Wednesday, November 28, 2007

weeklong NCLB debate between Richard Rothstein and Russlynn Ali at the LA Times:

Weeklong NCLB Debate
Check out the weeklong NCLB debate between Richard Rothstein and Russlynn Ali at the LA Times:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Racial ideology and education

Schools teach ideas. Systems of ideas are called ideologies. Teachers in their teaching decisions model either an ideology of racism or pluralism, an ideology of equality or inequality. The dominant ideology in our society supports the present social structure and the resulting stratification of opportunity. Most present school curricula reinforce ideas that legitimize the present distribution of power, money, and privilege. Because present U.S. society is stratified by race, gender, and class, schools tend to legitimize the present racial divisions as normal and natural, even logical and scientific (Feagin, 2000). Power and money—not logic, not science—determine that some students receive a quality education and others a poor education. Multicultural education is a school reform process that challenges the continuing domination of this inherited privilege.
Multicultural education offers an alternative worldview, an alternative ideology. It argues that schools, along with church and family, are potential sources of knowledge and thus sources of power in a democratic society. Schools should promote the growth and extension of democracy rather than sustain the current inequalities of opportunity. Advocates of multicultural education emphasize the values inherent and unique to democratic societies: citizenship participation, empowerment, liberty, and equality of opportunity. We recognize that developing a democratic worldview of mutual respect and shared opportunity is difficult in a society divided by race and class. Yet, we are hopeful. The school system is one of the few vehicles we presently have that permit us to work toward mutual respect and cooperation, as well as political, economic, social, and cultural democracy.
Our once resource-based economy is evolving into a knowledge-based economy increasingly dependent on international trade (and therefore rewarding bilingualism). Knowledge of diverse cultures has ever-increasing financial value. As economic changes accelerate, people who have knowledge will gain financial and political power. Children who acquire knowledge and skills, such as access to computer technology, in school will get ahead. Children who suffer in low-quality schools, have little access to technology, and receive a low-quality education will suffer persistent underemployment and limited economic opportunities.
The European American ideological bias, or Eurocentrism, in present curricula maintains inappropriate privileges for European American children significantly by avoiding issues of race in the public school curriculum. Children from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds deserve to see themselves and their families represented in the curriculum in order to see schooling as a path toward a prosperous future. Many young African American and Latino students experience failure and frustration in school; they fall behind in basic study skills. Omission from the curriculum and consistent school failure can lead to an erosion of students’ self-esteem. Thus, a cycle of failure begins. The persistent academic failure of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans leads some of these students to conclude that schools are negative, intrusive institutions rather than gateways out of poverty and discrimination.
As economic crises in urban areas continue to cause specific neighborhoods to decline and schools to deteriorate, some students turn to resistance. They respond to school failure with open hostility. Some Black, Latino, and alienated White youth have developed cultures and identities of resistance to school authority, rebelling against the school’s negative treatment. At times resistance is necessary and positive, such as in the development of a Chicano identity distinct from a Mexican identity. Unfortunately, with little adult support and guidance, many of these young people are choosing destructive forms of identity, such as gangs, violence, and drugs. Schools become war zones. Gangs and youth culture make instruction difficult in some urban schools, depriving even dedicated students of their future economic opportunities.
Each individual and family experience school domination or empowerment in their own manner. The ethnic and racial experiences of African Americans are substantially different from those of Latinos and Latinas. The experiences of racial minorities such as African Americans, Chicanos, and Puerto Ricans can be significantly different from the experiences of immigrant minorities from Latin America or Asia, such as the Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese (Almaguer, 1994; Feagin, 2000).
As a consequence of the increasing hostility, divisiveness, and racial conflict in our society, schools, when social justice and nonviolence are not promoted, can become cauldrons of individual and intergroup conflict. Figure 3.6 illustrates the complex interrelationships among race, class, gender, culture, and personal histories.
The struggle against racism and for multicultural education calls on teachers and schools to participate in the painful creation of a new, more democratic, society. Democratic teachers seek to claim the promise of the American dream of equal opportunity for all. In part, the struggle calls for a change in worldview. The view of cultural democracy and pluralism presented in this chapter replaces stereotypes of racial ideology and challenges Eurocentric views of history.
The United States is and has been an immigrant and pluralistic society. The current struggle for multicultural education is one more step in the 200-year-old effort to build a more democratic society. Multicultural education poses this challenge: Will teachers and schools recognize that we are a pluralistic, multilingual society in curriculum, testing, ability grouping, and hiring? Will teachers choose to empower children from all communities and races, and both sexes? Or will schools continue to deliver knowledge, power, and privilege primarily to members of the European American majority culture at the expense of students from other cultures?
When students study the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, they learn a worldview that includes a commitment to democratic opportunity. They are taught an ideology of the “American creed.” Multicultural education insists that schools serve as an arena where we achieve the promises of the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self evident, That all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… .
Throughout the nation’s history, citizens have faced conflicts between our ideals and our national reality. Important battles have been won, such as the fight to end slavery and the campaign to recognize women’s right to vote. Some of the battles have been lost, such as the survival of several diverse Native American nations. But the struggle to create a democratic society continues, and the manner in which we instruct our young people is crucial to that struggle.
Achieving political change toward democracy has been a difficult process. After the advances made by the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s and 1970s, including an emphasis on more equal educational opportunity and the development of multicultural education, the end of the Civil Rights Era brought attacks on these advances in the 1980s and 1990s. As conservatives gained national, state, and local political power by electing governors, legislators, and presidents, they began to advance their social agenda, which includes a particular view of history and schooling.
An ideology of conservative educational “reform” dominated public discussion since 1982, emphasizing excellence for a few students and pushing aside discussions of equality . Public support for funding education to advance equal opportunity declined. Budgets for vocational and career education were dramatically reduced. School segregation returned to many cities. Public education itself came under attack from the political right.
The victory of George W. Bush in the disputed election of 2000 brought educational conservatives back to power. The powerful reform strategies of standards and accountability included in the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind law of 2001, and originally favored by politicians in both political parties significantly marginalize efforts at multicultural curriculum reform .

