Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Press spin and distortions on reading scores: the Bee

I don’t know who is writing his material for him, but based upon

Stanley Crouch’s piece “Bush shines on education,” (Sacramento Bee, 1/28/06) it looks to me as if the Bush administration is again paying for promotional editorial pieces.
To make his case he claims,” According to NAEP, between 2003 and 2005 the nation’s fourth-graders posted the best reading and math scores in the test’s history.”

While NAEP data does show a small improvement in math data, here is what they say about their reading data:
In fourth grade:

“fourth-graders’ average score was 1 point higher and eighth-graders’ average score was 1 point lower in 2005 than in 2003. Average scores in 2005 were 2 points higher than in the first assessment year, 1992, at both grades 4 and 8.
Between 1992 and 2005, there was no significant change in the percentage of fourth-graders performing at or above Basic, but the percentage performing at or above Proficient increased during this time.”

The is simply no reason to believe that reading scores are improving because the points scores went up by 2 points.
Only a press agent or a con person would make this claim.

Crouch goes on to credit George Bush’s support for “scientifically ways” of improving reading based upon the work of Dr. Reid Lyon. While Lyon’s work has become the national mandate, this is ideology posing as science.
(For more on this see Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science, by Denny Taylor, 1998) In short it is a fraud.

The so called “scientific approach” which is another name for phonics has been the state adopted and implemented approach in California since 1996. This is how all students are taught.
Lets look at California data on the NAEP:
These are NAEP’s own results:

“In 2005, the average scale score for fourth-grade students in
California was 207. This was not significantly different from1 their
average score in 2003 (206), and was higher than their average
score in 1992 (202).
California's average score (207) in 2005 was lower than that of the
Nation's public schools (217).
Of the 52 states and other jurisdictions2 that participated in the
2005 fourth-grade assessment, students' average scale scores in
California were higher than those in 1 jurisdiction, not significantly
different from those in 6 jurisdictions, and lower than those in 44
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Proficient level was 21 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (21
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (19
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Basic level was 50 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (50
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (48

And, at 8th. grade:

Overall Reading Results for California
In 2005, the average scale score for eighth-grade students in
California was 250. This was not significantly different from1 their
average score in 2003 (251), and was not significantly different
from their average score in 1998 (252).
California's average score (250) in 2005 was lower than that of the
Nation's public schools (260).
Of the 52 states and other jurisdictions2 that participated in the
2005 eighth-grade assessment, students' average scale scores in
California were higher than those in 1 jurisdiction, not significantly
different from those in 5 jurisdictions, and lower than those in 45
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Proficient level was 21 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (22
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1998 (21
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Basic level was 60 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (61
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1998 (63

So, in California, where this ideological approach has been used for almost eight years, there is no significant improvement in reading scores. California continues to rank about 47th. out of the 50 states and two jurisdictions (Washington D.C) . There is no evidence to support the claim of a Bush miracle. And, no evidence to support the claim that
“scientific” based reading has improved achievement.

Crouch does make one correct interpretation of the data. In the most recent tests minority students are improving their scores and “closing “ the achievement gap.
Here again from the NAEP’s own descriptions of the event.

“In 2005, male students in California had an average score that was
lower than that of female students by 10 points. In 1998, the
average score for male students was lower than that of female
students by 6 points.
In 2005, Black students had an average score that was lower than
that of White students by 24 points. In 1998, the average score for
Black students was lower than that of White students by 30 points.
In 2005, Hispanic students had an average score that was lower
than that of White students by 25 points. In 1998, the average
score for Hispanic students was lower than that of White students
by 30 points.
In 2005, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school
lunch, an indicator of poverty, had an average score that was lower
than that of students who were not eligible for free/reduced-price
school lunch by 23 points. This performance gap was narrower
than that of 1998 (32 points).
In 2005, the score gap between students at the 75th percentile and
students at the 25th percentile was 49 points. In 1998, the score
gap between students at the 75th percentile and students at the
25th percentile was 46 points. “

So, Black students lag behind white students by 24 points, but that is 5 points better than in 1998. And Hispanic students score on overage 25 pints lower than whites, but that is a 5 point improvement over 1998. That is, the gap has declined, but these students remain over two years behind in reading. You find the same information on drop outs.
The press agents use this information to claim success, but a 24 point reading gap is a disaster. Recall, these same agents used a 2 point score increase to claim that reading scores were up.

