What Makes This Time Different? It’s Not a Pendulum, It’s a Guillotine

Submitted by 4th grade teacher, Diane Valentino

I’ve only been a teacher for 23 years, but have been around long enough to teach through an impressive number of shifts in educational methods and doctrine. All of these have been well intentioned; although not all have been realistic and effective. After surviving a childhood filled with “New Math”, I burst onto the teaching scene filled with basal readers, workbooks and hand drawn bulletin boards! We were dealing with unfunded mandates and jumping through education reform hoops back then, so what is the difference now?

I’ve seen the reading pendulum swing from phonics only, to SRA’s to basal readers. The Whole Language movement reigned for quite a while, then refocused on to reading for comprehension, and other researched based programs designed to “redesign teaching”. Now, Close Reading is the newest best practice. Again, all with good intentions and always aiming at making our profession of education better. Math instruction has been reshaped, redesigned, reworked, and reimagined a hundred different ways! Skill and drill, manipulatives, MathTheir Way, Everyday, spiraling, Chicago, Singapore, are just a few of the packages I have opened and relearned, only to realize it all comes down to good teaching methods and the intuition to teach the children that are in front of you, not the ones in some far away pilot study. Good teachers have always known how to pick the best parts of all of the above and mold it into a balanced teaching program that, at the end of the day, met the needs of the 25-30 kids sitting in their classroom.

I’ve written courses of study, learning objectives, pupil performance objectives and curriculum maps. I’ve been told to stop teaching phonics, (I didn’t), only to have it come back repackaged and rebranded as “word study”. I’ve unpacked, backward designed and planned with “the end in mind”. Let’s not forget the dawn of formative assessment techniques right up to today’s world of SLO’s and data driven decisions, and finally, drumroll please…The Common Core.

Through it all, I’ve given standardized tests to my students. I’ve given the CAT, the ITBS, Terra Nova, Otis Lennon, In View, Ohio Proficiency Test, OAA’s, and I’m sure a few more in addition to those. I’ve told my students to “just do you best” when I wasn’t allowed to give clarification on questions they could easily have answered if it was formatted a different way…you, know…for different types of learners (i.e. humans). Those “why are you abandoning me?” eyes would cut through any teacher’s heart.

Then, there are the “oh so helpful” political contributions to the world of public education. From Why Johnny Can’t Read, A Nation at Risk, right up through NCLB, and now, today’s Race To The Top, STEM and PARCC. Throw in anything that the Koch’s have contributed and you have “the perfect storm”. I’ve seen unfunded mandates, endured Education Governors, and watched as my profession has been thrown under the big yellow bus so many times we have permanent tire tracks running down our backsides.

I’ve been paid less than, and have been teased by “business professionals” who asked why I stayed in teaching when their quarterly bonuses were the size of my annual salary? (1990’s) Fast forward a few years, and I was told I make too much money “just for being a teacher”, by those same business professionals that boomed and lost their fair weather fortunes. I’ve had my future pension gambled away by an unregulated market only to be blamed by local and state governments that my pension is bankrupting the municipality.

SO WHAT IS DIFFERENT THIS TIME?

Why am I so enraged and afraid for the actual existence of Public Education?

The first punch in the face comes from a little known (to the general public that doesn’t take interest in politics…) 2010 Supreme Court Decision called “Citizen’s United”. This gave corporations the same “rights” as people when it comes to contributing to political campaigns. This means, corporations can, in fact, contribute to lawmakers campaigns and EXPECT payment back in the forms of laws that divert public money into said corporations.

Enter face punch #2: What better marketplace than a 500 billion dollar U.S. Education market? As the Education Reform corporations (Pearson, Gates Foundation, Achieve, In-Bloom, White Hat, SAT, Venture, etc.), lick their chops at the thought of getting a piece of 500 billion dollar pie, a generation of students is being used, abused and spit back out into a world that expects them to be “college and career ready”. It seems clear to see that the corporate “formula for success” is to rig the education game by buying laws that allow education reformers to create a formula that ensures public schools fail, (happening RIGHT NOW), while EXEMPTING private schools from some of the same rules, then make a financial killing on “for profit” schools.

It seems so simple. Why aren’t parents, tax payers and teachers camping out on their congressman’s front lawn and demanding their elected officials stop cheating them? Do they really think it will save tax dollars? If they do believe that, then they probably believe that state lotteries “fund” education and senior programs. FOLLOW THE MONEY. This is not the same old game. This time it’s different.

Diane Valentino
4th Grade Teacher
Twitter: @d_val1

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May 2014 School levies and issues

149 school levies and issues will appear on the May 6th primary ballots across the state. The majority, 78, are renewals, with 58 asking for new or additional monies, the remainder are substitute or replacement levies.

