, , , , , , , , ,

12c1d-405314_10150964217256875_1167865476_nCorporate Education Reformers and their ilk have usurped the positive language of education.

Positive public perception is key to successfully getting across our message. If we are against things people perceive of as positive then we lose.

We must regain control of the narrative. We must take back the message.

For example, let’s assess, not test.

“What is assessment? That depends on whom you ask. When I was a kid in school, we were never assessed. We were tested. We took in-class tests, IQ tests, and entrance tests to specialized high schools, and, of course, those other standardized tests: the New York State Regents and SATs. I taught for over twenty years before I was introduced to the term “assessment,” when I first heard Grant Wiggins speak about “Authentic Assessment.” “Holy Cow,” I exclaimed, “I didn’t know I had been doing that for so many years.”

“Ever since I started teaching, I was trained to “assess” how my students were doing at reaching the outcomes I had laid out for them. Teachers, need to know if students have gotten the “its” of the lesson then let their students know if they have or haven’t. Additionally, we must have the means to give them the best feedback, to either tell them they have it, or that they don’t. Most importantly, if they don’t have it, our feedback, based on the results of the use of authentic assessments, must tell them how to get it.”

“There is a huge difference between being data driven and data guided.   Assessments of all types, not just fill-in-the-bubble, multiple-choice tests, must be analyzed to see how students progress with particular skills of various levels and content. Essays, projects, group projects, research, and class participation are all assessment, as well as teaching tools. Teachers are only as good as their students’ understanding of how good they are doing.”

“Good teachers constantly reassess methods and assessments. Are they appropriate? Are they challenging without being too hard? Are the assessments too hard? They better not be too easy. That is condescending. Is there clear linkage between objectives, outcomes, goals, methods, questions, and assessments? Do the students understand why they are doing what they are doing, as well as what to do and how? That is also important. Are they assessing the wrong things? Are they authentically assessing what they should? Do they match the lessons? Do the lessons match them?”

‪Christine Zirkelbach‪, a New York parent says,

“Parents and students want fair, informative, reliable assessments that provide real time information as to a student’s abilities, strengths and weaknesses. We do not want pointless, grueling, expensive, uninformative tests with cut scores that are manipulated to serve a political agenda.

Successful examples and protocols are readily available throughout the State (NYS) by sharing of best practices within schools, districts and between them. 
Parents want tests that provide real time information, with questions and answers that are open for review and discussion and where students get information that provides action items for true growth in learning. They actually want to know that their kids’ teachers KNOW their kids and understand how they learn, their strengths and weaknesses and how to motivate them.”

“In a September 19, 2010 op-ed piece in The New York Times entitled “Scientifically Tested Tests,” Susan Engel of Williams College noted,

‘As   children, teachers, and   parents sprint, slink, or stumble into new school years, they also find themselves laboring once again in the shadow of standardized tests. That is a real shame, given that there are few indications that the multiple-choice format of a typical test, in which students are quizzed on the specific formulas and bits of information they have memorized that year, actually measures what we need to know about children’s education…. Instead, we should COME UP WITH assessments that truly measure the qualities of well-educated children: the ability to understand what they read; an interest in using books to gain knowledge; the capacity to know when a problem calls for mathematics and quantification; the agility to move from concrete examples to abstract principles and back again; the ability to think about a situation in several different ways; and a dynamic working knowledge of the society in which they live.’

Dr. Engel. Teachers have been using these types of assessments for years. They don’t have to be come up with them; they already exist.”

We must take back the word assessment. In addition, there are other words we need to take back.

How can we be against a word that means: courage and resolve; strength of character, fortitude, resolution, determination, perseverance, and endurance. That word is grit.

Reformers began using “grit” and we responded by making it a curse word. What do Americans think of the word grit? As Diane Ravitch pointed out, “The commonsense idea that is summarized as a four-letter word is that character, perseverance, and determination enable children even in the most difficult of circumstances to overcome obstacles and succeed.”

Who would disagree? Ms. Ravitch appropriately disagrees with a scale used to “measure it” but asks if we think it can be taught in schools. I, for one, think it can be.

Moving on…

Learning standards are concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. Learning standards describe educational objectives—i.e., what students should have learned by the end of a course, grade level, or grade span—but they do not describe any particular teaching practice, curriculum, or assessment method (although this is a source of ongoing confusion and debate).”

They should be painted in broad strokes allowing for teachers’ flexibility based on their students needs, their creativity, and school resources.

