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Monday, April 2, 2012

Education Reform..NOW!


I finally got around to begin reading a book I got for Christmas called “That Used to be Us" by Michael Mandelbaum and Tom Friedman. The book is about the United States of America, our major challenges, with some possible solutions and emphasizing that education should be our priority.

Yesterday my daughter was telling us about the new STAAR test, saying that her class will never pass that test because they are having trouble with what she’s currently teaching. The questions are confusing and the material is substandard at best. The test was developed by someone’s brother-in-law or it’s the cheapest test out there.

Historically America has educated its people up to and beyond the technology demands of every era. That lasted until the 1970s, but then we stopped keeping up. And when we stopped income inequality begin widening as a job opportunity for the high-school dropout shrunk. I believe everyone knows that we have to educate our young people up to and beyond the new levels of technology but are just spinning our wheels arguing about the same barriers. Local districts evaluate their success on how much better they are than their neighboring districts, but they should be measuring their success against students in China, Finland, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Teachers and principals should be at the forefront of any discussion about improving education. The book describes how a school district in Colorado mimicked the teaching methods of successful countries. They elevated the status of the teachers and promoted the gifted teachers and called them masters. The master's methods were filmed for other inspiring teachers to learn from, and they were  required to sit in on a class of a master instructor. Teacher's tenure would be based on job performance and not years in service. Teachers were evaluated three times a year. The quality of an educational system cannot exceed the quality of the teachers. It's been recommended that we create a few West Point  like universities for would- be teachers and principals.

If you take the lowest performing students and you put them in a classroom of highly effective teachers, we know that in three years, we will close the achievement gap. We also know that the opposite is true and that we'll blow that achievement gap open so wide, that will never be able to close it.

The principal should do the hiring and the firing of teachers rather than the local school board. The principle would also serve as an inspirational leader to bring out the best in teachers and students, and most importantly, they must be part of any evaluation process of any school system. The difference a good principle makes cannot be overstated in retention of good teachers. It would be up to the principle to get all the necessary groups on board and convince them how it's in their interest to get involved. How can the inner cities ever improve if we keep dumping the worst teachers on them? Yes, money may be saved in a short term by voting down tax increases for schools but if that results in higher dropout rates and higher unemployment, the cost to the state and communities will be higher.

When people start to think that we have an impossible task ahead of us, they should be reminded of the Tuskegee airmen, the first African-America aviators in United States Armed forces, who flew many successful missions in World War II.

You have to realize that back then, and it was thought that a black man did not have the courage, or intelligence or stamina to fly one of America's most expensive warplanes. They became the only squadron that never lost a bomber.

Have you noticed with a few notable exceptions, the people who know the global labor market best-the members of the business community- dropped out of national debate? Business leaders used to be known for lobbying for better education, infrastructure, immigration, free trade, and rules to promote constructive risk taking. They are simply taking their jobs overseas and not necessarily for the lower labor costs but for the most skilled.

Instead of lobbying Congress to double federal spending on basic research in physical science and support a national policy to promote high-speed broadband communication networks that Japan and Korea have done, business leaders have taken a line from Carly Fiorina, when she said, " There's no job that is America's God-given right anymore."

The number-one strategy in our economic plan should be education. As President Obama said, " the country that out educates us today, will out compete is tomorrow."


Edith Ann said...

But wasn't it Rick Santorum that said that it was uppity to get an education?

My sister is a teacher and she is at the edge of insanity over the testing. W@hy do we do all this testing? What is the reward? Students can't pass a lot of it! And you are right--it's those freaking morons in Austin who are not smart enought to teach telling those who can what they should do! Let's have a citizen committee on legislative matter and see if those geniuses can pass.

When teachers are allowed to teach, students will learn. Right now, all student are learning is how to take tests.

Anonymous said...

Testing started with Gov Mark White. It was the only way he could get the Leg to pay for teacher pay raises. Ever since, Austin has been running education into the ground with one brother-in-law test after another.

You are correct about who should be doing the hiring. But I do suggest first, we must fire the TEA in Austin.