Crouch claims that Lyons has been a leader in reading. He has been a leader in getting good press from George Bush’s admin.
See this article:


Monday, January 30, 2006

When politicos make poorly informed school rules

Los Angeles Times
A Formula for Failure in L.A. Schools
Because they can't pass algebra, thousands of students are denied diplomas. Many try again and again -- but still get Fs.

By Duke Helfand, Times Staff Writer

Each morning, when Gabriela Ocampo looked up at the chalkboard in her ninth-grade algebra class, her spirits sank.

There she saw a mysterious language of polynomials and slope intercepts that looked about as familiar as hieroglyphics.

She knew she would face another day of confusion, another day of pretending to follow along. She could hardly do long division, let alone solve for x.

"I felt like, 'Oh, my God, what am I going to do?' " she recalled.

Gabriela failed that first semester of freshman algebra. She failed again and again — six times in six semesters. And because students in Los Angeles Unified schools must pass algebra to graduate, her hopes for a diploma grew dimmer with each F.

Midway through 12th grade, Gabriela gathered her textbooks, dropped them at the campus book room and, without telling a soul, vanished from Birmingham High School.

Her story might be just a footnote to the Class of 2005 except that hundreds of her classmates, along with thousands of others across the district, also failed algebra.

Of all the obstacles to graduation, algebra was the most daunting.

The course that traditionally distinguished the college-bound from others has denied vast numbers of students a high school diploma.

"It triggers dropouts more than any single subject," said Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer. "I think it is a cumulative failure of our ability to teach math adequately in the public school system."

When the Los Angeles Board of Education approved tougher graduation requirements that went into effect in 2003, the intention was to give kids a better education and groom more graduates for college and high-level jobs. For the first time, students had to pass a year of algebra and a year of geometry or an equivalent class to earn diplomas.

The policy was born of a worthy goal but has proved disastrous for students unprepared to meet the new demands.

In the fall of 2004, 48,000 ninth-graders took beginning algebra; 44% flunked, nearly twice the failure rate as in English. Seventeen percent finished with Ds.

In all, the district that semester handed out Ds and Fs to 29,000 beginning algebra students — enough to fill eight high schools the size of Birmingham.

Among those who repeated the class in the spring, nearly three-quarters flunked again.

The school district could have seen this coming if officials had looked at the huge numbers of high school students failing basic math.

Lawmakers in Sacramento didn't ask questions either. After Los Angeles Unified changed its policy, legislators turned algebra into a statewide graduation requirement, effective in 2004.

Now the Los Angeles school board has raised the bar again. By the time today's second-graders graduate from high school in 2016, most will have to meet the University of California's entry requirements, which will mean passing a third year of advanced math, such as algebra II, and four years of English.

Former board President Jose Huizar introduced this latest round of requirements, which the board approved in a 6-1 vote last June.

Huizar said he was motivated by personal experience: He was a marginal student growing up in Boyle Heights but excelled in high school once a counselor placed him in a demanding curriculum that propelled him to college and a law degree.

"I think there are thousands of kids like me, but we're losing them because we don't give them that opportunity," said Huizar, who left the school board after he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council last fall. "Yes, there will be dropouts. But I'm looking at the glass half full."

Discouragement, Frustration

Birmingham High in Van Nuys, where Gabriela Ocampo struggled to grasp algebra, has a failure rate that's about average for the district. Nearly half the ninth-grade class flunked beginning algebra last year.

In the spring semester alone, more freshmen failed than passed. The tally: 367 Fs and 355 passes, nearly one-third of them Ds.

All those failures and near failures have left a wake of discouraged students and exasperated teachers.

Fifteen-year-old Abraham Lemus, the son of Salvadoran immigrants, finally scraped by with a D after his mother hired a tutor. But he recalls how he failed the first time he took the course. "I was starting to get suicide thoughts in my head, just because of math," he said.

Shane Sauby, who worked as an attorney and stockbroker before becoming a teacher, volunteered to teach the students confronting first-year algebra for a second, third or fourth time. He thought he could reach them.

But, Sauby said, many of his students ignored homework, rarely studied for tests and often skipped class.

