Monday, December 31, 2012

Where Test Insiders and Data Wonks Meet

StandardizedTests: Rotten at the Core

First, from test insider Todd Farley, who has worked for a testing company:
"there’s also the fundamental problem with getting twenty people to score a hundred thousand tests in any standardized way, especially in some two-week time frame. It just can’t happen. The students’ responses are too varied, unusual, unique."

Then, from the "data wonks" at a recent MIT conference:
"The problem is that a math model, like a metaphor, is a simplification. This type of modeling came out of the sciences, where the behavior of particles in a fluid, for example, is predictable according to the laws of physics.
In so many Big Data applications, a math model attaches a crisp number to human behavior, interests and preferences. The peril of that approach, as in finance, was the subject of a recent book by Emanuel Derman, a former quant at Goldman Sachs and now a professor at Columbia University. Its title is “Models. Behaving. Badly.”
The rest of these posts each contain great information, supporting information.  The 2 quotes above show how two distinct groups, independently, show the basic fallacy that underlies standardized assessment:
"Humans don't behave that way!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

... but do you really?

Share time
Below are some transformative ideas I have been exposed to via Twitter.  I cannot attribute them all, as some are from as long as 2-3 years ago.
They have been rolling around in my brain, as I attempt to imagine what that would look like.

1.  If you can Google it, out with it.
Should we be asking kids questions, when a simple Google search will give them the answer?  Where does that fit on Bloom's Taxonomy?
2.  If the teacher knows it, out with it.
This is an intriguing idea.  Teacher is learner.  I read on Twitter recently where a teacher was told by her students that they most enjoyed learning WITH their teacher.
3.  What if learning at school was like learning on
Twitter? - Tom Whitby.
To imagine this is mind-boggling.  Chaotic, passion-based learning.  Tom's post on this makes for mind-stretching thought.
4.  Superintendents, Principals and Curriculum Directors promote a joy of teaching and learning rather than adopting a content coverage mentality. - Eric Williams.
Love it.  I have detested the word "coverage" from Day 1.  How does a "content coverage mentality" reconcile the explosion of the information/access age.  It doesn't!
5.  You - teachers and administrators - are  each responsible for your own individual Professional Development.  No more whining.  No more victims.
Speaking of reconciling, let's try these:
"I am a life-long learner.  I want my students to own and be responsible for their own learning."
"That inservice was terrible.  I learned nothing.  It did not apply to me.  I could have better spent my time working in my room.  When are they going to do something that is meaningful for me, that I can take back in my classroom and use right away?"
Really?  Come on.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When we all do well on the NAEP ...

1. Teach to the test: set aside well-thought out, child-centered activities to have students memorize possible NAEP content AND to have students practice taking standardized tests.
2. Test to the test: set aside well-thought out, child-centered activities to have students take standardized tests like the NAEP  periodically (e.g. monthly, quarterly) throughout the year.  These "intermittent tests", like NWEA or Scantron or MAPS to name a few, report to have a statistical predictive correlation with how students will perform on the "big ones".
(In addition, the "intermittent tests" can be used for what we call a "universal screener" to monitor progress. I know that prior to the testing explosion, GOOD TEACHERS WORKING TOGETHER WITH KIDS AND PARENTS were monitoring progress, but ...
Apparently, we have decided that if we are not doing well on the NAEP, we are failing.  So, when we all do well on the NAEP, where will we be?
1.  Testing companies profits will soar.
2.  Kids will be adept at filling in bubbles, "thinking INSIDE the box".
3.  More kids, and parents, will be disillusioned and disenfranchised with the schools.
4.  Higher Order Thinking Skills will have been replaced by teaching, and testing, to the test.  Same with the arts and subject areas not tested.
5.  The curriculum at your local school will have been dumbed down for success on standardized tests.
6.  We will not be happy with where our kids are, what they are able to do, and the schools will be blamed.
If our goal is success on the NAEP, why not look at what it will be like when we have achieved that goal BEFORE we commit to it?
I have not discussed the construction, administration, scoring, and disemination of the NAEP.  Go to your local school and find out about the NAEP.  Ask:
1.  Who administers the NAEP?
2.  What is on the NAEP?
3.  Who scores the NAEP?
4.  How did your school do the last time you gave the NAEP?
5.  What was done with your school's NAEP results?
6.  How did you, the local school, use the NAEP results to benefit the students who took it?  Change curriculum?  Change instruction?  Provide follow-up diagnostics and services to individual students based on the results?
You will be shocked.  The NAEP is educational malpractice.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Tweet that Was Brilliant in Simplicity!

