Archive for the ‘educrats’ Tag

Oregon Rep Dennis Richardson Takes a Stand Against Common Core   21 comments

Read this week’s powerful letter by Oregon State Representative Dennis Richardson.

 

dennis r OREGON

Rep. Richardson’s Newsletter August 20, 2014

 

Common Core. The Answer to Oregon’s Failed Education System?

 

I flew helicopters for the Army in Vietnam. In flight school it was commonly known that one-third of us Warrant Officer Candidates would “wash-out” and not graduate. While a one-third wash-out rate may have been acceptable there, it is not acceptable for one-third of Oregon high school students to drop-out before graduation.

There are hard questions about Oregon’s education system that deserve to be answered. What will be the costs to individuals, families and society of having one-third of our students dropping out of high school? How are they going to perform in the competitive 21st century global job market? What is Governor John Kitzhaber and Oregon’s state education leaders doing to stop the race to the bottom, where Oregon currently has the second lowest graduation rate in the country, and the highest rate of chronic student absenteeism?

As families get their school supplies in order and make other preparations to help their students start the new school year on the right foot, many are questioning Oregon’s latest endeavor to fix our failed education system and wondering if it will pass the test. Today’s newsletter will address the misguided solution enacted by the Governor and state education leaders to the abysmal condition of Oregon’s public education system, by implementing the newest in a list of federally-promoted educational programs known as Common Core. To put this discussion into perspective, consider the following scenario: For years, the dilapidated Sellwood Bridge in SE Portland has been a source of concern. Out-of-date and unsafe, it needed to be completely rebuilt to remain functional, a project that is currently underway. Now imagine that because of the dilapidated condition of the Sellwood Bridge, every bridge in the state is to be torn down and rebuilt– all at the same time. Think of the cost, the disruption, the waste. Of course the idea would be ridiculous, but in a way it is exactly what is being foisted on the entire Oregon education system by mandating implementation of the Common Core, and the silence from the Legislature is deafening.

What is Common Core?

Starting this academic year, all Oregon public schools (as well as those in many other states) are scheduled to abandon previously established academic standards and implement a new and untried nationalized set of learning goals called Common Core. The performance of these standards will be measured by new standardized tests. At Common Core’s outset, when the federal government offered “stimulus” money to the state Governors that accepted Common Core, the standards and tests involved had not even been written. In other words, the Governor and state education leaders unilaterally committed all Oregon’s school districts to adopting a new statewide curriculum before it had even been developed, and Oregon was committed without Legislative consideration or approval.

Since then, Common Core’s standards and tests have been created by a group of people with very limited classroom experience, and in many cases NO classroom experience at all. Now, Common Core’s standards are being implemented without any legislative or public involvement, and still have not been fully tested. (The implementation of Common Core sounds to me like our national health plan, which was passed by Congress before any of our Congressional representatives had the opportunity to read it.) Currently many states are seeking to repeal or delay implementation of Common Core, and a great deal of legislation has been proposed across the nation to address this issue. The American Federation of Teachers union, called for a midcourse moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core. The Oregon teachers’ union (O.E.A.) has also called for a moratorium. Even Common Core’s biggest supporter, the Gates Foundation, has called for a two-year delay. Concern over prematurely implementing Common Core crosses political party lines. People who would normally be on opposite sides of the issues are banding together to speak out against Common Core.

Why is opposition to Common Core so widespread and impassioned?

Let’s ask the teachers, those who work in the ‘trenches,’ in Oregon’s classrooms, those who often spend more time with our children than anyone else. The best teachers will tell you that regardless of low pay or long hours, they are teachers because they are passionate about the subjects they teach, about learning, and about being able to make a difference in childrens’ lives. I can only imagine what it will do to the state of our classrooms if, when summer vacation ends, our teachers must throw out the lesson plans they adjust to meet their students’ needs and instead teach to Common Core’s new standardized tests—replacing curriculum with test preparation activities. The ‘heart’ and the passion that connects our best teachers to their students will be missing when they are relegated to class monitors, provided scripted materials written by bureaucrats and other non-educators. Certainly Oregon’s educational system needs to be overhauled, but Common Core is not ready to solve the systemic needs of Oregon’s failed educational system. Veteran teachers are reporting morale is at an all-time low and it’s attributed to the confusion and sterility of Common Core State Standard’s (CCSS) approach to learning and testing. This concerns me greatly, for if passion and creativity are forced out of teaching, we will lose our passionate and creative teachers.