"I would look at them and say, 'What is your thinking? If you are coming here, why aren't you doing the work or paying attention or making an effort?' " he said. Many would just stare back.

Sauby, who now teaches in another district, failed as many as 90% of his students.

Like other schools in the nation's second-largest district, Birmingham High deals with failing students by shuttling them back into algebra, often with the same teachers.

Last fall, the school scheduled 17 classes of up to 40 students each for those repeating first-semester algebra.

Educational psychologists say reenrolling such students in algebra decreases their chances of graduating.

"Repeated failure makes kids think they can't do the work. And when they can't do the work, they say, 'I'm out of here,' " said Andrew Porter, director of the Learning Sciences Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The strategy has also failed to provide students with what they need most: a review of basic math.

Teachers complain that they have no time for remediation, that the rapid pace mandated by the district leaves behind students like Tina Norwood, 15, who is failing beginning algebra for the third time.

Tina, who says math has mystified her since she first saw fractions in elementary school, spends class time writing in her journal, chatting with friends or snapping pictures of herself with her cellphone.

Her teacher wasn't surprised when Tina bombed a recent test that asked her, among other things, to graph the equations 4x + y = 9 and 2x -- 3y = -- 6. She left most of the answers blank, writing a desperate message at the top of the page: "Still don't get it, not gonna get it, guess i'm seeing this next year!"

Teachers wage a daily struggle in classes filled with students like Tina.

Her teacher, George Seidel, devoted a class this fall to reviewing equations with a single variable, such as x -- 1 = 36. It's the type of lesson students were supposed to have mastered in fourth grade.

Only seven of 39 students brought their textbooks. Several had no paper or pencils. One sat for the entire period with his backpack on his shoulders, tapping his desk with a finger.

Another doodled an eagle in red ink in his notebook. Others gossiped as Seidel, a second-year teacher, jotted problems on the front board.

"Settle down," Seidel told the fifth-period students a few minutes after the bell rang. "It doesn't work if you guys are trying to talk while I'm trying to talk."

Seidel once brokered multimillion-dollar business deals but left a 25-year law career, hoping to find a more fulfilling job and satisfy an old desire to teach. Nothing, however, prepared him for period five.

"I got through a year of Vietnam," he said, "so I tell myself every day I can get through 53 minutes of fifth period…. I don't know if I am making a difference with a single kid."

Seidel did not appear to make a difference with Gabriela Ocampo. She failed his class in the fall of 2004 — her sixth and final semester of Fs in algebra.

But Gabriela didn't give Seidel much of a chance; she skipped 62 of 93 days that semester.

After dropping out, Gabriela found a $7-an-hour job at a Subway sandwich shop in Encino. She needed little math because the cash register calculated change. But she discovered the cost of not earning a diploma.

"I don't want to be there no more," she said, her eyes watering from raw onions, shortly before she quit to enroll in a training program to become a medical assistant.

Could passing algebra have changed Gabriela's future? Most educators would say yes.

Algebra, they insist, can mean the difference between menial work and high-level careers. High school students can't get into most four-year colleges without it. And the U.S. Department of Education says success in algebra II and other higher-level math is strongly associated with college completion.

Apprenticeship programs for electricians, plumbers and refrigerator technicians require algebra, which is useful in calculating needed amounts of piping and electrical wiring.

"If you want to work in the real world, if you want to wire buildings and plumb buildings, that's when it requires algebra," said Don Davis, executive director of the Electrical Training Institute, which runs apprenticeship programs for union electricians in Los Angeles.

Algebra, with its idiom of equations and variables, is more abstract than the math that comes before it. It uses symbols, usually letters, to represent numbers and sets of symbols to express mathematical relationships.

Educators say algebra offers a practical benefit: Analytical skills and formulas enable people to make sense of the world. Algebra can help a worker calculate income taxes, a baseball fan determine a pitcher's earned-run average and a driver determine a car's gas mileage.

"It's the language of generalization. It's a very powerful problem-solving tool," said Zalman Usiskin, director of the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project.

Rationale for Algebra

Although experts widely agree that algebra sharpens young minds, some object to making it a graduation requirement.

"If you want to believe you're for standards, you're going to make kids take algebra. It has that ring of authenticity," said Robert Balfanz, an associate research scientist with the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "But you're not really thinking through the implications. There may be no good reason why algebra is essential for all high school students."

