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Monthly Archives: May 2015

John Thompson Explains Why Reformers Hated John Oliver’s Brilliant Critique of Standardized Testing

If you haven’t seen John Oliver’s video, celebrate the end of the school year by doing so. Get those endorphins flowing. Then read this post. The last paragraph is perfect!

Diane Ravitch's blog

As historian-teacher John Thompson explains, reform spokesmen were really outraged by John Oliver’s brilliant send-up and put down of our nation’s obsession with standardized testing and its primary beneficiary: Pearson.

Some used the typical manipulation of test data to claim big gains in 1999 allegedly caused by NCLB, signed into law in 2002.

Others must have been embarrassed by scenes of children chanting pro-testing propaganda, like happy robots.

The fear and trembling by reformers showed that Oliver hit exactly the right spots.

Thompson writes:

“Its hard to say which is more awful – the way that stressed out children vomit on their test booklets or schools trying to root inner-directedness out of children. On the other hand, even reformers should celebrate the way that students and families are fighting back, demanding schools that respect children as individuals. Even opponents of the Opt Out movement should respect the way it embodies…

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The Big Business of Charter Schools

Charter schools are big business. There are, of course, exceptions where charter schools are a grass roots effort to provide an alternative. If you ever doubted the motives behind most charter schools, give this a read; it is disgusting.

Diane Ravitch's blog

This is one of Valerie Strauss’s best columns, where she reviews a television interview with Dennis Brain, the CEO of Entertainment Properties Trust. Brain is a big investor in charter schools, and he is bullish about the future.

Here is a small snippet of the interview:

DB: Well I think it’s a very stable business, very recession-resistant. It’s a very high-demand product. There’s 400,000 kids on waiting lists for charter schools … the industry’s growing about 12-14% a year. So it’s a high-growth, very stable, recession-resistant business. It’s a public payer, the state is the payer on this, uh, category, and uh, if you do business with states with solid treasuries. then it’s a very solid business.

Anchor: Well let me ask you about potential risks, here, to your charter school portfolio, because I understand that three of your nine “Imagine” schools are scheduled to actually lose their charters for…

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Arthur Goldstein: Outrage! NY Cuts English Instruction

We need to support English Language Learners as their playground English turns into academic English–not pull the rug out from under them.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Arthur Goldstein teaches English as a second language to high school students in the borough of Queens in Néw York City. He is outraged because the Néw York State Education Department has decided to cut ESL instruction by integrating it into subject matter instruction.

He writes:

“Beginners, since I started in the eighties, have gotten three periods a day of instruction. Intermediate students got two, as did advanced. Proficient students, those who tested out, usually got one period but sometimes got another to help them along. Because placement tests are usually total crap, because they gave the same one for decades, and because some kids guess well for no reason, I’ve often seen kids at high levels come back for help.

“NYSED knows everything, though, and has determined we have to stop coddling these kids. So now, for one period a day previously devoted to English, all ESL students in…

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Detective Gordon, The First Case

Move over Holmes and Watson! Move over Poirot and Hastings! Another Detective duo is incover_Detec_Gordon town: Detective Gordon, the aging police chief toad, and his sidekick Buffy, a very young, energetic mouse. Use Ulf Nilsson’s book, Detective Gordon, The First Case, with readers who are ready for chapter books or to introduce mysteries as a read aloud. The story is a kinder, gentler type of mystery with easily understood messages. It also contains some word fun that students will enjoy exploring and repeating. For those who love drama, the characters are unique and lend themselves to creative expression. The illustrations are sweet, appealing, and as soft as the snow covered landscape of the book’s origins in Sweden.

Will Great Scores on a High Stakes Test Land You a Job at Goodreads?

Goodreads is a website that has created a huge community of readers, and their goal is to hook up readers with books they will love. In browsing today, I came across their Jobs page. I’m not looking to come out of retirement, but I was interested in their values:

  • Ownershipchild_books_fr
  • Create Fun
  • Be Humble
  • Think Big
  • Customer Obsession
  • Be Passionate
  • Help Each Other
  • Always Be Learning, Always Be Teaching.

Goodreads says they want people that are creative and care about the customer. Reread their list of values. Are any of those items on a standardized test? Are any of those values part of the Common Core State Standards? Would they be integral to a private school education where neither the CCSS nor standardized testing is required? Then WHY are we not including them in a public school education? All of our kids deserve a first class education.

