It’s assumed that everyone wants a good public education system in Texas and the United States. The main reason is that we need an educated populace for our democracy to survive and our economy to thrive. But the divergence usually comes when the discussion turns to how we go about it. And often times that biggest struggle is over how we should pay for it, and what gets lost is how best provide an education for the youth of our state and nation.
Much of the discussion these days about education centers on who or what is to blame for the failures in our education system – parents, teachers, students, administrators, politicians, etc.. And the focus needs to be on what works in education, and how best to make it better. And the best place to start is with making working conditions better for teachers, and therefore a better environment for students to learn.
Via the Texas AFT Legislative Hotline, Report looks at what makes high-poverty schools effective.
A new Education Trust report out this week validates what every teacher knows is necessary to strengthen public schools and the teaching profession, says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Building a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility among teachers, principals and administrators; focusing on continuous professional development for teachers; and ensuring teachers have the time, tools and trust they need to improve teaching and learning are essential ingredients to building strong public schools and a quality teaching force,” she says.
Unfortunately in Texas, the people who believe they run the state, are hung up on a test. From Kuff, here’s what’s going on in Texas, TAB takes a hostage – TAB stands for Texas Association of Business, btw.
To be blunt, these guys are full of it. The TPPF thinks we spend too much on education to begin with, and TAB is about as likely to support any measure that would actually increase revenue for education as Rick Perry is. Saying they’ll oppose an increase in funding for public education unless their demands are met is like Willie Sutton saying he’ll oppose the hiring of more police officers unless those pesky bank robbery laws get repealed.
On a more general note, I don’t understand the single-minded focus on the STAAR tests. Everyone wants accountability, and everyone wants students to graduate having received a good, comprehensive, useful education, but why in the world must we believe that STAAR tests are the only way to achieve that? I agree with this:
Dineen Majcher, an Austin lawyer whose daughter will be a sophomore at Anderson High School next fall, said she was offended by the insinuation that parents are being led around by superintendents.
“We are smart enough to see what that system is and is not doing and we can perfectly understand on our own that it is a badly flawed system that needs to be fixed,” said Majcher, who listened to the news conference at the Texas Capitol.
“I think it is inappropriate to hold public funding hostage to repairing the problems that we all know exist with the current testing system,” said Majcher, who is part of a new parent group called Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment. “The testing system is badly implemented, badly flawed, there are a lot of groups, a lot of parents who are working very hard to make positive corrections to that. I would not call that rolling it back. I think when we see a mistake, we make a course correction.”
Exactly. We’ve been pushing various accountability measures for 20 years in Texas. Some have worked well, others not so much, but it’s been an ongoing experiment, with tweaks, adjustments, and changes of direction as needed. To believe that the STAAR and only the STAAR can achieve the goals these guys says they want is myopic and suggests they care more about the process than the result. Turns out, even some prominent Republicans see it that way, too.
Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken said Thursday that the state’s current public education accountability system is “broken and badly in need of fixing.”
During testimony at a hearing of the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development on career and technology education, the former state GOP chairman expressed his disagreement with a coalition of business leaders and a conservative think tank that announced Wednesday it would oppose any additional funding to public education if there were any rollback of existing accountability standards.
Pauken, who along with two other commissioners oversees the development of the state’s workforce, said he was surprised that the coalition claimed to speak for the business community and conservatives as it defended the existing testing system.
He said he had found widespread agreement among business leaders, teachers, school district officials and community college representatives he had spoken to around the state that “teaching to the test is one of the real reasons that we have a significant skill trade shortage.”
Pauken said he spoke as both a businessman and a conservative when he criticized the position taken by the coalition.
“The current system does not hold schools accountable for successfully educating and preparing students — rather it makes them beholden to performance on a single test,” Pauken said, adding that a consequence of the system was that “‘real learning’ has been replaced by ‘test learning.’”
Hammond and his buddies are speaking in their own interest, not those of schools, students, or parents. We should not take their little tantrum seriously.
The fundamental flaw in the testing argument is that groups like TAB see them as the only way to measure how teachers are doing and how well students are learning. When, tests along with several other items, should be used as one piece of a puzzle, and not the only measure.
But facet of the over reliance on testing has to do with how, depending on worldview, how people believe education should be measured, Students Are Like Plants, Not Widgets.
Education is part of the government’s purpose to empower its citizens: we become fuller, stronger people by making more informed choices in our lives, by more fully experiencing art and literature, by being more productive workers, and by giving back to society. People are motivated to work harder when they have enough support to grow and be successful. As more people get a high quality education, kindergarten through college (and even beyond), the better they will be and the better society will be. Education is an investment in people and our government should make it possible for every young person to have a high quality education.
We must be more conscious about the metaphors we use in thinking and talking about education. The progressive empowerment frame for education is built on metaphors. For example: schools are gardens, minds (and sometimes classrooms) are soil, ideas (and sometimes students) are plants, teaching is gardening, and learning is growth.
Thinking with the empowerment frame, teaching and learning are cooperative activities between the teacher and student. Learning takes place as the student (or anyone) internalizes and reshapes information and experiences into new understandings. This happens automatically, unconsciously; however, learning cannot be mandated or completely controlled. It can, however, be invited and enhanced. Thus, teaching involves nurturing or empowering students—understanding their needs as individuals and providing a rich environment in which each student can grapple with and eventually internalize a new, more sophisticated understanding of what he or she is studying. Like a plant, a student’s understanding will thrive when each individual gets attention that addresses his or her individual needs, gifts, and interests.
The proof and the power of these metaphors expressed through the progressive empowerment frame is in the programs and activities that come from them. In The Framing of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), I described some general activities that come from thinking in the empowerment frame:
It makes more sense to assess learning holistically, using projects and real-life activities and through descriptions of progress (intellectual “growth”), as much as possible. Further, assessment is integrated into each student’s learning activities, rather than being done as an external process, by and for others. What the teacher does or says is not expected to be absorbed directly by the students. Rather, like the air, soil, and water that a plant converts into its green structure, students construct their knowledge from the resources and experiences provided to them by the teacher and student understandings will look and be different than exactly what the teacher taught. Thus, the teacher and students must continuously assess and communicate about lesson goals and student progress.
In conservative production frame, knowledge is thought of as discrete objects that are delivered by the teacher and absorbed directly by the student. This is why standardized tests make sense in the factory metaphors of the conservative production frame, but not in the gardening metaphors of the progressive empowerment frame. Measuring corn more often doesn’t make it grow faster or taste sweeter.
What all of this means is that we have to create environments in our schools that allow teachers, who know best how students learn, to do their jobs. And that can’t be measured solely by any test. While education is about protecting our democracy and making sure our economy is sound, education is mostly about providing opportunity to our citizens.
Education is about much more than money for teachers. They do it because they love to teach. Watch the video here, Teachers affect eternity.
“Well, Duh!” — Ten Obvious Truths That We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring