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Archive for the ‘Guest Bloggers’ Category

When All Else Fails – Blame Teachers!

[Editor’s note: Peter Goodman blogs at Ed in the Apple, where this post originally appeared.]

Yesterday’s big education news story: the lackluster NAEP scores in New York City … right?

Not according to the Tweed folk … who mumbled and tried to spin the story.

Klein’s reaction: On the eve of the NAEP scores story release, with great fanfare, he announces a new DoE initiative to fire tenured teachers! The UFT is vigorously protesting. More »

The Importance of Teachers

[Editor’s note: teacherken is a high school social studies teacher in the MD suburbs of DC and an active blogger on education and other subjects. This post was originally posted at Daily Kos, where it was on the recommended list.]

I have just finished reading a book I have to review entitled Be a Teacher. One of the editors is Phil Bigler, who has won all three of the big national teaching awards: Disney, Milken and National Teacher of the Year. It is a book aimed at those considering teaching or near the start of their teaching careers, and is subtitled with “You Can Make A Difference” and is listed as “by America’s Finest teachers.” It contains reflections by Bigler and his coauthor, herself an award winner, and 12 others who have been greatly honored for their own teaching. It is an interesting book, and when I do write my review I promise to cross-post it or summarize it here.

Today I am going to crib from one appendix, and then offer a few additional remarks of my own. This won’t be long. I encourage you to keep reading. More »

An Expert on Assessment Offers Sage Commentary

[Editor’s note: teacherken is a high school social studies teacher in the MD suburbs of DC and an active blogger on education and other subjects. This post was originally posted in a slightly different form at Daily Kos.]

The expert is Rick Stiggins, who is the founder of ETS’s Assement Training Institute in Portland, OR. The sage commentary appears in the Oct. 17 edition of Education Week, the national weekly indispensable for news on Education (and even if you are not a subscriber you can register for free to read two articles a week). The article to which I refer is entitled Five Assessment Myths and Their Consequences (registration required). Below I will offer all five of the myths, a bit of what Stiggins has to say about each, and as per my custom, offer a few comments of my own.

Stiggins begins his commentary with the following introduction:

America has spent 60 years building layer upon layer of district, state, national, and international assessments at immense cost—and with little evidence that our assessment practices have improved learning. True, testing data have revealed achievement problems. But revealing problems and helping fix them are two entirely different things.

As a member of the measurement community, I find this legacy very discouraging. It causes me to reflect deeply on my role and function. Are we helping students and teachers with our assessment practices, or contributing to their problems?

He then tells the reader that assessments impact on school improvement has been seriously impacted by erroneous myths, five of which he wants to share with us. More »

Refocusing the Incentive/Bonus Debate

[Editor’s note: Peter Goodman blogs at Ed in the Apple, where this post originally appeared.]

Joe Torre reached the post season playoffs the last twelve years . . . for Yankee management it wasn’t good enough. Steinbrenner and company offered him a contract with a substantial pay cut with performance incentives for reaching the post season.

Torre turned it down!

He especially objected to the incentives – the assumption that somehow he could coach better in the playoffs for monetary incentives. Incentives were an insult.

Torre has a lot in common with teachers – will teachers teach “better” when offered incentives? More »

Applauding Big Thinking

[Editor's note: Julia Boyd is a grandparent and parent of 3 public school children and chair of the ACORN education committee.]

The agreement announced on Wednesday by the UFT and Mayor Bloomberg will mean more money for New York’s neediest schools and real incentives to help educators succeed. Kudos to UFT President Randi Weingarten for her willingness to think big and develop just the kind of innovative approach that might actually help retain our best teachers in some of our toughest schools.

The plan isn’t merit pay. It’s $20 million for 200 of New York’s lowest performing schools. The money will go to the entire school – not just individual teachers. A team, made up of teachers and administrators, will decide how best to allocate the money at their local school to continue to boost performance. It’s an incentive for an entire school’s staff – teachers and principals – to come together and improve student achievement. And it recognizes that talented professionals who choose to work in some of New York’s toughest schools need and deserve support for the work that they do. More »

NCLB: Trusting Our Founding Fathers, Again

[Editor’s note: Peter Goodman blogs at Ed in the Apple, where this post originally appeared.]

Hamilton, Madison and their buddies were really smart guys. The hot summer they spent in Philadelphia produced our founding document, the Constitution. Those deliberations resulted in education not listed as one of the enumerated powers, delegating it to the states.

Considering the No Child Left Behind debacle . . . they were clearly right.

Diane Ravitch, in a New York Times op ed piece, skewers the underpinnings of the current law, and the rantings of too many eduwonks: that a combination of sanctions and rewards will improve schools, that the threat of school closings or the softening or elimination of tenure coupled with pay for performance (aka merit pay) will, miraculously, create better teachers and effective schools. More »

If You Only Have Time For One Book on Education . . .

[Editor’s note: teacherken is a high school social studies teacher in the MD suburbs of DC and an active blogger on education and other subjects.]

Recently I had a review of a book “published” (electronically) by a University-sponsored (electronic) publication called Education Review. Edited by Carl Glickman, the book is entitled Letters to the Next President: What We Can Do About the Real Crisis in Public Education (2008 Election Edition). As I hold the copyright to the review, it appears below the fold.