Brilliant in it's Simplicity:!/davison_carol/status/203312002737766401

PLC's are effective when the walls that adults build to divide, to separate, to compete, to obfuscate - are torn down. 

Then, the adults in a PLC with one purpose - to benefit their students.  Pride, defensiveness, embarrassment, etc. are abandoned.

PLC's then become purposeful.

As noted by Carol Davison, PLC's are not about field trips, recesses, assemblies, and specials schedules.

They are about looking at student work to advance all student learning.

Thanks, Carol, for the exhortation and the reminder.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

EdcampMKE - Wow! Top Ten

The Top Ten things about EdcampMKE:
1. I learned a ton about Evernote!
2. I went to a Tech Smack Down.  Wow!
3.  - Document of learning from the smack down.
4. I belong at Edcamp.  Driving there, I did not know.  I was nervous.
5. You belong at Edcamp.  Everyone does.
6.  The unique structure of Edcamp, coupled with the freedom for the attendee, really maximizes learning.
7. It is great to get together with other Higher Ed people.
8. @pernilleripp 's blog of advice for attending an Edcamp is a must read! Thanks, Pernille.
9.  More people who attend Edcamps either need to be in administration, or go into administration.  Unrelenting, unbridled, unencumbered, unimpedable, purposeful, intellectual,  DEDICATION TO THE FUTURE OF THE CHILDREN WE SERVE - what the EdcampMKE was all about.
10.  Next Edcamp for me: Oshkosh, Wisconsin on August 1.
It was also great to connect with my Merton and Arrowhead friends and people I follow on Twitter but had never met, and to make new connections.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fessin' Up

This we know:

1.  Standardized tests are not worth the paper they are printed on.  This includes NCLB tests, MAPS and NWEA and Scantron tests, and the hallowed ACT and SAT tests.  What these tests purport to measure is better measured by other means.  Research tells us this!Further, these tests are a waste of kids' time and involve no student learning.
We are teaching to the test.
We are testing to the test.
We are doing test prep drills for the tests that test to the test.

2.  Educators started the grade retention of students, and educators continue to promote the practice despite a mountain of research evidence against the practice.  Educators need to end it.

3.  Many educators are not committed to lifelong learning.  This is a problem.  Many educators hold others responsible for giving them their PD when, how and where they want it.  And, it needs to allow them to stay within their comfort zone.
I read people gnashing their teeth about getting more people to use free PD like Twitter.  "How can we get more people to use Twitter?"
Put the P back in PD.
Make the P responsible for PD.

4.  Many day-to-day, and long-term, decisions made in schools/districts are made in the interests of adults at the expense of students and learning.
We need to be vigilant, dedicated.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The enemy is us ...

Standardized testing:
"I have no problem with that."
"We need the results faster."
"We need a growth model."
"Value-added? Where do I sign up for the conference?"
"The tests will take care of themselves if we do the right thing by kids."
"Our school goal is to raise our reading test scores by 5%."
"We need to have a handle on how our schools are doing."
"The tests need to be web-based for quicker turn-around to teachers."
"Exciting - quarterly tests with 24 hour turn-around that predict how the kids will do on the NCLB tests?"

Have you said any of these?  I have to admit I have said one of them.  And look what we have created, by not sending a clear message. We knew it all along.  Come on.  We learned it in undergrad, elaborated in grad school, read it in our professional journals, had it reinforced in PD.  The tests do not serve kids.  Say it.  Good.  Lather, rinse repeat.  Wiggins, Stiggins, McTighe, et. al.  Educational Leadership, The School Administrator, etc.

We have states, districts, schools, and teachers rated by tests.
We have them published on school websites, by the popular media, on State Department websites.
Now, we have teachers being compensated based on them.  Teachers and Principals losing their jobs over them.


Borrowing from the politicians, we need to get back on message.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

You asked ...

