken is right, the Madison program is perpetuating the affects of past discriminations.

What's left to say but, "Your tax dollars at work!"

allen said...

The Baldrige Award would be a good approximation of the Fields medal...

Nope. One factor where comparison to the Fields medal and its like falls apart is that the Baldrige award goes to an organization. All the big, gold-plated professional plums - Fields, Nobel, Bancroft - go to individuals. The other big objection to the Baldrige is that it is awarded for efficiency and quality not innovation and discovery.

If there were a Baldrige award for physics the criteria would place a higher value on a very clean laboratory and an exceptional inventory control system then for discovery of a new subatomic particle. Of course there's not much call for innovation and discovery in the public education field.

Presumably the expertise for litigating the fundamental right arises from some training and/or experience

Sure. Obtained at a school of law.

An expert witness from an ed school, if that isn't a contradiction in terms, should know all about how to educate but not why society ought to be on the hook to make sure it happens. That's the business of we the people via our elected representatives and lately, the judiciary. If an ed school prof has chosen to immerse himself in the legal underpinnings of the public education system, and established a reputation for knowledge in this area, then he might carry some weight as an expert although even that'd be a stretch. A historian specializing in public education would be the more likely choice as an expert witness.

But if Ken is right, the Madison program is perpetuating the affects of past discriminations.

And this is surprising for what reason? By the way, notice what all these disparate impact suits are about: bucks. Evidently there's an assumption by some parties that a well-funded education equals a high quality education.

Eric said...

Evidently there's an assumption by some parties that a well-funded education equals a high quality education.

Which the Baldrige criteria anticipates: Can the organization prioritize spending to get the desired/required results? Is any organization better? How do they do it?

Regarding disparate impact and fundamental right, education as a fundamental right has followed from a few school funding lawsuits. Disparate impact findings typically follow from various segregation cases. Putting these two together (like chocolate and peanut butter) we might see education as a (fundamental) civil right necessarily remedying the results of past discrimination. A sort of promissory note that needs to be made good.

allen said...

You're not really trying to slip the implication by that the prospect of a Baldrige award would dissuade a school board from applying for funding in excess of their need, are you?

Let's do a gedanken experiment to see how that might play out:

school board member one: Due to the extraordinary efficiency and devotion of the administration, our budget was spot on and we can avoid the need for funding increases. However, not anticipating such efficiency, the state education funding mechanism will deliver an increase. I propose we return the unnecessary funds to the state treasury.

sbm two: Will that help me get re-elected?
sbm one: No, but we will be getting a Baldrige award.
sbm two: Will that help me get re-elected?
sbm one: No.

Okay?

Regarding disparate impact and fundamental right, education as a fundamental right has followed from a few school funding lawsuits.

Hardly. The funding equity lawsuits are predicated on the assumption that spending equals education and any difference in per student funding will result in an unlawful difference in education. The "right" is always to an adequate education, never to an equally expensive education.

Since public education in all states was written to ensure legally defensible, disparate funding you need to find a judge from the Justice Hugo Black School of Seat-o-the-pants Jurisprudence who'll find an emanation of a penumbra that provides some rationale for a rewrite the plain language of the public education enabling legislation. If the state legislature doesn't have the backbone to tell the judge who makes law and who interprets it - and what's the likelihood of that? - presto! Robin Hood funding.

Disparate impact findings typically follow from various segregation cases.

If you're trying to slide in a misinterpretation of Brown v. Topeka, don't bother. Brown v. Topeka kicked the slats out from under disparate intra-district funding. Didn't lay a glove on inter-district funding. That had to wait for a new generation of judges with even less restraint.

Putting these two together (like chocolate and peanut butter) we might see education as a
(fundamental) civil right necessarily remedying the results of past discrimination.


Yeah, just like all those other (fundamental) civil rights whose exercise is mandated and which require tax support from non-participants. Good thing enumerated rights have so little in common with (fundamental) civil rights since I don't relish the thought of being forced to speak when I don't feel like it although getting paid no matter the value of what I have to say would take some of the sting out it.

A sort of promissory note that needs to be made good.

If you feel an obligation then knock yourself out. Your moral outrage creates no obligation on my part.

EinOH said...

A project that might encourage a student to be more interested in some history topic or science topic is scrapped in favor of basic reading comprehension training.

If a third grade student needs more work on reading comprehension, what's wrong with trying to remedy that fundamental lack before moving on to other subjects? Don't say it will kill his interest in these subjects- nothing kills a student's interest quicker than not being able to read the textbook.

If this student does have sufficient reading comprehension skills, he needs to be placed in a class with similiarly skilled peers and they can all have their enriched history and science together, without denying other students a thorough reading education.

I'm sure teachers find it a lot more fun and fulfilling to create model baking soda volcanoes and build shoebox dioramas of Washington crossing the Delaware. It's heartwarming to see the joy in the kids' faces when a telly get wheeled in for some educational program taped off of Cable in the Classroom. There's probably no better feeling than having a gap-toothed 8 year old come up to you in her paint covered smock and lisp to you that you are her favouritest teacher ever, but if you have not taught that child to read to the best of her ability because the most effective teaching methods to not fulfil your identity as "teacher"-- for shame!

dweir said...