The current efforts of multicultural school reform challenge conservatives’ hegemony of ideas and power.
From: Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education.
D Campbell

Monday, November 26, 2007

High Schools for Equity: A Progressive Education Agenda

By Susan Sandler

Do you feel that enough attention is paid to racial justice in schools? Is education policy in touch with communities of color?

With so many inequities and problems in our school system, it is difficult to cut through to the policies that are most strategic to transforming the learning experience for students of color.

Justice Matters and Linda Darling-Hammond and Diane Friedlaender of the School Redesign Network at Stanford University have released a new study, and accompanying report card, that get to the heart of this issue. High Schools for Equity: Policy Supports for Student Learning in Communities of Color seeks to answer fundamental questions about how education policy can best bring about racially just schools.

High Schools for Equity starts by looking at five California high schools that are giving low-income students of color the kind of education they deserve. These schools interrupt the status quo by providing learning experiences for students of color that are intellectually rigorous, responsive to their cultures, and relevant to their lives, communities, and specific learning needs. These schools connect learning to students’ interests, passions, and concerns.

For example, June Jordan School for Equity in San Francisco offers a course that focuses on the literature surrounding immigration to the United States where students explore questions such as “When do immigrants choose to assimilate? When do they reject conforming to American standards?” Such courses combine college-prep level thinking and skills with content that addresses questions that students and their families confront on a daily basis.

It was important that the study selected schools that took a wide range of factors into account rather than just choosing schools by test scores alone. Test scores are not necessarily connected to the high quality learning experiences that students of color deserve.

After selecting the schools, the study then identifies the policies that are most important to enabling all schools to provide the education that students received in these exemplary schools. Researchers asked what supports were provided by the district and the state that enabled these schools to carry out their work. What aspects of the policy environment were obstacles that the schools had to overcome in order to carry out exemplary practices? What policies are needed to move from a tiny number of isolated schools who are doing good work in spite of the system, to having all schools do such work in part because of the school system?

The resulting findings lay out a policy agenda that can not only move us away from the deep problems in today’s schools, but that also moves us toward a system that is centered on a vision of what learning should be like for students of color and all students. Rather than tackling each isolated problem in our school system in a piecemeal fashion, this policy agenda lays out a coherent set of policies that are most important for getting us to the schools that we ultimately want to have.

Justice Matters has also created a vehicle for bringing the ideas from the High Schools for Equity study into current public discussions on California education policy. Governor Schwarzenegger has named 2008 the “Year of Education.” A clear opportunity for big change has been spotlighted in California education policy, and in response, policy makers, committees, and organizations will be issuing policy agendas. Justice Matters has translated the ideas and lessons from High Schools for Equity into a report card framework for grading these policy agendas.

It is important that policy makers be held accountable for how their actions help or hurt students of color. “>The Racial Justice Report Card does this. It also brings important ideas into the discussion that are often left out. Mainstream education policy is often disconnected from an understanding of what strong learning experiences for students of color really look like.