For the first time in recent years our Legislator will be running against a "D". I do suggest that all "D" and "R" hold Ms Morrison's feet to the fire. Education and local autonomy is too important to ignore for a failing status quo.


Mike said...

The NEA was against the system used in Colo. but the AFT went along because they understood that the old system of granting automatic tenure was not sustainable....besides they liked the idea of evaluations based on multiple measures of teacher practice and what students are actually learning as EA stated. And again their evaluation would administrated by masters and principals with 5 unannounced 30 minute of questions and NOT the student's standardized test scores.

Rebecca said...

I agree with the little girl who wrote the paper comparing the modern education system to slavery.

I know it seems cynical, but I've come to the conclusion that policy makers don't care what happens in public schools. Why should they? They don't usually send their own children to public schools. If they cared, they would hand over decisions to the people who actually work with children. Instead, they make teachers the scapegoat.

I'm tired of people using the word "reform" to mean "more of the same." Even "privatizing" education is more of the same in a new building.

Testing is a billion dollar industry. It's not going away any time soon.

So frustrating!

Rebecca said...

I try not to comment when people talk about education because it makes me crazy! I puff up like a giant blow fish when I see the word "TEST."

Mike said...

I used reform because it means improve....We can't remain stagnant...I agree politicians aren't doing much and testing is a billion dollar industry but don't we need a measurement?

BTW...welcome back..:-)

Mike said...

California has ten University campuses  and Rick Santorum said none of them teach American history but that's false,well UCSF doesn't but there are a medical school...Instead of trying to knock a university he should be embracing and reaching out to help and try to score cheap political points. 

Edith Ann said...

I saw that last night! Rick Santorum now has a nice little, but growing list of out-right false statements going. Did he homeschool himself and skip school everyday?

This guy is a moron! He's. well, he's a MALE Sarah Palin!!!!!

There's the dream ticket--Santorum and Palin (Santorum on top, of course, cause they're only doing 'it' to screw the Dems...)

Edith Ann said...

Can you imagine having to sit through those two for an hour?

Mike said...

This is an issue where liberals,conservatives,democrats and republicans should unite..It's not that hard.

Rebecca said...

Standardized Testing: The Monster that Ate Public Education

"None of the characteristics that are important for thriving in the world of the twenty-first century are encouraged by standardized testing. In fact, they’re all squashed. So we’re doing something that is, actually, long term, harmful to children’s brains. We’re saying to them, year after year, "You will be judged by whether you can select the right answer, whether you can put your X in the right bubble." That's wrong. Whether we do it on a computer or do it with a number two pencil, it’s wrong, because we’re teaching children that every question has four possible answers, one of which is right and three of which are wrong."

But, elite private schools and progressive homeschool families DO place more of an emphasis on child-centered learning and critical thinking. That's why I agree with the little girl's analogy. She's denied the superior education available to the children with affluent parents.

Mike said...


Perhaps I don't know your definition of "standardized testing" but shouldn't we be teaching our children the subjects that will help them succeed? I don't believe in teaching to the test and I'm not against using different methods to get the same point across.

Our children will need to pass a test to get into college and to get that first job.

What did you think about the author's idea of master teachers?

Do you think the authors are heading in the right direction?

At the high school level the author think we should give up on liberal arts on some and allow them to attend a technical course of their choice..That would help with the dropout rate.

We'll never get our parents to be tiger moms, but I just heard that our children watch or hear 7 1/2 to 9 hours of electronic media every day. Some teenager's average 27,000 text messages a month. It seems like we could start with convincing parents that the more books our children read the better off we'll be.
BTW I’m a little lost on the meaning of your first link about slavery but I understand the importance of critical thinking.

Edith Ann said...

We can't unite! It is big business and the education lobbyist are numerous and folks who have no clue are in charge.

Rebecca said...

Mike, I am not against all tests. I'm against the type of tests that change the way we educate. I'm against a test given too early and too often. I'm against a culture that places so much emphasis on testing, that it creates a billion dollar industry while blue ribbon schools are shut down.

If the testing is driving the learning, it's destructive. It's been driving the way teachers teach for (at least) fifteen years.