To make matters worse, the future of our teachers are at risk. The new system will tie teacher evaluations to student success on Common Core tests without provisions made for those who teach our more “high-risk” learners, such as low-income students and those with learning disabilities. It seems an almost foregone conclusion that our at-risk learners will fail and the jobs of their teachers are jeopardized since pro-Common Core State Deputy School Superintendent Ron Saxton expects only 35% of Oregon students will pass the Common Core tests. The Oregon Department of Education has requested the U.S. Department of Education to temporarily let teachers off the hook for expected low test scores of Oregon students, but the schools and school districts will be ranked. Who then will teach our most challenged students, when teachers know their reputations or professional futures could be jeopardized if they work with at-risk students? Add the fact that teachers have been given little or no training on these new standards, and it becomes very evident that there are serious flaws with Common Core. Should we really be implementing something we are expecting students to fail? Who will flourish in this setting? Gifted students will be bored, students who already dislike school will be even more inclined to skip, and students with obstacles to learning will simply be unable to succeed. Teachers in schools that have already begun implementing Common Core tell me how struggling students are being pulled from electives in order to pass early implementation Common Core tests. These teachers are witnessing the marginalization of students whose strengths lie outside of the areas being tested. Many teachers are agonizing that Common Core’s mandate will do more harm than good, and will only compound Oregon’s problems with absenteeism and lack of on-time graduation. Is this really what we want for Oregon’s children? Of course not.

When it comes to enacting these new standards, we have more unanswered questions. How much will it cost to train teachers to implement Common Core? How much to purchase new learning materials and to acquire the technology necessary to administer and track the tests? And, who will pay? With schools already in dire financial straits, where will the money come from to implement yet another federal educational experiment on Oregon’s rising generation? Finally, it concerns me to see that many of the people behind these standards and the requirements of these tests are affiliated with multi-billion dollar companies with financial conflicts of interest.

These are companies that have near monopolies on the contracts to provide the tests and corresponding curriculum. There is a glaring conflict of interest in having mandatory materials designed by those who are positioned to profit from them. And even if profits to its originators didn’t taint this new system, even if good intentions were the sole impetus behind this top-down policy, national control of state education policies is still a bad idea.

Decisions about the education of our children should not be dictated by a select, distant few. Educational decisions are best made by those closest to the students—parents, teachers and local school boards—not far away state and federal bureaucrats and large, conflicted corporate representatives. Oregon’s education standards need local control with rational state oversight and evidence-based practices learned from Oregon’s most successful schools. Currently, Oregon’s on-time graduation rate is second worst in the nation and our student absentee rate higher than every other state. I believe in educational equality for all students and that every student deserves three things—a mentor, a reason to stay in school and an opportunity for a decent job after graduation. I believe action to fix Oregon’s failing schools system must be taken, but it should be based on what is working in Oregon’s most successful schools, not untried educational experiments fomented by national “educrats” and funded with federal largess.

Solutions for Oregon educational system’s tragic failure. Rather than fret over the dismal state of Oregon’s statewide educational system and rather than pathetic attempts by Governor Kitzhaber and his appointed education leaders to address it by implementing Common Core, let’s look to Oregon’s home-grown examples of success. Let’s look to the many stories of exemplary teaching and learning that are setting the standard for academic achievement in Oregon. At Riverdale High School in SW Portland, students in Mark Wechter’s physics class are ranked among the best national and international young bridge engineers today. At Summit High School in Bend, more than 40% of the students take AP classes prior to graduation. Students in the Portland School District have won more National Constitution Team championships than any other city in the nation. Singers in Sue Schriener’s vocal ensemble, “Souled Out” at Wilsonville High have competed nationally and are strong enough musicians to share the spotlight with professional ensembles. And there are many more stories like these. In fact, 77 Oregon public schools were exemplary according to the US News and World Report 2014 list of America’s best high schools.

The list of Oregon schools included four with gold medals (Beaverton’s International School ranked #26 out of more than 19,000 public schools nationwide), 22 with silver medals and 51 with bronze medals. With answers and examples of excellence right here in Oregon, why on earth should we diminish these rich learning environments by focusing on untried, one-size-fits-all nationalized experiments like Common Core? We shouldn’t. I believe it’s in the best interests of our students to stop implementing Common Core. It’s a remotely managed reform measure fraught with problems. Let’s look to model programs in Oregon’s own commendable schools for guidance on how to improve the performance of schools and students that are struggling. We should halt Common Core’s race to the middle and allow local schools who best understand their students to engage in creating Oregon’s educational solutions. We should focus on what it is that engages students and keeps them interested and in school, rather than on high stakes educational experiments written by “educrats” who don’t have an understanding of our children. Simply put, I strongly recommend we join the ranks of states that require “evidence-based” practices and have turned down Common Core.