Last Wednesday, we gave our first grade using the report card. We gave a C- to Superintendent O’Connell’s draft recommendations for closing racial gaps in education. We plan to issue a grade for the forthcoming recommendations of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence, as well as other proposed policy agendas.

The ideas behind the Racial Justice Report Card grew out of what is happening in schools that are doing right by students of color, and they keep policy connected to how it affects on-the-ground learning experiences.

The report card and the study are two steps in our long-term plan to make education policy focus on racial justice and get connected to the on-the-ground learning experiences of students of color, which we believe is at the center of a better education for all students in California.

Susan Sandler is President of Justice Matters, a San Francisco-based organization that works for racially just schools by developing and promoting education policy rooted in community vision. Justice Matters conducts research, develops policy ideas, and carries out public education activities and campaigns for policy change.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Barack Obama on Education

Posted on Wed, Nov. 21, 2007
Obama unveils plan for schools
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama praised South Carolina on Tuesday for its high education standards but said more resources are needed to truly improve schools.

Part of the fix would be an $18 billion-per-year early childhood and K-12 education plan Obama rolled out Tuesday. Funding would come from cuts in other federal programs.

“South Carolina should be proud that they’ve set high standards,” Obama said in a news conference with S.C. media Tuesday. “They’ve set standards as high as almost anywhere in the country ... (but) you have to make sure you’re following through with the resources.”

Highlights of Obama’s plan include:

• Reforming the No Child Left Behind Act by making standardized tests just one of several tools used to assess students’ and schools’ performance

• Investing heavily in programs for children from birth to 5 years old by increasing Early Head Start funding and offering incentives to states to provide proven early education programs

• Creating a teacher career ladder including a mentoring program. Veteran teachers would be financially compensated for mentoring teachers with less experience. Also, teachers could be financially rewarded for becoming nationally board certified or learning additional skills.

This early childhood and K-12 plan would tie into a post-high school program that includes $4,000 refundable tax credits for students who attend public colleges.

“Barack and I just paid off our student loans,” said Michelle Obama, Barack Obama’s wife, to a crowd Tuesday at Dreher High School in Columbia.

The loans were paid off thanks to Barack Obama’s two best-selling novels, she said, noting that too many families don’t have such an option and the country’s education system must be changed.

Dreher High School student Jean Smith, 17, who plans to be a teacher, said she hopes to be able to vote for Obama next November and likes his plan to provide scholarships to college students who agree to teach in a high-needs school for at least four years.

“That’s actually the type of teaching I want to do,” Smith said. “I want to teach where it’ll make a difference.”

Monday, November 19, 2007

Achievement Gap Summit: more limits

The California Department of Education and Superintendent Jack O’Connell organized a Achievement Gap Summit in Sacramento on November 13 and 14, drawing over 4000 educators and policy advocates for a two day conference. The presentations began with some basic facts; California student achievement is among the lowest in the nation and it is not improving. The California drop out rate is horrible. Any reasonable look at the evidence reveals this.
For over a decade, California and the nation have used one strategy for school reform; standards and test based accountability. The evidence is in. There has been little or no progress on reading scores and only limited progress in math. The summit focused on the gap in scores between White students, Black students and Latino students.
Here is a part of the problem. This summit was plush with consultants and policy advocates and very light on teachers as presenters and people who do the work in schools. You can not reform schools without bringing teachers along in the reform. Teachers make up the largest resource in the school. California has 14 years of standards based reform and 14 years of test based reform.
Remember the definition of insanity:
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That is not to say that the $1 million expense was wasted. There were some definite positives. A a wide variety of educational professionals recognize the crisis of public schools in California. The CDE provided a diverse group of presenters, so teachers and others looking for solutions were often able to find worthwhile presentations. There was recognition of some of the basic needs to resolve the achievement gap; multicultural education, language support for English language learners, and the approaches now termed culturally appropriate or culturally responsive pedagogy.
There were also some of the chronic problems revealed. If you want to improve the schools you really are going to have to spend some real money. California ranks about 37 in per pupil expenditures, and about 47 in reading. School reform will cost money. The governor and the legislature continue to avoid this reality. Although a real start was made last year in Quality Education Investment Act sponsored by CTA , the current budget situation for next year makes getting desperately needed funds to urban failing schools unlikely. Richard Rothstein spoke to the resources failure in schools. Lack of resources is a political failure.
A second problem dominant at the summit was the large number of policy advocates who each have an answer without first defining what is the problem. There are a number of salesmen of ideas, consulting services, testing packages, and curriculum packages, with little or no comprehension of the working realities of teachers.
It was more than a little interesting to hear that Superintendent O’Connell and his staff are taking a seminar on race and privilege from featured speaker Glenn Singleton. That may be beneficial. Certainly a major part of the problem lies with leadership – or lack of leadership- from elected and appointed officials.
One of the puzzling issues; policy advocates and conferences frequently debate whether the school issues are issues of race or class. What a strange debate.
They are – of course- both race and class.