The table below lists all the issues and levies that will appear on ballots. When you vote, we urge all the supporters of Join the Future to consider supporting their local schools.

County Distrcit Type Description
Allen Allen East Local School District Levy Renewal
Allen Bluffton Exempted Village School Dist Levy Renewal
Allen Delphos City School District Levy Renewal
Allen Delphos City School District Levy Renewal
Allen Perry Local School District Levy Renewal
Athens Trimble Local School District Levy Additional
Athens Athens City School District Income Tax Renewal
Auglaize St. Marys City School District Levy Renewal
Auglaize New Bremen Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Belmont Bellaire Local School District Levy Additional
Belmont Union Local School District Income Tax Additional
Brown Ripley Union Lewis Huntington LSD Levy Additional
Butler Middletown City School District Combo Additional
Butler Fairfield City School District Combo Additional
Champaign Mechanicsburg Ex Village School Dist Levy Renewal
Champaign Triad Local School District Income Tax Additional
Clark Greenon Local School District Levy Additional
Clark Tecumseh Local School District Levy Renewal
Clark Tecumseh Local School District Levy Renewal
Clark Clark-Shawnee Local School District Levy Additional
Clinton East Clinton Local School District Levy Renewal
Columbiana Beaver Local School District Levy Renewal
Columbiana United Local School District Levy Renewal
Columbiana Wellsville Local School District Levy Renewal
Coshocton Coshocton Co. Jt Vocational Sch Dist Levy Additional
Crawford Colonel Crawford Local School District Levy Additional
Cuyahoga North Royalton City School District Bond N/A
Cuyahoga Olmsted Falls City School District Bond N/A
Cuyahoga Brooklyn City School District Levy Renewal
Cuyahoga Parma City School District Levy Renewal
Cuyahoga Shaker Heights City School District Levy Additional
Darke Greenville City School District Levy Renewal
Defiance Ayersville Local School District Combo Additional
Defiance Defiance City School District Bond N/A
Erie Perkins Local School District Levy Additional
Erie Sandusky City School District Levy Renewal
Fairfield Walnut Twp Local School District Levy Additional
Fairfield Berne Union Local School District Income Tax Replacement
Fairfield Liberty Union Thurston Local Sch Dist Income Tax Renewal
Franklin Groveport Madison Local School Dist Combo Additional
Franklin Canal Winchester Local School Dist. Levy Substitute
Fulton Pike Delta York Local School District Levy Renewal
Fulton Swanton Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Geauga Newbury Local School District Levy Additional
Greene Greeneview Local School District Income Tax Additional
Hamilton Loveland City School District Levy Additional
Hancock Van Buren Local School District Bond N/A
Hancock Findlay City School District Levy Renewal
Hancock Arcadia Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Hancock McComb Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Hardin Ada Exempted Village School District Levy Renewal
Henry Liberty Center Local School District Combo Additional
Henry Patrick Henry Local School District Levy Replacement
Huron Norwalk City School District Levy Additional
Huron Willard City School District Levy Renewal
Jefferson Edison Local School District Levy Additional
Jefferson Jefferson Co Jt Vocational School Dist. Levy Renewal
Knox Danville Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Lake Kirtland Local School District Levy Renewal
Lake Madison Local School District Levy Additional
Lake Riverside Local School District Levy Substitute
Licking Southwest Licking Local School Dist. Bond N/A
Licking Johnstown-Monroe Local School Dist. Combo Additional
Licking Granville Ex Village School District Levy Renewal
Licking Northridge Local School District Levy Renewal
Logan Indian Lake Local School District Levy Renewal
Logan West Liberty-Salem Local School Dist. Levy Renewal
Lorain Elyria City School District Levy Renewal
Lorain Keystone Local School District Levy Additional
Lorain Sheffield/Sheffield Lake CSD Levy Renewal
Lorain Sheffield/Sheffield Lake CSD Levy Renewal
Lorain Wellington Ex Village School District Levy Renewal
Lucas Sylvania City School District Levy Additional
Lucas Springfield Local School District Levy Additional
Madison Madison-Plains Local School District Levy Renewal
Madison Jefferson Local School District Income Tax Additional
Madison Jonathan Alder Local School District Income Tax Additional
Mahoning Austintown Local School District Bond N/A
Mahoning Boardman Local School District Levy Renewal
Mahoning Boardman Local School District Levy Renewal
Mahoning Poland Local School District Levy Renewal
Mahoning Springfield Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Mahoning West Branch Local School District Income Tax Additional
Marion Ridgedale Local School District Combo Additional
Marion Pleasant Local School District Levy Additional
Marion River Valley Local School District Levy Additional
Marion Tri-Rivers Jt Vocational School District Levy Renewal
Marion Tri-Rivers Jt Vocational School District Levy Replacement
Medina Cloverleaf Local School District Combo Additional
Medina Brunswick City School District Levy Renewal
Mercer Parkway Local School District Levy Renewal
Mercer St. Henry Consolidated LSD Levy Renewal
Miami Bethel Local School District Bond N/A
Miami Piqua City School District Levy Renewal
Miami Tipp City Ex Village School District Levy Renewal
Montgomery Brookville Local School District Levy Additional
Morrow Mt. Gilead Ex Village School District Income Tax Additional
Muskingum Franklin Local School District Levy Additional
Muskingum Zanesville City School District Levy Renewal
Ottawa Danbury Local School District Levy Additional
Ottawa Genoa Area Local School District Levy Additional
Perry Southern Local School District Levy Additional
Pickaway Logan Elm Local School District Combo Additional
Portage Aurora City School District Levy Renewal
Portage Field Local School District Levy Additional
Portage Ravenna City School District Levy Additional
Portage Rootstown Local School District Levy Renewal
Portage Southeast Local School District Levy Renewal
Preble National Trail Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Preble Tri-County North Local School District Income Tax Additional
Richland Lexington Local School District Levy Renewal
Ross Union-Scioto Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Seneca Bettsville Local School District Levy Additional
Seneca Hopewell-Loudon Local School District Levy Renewal
Seneca Tiffin City School District Levy Renewal
Seneca Mohawk Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Shelby Botkins Local School District Levy Renewal
Shelby Russia Local School District Levy Renewal
Shelby Sidney City School District Levy Renewal
Shelby Fort Loramie Local School District Income Tax Additional
Stark Fairless Local School District Levy Additional
Stark Jackson Local School District Levy Renewal
Stark Osnaburg Local School District Levy Additional
Stark Northwest Local School District Income Tax Renewal
Summit Green Local School District Levy Renewal
Summit Manchester Local School District Levy Renewal
Summit Mogadore Local School District Levy Additional
Summit Woodridge Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Mathews Local School District Combo Additional
Trumbull Bristol Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Howland Local School District Levy Additional
Trumbull Lakeview Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Liberty Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Liberty Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Southington Local School District Levy Additional
Tuscarawas Dover City School District Combo Additional
Tuscarawas Claymont City School District Levy Renewal
Tuscarawas New Philadelphia City School District Levy Additional
Tuscarawas Tuscarawas Valley Local School District Levy Additional
Union North Union Local School District Levy Renewal
Warren Franklin Local School District Levy Additional
Washington Belpre City School District Levy Renewal
Washington Warren Local School District Levy Renewal
Wayne Rittman Exempted Village School Dist Levy Renewal
Wayne Triway Local School District Levy Renewal
Williams North Central Local School District Bond N/A
Williams Millcreek West Unity Local School Dist Levy Additional
Wood Northwood Local School District Combo Additional
Wyandot Carey Exempted Village School Dist. Income Tax Renewal