@Lauren
You write: A project that might encourage a student to be more interested in some history topic or science topic is scrapped in favor of basic reading comprehension training. In a town with failing school, that may be good, but this happens even in good schools with good teachers. Why does this happen?

Is this really happening? I've also heard from the MA Campaign for the Whole Child that schools throughout the state are cutting art and music programs, but there is no data to support those assertions either.

But let's take your example as truth. If students are reading well, and a teacher or administrator scraps a lesson in order to offer more reading instruction a few things could be happening:

- The district has no idea how it's students are performing. It's curriculum may not be aligned with the state frameworks or regular assessments may have not been given throughout the year, so the district has no information on how well students are progressing. You can check for this by asking your teacher to list the learning objectives for the year and asking them to provided evidence of your child's progress in meeting those objectives. Without this information, the teacher or administrator cannot make a valid decision on whether to provide more reading instruction or to give a history lesson. That's pretty bad management if you ask me.

- Quality has not been defined. Lacking any other means of assessing performance, districts rely solely on the MCAS as indicators of quality. It should be noted that the state DoE has never advocated this approach and has stated that the "ranking" of districts published annually by the Boston Globe is a misuse of data.
Again, this is a problem with management. Every district knows what their target AYP is. They should know at every point during the year whether they are on target or not. Honestly, I think many school administrators would benefit greatly from shadowing software QE and managers. They are expert in defining, measuring, and predicting quality, and I think a much of the process they use would be applicable in education.

- Your classes contain a wide mix of skill levels. A district may be well aware of who is likely not to pass the MCAS or which subgroup did not make AYP. Unfortunately, in today's schools feelings outrank scholarship, so we have integrated classes. Rather than targeting resources to the students who need it most, everyone gets an extra reading lesson. This is an approach that no one would dare trying on the athletic fields, but somehow its okay in the classroom.

I was a music teacher for many years. I hated knowing that my job was always at risk anytime there was a budget crunch. But, I knew my subject wasn't as important to the children's education as reading and math.

I once taught middle school in a well-to-do district near Cape Ann. At our school wide visioning meeting, the principal directed us to come up with ways our students could "feel successful". My suggestion -- just helping them succeed -- was met by silence and then ignored. I quit shortly thereafter because there was no way I could commit to what amounted to educational fraud.

It wasn't until MCAS scores showed their deficiencies that the community woke up to what was happening.

I don't trust the whole child campaign. It feels too much like fraud, like shaming people who take a critical look at our schools. And the rhetoric from the ASCD only emphasizes this:

Superintendents and school board members. Education commissioners. Governors, mayors, and city council members. Legislators. Many are standing up for our children and leading the fight to ensure that each and every child is healthy, safe, engaged in their learning, supported by caring adults, and exposed to a challenging curriculum that includes arts, music, and other essential courses. They are our Whole Child Heroes. Others are standing in the way. They are our Whole Child Villains.

Villians. Unbelievable. And disgusting.

Catherine Johnson said...

you beat me to it!

I found this the other day.

Eric said...

You're not really trying to slip the implication by that the prospect of a Baldrige award would dissuade a school board from applying for funding in excess of their need, are you?

The thought hadn't occurred to me (in those words). What trained quality professionals work toward is higher quality at lower cost. It's called the Deming Chain Reaction.

Since most school districts are underfunded, getting the most out of existing dollars is a win for all concerned.

BTW, Marburger does not share your opinion of Baldrige/Deming.

Dickey45 said...

Lauren - if the states can decide how, when, and what to test then blame shouldn't be placed on NCLB but on the state.

The state actually has a choice. For instance, ideally, they would have a statewide curriculum that has criterion based testing and a standardized summative test that is heavily aligned with the curriculum.

They have the choice. Most states chose not to have statewide curriculum because the teachers and unions own the education system.

Anonymous said...

You describe other methods of assessment as "squishy"? Can you point me to any resources regarding the reliability of the kind of testing you support? While doing similar research into the effectiveness of opinion surveys, I was struck by the number of things that influence how an individual completes a survey. It seems a reasonable leap that test performance could rely on a number of things beyond actual knowledge and that those influences could potentially establish a bias.

Lastly, of course we should teach kids to read. Thomas Jefferson thought literacy should be a requirement of citizenship (what an idea). But is that the most we can hope for, that our graduates can read? We have a 99% literacy rate in the US and everyone is an uproar about losing jobs to India, which has a literacy rate around 60%, Pakistan's is even lower - and these two are Forbes "best" offshoring destinations! Can we teach reading in a way that enhances higher-order thinking? Striving for a country of literate people seems a bit underreaching. Even Cuba has a literacy rate of 98%, but I don't see Cubans claiming their freedom or contributing much outside of music and vacations for Europeans.