Teachers, particularly new teachers in difficult schools, need support in creating a positive productive classroom environment. This requires resources, time, support networks, and sufficient counselors in the schools. (California ranks 49 out of the 50 states in counselors per student) And, they need coaches who are successful teachers and experts in helping kids such as English Language learners. New teachers have few of these. Instead they enter a failing system, try to do well, get frustrated, fail more, and become less effective and more defensive. Teachers need a positive work environment to produce a positive learning environment for kids. Few teachers in urban schools have a positive work environment.
The Achievement Gap Summit has spurred some blog commentary on the problems of the schools. The letters to the Sacramento Bee were mostly people responding with their solutions to the school crisis without listening to the problems.
I have a solution, now where is the problem? It is interesting how many people who do not work in schools know precisely what is needed to improve them; or you just need high expectations, or phonics, or English immersion, and on and on. I wish that these folks would go work in a school for a couple of weeks.
I am certainly pleased that the Superintendent hosted the event and that I attended. Now comes the hard part. Making something positive happen for kids in schools. I have written an entire book on this; Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. ( Merrill/Prentice Hall. 2004)
Duane Campbell

Friday, November 16, 2007

Achievement Gap Summit ; limits

The Achievement Gap Summit has spurred some media commentary on the problems of the schools. The letters to the Sacramento Bee were mostly people responding with their solutions without listening to the problems. This was a pattern at the summit also.
I have a solution, now where is the problem.
I attended the event and went to a number of presentations.
In a Morning Report on Capitol Public Radio this morning I heard Jack O’Connel say that perhaps the first step forward might be racial sensitivity training for all California teachers. This is another example of applying the solution without knowing what is the problem.
Perhaps for the hundreds of superintendents and associate superintendents and principals, racial sensitivity training would help. They need to learn to pay attention to the real problems.
However, for teachers, this is poor direction. California teachers since at least the early 1990’s have taken one or more courses in multicultural education and one or more courses in assisting English Language learners. Of course the quality of the courses varied. I have taught these and other courses.
A basic truth is future teachers want to do well, they want to teach kids and be successful. And then the data on NAEP, state tests, etc. show an achievement gap.
As pointed out by Russylnn Ali at the conference, most California kids do poorly. We rank at the bottom of the states in reading and near the bottom in math. This data was widely shared at the conference and accepted by almost all. It is up on the web sites of the conference.
Teachers, particularly new teachers, need a support in creating a positive productive classroom environment. This requires resources, time, support networks, and sufficient counselors in the schools. And, they need coaches who are successful teachers and experts in helping kids such as English Language learners. New teachers have non of these. Instead they enter a failing system, try to do well, get frustrated, fail more, and become less effective and more defensive. Richard Rothstein spoke to the resources failure. Lack of resources is a political failure. Sensitivity training for teachers will not resolve any of these issues.
Next post: some limits to the white privilege argument.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Accountability tests, and NCLB, fundamentally flawed

Published Online: November 13, 2007
Published in Print: November 14, 2007
Accountability Tests’ Instructional Insensitivity: The Time Bomb Ticketh
By W. James Popham

