Saturday, October 25, 2008

Beyond Gap-Closing: Some Thoughts

Does the overwhelming focus on closing the "achievement gap" channel our energy in the wrong places?

Say we are able to eventually "close" the gap, eliminate it. What would the purpose of education be then? How would our schools, testing, and/or curricula change? Would education look or feel different?

When we focus on "gap-zapping," as EdTrust refers to it, do we change the way in which we practice education? Should we seek to close the test-score gap at all costs? Does the end justify the means? 

Are we short-changing our students?

Paying Students for Performance

NPR airs a discussion of D.C.'s initiative to pay students for their performance and test scores. (a.k.a. bribing students, rather than changing teaching methods and curriculum so that they will actually find learning exciting...)

College Board to Offer Pre-Pre-Pre SAT

The College Board will offer another standardized test for students, reports The NY Times. The test will "help prepare eighth grade graders for rigorous high school courses and college." I'm not sure how a test helps students prepare for high school.
“This is not at all a pre-pre-pre SAT,” Lee Jones, a College Board vice president, said at a news conference. “It’s a diagnostic tool to provide information about students’ strengths and weaknesses.”

The College Board, which owns the SAT and PSAT, made its announcement when an increasing percentage of high school students are taking the rival ACT and amid mounting concern over what critics call the misuses of the SAT and ACT and other standardized tests in college admissions.

Those critics dismissed the new test for eighth graders as just what Dr. Jones said it was not: “a pre-pre-pre SAT.”

“Who needs yet another pre-college standardized exam when there is already a pre-SAT and the SAT test itself?” said Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a nonpartisan group that has called for colleges and universities to make standardized tests optional for admissions. “The new test will only accelerate the college admissions arms race and push it down onto ever younger children.”
Do we really need yet another test? Especially when the SAT is not even a reliable tool?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Teacher Training Model That Makes Sense

Education Week reports on the Boston Teacher Residency program trains urban teachers by placing them with a master teacher in an urban classroom for a year. This way, there are less surprises when they take on their own classrooms a year later. 

The program makes sense in comparison to other models. In traditional teacher certification routes, students spend less time in the classroom, have little control over placement, and the cooperating teachers' teaching skills can be questionable. With Teach for America, to-be teachers spend less than a month in a classroom, teaching only about one lesson per day. 

Boston Teacher Residency's program sets future teachers up for success and attracts those who are serious about education and teaching in the long-term. However, does it lose candidates to TFA, whose teachers will receive a full salary during the first year of the program, unlike BTR participants who will only receive a stipend?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Billionaires for Bloomberg

What would another term mean for NYC public schools?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Oh, The Things Money Can Buy: Admission to the Ivy League

This NPR report is hard to stomach. Sad and disturbing.

For $40k, Michele Hernandez will start working with your kid in 9th grade to ensure they'll get into the Ivy League. If Hernandez's schedule is too full to accommodate you, your child can take part in her 4-day admission boot-camp for only $14,000.

It's so sad.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Desperate Testing Shams

Schools in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana are transferring magnet school students' tests to the local schools that they would have attended. 
Jefferson school officials began rerouting scores last year at the urging of School Board member Judy Colgan, who feared the system's fledgling advanced studies schools were draining neighborhood schools of their brightest students and consequently lowering those schools' test scores.

School Sucks: but we'll bribe you with cell phone minutes!

Roland G. Fryer, Jr., former "Chief Equality Officer" for NYC schools and Harvard economist will head up the Education Innovation Lab, funded with $44 million from Eli Broad. The first year, researchers, who include "economists," "marketers," and "others" who are interested in reforming education will focus on studying "incentives" for students. This would include Fryer's plan to give middle school students cell phone minutes based on their performance. His plan won't be implemented in NYC (thank God), because the money couldn't be raised by private donors. Currently, NYC pays students in ninth and tenth grade up to $500 for test scores. It hasn't worked so far, but they're going to keep doing it.

Couldn't the money do much more if it was spent on teaching & learning--providing incentives for students to come to school because the subject matter is relevant and interesting, the buildings are welcoming, and teachers care about them?