Thursday, December 31, 2015

Is the U.S. Dept. of Education Acting Like an Ineffective Elementary School Teacher? Is the State Dept. of Education Echoing Bad Classroom Management?

The article (in quotes) below is from the Connecticut Mirror  

In my first year as a teacher I discovered that you can only punish outliers and that punishing too many kids, too often, and for too many things was to risk losing my authority and to come off as an over-reactive paper tiger, struggling to control situations that should not have arisen in the first place. I think that all good educators come to this conclusion and I wonder why this doomed approach seems to be the only arrow the U.S. Department of Education has in its quiver when dealing with the Opt Out Movement. As explained in the article below and numerous others recently, apparently the U.S. Dept. of Ed. is threatening to punish state departments of Education (quite a good number of them) if they don't force a sufficient enough number of their state's students to take standardized tests. This, in the face of growing dissatisfaction with the culture of testing in our schools and more and more parents and their children simply 'opting out' as their coping mechanism of choice.

As a teacher and then as a central office program director, a curriculum department head, and finally a member of the Deputy Chancellor for Curriculum and Instruction's cabinet, I witnessed several Chancellors and Mayors of NYC declare that Social Promotion would be ended on their watch and that only students who actually achieved to the levels considered minimal for promotion would go on to the next grade at the beginning of the following school year. This of course was silly, because making this threat could not possibly change the achievement of low performing students and then, … well, what are you going to do with all of those kids who've been left back? Re-doing the entire school system to accommodate the remedial needs of an overwhelming percentage of the student body  would have derailed the organizational structure of the school system and cost more than the system could have afforded. No doubt, too, it would have precipitated the disdain of the public and the press who surely would have asked, "Well, why didn't you teach those kids properly in the first place?" Outsiders to the profession always seem to see the responsibility of educating a generation of youngsters in simplistic, black and white terms.

At any rate, what would make sense here would be for the U.S. Department of Education to sincerely ask "Why is it that so many kids and parents want to opt out?" THAT should be the starting point for coping with this growing trend, not forcing compliance!!! By the way, there are many good reasons to eliminate these tests; I think far more and far better reasons than there are for giving them considering their substance and the way that they currently are administered... but that's a topic to explore another day...

"State sets penalties for schools with high exam ‘opt-out’ rates

A Bridgeport student takes a Smarter Balanced practice test. file photo
School districts where more than 10 percent of students miss required statewide exams for a second consecutive year will lose funding and  may have their performance ratings downgraded.

The state Department of Education decided on the penalties after the U.S. Department of Education directed Connecticut and 12 other states to come up with plans to deal with high numbers of students that missed the annual exams last school year

 Districts that achieve the federally required participation rate of 95 percent will receive a letter of commendation from the state education commissioner, and those that have participation rates between 90 and 95 percent will receive a letter reminding them they must raise their participation rate to meet the federal requirement.

 This approach will ensure that districts meeting the standard are commended, those failing marginally are gently alerted, and those falling behind are strongly reminded of the potential consequences and provided support to remedy the situation," Connecticut Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell wrote in a letter to the federal government earlier this month. The letter was released Tuesday by the state education department.

It was not clear how much money the state would withhold from sanctioned school districts. The state gives schools performance ratings on a number of quality measurements, and schools that fall far short of required exam participation rates will be given a lower rating.
About 11,200 students did not take the state exams last school year — a growing trend referred to as the "opt-out movement." It coincides with growing concern among parents that their children are spending too much school time being tested or prepared for tests..."

Read the full article at its source:  

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