Would you ever want your temperature to be taken with a thermometer that was unaffected by heat? Of course not; that would be dumb. Or would you ever want to weigh yourself with bathroom scales that weren’t influenced by the weight of the person using them? Of course not again; that would be equally dumb. But today’s educators are allowing their instructional success to be judged by students’ scores on accountability tests that are essentially incapable of distinguishing between effective and ineffective instruction. Talk about dumb.
What’s worse is that we are now racing toward the 2014 deadline of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the point at which all students are supposed to have attained test-based “proficiency.” But the 2002-2014 schedules that most states devised when establishing their goals for annual required numbers of proficient students will soon demand some staggering increases in how many students must earn proficient scores on state NCLB tests each year. These balloon-payment improvement schedules were, in most instances, adopted as a way of deferring the pain stemming from having too many state schools and districts flop in reaching their goals for adequate yearly progress, or AYP.
Such cunningly crafted, soft-to-start improvement schedules will lead in a very few years to altogether unrealistic requirements for improved test scores. Without such improvements, huge numbers of U.S. schools and districts will be seen as AYP failures. If the American public is skeptical now about the quality of public schools, how do you think citizens will react when, in the next several years, test-based AYP failure becomes the rule rather than the exception? Can you hear the ticking of this nontrivial time bomb?
How could American educators let themselves get into a situation in which the tests being used to evaluate their instruction are unable to distinguish between effective and ineffective teaching? The answer, though simple, is nonetheless disquieting. Most American educators simply don’t know that their state’s NCLB tests are instructionally insensitive. Educators, and the public in general, assume that because such tests are “achievement tests,” they accurately measure how much students have learned in schools. That’s just not true.
Two types of accountability tests are currently being used to satisfy the No Child Left Behind law’s assessment requirements. About half of the nation’s NCLB tests consist of traditional, off-the-shelf, standardized achievement tests, usually supplemented by a sprinkling of new items, so that the slightly expanded tests will supposedly be better aligned with a particular state’s content standards. Other NCLB tests are made-from-scratch, customized standards-based accountability tests, built specifically for a given state. Let’s see, briefly, why both these types of tests are instructionally insensitive.
Traditional standardized achievement tests, such as the Stanford Achievement Test-10th Edition, are intended to provide comparative information about test-takers. So the performance of a student who scores at, for instance, the 96th percentile can be contrasted with that of students who score at lower percentiles. To accomplish this comparative-measurement mission, these tests must produce a substantial degree of “score spread,” so there are ample numbers of high scores, middle scores, and low scores. Most items on such tests are of middle-difficulty levels because such items, statistically, maximize score spread.
Over the years, however, many of these middle-difficulty items turn out to be closely linked to students’ socioeconomic status. More-affluent kids tend to answer these socioeconomically linked items correctly, while less-affluent kids tend to miss them. This occurs because socioeconomic status, or SES, is a nicely distributed variable, and one that doesn’t change rapidly; SES-linked items help generate the score spread required by traditional standardized achievement tests. When such tests are used as accountability assessments, however, they tend to measure the socioeconomic composition of a school’s student body, rather than the effectiveness with which those students have been taught. The more SES-linked items there are on a traditional standardized achievement test, the more instructionally insensitive that test is bound to be.
How could American educators let themselves get into a situation in which the tests being used to evaluate their instruction are unable to distinguish between effective and ineffective teaching?
The other type of NCLB accountability test used in the United States is usually described as a “standards-based test,” because such tests are deliberately built to assess students’ mastery of a given state’s content standards, that is, its curricular aims. In all but a few states, though, the number of content standards to be assessed is so large that there is no way to accurately assess—via an annual accountability test—students’ mastery of this immense array of skills and knowledge. Instead, each year’s accountability test must sample from the profusion of the state’s curricular aims. Such a sampling-based approach to annual assessment means that teachers end up guessing about which curricular aims will be assessed each year. And, given the huge numbers of potentially assessable curricular targets, most teachers guess wrong.
After a few years of incorrect guessing, many teachers simply give up on trying to mesh their teaching with what’s to be assessed on each year’s accountability tests. And when this happens, it turns out that the major determinant of how well a school’s students perform on accountability tests is the very same factor that governed students’ performances on traditional standardized achievement tests: socioeconomic status. Thus, even on customized standards-based tests, a school’s scores are influenced less by what students are taught than by what the students brought to that school. Most standards-based accountability tests are every bit as instructionally insensitive as traditional standardized achievement tests.
The instructional insensitivity of accountability tests does not represent an insuperable problem, however. Remember when, several decades ago, we began to recognize that there was considerable test bias in our high-stakes educational assessments? Once this difficulty had been identified, it was attacked with both empirical and judgmental bias-detection procedures. As a consequence, today’s educational tests are markedly less biased than were their predecessors. Once the test-bias problem had been identified, we set out to fix it—and in less than a decade, we did.
That’s precisely what we need to do now. Using a mildly technical definition, a test’s instructional sensitivity represents the degree to which students’ performances on that test accurately reflect the quality of instruction specifically provided to promote students’ mastery of what is being assessed. We need to discover how to build accountability tests that will be instructionally sensitive and, therefore, can provide valid inferences about effective and ineffective instruction. It may take several years to get the required procedures in place, but we need to get started right now.
In the short term, though, we must make citizens, and especially educational policymakers, understand that almost all of today’s accountability tests yield an invalid picture of how well students are being taught. Accountability systems based on the use of such instructionally insensitive tests are flat-out senseless. We need accountability tests capable of distinguishing between students who have been properly taught and those who have not. Until such tests are at hand, we might as well relabel our accountability systems as what they are—elaborate and costly socioeconomic-status identifiers.
W. James Popham is a professor emeritus in the graduate school of education and information studies of the University of California, Los Angeles. He now lives in Wilsonville, Ore.
Vol. 27, Issue 12, Pages 30-31