Compulsory algebra is a relatively new idea in the faddish realm of education reform.

Until recently, high schools offered a range of programs. Students seen as academically able were placed in college-prep classes. Others were funneled into vocational courses in which they learned such skills as auto mechanics and office technology.

It was an imperfect system in which some bright students, particularly minorities, could find themselves trapped in classes that steered them away from higher education.

Then, about a decade ago, the pendulum began to swing as the state decided to raise academic standards for high school graduation.

The concept of algebra for all also was meant to elevate the level of U.S. high school students, whose math performance has long trailed that of peers in other industrialized countries where algebra is introduced at earlier grade levels.

Eager to close this competitive chasm, education and business leaders in California sought to re-engineer the state's approach to math. They produced new math standards they believed would foster a "rising tide of excellence."

This meant teaching algebra earlier, as soon as eighth grade for some students, even if instructors questioned whether younger students could handle abstract concepts.

"We didn't regard any of this as extreme," Stanford University mathematician James Milgram said recently, defending the 1997 math standards he helped write. "We need competent people in this country. We're on our way to [becoming] a second-rate economic power."

Legislators joined the charge in 1999, creating a high school exit exam with algebra questions, which takes effect this spring. They then enacted the law requiring algebra for graduation, starting with the Class of 2004, to prepare students for the exam.

To its staunchest advocate in the Legislature, algebra stood for higher expectations and new opportunities.

"We have a problem with a high dropout rate. You don't address it by making it easier to get through and have the meaning of the diploma diluted," said state Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno), who wrote the algebra graduation law. "It should be a call to action … not to lower standards but to find ways to inspire. Our future depends on it."

'I Give Up'

Whether requiring all students to pass algebra is a good idea or not, two things are clear: Schools have not been equipped to teach it, and students have not been equipped to learn it.

Secondary schools have had to rapidly expand algebra classes despite a shortage of credentialed math teachers.

The Center for the Future of Teaching & Learning in Santa Cruz found that more than 40% of eighth-grade algebra teachers in California lack a math credential or are teaching outside their field of expertise; more than 20% of high school math teachers are similarly unprepared.

Recruitment programs and summer math institutes for teachers have been scaled back or eliminated because of budget cuts.

"It's a real collision of circumstance, and students are now having … to bear the brunt of public policy gone awry," said Margaret Gaston, executive director of the Santa Cruz research center.

High school math instructors, meanwhile, face crowded classes of 40 or more students — some of whom do not know their multiplication tables or how to add fractions or convert percentages into decimals.

Birmingham teacher Steve Kofahl said many students don't understand that X can be an abstract variable in an equation and not just a letter of the alphabet.

Birmingham math coach Kathy De Soto said she was surprised to find something else: students who still count on their fingers.

High school teachers blame middle schools for churning out ill-prepared students. The middle schools blame the elementary schools, where teachers are expected to have a command of all subjects but sometimes are shaky in math themselves.

At Cal State Northridge, the largest supplier of new teachers to Los Angeles Unified, 35% of future elementary school instructors earned Ds or Fs in their first college-level math class last year.

Some of these students had already taken remedial classes that reviewed high school algebra and geometry.

"I give up. I'm not good at math," said sophomore Alexa Ganz, 19, who received a D in math last semester even after taking two remedial courses. "I think I've been more confused this semester than helped."

Ganz, who wants to teach third grade, thinks the required math courses are overkill. "I guarantee I won't need to know all this," she said, perhaps not realizing that if she were to teach in a public school, she could be bumped as a newcomer to upper grade levels that demand greater math knowledge.

Administrators in L.A. Unified say they are trying to reverse the alarming failure rates of high school students by changing the way math is taught, starting in elementary schools.

The new approach stresses conceptual lessons rather than rote memorization, a change that some instructors think is wrong. New math coaches also are training teachers and coordinating lesson plans at many schools.

The simplest algebraic concepts are now taught — or are supposed to be taught — beginning in kindergarten.

These changes appear to be paying off, at least in elementary grades. L.A. Unified's elementary-level math scores have risen sharply over the last five years, although middle schools and high schools have yet to show significant progress.