I have already written about this book, especially in Creating Schools We Can Trust, which is the title of the “letter” in the book written by Deborah Meier. I also referred to part of the “letter” Jim Popham wrote in Lessons Learned About Testing – an important document from the National Research Council.

Simply put, this may be the most important book to read in the time of reauthorization of NCLB. And it should be mandatory reading for any politician – or citizen – truly interested in maintaining and improving our public schools.

More »

Closing the Vicious Cycle

[Editor's note: Peter Goodman blogs at Ed in the Apple, where this post originally appeared.]

Seemingly for decades, Jonathan Kozol has been the conscience of public education. For underpaid, frustrated, marginalized teachers, Kozol was that voice in the wilderness – his plaints of dilapidated, under-financed schools resonate with those who ply their trade in the trenches.

His books are standard fare in education courses, teachers flock to his frequent appearances . . . and I fear he is becoming increasingly irrelevant. More »

NCLB – an editorial from a red state paper

[Editor’s note: teacherken is a high school social studies teacher in the MD suburbs of DC and an active blogger on education and other subjects. This post was originally posted at Daily Kos, where it was on the recommended list for much of today.]

If the federal government, in this case represented by the NCLB, wants to improve the school system, it should work on taking kids out of poverty, instead of trashing the schools for failing to bring up all test scores.

Now that probably sounds like the words of some disgruntled teacher, right? Actually, the words are from a signed newspaper editorial. So it is going to be from the heart of an area dominated by liberal, right? Wrong again. The editorial was written by Ken Neal, Senior Editor of the Tulsa World, and was entitled simply Blaming schools and I thank George Wood of the Forum for Education and Democracy for blogging about it recently and ask you to keep reading. More »

A True Education Coalition? Maybe Next Mayor

[Editor’s note: Seth Pearce is a student leader opposed to the cell phone ban in city schools and part of the New York City Student Union.]

The saddest part of Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of the anti-cell-phone-ban bill is not the veto itself (hopefully the City Council will override it) but that Bloomberg is squandering a great opportunity to achieve some semblance of unity in our public school system. More »

The Fight Over School Seats: School Zoning and Siting Decisions Must Be Transparent and Involve Parents and the Public

[Editor’s note: Each morning Edwize posts Teacher News of the Day, a roundup of the day's news for NYC teachers, and a poll asking you what you think the day's top story is. Here's a post by Peter Goodman on yesterday's top story.]

One way to assure a packed auditorium of parents is to announce a meeting on school zoning changes. In the pre-Childrens First days school boards grappled with the issue of one part of a district with crowded schools and another part with underutilized schools. Should school catchment area boundaries be changed, bus kids from one school to another, create unzoned magnet schools, a range of choices, all difficult, that school boards had to confront.

The world has changed. There are no school boards, Community Engagement Councils are powerless and ignored. All zoning decisions are made behind the closed doors at Tweed. The Office off Student Enrollment Operations (OSEPO) make all student placement decisions, currently for high schools and this fall also for middle schools. The Office of New Schools (ONS) “creates” new schools, without a site, and scrambles to locate a site. More »

Students and the Cell Phone Ban

[Editor's note: With the results of this morning's poll, I asked Seth Pearce from the NYC Student Union to blog about the New York City Council's vote to reverse the cellphone ban. Seth is one of the student leaders opposed to the cell phone ban.]

Today, as a student, I would like to applaud the City Council’s decision to let students have their cell phones during the commute to and from school. I am glad that it has become clear to them that for us students, this is not a matter of convenience but a matter of safety.

Plainly, students should not be scared to go to school. Just as our teachers, administrators and School Safety Agents work every day to keep us safe inside, City policy should protect us outside the walls of the school building. A student should not have to be afraid that in the event of an emergency, they will be isolated and imperiled because they were forced to leave their cell phones at home.

Second, I want to point out that this is an issue that has really riled up the students of New York City. This is an issue that, in Spring 2006, brought together over 100 students at LaGuardia High School to say that they would not enter the building in the event of a random scan in which cell phones were confiscated. This is an issue that brought students together from schools in every borough to the New York City Student Union’s first meeting, in September 2006, to say that it is time for students to have a say in the policies written about them.

Most importantly, this is an issue that keeps us students at a distance from our schools and our education.

There has been a lot of talk about how this ban affects the relationship between students and teachers. Some critics have said that a lift of the cell phone ban would pit students against their teachers, turning teachers into police officers. Although it may present a challenge, it is one that thoughtful teachers and school administrators can manage. As the UFT said when it voted to oppose the policy:

In lieu of banning the possession of cell phones outright, each school should develop and enforce a policy prohibiting cell phone use by students in the school building.

Even at the grassroots level, teachers have supported students in their crusade against the cell phone ban. At the aforementioned LaGuardia meeting, a teacher who was present suggested that students place their cell phones on their desks during a test to ensure the integrity of the test.

When students are asked, “What is wrong with the NYC education system today?” many of them will answer, “the cell phone ban.” When faced with a rule that students feel is such a threat to their safety and security, students are likely to direct their fear and anger toward the Department of Education, their schools and sadly, their teachers. This undermines all of the work that the Department of Education is doing to improve our schools.

Thank you, City Council, for voting against this threat to our safety and our education.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.