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A Governor who still doesn't get it

The Governor talked about numerous plans for education in his State of the State speech last night, but mostly in vague terms.

StateImpact Ohio has a rundown of each item he mentioned.

A few items stood out for us. He talked about Vocational Education for 7th Graders. We're not too convinced that 12 year olds really know what kind of career they want - let alone what careers might still be in demand a decade later. Placing any focus on this at such an early age, rather than on study and growth is a distraction and a sop to the business community.

He also talked about the need for Money for Early Childhood Education, which we would applaud. But it should be noted that one of his first acts as Governor was to eliminate the funding for universal pre-k so he could deliver his tax cuts. So it is again with skepticism that we view this pledge, especially as it came with no details on how it would be paid for, and delivered.

He also said there should be College Credit for High School Students - without seemingly knowing this has been available for a very long time now.

Targeting High School Dropouts was also a priority he said. We were hoping that would mean the closure, or tightening of regulations around drop-out recovery charter schools. But alas, no.

Kasich says his administration will send ideas to the state legislature on how to keep kids from dropping out and will solicit suggestions from school districts too. Kasich says those plans may include taking students out of the traditional school environment and may incorporate on-the-job training in apprenticeship programs with businesses.

All-in-all then, when it comes to education this is still a Governor who doesn't get it.

Here's the response by his Democratic Party rival, Ed FitzGerald

Ed FitzGerald State of the State Response from Ed FitzGerald For Governor.