Searching for a solution in its secondary schools, L.A. Unified is investing millions of dollars in new computer programs that teach pre-algebra, algebra and other skills.

Officials are considering other costly changes, including reducing the size of algebra classes to 25, launching algebra readiness classes for lagging eighth-graders and creating summer programs for students needing a kick-start before middle school or high school.

Some schools have taken matters into their own hands.

Cleveland High, four miles from Birmingham, places ninth- and 10th-graders who get a D or F in algebra into semester-long classes that focus on sixth- and seventh-grade material and pre-algebra. Students then return to standard algebra classes.

Eighteen percent of Cleveland's 10th-graders were proficient in algebra on state tests last spring, compared with 8% at Birmingham and 3% districtwide.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sacramento Bee Journalism

From Dan Weintraub's web log.
Gary Delsohn, who has been covering the governor for the Bee's Capitol Bureau, is quitting to go to work for Schwarzenegger, as a speechwriter.

No comment needed.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Weintraub actually makes a good proposal on schools

A modest proposal
It hasn't received a huge amount of attention since no one is screaming about it, but the increase in education spending in the governor's budget proposal comes to a cool $600 per student in K-12, or an 8 percent increase over the current year. I offer a modest proposal here for how that money might be best spent.

I say we give half of it to the districts to cover general cost increases and give the rest to the teachers to decide how to spend. Really. Why not authorize each classroom teacher to spend $300 per student more in whatever way they think would best improve the education of those children? Even better, I'd take that money and give it all to the teachers who are teaching kids in the bottom half of the socioeconomic spectrum, where the achievement gap is the largest. Since half of the total increase would be going to half the kids, that would bump the amount back up to $600 for each of those kids.

If we did that, a teacher with 30 such kids in say, inner city Los Angeles, would get a chit worth $18,000. I say let them decide how to spend it. They could hire a fully credentialed teacher to work in their classroom for half the day doing small groups and one-on-ones with the toughest kids. Or they could hire a couple of aides to help out. Or they could hire someone to do intensive after-school tutoring. Or they could use it for the finest supplies, new computers, better books. You name it. I'd even be willing to let the teachers pocket some or all of the money as a salary bonus for working with tough-to-teach kids. My only rule would be they would have to write a report detailing how they spent the money and post it it on their classroom door for all the parents to see.

Does anybody doubt that this would be more effective than what the governor is proposing to do, which is give about two-thirds of the money in a general cost-of-living increase and divvy up the rest among targeted initiatives like his after-school program, teacher recruitment and training, arts and music programs and physical education?

After we empower the teachers, my next step would be to audit the results and find out whose decisions brought the greatest gain in achievement. Then publish a list of best practices for teachers to consider the following year.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:31 AM
this blog has often enough criticized Weintraub for (like politicians) being out of touch with teachers. We should recognize when he actually makes a reasonable proposal, or as he calls it, a modest proposal.

Friday, January 13, 2006

NEA on NCLB: Not much to celebrate

Not Much To Celebrate on Fourth Anniversary of 'No Child Left Behind'
NEA President Reg Weaver Evaluates Bush Administration's Education Policy
WASHINGTON -- National Education Association (NEA) President Reg Weaver issued the following statement on the fourth anniversary of the so-called No Child Left Behind's adoption:

"Four years of President Bush's signature education policy is sufficient to weigh facts, examine data and understand this so-called 'No Child Left Behind' (NCLB) Act through the experiences of millions of education professionals across America. If we distill these into one observation, it is that the anniversary marks four years of winning rhetoric and failing substance. From its inception, NCLB has been overemphasized, under funded and sugarcoated at the expense of public school children.

"New data illustrates our conclusion. It shows that more schools failed to achieve 'adequate yearly progress' (AYP) under NCLB in 2005-06 than ever before. Schools that earned high ranks, honors and distinctions for achievement and improvement under their own states' models of standards and accountability failed under the Administration's federal mandate, which leaves those schools, their students, their parents and instructors discouraged, not empowered. In remarks earlier this week in Maryland, President Bush finally agreed with NEA in declaring that 'one size doesn't fit all.'

"If Congress previously has accepted none of the blame for this policy of artificial inadequacy, it cannot avoid it now. In the final hours before its December recess, Congress adopted cuts of more than $1 billion to NCLB, sentencing even more of America's schools to failure on the fast track in 2005-06. The choice represented the most blatant disregard for the futures of the nation's children to date by our leaders.