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bush Veto of Education funding

November 13, 2007

Bush's Veto Could Gut Critical School Programs

NEA urges lawmakers to stand their ground and defend adequate funding for public schools

WASHINGTON- President George W. Bush's veto of an education spending bill would wipe out 45 federal education programs and cripple others, leaving some of the neediest students without essential programs they need to succeed in school. The National Education Association called the threat a politically-motivated attack against children who have repeatedly been shortchanged by this administration and urged lawmakers to stand their ground.
"This administration wants to nickel-and-dime education, and if the president can't get his way he's threatening to completely pull the plug," said NEA President Reg Weaver. "Congress has done the right thing by keeping the interests of students, not the political interests of the president, front and center. Lawmakers must override the veto so schools get the basic resources they need."

The president's proposed budget is $4.5 billion less than what a strong bi-partisan majority in Congress has deemed necessary to invest in public schools. Nationally, he wants to eliminate 45 federal education programs. Others would be severely impacted, like the early childhood education program Head Start, which would be reduced by $300 million. That move would have a harsh impact on more than 30,000 preschool children.

His plan also would slash $800 million that Congress has allocated for special education for children with disabilities and eliminate half of the funding for career and technical education programs. Lawmakers want to maintain these programs, and give students and educators the resources they need, but the president has stubbornly refused to work with Congress.

Unfortunately, the veto threat continues a string of attacks by the administration on schools and students. Last month, the president vetoed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a move that will leave millions of children without the medical attention they need to feel and do their best in school.

"Cutting these programs would literally leave millions of children behind," Weaver said. "Congress is in line with the country's priorities regarding education and children's health care. The president's veto just shows what we have known for years: this administration is not serious about education."


The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Racial Achievement Gap Summit

Thank you philip for the response and for the link. Very interesting.
the second day of the summit was better for me. I found some valuable workshops. In one, after I spoke up to object that much of the discussion was about technical matters and process matters, and that it was avoiding discusison of multicultural education and culturally responsive teaching as strategies, a large number of teachers came by to thank me for the intervention.
At the end of the day, policy makers still are not listening to teachers. We will not get out of this decline until they do.
Duane Campbell
BTW. Posting responses to pieces here will encounter a delay. I found it necessary to screen responses since some people began to post totally irrelevant responses. They were simply trolling.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Achievement Gap Summit

November 13.
The California Dept. of Education and Jack O'Connell are hosting a major conference on the Achievement Gap at the Sacramento Convention Center on Nov.13 and 14. There is a wide diversity of speakers. Attendees, like myself, have a great deal of choice.
Perhaps I am just picking poorly. But, after the first day I observe that there are a great number of presenters claiming to be experts, each with a fix, and very few teachers making presentations.
Here is a part of the problem. You can not reform schools without bringing teachers along in the reform. Most speakers agreed that there is little evidence of improved scores in California.
So, 14 years of standards based reform. And, 14 years of test based reform. Little or no improvement in scores. Russlynn Ali of Ed trust west provided again the data.
If you want to influence teachers you will have to listen to teachers. You will have to know their views well.
So far, I have seen endless panels of experts and very few teachers. That is a part of the problem.

I recognize that this may be only a selection bias. Perhaps I just picked the wrong presentations. I tried to get into one panel described as teacher centered but it was full.
It was a good choice to have a debate between Chester Finn and Richard Rothstein.
Duane Campbell

Monday, November 12, 2007

School hiring in Sacramento

This story from the Sacramento Bee:
School hiring falls short

Hiram Johnson is relying on substitutes in 2 dozen classes as it waits for district to recruit.

By Kim Minugh -
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, November 10, 2007

Two months into the school year, Sacramento City Unified School District still has not hired enough teachers to handle more than two dozen core academic classes at Hiram Johnson High School – leaving nearly 400 of the district's most struggling students in the hands of substitute teachers.