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Teachers experience online testing fiasco

Diane Ravitch published a letter from a New Hampshire school Principal. The Princiapls school teachers had just trailed the online Smarter Balance tests (In Ohio, we'll be using PARCC, not Smarter Balance, but much of thesame problems are expected to be encountered). Needless to say, it didn't go well.

This communication is to share the sentiment of the FMS staff as it relates to the Smarter Balance Test. As you know, our staff used the December Early Release to take this test with the goal that it would provide us with some insight how we might incorporate the “common core” and the format of the Smarter Balance Test into our instructional practices. We believe that we successfully incorporated the NECAP Test format and GLEs into our teaching practices, especially in our “Bell Activities. “

Although a few staff members shared that they believed that our test scores would improve over time, I was surprised with the responses from the FMS teachers when we gathered to debrief after taking the test. I was hopeful that we would have teachers sharing test vocabulary, ideas for test taking, and strategies to help prepare our students for the 2015 Smarter Balance Test. Instead, teachers shared frustrations they had when they were taking the test and disappointment in test format and the difficulties they had trying to use their computer to take this test.

The comments shared below come from successful dedicated veteran teachers. I have much respect for this staff and I not only appreciated the honesty of the staff in their response to the Smarter Balance Test; but, I am hopeful that the Nashua School District will accept these responses in a positive way and not look at the comments as “negative” or “unprofessional”. The FMS staff collectively believe that the Smarter Balance Test is inappropriate for our students at this time and that the results from this test will not measure the academic achievement of our students; but will be a test of computer skills and students’ abilities to endure through a cumbersome task.

Listed below are some of the concerns that were shared by our staff:

*I feel sad for the students who have to take this test — not many will be successful.

*Much is said about “depersonalizing” information as part of a learning strategy. This is not how students learn.

*There is too much “stuff” going on the screen at once. It is difficult to move the icons where you want them. Students don’t know how to use the “mouse” everything for them is “tough screen”.
If you leave the screen for a short period of time the information on the screen will be gone when you return. “I tried the grade six-grade math—it was humbling. It was scary.

*I had technology problems. If kids have these problems they’ll just quit.

*Double-wide monitors would help. I am a huge fan of concept maps but notepad does not let you do that on Smarter Balance. You can’t even copand paste from the notepad into the test.

*This was more of a test on the computer skills than on the math concepts. If I was a student I would just pickout an answer and move on.

*Too tedious—kids will get sick of it and just guess to move on. Kids won’t even get past the computer directions.

These are just a sample of the concerns that were raised at this meeting. We did shift to “what do we have to do from now until the spring of 2015 to prepare students. Sample answers include:

*Pay attention to the directions. Provide students with many opportunities to read directions for their assignments.

*You can’t just read this test and then respond. Students need to highlight and take notes—especially during the audio questions.

*Students need to learn to “read the question first”.

*Students need to be able to go back into the text passages to pull out data that will support their answers.

*Students need to read through the questions and all possible answers. Sometimes questions give the answers to other questions in the test.

*Kids need to know how to do “note taking”.

*We need to teach students “how to draw an inference”.

*Students need to learn how to write a transition sentence between two paragraphs.
*Students need to learn how to write using “the speakers” voice.
*Students need to memorize formulas in this test.
*Students will have difficulty writing in the boxes that expand because of the technology of the way the box expands.
*Students will have trouble reading and understanding the directions and what is being asked by the question. Is this test closely aligned to the “common core?” It is important that teachers know what the test will be assessing.

*I am concerned that the math test is not necessarily testing students’ math abilities since there is so much reading. This test seems to assess how well the students read the math questions more than their math skills. Thus, because of the amount of reading, I question the validity of our receiving a math ability score.

*When Measured Progress developed the NECAP there was a committee on bias to check for testing bias. Does Smarter Balance do the same? Also, math teachers were asked to evaluate the questions to eliminate unnecessary verbiage so that the Math was being tested.

*The opening pages of directions and computer information was ridiculous. I didn’t read it—I’m sure my students won’t. Suggestions: We should have posters made of the most important and often used keys to post in each math classroom. Students need to practice making equations in Word, including the fractions symbol. We need to teach students to distinguish between on correct answer and many correct answers. There are questions that tell the students to choose the correct answers.

*The test is difficult to navigate with so many keystrokes to juggle.
*The page layout makes it eye weary even though you can expand the screen and zoom in and out.
*The passages are lengthy and time consuming and made me consider just choosing “B” so I could move on. Some terms in the reading seemed out-dated—“Plumb crazy and millwright” for example.
I had to use multiple skills and at the same time multitask—id—the audio portions require me to listen and at the same time read possible answers while constructing a well written paragraph in my head.