If you want to see the source, go to:

Interested in World War II ? Dobryd is a good read!

dobrydThe period known as the Holocaust is a frequent topic of books for both adults and young adults. The book Dobryd is different in that it does not focus on characters who are arrested or imprisoned. In fact most of the story occurs in the years following the war. Told in the first person, this story details the struggles of a five year old girl as she emerges from over two years of hiding in a space too small for a standing adult. Most of her family is dead, but she still has her mother and an aunt. The reader is soon absorbed by their relationships as they begin to integrate into a Poland that is very different from the one they hid from. Their rescuer is Yuri, a Russian soldier who plays a pivotal role in helping young Ann relate to her new world and provides stability for her. Dobryd shows us the best and the worst of people and how they have a long lasting impact on Ann and her family.

Dobryd is classified as an autobiographical novel as the author was very young when the story begins and much is retold from the memories of others. It reads like fiction, but has the authenticity of history. Dobryd would be an excellent addition to a unit on the Holocaust or World War II. It invites comparisons to books such as The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank that are typically enjoyed by students in learning about this period. Dobryd offers opportunities to feel with Ann the discrimination she experienced based on religion and her family’s former social standing. We get to learn of her rapidly disappearing Polish heritage and of the geographical struggles Poland underwent as a nation being divided by its neighbors as one of the spoils of war.

Teacher: We Must Do What is Right No Matter What They Tell Us

Diane Ravitch's blog

A teacher left this comment on the blog:

G. K. Chesterton said, ““The Madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” Those that champion ed-reform are basically those that have lost everything but their reason, they reduce education, as they reduce most everything else, to what can be benchmarked and quantified, in a data driven environment everything is “rational” and “reasonable” but little else. There is no room for whimsy, there is no room for beauty, there is no room for sanity.

But as long as the classroom teacher is sane, does see the importance of whimsy, beauty, the individual and the discovery of the individual that lives beneath the surface of every student, real education will ultimately triumph. The real subversive work of the teacher is what happens in the classroom. That is why I…

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I Am That Teacher Too (Letter 3) Thematic Learning—Where the Pieces Work Together

Dear Former Students,chicks_fr

What do I hope you remember about me?

Reading, Math, and Science, Oh My!

Social Studies, Art, and Music, Oh My!

I hope you remember the special activities and projects that made learning so much fun—different activities for different years. Some of you raised calves and others hatched baby chicks or silkworms. We grew plants. Lots of you will remember our parakeet and our gerbils. You took turns letting Little Bird sit on your shoulder. You cleaned out cages and pens and learned a lot about life and a little about death. Some first grade classes researched dinosaurs and created individual reports on their work producing the most fantastic books.

Our whole day was about learning how to read, but you didn’t know it. Reading was in everything we did. I cocooned you with the look, sounds, and feel of language. When you emerged from that cocoon at the end of first grade, I had succeeded if you loved to read and to learn. I had succeeded if you had found a passion in some of the many things we explored: math, science, social studies, art, music, and of course language itself. We sprinkled in movement, drama, and dance. Was there anything you couldn’t do? I remember one of you telling me, “I am UNSTOPPABLE!” When the year began, your behavior was unstoppable, but when the year ended, your desire to learn was unstoppable. That was success for both of us.

Retired Superintendent: Standardized Tests Are Stupid: My Grandsons Are Opting Out

Just imagine…

Diane Ravitch's blog

Jim Arnold, former superintendent of schools in Pelham, Georgia, explains why he encouraged his grandsons and their parents to opt out.

He writes:

“Just imagine the millions of dollars spent on standardized test development, scoring, actual testing, test training and test security that could be spent to hire new teachers, lower class sizes, restore art and music and elective classes, buy new school technology, books, materials, end furlough days or – gasp – give teachers a raise.

“Imagine an end to the silly insistence that standardized testing is the only way to hold teachers and schools accountable.

“Imagine the return of the authority of the classroom teacher to actually teach their students rather than follow a scripted test-centric routine designed not to improve teaching and learning but to improve test scores.

“Just imagine schools focused on taking students where they are educationally and socially and concentrating on teaching and learning…

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