Since our students are returning to class in less than a month, our Governor and state education leaders should immediately put a moratorium on Common Core. If they fail to take the initiative, our Legislative leaders should be unified in demanding an immediate moratorium on Common Core. We only have one chance to educate a child and all our children deserve better than what they’ll get from Common Core.

 

Sincerely,

 

Representative Dennis Richardson

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Dr. Christopher Tienken Explains PISA and Real Education Beyond PISA   7 comments


This article, reposted with permission from Christienken.com, was written to challenge education bureaucrats who are using the latest PISA results to justify their crooked reforms. Diane Ravitch, Yong Zhao, and Rick Hess have excellent posts as well on the topic of PISA.
Dr. Tienken’s questions for ed reformers at the end of his article take the cake!

tienken

What PISA Says About PISA

by Dr. Christopher Tienken

Pundits, education bureaucrats, and policy makers rejoice! It’s PISA time once again. Cue the dark music, fear mongering, worn out slogans and dogma about the United States education system failing the country economically. Sprinkle in “global competitiveness” throughout your press release, gush over how well those non-creative, authoritarian Asian countries performed, push your market oriented, anti-local control reforms, and presto, you are ready for prime-time education-reformer status. It seems as if America is suffering from a severe case of PISA envy. But what do the vendors of PISA say about PISA?

Unfortunately, the release of the latest PISA scores tells us nothing about the quality of a country’s education system, nor do the results predict economic doom or success. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2013, p.265), the private group that sells the PISA, the results should not be used to make sweeping indictments of education systems or important policy decisions. In fact, the vendors caution that the results of the PISA tests are a combination of schooling, life experiences, poverty, and access to early childhood programs, just to name a few factors:

“If a country’s scale scores in reading, scientific or mathematical literacy are significantly higher than those in another country, it cannot automatically be inferred that the schools or particular parts of the education system in the first country are more effective than those in the second. However, one can legitimately conclude that the cumulative impact of learning experiences in the first country, starting in early childhood and up to the age of 15, and embracing experiences both in school, home and beyond, have resulted in higher outcomes in the literacy domains that PISA measures.”

Not only are PISA results influenced by experiences “in the home and beyond”, but there is a sizeable relationship between the level of child poverty in a country and PISA results. Poverty explains up to 46% of the PISA scores in OECD countries (OECD, 2013, pp. 35-36). That does not bode well for the U.S. with one of the highest childhood poverty rates of the major industrialized countries.

Schooling does not end when a child turns 15 or 16, the ages of the students tested by PISA. Students continue their education for another 2-3 years and are thus exposed to more content. The vendors of PISA acknowledge that the scores from a 15 year-old child could not possibly predict or account for all that child knows or will grow to learn in the future. According to the PISA technical manual (OECD, 2009 p. 261) curriculum alignment and the selectiveness in countries’ testing populations also contribute to differences in the scores:

“This is not only because different students were assessed but also because the content of the PISA assessment was not expressly designed to match what students had learned in the preceding school year but more broadly to assess the cumulative outcome of learning in school up to age 15. For example, if the curriculum of the grades in which 15-year-olds are enrolled mainly includes material other than that assessed by PISA (which, in turn, may have been included in earlier school years) then the observed performance difference will underestimate student progress.”

Furthermore, the vendors reiterate their cautions that PISA is not aligned to any curriculum (2009, p.48):

PISA measures knowledge and skills for life and so it does not have a strong curricular focus. This limits the extent to which the study is able to explore relationships between differences in achievement and differences in the implemented curricula.”

But what “skills for life” does PISA measure? A look at the released items suggest that some of the content measured is just rehashed versions of subject matter that has been around for the last 120 years: Hardly 21st century skills. PISA does not measure resilience, persistence, collaboration, cooperation, cultural awareness, strategizing, empathy, compassion, or divergent thinking.

So, if the vendors of PISA repeatedly warn that PISA is not aligned to school curricula, the scores are influenced strongly by poverty and wealth, the skills are left over from the 19th and 20th centuries, and out-of-school factors contribute to the overall education output in a country, then what does PISA really tell us about the quality of a school system or global competitiveness? Not much.

U.S. students have never scored at the top of the ranks on PISA or any other international test given since 1964. Countries like Estonia, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Poland, and Latvia outscore the U.S. on every PISA. Does that matter? What is their per-capita GDP? How many Nobel Prizes have they won? How many utility patents do they produce each year? Where have high PISA scores gotten them? Are they going to “out-compete” the U.S.? I don’t think so.

Beyond the utterly anti-intellectual statements being made about the latest round of PISA scores, there are some basic questions that policy makers, education bureaucrats, and the latest crop of self-proclaimed savior-reformers should answer before thrusting assertions and untested policies upon 50 million public school children.

What is your definition of global competitiveness?