“Following the adoption of a variety of federal and state policies—notably the No Child Left Behind Act, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965—all states now use standardized assessments designed to evaluate academic achievement in relation to a set of learning standards. Until the development and widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards for the subjects of English language arts and mathematics, and more recently the Next Generation Science Standards, learning standards in the United States were independently developed by states, usually as part of a collaborative committee process overseen by a state’s department of education that included educators and subject-area specialists, as well as public-commentary periods (although both development and adoption processes varied from state to state).

When investigating or reporting on learning standards, it is important to know how they were developed, what knowledge and skills they describe, and how they are actually used in schools. “

Are having standards as defined here bad? NO. Are they bad as pushed through via Federal Law, the use of CCSS etc.? Yes.

Again we must grab the words back.

AND then there is this term.

“The term college-ready is generally applied to (1) students who are considered to be equipped with the knowledge and skills deemed essential for success in university, college, and community-college programs, or (2) the kinds of educational programs and learning opportunities that lead to improved preparation for these two- and four-year collegiate programs. The college-ready concept is typically motivated by the belief that all high school graduates should be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes they will need to pursue continued education after graduation, and that a failure to adequately prepare adolescents for collegiate learning denies unprepared students the option to pursue a collegiate education, should they choose to do so, either immediately after graduation or later in life.”

I can agree with that? Can’t you?

But again because the corporate clowns of Education reform took the term, we oppose it.

It is time to take it back.

“The term rigor is widely used by educators to describe instruction, schoolwork, learning experiences, and educational expectations that are academically, intellectually, and personally challenging. Rigorous learning experiences, for example, help students understand knowledge and concepts that are complex, ambiguous, or contentious, and they help students acquire skills that can be applied in a variety of educational, career, and civic contexts throughout their lives.

While dictionaries define the term as rigid, inflexible, or unyielding, educators frequently apply rigor or rigorous to assignments that encourage students to think critically, creatively, and more flexibly. Likewise, they may use the term rigorous to describe learning environments that are not intended to be harsh, rigid, or overly prescriptive, but that are stimulating, engaging, and supportive.

In education, rigor is commonly applied to lessons that encourage students to question their assumptions and think deeply, rather than to lessons that merely demand memorization and information recall. For example, many educators would not consider a fill-in-the-blank worksheet or multiple-choice test rigorous.”

For years we used that term as a synonym for challenging, now we are challenged to accept it because it too was usurped.

Let’s usurp it back.

Why have the corporate marketers stolen our language? “There is money to be made. A lot of it. A couple of years ago, estimates of the global education market topped $4 trillion. Currently, the US education market alone is worth over $700 billion. A large chunk of this is tax money, disbursed to schools by local and federal government, and the business world wants a piece of it. Last year, transactions in the K-12 sector totaled nearly $400 million. There’s clearly still a lot of money to be grabbed and privatizers are doubling down on their efforts.”

“We see the education industry today as the healthcare industry of 30 years ago,” Michael Moe, who leads the investment and consultancy firm GSV, has said. Their website explains that “GSV stands for ‘Global Silicon Valley’—emphasizing our belief that Silicon Valley is no longer just a physical place, but also a mindset that has gone viral…. A key part of our mission is to re-imagine what education is—with a bias toward innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and others who look at learning differently.” The keynote speaker at their last summit was former Florida Governor (and current Presidential hopeful) Jeb Bush. In attendance were representatives from nearly 300 companies, including AT&T, Netflix, and media conglomerate Graham Holding Company.”

“The emphasis wherever you look is on more and more technology in schools, what they’re calling “edtech.” As the TechCrunch website declares: “with better digital video solutions storming into every classroom, learning is actually becoming an enjoyable experience.”

Privatization in this form may be less overt than a corporation running a whole school, but it’s an equally effective way for business to profit from education – all under the guise of benefiting students.

Finally, our last word, charter.

“As a former teacher from New Jersey put it, the charter school movement has been “transformed from community-based, educator-initiated local efforts designed to provide alternative approaches for a small number of students, into nationally funded efforts by foundations, investors, and educational management companies to create a parallel, more privatized school system.” Like so many initiatives started as local alternatives to global capitalism, the charter school has become the perfect mechanism for private companies to insert themselves between the government and the people, siphoning off tax money into their coffers.

Right now, education policy is changing rapidly and is disproportionately influenced by private interests, worldwide. In the US, corporate-backed ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) has been pivotal in drafting education legislation across many states.”

They and their cohorts have stolen our language of education in order to steal public schools to make them profit schools.

We must steal it back and steal our schools back.