Republicans oppose critical thinking

The 2012 Texas Republican Party Platform opposes the teaching of critical thinking skills. We had to read that twice too.

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

They appear to oppose critical thinking being taught so that it doesn't undermine propaganda being instilled in them, to wit...

Early Childhood Development – We believe that parents are best suited to train their children in their early development and oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten. We urge Congress to repeal government sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development.

Early childhood education is crucial to the future success of students, to ppose pre-school and kindergarten is extreme to say the least.

Is Texas an anomoly, or leading the way in rightward education thinking?

you decide, their platform document is below, with the education pieces starting on page 11

2012Platform Final

Are we serious about evaluations?

We were reaing an interesting article on development of teacher evaluations in California, that has this passage

The Los Angeles Unified School District rolled out its technology-based teacher evaluation system in August. Seven hundred fifty “pioneer” teachers volunteered to test the new system, featuring a newly-negotiated set of teaching and learning standards. The new framework was devised with input from over 1,000 educators working in small groups. To begin the process, teachers grade themselves (from “ineffective” to “highly effective”) on 63 teaching standards, then fill in a lesson plan template, identifying which of the 63 standards their lesson addresses, and to what degree. Trained observers download the lesson, observe the teacher using it, and enter their own data. Everything but the observation itself is managed online.

Teachers at the September conversation showed a real willingness to reform their own approach to evaluation; not one spoke up to say they would not participate, or be against the new system. Of course, many stated historical concerns: did we really expect that a new system would foster collaboration, when the current system supposedly depends on collaboration but doesn’t produce enough of it? What about principals who are not experts in the teacher’s content area? Are we really going to continue using standardized test scores, when there is so much evidence that many learning gains happen in ways the tests cannot measure?

Cue the screech to a halt sound effect. "The new framework was devised with input from over 1,000 educators working in small groups"

In Ohio, the evaluation system has been half crafted in closed door, smoked filled legislative chambers, with the rest done through a half-baked online comment form and just 18 "meetings" with hand picked teachers.

Are we serious?

When endorsements go wrong

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell (I), is probably regretting his ill-conceived endorsement of SB5 right about now. No sooner had his claims about the benefits of SB5 been debunked as nonsense, and it revealed he was laid off as a firefighter before collective bargaining existed, now the attention he has brought himself has landed him in some ethical hot water.

The chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party has asked the Ohio Ethics Commission to investigate the $656,000 in federal grants and loans the city of Toledo has awarded to a development company owned by Mayor Mike Bell's niece.

In a brief letter yesterday, Chris Redfern, the party's chairman, formally requested the ethics commission "to commence an investigation into the contractual relationship that exists between the City of Toledo and Shayla Bell."

Ms. Bell, 27, started Fort Industry Development shortly after her uncle took office in January, 2010. Since then, the city has awarded Ms. Bell's company five contracts to buy, rehabilitate, and sell foreclosed homes. The rehabilitation work itself is performed by a general contractor. Fort Industry also is to receive two more contracts, which would bring the total close to $1 million.

"I think it's clear that Shayla Bell wouldn't have received one penny if her last name wasn't Bell," Mr. Redfern said.

City officials dispute that claim. Mayor Bell has said his niece earned the contracts on her own initiative with no assistance from him. She had to qualify with the city's neighborhoods department to begin receiving the contracts.

She had no prior construction or development experience, but she teamed up with two businessmen from an established commercial and industrial glass company in creating Fort Industry. That gave the firm the experiences and financial wherewithal to qualify for the program, neighborhoods department staff has said.

Is it any wonder that people are sick and tired of politicians taking care of themselves and their special interests while attacking hard working people?

Vote NO on Issue 2

Common Core Cooperation?

Terry Ryan of the Fordham Institute had a sit down with the new Ohio Superintendent Stan Heffner and discussed the development of Ohio's common core academic standards. Heffner revealed to Ryan that he believed teachers input would be crucial to success

Heffner argued to me (and previously had written in a February 2011 paper for the Council of Chief State Schools Officers) that the successful implementation of the Common Core, in any state, will come down to teacher involvement and ultimate buy-in. He believes that teachers should be involved in the implementation process in five significant ways:
  • They must have a significant presence in the development of the new common assessments.
  • They will have to change their instructional practices in critical ways if the Common Core is to ultimately lead to higher levels of student achievement.
  • They will need model curricula – either generated by states themselves or by SBAC or PARCC in partnership with states – to help them understand and embrace the rigor and expectations of the Common Core standards.
  • They must be involved in the development of the model curricula.
  • They will need significant amounts of professional development in order to change their established practices and culture in favor of a new design that the Common Core standards and common assessments will demand.