The English, science and math classes – some of them remedial sections or classes designed for English-language learners – are being taught by substitutes who are not required to have a credential or a degree in the subjects they're teaching. Class rosters show that some of the 400 students impacted are in at least two of these classes.

A school district policy that limits a substitute to 20 days in a class has meant that at least two substitutes have rotated through each class.

Teachers at the school say they have witnessed visible consequences of the arrangement: poor student behavior, busy work assigned to occupy time, students correcting substitutes' academic mistakes. They worry about about the unseen impacts.

"Watching this waste in the classroom day after day is enough to break your heart," said Larry Tagg, a drama and English teacher who has been at Hiram Johnson for nine years.

The shortage of teachers apparently stems from an unexpected influx of students, according to teachers and a Sacramento City Unified School District spokeswoman. The school had expected about 1,800 students this year but got roughly 2,000.

To comply with a 32-student class limit that's dictated by the teachers union contract, administrators shuffled students and created about 26 new classes, all led by substitutes.

Six teachers are needed. Sacramento City Unified teacher salaries range from $40,000 to $85,000, excluding benefits, with the median at $66,000, according to the district.

Why they haven't been hired isn't clear.

Tagg went before the school board last week to ask that the substitutes be replaced with credentialed teachers. In an interview with The Bee, he said Johnson's interim principal, Cynthia Swindle, told him she had pleaded with district officials to hire more teachers. Swindle did not respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment.

Tagg has started encouraging affected parents to call the district and ask for answers.

He and other teachers said they are left to assume the district is trying to balance its budget on the backs of those least likely to make noise.

More than one-third of the school's students come from families where English is not the dominant language, so most of their parents have difficulty communicating with educators. More than half come from impoverished families.

"They'll take whatever you throw at them, and they won't complain," Tagg said of the community served by Hiram Johnson.

But Maria Lopez, a Sacramento City Unified spokeswoman, said that is a "mistaken perception."

"I think that ... getting permanent teachers into those spots will happen as quickly as possible, and everyone's working to that same goal," she said.

Staffing levels became an issue before the year even started, Lopez said, when a few teachers left to work at other schools. The issue was complicated by an unexpected jump in enrollment of 240 students.

In the 10th week of school, Lopez said administrators are reviewing the figures to make sure that the names on roll sheets are in fact students in the classroom: It is not uncommon, she said, for students to enroll and then fail to show.

"I think part of it is that there was an expectation that maybe the numbers wouldn't hold fast," Lopez said. "There is a lot of (transiency), especially at some of our south-area schools."

Lopez acknowledged, however, that such enrollment verification typically happens earlier in the school year.

"I don't think it's common" to do it this far into the year, she said. "We try to get classes leveled off as quickly as possible."

The delay in hiring teachers has meant valuable time wasted, teachers argue. Hiram Johnson is under critical pressure to improve: Last year, only 28 percent of the school's ninth-graders, 19 percent of its 10th-graders and 14 percent of its 11th-graders tested proficient or advanced in English.

When compared with schools statewide, Hiram Johnson is in the lowest 10 percent.

Ailing test scores have landed Hiram Johnson in the second year of Program Improvement, a series of sanctions imposed on struggling schools under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Teachers question how they'll reverse that trend with so many substitutes on the rolls.

"How can we raise the school's test scores when all these students are being baby-sat?" Tagg asked.

"I find it revolting," said English teacher Kirk Zaro. "What if it was my kid in one of those classrooms?"

Lopez said she expects all students at Hiram Johnson to have permanent teachers by Wednesday.

That might be accomplished by moving students around to level out class sizes, if administrators determine that enrollment figures are inflated. If not, she said the open teaching positions would be posted on the district's online job board.

As of Friday night, no such positions had been posted.

Now, lets consider this. Anyone who has been a teacher knows that substitutes, even well meaning substitutes are no match for a teacher. And, with English Language Learners the need for special teaching strategies is even more urgent.
There are credentialled teachers looking for work in Sacramento. Look at the schools hiring program at Sac State.
This occurs because someone in the district is not doing their job. This should have been resolved in 2-3 weeks.
This is not a new problem. Contrary to the statement of the School District spokesperson, the personnel department for Sac City Schools has been a troubled land for years.
Let me be clear. This would never be permitted at a middle class school. They get away with this because parents and politicians don't demand change.
If my kids were in these classes, I would be raising hell. It is appropriate for the teachers to be objecting.
Duane Campbell

Monday, November 05, 2007

Political opposition stall Bush's NCLB

this is an important issue. Political opposition stalled the bill.