*The test assumes the students are skilled in such areas as pre-reading and questions and if they are not, it assumes they will learn while taking the test to read the questions in advance of the reading.

*There wasn’t a flow or cadence to the questions. The type or style of questions changed from one to the next. The answers were not straight forward—for example on the math test they did not want the answer to the equation, they wanted to know if the answer was 2/3rd greater than what you started with. I understand this is import ant but this test will be exhausting for the kids.

*The idea of the best answer and then there being 2 or more good and appropriate answers. It felt like a trick. We’re going to look bad for a few years.

*I did 30 questions in an hour and then had to take a break. My eyes hurt and my shoulders felt strained. When I returned 5 minutes later the work was gone.

*Each question is totally different than the one before it creating confusion which creates more confusion for the test takers.

*Frustration level builds as your take the test creating mental despair—students will shut down.
Many of the math questions seemed to have no basis in the real world and skills that will never be used in life. Students will need to be taught the technology skills for the test.—scrolling through screens, highlighting, scanning the questions, touch typing, and more.

*The test does not encourage students to use writing webs, brain maps, organizers to assist with writing. Summary: In my opinion, this test is a sad indictment of how disconnected the people who design the test are from the typical students in the classroom. Assessment is necessary but it should be designed to be developmentally appropriate for the students being tested. Assessment should also all for different methods to demonstrate competency rather than one computer model. This test is designed for one type of student—the verbal learner with exceptional executive functioning skills.

*I took the Grade 7 Language Arts test which I believe is developmentally designed for adults, not seventh grade students. The questions were tedious and punitive. I’m not sure that any seventh grader in the St ate would be able to score well on this test. The worst part of this test was the directions. They were numerous and multifaceted. After observing middle school students take tests for over a decade, it is my firm belief that most kids will stop reading the directions because there are too many and they are far too complex. Students will fail this test and the test will destroy their confidence which is an important stage of their development. In addition, the results of this test will become a public relations night mare for the school and the school districts as children will fail in large numbers.

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Public schools are neither cars nor boxes of cereal - let's stop treating them like they are

Via Alternet

We Americans love choice. Just look at the cereal aisle in Giant Eagle. You could choose a different box every day of the month and still have more varieties left to try. But public schools are not corn flakes. Here’s the problem with “choice” when we’re talking about public education.

When we’re in the cereal aisle, we are consumers looking for our favorite brand, the best price, or perhaps grabbing a box of sugar filled junk with a toy surprise inside to appease our screaming two year old who won’t stay in the cart (been there). But schools are public goods, not consumer goods. Think about other public goods and services that you use, such as public safety. We don’t want to choose from different police providers, we want our local police department to be great: to offer high-quality service that meets the needs of our local community.

We don’t need more choices in public education. We need great public schools in every community, that any parent would be happy to send their children to, and that meet the needs of local families. We don’t really have any choice at all if our local public school is not a high quality option.

Choice is a free market ideology. Markets do a good job making stuff and selling it. But they also create extreme inequality, with winners and losers. Choice alone doesn’t guarantee quality: you can stick five kinds of dirt in those cereal boxes and offer them as a “choice,” but nobody wants to eat that. Pennsylvania teacher and blogger Peter Greene compares school choice to the drive to mediocrity in the cable TV industry and explains, “Market forces do not foster superior quality. Market forces foster superior marketability.”

The parent-as-consumer model promotes school choice as an individual choice, abrogating our responsibility as citizens to provide great public schools for all children. Public schools are community institutions that must meet the needs of communities.

Continue reading...

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Poll conducted by corporate Ed backers, backfires

The Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice, a corporate education booster, ran a poll. They didn't exactly get the results they were hoping for.
How does a policy of school choice compare to other reform initiatives in their perceived efficacy for school improvement?
Figure 8(below) includes the average perceived efficacy for each type of school reform after controlling for covariates. School choice in the form of vouchers is in the middle of the pack, with smaller class sizes, technology, and accountability perceived as more efficacious and reducing teachers’ unions’ influence, merit pay, and longer school days as less efficacious.

Even after an attempt to goose the results (pg 5 "source comes from a poll conducted by the Friedman Foundation that included a nationwide sample and an oversampling of mothers of school- age children (“school moms”)."), respondents didn't think much of merit pay, busting teachers unions or vouchers. What they cared most for was smaller class sizes and better technology.

If those results weren't bad enough for our corporate reformers, they had more bad news in their poll

Only 29% of respondents liked the idea of tax payer funded vouchers to pay for private schools,

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