Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Graduation rate solutions

Evidently there is a wide discrepancy between the 4 year graduation rates of children with disabilities and plain children.  The gap is highest in Mississippi at 43% and lowest in Montana at 3%.  The US Office of Education is determined to narrow that gap by using what it calls "results-driven accountability".  They are all about accountability for outcomes.
It is very concerning that in reading possible solutions to this "problem", no mention whatever is made of the student's disability that may demand more time to learn the same material and, therefore, the student may need more than four years.   There is also no discussion of the fact that the material may be immaterial to the child's future and, thereby, wasteful of her precious school time to learn.  No attention at all is paid to the fact that for some students, the disability may preclude that child from ever learning the material.
Possible solutions have included creating an alternative math sequence for the child with a disability. It is left unsaid that the new sequence is probably considered easier.  However, mention is made that the new sequence might not be acceptable for college enrollment.  Kansas is notable for having the gap be less than 10%.   This fact was attributed to a "robust" co-teaching program.
It troubles me deeply that in none of these discussions is any mention made of the child's educational needs that would prepare the child for a successful transition into the competitive marketplace.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Another nail in standardized tests

A recent study indicates that standardized tests such as the SAT are not a better predictor of college success than are a student's high school grades.   Lead researcher on the study was the admissions director of Bates College, one of the early terminators of using SAT scores for admission.  So it could be argued that these results were self-serving.  Be that as it may, the results do still indicate that there is little to no difference in the success rates of college students with good high school grades and no SAT scores than are the success rates of students with good SAT scores and good grade.
Even more interesting is the result that students with moderate high school grades and good SAT scores are not as successful as students with good high school grades.  Hence the study seems to rightly conclude that high school grades are the better predictor.
Yet in spite of multiple studies that have shown test scores to be bad predictors of success post high school and/or post college, our society keeps moving more and more in the direction of using standardized tests to measure success.
One of the most recent efforts in this regard are the Common Core State Standards, a set of curriculum standards that is supposed to improve post-secondary outcomes for high school students.  What is very strange about these standards is that computer science skills are virtually absent from the standards, yet employers tell us that these are the very skills they need from future workers.  Yes there are some computer science standards scattered about the Common Core but there is no consistent sequence of skills in it own area.  Instead there are math skills that will be needed by only a select few.
The American infatuation with numbers seems to come from our belief if we can measure it and put a number to something, we have some how learned to control that something.  Sort of like, a child or adult can't be sick unless there is an elevated temperature./

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teachers First

Teachers are the most important link to our children's education.  We all know that.   Yet we do not treat them with the respect they deserve.   There are also people who would tell you that we do not pay them enough either.  I do not agree with either position.
I think SOME teachers should be paid a lot more than they are.  I also think there are quite a few teachers out there who are feeding at the public trough and not earning at all what they are getting every pay day.  The teachers who are just coasting on the public dime do not deserve our respect.
It is my view that if teachers should join the capitalist spirit.   I believe that teachers should be hired, paid and promoted the way most professionals are in our society- by how well they do the job.  For those teachers who do the job well, they should get to make decisions about what their students need and how to proceed to deliver what the kids need.  There certainly is a need for a common baseline of curriculum in our society.  This common core of skills is needed because of the tremendous mobility of our society.   However, beyond that, good teachers need to be able to decide how to pace the lessons and be required to figure out the methods for delivering this content.
Teachers who can't figure out the best ways to deliver content to students should get out of the classroom.  
We keep talking about bringing the best and the brightest into the classrooms of our country.  Well that is not going to happen as long as there are pacing guides that tell teachers what to teach and when to teach it.   It is also not going to happen as long as all teachers bad and good, get the same amount of salary.
That's how I see it.