Those of us who are critics of NCLB and/or state blueprint plans, particularly the rush to retain kids and high-stakes test them, have been challenged to put up some ideas.  Below is a start.
1. Schools ought to run for students.
2. Students need to own their learning, and be in charge of it.
3. Transparency.

1.  Student Assessment
-  Schools will develop interdisciplinary dispositions for students. They will be published.
The dispositions will be based on the 4 C's, adaptability, etc.  Skills that the literature has identified are necessary to students to be successful - in any and all senses of the word - in THEIR future.
-  The schools will develop a performance-based opportunity for students to exhibit their progress in the attainment of the interdisciplinary dispositions.  These exhibitions will occur at approximately the following age intervals, at least:  age 8-11, 12-14, 15-18. The students will have unlimited options in exhibiting their progress on the interdisciplinary dispositions.
- A trained team of teachers, parents, business/community leaders shall provide formative feedback to each student.  This is following the student presenting evidence of progress to the team, place, time, form, and substance to be determined by the student.
- Once in each interval of age 9-11, 12-14, 14-17, the school is required to administer a *standardized test to all students. The school will be required to develop and **publish the following:
    a.  Results on the test.
    b.  What the school has concluded regarding the test results in terms of implications for the school curricular and instructional program AND in terms of implications for individual students.  Specifically:
         - Are the results reliable, are they a true indicator or an aberration?  How was that determined?
         - Are the results valid, meaning, are they important?  How was that determined?
         - What is being done in response to the results as part of improvement plans for school?
         - What is being done for individual students as a result of students spending time on this test?**
* Standardized tests: NWEA, MAPS, Scantron, WKCE, ITBS, FCAT, MCASS, PSAT, EXPLORE, PLAN, SAT, ACT.
** Publication must adhere to student privacy laws.

2.  Freedom
- Grade retention of students is banned.  Nationally.
- Schools and districts are given freedom from the Carnegie-unit system.
- Schools are given freedom from seat-time/student attendance requirements.
   Rationale: This is the 21st Century.  Students do not have to "physically be in a school building" to "be in school", or learn.
- Schools can abandon the traditional "curricular/extra-curricular" paradigm and implement a student interest-driven, passion-based model.  Certification requirements, limiting schools to traditional subject-area silos, are waived.  Content fidelity under this model is to the inter-disciplinary, application-based dispositions as referenced above. rather than discrete subject area knowledge.

3.  Highly Qualified
Each student is entitled to a "highly qualified":
- teacher.
- principal/administrator.
- parent/guardian/community advocate.
- school board.
- state legislature.

4.  Role of State Legislature
The state spends approximately 50% of their budget on education.  Therefore, they are required to spend 50% of their time working on education, and learning about what kids need for tomorrow from their education today.

5.  Role of State Educational Agency
- Educate the state legislature.
- Help schools.
- Work in cooperation with the State Legislature to develop and implement models to ensure each student is provided the highly-qualified team identified  in #3 above.

6.  Role of US Dept. of Education
Report card to Congress and the people, to include identification of:
- State legislatures in Need of Improvement (SLIFI).
- State Education Agencies in Need of Improvement (SEAIFI).
Suggested criteria: Google Vincent v. Voigt for finance needs, proficiency of each unit in duties assigned above, other.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Further Outside My Comfort Zone?

As I concluded my preparations this afternoon, excited to start my 9th year teaching School Law to graduate students at Cardinal Stritch University, the changes I am incorporating caused me to reflect: is this even further outside of my comfort zone than what I did less than 3 months ago?

1. Graduate Class - 24 adult students in downtown Milwaukee, Wis.  School Law for aspiring Principals or Curriculum Directors in a degreed program, taught using a real-life, application, problem-based, inquiry/discussion format incorporating Smartboard use, BYOD, Twitter and backchanneling.  (I am very excited to start!) Tomorrow night.


2.  Teaching 1st-7th graders, class sizes of 35-55, literally halfway around the world (South Sudan, Africa), no electricity, no student textbooks, no lighting, no running water, no computers, no WI-FI, cultural differences, using the Ugandan curriculum.  Two and a half months ago.

It's fun to just contemplate - which is further outside my comfort zone.

I am committed to having my grad class model some of the components the students need to see in 4K-12 classrooms by having them experience it first-hand.