Monthly Archives: September 2013

Are America’s Toddlers College and Career Ready?

by Russ Walsh, Russ on Reading, September 28, 2013

In a move that surprises very few in the education field, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) has decided to develop a college and career readiness test for toddlers. To be called the Toddler Intelligence Test (TIT), the development of the TIT is being overseen by a division of PARCC, the Toddler Assessment Team (TAT). A group of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, hedge fund managers and former tennis stars has been assembled to develop TIT for TAT.

A spokesperson for PARCC, Phil N. Blanks, said in a statement that the company is already well on its way to having standardized tests available for kindergarten and pre-school children, so the toddler test was the next logical area to target. “It’s never too early to develop college and career skills and we at PARCC will leave no child behind when it comes to being tested every year.” When asked why no early childhood education specialists or child psychologists were on the development team, Blanks noted that PARCC had found such experts were overly concerned with the negative impact of so much testing at such a young age. “These people just were not team players; they kept asking questions instead of developing questions.”

When asked what would be on the test, Blanks pointed to key areas of toddler knowledge necessary for college and career readiness. These include toilet training, large motor skill function (the specially designed answer sheet will have larger than usual circles to fill in), keyboarding, binary computer code and, of course, close reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Unable to determine how to measure toilet training proficiency on an answer sheet, the developers decided to make this a performance test. When finding volunteers to proctor this part of the test proved difficult, the entire test development was in danger. Luckily, according to Blanks, a group of eager young college graduates stepped in to fill the void. These students, known as Toilet Trainers for America (TTFA), received five weeks of toilet training over the summer, so they could effectively monitor the exam.

Buoyed by the success of the development of the TIT, PARCC has begun preliminary investigation into in utero college and career readiness testing.

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This Is Only a Test: ‘Reign of Error,’ by Diane Ravitch

By JONATHAN KOZOL, Sunday Book Review, New York Times, September 26, 2013

Over the past 20 years, a rising tide of voices in the world of public policy has been telling us that public education has fallen into an abyss of mediocrity. Our schools are “broken,” the mantra goes. Principals and teachers — their lack of “rigor” and “low expectations” for their students — are the primary offenders. The problem can be “fixed” only if schools are held to strict accountability. “No excuses” are to be permitted.

The pressure intensified in 2002 with the enactment of the federal testing law No Child Left Behind, which mandated high-stakes standardized exams that were supposed to bring every child to “proficiency” by the year 2014. When it grew apparent that this goal would not be reached, privatizing leaders pounced, offering business-modeled interventions as, perhaps, the only viable solution. Prominent figures in financial circles and at large foundations became interested in charter schools, encouraged their expansion and provided grant support to some of them. Others, with less philanthropic motives, saw a market opportunity and started running charter schools for profit. What had been a slowly growing movement now became a juggernaut.

Diane Ravitch was for many years one of the strongest advocates for the testing-and-accountability agenda. Because of her impeccable credentials as a scholar and historian of education, she was a commanding presence among critics of our schools. Some years ago, however, she reconsidered her long-held beliefs and, in an influential book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” parted ways with her former allies and joined the highly vocal opposition.

In her new book, “Reign of Error,” she arrows in more directly, and polemically, on the privatization movement, which she calls a “hoax” and a “danger” that has fed on the myth that schools are failing. Scores go up and down from year to year — usually, as she explains, because the testing instruments are changed and vary in their difficulty. But, pointing to the National Assessment of Education Progress, which has sampled math and reading scores every two years since 1992 and, in an alternate version, every four years since the early 1970s, Ravitch demonstrates that levels of achievement have been rising, incrementally but steadily, from one decade to the next. And — surprise! — those scores are now “at their highest point ever recorded.” Graduation rates are also at their highest level, with more young people entering college than at any time before. …

continue reading at New York Times

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Rhee Vs. Ravitch in Philadelphia

Diane Ravitch’s blog, 9/27/13

As it happened, Michelle Rhee and I nearly crossed paths in Philadelphia. This article describes our contrasting visions for the public schools of Philadelphia. She spoke on September 16, in a panel that included George Parker, the former head of the Washington Teachers Union, who now works for Rhee, and Steve Perry, ex-CNN commentator.

Governor Tom Corbett cut $1 billion from the schools in 2011, while cutting corporate taxes. He later added back a small part of the cut, but he left many districts in terrible fiscal trouble.

Philadelphia public schools have a deficit of $300 million, and thousands of staff have been laid off, including teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, librarians, and many others. Bear in mind that the Philadelphia public schools have been under state control for more than a decade. During that time, Superintendent Paul Vallas launched the nation’s most sweeping privatization experiment, which failed, according to independent evaluations.

According to this article (and in an op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer), Rhee saw the fiscal crisis as an opportunity to introduce performance pay. How that would close the budget deficit was unclear.

In my presentation at the Philadelphia Free Library, I read the language of the state constitution, which unequivocally assigns responsibility to the
state of Pennsylvania to support a thorough and efficient education for every child. That is not the case today. Governor Tom Corbett expects the state-controlled School Reform Commission to squeeze savings out of the teachers’ contracts, cutting salaries, benefits, and laying off more teachers. That is not the way to go.

Someday the children of Philadelphia will be the voters of Pennsylvania or some other state. They must be educated to choose their leaders wisely. Someday these children may sit on a jury where YOU will be judged. Just hope that they have the wisdom, knowledge, and compassion to judge you fairly. My view: The children of Philadelphia are as worthy of a good education as the children in the nearby suburbs. They need small classes, experienced teachers, arts programs, well-maintained facilities, guidance counselors, libraries staffed by librarians, up-to-date technology. They need what the parents in the suburbans want for their children. And they deserve nothing less.

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