We can only hope that cooperation breaks out, so that Ohio education policy can take a turn for the better.

Ohio School Funding

We attended a meeting at the State Library of Ohio hosted by Barbara Mattei-Smith, the Governor's Assistant Policy Director for Education. The topic for discussion was the development of a new Ohio school funding formula to get us past the current "make-it-up-as-you-go-along" bridge formula.

This time, with adequate notice, lots of teachers filled the room to almost standing capacity.

funding meeting

MS. Mattei-Smith laid out 3 principals being worked from

  • Resources need to be student centered, creating an appropriate learning environment
  • Students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and a funding model has to address that
  • There are a number of delivery systems to consider such as charters, online, traditional schools, joint vocational etc

Given how Ohio's education system has been deemed unconstitutional numerous times, it is perhaps a little surprising not to see a constitutional funding formula being the number one guiding principal.

It is further surprising that the evidenced based model is being discarded, with scant solid reason for doing so. While some issues regarding the EBM were alluded to by Ms. Mattei-Smith, none seemed to stretch to the conclusion it should be scrapped, rather than modified and given time to work. Haim Ginott - "Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task." As one teacher noted, it's like a team getting a new coach, and along with that change, a new playbook, schedules, uniforms and philosophy, for no other reason than there's a new coach.

Indeed, while it took a protracted amount of time and consultation to develop and roll out the EBM, the current plan for a funding formula is on a much faster track, with far less consultation. We will have to wait and see what the details are, but the proposed speed and method of development should cause concern.

Further concern should be given to reports that the Governor is considering mechanisms for consolidation of school districts. An awful lot of education policy is being churned right now, from SB5 to teacher evaluations, merit pay, and school funding with very little of it being given time for deliberative thought, consideration and consultation. As a Columbus teacher mentioned, it has all the hallmarks of blind men describing an elephant.

Right now we can only hope that the creature being created by the administration isn't some hybrid abomination, but hope isn't too reassuring.

Collaborations Between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems

The Center for American Progress just published a report titled "Partnering for Compensation Reform - Collaborations between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems". Whether you support merit pay for teaching or believe it is an effective way to compensate teachers and improve student outcomes, one thing is increasingly clear. Collaboration is essential. This is why SB5 and the SB5 provisions that were included in the state budget were such terrible ideas, doomed to failure.

Here's a brief snippet from the report. Please note that CAP is funded in part by the Eli Broad Foundation, a Corporate education reform booster, but here at JTF we like to bring a depth and breadth of research for you to consider. One of the school systems studied was Toledo.

Through our four case studies of these TIF grantees, the author has identified six common elements at work in these performance-pay partnerships between districts and unions:
  • There is a history of trust—the belief that the other party genuinely wants what is best for you—between teachers’ unions and school district leaders.
  • Leaders identify key challenges together and focus on joint problem solving and learning.
  • Teacher input is encouraged and valued in the design of pay programs.
  • Pay programs embrace a comprehensive approach focused on building teacher capacity, including a focus on new professional development systems and teacher evaluation systems.
  • Teacher participation in pay programs is voluntary.
  • Districts allow for flexibility in program design.

Some critics have raised questions about whether performance pay in particular has an impact on student achievement. A study released in the fall of 2010 by researchers at Vanderbilt University raised questions about the effectiveness of one performance-pay program involving 300 middle-school math teachers in Nashville, TN, suggesting it had little impact on student performance. Notably, however, the Vanderbilt program was narrow in scope, limited largely to a bonus tied solely to test scores, and lacking additional program components or supports for teachers. Unlike the programs we studied, however, the Nashville program did not take a comprehensive approach that tied performance pay to improvements in professional development or to changes in how teachers are evaluated.

More comprehensive and collaborative approaches, such as the partnerships we examined in the four districts receiving TIF funds, are more likely to be successful. There is little reason to expect that a simple bonus by itself can have a profound impact if it is not paired with substantive changes in professional development, teacher evaluation, teacher working conditions, and a significant role for teacher leadership and input in schoolwide reform efforts, among other elements. Many of these more comprehensive approaches are just beginning to be put into practice, so little evidence exists yet of their relative effectiveness on student achievement. More research in this area will be helpful in determining the impact of these reforms over the long term.

Partnering for Compensation Reform