In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, public education has accomplished a lot. We have managed to utilize assessment data trends to identify resources and programs to support students' educational needs. We have also learned how to breakdown objectives or learning standards to their most intricate parts to align our resources. Most of all we have developed ways to hold educators accountable for student achievement...One question remains: at what cost are we making all of these efforts? In other words, what have we sacrificed for this “data-driven” approach to education?Read More
On Aug. 15, the Texas Education Agency released academic accountability ratings for districts, charter schools, and other campuses across the state. In this first implementation of an A-F scale to rate how well school systems are functioning, Texas joined 15 other states across the country that have implemented a similar accountability system.In 1999, Florida became the first state to adopt an A-F school rating system as part of its A+ Education Plan. In 2015, when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law, the federal government gave states the authority to meet education standards without hampering them with excessive mandates and stipulations. In response to this new flexibility, several states began implementing accountability models like Florida's. Now that the approach is becoming more widely used, educators all over the nation are debating the merit and implications of an A-F accountability system.Read More
In today’s economically and culturally diverse society it is vitally important that educators and community leaders find clarity on each other’s role in supporting our students' academic achievement (Anderson-Butcher et. al., 2010). This need is only intensified when we consider the context of the required school reform actions brought on by No Child Left behind (NCLB) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability measures. However, the formation of effective school and community partnerships is usually defaulted to the responsibility of the schools and often are not established due to communication and expectation barriers (Hands, 2010). With increasing reports of economic disparities between parents and communities of high performing schools and those of schools in need of academic achievement improvements, various factors have served as barriers to strong school and community partnerships.Read More
The rapid development of competing global markets has forced the American educational system to confront the need for the development of a more highly educated workforce. As a result, K-12 school systems have been forced to prepare more students for the rigors of a variety of postsecondary experiences by refocusing their efforts on improving students’ awareness and readiness. Texas’ 2013 legislative suite of educational changes, House Bill 5 (HB5), includes a vast array of reforms designed to provide flexibility for students to develop their talents and pursue early their postsecondary interests. A major component of HB5 involves the expectation that school counselors take a more individualized approach to advising students for postsecondary pathways of their choice at earlier stages in their K-12 experience. Specifically, 33 Tex. Educ. Code § 33.007 states that, starting in the 2014-2015 school year, elementary, middle/junior high, and high school counselors will be required to advise students and parents annually of the importance of postsecondary education; high school counselors must provide families with information related to the advantages of the new postsecondary focused graduation requirements.Read More
There are many different blended learning models today, but what is at the heart of blended learning? According to the Innosight Institute, blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.At first glance, this definition sounds very technical, but at the heart of this definition is a situation in which students are engaged in a realistic learning environment for today’s expectations. This becomes more clear when we consider the needs of the 21st-century learner as well as the deficiencies of the 21st-century American workforce. Both unveil the misalignment between our current educational practices and our desired outcomes.Read More
Today’s demand for a highly skilled workforce in the areas of science, technology engineering, and math (STEM) is making an immediate impact on our society and what we value in education. Changes in state and federal budgets further illustrate this shift our society is making in educational priorities. I am starting to wonder what will be the long-term effects of these changes.Read More
One of the most prominent issues that affect K-12 public schools as social organizations is a propensity to operate from the position that "We're going to do what we've always done because that's what we've always done." This notion is pervasive and widely unrecognized and acknowledged. Likewise, the habits that arise from this notion are formed subtly yet become deeply ingrained in (and debilitating to) the system operations. Practically speaking, systems tend to employ practices or habits that are undocumented in policy, unsupported by data and are not effectively educating students. The negative consequences of this mindset include parents withdraw their students in favor of the more flexible and responsive systems of private and charter schools; educators' efforts are constrained and academic performance is weak; the best and most innovative educators are recruited by other systems or possibly even leave the field; and students suffer because they are not prepared to meet the demands of an ever-changing society. Left unchecked, poor organizational habits within systems ultimately weaken our nation's ability to compete on the global level.Read More
Summer is in full effect. Swimming, family trips, and other leisure activities are also in full effect. As a result, I am sure that professional learning is not ranked very high on the summer fun list for most teachers. The funny thing is the summer presents the most optimal time for exploring very meaningful professional development ideas. I have come to understand the value of the of a well-timed summer professional learning task, and I would like to solicit other educators for their ideas for teachers of various levels of experience. Please comment below with a professional learning idea that you have benefited from and would like to share with others.
By now many of you have heard about the recent reports of rampant teacher cheating and unethical practices in the Atlanta public school system. What kind of world are we living in when the adults responsible for shaping the minds of our future leaders resort to cheating of this magnitude? Since the reports surfaced, I have been trying to understand why or how this could happen. Now, I'm not saying that it is implausible for anyone to cheat, after all, it is an element of human nature to cheat. I also realize that cheating takes place every day in different forms, but isn't there a line somewhere? Actually, there isn't.