"While many members of Congress have praised the so-called No Child Left Behind Act in their stump speeches, they clearly have little regard for it in this budget. When it came time to match money with rhetoric, Congress voted to cut funding in support of NCLB by $1 billion, which brings funding below the level provided THREE years ago.

"NEA has sought to fix and fund the policy, issuing recommendations to aid the Administration in eliminating statutory flaws and establishing legislative funding priorities, all for the sake of America's children for four years now. Our data-driven recommendations remain on the table while public school children across the nation fall farther behind. NEA has joined with 66 other national organizations in calling for 14 specific improvements to the law. We strongly encourage others to look at the facts and tell Congress that our children need more than rhetoric."

Data illustrating state-by-state federal funding losses due to recent budget cuts, AYP failures under NCLB, and the joint statement from the 67 groups may be found at www.nea.org.

Jan. 11, 2006

# # #

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Teachers needed to improve schools

Bring teachers to the table
By S. Paul Reville | January 3, 2006

WHEN MASSACHUSETTS adopted the Education Reform Act of 1993, the state committed to creating a rigorous system of standards, assessments, and accountability. The accountability function was intended to identify performance problems, provide assistance, and ultimately sanction poor performance if it could be remedied with help. The state is now considering what the ''help" should be. Which approaches to turning around school performance are most successful? Which are practical and affordable?

As the volume of schools identified as ''in need of improvement" ratchets upward under the idealistic assumptions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the urgency for the state to act intensifies. It is morally and educationally unsound for authorities publicly to label poor performance without a plan and the capacity to intervene.

Intervention planning is challenging work. There is little evidence of dramatically successful ''turnaround" strategies anywhere in the country. Policy makers in virtually every state are grappling with the question of what to do with their failing schools. Research evidence is limited. State takeovers have not been successful, except on financial matters. Most state departments of education, as is the case in Massachusetts, have limited capacity, personnel, and expertise to address the complex issues of school performance.

Naturally, the policy discussion migrates away from state bureaucracies. In Massachusetts, conversations on interventions and poor performance have focused on management prerogatives, turnaround partners, and chartering or privatizing failed schools. These strategies, like many others, have little or no research evidence to support their effectiveness.

Conspicuously absent in the debate on intervention has been the role and voices of teachers and teacher unions, arguably the front line troops in any ''turnaround" strategy. There seems to be a belief in some policy circles that school improvement can be accomplished in spite of teachers rather than with them.

Some of the assumptions embedded in the prominent strategies, management prerogatives, turnaround partners, chartering, and privatization imply that teachers are the problem rather than part of the solution, that the source of expertise on fixing school problems is external rather than internal or that current leadership is highly competent. Although each of these assumptions is sometimes true, none is always or typically correct.

Teachers and, certainly, unions don't have all the answers either. They are also sometimes the source of problems, but it is folly to shape school intervention and turnaround plans without extensively consulting teachers on policies and practices.

A common flaw of educational policies is that they take a ''one size fits all" approach to solving problems or meeting challenges. Not all failing schools fail for the same reasons. Therefore, not all successful school interventions will look alike. Our intervention policies will need to take into account the substantial variation in context: communities, leadership, curriculum and teaching, resources, students, demographics, mobility and a host of other factors. Our intervention policies will need to be strong but flexible and responsive to local circumstances. Above all, we will need policies and practices that those charged with implementing see as worthwhile and likely to succeed.

However, it's not just some policy makers' neglect or management bias that keeps unions from the intervention policy table. Union leaders are sometimes ambivalent about participating in solving the problems of the accountability system for fear of being seen as collaborators with a system of assessment and accountability which some of their members still actively reject. However, enlightened leaders across the country increasingly see that, however flawed, the system of accountability is here to stay and teachers have a vital role to play in improving that system. These leaders know that unions need to be at the table.

In addition to including teachers in policy formulation, we would do well to craft state intervention policies that increase the capacity of the state Department of Education to provide real assistance and tools, like formative assessment data, leadership training, extra time, and professional development, to our most challenged schools and districts. We should also view our policy efforts as experimental. We don't have much evidence to support any of the most prominently mentioned strategies, but this doesn't absolve the state of the obligation to get involved in helping educators improve teaching and learning in the Commonwealth's most challenged schools.