Senate Won't Take Up New Education Law
By NANCY ZUCKERBROD – 3 days ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — The top two lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee said Friday they are putting off consideration of a new No Child Left Behind law until next year.
Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., have decided that there's not enough time this year to complete work on the legislation, which has not yet been formally introduced.
The five-year-old law, up for a scheduled rewrite, requires math and reading tests in grades three through eight, and once in high school. Schools that miss testing benchmarks face increasingly stiff sanctions. The law, originally passed in 2001, is among President Bush's top domestic policy priorities.
Kennedy, the panel's chairman, had previously said he wanted a bill before the Senate this year. He now is aiming, however, to bring a bill up for consideration early next year, said his spokeswoman, Melissa Wagoner.
"We have additional work to do on key issues, but are confident that we can put forth a responsible package for consideration early in the new year that will enjoy strong support of the Senate," Wagoner said.
However, it may be even more difficult to pass a rewritten No Child bill next year because it is a presidential election year. It is harder to get the bipartisan consensus needed to pass major legislation against the backdrop of an intense presidential campaign.
"No Child Left Behind is important to our children's future. We will not and cannot rush it," Enzi said in a statement. "Sen. Kennedy and I have agreed that our goal must be to produce solid legislation — not to meet an arbitrary deadline."
House lawmakers have not decided whether to keep trying to bring a bill to the floor in what little time is left in this calendar year. They, too, say time is running out.
"It is growing less likely that we will get a bill off the House floor in 2007," said Tom Kiley, a spokesman for Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House education committee. "We continue to work hard on the bill. Discussions with Republicans and education organizations continue."
Lawmakers in both parties — along with the Bush administration — are pushing for important revisions to the law. If the law isn't revised by Congress, the existing law stands.
There is broad agreement that the law should be changed to encourage schools to measure individual student progress over time instead of using snapshot comparisons of certain grade levels.
There is consensus, as well, that the law should be changed so that schools that miss progress goals by a little don't face the same consequences as schools that miss them by a lot.
Deep divisions remain over some proposed changes, including merit pay for teachers and whether schools should be judged based on test scores in subjects other than reading and math.
Washington Post.

The NAACP, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the League of United Latin American Citizens are among 140 education, religious, and civil-rights organizations that have endorsed a joint statement calling for a thorough overhaul of No Child Left Behind.
These groups recognize that, despite its lofty goals, the law is doing more harm than good for poor and minority children, special-education students, and English language learners.
The perverse effects of No Child Left Behind are well-documented: teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum to reading and math, emphasizing basic skills over critical thinking, and – worst of all – encouraging low-achievers to drop out before test day. For “left behind” groups in particular, this law has impoverished the school experience. It is reducing, not expanding, educational opportunities.

Friday, November 02, 2007

PACT and California Teacher Preparation

Education Week
Published Online: October 29, 2007
Published in Print: October 31, 2007

Calif. Teacher Assessment Offers No Improvements

To the Editor:
The Performance Assessment for California Teachers, or PACT, was approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing—not by teachers, nor by the college professors who prepare them (“Performance Test for New Calif. Teachers Approved,” Oct. 17, 2007). I and other faculty members in teacher preparation in the California State University system worked to oppose this bureaucratic imposition of an unfunded mandate.
Trial runs of this particular type of teacher-performance assessment lead many to believe that such assessment in its various forms will not actually improve the quality of teachers, nor contribute to closing achievement gaps. It will cost future teachers a great deal of time and money. Your article claims that studies of PACT pilots have shown positive results, but advocates of PACT have not sought evidence from those of us opposed to it.
The one-sided argument presented is that portfolio assessment is an improvement over the current assessment system. It may well be an improvement for elite universities with small teacher-preparation programs, such as Stanford, a leader in the development of PACT. There, academic professors do not usually supervise student-teachers or interns. In such sites, a portfolio assessment may be better than a written checklist from the field.
But for universities with large programs, the cost in time and money is substantial. For those of us at these lowly-brethren institutions, advocates would need to demonstrate that PACT is a more substantive assessment than professors making six to eight evaluative visits per semester to supervise student-teaching, plus the evaluation of host teachers. This has not been demonstrated.
What we have is another bureaucratic solution imposed on teacher education by persons who do not work closely with teachers in the field.
Duane E. Campbell
Professor of Bilingual/Multicultural Education
California State University-Sacramento
Sacramento, Calif.

Vol. 27, Issue 10, Page 27
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.