You better believe that this is not the first time the teachers in Atlanta, or teachers all over America for that matter, have cheated. I believe this cheating is a symptom of a more substantial problem. So much of our educational system encourages this kind of behavior. Since the advent of the era of high stakes testing, many school systems have felt the pressure to meet standards with limited or no additional resources including highly qualified teachers. I have personally seen teachers succumb to the pressure to get students to pass the test that they simply "teach the test" in an effort to get higher scores. This only creates an even bigger problem for the school system in subsequent years which leads to more pressure to cheat. Some public school systems fall in line with similar behavior by constantly manipulating data to satisfy the ever-growing political pressures to meet or exceed standards (often self-imposed standards). Together, these behaviors seem to suggest that the accountability system, which includes the high stakes testing, data reporting, and a whole host of other political constraints, is what drives public education today and produces the right conditions for cheating on all levels.
Well, that is what I think about this scandal, but I would like to know what you think about the sad state of affairs in the Atlanta Public School System.
Check out this Get Schooled blog post by Maureen Downey on the cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools. I would like to know if you agree. Set unrealistic test score quotas and people will either fail or cheat | Get Schooled.
Are you the type of teacher who looks forward to summer professional development, or are you trying to avoid anything related to learning until you absolutely have to go to a training seminar? Chances are you are somewhere in the middle. If you find yourself looking for a relaxing yet meaningful way to grow professionally this summer, try these quick and easy activities
Write a book or article review
How often do you get the chance to really get engulfed in academic reading? If you have ever had the urge to get to the heart of a troubling issue in education or simply have wanted to learn something new about your craft, the summer break is the perfect time to dive right in. Even during the summer, our lives can be busy, but without the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day classroom and school activities, we can really take the time to dissect an academic topic at your leisure. Make a list of the educational topics that pique your interest or get you on a soapbox the quickest. Then, search for relevant journals, books, or research articles, and strive to make the complex plain. Analyze the reading as though you were going to be responsible for supporting a new teacher on that topic. Before long, you will discover just how much you can grow professionally from simply researching topics of your choice during the summer break.
There have been many books and articles written on the theory of change but since we live a result oriented world, how do we practically get through it? The world of education is not immune to the ever-growing pressure to change. In fact, we may be at the very heart of it. According to the latest Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rankings, American students scored 32nd in math ability and 23rd in science achievement. With more and more rankings, reports, and achievement data pointing to the fact that America's educational system is in decline, one has to ask how can we turn it around. Currently, the debate is center on education reform. Some experts speak of the need for broad sweeping reform, while others lean toward shifting the focus to more economic growth and development. Regardless of where you stand on reform, one thing rings true. We have to change. That is not to simplify the magnitude of the needed change. After all, we have data supporting the need for change in our teacher recruitment & retention, curriculum focus, instructional practice, teacher evaluation, and assessment & accountability. My goal with this blog post is to begin taking a look at the conditions needed for changing our instructional practices in the classroom.
We have to educate our way to a better economy. We have a 25 percent drop out rate in this country. We're losing about a million children each year from our schools to the streets. That's just economically unsustainable and morally unacceptable and we all have to work together and challenge the status quo.— Arne Duncan
When I am working with teachers to help them improve their effectiveness in the classroom it is easy to underestimate what conditions are necessary for change to take place. In Jim Knights book Instructional Coaching, he describes two conditions necessary for ideas introduced to survive and be implemented. He states that (1) the teacher must see that the new choice is more powerful than their current practice; and (2) the new choice must be easier for the teacher to implement. In addition, I have noticed that when I have been successful at motivating a teacher to try a new practice, I was deliberate about how I demonstrated my support for them while provided implementation the new practice. After ensuring the conditions for change are in place I had to have a realistic expectation about the time it takes for this process to take place. Nothing can be taken for granted about the different backgrounds, experiences, and understanding of each individual teacher being asked to change. Now, this is where the fun begins.
High Stakes Testing Culture
In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, we have accomplished a lot. We have managed to learn how to analyze assessment data to determine trends. We have also learned how to break down objectives or learning standards into their most intricate parts. Most of all we have learned how to make ourselves feel good about our data.Everybody is "data-driven" these days. But what does that really mean? There still exists a culture of assessment "I got ya". Frankly, we are so focused on assessments that we have missed the whole boat on instruction. If we put the same energy and intensity that we have invested in assessments into quality instruction, we might actually have more accurate assessments. Now I realize having quality assessments can and should drive instruction, we just need to vary it a little.
How can we, as school systems, transition from a culture assessment for accountability to one focused on students learning? any of you may have experienced an educational system that has figured how the "game" of high stakes state testing. The more intimately involved you are with teaching and learning the more repulsive the idea of playing with what state standards are taught and tested to merely make a school district look good.I am ready to buck the system by actually teaching and assessing for student learning first. I am not saying we should do away with summative assessments of learning. I realize how necessary it is for every school system. I would just like to see the focus put in the proper balance. Maybe we could even move toward looking at project-based work or performance-based assessments. In future posts, I will share some different strategies for assessing for learning. In the meantime, I guess we will keep plowing away at making more new tests.
Assessment for Learning vs. Assessment of Learning