I remember when I was observing classrooms in Victoria, fifteen years ago, I watched teachers start out their school day with TAKS practice questions. When I prepared my lessons, I had to show how everything I taught was a TAKS (was it TEKS then) objective. Lots of paper work! Lots of leaving out very interesting information because it wasn't a TAKS objective. There wasn't always room for the exciting stuff.

When I did send my first off to school, ten years later, he came home with stacks of paper full of TAKS practice questions. Filling in bubbles was his homework! What knowledge was he gaining from that? I was furious that my son was expected to do "busy work" as homework.

If the results of the test do not instantly give me the type of feedback that can help me, as a teacher, change the way I present the information so that it can be better understood; and if the test doesn't quickly give me an insight into each student and where some might need more explanation, that test is not helping me become a better teacher and it's not helping my students learn.

We are abusing tests and their results. Tests have a purpose, and it's not the end all be all of education. It's not to occupy hours and hours of a child's day.

When a school offers practice tests for the practice tests, you know tests are being abused and time and money are being wasted.

We are focusing on test results more than we are on learning.

Yes, I would agree with education having different goals. Not everyone is going to college. Not everyone is going to be a doctor, lawyer, dentist, or professor when they grow up. There's no shame in that.

You want kids to read? Model reading as a past time. If you read to your children from birth, they learn to love reading. (That part of the Finish model I also agree with!) But "Master Teacher" right now would mean "best test prepper."


Mike said...

That's a good point and one I forgot about....It just seems that everyone I have ever talked to, agrees that education is a priority and most politicians even agree on the campaign stump.

I keep forgetting that the Texas Board of Education removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, “replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.”...Thomas Jefferson? he's an icon!....Texas makes most of our nation's text books.

Mike said...

I agree,and my daughter agrees with you on the tests...It's very depressing to her and she sees so many advanced students whose time is being wasted because "memorize" is something they have already mastered and they are ready to learn new things.

According to the book the MASTER teacher would learn new teaching skills acquired from the worlds best schools,they will have insight on the subjects our children need to learn to be competitors because after -all its always been about economics.

I understand your point,if we don't change the system the master teacher time and effort will be wasted.

Edith Ann said...

Of anyone, Rebecca makes the best argument against testing! I can remember my oldest son have to continue to do TAAS worksheets AFTER he had passed the last test. The teacher had to have everyone do this because she had students whpo had not passed it yet!

Mike said...

Absolutely, Rebecca knows her stuff but you don't want to put her in a room with a giant mug of coffee and a standardized test...:-)

Rebecca said...

And, Edith, many students say that the last week (?) of school they do NOTHING because the testing is over.

Rebecca said...

I'm not a fan of busy work. It's punishing smart kids.

I am debating whether or not to worry about PSAT for my daughter. The purpose of the test is to get scholarships, and you have to be in the top (is it 10%) to get that.

With Matthan, he took the PSAT as a freshman AND again as a sophomore and he did better as a FRESHMAN even though he hadn't had all of his Algebra or any GEOMETRY. What is up with that?

Rebecca said...

I don't mind tests like PSAT, SAT, or ACT, because a student is not punished for doing poorly on these tests. The student can take the test again at a later date. If the student does "fail" (the THEA, for example) all it tells the student is that he needs to take a remedial college course or that he is not ready to start college *early*.

You score poorly on a section and you know you need more review or practice. You don't fail a grade or get your diploma taken away.

You can use the scores to know where you need improvement or to get a better reward: like $cholarship$ or getting to skip College Algebra.

Why, when a student become serious about education, do the test not have as much pressure attached to them? They can take it again later or just take the prerequisite.

Isn't that odd? I'm not saying these tests for graduates should have more pressure, I'm saying that elementary school students shouldn't be under as MUCH.

Edith Ann said...

My kids were in high school a long time ago, and I really don't know the testing years, but my son passed his test as a juntior, but because he had seniors in some classes who hadn't, he was still doing the practice worksheets. It would have been no problem if it had just been the last week of school, but we are talking the whole school year! I begged and begged in ARDS to let him out of this and I could never get a satisfactory answer as to why they could take the failing kids, segregate them and let the passer go on!

