Weekly Roundup 9/12/14

“Why so many seemingly rational people want to believe that Common Core’s standards and the tests based on them are worth keeping is a subject for an in-depth psychological study,” says Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, in an article on Breitbart.com. More on that later, but we couldn’t pass up a perfect way to summarize a selection of news that has left us reeling this week. With such strong feelings on both sides of this equation, and such a massive volume of misinformation in the media, it’s no wonder parents are confused about Weekly Roundup 4what the heck is going on with our educational system. (And they thought they were confused by their children’s math homework!)

This week, we have news related to all the key points in this ongoing debate: teacher tenure, privatization, high-stakes testing, opting out, and more. Here are our top 10 picks for the week.

There’s much to be said for authentic, person-to-person interaction that occurs in teacher-student relationships, but in all the discussion about assessments, reform, and accountability, we’re losing sight of that. Robert E. Slavin addresses this concern in an article at the Huffington Post, which reflects on a recent piece by David Kirp for The New York Times. Read The New York Times story here, and then take a look at Slavin’s take at HuffPost.

You’ve heard the argument that teacher tenure protects incompetent teachers. But it’s just not true. Well, the Wonkblog spoke with Jesse Rothstein, a former Obama administration economist and, according to Wonkblog, an expert on the quality of instruction in public schools. And according to Rothstein, the hubbub around tenure is pointless because it has little to do with student achievement and, perhaps even more importantly, getting rid of tenure could make it even more difficult to get high-quality teachers in classrooms. Read a full transcript of the interview at the Wonkblog.

Privatization of education is already happening in communities across the U.S. In Camden, NJ, a lawsuit has been filed by a group of 25 parents against the New Jersey Department of Education in response to the recent approval of two Renaissance schools, which are being funded by money that was formerly said to be unavailable. What’s more concerning, though, is that students were left crying at the loss of many of their favorite teachers — “the best ones,” as described by one student — and classrooms are left without licensed teachers or, in some cases, even long-term substitute arrangements. Read a speech read by Camden parent Carmen Crespo at a press conference announcing the lawsuit on Stephen Danley’s blog at Rutgers.

There appears to be a sudden change of heart in several governors who previously championed the Common Core, with Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Pat McCrory of North Carolina, Bobby Jindal of Lousiana, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Gary Herbert of Utah, and now Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania among the ranks. The news isn’t good for opponents of the Core, though, as many of these politicians are up for reelection, are the subject of lower approval ratings in their, or may be hopeful contenders for more powerful political offices. Once again, politics is trumping our students and education, and we need to be wary of these politicians who may just be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Read the article and decide for yourself.

Is Bill Gates using some sneaky tactics to make it appear as though state governors are giving up on the Common Core? “Instead of developing stronger alternative standards in place of Common Core’s misbegotten standards, some elected and appointed officials have deliberately played a trick on all of them by keeping Common Core’s tentacles in place while they use less toxic labels to describe the octopus strangling the education system,” says Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, on Breitbart.com. State officials are calling for reevaluations and reviews of the Common Core standards in their respective states, but all is not what it seems. It all appears to be designed as a clever plot that will, ultimately, further the Gates agenda. Read the full article here.

Tom Corbett appears to be playing right into Gates’ hand, with a recent announcement calling for a “continued public review of Pennsylvania-specific academic content in English language arts and mathematics standards from Kindergarten through 12th grade.” According to the press release, “This is the final phase in his nearly three year effort to permanently roll back the national Common Core plan implemented by his predecessor, Gov. Ed Rendell.” State Senator Andy Dinniman has a few things to say in response to Corbett’s seemingly sudden change of heart about standards which he has not objected to in years, conveniently timed leading up to the upcoming election. Read the response here.

Florida is making headlines again this week in terms of opting out of high-stakes testing. This time, it comes in the form of a teacher taking a stand and refusing to give the standardized test. As reported Tuesday, Susan Bowles is a teacher with 26 years of experience and currently teaches kindergarten. She has jumped through the testing hoops but drew a line in the sand this year, as the FAIR (a diagnostic test that predicts students’ success in reading) moves from a paper-pencil test to an online format. This means it is necessary for teachers of young students to administer the test one-on-one. The article outlines all of the problems with this system, but Bowles’ main issue was the amount of instructional time being lost to administering the tests – a total of six weeks. Read the article to see all of the issues and to see what has happened to Bowles as a result of her decision. You may just be surprised!

What’s the real deal with the opt-out statistics? We’ve talked about districts opting out and even parents opting their kids out of high-stakes testing, but we’ve also emphasized the importance of everyone taking a stand together as a unified force. The Center for Integrated Education takes a look at the rising numbers of students opting-out of high stakes testing in NYC, and while the numbers may be statistically insignificant, they sure are growing. “About 4,700 city students did not take this year’s English tests and 15,470 students didn’t take the math exams, according to an updated tally released by the State Education Department and the city Department of Education. The totals include 1,925 students whose protesting parents opted their children out of taking the tests, a 450 percent increase over last year,” according to the article. Still think opt-out figures aren’t significant? Read the full story at CITE.

This infographic is must-see material. “The Gates Foundation Education Reform Hype Machine and Bizarre Inequality Theory” highlights some revealing information about Bill Gates’ involvement in public education – every step of the way. Check it out at Truth-Out.org.

Peter Greene (if his name sounds familiar, you probably know him as the genius blogger behind Curmudgucation) takes a real look at whether we’re ready for a new conversation about Common Core, and education reform as whole, at the Huffington Post. “Reformsters have yet to answer some fundamental questions about themselves and their Common Core based reforms,” Greene points out. “Who are you (and your financial backers), and why should we be listening to your ideas about education? What is the basis for your ideas, and why should we take them seriously?” Until these fundamental questions are answered, Greene says he struggles to envision how to start a useful conversation surrounding education reform. Read the full story here.

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