How can one test predict global competiveness or economic growth?

Was the PISA test designed to predict economic growth (OECD, 2009; 2013)?

What empirical evidence do you have that high PISA scores result in higher levels of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship (Zhao, 2012)?

Are you aware, that when you disaggregate the data by percentages of poverty in a school, the U.S. scores at the top of all the PISA tests (Riddle, 2009)?

Do you know what disaggregate means?

If countries like Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia, Vietnam, Latvia, and Poland routinely outscore us on PISA, why isn’t their per capita gross domestic product or other personal economic indicators equal to those in the U.S. (World Bank, 2013)?

What empirical evidence do you have that PISA scores cause economic growth in the G20 countries (Tienken, 2008)?

What jobs are U.S. children competing for in this economy?

What evidence do you have to demonstrate U.S. students are competing for the jobs you cite and with whom are they competing (evidence for that as well…)?

Do you think that lower wages is a reason multinational corporations choose to sell out the American public and set up shops in places like Pakistan,
Indonesia, Cambodia, India, China, Bangladesh, and Haiti?

Are you aware of the strong relationship between our growing trade with China and the loss of our manufacturing jobs (Pierce & Schott, 2012; Traywick, 2013)?

Why are companies like Boeing and GE allowed to give their technology, utility patents, and know-how to the Chinese in return for being able to sell their products in China (Prestowitz, 2012)?

Can higher PISA scores change the policy of allowing U.S. multinationals to give away our technological advantages?

Are you aware that only 10% of Chinese engineering graduates and 25% of Indian engineers are prepared to work in multinational corporations or corporations
outside of China or India (Gereffi, et al., 2006; Kiwana, 2012)?

If you are not aware of that fact, don’t you think you should be?

Are you aware that 81% of U.S. engineers are qualified to work in multinational corporations – the highest percentage in the world (Kiwana, 2012)?

Are you aware that adults in the U.S. rank at the top of the world in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship and that those adults were educated during a time of NO state or national standards (Tienken, 2013)?

If you are not aware of that fact, don’t you think you should be?

Are you aware that the U.S. produces the largest numbers of utility patents (innovation patents) per year and has produced over 100,000 a year for at least the last 45 years? No other country comes close (USPTO, 2012).

Did you answer “No” to three or more of these questions? If so, don’t you think it is time that you save the taxpayers money and resources and resign?

Sources

Gereffi, G., Wadhwa, V. & Rissing, B. (2006). Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate: Comparing the Quantity and Quality of Engineering Graduates in the United States, India and China. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1015831 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1015831

Kiwana, L., Kumar, A., & Randerson, N. (2012).The Skills Threat from China and India – Fact or Fiction. Engineering U.K. Retrieved from http://www.engineeringuk.com/_resources/documents/Engineering_Graduates_in_China_and_India_-_EngineeringUK_-_March_2012.pdf

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2010). PISA 2009 results: What students know and can do: Student performance in reading, mathematics and science (Vol. I). Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/pisa/ pisaproducts/pisa2009/pisa2009resultswhatstudents knowandcandostudentperformanceinreadingmath ematicsandsciencevolumei.htm

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2013). PISA 2012 results. What students know and can do: Student performance in reading, mathematics and science (Vol. I). http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-volume-I.pdf

Pierce, J.R. (2012). The Surprisingly Swift Decline of U.S. Manufacturing Employment. Yale School of Management and National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://economics.yale.edu/sites/default/files/schott-09-oct-2013.pdf

Prestowitz, C. (2012, Feb. 22). GE’s Competitiveness Charade. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from: http://prestowitz.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/02/22/ges_competitiveness_charade 5

Riddle, M. (2010, December 15). PISA: It’s Poverty not Stupid [web post]. The Principal Difference. Retrieved from http://nasspblogs.org/principaldifference/2010/12/pisa_its_poverty_not_stupid_1.html

Tienken, C.H. (2008). Rankings of International Achievement Test Performance and Economic Strength: Correlation or Conjecture? International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 3(3), 1-12.

Tienken, C.H. (2013). International Comparisons of Innovation and Creativity. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 49, 153-155.

Traywick, C.A. (2013, Nov. 5). Here’s Proof that Trading with Beijing is Screwing America’s Workers. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from: http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/ posts/2013/11/05/heres_proof_that_trading_with_china_is_screwing_american_workers

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. (2012): Patents by Country, State, and Year: Utility Patents. Alexandria, VA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/cst_utl.htm

World Bank. (2013). GDP Per Capita. Retrieved from: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD
– See more at: http://christienken.com/2013/12/05/what-pisa-says-about-pisa/#sthash.iLc3v8ZP.dpuf

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Thank you, Dr. Tienken.

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