VISD--you gotta love 'em!

Rebecca said...

Ted Education is cool! We just watched "The Secret Life of Plankton"

Edith Ann said...

Mike, I know you don't do Facebook, but Geanie Morrison's opponent, Alex Hernandez, is hitting the education issue hard. Both Morrison's deregulation of tuition as well as performance levels.

I need to get his participation on my political forum blogs. I want to know more.

Mike said...

I've read Alex Hernandez's website,so I don't need to know more..:-) He said all I need to know "lot of what I do is progressive," he said. "It's just time for something new. People need a voice."

He also said "his big issue is to tackle would be education by strengthening its existing standards."

He's got my vote,my family and friends..:-)

Mike said...

Oh,I forgot to mention he's a

Rebecca said...

I graduated with Alex.

Mike said...

You did....Give me the inside scoop. Is he the real deal? Can I trust him to do as he says or is he the typical politician?

Is he one of those rare commodities in Texas;a real liberal Democrat?...:-)

Rebecca said...

I have never talked politics with him. He was always a nice guy.

Edith Ann said...

I think Alex is the real deal, Mike.

I forgot to tell you! Because I am a poor, female Democrat, I cannot afford HBO. So I did not get to see Game Change. But, my mother with the book buying (and rarely reading) book addiction bought the book. I brought it home and I'm going to read it. I didn't realize the book was 2 years old!


Mike said...

Did you put everything aside to watch Sarah Palin on the "Today" yesterday morning ?
The lame stream media is OK when you want to promote your image.

Mike said...

On Alex,if he says he say he's a fiscal conservative,I'll leave him so fast that he won't even know I once supported him.

Edith Ann said...

Sarah Palin IS lame, period! Talk about making the most of your 15 minutes...

What was NBC thinking? That they could get the FOX crowd? Gee! I never watch the Today Show. The Advocate poll is over 2-1 that folks didn't watch!

Rebecca said...

Sorry to chime in out of context, but I saw something this a.m. that I thought was interesting: NYC Public School Parents Boycotting State Tests

There's a whole Texas opt out group too.

The link I sent has a comment at the bottom from a Texas teacher.

This stuff fascinates me. When Matthan was in public school I wouldn't have opted out of tests because he did so good on them. LOL (Even though they told him at one point he was going to fail and stuck him in TAKS tutorials...)

Rebecca said...

(Tests = state mandated tests)

Mike said...

Nothing is out of context on this blog;we have the ability to pivot and entertain more than one thought at one time...:-)

I see what you like that blog you linked it reemphasizes the good points you have been making...I 'm going to email the link to my daughter.

You do know NY and Texas are two different animals in their thinking...You have extreme conservative v extreme liberal thinking on testing.

Mike said...


I can't imagine myself turning on the TV and hearing the Palin voice early in the A.M...It would have me reaching for the medicine cabinet...Joe Scarborough compared Palin to the 4 top influential people of all time..right there with FDR,Reagan,Clinton and Brzezinski was about to have a cow,when he said that..She was boiling mad attributing it to male hormones.

Edith Ann said...

For the life of me, I do not 'get' why Sarah Palin is fascinating to the GOP! I have asked for explanantions and I am no more enlightened that I was.

I don't care to listen to Joe Scarborough anytime--I like the other folks, though. I love Willie Geist and Chris Hayes. I like Mike Barnacle (sp?) and I like Mika Brzezinski. I just don't care for Joe.

Mike said...

I know what the republicans see in Sarah Palin..She says publicly what they think privately.

Mika looks bad when she tries to be nonpartisan..She's at home when she is supporting Obama.

Joe Scarborough will get on GOP politicians and some of their polities when he tries to make everyone think that he is straight down the middle but he gets visibly angry if others don't agree with his assessment of Obama.

Mike said...

Is VA forum down again?

Mike said...

Finally,the site is back on...I had to answer a stupid comment by a poster calling minorities "second-class citizens.