S. Paul Reville is president of the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy and a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wientraub knows what is best for schools

The Bee's pundit who has an expertise on everything has this to say.

"January 06, 2006
Standing firm
Good for school Supt. Jack O'Connell, who announced today that he is standing by the state's high school exit exam, requiring students in the class of 2006 to pass the test in order to receive a diploma. O'Connell, a Democrat, came under intense pressure from his usual friends and allies who wanted him to water down the requirement. But he did the right thing and stood firm. Independent studies have documented that the exit exam is a fair and reasonable requirement. More important, it's been shown that the exam has motivated the schools to do much more to reach out, assist, and tutor students who are at risk of failing. In the past, those students were shuffled along and given a meaningless diploma, then shoved out into a world in which they were unprepared to work or compete. Now they are getting help. O'Connell recognizes this. And he has the guts to say so, even to people who don't want to hear it."

See the earlier postings on exit testing.
There are posted here many experts on testing and many teachers. Or, you can line up with the pundits.
"Independent studies" which studies? Look at the review of the research by the ASU Archives. No positive efffect effect for testing.
Look at the research by Mc Niel & Valenzuela in Texas. No positive effect.
But, those who do not work in school are certain that testing will improve schools. They do not see the results of their programs.
The last three decades have witnessed the development of corporate dominated school reform. It leads to high school exit exams. It does not work.
See Jean Anyon, Radical Possibilities: (2005)
Also see below how media opinions are purchased.
Duane Campbell

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Governor may propose new money for public schools

Schools in line for more aid

Governor tries to mend rift with education advocates.

By Clea Benson -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PST Wednesday, January 4, 2006

In a conciliatory gesture, the Schwarzenegger administration said Tuesday the governor wants to begin paying back state funds that education advocates say he promised to schools but never delivered.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the first time Tuesday also offered some detail about the schools piece of a proposed bond package he plans to unveil in his State of the State speech Thursday.

"Our bond that we propose will have money for building more schools, thousands of more schools, 40-some-thousand more classrooms, modernizing 140,000 other classrooms and so on," he told reporters while he visited a Sacramento River levee that had been eroded by recent storms. "So we really want to move aggressively forward to make sure we do everything we can for education."

Education Secretary Alan Bersin said the governor's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will address the rift that developed last year when schools advocates said the state improperly withheld billions of dollars guaranteed to schools under the terms of Proposition 98, the state law setting minimum levels of school funding.

The proposed budget will include an additional $1.67 billion to pay back about a third of the money education advocates say is owed, Bersin said.

Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for education will include $54.3 billion for kindergarten through community colleges, an overall increase of $4.3 billion over the current year's budget, Bersin said. The Republican governor is scheduled to present his complete budget Tuesday.

Education leaders believe the state owes schools $4 billion more than the governor is planning to propose, but they said they were treating his position as a positive opening move in budget negotiations.

"It's a start," said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association.

"It's better than where we were last year at this time."

That reaction contrasted starkly with the anger education leaders expressed last year after learning schools would be getting billions less than they expected.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Weintraub again

In his blog for today the Bee's Dan Weintraub says:

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

December 30, 2005

Higher ed subsidies
The president of Miami University of Ohio shares my take on the inefficiency of higher ed subsidies and has a radical solution to address it.

I encourage you to read this post. While commenting on tuition rates the central arguement is for substantial privatization of public universities.

What Should We Teach the Children?

“First, the educational reforms of the (current) era, back to basics, the pursuit of excellence, the revival of history were driven by educational, political, and economic forces outside of education. This was largely a response to a manufactured crisis, based upon faulty thesis and flawed assumptions, driven by those in power and in control of considerable financial resources from both governmental and private sources. New Right and neo conservative reformers were well organized, highly motivated, visible, articulate, and well funded. In part, the political trends culminating in the conservative restoration originated in the reaction to the perceived excesses of reforms of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Second, the conservative restoration was built upon pervasive myths about American schooling and the creation of a mythical golden age. “ P. 171.
The Social Studies Wars: What Should we teach the children? Ronald W. Evans.
2004. Teachers College Press.
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